Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Mashup (4/8/11)

  • I’m not sure exactly what to make of this, but I thought I would just submit it as a curiosity of sorts for people to make of it what they will; an organization called the Institute for Economics and Peace in Australia released their findings that “the most peaceful (U.S.) states are Maine and New Hampshire, but Louisiana and Tennessee (came in near the bottom of their rankings).”

    The institute defines peace as the ‘absence of violence’ and looks at factors including homicide rates, violent crimes, jail populations, police officer numbers and small arms availability.

    One thing that puzzled me, though, was as follows: when you look at our very own commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it seems to score in the mid-range when it comes to “state of peace” in the top yellow/brown-shaded map, but in the bottom blue/purple shaded map, PA appears to be extremely violent relative to other states, implying a high “cost of violence” also.

    It would be easy to deduce merely from the yellow/brown map that “red” states have a higher “state of violence” than “state of peace” (as opposed to “blue” ones), but as much as I’d like to believe that, I’m sure it doesn’t tell the whole story. However, I believe this claim at the bottom of the page is something to investigate:
    ‘Reductions in violence, crime and incarcerations to the same levels as Canada would result in $361billion in savings and additional economic activity. This additional economic activity has the potential to create 2.7 million jobs, which would significantly reduce unemployment.’
    Works for me, eh?

  • Next, let’s see where we are on the issue of a likely government shutdown, shall we?

    Well, the House Repug “leadership” voted down two bills to support troop funding just so they could stage their idiotic political theatrics, forcing the Dems to vote against a stopgap measure that would have included “an anti-abortion policy restriction banning D.C. from using its own local funds for abortions and anti-environmental restrictions to limit the EPA from regulating green house gas emissions”; this way, when the Dems quite rightly ended up sinking the bill, the Repugs could crow that the House minority party wanted to stiff our military (noted in a New York Times editorial linked to below, particularly disgusting when you consider this).

    Also, I had to laugh at this post in which the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce now wants our government to stay open, (particularly given this), even though they have no issue making common cause (or accepting the support) of the life forms who want to see a shutdown more than anyone else, and that would be those zany teabaggers (here). And you know it’s bad when Tom Coburn, Pat Toomey and Moon Unit Bachmann are actually voices of sanity here, telling the House Repug “leadership” not to shut down the government over their fight against Planned Parenthood and the dreaded “lady parts.”

    Not to be outdone on this issue, “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick propagandized as follows here in the Bucks County Courier Times…
    Fitzpatrick, Bucks County's 8th District representative, said the House's original plan to cut $61 billion is where discussions should stand until the Senate produces a budget.

    "I don't think Republicans should be negotiating against themselves," he said. "I think the number is $61 billion, but I'm a reasonable person who has negotiated a lot of budgets on the county level. The Senate's refusal to produce a plan is not acceptable, and I think the American people can see that."
    What the American people can see, Mikey, is here, which tells us that Senate Democrats put together an offer to help end this budget fiasco in February (I don’t call him Mikey The Liar for nothing, people).

    And by the way, I think it’s pretty hilarious to hear Mikey suddenly preaching fiscal rectitude when, as noted here by Above Average Jane, his ’09-’10 congressional campaign was, at one point, almost seven grand in debt and regularly filed late financial statements to the Federal Election Commission (and speaking of Mikey, this was a class move also).

    I think this editorial today in the New York Times pretty much nailed this whole situation, particularly the following…
    The public is not going to be fooled once it sees what the Republicans, pushed by Tea Party members, were really holding out for. There are a few hours left to stop this dangerous game, and for the Republicans to start doing their job, which, if they’ve forgotten, is to serve the American people.
    I would suggest keeping up with this at Think Progress, since this is obviously an ongoing story and they can do a much better job on it than I can (or, with the possible exception of “the old gray lady,” anybody else for that matter).

  • Finally, here are last week’s Area Votes in Congress (the House voted, but the Senate didn’t)…

    D.C. school vouchers. Voting 225-195, the House passed a bill (HR 471) to revive the District of Columbia's school-voucher system at a cost of $100 million over five years in deficit spending. The program would provide more than 1,000 disadvantaged youths with scholarships of $8,000 to $12,000 annually for tuition costs at private elementary and secondary schools in the D.C. area. Republicans enacted the program in 2003, and in 2009 Democratic majorities in the House and Senate began shutting it down. The bill awaits Senate action.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), 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.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    On this issue, I would tend to agree with the following from here...
    The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

    “Federal funds should mean adherence to federal law and that is simply not the case with voucher programs. These programs are fundamentally unfair because students in voucher programs are not guaranteed the same civil rights protections as their public school counterparts.

    “Once government dollars come into play, it becomes impossible to avoid using those funds for religious activity or favoring one religious program over another. Our nation’s students shouldn’t have to choose between their civil rights and a quality education.”
    Mortgage foreclosures. The House voted, 252-170, to repeal a 2-year-old voluntary program that uses federal subsidies to induce banks to ease the terms of distressed residential mortgages before they reach foreclosure. Under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), banks either reduce mortgage payments to 31 percent or less of monthly gross income or facilitate a property sale before foreclosure occurs.

    The program has produced about 600,000 loan modifications toward a goal of three million, while spending about $840 million out of $27 billion allotted to it by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Homeowners must be current on loan payments to be eligible for the program. The bill (HR 839) awaits Senate action.

    A yes vote was to repeal HAMP.

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

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    As noted here, HAMP had issues (which I suppose was inevitable considering that we had a White House dealing with the “banksters” in an effort to do the right thing by homeowners), but I believe the “way forward” was to fund the program, demand administrative changes, adhere to more translatable benchmarks and insist on more frequent reporting and oversight. But of course, since we’re dealing with the “teabagger” U.S. House, HAMP had to be killed DEADER THAN DEADER THAN DEAD instead. So there.
    Military benefits. Voting 185-238, the House defeated a motion by Democrats to continue the Home Affordable Modification Program (HR 839, above) for active-duty military personnel and Gold Star families.

    A yes vote backed the motion.

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

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    Remember this vote when you see the Repugs wrapping themselves around the flag on Memorial Day, July 4th, or Veterans Day in particular.
    Federal aviation budget. Voting 223-196, the House passed a bill (HR 658) authorizing federal aviation programs at a cost of nearly $60 billion through 2014, down about $4 billion from current spending levels. The funding will come from a combination of discretionary appropriations and user fees such as fuel and passenger-ticket taxes. In the lower 48 states, the bill would phase out the Essential Air Service program that subsidizes commercial service to smaller cities. The bill also would impose rules making it more difficult for air and rail workers to organize into unions.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

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

    Aviation regulations. Voting 215-209, the House amended HR 658 (above) to make it more difficult for the Federal Aviation Administration to write regulations for the aviation industry. In part, the measure requires the FAA to tailor rules to fit specific sectors of the industry, as opposed to the present one-size-fits-all approach, and raises the bar for showing that regulations' costs on the industry justify their safety benefits to the flying public.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Fitzpatrick, Meehan, and Runyan.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Air marshals. Voting 184-235, the House defeated a Democratic motion to HR 658 (above) requiring the assignment of a federal air marshal to every high-risk passenger flight in the United States.

    A yes vote backed the motion.

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

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    OK, so summing up on these three votes, the first would abrogate the decision of the National Mediation Board ruling that anyone not voting in a union election does not automatically have that vote counted No (what Repug U.S. House Rep Phil Gingrey of Georgia incorrectly opined about here, last bullet - more here). The second would make it harder for the FAA to regulate the airline industry (something that might be handy to prevent a repeat of episodes like this), and the last removes air marshals from high-risk passenger flights.

    I guess the Repugs like drama at 30,000 feet. Well, I don’t (their non-jobs agenda continues, by the way).
    Republican budget cuts. Voting 221-202, the House passed a GOP bill (HR 1255) aimed at gaining the enactment of $61 billion in GOP budget cuts (HR 1) that both the Senate and President Obama have turned against. The House passed these fiscal 2011 cuts on Feb. 19 as part of HR 1. The Senate then defeated HR 1, on a vote of 44-56, and Obama repudiated the bill. This follow-up bill would disregard the Senate and presidential opposition and "deem" HR 1 to be law if the Senate fails to pass it by April 6.

    This new bill also would prevent members of Congress from receiving paychecks during any government shutdown. The bill does not explain how its unicameral approach would meet the constitutional requirement that bills must pass both chambers in order to become law.

    Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.) said the House was "debating a bill that any fifth grader would understand is unconstitutional."

    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, Holden, and Schwartz.
    I thought Pete DeFazio had a good response to this here (and once more, kudos to Rob Andrews for calling this what it is).

    This week, both chambers took up bills to avert a government shutdown at week's end, while the Senate continued to debate air-pollution rules and the award of federal technology contracts to small businesses.
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