Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Mashup (5/20/11)

  • On the subject of “disrespect” (and isn’t ripping “Bibi” here, of course), it should be noted that President Obama is being attacked by the usual suspects even though his call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders was also articulated by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating IN Gallup Poll History, as well as “The Big Dog,” as noted here.

    And here is another item for the “disrespect” file, concerning the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Federal Appeals Court.

    Also, here is yet another item, and a response is here (impudent and naughty to call out my “A” list brethren I know, but I’ll be honest; sometimes I get a little tired of the whining from our side too…besides, I think the speech by Richard Trumka linked to by Atrios is more of a response to this, which I’ll admit is inexcusable).

  • Next, I give you the Area Votes in Congress writeup from last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…

    Gulf of Mexico drilling. Voting 263-163, the House sent the Senate a bill (H.R. 1229) that would restore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to levels comparable to those in effect before last year's BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The bill would require the Interior Department to act within 60 days on about 40 permit applications now undergoing safety and environmental reviews. The administration lifted its post-spill drilling moratorium in October, and has since issued about 10 deepwater permits and nearly 40 permits for drilling in shallow water.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    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.).

    Blowout prevention. Voting 176-237, the House defeated a bid to expand H.R. 1229 (above) to include safety recommendations issued in January by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The amendment would have required the enactment of minimum standards in areas such as preventing blowouts, cementing wells, and installing redundant safety barriers inside wells - steps that would be subject to independent, third-party certifications. Though the commission's recommendations have been addressed to varying degrees by governmental regulators and the oil industry, they have not been added to federal law.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, LoBiondo, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Voting no: Holden, Gerlach, Meehan, Pitts, and Runyan.
    Hmmm…I smell another "safe" Yes vote that Mikey The Beloved can tout (along with Dent, LoBiondo and Smith) as part of his supposed environmental bona fides which, in fact, don’t exist, particularly since the bill was doomed to fail anyway, probably because it made too much sense for the bunch in power here.
    Outer continental shelf oil. Voting 243-179, the House authorized oil and gas exploration in several expanses of the outer continental shelf where drilling is now banned for primarily environmental reasons. In part, the bill (H.R. 1231) would require the Department of the Interior to sell leases for drilling off the Atlantic Coast from Maine to North Carolina, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, off southern California, in the Arctic Ocean, and off Alaska's Bristol Bay. Depending on the state, the outer continental shelf usually begins three to nine nautical miles from shore and reaches outward for at least 200 nautical miles.

    A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, Meehan, and Pitts.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, LoBiondo, Runyan, Smith, and Schwartz.

    Ban on oil exports. Voting 180-243, the House defeated a Democratic motion to H.R. 1231 (above) to prohibit energy companies from selling abroad the outer continental shelf oil and natural gas they extract under federal leases. The measure also would have required the Department of the Interior, over the next five years, to reduce by half the large number of nonperforming oil and gas leases in the outer continental shelf.

    A yes vote backed the motion.

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

    Voting no: Gerlach, Fitzpatrick, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Not voting: Dent.
    Sooo…while the Repugs and their minions scream “drill, baby, drill,” nobody is supposed to ask where the product of that effort is supposed to go, are they? We can’t tell Big Oil not to sell that “black crude” offshore if those markets are more favorable than ours, can we?

    Sometimes I think the Republicans must read about votes like this and laugh their asses off. And when it comes to the stupidity of the voters who returned them to power last November, they should.
    2011 intelligence budget. Voting 392-15, the House passed a classified U.S. intelligence budget (H.R. 754) estimated at $55 billion or more for fiscal 2011. The bill would fund operations of civilian and military spy agencies such as the CIA, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Reconnaissance Office. When other outlays in the federal budget are counted, total spending for intelligence activities is projected to top $80 billion this year.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Not voting: Brady.


    Judge Edward Chen. Voting 56-42, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Edward M. Chen as a federal judge for the Northern District of California. Chen, 58, has been a federal magistrate judge in San Francisco for 10 years, and before that he was an American Civil Liberties Union staff lawyer. Senate Republicans stalled the nomination for 21 months over concerns that Chen would be an "activist judge," while Democrats noted that Chen received the American Bar Association's highest rating for a judicial nominee.

    A yes vote was to confirm Chen.

    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.).
    Toomey had to pull at least one stupid and/or irritating stunt last week to fulfill his quota, and I guess this was it.

    This week, the House was in recess, and the Senate voted on judicial nominations and took up a bill to rescind billions of dollars in oil-industry tax breaks.

  • Continuing, I give you a tale of two presidents, sort of – to begin, John Lott whines as follows here…
    Wasn't the world supposed to end on Monday? No, I'm not talking about May 21. But on Monday, the U.S. government officially hit its debt limit, but where are disasters that the Obama administration has been predicting for months? We were warned that hitting the debt limit would be "deeply irresponsible" or “insanity” or “abrupt contraction would likely push us into a double dip recession.” But Americans woke up today to find nothing really changed from last week.

    The Obama administration’s scare tactics are getting old. Unfortunately, they keep on getting away with this and aren’t held accountable when their scare stories prove false.
    If Lott doesn’t want to believe Number 44…well then, would he believe the words of Number 40 (here)?
    In 1983, Reagan warned that the consequences of failing to raise the nation’s borrowing limit “are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate”:

    The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.

    In a 1987 radio address, Reagan also said, “Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar.”
    Also, Reagan was invoked here in an Op-Ed claiming that the Repugs need to find an “heir” to none other than Calvin Coolidge (our 30th president…paying tribute using multiples of 10, I see).

    In response, the following should be considered about “Silent Cal” from here…
    …a more important question to ask is whether the prosperity of the 1920's was experienced by all. In fact it was not. According to the Brookings Institution during the Coolidge era the top 0.1% (not 1% but 0.1%) of the population earned as much as the bottom 42%. While the top 0.1% was able to save at a clip of 34% another 80% of Americans had no extra money to put into savings. The rich were certainly experiencing prosperity but most Americans did not experience the benefits of Coolidge's tax policy.

    In addition many historians blame Coolidge's economic policy as one of the primary causes of the Great Depression. When the rich got richer through Coolidge's policies they ended up saving the money rather than putting it back into the market as can be seen above. Most Americans did not have the income to purchase "luxury" items like a car or radio which led to many to buy such items on credit. By the end of the 1920's 60% of cars and 80% of radios were bought on credit. Finally Coolidge generally supported a laissez-faire policy which allowed businesses to grow bigger, stocks to be bought on margin, and consumers to be exploited with shady sales practices. All of these policies helped to later create a perfect storm which brought about the Great Depression.
    Actually, given the fact that we’re currently living in the gilded age on steroids (as at least one pundit has put it), maybe the comparison to Coolidge is more apt than Washington Times editorialist Garland S. Tucker III realizes (not easy for me to beat up on a Vermonter and otherwise solid citizen like Coolidge, but as another president once said, and I don’t mean Reagan, “facts are stubborn things”).

  • Finally, this tells us that Dick Ebersol is stepping down as head of NBC Sports after contract talks for a four-year deal stalled, bringing to an end (apparently) a storied career in network television; probably his most famous achievement is defining the NBC Sports “brand,” if you will, based on the network’s coverage of the Olympic Games (Ebersol has also overcome horrific personal tragedy, including the loss of his son in a plane crash and his near-demise in the same fashion).

    So why am I bothering to say anything at all about him?

    Well, awhile ago, I read this fine book about “Saturday Night Live,” which includes more interesting (and usually funny) remembrances from former and current (I believe) cast members than I could possibly recount here. And while there are a few people who are universally hailed (I cannot recall a single negative comment about Gilda Radner, for example), there are some who are not (Harry Shearer, for example, is a funny and talented guy, but apparently he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way during his two turns as a cast member…the only fault of the book as far as I’m concerned is the relentless hosannas to Lorne Michaels, the show’s original and – as far as I know – current producer).

    The second of Shearer’s turns, it should be noted, came in the early 1980s while Ebersol was the show’s producer, having stepped in for Michaels for a time. And though Ebersol improved the show’s ratings by loading up the lineup with talent (Billy Crystal, Martin Short, and Christopher Guest, among others), the show definitely lost much of its satiric edge as far as I’m concerned (Ebersol favored performers such as juggler Michael Davis, who was witty I’ll admit, and Harry Anderson and his cockeyed magic acts…Anderson, of “Night Court” fame, also was and still is funny).

    However, political humor pretty much disappeared during the Ebersol era (this is borne out by cast remembrances in the book also), including the presidential election year of 1984. I’ll admit that more satiric bits skewering The Sainted Ronnie R would not have made a difference in the electoral outcome, but those would have been welcome anyway (even more jousts at Walter Mondale, Reagan’s Dem opponent in ’84, would have been fine).

    Instead, we were treated to such schlocky bits from the Ebersol period as renaming “Weekend Update” “SNL Newsbreak,” with a bolt of lightning supposedly hitting the letters of the show title and raining down debris on Brian Doyle-Murray, the “news anchor.” Apparently, stuff like this was funny to Ebersol.

    After Ebersol stepped down and Michaels returned (rebuilding the show around Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn and the now-execrable Dennis Miller, adding Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks and the great Phil Hartman later), the political edge returned also, with Lovitz as ’88 presidential contender Michael Dukakis, Hartman as Reagan and Carvey of course as Poppy Bush, paving the way for people like Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton (Hartman did a good turn or two as Number 42 also).

    So congratulations once more to Ebersol for his accomplishments. But when it comes to “Saturday Night Live” (a show I really don’t follow any more for a variety of reasons), the program maintained its edge in spite of him, not because of him.
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