Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Stuff

I give you Republicans talking out of both sides of their faces yet again (here)...

...and here's a cheery, uplifting tune to take us into the weekend (sorry, no "Hollywood ending").

Friday Mashup (6/24/11)

  • This post from The Hill tells us the following…
    Attention federal employees: it is against the law to doodle horns or a halo on the official portrait of President Barack Obama if the photo is displayed in your cubicle. It’s also against the law to hang Vice President Joe Biden’s smiling mug upside-down. The Hatch Act, passed in 1939 and last amended in 1993, directs federal employees to only showcase the president’s picture in “an official size and manner,” according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

    The government’s photo regulation was just one of the many idiosyncrasies of the law under fire from Democrats and Republicans at a House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday. The committee is starting the process of updating the law for the e-mail era (not to mention Facebook and Twitter).

    Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation to reform the archaic act after the August recess, with changes slated to take effect with the inauguration of the next president in 2013. Ethics experts say it will be a heavy lift to pass the measure by the end of President Obama’s first term, despite broad, bipartisan consensus that the law creates ridiculous rules. After all, it’s Congress.
    Actually, when discussing The Hatch Act, the issue isn’t really Congress, but our prior ruling cabal’s disregard of the Act; as noted here, “Deadeye Dick” Cheney, among others, violated the Act by intervening in the Klamath River project in Oregon, funneling water to drought-stricken farmers and, in the process, killing thousands of sockeye salmon that were legally protected under the Endangered Species Act.

    And for good measure, it is noted here that, in 2006, Bushco officials repeatedly violated the Act by engaging in political activities for Republican candidates (including our own “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick), leading to the Obama Administration decision to abolish the White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA), probably the main source of the Hatch violations.

    (In response, here is wingnuttery alleging that former EPA employee Shirley Sherrod, who of course was smeared by the human stain Andrew Breitbart, was guilty of Hatch violations, and here is Murdoch Street Journal nonsense alleging Obama Hatch violations over the did-he-get-a-job-offer-or-didn’t-he-who-cares Joe Sestak business.)

    However, no discussion of Hatch Act abuse under Bushco is complete without mentioning former Government Services Administration head Lurita Doan, who, as noted here, appeared completely befuddled when called to testify about agency abuse (including running up credit card charges such as $14,000 for Internet dating services and a dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Orlando, Fla.- OMB and its former head Jim Nussle were also involved) before then-chairman Dem Rep Henry Waxman (as noted here, Doan “(signed off on) a briefing for top G.S.A. managers — organized by the White House and delivered by a Karl Rove political operative — on targeted Democratic politicians.”

    And I’m not sure how the Hill writer arrived at the conclusion that the ACT “prohibit(s) partisan political activity but allow(s) nonpartisan political activity,” but I do agree that the Act very definitely needs to be revisited.

    How about no political activity by government officials? With no exceptions. Ever.

  • Next, I suppose it wouldn’t be a Friday without more nonsense from Christine Flowers of the Philadelphia Daily News (here)…
    Whenever we talk about religious objections to same-sex marriage, someone invariably raises the specter of theocracy.

    But these same folks don't seem to be equally interested in what happens when someone's spiritual beliefs make them vulnerable to civil or criminal penalties. It's all well and good to say that religious institutions won't have to perform same-sex ceremonies. But that doesn't protect those organizations from civil lawsuits or insulate them from prosecution for hate speech if, for example, a priest were to condemn homosexuality from the pulpit. It also puts their tax-exempt status in danger.
    Funny, but the only person I see threatening the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church is a teabaggin’ Republican – as noted here…
    It’s on between the Tea Party and the Catholic Church in New Hampshire.

    Republican State Rep. and Tea Party leader Andrew Manuse (R-Derry) told the Catholic League he will be filing legislation in the New Hampshire House to strip the Roman Catholic Church of its tax exempt status because Bishop John McCormack spoke against proposed budget cuts at a recent State House rally, according to Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League.

    “I am now considering a bill to remove the Church’s tax exempt status in New Hampshire, for you have clearly shown that you no longer want it,” Manuse says in the e-mail.

    Sources at the State House have confirmed to NH Journal that Manuse indeed intends to file such legislation.

    Last week, McCormack joined several thousand protesters to oppose Republican-sponsored budget cuts.

    “Never in the nearly 18 years I have spent as president of the Catholic League have I seen more totally irresponsible statements issued by the lawmakers in any one state,” said Donohue in a statement. “Why doesn’t Manuse go right ahead with his bill to remove the Church’s tax-exempt status? We’d love to present his e-mail in court.”
    However, lest anyone think I’m inclined to give Donahue credit for anything whatsoever (a person who serves in no official capacity as a spokesman for the Catholic Church, let’s not forget), I should also point out this.

  • Finally, armchair warrior and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson of the WaPo chastised President Obama this week as follows (here)…
    Obama’s meandering leadership in the Afghan war is difficult even to summarize. In 2009, against considerable pressure, he made an effective counterinsurgency campaign possible by announcing a surge of 30,000 troops. He immediately complicated that strategy by setting a July 2011 deadline for the beginning of withdrawal — signaling that American resolve was temporary and that it might be possible for enemies to outwait the onslaught. But Obama minimized the confusion by making his drawdown schedule conditional on circumstances in Afghanistan.
    There are a lot of directions I can go with this, I realize, but I would ask that you bear with me a bit while we go back in time by about three years and two months and witness the following from April 8th, 2008…
    Is al-Qaida a greater threat to U.S. interests in Iraq, or in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region? Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden asked ambassador Ryan Crocker that question today, got an honest response, and set the Bush administration's talking points back quite a bit.

    As Spencer Ackerman noted, Crocker was in an untenable position: "Give the correct answer and humiliate the Bush administration [or] give the administration's answer and look like a fool." He went with the prior.

    DDay added, "The Ambassador to Iraq just admitted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror. He just admitted that the potential for Al Qaeda to gain a beachhead in Iraq should the United States withdraw is minuscule compared to the already-established beachhead along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He admitted that the global fight against terror is currently misdirected."
    So basically, then-Senator Joe Biden got Ambassador Ryan Crocker to admit that Iraq isn’t the “central front” on the Now And Forever You Godless Commie Li-bu-ruul And Now Damn The Torpedoes And On To Benghazi War On Terra! Terra! Terra!, but the Afghan/Pakistan border is where the front is located.

    So what did Gerson write about three weeks later? This…
    It is a central argument of the Bush administration that the outcome in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terrorism -- which is plainly true. When it comes to Sunni radicalism, the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are a single struggle.
    Gee, I wonder if Gerson’s TV was broken and didn’t hear what Crocker had to say?

    Oh, and by the way, despite the fact that a drawdown of 10,000 troops is, as far as I’m concerned, a token gesture, this tells us that Obama is a lot more in tune with public opinion on the Afghan war than Gerson is, or probably ever will be.
  • Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Thursday Stuff

    Just because I didn't see the speech on Afghanistan doesn't mean I can't have an opinion or two about the whole thing, amplified by K.O. here (and sorry for the triple negative in that statement)...

    Update 6/24/11: Here is link to Keith's comment; I try to avoid having audio automatically play when accessing a web site (that's why, when I'm not at home, I always turn the sound card control to mute to prevent any, shall I say, inconveniences).

    ...and I thought this was a nice, mellow little summer-ish kind of tune.

    Thursday Mashup (6/23/11)

  • This tells us that the Obama National Labor Relations Board is trying to implement a rule that would shorten the amount of time it would take a workforce to join a union…
    Union elections have been heavily tilted in favor of business for many years now, because of the long lag times between the announcement and the actual election, and because of how businesses use that time to intimidate and harass employees. Even despite this, 63% of all union elections succeeded in 2009, a testament to worker desire to join together to fight for their rights. If the process were streamlined and made more fair, there would not only be a better rate of victory, there would probably be more elections.
    So you just knew that the U.S. House Repugs had to oppose it (here)…
    The chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee harshly attacked on Tuesday proposed new rules from the National Labor Relations Board designed to drastically shorten the period workers have to consider a vote to join a union.

    Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, who is the panel’s chairman, said in a statement that the NLRB, now dominated by appointees of President Obama, “continues to push an activist agenda at the expense of our nation’s workforce.”

    “Not only will this misguided proposal to expedite union elections undermine an employer’s lawful right to communicate with his or her employees, it will cripple a worker’s ability to make an informed decision,” Mr. Kline warned.
    Which of course is total bullshit – FDL also tells us the following…
    In a parallel action, the Labor Department announced a rule that would force public disclosure of the consultants hired by employers to union-bust. This rule expands the 1959 Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act to close a loophole that employers used to bring in anti-union consultants, saying they merely provided “advice.”
    Oh, and by the way, as noted here, Kline also sponsored an amendment blocking a rule that, in essence, would stop for-profit colleges from gouging students and turning them into debt slaves.

  • Next up on our parade of right-wing House miscreants is Paul Broun of Georgia, opining over at The Daily Tucker (here)…
    I often say that Washington can learn a lot from using some good ole Georgia common sense.

    Earlier this month, after one of my town hall meetings, a mayor of a small town in my district told me a story about the struggles her city has been facing. With the economy in the worst state since the Great Depression, unemployment has shot through the roof and many businesses in Hoschton, Georgia have been forced to downsize or shut down completely.

    The mayor, Erma Denney, told me about how tough times have also required her to make some bold choices about Hoschton’s budget. Ultimately, in efforts to keep the town afloat, she ended up slashing their budget by a whopping 67 percent. Mayor Denney said to me, “Everything has to be put on the table… nothing can be impossible to cut.”

    Washington: take note.
    In response, I give you the following:
  • Broun had no problem here with the potential of 250,000 employees getting laid off as a result of his party’s games with the debt limit, saying they should get a “real job.”

  • He also did and said nothing in response to a “shoot Obama” comment from one of his constituents (here).

  • He also encouraged lawbreaking by telling people not to fill out their census forms (here).

  • Just like every other Repug, he said here that everyone has health care because they can go to an emergency room (Remember that one? And that’s particularly ridiculous since Broun is apparently a doctor).

  • He called for an investigation into the Council on American-Islamic Relations, rightly termed a “witch hunt” by Glenn Greenwald (here).

  • And as noted here he said that health care reform and the stimulus will “kill people by denying care”; he said that Obama and the “Socialist elite” were planning to “declare martial law”; and in his book “The Backlash,” Will Bunch documented Broun’s ties to the “Oath Keepers,” a “fast-growing, ultraradical organization that spreads unsubstantiated fears of Obama confiscating guns and placing U.S. citizens in concentration camps.”
  • Actually, I don’t know who is more repulsive; Broun, or the life forms that continually send him back to Congress every two years.

  • And that’s probably an appropriate transition into this week’s Area Votes in Congress writeup (here – getting to this today because I just don’t know about posting tomorrow)…

    2012 farm, food budget. Voting 217-203, the House passed a bill (HR 2112) to appropriate $17.3 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Agriculture and related agencies in fiscal 2012. The bill would cut spending by nearly 14 percent below 2011 levels to meet targets in the Republicans' 2012 budget plan. The bill would provide $2.2 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, down $284 million from 2011 levels, and $171 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, down $32 million.

    The bill would sharply cut discretionary spending for domestic food initiatives such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and aid for community food banks. But it would fund an increase of more than $7 billion, to $108.3 billion, in mandatory 2012 spending for crop subsidies, food stamps, school lunches, and other entitlements whose levels are set by formula, not by congressional appropriators.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., 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.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    Less money to regulate our food and drugs, less for poor women and young children, and less for regulating commodities including the price of oil…remember this vote the next time you hear about what an upright “family man” with his six kids Mikey the Beloved supposedly is (also remember this the next time J.D. Mullane blames Obama for $4-a-gallon gas).
    Food-safety funds. Voting 193-226, the House defeated an amendment to add $1 million to HR 2112 (above) to help the Food and Drug Administration implement a 2010 law that greatly expands its authority over domestic and foreign companies that handle raw and processed foods. The $1 million was to have been transferred from a variety of Department of Agriculture administrative accounts.

    A yes vote was to spend more on food safety.

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

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

    Not voting: Andrews.
    Of course – who needs safe food, right (take a bow, teabaggers…e coli, here we come! And good for Dent, Smith and LoBiondo to act like adults here, unlike Saint Mikey).
    Breast-feeding funds. Voting 119-306, the House defeated an amendment to strip HR 2112 (above) of its $85 million for a program that educates mothers about the health advantages of breast feeding. The counseling is part of the WIC nutrition program for low-income families.

    A yes vote was to defund the breast-feeding program.

    Voting yes: Pitts.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.
    Joe Pitts has cast all kinds of awful No votes, but this has to be one of his very worst. Leave it to this supposed paragon of morality, who will yammer all day long about the unborn, to not give a damn about these kids once they pop out of mommy’s belly.

    Want to know why this matters, Pancake Joe? Click here..
    Veterans' suicides. Voting 184-234, the House defeated a bid by Democrats to spend an additional $20 million in fiscal 2012 for services to prevent suicides by veterans of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vote occurred as the House passed a bill (HR 2055) appropriating $72.5 billion for military construction programs and the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2012. The $20 million was to have been offset by cuts elsewhere in the bill.

    A yes vote was to increase spending to prevent veterans' suicides.

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

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

    Not voting: Andrews.
    At a certain point, I just have no words for my disgust (here).

    Ethanol subsidies. The Senate voted, 73-27, to end tax subsidies and trade protection for the U.S. ethanol industry. The measure would end refundable tax credits for refineries that blend ethanol with gasoline, saving the Treasury $6 billion annually. The credits amount to 45 cents per gallon of ethanol. The amendment also would repeal a tariff of 54 cents per gallon on imported ethanol. Critics noted that U.S. refineries need no financial incentive because they are required by law to undercut this domestic alternative to foreign oil. The underlying bill (S 782) remained in debate.

    A yes vote was to end ethanol subsidies.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).

    Voting no: Bob Casey (D., Pa.).
    This week, the House debated the 2012 defense budget and a revamp of U.S. patent laws, while the Senate took up a bill streamlining the process for confirming presidential appointees (which, judging from how they’ve moved at slower than a snail’s pace on Obama appointees, I would say is long overdue).

  • Finally, I came across some truly ripe stuff from Michael Grunwald of Time (here)…
    There was a telling confrontation at last week’s Netroots Nation gathering of progressive activists, interrupting a panel discussion on “What to Do When the President Is Just Not That Into You.” A bisexual volunteer for President Obama reelection campaign approached the stage to hand a flyer to Dan Choi, a gay former Army lieutenant and a leading crusader for the repeal of don’t-ask-don’t-tell. Choi dramatically ripped up the flyer and declared that he wouldn’t support Obama.

    And why should he? What has Obama ever done to help gays serve openly in the military? Other than repeal don’t-ask-don’t-tell, so that gays can serve openly in the military? Ah, “the professional left,” never happy unless it’s unhappy.
    I will admit that I’m not sure what else Obama can do about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that he hasn’t already done (open to any new information on this if anyone has anything). And yes, he could stop this squishy hand-wringing on marriage equality when the country is plainly moving in that direction with or without his help (also, don’t ask me to comment on Obama’s speech last night on Afghanistan because I didn’t see it due of home renovations to Le Manse Doomsy, currently allowing us a single TV that has been thoroughly monopolized by the young one…sounds like Number 44 was going for half a loaf once again, though I honestly am not sure what else he could do at the moment; yes, I want to see the wars end, but it’s all about winning over those “independent” voters…like it or not, that’s the political calculation anymore).

    However, Grunwald uses this column as an opportunity to “punch the DFHs” once again for complaining about the “stim” (yes, for the hundred and fiftieth time, it was too small…and gee, maybe if it had been a trillion and a half, say, then the effects would have lasted into the 2010 midterms and the Dems would not have gotten wiped out) and the fact that a public option was not included in health care reform (yes, there was a window when it enjoyed popular support before the whole sausage-making boondoggle behind the whole enterprise ended up turning people off, and yes, it would have encouraged competition and lowered costs).

    (And by the way, I’m not providing links in the prior two paragraphs because I’ve already posted about this stuff many, many, many times, but I must keep bringing this up because of Grunwald and his fellow corporate media minions. However, I will provide a link here to a Media Matters post in which Grunwald agrees with Flush Limbore’s assessment about the BP spill…way beyond a joke all the way around - the reality point of view is here)

    Grunwald concludes his column with this…
    It’s easy for activists to complain about imperfect achievements like the stimulus or Obamacare, especially when they’re not among the 3 million Americans who would’ve been unemployed without the stimulus or the 50 million Americans who would’ve been uninsured without Obamacare. Complaining is what activists do. And bloggers are right that Obama hasn’t made a consistent case for liberal politics or Keynesian economics, allowing anti-government Republicans to hijack the national debate. But making a case is what bloggers are supposed to do.
    That’s a preposterous statement upon first glance. However, when you think about it, I suppose it’s true.

    Particularly when politicians and a supposedly free, objective media entertaining all points of view equally refuse to make those cases themselves.
  • Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    I would call this a cautionary history lesson with an important message...

    ...and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODD! (no video - only a tune of his which is vastly underrated, IMHO).

    Wednesday Mashup (6/22/11)

  • Memo to The Hill: The Sainted Ronnie R died seven years ago.

  • Also, it looks like Mark Krikorian of Irrational Spew Online is getting ready to call the civility police (here)…
    Look, I understand that conservatives disagree on Libya, and more generally over how expansive our foreign policy should be. But this name-calling is inappropriate…
    Oh, that’s a good one.

    Here, Krikorian helped to amplify the “anchor baby” threat (I would say that constitutes name calling); here, he called Obama an “effete vacillator”; here, he called an immigration rally an "illegal-alien-palooza"; and here, he said Haiti is a “basket case” because “it wasn’t colonized long enough.”

    Once more, a conservative looks into the mirror and sees everyone and everything but himself.

  • Continuing, Philadelphia’s conservative house organ of record tells us the following here (on the matter of the recent Supreme Court ruling that tossed the class action lawsuit filed by women employees of Wal-Mart)…
    The misconceptions about this case begin with the identities of the real combatants. On NPR's Marketplace this week, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick described the plaintiffs as "1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart who are trying to file a class-action suit." But, of course, most of those women are not "trying" to do anything of the sort.

    Rather, a relative handful of them have hired lawyers, and those lawyers daringly sought to get themselves declared the legal representatives of the other 1.496 million (or however many), who have expressed no inclination whatsoever to sue.
    The individual who wrote this really should acquaint himself with what a class action lawsuit truly is, which is an action by “any member of a class of plaintiffs” (the fact that the suit was brought on behalf of 1.5 million female employees although it wasn’t initiated by each of those employees doesn’t automatically make it invalid).

    I took a little while to think this over, though, because, though this is yet another case of the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR doing the bidding of its corporate masters, I wasn’t sure about this action on the legal merits, though I see plenty of grounds for it.

    Jonathan Turley can do a much better job of explaining it, and I think he does so here…
    As anticipated, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Wal-Mart in an important workplace discrimination case. The Court divided 5-4 in adopting more stringent standards for future cases. From the outset, I viewed this as an extremely bad case that would likely make bad law for those fighting workplace discrimination. It now has.

    In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, all of the justices agreed to reverse the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case which would have affected up to 1.6 million women and billions of dollars in damages.

    That was the easy part. The justices, however, divided on the elements needed for future such cases. It divided along ideological lines with Justice Antonin Scalia holding that the court must require common elements to be the basis for such class actions.
    Yeah, leave to Scalia as usual, who seemed to think the plaintiffs couldn’t establish a standard of discrimination “on a classwide basis.” And for good measure, Scalia and his pals also made it damn difficult for a plaintiff to recover lost wages as a result of a class action (the four dissenting judges, Ginsburg, Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor, believing the Wal-Mart workers had a case, would have sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit…for good measure, a New York Times Op-Ed chimed in on this here).

    However, as Think Progress reminds us here, this wasn’t even the worst class action ruling by The Supremes this term (TP is having a fundraising appeal at the moment – they’re doing heroic work, and they could use any scratch you can send over to them).

  • Further, I give you the odious Ron Johnson at The Daily Tucker (here)…
    Prior to being elected to the United States Senate last November, I spent 31 years building a plastics manufacturing business in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. My educational background is in accounting and finance, but when you help start a business from scratch, you wind up doing just about everything. I operated machinery, loaded trucks and railcars, hired and trained the staff, kept the books, paid taxes, purchased raw materials, sold our finished products, did payroll, opened mail, emptied trash, and made coffee.

    Why am I telling you this?

    Because I’m not in the least bit unusual. Every day, millions of hard-working business owners, and the good people that work with them, struggle to build a good life for themselves and their families. They are the backbone of America. They work hard and play by the rules. And they live within their means.

    Why can’t Washington?
    I get really fed up with Johnson in particular mythologizing his supposed business chops; as noted here, he got a “hand up” from government bonds and “stim” funds (neither of which is illegal, of course, but some honesty about this would be nice). Oh, and Johnson also used prison labor to get out of paying a fair wage for a hard day’s work.

    Besides, I think it’s more than a bit of a contradiction for Johnson to now be praising our supposedly wonderful system of free enterprise in this country when he once reminded us how great Communist China supposedly is, as noted here.

  • Update 6/25/11: Tisk, tisk, tisk (here)...

  • And speaking of dictatorships ruled by an individual with an iron fist, this tells us that Ed Snider, chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, has been the primary force behind the team’s efforts to sign Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, formerly of the Phoenix Coyotes (I haven’t touched on sports for a little while, so I guess I’m overdue)…
    LAS VEGAS - If there were ever any doubt about who controls the Philadelphia Flyers, Ed Snider put that to rest yesterday.

    The Flyers' chairman and founder, now 78, is no omnipresent figurehead. He is still the one pulling the strings.

    Snider made it clear that he is the one who wants (Bryzgalov) in a Flyers uniform next season, setting in motion a directive at the end of last season that put general manager Paul Holmgren on a mission.

    The Flyers acquired Bryzgalov's rights on June 7.

    "It had to be done," Snider told the Daily News, just after arriving here for tonight's NHL Awards show at The Palms Casino and Resort. "I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston."
    Some thoughts…I have to admit that Paul Holmgren has done a better job as the GM of this club than I thought he would, but the fact that he hasn’t been given the clout to tell Snider to butt out is pretty sad. Also, Boston won the Stanley Cup because of Thomas, sure, but also because the team (and I hate to admit this, but it’s true) did a superb job of finding role players who could step up and take some of the burden off the team’s stars (Brad Marchand, Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, and former Flyer Dennis Seidenberg…also Nathan Horton – I think that stray elbow that put him out for the finals ended up being the turning point of the series, something I'm sure Aaron Rome of Vancouver will be thinking about for a long time).

    The Flyers have some age issues to deal with, particularly among their defensemen, as well as talent issues among their forwards (there are guys who definitely have benefitted playing with Mike Richards and Danny Briere in particular who, I think, would not have comparable numbers otherwise…see Ville Leino, Scott Hartnell, possibly Dan Carcillo). Signing a marquee goaltender for about one-tenth of your entire salary cap won’t fix that stuff also.

    (And I know it’s not in Snider’s DNA to congratulate the winning team on its victory if they’re not wearing orange and black, so I might as well not even go there.)

    Besides, I’d heard from one of those Internet tubes somewhere that they’re also looking at Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun, who I think would be a better fit for a much lower price (all they need is someone to buy time for Flyers’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for maybe a year or two).

    And I wonder if I’m the only one who sees this as a “Nixon Goes To China” moment for Snider, who once detested the Soviets, partly for good reason, and subsequently refused to scout or draft them or have much of anything to do with them, though he now is doing his best to curry the favor of a Russian player (and a guy who would be the second Russian goalie on the team).

  • Finally, “The Pericles Of Petticoat Junction” strikes again (here)…
    When President Obama voted present on the Iranian uprising and Secretary Clinton described the monstrous Assad as a “reformer,” completely absent was any awareness that both countries are repressive, cruel, and intolerant of dissent…
    In response, I give you this from President Obama…
    …in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force -– no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

    But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: Keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

    While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it’s not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime –- including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

    The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.

    So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.
    And as noted here, we recently marked the two-year anniversary of the death of Neda Soltan.

    Not to fear, though – Hanson will be onboard the fall “conservative cruise” along with a cadre of wingnut luminaries. Book your reservations early.

    I suppose an untimely November Caribbean hurricane is probably too much to ask for, but I’ll pray for one anyway.
  • Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    God, did I miss "Countdown" (here)...

    …and happy 60th birthday to Nils Lofgren (take it easy on the back flips, OK?).

    Tuesday Mashup (6/21/11)

  • Over the weekend, former Bushco IRS head Mark Everson wrote the following (here, about our current economic mess)…
    It will take decades to fully untangle the causes of the 2008 financial crisis…
    Really? I would say that the causes have been pretty well defined at this point…inflating the housing bubble by “securitizing” crappy mortgages re-bundled as AAA-rated assets, peddling them all over the place (with life forms such as those at Goldman Sachs making money off the front end selling them and making money off the back end by hedging them with credit default swaps), then watching in horror as they imploded and jobs evaporated…of course, years of Republican budget profligacy including putting two wars and Dubya’s stinking tax cuts “on the card” didn’t help either…shall I go on?

    Everson claims here that lawyers and accountants “who were once the proud pillars of our financial system have become the happy architects of its circumvention.” After having just gotten around to watching “Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room,” and witnessing the willing collaboration of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm in Enron’s ruinous scams, I really can’t argue that (to say nothing of the company’s lawyers).

    Still, to me, this sounds a bit like a bank robber who gets caught and ends up suing the manufacturer of the weapon he used in his crime, because (he argues) that he would have gotten away with it had the gun not misfired (for some reason, Everson seems to give our supposedly august financial titans a pass here).

    The column argues that companies should separate the role of a board chairman from a chief executive, as Everson puts it, though it kind of makes me wonder why that needs to be pointed out, given that someone holding two or more roles like that potentially opens the door for conflict of interest.

    Everson also argues for abrogation of attorney/clients privilege within corporations trading in securities, to which I respond, yeah, just watch and see how long THAT stands up when it is challenged in the Supreme Court of Hangin’ Judge JR, who never met a corporate “person” he didn’t like (how about stringent enforcement of the existing rules for agencies charged with policing these entities like the SEC, as well as providing enough funds to hire enough agents to do their jobs as successfully as possible?).

    Everson continues…
    (One) idea is for corporations to reassess their compensation practices for financial and legal executives. Just as some large businesses are moving to separate the position of board chairman from that of chief executive in order to provide for stronger governance, companies might also consider development of a new pay scheme for their financial and legal personnel. This would mean paying handsome, multiyear fixed salaries to the chief financial officer, the general counsel and their top deputies — but without offering the opportunity for equity participation. Such an approach would sharply limit the temptation to inflate shareholder value at the expense of business substance.
    It would also sharply limit the desire of a CEO to grow his or her company if they knew that they didn’t have an equity stake in that company (and somehow I have a feeling this would also cause them to believe that they could screw up with impunity).

    I am hardly a business genius, but I still found this to be head-scratching stuff from Everson, who once had the brilliant idea to privatize IRS tax collection in 2004, though it ended up costing more than it generated before it was mercifully repealed by a Democratic Party-run House (here); froze more than 120,000 low-income taxpayers’ refunds on suspicion of fraud without notifying them or giving them a chance to respond and also eliminated the highly convenient and inexpensive Tele-File program (here); and resigned as head of the Red Cross because he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a female subordinate (here).

    Everson also came up with the brilliant idea here of encouraging tax preparers to sell tax data to third parties, and from there "once in the hands of (those) third parties, tax information could be resold and handled under even looser rules than the IRS sets, increasing consumers' vulnerability to identity theft and other risks" (an observation made by a former Dem Illinois senator, a fellow named Barack Obama).

    There are a lot of reasons why I’m glad that Everson is basically out of the picture when it comes to matters of federal governance, and one is that I don’t have to look at that self-satisfied mug of his anymore (though I’m sure that Red Cross thing brought him back down to earth just a little bit).

  • Next, I give you the latest from the U.S. House Repugs and their non-jobs agenda (here)…
    The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to repeal an election commission set up after the controversial 2000 presidential election.

    Members plan to vote on H.R. 672, which would repeal the Election Assistance Commission. That commission was established in 2002 after confusion and controversy over ballots in Florida for presidential election between then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

    The commission was set up under the Help America Vote Act approved in 2002. That law created the commission, which set voting guidelines for states, and to distribute funds to states that could be used to update voting equipment.

    Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the sponsor of H.R. 672, says repealing the commission would save $14 million a year and that it can safely be repealed because the commission's work has been completed. He said that in 2010, the National Association of Secretaries of State renewed their request to repeal the EAC, which has "served its purpose."
    Sooo…The Repugs are trying to save $14 million, while our total deficit remains at about $14 trillion, over $10.6 trillion of which was racked up under Bushco.

    And doing it on the backs of poor, elderly and minority voters. Nice.

    In response, Dem House Rep Bob Brady of PA tells us the following in defense of the EAC (here)…
    While the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was a creation of Congress, the bulk of its services and guidance is intended to support and assist state and local election operations. As such, it is misguided and presumptuous for Congress to propose its termination unilaterally, without the input of the state and local election officials who rely on its resources in executing their most crucial functions.

    In a Congressional Research Service report titled “How Local Election Officials View Elections Reform: Results of Three National Surveys,” most local election officials found the services provided by the EAC moderately important. [i] In the same survey, the degree to which election officials found the EAC helpful improved significantly in 2008, when compared to responses from a similar survey conducted in 2006. Comparing both surveys, we find that 65% of 2008 survey respondents found the EAC “Moderately helpful,” compared to 35% in 2006.[ii] And in 2008, the percentage of respondents who found the EAC less helpful dropped from 46% in 2006 to 18% in 2008.[iii] These trends suggest marked improvement in the functioning and/perception of the EAC, by those who works closest with it. It’s also important to note that we have yet to see the results of the 2010 survey, yet here we are, having a hearing on an opportunistic bill that was introduced in uncertain budgetary times under the guise of cutting costs.

    Most of what the EAC does is advisory, providing guidance to state and local election boards to ensure fair and efficient elections. This is not someone’s pet project – it is a crucial, frontline effort to ensure the integrity of our elections system. I can think of very few, more worthwhile expenditures of taxpayer resources.
    The misery of the wretched 112th Congress drags on.

  • Finally, this New York Times story tells us the following…
    MOSCOW — Andrei Sakharov was one of the best-known dissidents of the Communist era — a celebrated physicist persecuted for crusading for human rights and against Soviet brutality. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, and came to personify the struggle to create democracy here.

    Yet when a group of college students at the Russian Law Academy in Moscow were asked the other day for their views on his legacy, they fumbled. Most seemed never to have heard of him.

    “One of our professors talked about him in a lecture,” said Maria Danilyants, 17, an aspiring lawyer, who was one of the few who recognized the name. “But I don’t really remember now exactly what he said.”

    Many of Sakharov’s admirers are alarmed that memories of his achievements are fading, especially among young people, before his ideals have fully taken hold. Sakharov spent his life challenging government shortcomings, but today’s youth seem to easily look past them, if they notice at all.

    A nuclear physicist who helped design the Soviet Union’s first hydrogen bomb, Sakharov spurned the Soviet elite to become a dissident. He championed human rights, spoke out against nuclear weapons and opposed the Soviet war in Afghanistan. His work earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, as well as a long stint of house arrest and exile.

    He died in 1989, two years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and before many of today’s college-age Russians were born.
    The story tells us that a web site has been created called the Sakharov Movement, intended to spur interest once more in this titan of the struggle for human rights, not just in the former Soviet Union, but throughout the world (made even more timely by the recent passage of Elena Bonner, Sakharov’s widow).

    The Times story concludes with the following…
    Many young people, however, follow different ideals.

    Asked about his heroes, Suren Khachtryan, 18, another student at the Russian Law Academy, responded without hesitation: “Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Prokhorov,” two of Russia’s billionaire businessmen.

    “They are successful, shrewd and intelligent,” he said.

    Asked about Mr. Sakharov, he replied, “Who?”
    This reminds me of the Chinese students who have no recollection of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which also occurred in 1989, the year Sakharov died.

    And sorry, but I’m hard pressed to determine which is a more depressing development (and just remember to blame liberals for historical ignorance, as the Repug presidential candidate with a "Google problem" does here...yeah, right).