Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Mashup (2/4/11)

  • I give you the following from the front page of the Bucks County Courier Times today (somehow, this ran in the banner instead of the legitimate news story about Egypt…but then again, we are talking about the PR service for Mikey The Beloved here)…

    The federal government is "way too involved" in education, and national efforts to regulate schools haven't made our kids any healthier or smarter, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick said this week.

    In a meeting with the newspaper's editorial board, Fitzpatrick questioned the need for a federal Department of Education, with its annual budget of $63 billion.

    "In the 1950s, we educated the kids that eventually landed on the moon with no federal Department of Education," said Fitzpatrick,R-8. "Our children were healthier. Our children were smarter. Our children achieved better grades in standardized testing when the locals controlled the school districts.
    Uh, Mikey, I hate to break the news to you, but as noted here, none of the astronauts from the Apollo missions were born after 1935 (what a maroon).

    More to the point, though, this whole bit about abolishing the Department of Education is yet another dog whistle to the teabaggers (their hero and Repug U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky echoed much of the same sentiments here, and as far as Paul’s ridiculous “two mommies” comment is concerned, I would only ask that you watch the video from here once more with the defense of same-sex marriage by Zach Wahls of Iowa, who probably doesn’t want much of a spotlight but has drawn one for his courageous remarks…and here is more information on what Mikey would abolish in the event that his ridiculous, and dangerous, notions were ever implemented).

    Our PA-08 congressman has been busy lately, I must point out – this story appeared in the Courier Times yesterday…

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick heard from several hospital officials Tuesday about the challenges they're facing as Republicans try to undo the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats one year ago.

    "Hospitals have spent money trying to attain the goals in the legislation," said Tim Ohrum, director of Legislative Services for The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. "Now we're worried that money may not come back."

    Ohrum's group is an advocate for hospitals and supported the law signed by President Barack Obama "even though there are a couple of areas we see as problems."

    A consensus in the room of eight hospital administrators, including Ed Nawrocki, president of St. Luke's Quakertown Hospital, which hosted the event; Richard Reif, president and CEO of Doylestown Hospital; and Mark Horne, senior vice president of Grand View Hospital, was that getting more people insured would benefit the industry.
    OK, so Tim Ohrum, as noted above, is “director of legislative services for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.”

    What that basically means is that he’s a lobbyist (noted here). And as noted here (have to scroll down a bit), the campaign donations between Mikey, Grand View Hospital and Ohrum’s group, while not illegal as nearly as I can tell, have definitely been more than a little cozy.

    As far as I’m concerned, this story wasn’t about “several hospital officials” meeting with Mikey to discuss “the challenges they’re facing” over the new health care law (and I would like to hear Ohrum talk specific dollars and cents about which “hospitals” have “spent money,” and how much exactly, as a result of the law).

    This meeting was a legislative strategy session, people. And it should have been reported as such.

    Oh, sorry…I forgot that this is another creation from Mikey’s stenographer Gary Weckselblatt (better not waste too much more time – don’t know how much longer Pottery Barn will be hiring).

  • And I suppose that’s a fair transition to last week’s Congressional votes from the Philadelphia Inquirer for the week ending 1/30 (I would provide a link as per usual, but with the advent of the digital versions of that paper and the Daily News, you cannot imagine what a fiasco they have made of the linking process)…


    Republican budget cuts. Voting 256-165, the House approved a measure (H Res 38) setting the stage for votes on a Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending in the final seven months of fiscal 2011. The measure authorizes the Budget Committee to set the terms of a catchall appropriations bill the House will take up in mid-February. After clearing the House, the bill would be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    A yes vote was to approve the measure.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    As noted here, this bill will block further discretionary government spending and pull back the budget to levels before the stimulus bill was enacted in 2008 (and give unprecedented power to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who our corporate media continues to treat as some kind of budget expert – in response, I give you Prof. Krugman here…and this is another chicken vote by “Democrat” Tim Holden).

    Sending U.S. jobs overseas. Voting 184-242, the House defeated a Democratic bid to use H Res 38 (above) to curb the practice of U.S. companies sending jobs overseas. The motion sought to deny federal contracts to any company determined by the Department of Labor to be outsourcing its workforce.

    A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    And this from the party that claims to be focused on job creation – what a pathetic joke.

    Taxpayers’ campaign funding. Voting 239-160, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 359) to repeal a post-Watergate law under which taxpayers can use the checkoff box on federal tax returns to voluntarily contribute $3 or $6 of their tax liability to presidential-election campaigns and nominating conventions. The bill is projected to save $617 million over 10 years.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, and Schwartz.

    Not voting: Holden.
    The Repugs like to whine that President Obama’s decision to forego public financing of his presidential campaign in 2008 is the reason they passed this measure, which is ridiculous given what has happened to the bipartisan efforts to strengthen public campaign funding when the Repugs ran Congress as noted here. And this is even more hypocritical given that Cantor, The Orange One and the rest of the Repug House “leadership” promised greater transparency.


    Filibuster dispute. Voting 46-49, the Senate defeated a bid to require senators to be present and talking on the Senate floor while conducting filibusters aimed at killing bills and nominations. The defeat of this proposal (S Res 21) left in place rules that allow senators to keep filibusters in force even though they are away from the chamber. This means that filibusters, also known as extended debate, will flourish in the 112th Congress essentially as they have in recent Congresses.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

    Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
    So Toomey favors keeping the ridiculous process in place by which a senator can filibuster legislation without actually being present. Got it.

    Filibuster thresholds. Voting 12-84, the Senate defeated a proposed change in Senate rules (S Res 8) that sought to reduce the number of votes needed to shut down filibusters. The number is now 60 votes. Under this proposal, as debate moves forward, the threshold would be gradually lowered to a simple majority of 51 votes.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Lautenberg.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Coons, Menendez, and Toomey.
    Once again, Lautenberg “walks the walk” here (part of me really wanted to see this pass to end the filibuster nonsense, but part of me envisions a day when the Dems could be in the Senate minority, and if that happens, they should be allowed to gum up the works just like the Repugs).

    Senators’ secret holds. The Senate voted, 92-4, to curb the practice of individual senators’ placing indefinite secret holds on pending bills or nominations. Under the change in Senate rules (S Res 28), holds can remain anonymous for two days. If the sponsor does not step forward at that time, procedures are put in effect to induce him or her to do so.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Toomey.

    Reading of amendments. Voting 81-15, the Senate approved a rules change (S Res 29) ending the practice of opponents stalling votes on amendments by requiring them to be read aloud by Senate clerks.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.

    Voting no: Toomey.
    So Toomey favors yet another move to gum up the Senate and render it ineffective (and again, the Dems could capitalize on this if the Repugs end up in charge after 2012, and again, that’s something we must work tirelessly to prevent).

    This week, the Senate took up a bill on the Federal Aviation Administration, while the House was in recess.

  • Also, it looks like Senator “Country First” (which one, I always wonder) is none too happy with The Former Defense Secretary You Have Instead Of The One You Want To Have for throwing all of his former Bushco pals under the proverbial bus in his new book (noted here), saying “Thank God that (Rumsfeld) was relieved of his duties” by Number 43.

    Gee, I wish McCain had been that emphatic here when he said that Rummy "deserved our gratitude and respect" after it actually happened in 2006.

  • Next, I give you the following from economics expert John Ratzenberger at the Daily Tucker (yes, this is snark – here)…

    Despite amazing innovations and inspired workers, the tragic reality is that American industry and trades are under assault from within — we don’t have enough skilled workers to make America work anymore. Many companies are literally begging workers to come on board, offering well-paying, high-skilled work and training just to stay afloat.

    The most popular phrase in today’s political lexicon is “job creation.” Americans of all persuasions are demanding that something be done about jobs. Seeking a fast fix, leaders in Washington and in the states are offering up tax cuts, low interest rates, and the promise of “green jobs,” all of which have some merit.

    But in an American economy that’s losing its industrial base, “fast fixes” won’t prevent the coming tide of job loss and the entire culture of American productivity that goes with skilled work. The impact will be devastating.
    Oh, and by the way, this column serves pretty much exclusively as a setup to Ratzenberger’s series “Industrial Tsunami.”

    Perhaps the reason I’m inclined to dismiss this out of hand is that it comes from a guy whose primary claim to fame is his voice-overs for cartoon movies, but I think it’s also important to note the following (from here)…

    America is at real disadvantage compared to Europe and the East Asian countries in this respect. In Japan and Korea the predominance of large interlinked firms means that these companies are able to shift skilled workers between divisions. In Japan or Korea, the mechanism that's going to allow skilled workers to move between the auto sector and wind turbine manufacturing, for example, is that single firms operate across a number of sectors. In a very real sense, the government missed the opportunity to partner GM with a wind turbine manufacturer to achieve a similar end with regard to retooling transmission plants to build turbine gearboxes. The problem is that there is little desire in the manageriat to pursue this sort of thing. Much easier just to shift production to a low income country, than to make the minimal effort required to recognize the potential of domestic innovation. But remember it's a lack of willingness for workers to stomach have their pay slashed in half that's the problem. Not an utter lack of basic managerial competence. The Germans may provide us a better model of how to achieve the type of skill transfer that we are talking about. The combination of union oversight and cooperation between firms means that a number of firms can achieve efficiencies of scale and promote innovation because they draw from common training programs. We don't have this so we have the absurdity of inter-sectoral skills disparities.
    And as you might expect, Prof. Krugman had a good take on the whole “not enough skilled workers” mythology which we’ve been hearing from as far back as the last depression faced by this country (here).

    God, couldn’t the Travel Channel have found someone besides Ratzenberger to host this program? They could have even used a lazy Boston mailman who liked nothing more than to pontificate in a bar about how knowledgeable he supposedly was instead of trying to find a way to do his job more efficiently.

    Oh, wait…

  • Finally, I have a bit of a case study as to why I truly despise conservative wingnuts.

    As you can read here, someone named Kevin Williamson at Irrational Spew Online is harrumphing about some video in which progressives are protesting at a conference in which the Koch Brothers appear, with some advocating violence and one saying that Clarence Thomas of the Supremes should be hanged, with Williamson intoning that “I’m ashamed to be a member of the same species as these creatures.”

    Goodness gracious me, somebody sure is in a snit.

    So, let’s break this down a bit more, then, and see what’s going on.

    When you click the link in Williamson’s post, it takes you right to the “Big Government” web site, which is your first hint of trouble, with some Andrew Breitbart clone named Christian Hartsock promoting a video allegedly of the Koch event (Hartsock being one of the people who erroneously claimed that alleged Tucson shooter Jared Loughner was a “left-wing political radical” and “quite liberal” here, for the record).

    The video starts out well enough, with people under a sign saying "quarantine the Kochs," which is OK I guess. The clip then shows snippets of Jim Hightower and Van Jones speaking to a gathering, with the crowd they’re speaking to not shown in the clip.

    Immediately after the Jones clip ends, though, we have some doofus with a camera supposedly asking progressives all kinds of incendiary questions about all of the usual right-wing suspects, with some loon saying “kill the bastard” when asked about Fox News head Roger Ailes. Also, some woman talks into the camera about supposedly dueling Glenn Beck, and there are other questions from the cameraman along the lines of “what should we do to so-and-so,” until the cameraman at the end asks some guy holding a blue sign what should be done about Clarence Thomas. “Hang him,” the blue-sign guy says (and I guess that is supposed to be the “money quote,” because the film immediately ends after that).

    I want to emphasize that absolutely no one is identified here. Not the cameraman, not the subjects…no one. They could all be planted by Breitbart and his pals (and given his rank history of this sort of thing, they probably are). And this is the clip upon which Kevin Williamson bases his indignation that he’s “ashamed to be a member of the same species as these creatures.”

    Oh, and one more thing – the next time Hartsock decides to film one of these little “hit pieces” of his, he should remember to edit out any film in which Breitbart actually does appear (he shows up for about a second or two halfway through). It’s more than a little bit of a giveaway.

  • Update 2/19/11: More Hartsock dirty tricks are on display here.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    The taxpayers campaign funding was the one expenditure that was voluntary. The taxpayers voted to fund campaigns or didn't. The huge amount of money provided was approved by the people who checked yes. I never heard any public outcry against it. Just another political stunt by the repugs.