Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Mashup (9/29/11)

(Oh, and I guess as far as CNN is concerned, only Democrats, particularly African American ones, can have a "race problem.")

  • This tells us of the recent outbreak of listeria, a disease tied to tainted cantaloupe, that has sickened 72 people and killed at least 16 others, making it the country’s deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade. And of course, the U.S. House Repugs, in response, are continuing their efforts unabated to gut our country’s food safety laws (with the benefit of those laws far outweighing the cost).

    The recent outbreak is reminiscent of the peanut butter scare that occurred shortly after President Obama took office, sickening 500 people in 43 states and killing eight (noted here…and by the way, the post is dated eight days after his inauguration, not allowing him any time to prevent the outbreak).

    This also makes me recall the following from The Eternal Molly Ivins from her book “Bushwhacked,” with Lou Dubose (here)…
    The Republicans win elections in the “red” states where cattle and chickens are produced and slaughtered. Democrats win their elections in the “blue” states on the coasts. Republicans use the USDA to pay off their contributors from the red states. The result of that crude electoral calculus is laissez-faire food safety policy whenever a Republican is in the White House…

    In the 2000 election, the corporate food-production combines donated $59 million in both hard and soft money, 75 percent of it to Republicans. Forget hanging chads. It was the hanging sides of beef in IBP’s hamburger factories that made George W. Bush president.
    It should be noted as well that Number 42 wasn’t perfect on this issue either, having been bankrolled in part by Tyson, another industry conglomerate. However, all of this is still food for thought (sorry).

  • Update 9/30/11: Hey, residents of the "Buckeye State" voted for him, and may very well return him to Congress next year in spite of this.

  • Continuing, I give you more recent false equivalency on the issue of natural gas drilling (here)…
    PITTSBURGH — Some insist Marcellus Shale natural gas is a huge economic boom for America, while others are certain it's an environmental catastrophe.

    Scientists at Duke University and Penn State University say people are oversimplifying their research, painting the issue as all black or all white, when in fact there's a lot of gray.

    But some say that's just the new reality in an age of social media, where everyone gets to questions scientists, not just their peers.
    Oh yes, it’s all the fault of that danged “social media,” isn’t it?

    The AP’s Kevin Begos then goes on to make some crack about how those who oppose the “fracking” process for natural gas are “departing from reason,” and then follows with a quote from filmmaker Josh Fox, which makes me wonder if Begos even went to the trouble to watch “Gasland.”

    In response, this tells us the following…
    Unfortunately, while we are waiting for further scientific research--which can take years to conduct--to follow up on these questions, frack wells are being drilled all over the state. One thing is for sure: Contaminated groundwater cannot be undone. Statistics show that water use in the US and globally is increasing, and projections estimate that by 2025 1/3 of the world will not have access to adequate drinking water. With this knowledge informing our decisions, does it make sense to put the drinking water of our state at risk, while we wait for further science to give us the most accurate picture of that risk? Sure, there are gaps in the science--but it is also entirely possible that the worst case scenario sometimes imagined by those of us in the anti-fracking movement could become our reality. Industry pushes ahead, fracking to extract shale gas and building an infrastructure for its export, regardless of the current science--the science that uncovers the fallacy of natural gas as a "bridge fuel," the science that documents significant, health-impacting air pollution associated with drilling, the science that that has found concentrations of heavy metals in water, the science that designates several of the ingredients in frack fluid as known carcinogens--or the need for further scientific research. It cannot be denied that fracking does indeed put water at risk. Replacing contaminated water by importing water from elsewhere into a community whose residents can no longer safely drink, bathe, or even wash dishes with their water is not a solution.
    And this tells us more about the disclosure laws on fracking chemicals in PA…
    The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents gas drillers in Pennsylvania, is “overwhelmingly on board” with the disclosure regulations, according to spokesman Travis Windle, who said the group would support a move toward posting the information online. Environmentalists want to see a public database, too. “I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” said PennEnvironment’s clean water advocate, Erika Staaf. “[The regulation] needs some tweaking, so not only our…agencies, but really our general public can know what’s going underground, and what’s coming back up.”

    Wyoming was the first state to pass disclosure regulations. Its guidelines went into effect about a year ago, in September 2010. The state’s rules are stronger than Pennsylvania’s in two respects: First, companies are required to disclose the details of all of their chemicals, not just the compounds deemed hazardous by OSHA. Second, the reports are then posted on the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s website. And while the state’s website has a labyrinthine mid-90s design, that information is still out there for public consumption.

    Steve Jones, a lawyer with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, called the regulations a good first step. “I think there is enough specificity with the requirement that they post the [chemical abstract service numbers]. We do like that about it,” he said. “One problem that bothers me is the trade secrets deal.”
    Of course, with PA’s illustrious Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett having been bankrolled to the tune of $700,000 by the natural gas industry on his way to election (and developments such as this, in light of this), it will continue to be a long, hard fight to preserve our water as well as our air from this supposed energy “miracle cure.”

  • Further, I give you a rather novel (though wrong, IMHO) take on what is going on in Washington, DC from self-appointed moralist Bill Bennett (here)…
    …we are in the midst of a serious philosophical battle over the future of this country -- a battle between a small, limited government system and a big government entitlement state. The nature of our Constitution requires that the American people decide the direction of this country, not Washington. And until the American people decide, there will be arguments, division and gridlock.

    Our country does not undergo dramatic changes in political philosophy, for better or for worse, overnight. It is a slow, painful process and has been throughout our history. Our Founding Fathers foresaw this.

    In Federalist No. 10 James Madison wrote, "The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man. ... A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power ... have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good."
    So, basically, Wild Bill is saying (to paraphrase that noted philosopher Gordon Gekko) that “gridlock is good.” And hell, the Founding Fathers though it was just peachy too.

    Really? In response, I give you the following from John Adams, our second president (here)…
    There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.

    The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries. The executive and the legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt a despotism. There is no other alternative.
    And I give you this from Thomas Jefferson, our third president (here)…
    The freedom and happiness of man...[are] the sole objects of all legitimate government.

    The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all citizens.

    The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
    Yes, I will admit that each side can go back and forth all day playing a game of “Yeah, well, John Dickinson said this, and Benjamin Franklin said that, and John Hancock said something better than the other two” to justify one’s point of view. But Bennett is the one who decided to play this game, not me, and he really should never have even tried.

    Now comes the question that matters; I wonder if he’s still trying to “ride a hard eight” (here)?

  • Next, it looks like the Teahadists are upset with Mikey the Beloved (here)…
    A tea party leader is “listening” to people who want her to challenge Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick in a Republican primary next year.

    Jennifer Stefano, of the conservative Americans For Prosperity, said Monday that Fitzpatrick’s recent vote against a GOP bill to ban the National Labor Relations Board from ordering any employer to shut down plants or relocate work, has her “listening to people who would like me to be” a candidate.

    The director of policy for labor and energy for AFP said she initially “dismissed” overtures from individuals she would not name to seek the 8th District Republican nomination in 2012. But after Fitzpatrick’s Sept. 15 vote she told her courters “I will listen to you now.”
    More of the wingnut caterwauling on this is here (and one of the comments alleging that the teabaggers would have any type of common cause whatever with the aforementioned John Adams was particularly uproarious).

    Of course, the source of all the upsetment by our lower life forms has to do with Fitzpatrick’s shockingly sensible vote against the “Outsourcers Bill of Rights,” as noted here - last bullet. And further (as noted here)…
    Dozens of postal workers and supporters rallied in front of the office of Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, Tuesday afternoon and thanked him for supporting a bill they say will save the country’s postal service.

    As one of 492 rallies nationwide scheduled for Tuesday, the rally attracted about 60 people to the parking lot of the congressman’s Middletown office. Earlier in the day, the workers rallied outside the Frankford Avenue office of Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, D-13, in Philadelphia.

    Fitzpatrick and Schwartz are two of 216 co-sponsors of a bill by Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass, that an American Postal Workers Union Local 7048 official said will “put the postal service back on a sound financial footing.”

    H.R. 1351 will allow the U.S. Postal Service to use billions of dollars from an overfunded federal retirement fund and use it to pay off a $5.5 billion debt obligation.
    More on H.R. 1351 is here - by the way, get a load of the language Mikey used to defend his vote…
    “Since before the founding of the republic we have relied on local carriers to deliver our mail,” Fitzpatrick told the newspaper. “It is imperative that we maintain a stable and efficient national postal service not only in the interest of commerce prosperity but also national security.”
    He doesn’t feel the Teahadists breathing down his neck, does he? Not much he doesn’t.

    So actually, it looks like our PA-08 U.S. House Rep is having himself not too bad of a wankery-free week, wouldn’t you say?

    Not so fast – as noted here…
    Oil and water don’t mix, and discussing the two wasn’t easy for Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick during a meeting with constituents in Middletown on Tuesday.

    The representative attended a meeting of the Bucks County Coalition of Senior Communities to poll its members on a bill that would authorize offshore drilling in America’s outer continental shelf.

    Taxes on oil drilling more than 100 miles from the coast could help pay for infrastructure improvements and jobs programs, he said.

    Yet most of those present instead drilled the congressman on flooding and homeowners who repeatedly receive disaster assistance from the federal government.
    “Taxes on oil drilling”? Is Mikey serious?

    As noted here, when he had the chance, he, along with every other House Repug, voted to extend tax breaks for the “Big Oil” sugar daddies that bankroll too much of the Democratic Party and ALL of the Republican Party.

    This of course is par for the proverbial course with Mikey the Beloved; hopefully, one step forward and no more than one step backwards in the process.

    All of which makes me want to say the following in response to his possible primary challenge next year (though I’m still reserving judgment on that):

    Go, Jen, Go!

  • Finally, I want to touch briefly on the world of sports again in light of this story. It seems that recently-acquired Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds is in a bit of hot water over an incident in a recent pre-season game against the New York Rangers in which he used a “homophobic slur” against Rangers player Sean Avery. The league apparently will take no action, even though Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke wants it to.

    Why is Brian Burke, a general manager from another team, involving himself here? Because (as the ESPN story tells us) his son, Brendan, who also was a student manager for the Miami of Ohio men’s hockey team, came out as openly gay in 2007 (the younger Burke was killed in a car crash last February). So, as a gesture of respect to his son (and, God willing, I’ll never imagine the horror of such a circumstance – my sympathies to the Burke family), the elder Burke has remained vigilant on LGBT issues in the NHL, which is commendable.

    And I probably should side with Brian Burke 100 percent here. But I don’t (and this may make me a bit unpopular here, but I’ll take my chances).

    In professional sports, you often have physically huge, highly-skilled athletes colliding with each other at high speed and in all manner of circumstances, and in just about every case they’re acting in opposition to each other. In a situation like that, I don’t think it’s realistic to try enforcing rules of conversational etiquette.

    It would be one thing if Simmonds (assuming he and Avery were both penalized) had stood up in his penalty box and screamed the homophobic slur at Avery after both had had a chance to “cool off” a bit after the altercation. It would also be one thing if Simmonds had tried to joke around using the slur in a pregame warmup and he had been overheard by Avery, but that apparently didn’t happen either (also, Avery will never be nominated for the Lady Byng trophy awarded for gentlemanly conduct on ice, which is another discussion entirely I know).

    So I think the league should go easy on Simmonds (assuming it does anything at all). And this is actually the second recent incident involving Simmonds – as noted here, an idiot fan in Ottawa threw a banana peel on the ice near him (Simmonds is African American), and apparently, the fan will be charged.

    As I said, I don’t defend the use of the slur (and yes, I would say the same thing if Simmonds played for the Rangers and Avery played for the Flyers). This isn’t quite the same thing I know, but in the Flyers’ playoff series with Buffalo last year, at least one of the Sabres made derogatory comments to two Flyers who had undergone divorces. I know that’s not homophobic or legally actionable, but it was out of line all the same. All I’m saying is that, when words are exchanged on the ice between players that maybe should not be exchanged, the players should be allowed to police themselves.

    I know pro athletes make more money over their careers than I will probably make in my entire working life, but we pay them for their physical skill and expertise at their craft, not for their presumed knowledge of “The Elements of Style.” I just think expecting them to remember not to use certain words, when (in the case of hockey players) they’re skating towards each other as fast as they can in pursuit of a tiny disc of vulcanized rubber that they can shoot at a speed of approaching 100 miles per hour, is “a bridge too far.”

    Update 10/5/11: Well, this is one way to solve the issue.
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