Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tuesday Mashup (2/8/11)

(Note: No updates from yesterday, just fixed the title...)

  • (Oh, and for the record, let it be known that here and here are the latest examples of how this country's political/media/industrial complex has learned absolutely nothing from the Tucson carnage.)

  • This post from Michael Grunwald of Time has to do with an amendment that recently passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 96-1; it has to do with laser pointers aimed at aircraft.

    And in case you were wondering, the person who voted against this eminently sensible move to punish those convicted of this offense with five-year prison terms was none other than the latest Senator Teabag himself, Rand Paul. And Grunwald heartily agrees with what Paul did…

    I'm not trying to deny the seriousness of this particular problem or the idiocy of these particular idiots. Pilots say they can be temporarily blinded when lasers are beamed into their cockpits, and the FAA says it's happened 2,836 times in the past two years. This sounds like a genuine safety hazard. And it sounds as if the laser-pointer industry needs to do a better job in educating consumers about the dangers of its products. So allow me to start this education process:

    Hey, idiots! Stop pointing lasers at planes!

    It takes only about five seconds of thought to see that Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's amendment to impose federal penalties — up to a five-year prison sentence — for attempted plane zapping would be completely useless. How exactly would it be enforced? Would pilots who get lasered in the air contact a federal anti-laser-pointer task force on the ground? Would Tommy Lee Jones be recruited to lead the manhunts? And if a local cop somehow caught a 12-year-old goof-off trying to Luke Skywalker a 747 with a laser pointer he stole from his corporate mom, would the kid go to the federal pen? Sure, it's conceivable that someone with truly menacing intentions would point a laser into a cockpit. But does Congress think there's nothing in the existing federal code that would allow him to be prosecuted for trying to blind a pilot in midflight?

    The 96 Senators who voted for this silliness would say they're just trying to send a message to the public about a dangerous activity. I support this message, as politicians like to say. But that's not really the message they're trying to send. It's more like the line on George H.W. Bush's teleprompter — message: I care. The Senators are lawmakers, so they feel as if they need to make laws to show concern; they're covering their backsides in case a laser-pointing idiot ever does bring down a plane.
    As I’ve said before, it’s a good thing that people like Grunwald haven’t been calling the shots in this country throughout our history. Otherwise, Paul Revere Grunwald would have said, “Why the hell do I have to ride a horse from Boston to Lexington and warn you people? It’s one if by land and two if by sea! Can’t you just watch the Old North Church yourselves to find out if the British are coming?” Or Theodore Roosevelt Grunwald would have said “What? Construct a canal through Panama? With all of that disease down there? The French already tried that. Forget it!” Or John Augustus Roebling Grunwald would have said, “Build a suspension bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn? HAHAHAHA!!”

    Besides, Whitehouse is, in part, trying to correct a legal discrepancy with his amendment – as noted here…

    Interference with commercial airlines is already a federal crime. But current law has a gap that weakens the FBI's ability to investigate laser incidents involving helicopters, said Dave Joly, a spokesman for the FBI in Denver, where 38 laser incidents were reported last year. The law covers mass transportation, but helicopters aren't considered mass-transit aircraft, Joly said.

    There have been many instances of lasers pointed at helicopters, including police helicopters. Helicopters are especially vulnerable because they fly at lower altitudes than planes.

    The vote makes the amendment part of a bill pending before the Senate to authorize FAA programs for the next two years. It also would speed up the FAA's transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one based on satellite-based technology.

    The Senate also rejected an amendment by Paul that would have exempted FAA programs from a federal law that requires government contractors to pay construction workers the prevailing local wage.
    So of course, Paul saw an opportunity to ignore the threat of laser pointers and screw over federal employees at the same time (and by the way, Senator-fake-ophthalmology-certification, the “F” in FAA stands for “federal”; it’s not an “S” for “state”).

    And by the way, in response to Grunwald’s snark about enforcement, I give you the following (here)…

    SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Samuel Gregory Liebman, 51, of Roseville California, with interference with an aircraft for pointing a laser at a California Highway Patrol plane.

    The indictment alleges that on August 30, 2010, Liebman struck a CHP Cessna 206 multiple times with a powerful green laser while it was flying.
    So yes, it is possible to arrest and prosecute someone for this act. And in case either Paul or Grunwald don’t believe me, let’s see how they react went a pilot’s vision is impaired while a plane or helicopter in which they’re a passenger begins its descent (though this is par for the course when it comes to Grunwald’s wankery, as noted here).

  • And I guess that’s an appropriate transition to John Harwood in yesterday’s New York Times, in the matter of President Obama’s efforts to make nice with the “pay no price, bear no burden” crowd (here)…

    Export promotion, infrastructure development and support for innovation through improvements in research and education all represent goals that business shares with an administration hungry to spur investment and job creation.
    Really? Then why, as Bill Scher asks here, has the “U.S.” Chamber done all it possibly could to support those zany teabaggers, who hate any government spending unless it affects their entitlements?

    Most of Harwood’s article has to do with fluffing Bruce Josten, the chamber’s “top lobbyist,” in the vain hope that he’ll show some sort of conciliation towards Obama, who has done more than meet these selfish asswipes half way, though we also learn the following…

    Mr. Josten dismissed Mr. Obama’s recently announced regulatory strategy, ostensibly intended to reduce unnecessary burdens on business. “It’s a rehash of Clinton’s, which was a rehash of Carter’s,” Mr. Josten said.
    Actually, I guess the fact that Josten even bothered to acknowledge Harwood’s existence is a bit of a coup for Harwood, given that, as noted here, Josten usually finds a slavishly favorable environment to peddle his propaganda at Fix Noise (with humanoid Megyn Kelly acting accordingly).

    And Heaven forbid that the “U.S.” Chamber come clean on its overseas funding, with Josten fulfilling his role as a Chamber “pit bull” here (and though I suppose it looks good to those supposedly omniscient independent voters out there for Obama to meet these cretins more than halfway, they are still utterly despicable, as noted here).

  • Next, I give you former loyal Bushie Mitch Daniels, who, as noted in yesterday’s Murdoch Street Journal here, inflicted probably the most full-throated demagoguery against the health care law yet seen, and that’s saying something…

    Unless you're in favor of a fully nationalized health-care system, the president's health-care reform law is a massive mistake. It will amplify all the big drivers of overconsumption and excessive pricing: "Why not, it's free?" reimbursement; "The more I do, the more I get" provider payment; and all the defensive medicine the trial bar's ingenuity can generate.

    All claims made for it were false.
    Wow, could Daniels paint with an even broader brush here? And this is particularly funny since, as presidential candidate, he of course rails against the health care law, but as Indiana governor, as noted here, he asked for additional Medicaid funding from the Obama Administration.

    And in response, Think Progress points out the following here…

    Rather than comparing between comprehensive packages that provide a basic array of essential services — nobody is proposing covering hair plugs, as some conservatives have proposed — this former OMB director suggests that skimpy plans should also be available for purchase. People should be able to “buy what they need,” he argues, ignoring the fact that insurance should not be a grab bag: there is absolutely no way to predict what illness one will develop in the future and that this very real inability has led to widespread undercoverage and bankruptcy. If an individual purchases a very basic plan and then develops cancer in five years, what good is a “consumer driven” plan if it doesn’t cover chemotherapy?
    And oh yeah, as Dubya’s OMB director, Daniels, as noted here, “displayed a disturbing tendency to make dishonest claims for political advantage on federal budget issues.”

    Which, to me, automatically disqualifies him from any serious economic discussion (at least he isn’t telling baby boomers to apologize, as noted here).

  • Also, say hello to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers of Kentucky (here)…

    Rogers beat Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) to win the gavel of the Appropriations panel following the midterm elections. But the post is very different than it was last year, when Democrats had control of the House, and very different from when Republicans ran the lower chamber from 1995 through 2006.

    The goal for Rogers is to cut now, cut later and keep on cutting throughout the 112th Congress. He used to be a big fan of earmarks, like his Kentucky colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). But amid the Tea Party’s rise, both Rogers and McConnell have embraced an earmark moratorium.
    To begin, let’s dispense with the mythology that Congress has forsaken earmarks; as noted here, “members of both parties requested nearly 40,000 earmarks worth more than $130 billion for fiscal year 2011” (and for the umpteenth time, allow me to say that I could care less about earmarks since they amount to such a tiny fraction of the federal budget anyway, though they should be disclosed).

    And Rogers is indeed a fan of earmarks, to the point that, as noted here, Rogers’ hometown newspaper has dubbed him the “prince of pork.” This includes “the tiny airport that received $17 million in federal dollars but has so little traffic that the last commercial airline pulled out in February (last year – the “airport to nowhere?”). And then there’s the Hal Rogers Parkway, which was formerly known as the Daniel Boone Parkway before being (renamed for you-know-who).”

    Rogers also routed funding to his daughter’s nonprofit organization, as the DCCC tells us, and Rogers’ son was hired by a firm for which Rogers helped secure a $4 million contract.

    With the death of John Murtha, I wonder if we’re now going to see the same level of animus directed towards another Appropriations committee chair who has been generous with earmark funding towards his congressional district.

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • Finally, I came across this yesterday in the New York Times and was so dumbfounded by it that I felt I had to say something…

    SAN ANTONIO — Some of the world’s pre-eminent experts on bias discovered an unexpected form of it at their annual meeting.

    Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”

    It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

    “This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.
    Oh, please. So now we’re talking about unconscious indoctrination of conservatives by liberals?

    I suppose this is typical for Haidt, who has written pap equating liberals with the teabaggers (appearing here in the Journal, of course). And passages like this are more than a little bit of a giveaway as far as I’m concerned…

    In the tea partiers' scheme of things, the federal government got into the business of protecting the American people—from market fluctuations as well as from their own bad decisions—under Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the Great Depression, most Americans recognized that capitalism required safety nets here and there. But Lyndon Johnson's effort to build the Great Society, and particularly welfare programs that reduced the incentives for work and marriage among the poor, went much further.
    A lot of people just got done celebrating the 100th birthday of a guy who made it his career over the last 40 or so years of his life to tell us over and over again that government can’t do anything right. And now along comes Haidt to re-enforce that message under the guise of fighting some sort of liberal bias.

    I’ll tell you what, Dr. Haidt – tell me when liberals are guilty of stuff like this, and I’ll take your bias charge (the conscious or unconscious variety) seriously. Until then, stop making excuses for conservatives, who hasn’t had a new idea about actual governance since a former Tampico, IL sports announcer started peddling investor class hallucinogenic fantasies about “Morning in America.”

  • Update: The link to Haidt's Journal article is acting up a bit - I think you have to subscribe to read it (heh)...my apologies.

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