Saturday, January 22, 2011

More Saturday Stuff

First we have that moron Jesse Kelly making a fool of himself yet again here, and now this John Wilson cretin...well, I'll let Cenk give you the rest of the story, as it were...

...and I suppose I'm overdue for another "relationship" song, so here it is (hard not to do that in response to the cruel idiocy of people like John Wilson I guess).

Saturday Stuff

Here’s some stuff I’d planned to get to before the Olbermann news broke last night…

To begin, let it be known that I don’t automatically give Dems a pass when it comes to stupid behavior (here)…

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…and speaking of stupid behavior (lunatic behavior, actually - here)…

Update 1/24/11: And speaking of crazy talk for real, I give you this (not only should Erickson be fired, he never should have been hired to begin with because of what he said here about retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter - h/t Atrios).

Update 1/26/11: Beck has no room to pass judgment on anyone, but still, in response to this, I give you the following:

"In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." - Matthew 23:28
…not to be outdone, though, I give you Stephen Colbert - “funny because it’s incurable”…Colbert walks that tightrope once again concerning Flush Limbore’s latest nonsense here…

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...and I'd planned to put up this video to commemorate Hu Jintao's visit earlier, but I'm doing so now (wonder what happened to these guys?)...

…and I hope this ends up shaming Huckleberry Graham to the point where he and his pals decide to stop screwing around with Social Security (yes, I know I can dream – this was featured on the final episode of “Countdown” last night…good luck waiting for something like this on future MSNBC offerings, with the possible exception of Ed Schultz at 10:00…to help get it on the air, click here)…

…and I know some of my lefty blogging brethren have beaten me to it on this, but I didn’t want the week to end without noting the de facto complicity of Bushco in the recent uprising in Tunisia here – I don’t know if I’ve ever closed a week with a jazz selection…I should do it more often.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Adios, Keith (updates)

I’ve had a few minutes to digest the shock of this development – I suppose this is the reaction that comes foremost to mind:

Imagine the crap that this man has had to put up with for as long as “Countdown” has aired. He hinted as much in his closing remarks tonight.

The first video has most of his final signoff. The second, with Anderson Cooper, gets more to the “meat” of the issue as far as I can tell (namely, that former NBC president Jeff Zucker leaves, and Keith, in all likelihood, agreed to some kind of a buyout or got canned outright).

Regardless, this has Comcast’s fingerprints all over it (and now, with the approval of FCC rules all but abandoning Net Neutrality, imagine the control they will exert over our choices of content, with Verizon likely to concoct its own deal a la the NBC/Universal/Comcast merger with some other yet-to-be-determined corporate player).

But let’s think about Olbermann for a second. There are practical considerations for him also.

He will have to compete for work now in a sports/news capacity totally apart from his position of commentary on “Countdown” (again, his remarks tonight imply that he fell into this by accident, which is true, but he doesn’t have the background or the pedigree of Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell or Ed Schultz even to likely exist in the same political realm; Olbermann needs to exist in the realm of broadcasting, and I suppose the sooner he redefines himself to leave his role of political commentator behind, the better for his career prospects).

Besides, I know something is up with MSNBC. Otherwise, why in God’s name would Rachel Maddow have interviewed Michael Steele last night? I watched about a minute of it before I turned it off – it didn’t pass the smell test.

Neither does Olbermann leaving, really (as Cooper notes, Keith still had two years to go on his contract, and his show was the highest-rated on the network). And it looks like Comcast wanted to do this quick before anyone had time to get an online petition started, or else they’d be embarrassed by the result.

Oh well, at least Stu Bykofsky and David Zurawik will be happy.

The battle to promote informed discourse just got exponentially harder.

…and Keith, this is for you (and yeah, I know this was on some TV show or something – sue me).

Update: Huffington Post is saying that the new lineup will be Lawrence O’Donnell at 8, Rachel at 9, and Ed Schultz at 10 (figures that they put a “fire in the belly” progressive on at a time when it’s hardest for yours truly to watch).

I have nothing against O’Donnell personally, but I’ve seen him fill in on “Countdown” enough times for me to tell you that I’m not impressed. If I want to watch MSNBC’s version of the NBC Nightly News (and I don’t), then I’ll find videos of Brian Williams (maybe he’ll talk some smack about bloggers in their bathrobes again, or something).

Also, as I noted earlier, today is the one-year anniversary of the Citizens United atrocity and Keith’s outstanding “Special Comment.” Do you think that irony was lost on the Roberts family (the people running Comcast, I mean)?

Update 1 1/22/11: To sign a petition thanking Keith, click here.

Update 2 1/22/11: More interesting info here...

Friday Mashup (1/21/11)

(By the way, let it be known for the record that I could care less whether or not Democratic and Republican politicians sit together during President Obama’s State of the Union address next week.)

  • Easily the biggest story going on in these parts at the moment is that of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who, as noted here, practiced late-term abortions and who is alleged to have “killed 7 babies with scissors” by cutting their spinal cords (I need say not another word on the horror of these allegations…two other women died as a result of what went on at his “clinic,” it is also alleged, and other women suffered injuries to bowels, cervixes, etc.).

    I honestly try to avoid posting on stories involving a crime that is under investigation unless there is a political angle. The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the killing of Judge Roll and Christina Taylor-Green and others is an exception, and I would have made an exception here also (I know I’m a tiny little guppy in the ocean of “left blogostan,” as it were, but I don’t want to run the slightest risk of saying anything that could possibly aid a defendant in a criminal case).

    I would have kept quiet about this, as I said, had it not been for yet another bilious rant by Christine Flowers in the Daily News today (I knew she would write about this before I even looked for her column…her right to free speech I realize, odious as it is)…

    Perhaps the indictment of Gosnell will force us to now consider that full meaning of legal abortion.

    So here's a message for NOW, NARAL Pro Choice America and Kim Gandy.

    Listen up, Emily's List, Catholics for Choice and Nancy Pelosi.

    There's a long-distance call for you, Harry Blackmun.

    Sometimes, it now seems, it's hard to tell the difference between abortion and a capital crime.
    I thought we’d see an end (or at least a moratorium) on inflammatory language in our discourse in the wake of the Tucson shootings a couple of weeks ago. More fool me, I guess.

    So the dreaded Nancy Pelosi, Catholics for Choice, NOW, NARAL, Pro Choice America and Kim Gandy are as culpable on the issue of choice as a Philadelphia doctor accused of multiple murder. Nice.

    I guess the “rules” go something like this; we liberals aren’t even allowed to make the slightest association between Jared Loughner and right-wing violence and political rhetoric (and once more, let me point out that in no way am I saying that Loughner was motivated by Republican Party politics or the party’s media minions – no evidence to support that has materialized), but conservatives can equate horrific crimes of violence with Democrats whenever they want.

    Oh, and by the way Christine, Associate Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun died in 1999.

  • Next, the Bucks County Courier Times opined as follows today on the matter of the planned Criminal Justice Center to be built in Doylestown, PA (here)…

    If the commissioners wanted a contractor who knows a thing or two about courthouses, they picked the right one. (Ernest Bock and Sons) has a history of suing the organizations it holds contracts with, thus its familiarity with courthouses.

    This history was among the reasons that county Operations Director Jerry Anderson said he and his staff recommended the next lowest bidder. "(We) saw enough projects that we were concerned about," Anderson said, calling some of the claims filed by Bock "unconscionable."

    If that assessment gives you pause, it didn't stop Commissioner Charley Martin and former Commissioner James Cawley, now lieutenant governor, from giving Bock the contract anyway. Martin at least wrapped his vote in a stern warning: "You will be back here or we will be at your door", he warned, if the project does not start on time and stay on schedule.

    We like it when Charley goes all John Wayne. Unfortunately, tough talk doesn't frighten lawyers.
    Shockingly, I agree with the august Courier Times editorial board and its inference that Martin is an utter putz (interesting to see how he fares now that his pal Cawley is in Harrisburg)…

    In fact, county officials' stated concerns about the low bidder's litigiousness didn't scare off a suit against the county before the vote. Ironically if not shockingly, Bock filed suit against the county seeking a delay in the vote on the construction contract so it could respond to officials' concerns.

    And the commissioners still awarded the contract to Bock!
    I don’t get the awarding of the contract to Bock either, unless they managed to scare the Board of Commissioners into giving it to them with threats of further litigation. And the editorial is correct – lawsuits are a Bock specialty.

    As noted here, Bock filed suit to keep the contract for the Justice Center from being awarded to another firm (nice). And as noted here, they settled two suits with the Lower Merion school district for $740,000 for what Bock alleged was the early termination of a construction contract running over budget.

    Also, this tells us of a claim by Bock to recover about $10 million in the construction of Princeton High School, this informs us of a Bock Suit against the North Hanover (NJ) Township Board of Education, and this tells us of a suit by a contractor working with Bock on a construction contract because Bock wouldn’t pay for the bricks used by the subcontractor.

    Now I don’t know which of these suits have merit and which don’t. What I do know is that I performed a pretty high-level Google search and came up with this list pretty quickly; it remains to be seen what would happen if I looked for about an hour.

    And Bock is the outfit that was awarded the Criminal Justice Center by the Bucks County Commissioners (minus Diane Marseglia) anyway.

    And I’m sure Bock is just shaking over the warning from Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin – convulsing with laughter, I mean.

    (And by the way, Courier Times, your online popup ad for LA Fitness is really obnoxious.)

  • Finally, today marks two infamous anniversaries; the first is the 30th anniversary of the release of our hostages from Iran.

    As noted here by author Don Hopkins, it is important to consider (particularly with the upcoming Reaganalia on or about February 6th to commemorate his 100th birthday) that a highly plausible case can be made that our 40th president committed treason by negotiating an arms-for-hostages deal with the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khomeni before he was sworn into office. It is also still shocking to consider, 30 years later, than an independent, sovereign nation that once supported the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would commit an act of state-sponsored terrorism by which innocent diplomats would be held captive for 444 days. However that is exactly what happened.

    (And by the way, please spare me the caveat that there is a Muslim objection to the Declaration, which claims that the document is based in Judeo-Christian beliefs. I am hardly a scholar of Islam, but somehow I believe the principles of the Declaration derive from other faiths that respect human dignity as well.)

    The second anniversary is of the utterly loathsome Citizens United Supreme Court decision. And I’ll let Keith Olbermann have the last word on that once more – I can’t see how I could ever top his spot-on commentary on that subject.

  • Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Thursday Stuff

    I made a reference to the fact that today (well, yesterday almost) was the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inaugural address – here it is (words we definitely need to hear once more)…

    …and since I already put up “Abraham, Martin and John” this week, I tried to find something about a “new frontier” (a term JFK didn’t actually use in his inaugural, I know), so I came up with this (Kings of Leon is a smoking hot band right now, and I think this gives us a taste of that).

    Thursday Mashup (1/20/11)

  • From The Hill, Dem U.S. House Rep Earl Blumenauer of Oregon tells us the following (here)…

    National public broadcasting is very cost effective and an excellent example of a public-private partnership maximizing value for the taxpayer. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) annually receives around .0001% of the federal budget. Cutting CPBs funding would save Americans less than half a cent a day and would result in the loss of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), considered by the public to be the second-best use of taxpayer dollars, outranked only by defense spending.

    If federal funding was cut, big cities like New York, Los Angeles, DC, even Portland, would still be able to sustain public broadcasting stations, albeit with reduced programming.

    It would be the rural areas of our country that would suffer the most. Providing public broadcasting services to Burns, Oregon costs eleven times as much as what it costs to reach Portland.

    Lakeland Public Television in Bemidji, Minnesota is the only local broadcaster in most of its service area, and it is also the regions only source of local news and public affairs programming. In Colorado, Rocky Mountain PBS is the public media resource for all Coloradans. Both rely on CPB funding for about 30% of their annual budget, what local contributions could not cover if CPBs budget was eliminated.
    And do you want to guess how fast Flush Limbore and his clone army would stomp into that void to fill it, assuming they aren’t there already?

    This, of course, is a replay of what Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich tried when he was House Speaker in the mid-‘90s, and in response, the New York Times told us here that, “the attempt failed in the face of cooler legislative heads and the proven indispensability of public broadcasting.”

    Really, though, what else could the voters of this country have expected except “values voter” pabulum as opposed to actual governance (here)?

    Yeah, those jobs will start showing up any day now – won’t they, Mr. Boehner (and Mikey The Beloved)?

  • Next, Pancake Joe Pitts, with his newly-acquired clout as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, inflicted the following over at USA Today (here)...

    For the record, Republicans worked for years to improve America's health care system. We created popular Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug coverage. We created Health Savings Accounts. We created the medical insurance tax deduction for the self-employed. We fought for medical malpractice reform and cost-saving association health plans — only to see them filibustered in the Senate.
    It has already been pointed out that Medicare Advantage is a scam that is more expensive than traditional Medicare, and the budget-busting Part D prescription drug benefit created the infamous “donut hole” into which many participants fell and were thus excluded from coverage (fixed by the health care reform that Pitts despises). Health savings accounts only benefit those with enough money to squirrel away the funds for them, and tort reform doesn’t do anything to lower premiums.

    But what really got me about this was Pitts’ line that his party “created the medical insurance tax deduction for the self-employed.”

    I’ve been trying to source that claim, and I have not been successful to this point. However, if it is indeed true, they didn’t do a very good job of it (at least when it comes to making health insurance more affordable for the self-employed).

    Because, as noted here (and we’re going to get “deep in the woods” with the numbers, I know)…

    Like employees, self-employed individuals also get a tax break for the purchase of health insurance for themselves, their spouses, and their children (see the definition of "self-employed" at the end of this article). But instead of excluding premiums from gross income as employees do, self-employed people get a deduction. It´s an "above the line" deduction taken on page 1 of Form 1040, so the self-employed person benefits from the deduction even if he doesn´t itemize. This evens up things between the self-employed person and the employee. Right? Well, not really.

    Let´s look at an example. Belén owns an interior design business that has net income of $89,000 for 2006. She pays monthly insurance premiums of $500 to cover herself and her husband, a total of $6000 for the year. By deducting the cost of the premiums, Belén saves $1500 in taxes. On the other hand, Esther, whose salary was exactly the same as Belén´s net income, spent $6000 on medical insurance, just as Belén did; but Esther saved $1959 on her taxes, plus her employer saved an addition(al) $459.

    The difference between Esther's savings and Belén's is due to social security and Medicare taxes. Belén has to pay them on the $6000 used for insurance premiums. Esther doesn´t. Belén´s income from self-employment shown on Schedule C is still $89,000, and that´s the amount used to calculate Belén´s self-employment tax (the equivalent of Esther´s social security and Medicare). Esther and her employer are $918 better off than Belén.
    And as usual, the Repugs speak with a “forked tongue,” as they say, when they discuss the “self-employed” (from prior lined post)...

    Note: for purposes of health care deductions, the self-employed category includes a broader range of businesses than one might expect. In addition to the self-employed individual who reports income and expenses on Schedule C of his or her Form 1040, the following individuals are also considered to be self employed: general partners of a partnership, and limited partners who receive guaranteed payments; members of a limited liability company (LLC) taxed as a partnership or disregarded entity; and shareholders owning more than 2% of an S corporation who received wages or a salary from the corporation.
    Also (from here)…

    Because self-employed workers have no corporate employers to match their payroll tax contributions to Social Security and Medicare, they pay double the rate of wage and salary workers in a levy known as the self-employment tax equal to 15.3% of their net earnings. That's on top of regular state and federal income taxes, and the income they spend on health premiums is not exempt.

    "Why is it that a person who is self-employed and pays for that insurance themselves, why isn't that deductible?"
    And as noted here, Health Care Reform contained a small business tax credit for health insurance (which Pitts opposes, of course)

    Pitts also supported the so-called “Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005” (here, along with Mikey The Beloved of course), which, by exempting associated health care plans from state regulation, would have “increase(d) average health care costs for small businesses and reduce the number of workers with health insurance.”

    And if you want to go back even further than 2005, this tells us that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that the Dems passed in ’09 was based on a ’93 Senate Repug plan (yes, they actually had one) for health care reform which would have increased the allowable deduction (from 25 percent to 100 percent) for the qualified health insurance costs of self-employed individuals (sooo…if it was originally a Repug idea, why does Pitts dislike it so much?).

    As I browsed around Pitts’ web site to find some logic on this and other issues (a fool’s errand, I suppose), I came across this recollection of his called “Two Weeks on Frogs and Onions,” which apparently has to do with survival training he endured while in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War (a requirement for running bombing missions in case his plane went down in enemy territory, I believe).

    Actually, I think it would behoove him to take something of an update to that training now called “Two Weeks Without Perks And Bennies As A Member Of Congress,” and then maybe, just maybe, he’d start to find a clue as to the utter idiocy of his opposition to health care reform, which enables everyone to get a little bit more of a taste of what is guaranteed to him for the rest of his life.

  • Finally, I really need to give Holy Joe Lieberman the sendoff that he so richly deserves in light of his decision not to run for another term in the U.S. Senate (here)…

  • This reminds us that Lieberman voted to confirm Alito (and Roberts too) to the Supreme Court and gave Bushco a pass on Katrina.

  • This tells us that he thought the order to remove Terri Schaivo’s feeding tube was in accordance with the 14th amendment to the Constitution (never mind the rulings that opposed it in favor of husband Michael Schiavo…I think the vid is kaput by now).

  • This shows him pontificating on the “surge” in Iraq, of course.

  • This reminds us that he endorsed McCain over Obama in 2008.

  • This also reminds us that he opposed emergency contraception for rape victims, saying in Connecticut it’s just a “short ride” to another hospital.

  • Here, he recently compared himself to JFK while decrying “partisan political boxes” when saying he wouldn’t run for another term in 2012 (and regarding the utter laughability of that remark, I give you this to commemorate JFK’s inauguration speech, which he gave 50 years ago today).
  • And believe it or not, we have “breaking” Lieberman news here, in which he said "I don't think you've read it, sweetheart” to Arianna Huffington when she pointed out to this numbskull with 100 percent accuracy that the Duelfer Report did not say that Iraq possessed WMD prior to Gulf War II.

    However, there is one group of individuals who actually will miss Lieberman, and you can find out who they are here (and as someone recently remarked on “Countdown,” probably the reason Lieberman supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is that it would hasten his vision of an American where everyone was employed in the military because there were no jobs anywhere else).

    Yes, we’re still going to be stuck with him for a little while longer. But about two years from now, this loathsome, execrable worm will slither out of the U.S. Senate for good, and on that day, we will all rejoice.
  • Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    Hey, wasn’t today supposed to be the day the Repugs take their “victory lap” over passing the repeal of the Obama “job killing” (and yes, the moratorium in the wake of the Tucson tragedy on that inflammatory and utterly incorrect language lasted all of one day) health care bill? Wow, their attitude instead seemed to be something along the lines of “nothing to see here, move along.”

    Can’t say I’m a bit surprised (Rachel Maddow had a nice feature on this tonight – I’ll look for the video).

    In the meantime, it looks like at least two Dems found their voice on this issue (would that others besides George Miller and Patrick Murphy had done so before the November elections, and yes, Mikey The Beloved voted for repeal also).

    Here is a video of Dem U.S. House Rep Joe Crowley of New York…

    …and here is Miller…

    …and I generally try to avoid Sarah you-know-who, but I thought this was funny from Stephen Colbert (hat tip for all three videos to Daily Kos)…

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    …and after watching the 112th for a few days, I can guess who’s in control, and it sure ain’t us.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    RIP Sargent Shriver (more here)...

    Update 1/22/11: I thought this was a nice remembrance by Bob Herbert.

    ...and going from the sublime to the ridiculous when it comes to Democratic politicians, this tells us that the odious Kent Conrad will not seek another term in the Senate (like to see how much Conrad would laugh it up if he didn't have lifetime "bennies" from his public sector gig; a lot of people are happier that Holy Joe Lieberman apparently will step down also, though at least he did something constructive on DADT - can't say the same about Conrad)...

    ...and this goes out to a guy who Bill Maher said was practically "playing with his poop" (more here - h/t Atrios)...

    ...and to commemorate the 70th birthday of sugary pop icon Bobby Goldsboro (maybe it's just "Bob" at this point), I give you the following (this goes out to Beck video unless you think a spinning turntable - what's that? - counts).

    Update 1/19/11: Radio station WPHT in these parts has two points of view, right and ultra-right, but this is progress anyway.

    Tuesday Mashup (1/18/11)

  • I’m a bit overdue to catch up on the wretched blog of J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times, but I did so recently here (misstep with punctuation and all), in response to Obama’s speech at Tucson in the wake of the shooting.

    Concerning which, as far as Mullane is concerned, Obama received a “dead cat” bounce in a poll according to Real Clear Politics.

    Which is funny when you consider that, according to Joe Klein here, not only did Obama receive a “robust” approval rating of 54 percent following the speech according to an ABC/Washington Post poll, but he may have “peaked too soon.”

    Either way, nobody is going to care as we get closer to the 2012 elections (and I can’t stomach the thought of them at this point either).

    And as noted here, Real Clear Politics once “reported” that the Israeli delegation did not attend a speech by Obama at the U.N. without explaining the reason why – it turned out that they did so in observance of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and they notified the Obama Administration to that effect prior to the speech (once more, in the immortal words of Max Bialystock in “The Producers,” “just say ‘oops’ and get out”).

    Just stick to showing videos of Jonny Quest and snark about the “34,000-year-old” Helen Thomas next time, OK J.D?

  • Next (and speaking of partisan hackery), former Bushco flak Marc Thiessen bloviates as follows at the Washington Post (here)…

    Let's be clear: Republicans have the upper hand in the coming fight over raising the federal debt limit. President Obama will push to raise the limit without giving Republicans the massive spending cuts they demand. But in the end he will cave.
    We’ll see about that (and as noted here, old habits die particularly hard for Thiessen).

    Fortunately, Repug Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that failure to raise the U.S. debt ceiling would cause “financial collapse and calamity throughout the world” here (more on that in a minute from Prof. Krugman).

    So what exactly do U.S. House Repug Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner propose? Well, a lot of posturing, if this is any indication.

    They also came up with some scheme called “Cut-go,” which is their version of the “Pay-go” rules implemented by their Democratic predecessors (here). The difference is that, in the Repug “through the looking glass” approach to fiscal matters, “tax cuts are exempted (from Cut-go rules about spending offsets applied to entitlements).”

    And for the record, let it be known here that the debt limit was raised seven times under Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, and nobody put on funny hats, paraded around with racist signs or generally made asses of themselves over it (and no, I would not normally encourage deficit spending either, but if and when this country experiences something approximating Clinton-era prosperity again, please let me know, and then I’ll be concerned about paying down the deficit).

    Or, as Krugman tells us here…

    …the moralizers will have none of it. They denounce deficit spending, declaring that you can’t solve debt problems with more debt. They denounce debt relief, calling it a reward for the undeserving.

    And if you point out that their arguments don’t add up, they fly into a rage. Try to explain that when debtors spend less, the economy will be depressed unless somebody else spends more, and they call you a socialist. Try to explain why mortgage relief is better for America than foreclosing on homes that must be sold at a huge loss, and they start ranting like Mr. Santelli. No question about it: the moralizers are filled with a passionate intensity.

    And those who should know better lack all conviction.
    Which brings us back to Thiessen, someone with plenty of conviction, though he hardly knows better.

  • In addition, I found this item at The Daily Tucker, in which someone named Robert Morrison complained that President Obama is supposedly funding the Palestinian Authority at the expense of the Coast Guard (oh, brother).

    I should first point out the following, in response to a similar charge made by Moon Unit Bachmann (here)…

    …Bachmann’s claim that the aid package means Obama “chose” Hamas over Israel is complete nonsense. Beyond that fact that Obama has repeatedly stressed his support for Israel, U.S. aid to Israel easily dwarfs that to the Palestinian territories, and aid to Israel has actually increased under Obama. This fiscal year, the administration budgeted $2.7 billion for Israel, while it plans to give $2.85 billion in FY 2011.

    Beyond this, Bachmann’s claim is based on the false suggestion that aid to Gaza is unprecedented. President Bush continued to fund humanitarian operations in Gaza, even after Hamas won an election and took control in 2006. As the New York Times noted soon after Obama took office, “By seeking to aid Gazans but not Hamas, the administration is following the lead of the Bush administration, which sent money to Gaza through nongovernmental organizations.”
    I will grant the point that the Coast Guard has undergone budget cuts, though. However, the following should be noted from a recent speech by Admiral Bob Papp, the Coast Guard Commandant (first link from here)…

    In early January (2010) after a devastating earthquake in Haiti, followed on April 20 by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, our cutters and crews quickly transitioned from their counter-drug and migrant patrols, to humanitarian assistance and then oil response.

    While the media continuously broadcast our heroic efforts, there was something the public did not see. Our aging fleet suffered major casualties. Of our 12 major cutters assigned to Haitian relief operations, 10 – or 83 percent – suffered severe break-downs. Two were forced to return to port for emergency repairs; one had to proceed to emergency dry dock.

    This high casualty rate was not cause by a lack of oversight by Commands, or poor maintenance by our crews. Rather, the simple fact is that for a very long time we have been relying on outdated and rapidly aging ships. Our fleet of 12, 378-foot high endurance cutters has an average age of 40 years. Let me say that again – the average age of our high endurance cutters is 40 years old. Compare that to 14-years for a U.S. Navy ship. I can tell you, while the Navy is also faced with budget challenges, they don’t perform their missions with such antiquated assets.

    Maintaining old ships is costly – both in dollars and mission performance. In FY09 we spent 3.5 times our budgeted maintenance funds to keep our high endurance cutters operational. Even so, we lost 569 patrol days to engineering casualties – that equates to an astounding one-quarter of the total available patrol days. This is unacceptable.

    Now the good news is the acquisition project to replace 12 high endurance cutters is well underway. They will be replaced with 8 National Security Cutters – known as the Legend Class. To date, 2 of the 8 NSCs are in service – The 3rd, the Cutter STRATTON, was recently christened by Michelle Obama in July, and is 75% complete. And, we’ve just signed a contract for the 4th.

    The new NSC provides much-needed state of the art communications, detection, and security systems and also features excellent crew habitability. They measure 418-feet, and feature increased range and endurance (60–90 day patrol cycles), better sea keeping, and higher transit speeds. They are equipped with multiple small boats; more powerful armament (57mm medium caliber deck gun and a 20mm Close-In Weapon System); a large flight deck and dual hangars for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles; chemical, biological and radiological environmental hazard detection and defense; and improved Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment.

    Simply stated, the NSC is the most sophisticated and capable cutter the Coast Guard has ever operated.

    There’s a genuine need for high endurance cutters – they are the asset of choice for long range security and law enforcement missions that are required to be conducted in heavy seas – or far from shore. Besides protecting the Nation’s fisheries stocks, recent operational examples include the joint CG-Navy response to the Carnival cruise ship Splendor disabled by fire off Mexico – and the 738-ft merchant vessel Golden Seas that lost propulsion in the treacherous Bering Sea, posing a potential environmental disaster if forced aground. Both of these responses required high-endurance cutters.
    Oh, and speaking of the Coast Guard, I have a question for President Obama; though, based on this, another boneheaded policy by your predecessor is at fault here, can you please tell me what the hell the Guard is doing in Afghanistan?

  • Finally, get ready to be inundated in a few weeks with a ton of “Reaganalia” over the 100th birthday of The Gipper himself, with this being a preview from Paul Kengor (here)…

    Reagan had been highly active in confronting Alzheimer’s from the start of his presidency. He would make eight separate statements on the disease, averaging one for each year in the White House. In these, he called Alzheimer’s “devastating,” an “indiscriminate killer of mind and life.”

    His final presidential statement came November 5, 1988. It is chilling to read now, as it foretells Reagan’s own condition in his final years, and given that it came precisely six years to the day (November 5, 1994) when Reagan would announce to the world that he himself had the disease:

    “Alzheimer’s disease ranks among the most severe of afflictions, because it strips people of their memory and judgment and robs them of the essence of their personalities,” explained Reagan. “As the brain progressively deteriorates, tasks familiar for a lifetime, such as tying a shoelace or making a bed, become bewildering. Spouses and children become strangers. Slowly, victims of the disease enter profound dementia.”

    That was Reagan himself in the end—robbed of his essence. It was an eerie harbinger of what was to come.
    Kengor’s column also goes on to tell us of how Reagan interceded on behalf of the daughter of actress Rita Hayworth, with the screen legend suffering from Alzheimer’s disease herself (and Reagan exchanging supportive correspondence with Hayworth’s daughter and hosting a gala in Hayworth’s name to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research).

    What a shame that Number 40 couldn’t extend that same degree of support to those in this country in need of mental health services; as noted here…

    By the middle of the 1970s, groups representing the mentally ill, their families, and those who cared for them had reached a consensus on the need for reform. This culminated in the passage of the Mental Health Systems Act (in 1980). This implementation, though not without its problems, was seen as a progressive step forward. However the costs of these reforms were unacceptable in the new neoconservative climate and ran counter to the interests of capital. Reagan, who never presumed to support social policy, promised to cut federal spending and ensure a "favorable business climate." So under Reagan the new law was rescinded. This signaled that for Reagan's administration, social policy was of lower priority than fiscal policy.
    This was part of an effort to make mental health treatment a function of state government as opposed to the federal government (a similar perspective is offered here...and you can argue about the wisdom of this policy based on the Tucson shootings as far as I'm concerned).

    Also, I have no issue with anyone offering support for Reagan over the likelihood that he was afflicted with Alzheimer’s while he was president. However, I don’t think this is an issue that should be treated so benignly either.

    If he was unable to carry out the functions of his office due to his mental state, then those responsible for allowing him to do so should be held accountable, even if many of them have gone onto their eternal reward, or punishment, as the case may be.
  • Monday, January 17, 2011

    Monday Stuff

    I hope I've already made it clear that this site doesn't traffic in "eliminationist" rhetoric against anyone except bin Laden, though of course it does traffic in a lot of snark (but if you ask me to give up on that, you might as well ask me to give up on typing on a keyboard - in K.O.'s fine "Special Comment" which is an update to a previous "Special Comment" about Tucson, he doesn't mention Ross Douthat of the New York Times who said the Giffords shooting would be a gift to liberals, or something, which I thought was utterly repugnant).

    Also, speaking of Rep. Giffords (whose recovery thus far has been nothing short of miraculous), two angry white guys (James Carville and Ed Rollins) are blasting each other over at CNN concerning the fact that Arizona law says that Giffords' seat is "vacant" if she is unable to serve after three months; Carville says that he doesn't think Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is dumb enough to allow that to happen, to which I think to myself, "she was dumb enough to sign that 'illegal to be brown' law, wasn't she?"...

    ...and in honor of Dr. King, I give you this - this may be the only chance I get this year to put up this video, so here it is.

    Legacy Of A Dream, 2011

    President Obama issued a proclamation here today in honor of this day commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and this post from 2006 concerning Dr. King is every bit as timely now as it was then.

    Also, here is an excerpt from a speech given by Dr. King at the Barratt School in Philadelphia in 1967.