Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Stuff

John Nichols of The Nation talks to K.O. about the American Legislative Exchange Council (Wonder who's behind all of the nutty antics of the Republican Party? Here's your answer)...

...and here's some music to check out while we continue to broil.

Saturday Mashup (7/23/11)

  • The Repugs non-jobs agenda staggers on (here)…
    A House committee has voted to reinstate a ban on US funding to organizations that offer or even refer women for abortions around the world. Often called the "global gag rule" or the "Mexico City Policy," the measure goes so far as to prevent health and aid organizations from even presenting abortion as an option.

    Republicans on the House Foreign Relations Committee included the prohibition in an authorization bill marked up this week. Here's the pertinent portion of the legislation:

    None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any amendment made by this Act may be made available to any foreign nongovernmental organization that promotes or performs abortion, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.
    And as noted here…
    Critics of the Mexico City Policy refer to it as the "global gag rule", arguing that, in addition to reducing the overall funding provided to particular NGOs, it closes off their access to USAID-supplied condoms and other forms of contraception.[13] This, they argue, negatively impacts the ability of these NGOs to distribute birth control, leading to a downturn in contraceptive use and from there to an increase in the rates of unintended pregnancies and abortion.[13] Critics also argue that the ban promotes restrictions on free speech as well as restrictions on accurate medical information.[14][15][16][17] The European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development presented a petition to the United States Congress signed by 233 members condemning the policy. The forum has stated that the policy "undermines internationally agreed consensus and goals".[18]
    And as noted here
    The Mexico City Policy undoubtedly violates the free speech guarantees of international human rights instruments to which the United States is a party.ll3 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted without dissent by the UN General Assembly in 1948. The principles expressed in the UDHR include that all men and women are entitled to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.1I5 These principles are legally binding on the U.S. through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference . . . . Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds , regardless of frontiers , either orally, in writing or in print . . . . " The global gag rule expressly violates the spirit of this agreement, as well as the explicit rights it seeks to protect. As such, the rule not only impairs the freedom of expression of U.S. - funded foreign NGOs that wish to pursue expressive communications with their own, separate funds, it also violates the rights of patients and citizens seeking medical advice to be fully informed.
    Gosh, the notion of universal human rights applicable to everyone regardless of your gender, ethnicity or political affiliation. How “pre-9/11” can you get (snark)?

  • Next, it looks like Turd Blossom is smiling (here)…
    The Internal Revenue Service has abruptly stopped its investigation of whether gift taxes are due from fat-cat donors to nonprofit advocacy groups, which are emerging as increasingly powerful, and stealthy, players in American politics.

    The tax is rarely levied, but the fact that regulators had finally questioned the donations raised hope that the I.R.S. might address an even more glaring problem: How partisan attack machines are allowed to pose as nonprofit social welfare organizations to avoid disclosing contributors. The agency’s timidity will invite even greater abuse of tax and election law by moneyed parties.

    I.R.S. officials, besieged by Republican complaints, backed off the gift-tax issue this month, lamely claiming that greater study was needed for a clearer policy. This decision compounds the enormous damage done by the Supreme Court’s decision last year allowing unlimited corporate and union money in campaigns.
    Dan Froomkin of HuffPo (remember him?) wrote a great piece here on this in which he notes the following…
    In Crossroads GPS's solicitations for money, the group describes itself as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, and due to a controversial loophole in federal campaign finance rules, the names of donors to those organizations do not have to be disclosed publicly.

    But contrary to popular belief, Rove's group has not formally attained 501(c)(4) status. The group's application, requesting the IRS to classify it as a "social welfare" group, is still pending.

    And while the designation is typically not much more than a formality -- organizations routinely call themselves (c)(4) groups before they've been formally approved -- tax and campaign finance experts contacted by The Huffington Post said the IRS could well deny Crossroads GPS's application.

    IRS guidelines for 501(c)(4) status state that social welfare groups "must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community" -- which "does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office."

    Intervening in political campaigns isn't prohibited, it just can't be the primary activity.

    Were Crossroads GPS denied its 501(c)(4) status, the organization could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in fines. And operating in secrecy would suddenly come with an enormous new price tag.
    If anyone out there is disposed to contact the IRS and ask them why they utterly caved on this decision, feel free to do so by clicking here.

  • Continuing, I give you last week’s Area Votes in Congress (here – not a lot to add from yours truly)…

    National flood insurance. Voting 406-22, the House passed a bill (HR 1309) to renew the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through 2016 and start key reforms. The bill authorizes the program to add $3 billion in new debt to the $17.8 billion it already owes the Treasury. The program insures about 5.6 million residential and commercial properties located in flood plains in 22,000 communities.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Energy-efficient bulbs. Voting 233-193, the House failed to reach a two-thirds majority needed to repeal new standards designed to increase the energy efficiency of light bulbs by 30 percent. The standards are fostering bulbs such as compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that cost more than traditional bulbs but which are expected to save households $100 a year on average.

    The standards will take effect next year under an energy law signed by President George W. Bush in 2007. Backers of this bill (HR 2417) denounced the efficiency rules as a federal overreach that will unfairly limit consumer freedoms, while defenders said they would cut nationwide energy costs by $12 billion annually.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    Your Republican Party – gluttons on energy now as always.
    Clean Water Act. Voting 239-184, the House passed a bill (HR 2018) shifting power to administer certain sections of the Clean Water Act to the states. In part, the bill would strip the federal Environmental Protection Agency of authority to veto Army Corps of Engineers wetlands policies without state concurrence; bar the EPA from issuing new water-quality standards in certain instances without the approval of the affected state; and give states more leeway to issue clean-water permits without federal interference.

    Backers said the bill would set a proper balance between federal and state powers, while critics said it was written to help polluters such as mountaintop mining and factory farming.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, LoBiondo, Schwartz, and Smith.
    The clip below from The Rachel Maddow Show explains once more why this was an incredibly wrong-headed piece of legislation (actual good votes by Mikey the Beloved, LoBiondo and Smith).

    Advanced energy research. The House voted, 214-213, to increase funding for the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency from $100 million to $179.6 million in fiscal 2012. This would restore the agency's budget to its 2011 level. Created in 2009, the agency, in concert with universities and corporations, fosters basic research and new technologies aimed at establishing U.S. superiority in the field of energy. The amendment was added to a $31 billion energy appropriations bill (HR 2354) for fiscal 2012, which was later passed.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

    Voting no: Dent, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    I hope Mikey is feeling all right – these are actually TWO good votes in a row; I’m shocked (and LoBiondo again and Gerlach? Wowsers!)

    Update 10/3/11: By the way, here is more than a little bit of energy hypocrisy from Pancake Joe and Chris Smith, as well as Todd Platts, who rarely gets a mention around here.

    Millionaires' taxes. Voting 51-49, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes for ending GOP blockage of a bill (S 1323) stating the sense of the Senate that any agreement to raise the national debt ceiling and curb deficit spending should include "a meaningful contribution" from millionaires and billionaires. The nonbinding Democratic bill was vague on what form the contribution should take but was widely seen as a call for higher taxes on the wealthy.

    A yes vote was to advance the bill.

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

    Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
    “No Corporate Tax” Pat hearts his base once more (he is every bit as loathsome as I knew he would be during the election last year).

    This week, both chambers took up fiscal 2012 appropriations bills as well as proposed constitutional amendments requiring a balanced federal budget.

  • Update 7/24/11: A hat tip to one of my senior correspondents for this (looks like Mikey voted to fund energy development but then, for some reason, voted against the final appropriations bill...a real head-scratcher there).

  • Finally, this tells us that “Comic-Con” is taking place in San Diego, and U.S. senators were asked to pick their favorite comic book heroes. John Kerry chose Charlie Brown “because he’s always screwing up,” John Cornyn and Orrin Hatch more or less chose Superman, and Joe Manchin chose “Bazooka Joe” (huh?). Oh, and Marco Rubio wondered whether Batman was really a superhero after all.

    No word on whether or not Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao or Orange Man Boehner chose Aquaman, which would be appropriate because, if their gamesmanship on the debt limit continues, the probability exists that our entire economy could end up under water (here).
  • Friday, July 22, 2011

    Friday Stuff

    Couldn't quite get off a post today...

    ...Meanwhile, there go Orange Man and Cantor, doing what they do best in spite of all evidence to the contrary (here)...

    ...and I don't know about you, but I'm the mood for a bit of escapism ("F" blast at end).

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Thursday Stuff

    What balls by Cenk Uygur (more here)...

    ...and you wanna know why we have a Clean Water Act? Check this out (something else the Feds can do better than the states)...

    ...and Rachel is back with the House Repug vendetta against rural airports, to say nothing of unions of course (here - heckuva job)...

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    ...and this song works on a couple of different levels for yours truly at the moment, including Orange Man and his pals - long story.

    Bringing The Pain, Part 1

    I’ve been debating with myself about whether or not I should do this, but I’m going to give it a try anyway.

    I can assure you that, along with probably every other sentient being on this earth, I am utterly sick and tired of the ridiculous debt limit charade going on in Washington, D.C. (and I still truly cannot find the words to communicate my disgust with the fact that we are toying with such calamitous consequences in the process). Also, though it is vital that Rupert Murdoch and his empire of evil are flayed alive in the square of public opinion (to say nothing of subject to civil and/or criminal prosecution), I’m going to leave that to my “A” list betters to cover for now.

    And just so you know, calling out the right-wing idiots at the usual places on the web doesn’t necessarily make my day either. However, I’ve always believed that you need to engage these people when you know that they’re peddling nothing but lying garbage. For now, though, I’m going to give that a pass too.

    Basically, I read this story in the New York Times recently about the jobless and came to the highly unoriginal conclusion that our media isn’t paying anywhere near the attention that it should to the unemployed. And I suppose that includes this blog too. Well, I’m about to try and change that.

    My plan is to look for stories/posts/whatever online content I can find pertinent to all 50 states and the U.S. territories and publicize it here. I’ll do my best to make it interesting (and this being a blog and all, please feel free to contribute anything you may wish).


    As noted here, the rate in this state was 9.6 percent as of last month...
    "It's very tough," said Athens resident Mike Staton, one of thousands of Alabamians who lost their job in May. Staton had worked as a contract engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center for almost ten years before getting a pink slip right before Memorial Day weekend. "It's hard not just on me, but on my family. I'm hoping that somebody will look at my experience and take a chance on me."

    Officials said the April tornadoes had some impact on the numbers, but opinions vary as to how dominant a role they actually played. North Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R) said the real problem wasn't the weather, but Washington policies.

    "To a very large degree, our unemployment situation is caused by Washington policies that simply don't work," said Congressman Brooks. Brooks believes costs associated with the new federal health care law along with talk of raising the corporate tax rate on businesses is causing many employers to hit the pause button on hiring. Many businesses have stated their unwillingness to hire due to cost uncertainty over both factors.
    On the subject of Obama supposedly raising corporate tax rates, I give you this (and this tells you more about the antics of Mo Brooks; as I keep saying, people out there voted for boneheads like this guy).

    Also, here is a story about help for unemployed Alabama homeowners, who may qualify for as much as $15,000 in assistance.


    Good news, residents of that state (well, good comparatively speaking) – your unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in May (here).

    As noted here, though…
    By the first half of 2010, the unemployment rate for Alaska Natives jumped 6.3 percentage points to 21.3%—the highest regional unemployment rate for American Indians.
    And this tells us more about how to tackle joblessness in rural Alaska

    Of course, when it comes to Alaska and unemployment, you know I just have to include an item like this (notwithstanding this, of course).

    American Samoa

    The only items I could find here was a story about how a 2007 increase in the federal minimum wage provided an excuse for Starkist and Chicken of the Sea to close their tuna canning operations; however, as noted here from last October, Chicken of the Sea transferred its operations to a U.S.-based company that will reopen the cannery in the territory (President Obama signed a bill into law “delaying implementation of the wage hike in American Samoa this year and next”…yeah, there goes that business-hating Obama again doing what needs to be done in this case).


    As noted here, the seasonally adjusted rate was 9.1 percent last month, “at least in part because more people will be serving up burgers and fries.”

    Oh, goody.

    And as noted here from last month…
    The Arizona Legislature adjourned a two-day special session Monday without voting on a proposal to keep 20 weeks of federally funded extended unemployment benefits flowing to thousands of jobless people.

    Gov. Jan Brewer had tried to get lawmakers to change a formula in state law so jobless Arizonans could continue to receive the benefits. But several GOP and some Democratic lawmakers blamed the Republican governor for failing to line up votes to support the measure and calling lawmakers into special session shortly before the deadline for making the change expired.

    The extended benefits arriving in the mail this week will be the last without a formula change. The state's unemployment has fallen enough to stop benefits after 79 weeks under the current formula. About 15,000 people are now receiving the additional 20 weeks of benefits. Arizona's benefits are second lowest in the nation, averaging $216 per person each week and maxing out at $240 a week.
    And I thought PA was cheap (and it is) – continuing…
    Carla Mannes, a Mesa resident who has been unemployed for about 68 weeks since losing her job in the funeral industry, said she is approaching the threshold for receiving the extended benefits. She's frustrated those who argue that extending benefits would encourage people not to look for jobs.

    "I am not sure how that counts as fraudulent in trying to pay a mortgage, buy food and take care of your kids," Mannes said.
    Oh, and this tells us of “unemployed” former GOP “big shot” Brett Mecum (interesting reading).


    As noted here…
    Nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas declined 300 in May to total 1,178,700. Three major industry sectors posted job losses, more than offsetting minor increases in six industries. Employment remained stable in two sectors. The greatest decrease occurred in professional and business services (-2,600). The administrative and support services subsector posted the largest drop (-1,400), attributed in large part to reported declines at employment agencies.
    So even the people working at the unemployment office are getting laid off…
    Jobs in educational and health services decreased (-1,200), as some educational facilities have closed for summer break. Leisure and hospitality added 1,400 jobs. Gains were mostly seasonal and spread evenly throughout the sector.
    Here is a website that seems to provide job listings in Arkansas for older workers, and here is more about that state’s workforce services department.


    What I’m really trying to find above all else are stories of the jobless, and they are plentiful at this site dedicated to those seeking work in the Golden State.

    And as noted here from last October…
    …Silicon Valley, the capital of American innovation has a new creation: revival meetings for the unemployed. On weekends, they come by the hundreds.

    "60 Minutes" joined a gathering called "Job Connections," held inside a local church.

    It's part how-to-find-a-job workshop, part networking opportunity with the feel of a 12-step program.

    The people in the group are the faces of unemployment in Silicon Valley, people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who thought they had done everything right: earned a degree, stayed with their company, saved for retirement.

    "I'm curious. How many PhDs in this room?" Pelley asked. "One, two, three, four… several. Now leave your hands up. How many master's degrees? Oh boy. And how many of you went to college. Everybody keep your hands up if you have a college degree, a master's degree or a PhD."

    Many in the room had their hands up.

    "How many of you expected to retire from the company where you were working?" he then asked.

    "More than half the room," he noted.
    And as of May, the state’s unemployment rate was 11.9 percent (here).

    Aside from the terrible human toll of unemployment, the waste of intellectual capital going on right now is positively staggering.


    As noted here…
    July 20 (Bloomberg) -- Colorado, where unemployment topped the national average in three of the past five months, is looking to attract more technology jobs by helping employers access capital through a plan unveiled today by Governor John Hickenlooper.

    "This is how we really are going to get this state going and get it back in gear," Hickenlooper said at a press conference in northern Denver at Taxi, a 20-acre complex where tech and biosciences startups replaced a storage yard for cabs and warehouses for freight.

    The governor said he met yesterday with executives of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software maker, to discuss why Colorado would be a good fit with its plans to hire thousands of workers nationwide.
    Oh great, Bill Gates to the rescue – let’s all learn how to make crappy software and cut the throats of our competitors (though I know beggars can’t be choosers).

    The state's jobless rate fell to 8.7 percent in May, compared with 9.1 percent nationwide, after exceeding the U.S. level from January to March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    However, as noted here…
    Colorado’s unemployment benefits system is “overwhelmed” according to its new director, with some claimants waiting on hold for as long as 3 hours to get questions answered.

    “It’s unacceptable and we take it very seriously,” said Ellen Golombek, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment.

    Golombek took over at Labor and Employment in January. She said the average wait time for claimants calling in for information on their unemployment claim now stands at 1 hour and 29 minutes. She thinks it should be 15 minutes or less.

    “It’s overwhelming. The system is overwhelmed,” Golombek said several times during the on camera interview. “The problem persists because we are in a recession, people are laid off and are losing their jobs,” she said.

    Golombek said there are now 137,000 Coloradans with active unemployment claims, compared to 2008 when about 30,000 were on unemployment. Callers now are so frayed and on edge, operators at the Labor Department undergo training to handle suicidal callers. Golombek acknowledged that 15 employees just went through “specialized training” to handle despondent claimants.
    So good luck, all you Coloradans, along with the rest of us.

    I’ll pick this up later but I’m not sure when – probably sometime next week.

    Update 7/24/11: Here is a link to the story referenced in the comment, by the way - thanks.

    Update 7/25/11: More here on a particularly repellent practice...

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    Yep, it's time for Jon Stewart to weigh in on the Murdoch-mania, if you will (here...God, that clip at the end of Stuart Varney is priceless - do a better job of brown-nosing and tell us what Rupert the Pirate had for lunch, why dontcha?)...

    (OK, never mind, the video upload is hosed - just check it out from C&L instead.)

    ...and yes, there are a bunch of Dems out there who need to grow a spine (such as, shockingly, Dick Durbin in this "gang of six" nonsense, the latest Beltway kabuki), but this reminds us of the alternative...

    ...and RIP Jerry Ragovoy - here is one of his signature compositions...

    ...and I keep forgetting to wish former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn a happy 90th birthday, so I'd like to do so now and put up this somewhat appropriate selection (overdue for a strange '80s video - wonder if Bowie got a royalty from this guy for using his character?)

    Wednesday Mashup (7/20/11)

  • I honestly have been trying to avoid the whole Rupert Murdoch hacking scandal since it’s being covered pretty responsibly elsewhere, but I simply must comment on this unintentionally hilarious (in a darkly humorous vein) Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal today by Holman Jenkins, Jr. Basically, Jenkins’ premise is that the scandal reveals a “British Watergate” (yep, I suppose it was inevitable that that would be invoked at some point) in the “Scotland Yard corruption” sense.

    Oh, and did you know that, because of the scandal, “As Nixon did, the News of the World leaves the world a better place”?

    Yep, we are truly through the looking glass here, people…
    …Three names to keep in mind are Jonathan Rees, Steve Whittamore and Glenn Mulcaire, all private investigators long accused of having made a living selling illegally obtained information to the press.

    Rees was the subject of a 1999 police investigation, described in a detailed 2002 Guardian newspaper report. An official police summary was quoted as saying the Rees network of informants' "thirst for knowledge is driven by profit to be accrued from the media."

    Whittamore's files were seized in a 2003 raid by Britain's Information Commissioner, becoming the basis for his 2006 report on "The Unlawful Trade in Confidential Personal Information." So undeafening was the response, the commissioner followed up six months later by releasing a list of 31 publications "positively identified" as trafficking with Whittamore. Top of the list, 58 reporters or editors of the Daily Mail ordered up 952 information requests. News of the World, the now-closed tabloid owned by the Journal's parent, was fifth on the roster, with 19 employees in 152 transactions.

    Finally, Mulcaire. A former British pro football player, he was jailed in 2007, along with a News of the World reporter, for hacking phones of the royal household. His files, 11,000 of them, have been in the possession of Scotland Yard since 2006. The top police resignations that rocked the British Isles last week stem directly from Scotland Yard's uninterest in acting on this evidence.
    In response about Rees, this tells us that he was paid 150,000 pounds a year by the News of the World to dig up dirt as recently as 2008. Which begs the question, why was News of the World continuing this thoroughly odious practice if they actually cared about the illegality?

    And in April 2005, the News of the World was identified in open court as a private customer of the private investigator Steven Whittamore when he pleaded guilty to paying a civilian police worker to illegally obtain confidential information from a police national computer (Jenkins cites the 2003 bust by Britain’s Information Commissioner, though the illegal activity here, as with Rees, continued unabated afterwards).

    Next is Mulcaire, and even though he was jailed in 2007 for hacking, why did Murdoch keep paying him until recently (here)?

    And here is an example of Mulcaire’s handiwork…
    …with the help of its own full-time private investigator (Mulcaire), the News of the World started illegally intercepting mobile phone messages. Scotland Yard is now investigating evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the (missing British schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s) own phone. As her friends and parents called and left messages imploring Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World was listening and recording their every private word.

    But the journalists at the News of the World then encountered a problem. Milly's voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the paper intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.

    The Dowler family then granted an exclusive interview to the News of the World in which they talked about their hope, quite unaware that it had been falsely kindled by the newspaper's own intervention. Sally Dowler told the paper: "If Milly walked through the door, I don't think we'd be able to speak. We'd just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug."

    The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police by confusing the picture when they had few leads to pursue. It also potentially destroyed valuable evidence.
    Yes, the whole hacking scandal is making a lot of people look bad besides Murdoch, and they should face the proverbial music as well. But to imply that Murdoch was somehow responsible for exposing institutional police corruption and thus heroic in any way, shape, or form isn’t merely delusional, it is actually nauseating.

  • Returning to our shores, this bit of fluff at The Daily Tucker tells us the following…
    It is not a partisan issue to support photo voter ID laws. Former President Jimmy Carter, the co-chair of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, has urged lawmakers to support voter ID laws “that make it easy to vote but tough to cheat.” In the Supreme Court decision that upheld Indiana’s photo voter ID statute, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that “not only is the risk of voter fraud real but … it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

    Melanie Sloan and CREW have, yet again, weighed into a partisan debate, adding their voices to that of the national Democratic Party apparatus. (The Republican National Lawyers Association, which supports voter ID laws of course) is a political organization — and so is CREW, which should not continue to enjoy its 501(c)(3) tax status. Sloan is a Democratic operative and CREW is nothing more than a puppet of the DNC masquerading as a non-partisan organization. The IRS should take notice.
    Oh, and have you guessed that CREW quite rightly opposes voter ID (and I don’t think the Indiana ruling by Stevens was one of his finest moments by any means)? And with all due respect to President Carter, I think he’s trying to find a remedy in search of a problem, as they say, also (here).

    When someone presents to me a case of a ballot falsified by an actual voter at a polling station that ended up being entered into a vote count that affected an outcome, then I’ll take this supposed issue seriously. However, I’m a lot more concerned about the integrity of votes after they’re cast than before (though I'm highly concerned about the Repugs and their "voter caging" schemes also...and here is more anti-CREW propaganda).

    And if CREW is supposed to be doing the bidding of the Democratic Party, then please explain this.

  • Continuing, this story appeared in the New York Times today…
    WASHINGTON — Pakistan’s military, including its powerful spy agency, has spent $4 million over two decades in a covert attempt to tilt American policy against India’s control of much of Kashmir — including funneling campaign donations to members of Congress and presidential candidates, the F.B.I. claimed in court papers unsealed Tuesday.

    The allegations of a long-running plan to influence American elections and foreign policy come at a time of deep tensions between the United States and Pakistan — and in particular its spy agency — amid the fallout over the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound deep inside Pakistan on May 2.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation made the allegations in a 43-page affidavit filed in connection with the indictment of two United States citizens on charges that they failed to register with the Justice Department as agents of Pakistan, as required by law. One of the men, Zaheer Ahmad, is in Pakistan, but the other, Syed Fai, lives in Virginia and was arrested on Tuesday.

    Mr. Fai is the director of the Kashmiri American Council, a Washington-based group that lobbies for and holds conferences and media events to promote the cause of self-determination for Kashmir. According to the affidavit, the activities by the group, also called the Kashmiri Center, are largely financed by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, along with as much as $100,000 a year in related donations to political campaigns in the United States. Foreign governments are prohibited from making donations to American political candidates.

    “Mr. Fai is accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose — to hide Pakistan’s involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government’s position on Kashmir,” Neil MacBride, the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said. “His handlers in Pakistan allegedly funneled millions through the Kashmir Center to contribute to U.S. elected officials, fund high-profile conferences and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington.”
    And do you want to know who one of the beneficiaries was of the allegedly funneled funds?

    Why, none other than Pancake Joe Pitts himself (as well as Dan “Let’s Shoot The Vince Foster Pumpkin” Burton – here, #7).

    Oh, but not to worry; the story tells us that Pitts donated the $4 grand he received “to local charities in Pennsylvania on Tuesday” (good luck finding those charities or any mention of this story at Pitts’ web site).

    And it should be noted that, if Syed Fai had had the wherewithal to donate through the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce instead, no one would have known a thing.

  • Finally, this story tells the following…
    Before he was named on Tuesday to lead the prominent but troubled Archdiocese of Philadelphia (taking over for Justin Cardinal Rigali), Archbishop Charles J. Chaput spent the last 14 years in Denver establishing himself as one of the nation’s most prominent advocates of a politically engaged and conservative Catholicism.
    Yep, and here are the two “takeaways” for me from this story…
    He is among a minority of Roman Catholic bishops who have spoken in favor of denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. He helped defeat legislation that would have legalized civil unions for gay couples in Colorado. And he condemned the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, for granting President Obama an honorary degree in 2009 because of his stance on abortion.
    Advocates for sexual abuse victims, however, bristle at the characterization of Archbishop Chaput as a reformer. They point out that he fought hard against legislation in Colorado that would have extended the statute of limitations for people who say they were sexually abused to sue the church.
    And I suppose it’s OK to be “politically engaged” in the Catholic Church of Pope Benny as long as your name isn’t, say, Robert Drinan.

    Seriously, though, could we have expected anything different from Rome than someone like Chaput?

    In the meantime, I’ll watch to see if those pews start filling up a little more on Sundays.

  • Update 7/29/11: Good question for Rigali and Chaput here...

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    Here's the daily dose of the Rupert Murdoch business with K.O. and John Dean (more here, and the postmortem on the death of Sean Hoare, the former News of the World show business reporter who was the first named journalist to allege that Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, ruled that Hoare's death was "not suspicious" - hmmm)...

    ...and here's a little mid-week summer funk.

    Tuesday Mashup (7/19/11)

    Not a lot today, so I might as well get to it…

  • To begin, I give you former New Hampshire Senator John E. Sununu here in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer…
    Consider Shaun Donovan at Housing and Urban Development, Steven Chu at Energy, Ray LaHood at Transportation, and Gary Locke, who just left Commerce. They have spent almost every day of their adult lives as academics, government staffers, or elected officials.

    That doesn't make them bad people, but it means they have no firsthand experience with how their policies might affect businesses' investment and economic growth. There is no substitute for the private-sector demands of hiring and firing, managing cash flow, and putting capital to work. By comparison, this experience has been abundant in previous administrations.
    I suppose I could point out yet again the supposed business “cred” of the Bushco gang, including Dubya himself who ruined every private enterprise he ever touched, or “Deadeye Dick” Cheney, who, while running Halliburton, contributed to the poisoning of its workforce with asbestosis as noted here, as well as installing faulty wiring in showers that ended up electrocuting members of our military here.

    Instead, though, I’ll merely link here to more information on Sununu and point out that he “earned both an S.B. and S.M. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987 and an Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard University in 1991. After graduating, he worked in the high-tech industry, at one time for the company of Dean Kamen and as a management consultant for PRTM.”

    And that was before he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1996. And that’s commendable, but guess what?

    It shows that he doesn’t have experience with “hiring and firing, managing cash flow, and putting capital to work” either.

  • Next, in a thoroughly predictable development, it looks like the Repug chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, is threatening to “(withhold funds) to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is responsible for the welfare and education of 4.8 million Palestinian refugees, and the underfunding of U.N. peacekeeping operations,” as noted here.

    Which is exactly the type of move that earned the U.S. the designation of “deadbeat donor” from former Secretary General Ban Ki Moon here, with the requisite pouting and foot-stomping in response from Ros-Lehtinen. And feel free to criticize our Kenyan Marxist pre-zee-dint and that supposedly nasty 111th Congress for making sure we paid our debts.

  • Continuing, it looks like Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn haz a sad here…
    I’m saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems — that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration. And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. You bet. And until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it’s not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. . .
    Do you know what this is really all about people?

    Wynn and his fellow business barracudas like Sheldon Adelson got their poor widdle feelins hurt when Obama made a critical remark here about Vegas and corporate junkets, and Obama also had the temerity to suggest here that families might wants to prioritize college education for their kids over Vegas vacations.

    And they’ve been pouting ever since.

    What was that phrase from the last election? Man up, I believe…

  • And that’s about as good of a transition to the following item about Mikey the Beloved as I can imagine.

    As noted from Mikey’s Media Center on his congressional web page here, he wrote a letter to Harry Reid, head of the “Democrat-controlled” (nice) U.S. Senate on July 8th, “demanding” Senate action on passing a budget, saying, among other things, that the Senate had “800 days” to do it but had not delivered.

    Well, as noted here (from April, for God’s sake)…
    WASHINGTON -- The Senate passed a bill on Thursday to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, putting an end to months of uncertainty over 2011 government funding.

    The upper chamber approved the bill 81 to 19. It passed through the House of Representatives a few hours earlier by a vote of 260 to 167.
    Fitzpatrick continues to be nothing but an utter embarrassment; a pox on those who voted for him, as well as his actual P.R. service that pretends to be an actual newspaper.
  • Monday, July 18, 2011

    Monday Stuff

    Let’s keep up the drum beat in Wisconsin (here)…

    …and happy 70th birthday to Martha Reeves (of Martha and the Vandellas, of course).

    Monday Mashup (7/18/11)

    This story tells us the following…
    It is relentless, dangerous and gripping the country. A major heat wave this weekend has prompted officials in 17 states to issue heat warnings and advisories.

    On a temperature map of the nation Sunday, you'll find several large areas in the 90s and a patch that had highs above 100 degrees.

    At least two hot weather-related deaths have been reported, and forecasters say the high heat is expected to spread over the next few days.

    CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that it's been so hot for so long in Oklahoma, the governor called for a statewide day of prayer in hope of some divine intervention.

    "I think if we have a lot of people praying, it moves the heart of God," Gov. Mary Fallin says.
    Gee, I didn’t know Fallin was a member of a ministry or served in some other official capacity with a religious organization.

    I wonder if some spirit of divine intervention, by the way, moved her to “(kiss) and (have) inappropriate contact with (a) state employee,” an Oklahoma State Trooper who eventually resigned (here)?

    Also noted in the old Wordpress post is the following:
    - She aided and abetted the “teabaggers,” along with many others of her party (of course).

    - She went nuts over the DHS report on extremist groups from Secretary Janet Napolitano (hitting a little too “close to home,” I guess), without noting that the report included left wing extremist groups also.

    - Fallin responded to the notion of the dollar being replaced as the major reserve currency in the world by supporting a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would disallow a foreign currency replacing the dollar as legal tender in the USA (hat tip to the blog “Kids Prefer Cheese”); even though the “global currency” rumor is admittedly silly (as was Fallin’s response), there are countries, most notably China, who are looking to valuate against a “basket” of currencies as opposed to the dollar, as Nouriel Roubini has pointed out.

    - Fallin was one of the House reps who changed her vote on the Wall Street bailout from “no” to “yes.”

    - She voted against the “cramdown” legislation to help people restructure their mortgages, the “Pay for Performance Act” in the matter of executive compensation, the stimulus (of course), SCHIP, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, relief for the Alternative Minimum Tax, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act, extension of unemployment insurance, the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights, and on and on and on.
    And let’s hope Fallin has better luck with her little “pray for rain” gambit than her fellow “Bible belt” governor, “Goodhair” Perry, had here.

  • And yes, it’s time once more to post about the debt limit. And yes, I can assure you that I am at least as thoroughly bored and disgusted with this issue as you are, dear reader. However, since we only have one national political party currently acting like adults in this country, I feel that I must do this.

    To begin, Clark Judge, speechwriter and special assistant during the administration of The Sainted Ronnie R, tells us the following (here)…
    Today, again, the GOP caucus is divided, but with a difference. The tea party freshmen are insisting on a strong negotiating stance. They want real spending cuts without tax increases. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has become their voice in the budget talks. Reflecting uncertainty about holding non-freshmen in line, both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner have signaled readiness to accept cosmetic compromises.

    Mr. Boehner in particular is responding to House members desperately in search of cover from fallout over the president's threat to delay Social Security checks if the debt ceiling isn't raised. Many are terrified of Democratic attack ads painting them as would-be destroyers of Medicare. The GOP defeat this May in the special election in New York's 26th District shook them, which is a sign of how badly they've defended their positions.

    After all, if Social Security tax receipts don't cover all the checks in any month, the Social Security Trust Fund can sell its government bonds, bills and notes, as Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C), recently suggested. The holdings are enormous, and sales, even at a discount, could cover the system's needs for years, much less the time to finish budget parlaying.

    So, if the checks stop coming, it will be the president who decided to stop them. That's not a hard message to get across.
    Funny, but that’s not how the vast majority of this country sees it – as noted here…
    Poll: 71% shun GOP handling of debt crisis
    Even half of the Republican respondents (51 percent) voiced disapproval of how members of their own party in Congress are handling the talks. Far fewer Democrats expressed disapproval of their own party's handling (32 percent) or President Obama's (22 percent) of the urgent quest to raise the nation's debt limit ahead of a looming default on Aug. 2 if action isn't taken.
    Also pertaining to the budget, I give you this from “Mad Thad” McCotter…
    Amidst this debt ceiling debate, this president and his Democratic minions’ arguments have descended from “straw men” to “bogeymen” in their attempts to scare Americans.

    Our seniors were told their hard-earned Social Security checks would be stopped. Our brave veterans were told the services our grateful nation provides them (never mind that there is much more we could do) could be stopped.

    Our entire citizenry was told America could face an economic Armageddon.
    I hate to break the news to our ol’ buddy Thad, but that, in part, is exactly what would happen (and if McCotter doesn’t want to believe Obama, maybe he’ll believe this guy).

    So what is McCotter’s answer? Something called “Cut, Cap and Balance,” which I guess is the latest Repug catchphrase since he repeats it a few times for the easily-led who actually take Fix Noise seriously.

    What McCotter doesn’t say, though (pointed out here), is that “Cut, Cap and Balance” doesn’t include cuts to Social Security, Medicare – more on that here – and something called the “Global War on Terror” (hmm, let me think about that one for a minute – kind of rings a bell…).

    Wrongheaded as the cuts to the first two are, at least Obama is trying to meet these clowns while they’re busy moving the goalposts once again (to reiterate, every single thing Obama does these days, rightly or wrongly, is aimed right at those independent voters, many of whom might as well flip a coin before they open the curtain of the voting booth for all of the effort they put into learning about the candidates and the issues).

    Oh, and don’t forget that McCotter is running for president.

    Sure he is.

    No really, I’m serious.

    Update 7/18/11: And by the way, "cut, cap and balance" this, wingnuts.

    Want more dumb debt ideas from the Repugs? How about some monstrosity called “Fair Tax,” which (as noted here) is basically a 23 percent national sales tax which (as noted here) would replace the federal income tax (trouble is that that pesky United States Constitution would have to be amended to basically hand over the authority to raise taxes to the states; let those zany hijinks ensue as our federal government collapses for good…and of course, Mike Huckabee and Repug presidential aspirant Herman Cain have signed off on it – as I said before, we only have one national party currently acting like adults in this country).

    Also on the debt front, David Addington (of all people) chimed in at The Daily Tucker here…
    The McConnell Plan would put America deeper into debt and achieve nothing toward the vitally important objective of getting federal overspending and overborrowing under control. All the McConnell Plan requires the president to do is submit a list of suggested spending cuts that exceeds the dollar amount of the requested hikes in the debt ceiling. The McConnell Plan does not give those spending cut ideas or any alternative ideas any legal effect or even specify an accelerated procedure for congressional consideration of such ideas — the McConnell Plan just requires the president to submit a piece of paper.

    If the outcome of the current presidential-congressional negotiations over how to get spending under control is the McConnell Plan of just letting the president have the freedom to go on borrowing another $2 trillion, then Senator McConnell and every congressional Republican who votes for it will bear as much political responsibility for this action as President Obama and the Democrats.

    Senator Jim DeMint was right to describe the McConnell Plan to the newspaper The Hill as “like leaving the jail door open and looking the other way, then saying it’s not our fault.” And Representative Jim Jordan was even more succinct with his view on the McConnell Plan on the website “I’d say, ‘No way.’”

    Conservatives should follow their lead.
    As I said before, short of asking for a declaration of war, I don’t see it written anywhere in the Constitution that the president should allow his powers to be decided for him by Congress (and I’ll be happy to use a female pronoun one day concerning our chief executive if it’s the right person). So basically, I believe Obama should tell McConnell that he’ll be back to request raising the debt ceiling when he believes that he has to do so, and the Senate Minority Leader can take his “plan” and go filibuster himself with it.

    But for David Addington to pose as some sort of level-headed influence here is a grotesque joke.

    As noted here, Addington once called former Bushco Secretary of State (and five-star general) Colin Powell “soft” and “easy to get around.” Also, if you favored observing precedents of international law, Addington was the first to call you “soft on terrorism.” And he was reportedly one of the Buscho lawyers who dismissed the Geneva Conventions as “obsolete,” “quaint,” and irrelevant to the war on terror.

    The fact that an individual like Addington is treated seriously even at a propaganda outlet like The Daily Caller is about as damning a commentary on the utter pollution of our public discourse as you can imagine.

  • Finally, David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun recently decided to give his Obama-is-the-most-antagonistic-media-president-since-Nixon hobby horse a ride once more here (since Number 44 committed the allegedly horrible sin of calling out Fix Nose for exactly what it is).

    In response, I would ask that you read through all of these slides from Tim Dickinson’s recent article in Rolling Stone about Roger Ailes, the life form in charge of that media monstrosity, to see how the Obama Administration is maligned, usually falsely, on a daily basis (actually, hourly basis is more like it). And name for me a president who has ever had to endure similar treatment.