Friday, June 04, 2010
…and God, what on earth is it with Repug politicians trying to infringe on copyrighted songs – first it’s “Straight Talk” McCain with “Running on Empty,” Charlie Crist with “Road to Nowhere,” and now this!
Update 6/14/10: Welcome to the party, Chuck DeVore (here)!
While you were preoccupied with the oil spill, the Middle East crisis, the unemployment rate, and everything else in the news, the Senate has been trying to slip a fast one by you. This time, it has to do with your everyday purchases that you make on your debit cards. The changes may sound technical and innocuous when described by the author of the amendment to the financial industry regulation bill, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), but peel back the layers and here’s what have we’ve got:Add financial advice to the many topics about which Perino knows just about nothing; as noted here…
The amendment would make the Federal Reserve Bank dictate debit card “interchange rates.” What does that mean? Well, an interchange fee is money that a retailer's bank pays your bank when you use your credit or debit card at their store.
If the smaller financial institutions didn’t have this revenue source, they say it would be very difficult for them to provide basic financial services for their customers. Consumers would either be at the mercy of the large banks that Congress is supposedly trying to rein in, or they would have to rely on less secure forms of payment such as cash and checks.
Sen. Dick Durbin successfully passed an amendment two weeks ago that would limit the outrageously high interchange fees that Visa and MasterCard charge merchants for debit card transactions. This was a big win that reins in some pretty indefensible industry practices, but Visa and MasterCard are (unsurprisingly) fighting back. How? Well, they can hardly expect to gain much sympathy for either themselves or the Wall Street giants whose profits might get trimmed by Durbin's amendment, so instead they're mounting a coordinated campaign that claims it's small credit unions who will suffer the most.And on the subject of how Durbin’s amendment supposedly hurts “smaller financial institutions”…
This is despite the fact that Durbin's language specifically exempts banks with less than $10 billion in assets and specifically requires merchants to accept all cards in a particular network regardless of which bank issues them. If a small credit union charges a higher fee than Citibank, your local 7-11 would have to take their Visa debit cards anyway.And why go to the Fed to regulate debit card interchange rates? As HuffPo tells us here…
Durbin wants the Federal Reserve to ensure the fees that credit card companies charge for debit card use are proportional to the costs of processing the transaction.And even with the $10 billion exception, HuffPo tells us that Durbin’s legislation would affect 65 percent of all card transactions in the United States.
Durbin's measure requires that once merchants can pay lower fees for debit card purchases, they then would be able to offer discounts to their customers based on their method of payment. Merchants would be prohibited from placing minimum purchase requirements for the use of a debit card.
Would the “banksters” find other ways to replace the missing income? I’m sure they would. But isn’t it worth it to try and rein in credit card charges?
And by the way, check this out from Perino…
History shows us that price controls never work. Yet, the left keeps trying to impose them.Um…I really don’t think you could include this guy as a member of “the left,” Dana, at least not without a fight (here).
HouseAnd once more, for a reminder on why this matters…
"Don't ask, don't tell" repeal. Voting 234-194, the House passed an amendment to the fiscal 2011 defense budget (HR 5136) that would make it legal for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The vote was to repeal the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" law under which about 13,500 troops have been discharged after their homosexuality became public. The repeal would occur after the Pentagon completes a policy review in December.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.) said: "When I served in Baghdad, my team did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay. We cared if they could fire their F4 assault rifle or run a convoy down 'Ambush Alley.' Could they do their job so that everybody in our unit could come home safely? With our military fighting two wars, why on earth would we tell over 13,500 able-bodied Americans that their services are not needed?"
A yes vote backed the amendment.
Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).
Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
2011 military budget. Voting 229-186, the House authorized a $680 billion military budget for fiscal 2011, an increase of $46 billion or nearly 7 percent over the comparable 2010 figure. The bill (HR 5136) authorizes $159 billion for war next year in Iraq and Afghanistan.Funny, but I’m not hearing anything now from the Repugs about not “supporting the troops” if you don’t fund war without end, wouldn’t you say (sorry for the triple negative – guess I lose my copy of Strunk and White now for that one...kudos to Castle and Dent anyway - no, I don't support open-ended funding of the wars either, for the record).
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, and Sestak.
Voting no: Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.
Jobless, business benefits. Voting 215-204, the House passed a nearly $100 billion bill (HR 4213) that would extend jobless checks for the long-term unemployed through November and renew an array of tax breaks - such as the research-and-development credit - that benefit businesses.No to R&D, no to extending jobless benefits, no even to business tax credits – the Republican Party is intellectually dead, people. All they have to offer is “No” and tried and true non-solutions that have utterly failed.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, and Sestak.
Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.
I am a fair-minded individual, and that I believe every person should have a voice and a chance to be heard. As a parent and childcare provider, I do my best to instill the many aspects of this concept in our future generation. Unfortunately, it would appear that my 8-year-old understands this ideal much better than GOP congressional candidate Mike Fitzpatrick and his friends, who crashed a recent meeting conducted by Congressman Patrick Murphy.Indeed (and to reward good behavior, for this and DADT, click here).
When I saw the videos of the meeting on YouTube, I was very unhappy for many reasons. It seemed to me that the day was scheduled for one-on-one meetings between Murphy and his constituents, and while in the midst of these meetings (that the people signed in and waited patiently for) a group showed up en masse to incite much disorder and tried to force the congressman into a "town hall" by use of strong-arming and shouting. Again, if my 8-year-old knows that when two people are in a conversation, you are to respect those people and wait your turn, and that trying to force things to be your way though bully tactics is not acceptable behavior, what excuse do Mr. Fitzpatrick and his assemblage have?
I heard the congressman ask for a "timeout" repeatedly and had I been in the situation, I would have done much the same. They behaved like pugnacious children clamoring for attention with complete indifference for those who respected the rules.
I heard the congressman ask them to sign in and wait like other constituents who came to see him. But again, the mob was concerned with its own agenda, and showed absolute disregard to those whose time they wasted with their grandstanding and badgering.
In the end, the congressman went back to work meeting with and helping the people while Mr. Fitzpatrick, who was himself a congressman and therefore should have known better than anyone else what the one-on-one meetings with constituents are for, continued to be disruptive with a speech worthy of a typical politician who obviously cares more about his campaign than the people he hopes to serve.
I deplore the example this is setting for the next generation. What value has our rights and freedoms without the respect and intelligence of using them appropriately? In a democracy, our voices are to be heard equally rather than running roughshod for political gain.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
…and I guess this means that the Gulf catastrophe is, at long last, on the radar of our corporate media (gosh, Gene Taylor, don’t those birds look so cute covered in a “chocolate sheen” or whatever…I don’t care which party he belongs to – his sorry ass should get voted out of office)…
…Rachel Maddow takes us out into Caminata Bay to get a closer look at the gooey stuff…
…and I thought I’d include this as a tribute to Sir Paul for his little “library” jab here at Obama’s predecessor, which of course has inspired wingnut harrumphing (moving a bit slower and not quite hitting the high notes he used to, but still rocking out big time – I’d like to tell you I think of this song every time I concoct one of these blog posts, and I wish it were true).
With oil gushing into the sea, there are calls to stop drilling, for the good of the planet. Renewable "clean" energy, such as windmills, is the future, if only the politicians had the guts to pass the laws that would break our "oil addiction" and put us on a path to sustainable energy.Mullane is actually correct when he tells us that Bryce opposes wind energy and favors natural gas (shocking, I know), but Mother Jones tells us the following here concerning Mullane’s claim (or implication at least) that Bryce opposes clean energy...
It sounds nice, but it's nonsense. That's according to journalist Robert Bryce. In his eye-opening new book, "Power Hungry," Bryce marshals devastating facts and disposes of the notion that windmills and the electric car will save the world.
MJ: If you were king of the world and you had a million dollars, what kind of energy technology would you invest it in?I think this paints a bit more complete of a picture on Bryce than what Mullane would have us believe (with Bucks County’s big mouth still inflicting lines in this tome like “Separating energy from freedom is like separating water from wet”).
RB: Batteries. This is the same problem that frustrated Thomas Edison. We could have a huge breakthrough in batteries for the stationary market and the mobile market: That is the game changer. I have a chapter in my new book, Gusher of Lies, about this issue. I talk about what I call the super battery prize. Let's offer a billion dollars to anyone who can create a cheap, compact, efficient battery that can store multiple kilowatt-hours of electricity, and let's offer 10 billion to anyone who can create a multiple megawatt-hour battery with those some attributes. That would be the game changer both in terms of traditional generation sources and for the renewable sources like solar and wind. And would result in huge decreases in CO2 emissions, and it would be an enormous, enormous breakthrough. But people have been working on it since Edison's day, and nobody has come up with it. The money to be made by a company coming out with a superior battery is enormous.
MJ: What will it take for renewable energy to go mainstream?
RB: It is always about economics. I am not a fan at all of ethanol. It's a scam. But when it comes to solar in particular, and I'm far more bullish on solar than I am on wind, it is always about economics. Unless and until they can get to the point where they can compete truly head-to-head, unsubsidized, with national-gas-fired, nuclear-fired, coal-fired power plants, they are just not going to be viable.
I guess someone will have to pry the gas pump from your cold, dead hands, huh J.D.?
There is also widespread chatter inside MSNBC that their days of being a propaganda machine for Obama are over. Comcast is not likely to keep the formula of all liberal hosts (I know, I know, Joe Scarborough - we’ll get to him) all liberal guests, and agitators thinly disguised as reporters and news anchors. And prime-time might be the first to go.Is the GOP’s media house organ claiming here that Keith Olbermann is a “stalker”? That is utterly hilarious coming from the network guilty of aiding and abetting a certain falafel-abusing loudmouth who is too cowardly to do his own dirty work and sends his lickspittle producers out to do it instead (here).
The thinking is that Phil Griffin won’t have time meet the new bosses before finding himself out on the street. And without Griffin to protect The Stalker from the new corporate bosses, he can cross another network off his list of places he can never work again.
We’re even thinking of running a contest here on what day will be Keith’s last. Winner gets dinner with Ed Schultz!!
Besides, as noted here, MSNBC and its dastardly liberal hosts are pretty thoroughly trouncing CNN in daytime and prime time; they’re not going to overtake Fix Noise anytime soon I know, but Comcast cares more about money than ideology, and they’re not going to kiss off the audience of K.O., Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz for the sake of some ideological purity test.
What they should have done is decry the actions of one senator instead, and that would be – wait for it! – none other than Jim “High And Tight” Bunning, who also has screwed over his fellow countrymen depending on unemployment and COBRA benefits, as noted here.
Which is all the more reason to support this guy (and anyone who thinks Rand Paul would be any different from ol’ Jimbo must also be a fan of Bud Selig because of his “winning personality” – as Bugs would say, “What a maroon”…here).
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
This isn’t as big a hit as the Joe Sestak ad that did in Arlen Specter, but it’s still pretty good (to do more, click here)…
…and I don’t know if anyone out there is in the mood for some Tex-Meth “Goth,” but ready or not, here it is.
(Posting may be flaky for the next few days, by the way.)
1) More Old Gray Lady pundit wankery today from Matt Bai here, on the matter of those zany teabaggers and their efforts to repeal the 17th Amendment (which would mean that U.S. Senators would no longer be voted into office by citizens but instead voted by state legislatures – nope, that ain’t happenin’ either)…
It is an odd stance, to be sure. (If you really want to start repealing amendments, why not go after the Third Amendment, the one that outlaws the forcible quartering of soldiers in peacetime? Would anyone really mind letting a few cadets stay the night?)
Maybe Bai ought to read about Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer 343 U.S. 579, 644 (1952), in which Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson's concurring opinion cites the Third Amendment as providing evidence of the Framer's intent to constrain executive power even during wartime: "[t]hat military powers of the Commander in Chief were not to supersede representative government of internal affairs seems obvious from the Constitution and from elementary American history. Time out of mind, and even now in many parts of the world, a military commander can seize private housing to shelter his troops. Not so, however, in the United States, for the Third Amendment says...[E]ven in war time, his seizure of needed military housing must be authorized by Congress."
Also, Justice William O. Douglas ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 484 (1965) that the amendment implied a belief that an individual's home should be free from agents of the state. Both of these rulings and other memoranda concerning the Amendment are noted here.
Wikipedia also tells us here that the amendment (which isn’t cited much – I’ll grant Bai that point anyway) was written to prevent the recurrence of soldiers being quartered in private property as was done in Colonial America by the British military under the Quartering Act before the American Revolution (1775–1776).
For anyone who thinks this amendment is irrelevant, let me ask you this; we just got finished in January of ’09 at long last with a head of state who believed he was a “unitary executive” endowed with all kinds of extra-constitutional powers since we were at wartime. Without the Third Amendment, maybe Dubya would’ve tried to seize people’s homes and property in the war against Terra! Terra! Terra! (I mean, it’s not like we can assume he would’ve stopped with spying on us…fortunately, my hypothesis will never be put to the test).
Leave it to an utter corporate media shill like Bai to joke so cravenly about giving up a precious, hard-earned right fought for with such bravery and dedication by those who came before us unto the present day.
2) Also, Ruben Navarrette, Jr. has been singing the praises of Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal (here)…
For the last few years, Republicans have wondered if Bobby Jindal was their answer to Barack Obama. After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it's awfully clear that Democrats should start trying to come up with an answer to Jindal.
Too funny – as noted here…
Louisiana state Rep. Juan LaFonta, a New Orleans Democrat running for Congress and a frequent Jindal critic, complains Jindal was too slow to declare a state of emergency. The declaration came nine days after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. Early estimates of how much oil was leaking were much lower than the current 200,000-plus gallons a day.
"Because of Gov. Jindal's slow response, we are now behind the curve," LaFonta said. He added: "You're talking to a veteran of Katrina. I saw what a lackluster response did last time."
And as noted here…
Some Republicans favor the more laidback approach of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, who has stood up for the oil industry and suggested that liberal environmentalists are exploiting the catastrophe to curtail deep sea drilling.
“Haley has actually taken the smarter approach, from a national perspective,” said a GOP operative close to both politicians. “Haley doesn’t have oil on his beaches. ... But he has taken the long view, that this shouldn’t kill an important source of energy. Bobby has been a little frantic, running around, much more concerned about how he’ll look on tonight’s TV news.”
(By the way, I'll give Barbour a pass for now on the "liberal environmentalists" remark.)
Also, this tells us that “Kenneth The Page” once rejected $100 million in “stim” unemployment funds for his state, and this tells us of his jokes about funding for volcano monitoring, which was particularly dumb because soon after he “cracked wise” on the subject, Mount Redoubt erupted.
Besides, based on this, I would say that Jindal needs to mend fences in his own political backyard first before he can call out the commander in chief in a way Navarrette would like (which, in and of itself, would actually pretty funny if Jindal were to try).
Update 6/25/10: Navarrette Jr. ought to read about what a great job Jindal is supposedly doing here (meant to add this also).
Update 6/26/10: The linked NY Times story from this post has a funny pic of Jindal looking like he's getting ready to perform another exorcism, by the way.
3) Finally, I give you Ted Nugent here (speaking of “spill, baby, spill”)…
With the possible exception of the tobacco industry, no industry is held in more contempt and scorn than big oil. This is strangely foolish in that tobacco has been proved to cause cancer and has no beneficial use whatsoever, whereas oil literally fuels the American dream. Another clear example of the disconnect that brought us President Barack Hussein Obama.
This clueless condition is a direct result of woefully ignorant Americans with hypocritical attitudes. Surely the unprecedented quality of life in the United States has spoiled too many Americans, who insist on driving gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and also demand to fill them up with cheap gas. Similarly, some other irresponsible Americans eat massive quantities of junk food, refuse to exercise, poison their once-sacred temples at every opportunity and then demand that someone else pay for their health care. Maybe the band Green Day had it right with its song "American Idiot." Takes one to know one.
I realize there are all kinds of directions I can go here, such as pointing out that, among other problems, burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming that ultimately leads to an increased risk of breathing problems in older adults and asthma in children. I could also point out Nugent’s idiotic opposition to anything approximating a government (Fedzilla?) role in health care, particularly since the U.S. now ranks 38th among industrialized nations in life expectancy (here).
I could also point out that Nugent himself is a draft-dodging hypocrite (here) who had a chance to serve this country when he was of age in Vietnam but instead did not do so; that by itself doesn’t permanently impugn someone as far as I’m yours truly is concerned, but I definitely have an issue with someone who cherishes his own blood but has no problem cheering on the spillage of it from others.
But it truly takes a singular type of moron to dump on fellow musicians, particularly when we’re talking about a group as talented as Green Day (at least they’ve had a hit more recently than the Reagan Administration, Ted).
Oh, and please spare me the lecture about Americans “poison(ing) their once-sacred temples” in lieu of taking care of our bodies. This from a guy who wrote a song called “Journey To The Center Of The Mind” (which, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with drugs…nothing at all, I’m sure).
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Elizabeth Birnbaum, Director of Minerals Management (MMS) at the Department of the Interior, resigned over the BP spill, in a classic, sacrifice-a-pawn, let-the-heads-roll, political sacrificial lamb ploy that folks in DC have witnessed countless times. Someone had to go. Anger over Obama Administration inaction, coupled with recent disclosures that government employees in the Department of Interior’s MMS division were often watching porn and taking drugs, demanded a head. So, the call went out, and Birnbaum was the sacrificial pawn.It should be noted that the transgressions disclosed by the author occurred under Obama’s predecessor, by the way. It is not surprising that that was not pointed out, since the author of this piece of flotsam was a member of Bushco also (more on Birnbaum here).
The post in question was written by Lurita Doan, and clownhall.com tells us that Doan “is an African American conservative commentator who writes about issues affecting the federal government.”
And it is not surprising in the least that it was not noted that Doan was head of the General Services Administration under Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; as noted here from April ’08, Doan “appeared completely befuddled before the Henry Waxman’s House Oversight Committee over whether or not she and/or her employees violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government resources – including employees' time or space in a government building – from being used for partisan politics.”
(In a linked Think Progress post, we learn that a May 18th ’07 report from the Office of Special Counsel found that, as GSA chief, Doan engaged in a “serious violation” of federal law by holding a meeting of federal employees prior to the 2006 midterms to discuss how they could “help our candidates” win the next election.)
Doan’s criticism of Birnbaum for not de-lousing the Bushco Minerals Management Service is, to me, not unlike the fox criticizing the farmer for not allowing the predator to raid the henhouse.
I find that difficult to believe partly because, as noted here, the Israeli raid on the flotilla took place in international waters. And as the New York Times notes here…
Israel said the violence was instigated by pro-Palestinian activists who presented themselves as humanitarians but had come ready for a fight. Organizers of the flotilla accused the Israeli forces of opening fire as soon as they landed on the deck, and released videos to support their case. Israel released video taken from one of its vessels to supports its own account of events.Israel is way out on a limb on this one; I will never be completely sympathetic to the Palestinians, but it’s time for our “partner” to get serious about negotiating a two-state solution for real (and don’t get me started on those goddamn settlements).
The Israeli public seemed largely to support the navy, but policy experts questioned preparations for the military operation, whether there had been an intelligence failure and whether the Israeli insistence on stopping the flotilla had been counterproductive. Some commentators were calling for the resignation of Ehud Barak, the defense minister.
“The government failed the test of results; blaming the organizers of the flotilla for causing the deaths by ignoring Israel’s orders to turn back is inadequate,” wrote Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz, on the newspaper’s Web site on Monday, calling for a national committee of inquiry. “Decisions taken by the responsible authorities must be probed.”
Some Israeli officials said they had worried about a debacle from the start, and questioned Israel’s broader security policies.
Einat Wilf, a Labor Party member of Parliament who sits on the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that she had warned Mr. Barak and others well in advance that the flotilla was a public relations issue and should not be dealt with by military means.
“This had nothing to do with security,” she said in an interview. “The armaments for Hamas were not coming from this flotilla.”
The fatalities all occurred aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger vessel that was carrying about 600 activists under the auspices of Insani Yardim Vakfi, an organization also known as I.H.H. Israeli officials have characterized it as a dangerous Islamic organization with terrorist links.
Yet the organization, founded in 1992 to collect aid for the Bosnians, is now active in 120 countries and has been present at recent disaster areas like Haiti and New Orleans.
And by the way, to help Admiral Joe against Toomey, click here; with Snarlin’ Arlen now running out the proverbial clock, the battle for his PA U.S. Senate seat has begun in earnest. It is now time to portray Toomey as the clueless, supposedly small government, “values voter” zealot that he truly is.
This Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. We also think about those who are in harm’s way and pray for their safety and for their families here at home. For those families who lost loved ones the war never ends. We will enjoy that freedom with barbeques and swimming pools, but we must also take the time to honor those who have given the full measure so that we can enjoy the fruits of liberty.As noted here, Pitts voted against a GI Bill to pay post-9/11 veterans' college costs and use tax hikes on individual incomes over $500,000 and joint incomes over $1 million to pay for the program. He also voted against a bill extending U.S. criminal jurisdiction to all of the government's private contractors overseas, not just those working for the military (can you say, “Blackwater/Xe,” boys and girls - I would argue that that makes our military less safe).
Also, Pitts voted against the bill sponsored by Dem U.S. House Rep Rush Holt of New Jersey to video record interrogations by anyone in a Defense Department facility, which would give those in the services legal cover in the event that any questions arise during the course of an interrogation (here and here).
When it comes to honoring our military, I have only this to say about Pitts, a decorated veteran who nonetheless broke a congressional term limit pledge:
Right message – wrong messenger (and to help Lois Herr, click here).
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Update 5/31/10: I believe this needs to be pointed out also.