July 31, 2014
The Chimpeachment Follies
It's summertime, the air is balmy and full of talk about impeachment. Well, at least if you're a Democrat and you're fundraising (but we repeat our ownself):
21 Emails From the Democratic Party About Impeachment
...If all you were reading were Democratic email lists, though, you might imagine it was December 1998 all over again. The set of increasingly hysterical missives from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee presents an alternate political history of the last week.
It's no secret why Democrats are so eager to talk about impeachment. By their own admission, it's been a cash cow, drawing in millions of dollars in donations.
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that Republicans have no plans to impeach President Obama, and that all the impeachment talk was driven by Democrats hoping to stir up their base.
Boehner’s statement isn’t literally true: There have been mentions of impeachment around the edges of the GOP and by some Republican members of Congress. But on the whole, Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about impeachment than Republicans.
Consider, for example, the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, which tracks words spoken in the House and Senate. So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.
Impeachment chatter has also become common on cable news. On Fox News this month, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, called for Obama’s impeachment, for instance. But for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.
Nate Silver, who calls the Dems "obsessed" with impeachment, tallied up impeachment mentions at MSNBC and Faux News during the same Jan-July timeframe in the Bush and Obama presidencies. We took the liberty of making a handy dandy visual aid for the assembled jackwagonry:
Of course it's worth noting that during the Evil Bush Years when Fox was mentioning impeachment more than MSNBC, actual attempts to impeach George Bush were occurring (condensed from Wikepedia):
2005 Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) filed a resolution to create an investigative committee to consider impeachment. His resolution gained 38 co-sponsors before it expired at the end of the 109th Congress.
2006 Rep. Keith Ellison brought a resolution to impeach Bush brought to the Minnesota State House of Representatives. Ellison was elected to the US House of Representatives in November 2006, where herepeatedly called for an investigation into a possible impeachment. In support of his candidacy, he “received a $1,000 contribution from ImpeachPAC.
Jan. 2006 At another unofficial hearing convened by Conyers, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called for the committee to explore whether Bush should face impeachment, stemming from his decision to authorize domestic surveillance without court review.
On May 10, 2006, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated she was not interested in pursuing impeachment and had taken it "off the table", reiterating this phrase on November 8, 2006 after the election. In July 2007, Pelosi stated that she "would probably advocate" impeaching Bush if she were not in the House nor Speaker of the House.
On December 8, 2006 (the last day of the 109th Congress), then-Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) submitted a resolution, H. Res. 1106. The bill expired along with the 109th Congress.
Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich's major point in the Democratic Presidential Debate on October 30, 2007 was that Bush and Cheney should be impeached for the Iraq war. On November 6, 2007, Kucinich introduced a resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney in the House of Representatives.
November 2007, Joe Biden, then a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, stated that he would move to impeach if President Bush were to bomb Iran without first gaining congressional approval.
June 2008, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), introduced a resolution, H.Res. 1258, to impeach president George W. Bush, which included 35 counts in the articles of impeachment. At the end of the evening on June 10, Kucinich offered a motion to refer HRes 1258 to the House Judiciary Committee. On June 11, the House voted 251-166 to send the resolution to the Committee.
On July 14, 2008, Kucinich introduced a new impeachment resolution (H.Res. 1345) limited to a single count.
At the state level:
On January 2, 2008, Betty Hall (D) ... introduced New Hampshire House Resolution 24 in the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.[..."petitioning Congress to commence impeachment procedures" against Bush and Cheney for "high crimes and misdemeanors", including domestic spying, illegal detentions, signing statements, electioneering, the breaking of international treaties, and war crimes. The bill further asserted that "section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice states that an impeachment may be set in motion by the United States House of Representatives by charges transmitted from the legislature of a state".
Inexplicably, despite actual attempts to impeach The Shrub, the good folks at Faux News did not feel the need to mention this over 900 times :p And now that the shoe is on the other foot, we are learning none of that nasty, disrespectful partisan grandstanding ever actually happened:
“We did not seek an impeachment of President Bush, because as an executive, he had his authority.”
— Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a co-sponsor of the House Resolution to impeach George Bush.
What is all the fuss about? Apparently, little more than mere mentions of the "I" word.
July 30, 2014
Uh-Oh. It Looks Like *Someone* Didn't Get the Memo
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight continues to impress:
The terrorist ideology behind al Qaeda is expanding significantly—contrary to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign theme that declared the Islamist terror threat in decline, according to the outgoing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“It’s not on the run, and that ideology is actually, it’s sadly, it feels like it’s exponentially growing,” DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said during a security conference Saturday.
Flynn was asked about the controversy over Obama’s statements during his 2012 reelection bid that al Qaeda had been “decimated” by the U.S. war on terrorism, and that the group was “on the run” as a result.
Flynn challenged use of the term “core al Qaeda” to identify the group once led by Osama bin Laden and now headed by his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.
“My belief—so this is Mike Flynn—core al Qaeda is the ideology,” he said.
...A large number of young people in Africa and the Middle East are being sucked into Islamist terror groups.
“These organizations that are out there that are well-organized, they are well-funded, they reach into these young people and they pull them in,” Flynn said. “And there seems to be more and more of them today than there were when I first started this thing in, post 9/11.”
The comments by the DIA chief, an Iraq war veteran who announced in April he will retire in the fall, highlight what critics say is the failure of the Obama administration to target the Islamist ideology. Instead, counterterrorism during the Obama administration has focused on “kinetic” operations, such as drone strikes and special operations raids aimed at killing terrorist leaders.
That's what happens when PR is more important than effectiveness. Just as (another) aside, weren't we assured by the anti-war Left that killing these folks just hardens their resolve and creates more terrorists?
It's almost as though these folks don't really believe the arguments they make. We may have said this a time or twelve, but it never gets old :p
Statutory Interpretation for Dummies
Most of the time, if everyone's talking about something you wrote that's a good thing. After all, in the land of opinion writing, traffic is the coin of the realm. But sometimes, too much attention can be a bad thing. In the case of Greg Sergeant's latest attempt to discredit the arguments in Halbig, it turned out to be a Very Bad Thing. Patterico - that big, handsome law dog - explains why (aside from the obvious point that bills and laws aren't the same thing) Mr. Sergeant's mad statutory interpretation skillz need a bit of work:
...when the bills were merged, the HELP Committee bill’s explicit provision that subsidies were available on federal exchanges was dropped. Since Sargent’s post was published, several conservatives have convincingly argued that, applying standard rules of statutory construction, the disappearance of the provision allowing federal subsidies signifies that the drafters intended to drop it.
...If Congress initially put specific language in the bill providing for subsidies on federal exchanges, and later took that language out, it’s assumed to be deliberate. Ouch!
But it gets even worse for Sargent. I’ve not seen anyone make this point yet, but Sargent has actually directly corroborated an argument made by the majority opinion in Halbig. Here is the Halbig opinion, and here is the key passage:The government and its amici are thus left to urge the court to infer meaning from silence, arguing that “during the debates over the ACA, no one suggested, let alone explicitly stated, that a State’s citizens would lose access to the tax credits if the State failed to establish its own Exchange.”
The historical record, however, belies this claim. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) proposed a bill that specifically contemplated penalizing states that refused to participate in establishing “American Health Benefit Gateways,” the equivalent of Exchanges, by denying credits to such states’ residents for four years.
This is not to say that section 36B [the section of PPACA that provides for subsidies] necessarily incorporated this thinking; we agree that inferences from unenacted legislation are too uncertain to be a helpful guide to the intent behind a specific provision.
But the HELP Committee’s bill certainly demonstrates that members of Congress at least considered the notion of using subsidies as an incentive to gain states’ cooperation.
Conservatives discussing Halbig have argued that the “established by the state” language was designed to provide an incentive for states to establish exchanges — by withholding subsidies unless the states established the exchanges. Lefties like Sargent say that theory was cynically concocted after the fact. But the Halbig court said, in essence: no, actually, it is not outlandish to think that Congress might have intended to withhold subsidies as an incentive for states to establish exchanges. After all, the HELP Committee did exactly that, in related legislation. The only thing that keeps this from being a slam dunk argument is, we can’t establish a direct connection between the HELP Committee legislation and the language in the PPACA.
But Greg Sargent just did. [bolding mine]
The Halbig majority couldn’t say that the provision for subsidies “necessarily incorporated” the thinking of the HELP Committee. Now, thanks to the work of Greg Sargent, the Halbig plaintiffs can argue exactly that — because now we know that the language of PPACA was taken directly from the HELP Committee proposal.
Perhaps this little refresher would have helped Mr. Sergeant understand that a bill isn't the same thing as the final law Congress votes on (sometimes without bothering to read it first!):
Just as an aside, we can't help snidely wondering, "If these folks really made that big a mistake on the Obama administration's signature legislative achievement, what does that say about their competence?". Why should we grant these fools even more power over our lives?
July 29, 2014
Support Israel? IRS Will Apply "Special Scrutiny"
Do you - or have you ever - supported Israel's right to exist? You just might be deserving of special attention from the IRS:
The IRS has stuck by its story that tax-exempt applications by conservatives got slow-rolled because of bureaucratic bungling not because the groups opposed President Obama's policies. Now the slow drip of email evidence to congressional investigators is casting further doubt on that tale.
In 2009 the Pennsylvania group Z Street applied for tax-exempt status for its mission of educating people about Israel-related issues. In 2010 an IRS agent told Z Street that its application was delayed because the tax agency's Washington, D.C. office was giving special scrutiny to groups whose missions might conflict with Administration policies. The IRS's "Be On the Lookout" list that November also included red flags for groups referring to "disputed territories."
Z Street sued in August 2010 for viewpoint discrimination and its case is headed for discovery in federal court. Now emails uncovered by the House Ways and Means Committee show that the IRS and State Department were conferring in 2009 about pro-Israel groups like Z Street and considering arguments to deny their tax-exempt applications.
...one questionnaire we've seen from the IRS to another Jewish group applying for tax-exempt status asked, "Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?" and "Describe your organization's religious belief system toward the land of Israel." No matter the answers, they should not affect the processing of an application for 501(c) status. The State-IRS emails reveal a political motivation for IRS scrutiny that gives Z Street powerful evidence for its suit charging IRS bias.
On Monday the IRS filed an appeal of the judge's decision denying its motion to dismiss Z Street's case. The government says the action stops all discovery while the appeal is pending, a process that could take months or even years. By filing the appeal on the last possible day, the Justice Department is running out the clock on discovery during the remainder of the Administration.
Speaking of running out the clock, Z Street's application to the IRS was filed in 2009. It is now 2014. Their application has still not been approved. Oh, and look who's defending the IRS in court!
Defending IRS commissioner John Koskinen against the claims of the pro-Israel group Z Street is Andrew Strelka — and before joining the Department of Justice’s civil-trial section, Strelka worked at the IRS for Lois Lerner, who was then the agency’s head of exempt organizations. As it happens, this is the very IRS division at which the mistreatment of Z Street is alleged to have occurred — and Strelka worked there at the very time Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status was being considered.
Scott Coffina, a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath and a former Justice Department prosecutor says Strelka’s representation could violate Washington, D.C.’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers in “several” ways, in particular the rule that prohibits a lawyer from representing a client in a matter where “The lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected” by his personal interests.
...While at the IRS, documents indicate, Strelka was kept abreast of the agency’s targeting practices. He is one of 14 employees who received an e-mail from agency attorney Ronald Shoemaker on March 17, 2010, instructing them to “be on the lookout for a tea party case.
Hmmm....the so-called "optics" here don't look good.
If an IRS agent can reject or stall a pro-Israel group’s application on the grounds that “these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies,” then no group, no matter what its political orientation or cause is safe from being subjected to a political litmus test designed by any administration of either political party.
Don't worry though. The Clinton State Department may have colluded with the IRS. But under John Foreagainst Kerry, Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender in the administration.
The sad thing is, that may even be true.
You Know What They Say
The more you have, the longer you live.
It's Lapday for one of our favorite bloggers and invisible (although one I have actually met in meat-space) friends, John of Argghhh! Since I didn't get him anything of a substantial nature, I figured I'd give him, instead, an idea for some new furniture to put on his "Wish" list:
Now, apparently his itinerant eskimos haven't been properly whipped enough to have posted the proper homage to their boss, so we'll just have to hijack a thread in order to pass along our good wishes for the day. I already have. You can, too! So, go ahead, pop on over, hijack the thread and wish John a happy Lapday.
Please: Stop "Helping" Women
Are these people *trying* to make it harder for women to find work? Because it sure seems that way:
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, has always had the potential to morph into a legal monster for employers. In 2008 Congress amended and expanded the act substantially, arguing that the Supreme Court's interpretations of "disability" were too narrow. Then the Obama Administration arrived, and you know what that means: Who needs Congress?
On a straight 3-2 party-line vote July 14, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted new "enforcement guidance" rules, which define pregnancy as a workplace disability.
Even after the 2008 amendments, the ADA at no point defines pregnancy as a "disability." To end-run this fact, the agency discovers pregnancy's "impairments." The EEOC's guidelines argue, "Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, impairments related to pregnancy can be disabilities if they substantially limit one or more major life activities." Morning sickness, for example, would become a qualifying impairment under the ADA.
Thus the EEOC is piling one radical legal interpretation (discarding the ADA's clear intent to help the truly disabled) upon another (granting protections to pregnant women, who aren't covered under the ADA).
As one of the two Republican commissioners, Constance Barker, wrote in a May memo to her colleagues, these legal gymnastics represent "an entirely new legal interpretation that is unsupported by Congressional intent or court interpretation."
How, exactly, does this sort of thing help women support themselves and their families?
Asymmetrical Tolerance Alert!!!
Remember back when we were told that "violent rhetoric" and imagery inevitably leads to violent attacks and thus cannot be tolerated in a civil society? Well, the Editorial Staff are shocked.... SHOCKED, WE TELL YOU!... to find yet another brave defender of civility and tolerance, refusing to apply that noble standard to hate speech against an historically oppressed minority group!
Oh. Wait a minute. We didn't realize they were talking about Jews...[yawn]. Hey, the "community" doesn't need to defend them:
The page in question, is named, "Death to zionst baby killer israeli jews." The page, which spells "Zionist" incorrectly, features an Image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a vampire with blood dripping down his chin as he feasts on a child. It was started on July 25.
Individuals complaining about the page were greeted with the following message (screen captured below):
Last Thursday, a mob of more than a dozen men assaulted a Jew in his suburban Paris home who had been identified through a French Facebook page that listed the faces and identities of Jews to be attacked. The social network declined to remove the page until after the assault had taken place.
It's almost as though these folks only promote these standards so they can silence speech they don't like while promoting hate speech against disfavored out-groups. You know: the dreaded "Other". One wonders what it would take to violate these folks' community standards? Something like this, perhaps?
People who are "visibly Jewish," people wearing identifiably Jewish dress, have found themselves targeted for abuse. Demonstrators at the biggest central London march assaulted and verbally abused a Jewish woman who had expressed her support for Israel, calling her a "Jew Zionist" among other things, before stealing her mobile phone. In North London, a rabbi was abused by a group of 'youths' who shouted "F*** the Zionists," "F*** the Jews" and "Allah Akhbar."
All of this is mild compared to what has been going on across the English Channel in France. In suburbs and parts of central Paris the violence being perpetrated against the Jewish community culminated in the disturbing spectacle of Parisian Jews barricaded in a synagogue by a crowd of young North Africans seemingly intent on violence. When the police failed to turn up in any numbers, the Jews fought for themselves. These were not all "Jewish vigilantes" as some of the press disturbingly reported -- Jews in their 40s and 50s fighting their way through a mob.
Since then, the French authorities have banned -- as French authorities have the right to do -- some other planned "pro-Palestinian" protests. But the bans seem not to have worked. "Youths," as the media are prone to title the rioters, who mainly come from the suburbs of Paris and other cities, have taken to the streets, anyhow. There are videos of them smashing up pavements in order to get chunks of asphalt to hurl at police. A Paris suburb with a large Jewish -- not Israeli, just Jewish -- population has been a particular focus of protestors. In some video footage, protestors have been shown attacking police cars and assaulting public and private property. The French authorities are clearly trying to get a handle on the protests, but to a considerable extent, events have slipped from their control.
Similar scenes have been seen across the continent. In the Netherlands -- fresh from witnessing a pro-ISIS rally in Amsterdam -- there have been serious incidents at protests. There have been anti-Semitic chants, and the home of the Chief Rabbi in the Netherlands has been attacked twice in one week. In Austria, a soccer game involving an Israeli team had to be called off after Palestinian demonstrators broke onto the pitch. The stands had people waving anti-Israel banners and Turkish flags. But once they were on the pitch, the protestors assaulted the Israeli players, doing flying kicks at them and then further kicking and punching them. Some of the Israeli players fought back and the game was halted.
Most disturbing of all, perhaps, have been events in Germany. During pro-Palestinian protests in Berlin and other German cities, there were chants of "Death to the Jews" and "Gas the Jews." The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, described some of the demonstrations as "an explosion of evil and violence-prone hatred of Jews. Never in our lives did we believe it possible that antisemitism of the nastiest and most primitive kind would be chanted on the streets of Germany."
And it is in Germany that such sentiments have met their most appropriate public and political opposition. There, at least, the nature of these protests has not been glossed over. On the contrary there has been a suitable soul-racking over this. How could such a cry have gone up in this country, of all countries? The major German magazine, Bild, has run a cover with the headline, "Raise your voice: Never again Jew Hatred!" The cover is dotted with famous figures in German public life from the President and Chancellor Merkel to other political and public figures. The montage sends out a powerful message. The question is, of course, whether that is enough.
Throughout Europe, the historical stain of anti-Semitism continued to be a fact of life on Internet fora, in soccer stadiums, and through Nazi-like salutes, leading many individuals who are Jewish to conceal their religious identity.
And yet, amidst the darkness of religious strife lay inspiring and unheralded acts of interfaith solidarity. Following the deadly Peshawar church bombing in Pakistan resilient Muslim community members formed human chains around churches during services in a show of solidarity and to stand up against senseless violence. In Egypt, Muslim men stood in front of a Catholic church to protect the
congregation from attacks. And after an increase of mosque attacks in the United Kingdom, a local orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch team began assisting Muslim leaders to ensure safe access to mosques and alert them to possible attacks
Here's a thought: if you're really opposed to hate speech and even more hateful actions, oppose it ALL. Not just verbal (or physical) attacks on people you sympathize with. Better yet, don't go all outrage-y against the latest display of online Tourette's syndrome unless you're willing to apply that same standard when your own side does exactly the same thing.
Otherwise, people will be tempted to conclude that you're not really interested in promoting tolerance, diversity, or civility.
Keeping Things in the Family
Liberal darling and free-birth-control advocate Sandra Fluke is her own biggest donor in her state Senate race, according to official California campaign finance reports.
Fluke donated $12,000 to her campaign and $4,826.27 in non-monetary contributions. While $16,826.27 may not sound like a lot, Fluke also loaned her campaign $100,000.
Where does a 2012 law school grad working as a social justice attorney get a loan that size? Her campaign never responded to a Washington Examiner inquiry, so we’re left to speculate.
Perhaps the loan was in part secured by the family of Fluke’s husband, Adam Mutterperl. In 2012, Fluke married Mutterperl, an amateur stand-up comic and son of big-time Democratic donor William Mutterperl.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Mutterperls have donated quite a bit to Fluke’s campaign. William and Nancy Mutterperl have each donated $8,200 to Fluke’s campaign. Adam has given a bit less – $4,100.
As a family, the Mutterperls have given Fluke $20,500. Fluke’s own family has donated $9,600 to her campaign (her mother gave one donation as Betty and one as Elizabeth).
While it’s not unusual for family members to donate to a campaign (it would be far more telling if they didn’t give), the fact that the donations, along with Fluke’s loan, accounts for 33 percent of Fluke’s fundraising is notable.
In total, Fluke has raised $416,185.28, according to disclosure forms. With one-third of that total coming from her family, it appears the campaign is trying to pump up its donation totals to appear stronger than it actually is.
It's a good thing Ms. Fluke doesn't have an (R) after her name, because in that case we'd have to conclude that she was one of those horrid, inequality-promoting 1 percenters we've heard so much about.
July 28, 2014
Smart Diplomacy Redux
Despite the tendency to criticize US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts, credit should be given where credit is due. Over the weekend, Kerry did manage to facilitate something in the Middle East: unparalleled unanimity.
Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were all in agreement that Kerry’s efforts were undermining the attempt to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as quickly as possible. Moreover, Kerry’s framework and the ideas he presented led to an extraordinary phone call taking place between a senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart, during which the two mocked the senior diplomat’s naivete and his failure to understand the regional reality.
Kerry’s mistakes are embarrassing. A senior official in Washington on Sunday rushed to explain to Israeli reporters that the framework — the key terms of which were first published by The Times of Israel, and which then appeared in full on other media outlets — was but a draft that summed up a series of consultations between Kerry and the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, Khalid al-Attiyah and Ahmet Davutoglu. But this is where the mistake begins: The US administration gambled on the camp that supports Hamas, bankrolls it and pushes it to go on shooting.
Kerry and his staff made an outrageous decision to turn their backs on the Egyptian framework for a ceasefire in a manner that encouraged Hamas to continue shooting rockets.
This first mistake was exposed by none other than the political leader of the organization, Khaled Mashaal, who said in a press conference in Doha, the Qatari capital, that Kerry had turned to al-Attiyah and Davutoglu two days after the Israeli operation in Gaza began and asked them to push for a ceasefire. At the time, Kerry knew full well that a major Egyptian effort was underway to persuade Hamas to stop firing immediately. By turning to Doha and Ankara behind the backs of Cairo and Jerusalem, Washington — no doubt unintentionally — strengthened Hamas’s resolve against Egypt and Israel.
But the mistakes didn’t stop there. The farce continued with the amateurish draft that was immediately rejected by Israel’s security cabinet; it then reached new heights on Saturday in Paris, when Kerry decided to participate in an international summit on Gaza, attended by his new friends al-Attiyah and Davutoglu as well as the foreign ministers of the European Union, but not by a few players that Kerry apparently perceives as marginal – representatives of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and, of course, Israel.
It’s hard to say what caused the Obama administration to join forces with the Muslim Brotherhood of all camps — loyally represented by Turkey and Qatar — and turn its back on the movement’s sworn enemy, the Egyptian government. The best case scenario is that it might have been amateurism or a misreading of the situation. In a less ideal scenario, Washington decided to forge an alliance with organizations and entities that would be happy to see Israel disappear from the map. I prefer to bet on the first option, the one that was discussed with such ridicule by the senior Israeli and Palestinian officials — that Kerry just doesn’t understand who’s playing against whom in the Wild Mideast.
Of course this isn't the first time the former Junior Senator from Hanoi underestimated the dangers of cozying up to violent extremists:
Seeing an opening, Camil put his Phoenix plan on the table. Although a lot of the discussion is blacked out, there is reference in the documents to Hubbard and Camil being "closely aligned." There is also a passage suggesting that Hubbard proposed a variant of Camil's Phoenix program, which substituted kidnapping for killing:
"A second proposal, 'Phoenix Operation,' . . .was proposed by a national leader, possibly Hubbard. This proposal would have called for a well-trained VVAW group in Washington, D.C., to kidnap a United States senator, representative, or Government official to hold for ransom to pressure for ending of the war."
The documents don't say whether Kerry's diatribe against Hubbard began at this point. One document states: "John Kerry . . . reportedly in disagreement with Hubbard over VVAW participating in militant actions; Kerry wants VVAW to stay strictly nonviolent."
Several VVAW members have recounted details of this floor fight in interviews. Musgrave recalls how Hubbard clammed up and let Oliver speak in his defense. Others describe Hubbard cringing and looking close to tears as Kerry relentlessly battered him. Finally, as California-Nevada coordinator Lee Lubinsky recalls, Hubbard pulled down his pants to show a large scar on his back and thigh, offering it as proof that he had been in a plane crash in Vietnam.
Soon afterward, witnesses say, Hubbard fell against a table and dropped to the floor, making a crash so loud it was heard outside the church. Vets helped him to his feet, and he asked to be driven to the airport, saying his stomach ulcers were bleeding and he needed to rush to his doctor in New York. The FBI files say: "Hubbard remained at Kansas City until Saturday afternoon, at which time he claimed illness and said he was returning to New York to enter an unnamed hospital."
After Hubbard left, Camil's Phoenix proposal was voted on, and turned down—although, according to Camil, many members from Camil's southern following voted yes. The vote does not show up in the files but could be in a section the FBI blacked out. Then other proposals came up—many of which are listed in the FBI files, including the projected takeover of the Statue of Liberty, which the group approved.
Toward the end of the meeting, the rebellious Detroit delegates outside forced their way in. They accused Oliver of arranging secret hand signals with the Michigan regional coordinator to keep certain issues from being raised. Oliver confessed and offered to resign. The FBI files indicate that Kerry was still in the church at this point because he too was accused of "misconduct," apparently because of his close association with Oliver.
A file document states: "He [Kerry] inferred that he had been accused wrongly of misconduct in office, and therefore, he did not want to have anything more to do with [sic] any official capacity with the VVAW . . . it appeared that he was alienated by the incident involving the Detroit delegation."
After the two resignations, the meeting could not be brought back to order, and so it was adjourned for the night. The so-called Phoenix proposal was never officially raised again.
The files record that on Sunday, Nov. 14, with Oliver out, Camil chaired the morning meeting. According to a file document, Kerry "announced that he had resigned his post, but would continue to work with VVAW on his own terms." One of the regional coordinators, John Lindquist from Milwaukee, says that he heard Kerry read his letter of resignation.
Whether Kerry should have reported the "assassination plot" to authorities is a question some critics have raised.
Surprised? You shouldn't be:
... this is John Kerry. This is a man who swore he had seen and participated in great crimes of war in Vietnam, which he was obligated to report to his chain of command: but he made no such reports. So he is either a criminal of the worst kind, a murderer most foul who broke his nation's most sacred laws against his sworn oath as an officer; or he is a liar who has slandered his brothers in arms, for personal advantage.
Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.
Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold
It may have taken several centuries, but finally some enterprising soul has come up with the definitive retort:
Colin Furze, a plumber and inventor from Stamford, Lincolnshire, has begun building the biggest fart machine ever, which he plans to place on top of the cliffs of Dover and aim across the Channel towards France. His hope is that the French, 21 miles away, will hear the blast.
The machine, which Furze will house in a pair of specially constructed buttocks, is a giant pulse valveless jet engine – as used in Nazi V-1 bombs during the Second World War – that creates a plume of fire to go along with its deafening roar. Furze hopes to mount the contraption on the cliffs of Dover on July 24, between 6 and 7pm.
And to think we missed this historic event. Men.... They are inventive:
Furze's previous homemade inventions include a pair of pneumatic 'Wolverine' claws, magnetic 'Magneto' shoes, hand-mounted 'Pyro' flame-throwers (all inspired by the X-Men films), a 50 mph baby pram, and a fire-spurting mobility scooter.
At Chevron Corp, any worker at the company's San Ramon, Calif., headquarters can halt an activity he or she deems dangerous by whipping out a small white "stop work" card. Workers take the authority seriously; filming for a safety training video stopped when an employee noticed props scattered on the ground and invoked that power.
At the U.S. arm of food and beverage company Nestlé SA, NESN.VX -0.51% employees begin meetings by checking for hazards, like computer cords that can cause tripping, and reviewing emergency exit protocol. Workers are also expected to spot two safety incidents each month—such as someone holding elevator doors open.
At a company event held at a hotel, an assembled crowd of Nestlé workers audibly gasped when a hotel employee jumped up onto the stage instead of using an adjacent staircase.
"Everyone went 'Whoa,' " said Joanne Crawford, a marketing director in the company's Glendale, Calif., office. The chief executive of Nestlé USA made the worker leave the stage and ascend the correct way.
Safety-minded employees of Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM -1.05% recently camped out near two stairways in the firm's Irving, Texas, headquarters to observe who held the handrails while going up and down, who carried too many items or ones too large, who was using their mobile phones and who was in a rush. The workers, members of a company safety and wellness committee, mostly just recorded the incidents, for fear they might startle someone and cause an injury.
"We will intervene if we can do so safely," said Glenn Murray, who coordinates the company's safety programs.
Question for the ages: has anyone documented the possible hazards of startling a co-worker with a white, "stop work" card?
July 25, 2014
Summer Songs Thread
So, this song has been playing in my head on and off all summer:
I stood out there in the covering
In the baskings of a holy night
Oh I was lucid and conscious
And hovering like a firefly
My mind stretched out on the canopy
It put its arms out slow
I heard the whispers of silence
Floating down from the radio
So come on, come on, I'm ready now
I got that feeling honey - like I'm ready to roll
Not sure what makes someone associate a song with summer. Sometimes it's a memory. Other times, it's the way the sound captures the feeling of sun and wind on your face at the beach, or the light filtering through the trees, or the scent of honeysuckle on a soft Southern night.
Or just that feeling when, unexpectedly, the weight of all those summers past falls away and you feel like a child again, riding your bike so fast that the world slips by in a blur.
What songs make you think of summer?
Mein Gott im Himmel! How Can This Be????
This morning, Thomas Ricks (who, in 2006, bravely announced that Anbar province was "irretrievably lost" just as the Anbar Awakening was picking up speed) informs us that he is "moving leftward".
In the fullness of time, it turned out that Mr. Ricks hadn't actually read the classified report that so deliciously confirmed what he already believed to be true. But that didn't stop him from reporting its supposed contents.
Alas. If only the Obama White House had been there to warn him how unreliable those pesky anonymous sources can be:
What we knew of the report, by Marine intelligence office Col. Peter Devlin, and which instantly became “the conventional wisdom” on al Anbar, came via essentially a single source. That was Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks, in a Sept. 2006 article “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq: Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says,” and a follow-up in late November, “Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker.” It’s obvious now that either the report itself or the Ricks’ presentation of it missed the mark worse than an F-16 bombing Baghdad and hitting Basra.
Yet even at the time, articles from Al Anbar itself (not Ricks’ roost in D.C.) contradicted the Post’s presentation.
...As to Ricks, he admitted to NPR “I haven’t actually read [the report],” rather “I’ve had many people describe it to me.” You’d hardly guess that from his articles though, such that supporters of the war effort were just as likely to claim the report was “leaked” to Ricks as were opponents.
Instead what we got was a report as seen through two filters: First, Ricks selected his interviewees who, since by definition they agreed to discuss a classified document, probably held a grudge against current military actions. The second filter was Ricks himself, hardly the epitome of even-handedness as author of the best-selling book about Iraq whose title says it all: Fiasco.
...Perhaps Ricks was trying to pull off an Iraq version of the media’s Tet Offensive offensive, a battle that crushed the Viet Cong and yet the media declared it a terrible U.S. defeat. Life imitated art as portrayal sucked the life out of our war effort. In any case, others in the mainstream media seemed to have that idea.
NPR relied on Ricks to pronounce “we’ve lost the fight” in Anbar. “The message is, stay the course,” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann declared, “But in the huge Anbar Province, word from our military is that we’ve already lost there politically.” Jim Miklaszewski told NBC Nightly News viewers that "The top secret report . . . says there’s no chance the U.S. military can end insurgent violence in al Anbar” and “the U.S. is preparing to eventually concede a large piece of Iraq to the enemy . . . ” CNN’s Michael Ware used Ricks’ “revelations” to opine “we only have a third of the troops there that are needed to even begin to make a dent in al Qaeda.” (Incidentally, some pundits have said success in Anbar was a direct result of “The Surge.” In fact, “The Awakening,” in which fed-up local Iraqi tribes turned against AQI and other terrorist groups, began a year before “The Surge” did.) So much for needing three times the troops to “make a dent.”
This is shocking news to those of us who have followed Ricks' journalistic exploits with leg-tingling anticipation. Drifting leftward???? Who could have predicted such a stunning volte face?
But perhaps more importantly, what caused this titanic shift in polarity? To hear Mr. Ricks tell it, the answer is simple. During the Evil Bush Years, he lost faith in government due to its corrupt, inept, and bumbling ways. Natürlich, meine Damen und Herren, the only rational response to incompetent governance is - apparently - more government.
Surely things will be different, this time. Admit it, knuckle draggers. The logic is well nigh irrefutable.
Unmarried conscripts don’t need such a safety net. And much of the labor currently contracted out to the private sector could be performed by 18-year-olds for much less.
... The pool of cheap labor available to the federal government would broadly lower its current personnel costs and its pension obligations — especially if the law told federal managers to use the civilian service as much as possible, and wherever plausible. The government could also make this cheap labor available to states and cities. Imagine how many local parks could be cleaned and how much could be saved if a few hundred New York City school custodians were 19, energetic and making $15,000 plus room and board, instead of 50, tired and making $106,329, the top base salary for the city’s public school custodians, before overtime.
Amazing how often the road to lefty Utopia involves government taking away other people's basic freedoms.
Achieving "Paycheck Fairness"
The Blog Princess saw this a few days ago and it made her day:
... given that gender pay discrimination has been illegal for more than half a century, if the Congressman is truly committed to “erase that disparity” as he sanctimoniously states in his letter, he may go about that in one or more of the following ways:
First, the Congressman could introduce a bill to restrict women’s ability to work fewer hours than her male counterparts to shrink the gender wage gap. The plain fact is that one of the largest contributors to the wage disparity between men and women is the simple fact that men, on average, work longer hours than women. In fact, of full time workers, 26% of males work more than 40 hours per week, compared to just 14% of women (How Pew Research measured the gender pay gap | Pew Research Center). However, this can be easily remedied by government forcing men and women to work the exact same hours per week, their own personal preferences be damned!
Second, the Congressman could introduce a bill to coerce women to go into male dominated fields that they themselves have not chosen to enter. Some of the most male dominated majors and career fields also happen to be the most lucrative, such as engineering, computer science, and business. The fact that most women choose not to enter these fields should not stop the Congressman from attempting to get the government involved to force women to go into them, if he is serious about closing the wage gap. As an aside, the Congressman may also, in the name of equality and wage parity, seek to force men to enter women dominated (and relatively low pay) fields such as psychology, education, and gender studies.
Third, the Congressman could introduce a bill mandating that men and women devote equal amounts of time to raising children and other household responsibilities. Why allow individual couples the power to decide how do divide up domestic responsibilities when it could be dictated to them by their enlightened rulers in Washington DC? The fact that most women actually enjoy and get substantial satisfaction from raising their own children should not dissuade the Congressman from attempting to stamp out this root cause behind the gender wage gap.
Upon even a cursory look at the evidence, it is abundantly clear the the gender wage gap is not chiefly (if at all) a result of discrimination or some eery unjust force that needs to be battled with legislation. Rather it is a result in the difference choices that men and women make.
Thus if the Congressman is genuinely committed to ending this wage gap he will have no other option than to use the coercive power of the federal government to make women (and, to a lesser extent, men) do that which they would not themselves choose to do.
We are reminded of a particularly moronic screed we read several months ago asserting that "...women should not be allowed within fifty feet of a school where boys are taught".
Who will free women from the tyranny of their own value judgments and decisions? Who will free men to abandon their well paid jobs and flock to the elementary schools where they can *finally* indulge their beautiful and natural desire to work with small children all day?
Verily we say unto you: these suboptimal lifestyle choices must be stopped in our lifetime before they kill us all. Utopia beckons, if only we have the courage to give it a helping hand.
July 24, 2014
How To Fix Everything
Thus endeth the lesson.
Here you go, villains! Your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
Let The Judgement Begin
Well, my villainous, invisible friends, you shirley had a good time with last week's picture. A couple of you had so much fun that I had to tweak the judgement just a bit this week, as you'll see.
So, with that in mind, it's time for old business with the ensmallened pic review...
and now comes the Judgement.
Kicking off the top five is htom with this astute observation - Amb. Kerry and Sec. Lew, at the Great Wall of China (Badaling Gate) demonstrating the non-conformity of America by being out of step, even with each other!
Followed by Don Brouhaha's ode to the directionally-challenged Sec. of State - "Is this the way to Lambert Field, where the Packers play?"
model 1066 fires a shot at an oft-noted comparison - Water this way, Mr. Horse.
Azrael Eshu (I always want to say, "Bless you" when I read your last name. 0>;~]) takes second with this "we-all-think-it-but-few-say-it-outloud" comment - "And here, Comrade Kerry, is the Leaping Lizard Lounge and Marina. We have taken the liberty of providing you with a lifetime subscription to both as a professional courtesy..."
And, finally, our own Princess grabs the gold with this snort-worthy reminder of the directionally-challenged, former junior Senator's time *spent* in the service -
So.... are we in Cambodia yet?
Now, I know you've noticed that a couple of the regular smartasses were not in the previous list. This is because they were so busy having so much that I felt the need this week to create a special category just for them where I've chosen the two best comments from the many that each posted. So, I present the "spdy flyer" edition of the Judgement: (in no particular order)
"And over here we have the People's Soylent Green Works."
"Green? I love protecting the environment."
"Yes, yes... so do we. Please, gentlemen, right this way."
Posted by: spd rdr
"And this is the remains of what so many American journalists have described as the "Hanoi Hilton". Contrary to their descriptions, note the spacious rooms--the recreational facilities--the re-education library.................."
Posted by: frequent flyer
"Look! See, Mr. Kerry! SEE! We have found your Lucky hat from the Christmas you spent in Cambodia!
Posted by: frequent flyer
Kerry: "Where do you keep all the kimonos? I promised Teresa I would get her a kimono."
Guide: "Over there, Mr. Ambassador. In Japan."
Kerry: "Is Japan close?"
Guide: "We could reach out and touch it, Mr. Ambassador. And we will."
Kerry: "Good. My feet hurt."
Posted by: spd rdr
That's the Judgement for this week, villains. As usual, a great job by everyone.
Another pic...well, you shirley know by now.
Inflammatory Debate Topic: Caring About Other People's Sex Lives
This article is generating a lot of weird commentary in the Blatherosphere:
Here’s a loaded question: Is casual sex immoral?
From Hester Prynne to Hobby Lobby, from our dorm-mates to our politicians, it’s an issue that’s sparked more than its fair share of fiery public debate (after all, we Americans are a judge-y people). A recent study done by researchers at Cornell and New York University summed it up this way: Casual sex is psychologically good for you if you if think it’s acceptable, but not if you don’t.
So the answer, clearly, depends on who’s being asked—but odds are that either way, they won’t feel tepid about it.
Your answer may depend, at least in part, on where your money comes from (if you’re a woman) or where it goes (if you’re a man). At least, that’s the argument of a paper recently published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, which found that promiscuity—by both men and women—is more likely to be considered a moral violation in places where women are economically dependent on men.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but.... duh. But wait! There's more!
We’ve evolved to consider sex, the researchers argue, as a game of finite resources. For our ancestors, multiple sexual partners meant things could get knotty when it came to proving whose kids were whose. For women who depended on men for their livelihoods (and the livelihoods of their offspring), that uncertainty meant losing out on the support of their male partners. Bad news. For men, it meant investing in the well-being of children they hadn’t necessarily fathered. Also bad news.
The connection between sexual behavior and morality, then, may have come about as a way of keeping a gender-based social order intact. “Through moralizing,” the researchers wrote, “individuals can promote behavior which serves their own personal and coalitional interests.” Back in the day, judgment was a form of defense.
While religious arguments against casual sex still exist, the paternity justification for promiscuity’s immorality is of another time. Sex and pregnancy no longer have to be synonymous if we don’t want them to be (and most don’t—more than 99 percent of sexually active women in the U.S. have used birth control at some point in their lives, according to the Guttmacher Institute). Paternity tests exist. The idea that a man should forever be his family’s sole breadwinner seems more than a little anachronistic. The idea of family itself is changing in ever-expanding ways.
But when it comes to this particular area, we don’t really care. As the Archives of Sexual Behavior paper explains, “The beliefs may persist due to evolutionary adaptive lag, that is, because the environment has changed faster than the moral system.” In other words, our psyches are sluggish—and in a rapidly evolving world, they haven’t necessarily kept pace.
It's hard to know where to start with this idiocy, but because we are all about the giving, we'll try anyway.
First of all, money and paternity are far from being the only reasons everyone - male and female - rightfully cares to some degree about other people's sexual behavior. Let us count the reasons to care:
1. The spread of (sometimes deadly) venereal diseases, both in the single community and sadly, to married people whose fidelity doesn't keep them (and sometimes, tragically, their children) from being infected with STDs when their spouses cheat.
2. Male possessiveness and violence. When we were just a rosy-cheeked Editorial Staff we worked at the Navy Exchange. Most of our coworkers were women who were either married to or dating sailors.
And - the usual ludicrous assertions from conservatives that only women are controlling and jealous notwithstanding - incidents with possessive lovers and husbands becoming violent, controlling, or stalkerish were incredibly common. Young men in particular don't react well to jealousy or rejection by women they are sleeping with. As long as we live, we will never cease to be amazed (and amused) to hear so many men saying that (only) women are insecure and controlling. In our experience, both sexes are that way because that's human nature. Where we desire or love, we are vulnerable and easily hurt. And it turns out that men aren't nearly as casual about sex as they want everyone to believe. If you don't believe that, contemplate the PUA/MRA obsession with women who only sleep with alpha males, leaving scores of beta, gamma, and omega males free to fill the internet with their outrage and bitterness.
There's a lot of anger, pathos, and misery out there connected to caring very much about who other people sleep with (or don't sleep with). And it's not limited to the distaff half of humanity.
3. The burden unintended pregnancies and unwed mothers place on families and societies. The burden is financial as well as social: children raised in homes without fathers are poorer. But they are also less successful in life, more likely to get into trouble, and more likely to perpetuate the cycle of unplanned pregnancies and distressed children when they grow up.
4. Strained marriages and broken families. What kind of idiot thinks society is better off when marriages break up and children grow up in split homes?
People tell themselves some really bizarre fairy stories about sex, and one of the biggest of these fantasies is that sex is some kind of morality free activity that doesn't affect other people. That's nonsense. Most of us don't care too much what any particular individual does with their sex life so long as we don't have to hear about it. But anyone who says they don't care what other people - in the aggregate - do with their sex lives clearly doesn't have the sense the good Lord gave a grapefruit.
You can tell a lot about a person's character and intelligence by looking at how they conduct themselves sexually because sex can't be neatly separated from the rest of life. Our decisions and the way we treat others are a reflection of who we are. And by definition, partnered sex always affects at least one other person. Often, it affects many other people (think of the serial philanderer, or the unfaithful spouse whose conduct destroys an entire family).
It sounds so enlightened and tolerant and New Age-y to claim you don't care about other people's sex lives, but life would be a lot simpler if we all stopped pretending and admitted we have very good reasons to care.
Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers :p
July 23, 2014
The Decider Decides Alone
He acts alone.
Yeah.... with nobody else.
'Cause you know when he acts alone
He prefers to be by himself.
Fortunately for the Multiverse, unilaterally bypassing our democratically elected Congress is *so* not an arrogant power grab by a deranged, power-mad autocrat bent on imposing his imperial will on the voters he promised to represent:
I asked University of Oregon political scientist Daniel Tichenor how extensive Obama's executive powers on immigration are. Tichenor's answer, via e-mail:In the absence of Congressional action/legislation, the White House has broad authority. This is especially true when presidents are responding to large-scale and uninvited entries into U.S. territory. Truman, Eisenhower, and JFK invoked parole powers to assist European refugees in the context of World War II displacement and later the Cold War. Asylum seekers and other migrants who enter U.S. territory for relief without prior authorization present a more immediate dilemma that our chief executives have considerable authority to address.
Precedents (noted in Tichenor's excellent book on the history of U.S. immigration politics) are plentiful. Harry Truman issued an executive order in 1945 extending relief to tens of thousands of refugees from war-torn Europe. Dwight Eisenhower used a loophole in the McCarran-Walter Act to admit 30,000 Hungarian refugees after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. When Lyndon Johnson signed a landmark 1965 immigration law, he said he would use his parole power to open the nation to refugees from Fidel Castro's Cuba. (Congress later passed legislation facilitating asylum for Cubans.) Likewise, Richard Nixon used executive power to enable more than 40,000 Czechs on travel permits to stay in the U.S. after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Additional Czech refugees were admitted from other countries.
None of these actions was on the scale that pro-immigration advocates are urging on Obama. Thousands are not millions. But the same principle of parole power could extend protection to, for example, the roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with children or spouses who are either citizens or legal residents.
It's all about the principle, people. Please try to stay focused.
The crisis he created forces him to act boldly and unilaterally. Eggs. Omelets.
Update: Oh quit your sniveling. It could be so much worse. He could be out there spending your tax dollars to raise oodles of dark money (you know - the toxic stuff he's forever promising to remove from politics?) for the DNC:
President Obama’s fundraising swing through the Seattle area Tuesday will include a high-priced dinner event benefiting a Democratic super PAC.
The event is at the Hunts Point home of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and his wife, Jan, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Seattle Times.
The price tag for the event is $25,000 per person, with proceeds going to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that accepts unlimited donations.
As a candidate, Obama has railed against U.S. Supreme Court rulings that opened up a flood of unfettered political spending through nonprofits and super PACs.
But Obama has come to embrace super PACs on his side of the political divide, especially as he campaigns for Democrats in the 2014 midterms.
For those of you tempted to say this looks a bit hypocritical, just shut yo' moufs:
A letter accompanying the dinner invitation pleads for donors to help avert a Republican takeover of the Senate.
“A mere six seat shift would alter the makeup of the Senate, allowing the GOP to control everything from choice to federal judge confirmations and the Supreme Court. We cannot afford to let this happen, and we need your help,” the letter to donors for the Sinegal event reads.
However, in a feat of legalese probably designed to appease campaign-finance regulators, the letter says Obama would only be appearing as a special guest and is “not soliciting funds for this event or acknowledging your contribution at any point.”
Thank Gaia someone is looking out for the interests of the poor, the near-poor, and the middle class. At $25K a pop.
Thomas the Tank Engine: Fascist Oppressor
Verily, it hath been many moons since the Editorial Staff raised the consciousness of the assembled villainry by exposing the shocking exploitation of one Knut - the Adorably Psychotic Gay Teen Bear.
Truth be told, Knut was a bit of a puzzlement to us at first. On the surface, he was not your garden variety, undertrodden pawn of the vast evil, reich-wing (but we repeat our ownselves) conspiracy. Unrepentantly white in color, a Haver of Decidedly Masculine Naughty Bits, poor Knut was the sort of bear at whom we would have felt more comfortable wagging the stern finger of international opprobrium.
Thankfully, our friends the Germans performed a seemingly impossible feat. They managed to turn this white, male bear into that most useful of social justice avatars: the perpetually aggrieved victim. Of course Knut deserves some of the credit for copping to a deliciously transgressive inter-species fling with his human handler (Thomas Dörflein's suspicious demise is alleged to have resulted from a random-but-completely-understandable S&M role playing encounter gone tragically wrong - possibly brought on Dörflein's boringly clichéd polyamorous adventures with female bipeds of his own kind). There is no shame in any of this - these are all perfectly legitimate lifestyle choices. And how could enlightened folk like us help but love Knut when he bravely led the German Gay Polar Bear movement to oppose Sarah Palin's VP nomination? In a civilized society like Amerikkka, even the voices of Deutschen Eisbären have their place?
The young ursine has been the target of death threats for his prescient and principled opposition to European Islamofascists. Thus, we found ourselves deeply disturbed to learn that, not content with being a bad mother, animal hater and strident foe of a woman's exclusive right to determine the reproductive destiny of both partners in a sexual relationship, Gov. Palin has come out against same sex marriage rights for polar bears.
But sadly, even in death our hapless fUr-brother (no thanks to PETA, still possessed of his huevos) has been pressed into service to bolster the brands of his heartless, capitalistic oppressors. We shall speak of this atrocity no more.
In the culture wars, Evil never takes a day off. So neither must we.
Sadly, a new menace looms ... err... menacingly... on the horizon: a racist, sexist, rampantly authoritarian and Otherist danger to everything we hold dear.
That's right: we're talking about Thomas the Tank Engine:
Thomas and those friends are trains that toil away endlessly on the Isle of Sodor – which seems to be forever caught in British colonial times – and, on its surface, the show seems to impart good moral lessons about hard work and friendship. But if you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages.
For one, these trains perform tasks dictated by their imperious, little white boss, Sir Topham Hatt (also known as The Fat Controller), whose attire of a top hat, tuxedo and big round belly is just a little too obvious. Basically, he's the Monopoly dictator of their funky little island. Hatt orders the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done – regardless of their pre-existing schedules.
Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a "really useful engine", because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.
But there was one particular episode that caused me to put the brakes on Thomas for good. It revolved around James, a red engine who is described in the opening credits as "vain but lots of fun." (Wait, it's OK to be vain if you can show others a good time occasionally? Great – that's going in my Parenting 101 book.) In the episode "Tickled Pink", poor vain James, is ordered by Topham Hat to get a new coat of paint. But while James has only had an undercoat of pink slathered on, Topham Hatt interrupts and demands that James go pick up Hatt's granddaughter and deliver her and her friends to a birthday party right now.
This reckless and unsanctioned Pinklighting must not be allowed to stand. Until the oppressed locomotives of Sodor have achieved gender parity, we honestly don't know how we can sleep at night.
Admit it, knuckleheads. This is quite possibly the defining issue of our time. How will our children grow up to love social justice and resolve never to possess more material goods than the least fortunate among us if they are continually being fed warped values by self loathing cartoon locomotives who continually refuse to recognize their own best interests?
Now perhaps if Thomas were to come out in a future episode as a Locomotive of Unambiguous and Unapologetic Transgenderness, honor *might* still be served. Whatever happens, Percy should definitely be forced to parade around in a shiny new coat of pink paint. With rainbows.
And unicorn decals. OCCUPY SODOR!!!!
July 22, 2014
Jumping On The Bandwagon
The Princess' posting about 'Weird' Al's new album earlier this morning aroused my curiosity. I've always been a fan, especially of his later songs, but I must say, this one really appeals to my inner grammar nazi.
I never liked the original song much due to the nature of the lyrics and video, but the music and beat were very earworm-like. I like this version much better.
Tip o'the Stetson - IMAO
July 21, 2014
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes???
The end, maybe. But first part - and most of it - sounds more like "Carry On" to this CSNY fan. What say you, cheesy 70s retread types?
“I wanted to do a song about all the ridiculous double-speak and meaningless buzzwords that I’ve been hearing in office environments my entire life,” Yankovic says by e-mail. “I just thought it would be ironic to juxtapose that with the song stylings of CSN, whose music pretty much symbolizes the antithesis of corporate America.”
Of Presidents and Priorities
As smoke billowed from the downed Malaysian jetliner in the fields of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, President Obama pressed ahead with his schedule: a cheeseburger with fries at the Charcoal Pit in Delaware, a speech about infrastructure and two splashy fund-raisers in New York City.
The potential for jarring split-screen imagery was clear. Reports of charred bodies and a ground-to-air missile attack from Eastern Europe dominated television screens while photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Mr. Obama holding a toddler at the restaurant. The presidential motorcade was later filmed pulling up to Trump Place Apartments, the Riverside Avenue venue for his first fund-raiser.
And yet, White House aides said no consideration was given to abandoning the president’s long-planned schedule, even during the hourlong flight from Delaware to New York, when word suddenly arrived that Israel had begun a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, providing the day’s second international challenge.
We don't know why so many
Republicans racist, mean spirited, partisan poopyheads are saying this guy is incompetent. Why, just look at all that can be accomplished in America if you're determined to stay focused and work hard at your job!
On Thursday morning, President Obama is off to a party fundraiser in New York. Next week, he’s flying to the west coast for another fundraiser with the Hollywood glitterati. When Obama was in Denver last week, he attended no less than four cash-gathering events in the space of 24 hours.
In his first term, Obama attended more fundraising events than any other president in recent history. According to author Brendan J. Doherty, from 2008 to 2012 Obama went to 321 events, compared to just 80 for Ronald Reagan. And, as the chart below shows, he’s done 72 events in his second term – 34 this year alone. So far, he’s ahead of the pace of George W. Bush, who had been to 30 events at this point in 2006. In his two presidential terms combined, Bush hosted 318 fundraisers. Obama has already smashed that number with 393 events to date.
He's no Bill Clinton, though.
It Isn't Just Science That Is Ignored
Like so many Bush-era lefty rallying cries, "Listen to the Generals" appears to have fallen by the wayside too:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Dunford if he, or any other senior military leader, recommended “a policy of everybody out by 2017, no matter what?”
“No sir, not that I know of,” Dunford responded. “We still plan to have, as you know, some presence after 2017, but no one recommended zero.” He acknowledged that setting specific target dates for withdrawal comes with risks. “I think all of us in uniform, including the Afghans, prefer that would have been a bit more ambiguous.”
“In Iraq, we withdrew, with the associated consequences,” Dunford said. “And for me, that’s the most significant change. We knew when we left Iraq that there was work remaining to be done to develop sustainable Iraqi security forces, as well as to ensure that political stability existed in Iraq such that security would continue. In Afghanistan, we’ve got a chance to get that right, and my argument is for us to a responsible transition for Afghanistan, as opposed to withdrawal.”
Ignoring the Science, Immigration/Welfare State Edition
During the Evil Bu$Hitler Era, the plaintive cri de coeur of the Enlightened Progressive was often heard throughout the land. "Why, oh why! do those horrid conservatives ignore what Science tells us?"
Now, of course, we live in a more respectful age, when public servants obligingly decide which scientific debates are "settled" and which should simply be ignored:
Many young progressives think they have found a fail-safe way to end poverty: a universal basic income (UBI). The idea is very simple, they say: Every month, the government cuts a check to everyone. Period. That way, no one has to fall below the poverty line.
The UBI is an old idea, which also has a storied history on the right. Many conservatives like the idea of a simple welfare system that would replace arcane programs and nosy bureaucracies.
And indeed, right-winger that I am, I was for a very long time a strong proponent of a UBI. But now I oppose it.
What happened? I looked at the best science, and changed my mind.
Social science has been plagued with amateurish studies featuring non-random samples, missing control groups, and dubious attempts to conflate correlation with causation. Only one method - repeated, randomized field trials - addresses these deficiencies. And the repeated conclusion of numerous randomized field trials is that the guaranteed basic income creates dependency and dysfunction, weakens economic growth, and erodes the work ethic:
...the UBI is one of the very few, if not the only, domains of social science policy where we have exactly that: extensive, long-term, repeated RFTs, which are the gold standard of evidence in social science.
As RFT expert Jim Manzi writes, these experiments "tested a wide variety of program variants among the urban and rural poor, in better and worse macroeconomic periods, and in geographies from New Jersey to Seattle"; more than 30 experiments were done in the U.S. from the '60s to the '90s and there was another set of experiments done in Canada in the '90s. The universal basic income is one of the few areas of social policy where we can say with some confidence "science says..."
And science says the UBI doesn't work.
As Manzi writes, one of the few consistent findings across all these experiments is simply this: the only type of welfare policy that reliably gets people who can work into work is a welfare policy with work requirements. All the evidence strongly suggests that if you have a UBI, the outcome is exactly what many conservatives fear will happen: millions of people who could work won't, just listing away in socially destructive idleness (with the consequences of this lost productivity reverberating throughout the society in lower growth and, probably, lower employment, in a UBI-enabled vicious cycle).
This is not a minor concern. As Megan McArdle has noted, the latest research suggests that work is a central part of human flourishing. Long-term unemployment is worse for self-reported well-being than divorce or the death of a spouse.
A related study finds that countries with less generous social welfare programs benefit more from immigration than those with more generous programs. Why? Because relatively weaker social safety nets encourage immigrants to become net contributors to the economies of their adopted countries:
Life can be tough for immigrants in America … And if you can’t find work, don’t expect the taxpayer to bail you out. Unlike in some European countries, it is extremely hard for an able-bodied immigrant to live off the state. A law passed in 1996 explicitly bars most immigrants, even those with legal status, from receiving almost any federal benefits. That is one reason why America absorbs immigrants better than many other rich countries. … The opposite was true in some countries with generous or ill-designed welfare states, however. A one-point rise in immigration made the native-born slightly worse off in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In Belgium, immigrants who lose jobs can receive almost two-thirds of their most recent wage in state benefits, which must make the hunt for a new job less urgent.
Part of the reason progressive public policy is so popular is that - in theory at least - it sounds so kind and caring. But at some point, it has to matter whether these policies actually produce the intended results. What results has this administration's announced refusal to vigorously enforce our immigration laws produced? Ignoring repeated warnings didn't make the problem go away:
During the president's 2012 reelection campaign he announced plans to defer the deportations of certain immigrants brought to the country illegally as children before June 2007.
Critics now argue that the administration chose to ignore reports about the growing number of immigrant children and instead focused on trying to push his reform bill through Congress.
'Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times,' one former government official told the Post.
As many have noted, this problem is neither new nor unique to this administration:
The U.S. faced a similar challenge in the mid-2000s, when border patrol was caught unawares by a surge of Brazilian illegals. The Bush administration determined that word had gotten back to Brazil that people apprehended at the border would be released and able to stay, so the Department of Homeland Security initiated an operation dubbed "Texas Hold 'Em."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff explained the results during a Senate hearing in 2005. "We prioritized the existing space, dedicated bed space and began detaining and removing all of the illegal Brazilians we apprehended," said Mr. Chertoff. "The word spread surprisingly swiftly; within its first thirty days, the operation had already begun to deter illegal border crossings by Brazilians. In fact, the number of Brazilians apprehended dropped by 50%. After 60 days, the rate of Brazilian illegal immigration through this sector was down 90%, and it is still significantly depressed all across the border. In short, we learned that a concentrated effort of removal can actually discourage illegal entries by non-Mexicans on the southwest border."
What is the kinder policy in the long run? To stubbornly ignore the tragic consequences of well meaning but completely unrealistic public policy decisions on the real people they were designed to help? To craft policies that encourage people to lie to and cheat each other? Is it socialism itself that encourages the erosion of reciprocity and social trust? Or is it the poverty and scarcity endemic to life in these so-called worker's paradises?
The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers of high rolls.
The study reveals nothing about the nature of the link between socialism and dishonesty. It might be a function of the relative poverty of East Germans, for example. All the same, when it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one.
As Hillary Clinton is wont to say, "What difference does it make?". The outcome is the same.
July 17, 2014
Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice
"Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body." ~ Elizabeth Stone
This heartbreaking, yet inspiring, story was below the fold of my paper this morning.
"TOLEDO, Ohio — Just days after his infant daughter’s death, Nathen Steffel asked strangers on the Internet for only one thing: He and his wife wanted a photo of their daughter without the breathing tubes and tape that masked her little face.
The response has been overwhelming.
Hundreds of photos, sketches and paintings have poured into the family’s northwestern Ohio home and their inbox."
Some with beautiful results...
Speaking of beautiful results...
It came to my attention, ok, my inbox, that another miracle took place over the weekend, and due to that, our beloved Princess may very well be experiencing a few fashion failures every time she pops another bra strap showing off the bling from her latest trip.
For the office:
And the car:
Not to mention her new screensaver:
And, of course, something to read as she hits the gas and blows by your ass:
Now, this isn't to say that she isn't as proud as hell of her two grandpunks. Y'all know that just ain't true.
But a granddaughter....
And the first one.
Now that's something.
Congrats, my friend.
July 15, 2014
Beans Beans The Magical Fruit
The more you eat
The longer you live??
"To put it one way, small doses of hydrogen sulfide help keep cells healthy and thus help ward off maladies such as dementia, diabetes, and even cancer.
To put it another way, "smelling farts could be the best thing you do today," as per CNET. As the Independent explains, researchers at the University of Exeter discovered that while hydrogen sulfide—the stuff produced in the gut that causes gas—is toxic in large doses, it's actually quite beneficial in smaller ones.
Specifically, it preserves mitochondria, which are vital to cell life. "Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a health care hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases," say the Exeter scientists."
Seems Eddie Murphy was onto something all those years ago.
[NSFW - it is Eddie Murphy, afterall.]
And I don't even want to know what those "future therapies" might consist of.
*snort...ack ack ack*
July 14, 2014
Alright, villains, here is your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
"Scaredy Cats"? I Think Not
Tip o'the Stetson: IMAO
July 12, 2014
Let The Judgement Begin
Alright, villains, I know you've all been chomping at the bit to see who the winners of the last contest are, however meat-space demands had to take priority over the joys of snarking the winners. Alas, such is the life of the Dark Lord when family needs someone to light a fire under their ass.
But, now it's time for old business. After a short review of the last picture,
...the Judgement has come.
Kicking off our party, and pretty much pooping on everything in his path, is George Pal with this brilliant rendering of our current political debate format -
MMA! (Medicare Modernization Act)... HAH!
ACA! (Affordable Care Act)... double HAH!
WMDs!... HAH! HAH! HAH!
BENGHAZI!... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
ABU GHRAIB!.... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
BOWE BERGDAHL!... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
HOMELAND AND LILLY PROTECTION ACT!... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
GREEN JOBS/ENERGY!... HAH! How Many HAH!s we at? Double your HAH!s
HALLIBURTON!... ENRON!... TRIPLE your HAH!s
SOLYNDRA! FISKER! IRS! QUADTRUPLE YOUR HAH!s
LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!
I’M RUBBER, YOU’RE GLUE!
And Grim, ever faithful to fairness, takes a brief moment to speak for the current occupant - "Yeah? Well I'm still taller than you. Can't stop me looking down on that."
Spd must have been hungry at the time of this comment - "Pretzel?"
As shirley there wouldn't be any ill intentions coming from one of our resident smart-asses...
Although, the after-effects of htom's reply could be considered as such -
It's my Dad that hates broccoli.
And MJL rounds out the first five with this earbug - "Ebony and Ivory..."
Which, all things considered, coulda been worse.
Frequent flyer launches the top five with a classic from one of our favorite movies - What's a Dazzling Urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?
As model 1066 gives us the internal conversations -
Barry: Hmm...thought you were taller.
W: Hmm...thought you were smarter.
spd, that fount of linguistic leger-de-main, displays his brass...um...iness with - "Toldja."
While DUGurl brings the snort with - Kiss me you fool!
Leading up to Don Brouhaha, having apparently come for air long enought to get a cup of coffee, with the top comment for this week, as well as probably the comment most closest to the lips of GW - "Having fun yet?"
Well, that's it for this week's judgement. As I've come to expect, another excellent job with the commentary. Thanks, everyone, for playing.
As usual, the next picture will be up....
July 11, 2014
Things "The Bear" Has Time to Do
Interestingly, none of them involve running the Executive Branch:
On a single day this week in Denver, President Obama scarfed down pizza and drinks with strangers, shot pool with Colorado’s governor and shook hands with a guy on the street wearing a horse mask. His top staffers are promoting these stops on Twitter with the hashtag #TheBearIsLoose — a term one of Obama’s aides coined in 2008 when the candidate would defy his schedule.
More than five years into his presidency, Obama is trying to free himself from the constraints of office, whether by strolling on the Mall or hopscotching the country as part of a campaign-style tour. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer says the president “just wants to get out” and influence “our overall political conversation” by connecting with ordinary Americans.
But to some, breaking free can also look like running away.
Obama’s trip to Colorado and Texas this week took place against the backdrop of a burgeoning crisis on the Mexican border, where tens of thousands of children have been apprehended seeking entry into the United States. In Dallas, Obama dismissed the idea of heading farther south for a border visit as a “photo op” — not long after those photo ops showing him shooting pool and sipping beer in Denver.
In addition to the photo ops he's not interested in, Obama also has time to attend fundraisers - at last count, 177 more than Bush had at this stage of his presidency:
... the afternoon following the Sept. 11, 2012, murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya, Mr. Obama left the White House for a fundraiser in Las Vegas and a campaign appearance in Colorado.
As Russian troops stormed into the Crimea on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, Mr. Obama clinked his glass at a DNC fundraiser, declaring "this is now officially happy hour with the Democratic Party. I can do that. It is an executive action. I have the authority." Vladimir Putin must have been amused.
When Islamic terrorists captured Mosul, Iraq's second most populous city, and menaced Baghdad in mid-June, Mr. Obama did not hunker down in the Situation Room. He headed to a Laguna Beach, Calif., fundraiser where 25 people wrote checks of up to $32,400.
At the Denver airport on Wednesday before heading for Dallas. Reuters
After raising money at an event for Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado Tuesday—Mr. Udall bailed at the last minute—Mr. Obama is now completing a two-day fundraising swing through Texas. On Wednesday he attended a barbecue at the palatial Dallas home of plaintiff attorney Marc Stanley. Tickets cost as much as $32,400, with the money going to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Then the president flew to Austin for a fundraiser at the home of director Robert Rodriquez, whose family-unfriendly films include "Machete," "Sin City" and "Planet Terror."
On Thursday, abortion activist Aimee Boone Cunningham will host Mr. Obama at an Austin roundtable with checks made payable to the Democratic National Committee for up to $32,400.
Fundraisers are a priority for this president—he has attended 393 fundraisers since taking office, according to CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller, compared with George W. Bush's 216 at the same point in his presidency. What is not a priority is visiting South Texas to see the tragedy unfolding from a wave of illegal immigrants, many unaccompanied children.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says he doesn't need to visit the border "simply because the president is very aware of the situation."
This, from a man who never seems to find out about anything going in his own administration until he reads it in the newspaper.
The mind boggles.
Five Angry White Men
The Senate Majority Leader beclowns himself with gratifying regularity, but this time we think he may have outdone himself:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) vowed on Tuesday to take action this month to try to combat the recent “Hobby Lobby” ruling from the Supreme Court. In his remarks he referred to the decision and decried the “five white men” who rendered it.
“The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determine by virtue of five white men,” Reid said.
Herr Reid, if you recall, has a bit of a bee in his bonnet when it comes to Justice Thomas. Back in 2005, Reid accused Thomas of poor judicial reasoning and writing like an 8th grader. Had this sort of pronouncement been made of a black progressive justice by a white, male Republican (but we repeat our ownselves), screeching about coded language and racist dog whistles would have filled the airwaves.
But standards designed for lesser men are not to be applied to intellectual titans like Reid:
HENRY: Let's take a look at what you said. When you were asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether or not you could support Justice Thomas to be chief justice you said quote, "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written."
Could you name one of those opinions that you think is poorly written?
REID: Oh sure, that's easy to do. You take the Hillside Diary case. In that case you had a [dissent] written by Scalia and a [dissent] written by Thomas. There — it's like looking at an 8th grade dissertation compared to somebody who just graduated from Harvard.
Scalia's is well reasoned. He doesn't want to turn [stare decisis] on its head. That's what Thomas wants to do. So yes, I think he has written a very poor opinion there and he's written other opinions that are not very good.
Except that Justice Scalia didn't write an opinion in the Hillside Dairy case, and the entirety of Justice Thomas's opinion was this:Justice Thomas, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I join Parts I and III of the Court's opinion and respectfully dissent from Part II, which holds that §144 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U. S. C. §7254, "does not clearly express an intent to insulate California's pricing and pooling laws from a Commerce Clause challenge." Ante, at 6-7. Although I agree that the Court of Appeals erred in its statutory analysis, I nevertheless would affirm its judgment on this claim because "[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution, makes little sense, and has proved virtually unworkable in application," Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U. S. 564, 610 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting), and, consequently, cannot serve as a basis for striking down a state statute.
I have no idea what's supposedly badly written about this paragraph. What's more, as James Taranto points out:... Thomas and Scalia both would overturn Supreme Court precedent in this area; the only point of disagreement in Hillside Dairy was whether to address the question in this particular case.
It's one thing for Reid to publicly demonstrate his shocking ignorance of that giant among landmark SCOTUS decisions: the Hillside Dairy Case.
But calling Justice Thomas a white man just seems beyond the pale.
July 10, 2014
We Were Told There Would Be No Math...
In an unexpected fit of cognitive clarity, the NYT inadvertently allows something that sounds suspiciously like common sense to challenge the prevailing narrative that the distaff half of humanity are delicate creatures who shouldn't be expected to budget or prioritize even fairly minor expenses. No, we need someone bigger, stronger, richer, more powerful to take care of us:
... relative to the cost of delivering a baby, let alone raising a child, contraception is inexpensive. Though prices vary, the pill can cost less than $50 month. An IUD costs about $1,000 and is effective for several years. As any parent knows, children cost many multiples of this. Indeed, a Brookings Institution study found that expanding family planning services to Medicaid beneficiaries saved $5.60 for every $1 invested.
However, the Medicaid population is not the same as a typical, employed population, which is at issue in the cases considered by the Supreme Court last week. Additionally, contraception is not the same as contraceptive coverage. In part because it is so cost-effective, most people are willing to pay for contraception with their own money, if they can afford to. (Many Medicaid-eligible individuals perhaps cannot, but most employed people probably can.) Insurers benefit from this, because every pregnancy avoided is one less they have to pay for.
Therefore, when employer-sponsored insurers pick up the tab for contraception, not very many more pregnancies are avoided — most people were already using and paying for contraception. According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, though the proportion of Americans with no cost-sharing for contraceptives rose in 2013 to 50 percent from 20 percent, prescriptions written for contraceptive medications increased only 4.6 percent.
So let's see if we have this straight:
1. Most people were already paying for at least part of their own birth control before the ACA because it's simply not that expensive. And because doing so made financial sense to them.
2. When the proportion of folks able to get birth control with no co-pay (out of pocket expense) rose by 30%, prescriptions for birth control rose only 4.6%.
Next they'll be trying to tell us that there's a down side to all this government largesse:
But when they begin to fully cover contraception, insurers take on its full cost, “crowding out” the willingness of individuals to self-insure for it.
Therefore, the government’s accommodation of religious organizations’ objections to covering contraception (obliging insurance companies to pick up the cost of the coverage, with no offsetting premiums or cost-sharing from either employees or employers) may impose a cost on insurers, even though contraception is cost-effective for society as a whole.
Does it really make sense to talk about contraception being cost effective for society. How many of the children who are born (either planned or unplanned) are being supported and raised by "society"? How much money does "society as a whole" possess? Is there some collective checking account? Can anyone make withdrawals, or only certain groups?
UPDATE: YAG, in the comments:
Don't worry. If we can't make children, we'll just import them.
Thursday Inflammatory Debate Topic: Impeach Obama?
Let's face it: what could possibly go wrong?
Reason Three: President Obama is boring If the other two reasons aren't good enough for you, you at least have to agree this is a serious problem. But I have a plan to fix it.
Step one, get the Senate's entire Democratic majority to go on a one-way mission to colonize Mars.
Step two, Impeach!
Step three, remove and replace Obama with President Joe Biden.
Now, please: Wherever you are, take a moment. Say that out loud, right now: “President Joe Biden.”
See how the people around you are reacting? Am I right, or am I right?
In addition to being a lot more fun, Biden would also sign a law repealing Obamacare and undo all of the administration's policies that got people talking about impeachment in the first place.
One of the few redeeming things about the train wreck that is American politics is watching things come full circle every 4-8 years. Just like clockwork.
Seems like only yesterday Democrats were yammering on about impeaching The Chimperor in Chief: a man widely held to be so stupid and weak willed that he took his marching orders from the aptly-named Dick Cheney, but simultaneously (!) so fiendishly smart that he was able to convince the nation to elect him not once, but twice (handily defeating two vastly more intelligent and sophisticated opponents).
Of course, had John Conyers, et al, been able to remove The Twig from office, the presidency would have passed to the man they all suspected had been running things all along.
So, does the prospect of President Biden fill you all with glee? We must confess, it doth not seem like #winning to the Editorial Staff. But we are notoriously stupid that way :p
What say you, villains?
July 07, 2014
Sounds Like A Job For.... UNILATERAL ACTION MAN!!!
Congress refuses to act on Paycheck Fairness. For some time now, the President has been bragging about his phone, his pen, and his willingness to go around those
legitimately and democratically elected representatives of The People... err... mean, womyn-hating Rethugs.
With the White House’s release of its payroll, administration officials once again are having to explain how it is that they can complain about the gender pay gap and then have one of their own. It didn’t go so well the last time this contradiction came up in April. And it didn’t go so well this time either. What the new salary release shows is that the administration has not narrowed the pay gap between men and women employees at the White House since 2009.
...“The president is strongly supportive of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The president signed an executive order essentially applying the principles of the Paycheck Fairness Act to federal contractors. That’s as much as he can do using his executive authority.”
Which leaves this question: Can’t Obama also use his executive authority to hire more senior-level women in the White House who make over $100,000?
Luuuuuuuuuuuucy! Jou got some 'splainin' to do!
Although the sample size is significantly smaller, a similar analysis of the salaries of First Lady Michelle Obama's staff shows a substantially larger difference.
... there are only two men on the first lady's staff. They are the directors of Let's Move and Joining Forces. Their salaries average $123,307.....The average pay for the remaining thirteen women is $84,133, a 46 percent difference from the men's average.
There are three women whose pay is higher than the men's average, including one making $172,200. The position title for each of these women also includes "assistant to the president" in addition to responsibilities for the first lady. A fourth woman, whose salary of $103,000 is well above the women's average, is also listed as assistant to the president.
... President Obama was the subject of criticism even from allies at the start of his second term for a shortage of women selected for replacement cabinet positions. Mrs. Obama herself has largely escaped such criticism for her own staffing choices despite the fact that her husband's staff is far more diverse than her own.
Of course all of this is just plain silly, but these are the kinds of ridiculous, innumerate arguments the President has been making all along. Now that those arguments are being used to suggest that he's just as sexist as those mean-spirited, womyn hating Rethugs, the White House tells us that "it's complicated". And there are "a variety of measures" to measure inequality that only seem to matter when we're talking about the White House.
And his hands are tied. On other things, he's perfectly willing to go around Congress. But when it comes to his own staff, there's nothing he can do.
The video is priceless:
Unexpectedly (!): Minimum Wage Edition
Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) is anticipating major cuts in student employment opportunities after budgeting for state mandated increases in Michigan’s minimum wage.
In an interview with The Valley Vanguard, Jim Muladore, SVSU executive vice president of administration and business affairs, estimated that Michigan’s minimum wage increase will cost the university approximately $760,000 annually by 2018.
"[D]epartments will likely be pressed to hire less students or decrease the amount of hours student employees are able to work." Tweet This
The problem is that the university, which is facing depressed fall enrollment numbers and diminishing housing and dining revenue, cannot fund these additional costs within departments.
“In order to maintain their budgets, departments will likely be pressed to hire less [isn't that 'fewer'???] students or decrease the amount of hours student employees are able to work,” the Vanguard reports.
However, Saginaw Valley State University is not the only Michigan university amending their budget.
Central Michigan University (CMU), the fifth largest university in the state, is preparing departments for a $691,000 wage increase for the anticipated 5,400 student hires.
It's almost as though some invisible force were at work here.
Teaching Children the Value of Work
Over the weekend, the Editorial Staff saw this item about a college age child (he's certainly not acting like an adult) who refuses to help out around the house in exchange for his room and board:
We provide Son 1 with a vehicle and insurance, cellphone, plus a roof over his head and meals when he is at home. We are happy to provide these things, but also expect respect and cooperation in return.
Son 1 leaves his clothes and belongings wherever he happens to be — in the kitchen, the bathroom, the hallway, etc. He has never unpacked from coming home and our garage is still full of stuff from the dorm.
We have laid out our expectations, but he seems to feel that he can do the chores whenever he chooses, or apparently not at all. He says I am the only one getting stressed about housework not being done. This is not true because my husband gets angry and frustrated about this also.
Son 2 claims it is not fair that he has consequences when he doesn’t cooperate, although this rarely happens. Son 2 has also mentioned that his brother gets by without doing anything and he’s stuck doing more because he cooperates. We agree: unfair.
I have told Son 1 that if he cannot cooperate without constant reminders and nagging, he will have to make other living arrangements next summer. He claims this would be “kicking me out because I won’t clean a bathroom.” I say that “kicking him out” would be to give him 30 days to find other living arrangements, but we are giving him the opportunity to change his attitude.
Why do parents put up with this nonsense? We can't help thinking this problem didn't arise overnight:
Dr. Rogoff looked at children in indigenous Mayan communities in Latin America. She found that even toddlers do something she calls "learning by observing and pitching in." Like Augie with the soufflés, these children master useful, difficult skills, from making tortillas to using a machete, by watching the grown-ups around them intently and imitating the simpler parts of the process. Grown-ups gradually encourage them to do more—the pitching-in part. The product of this collaborative learning is a genuine contribution to the family and community: a delicious meal instead of a standardized test score.
This kind of learning has some long-term consequences, Dr. Rogoff suggests. She and her colleagues also looked at children growing up in Mexico City who either came from an indigenous heritage, where this kind of observational learning is ubiquitous, or a more Europeanized tradition. When they were 8 the children from the indigenous traditions were much more helpful than the Europeanized children: They did more work around the house, more spontaneously, including caring for younger siblings. And children from an indigenous heritage had a fundamentally different attitude toward helping. They didn't need to be asked to help—instead they were proud of their ability to contribute.
The Europeanized children and parents were more likely to negotiate over helping. Parents tried all kinds of different contracts and bargains, and different regimes of rewards and punishments. Mostly, as readers will recognize with a sigh, these had little effect. For these children, household chores were something that a grown-up made you do, not something you spontaneously contributed to the family.
Teaching children that people value what they have to work for and take for granted things they're given for free seems like the most basic of lessons. And there's nothing like the look of pride on a child's face the first time he's able to do something for himself:
For my eldest son, a 9-year-old, we laid out a mission: to grill our July 4th barbecue cheeseburgers. As we began our very first step—buying food–I suddenly understood how this could work. In the butcher shop, my son asked me where the “round circle” hamburgers were. He had no idea what ground beef really looked like or how it was made. I was ashamed. And then I showed him. At home, he donned his personalized apron and got to work, cracking eggs and kneading the meat with his bare hands. I thought he would be grossed out but he was beaming with pride. He formed and grilled the patties, sliced the tomatoes, and babysat his burgers, feeling scared occasionally from the heat on the grill. I don’t think I have ever seen my son eat a burger so fast in his life. He watched all of us eat ours, too. He was so grateful, he even washed the dishes.
Imagine what might happen if we applied that insight to public policy.
July 06, 2014
Here's A Different Point of View
MH and the VES finally caught up with me, laptop in tow, which gives me an opportunity to drop a quick note to let y'all know that the judgement and a new contest will be up when I return from the road later this week. Until then, please enjoy this great vid, via Ace.
This is seriously cool.
July 03, 2014
Independence in the Age of Cynicism
The Editorial Staff are headed down to our nation's capital (aka, The Fount of All Evil) to celebrate the 4th of July. But before we go, we and our vast horde of itinerant Eskimo typists would like to wish the villainry - assembled or otherwise - a happy Independence Day.
On this holiday weekend, rather than boring you all senseless with our usual inane blathering, we'd like to leave you with three essays to think about. The first is one we have been pondering for some time, and about which we hope to have more to say later when time permits. After stipulating the usual complaints conservatives have voiced about big government and acknowledging that "being more like Europe" is not a desirable end state for a nation grounded in respect for individual liberties, Scruton makes a point that often gets lost in the digital food fight over too much/too little government:
The truth is that government, of one kind or another, is manifest in all our attempts to live in peace with our fellows. We have rights that shield us from those who are appointed to rule us—many of them ancient common-law rights, like that defined by habeas corpus. But those rights are real personal possessions only because government is there to enforce them—and if necessary to enforce them against itself. Government is not what so many conservatives believe it to be, and what people on the left always believe it to be when it is in hands other than their own—namely a system of power and domination. Government is a search for order, and for power only insofar as power is required by order. It is present in the family, in the village, in the free associations of neighbors, and in the “little platoons” extolled by Burke and Tocqueville. It is there in the first movement of affection and good will, from which the bonds of society grow. For it is simply the other side of freedom, and the thing that makes freedom possible.
Rousseau told us that we are “born free,” arguing that we have only to remove the chains imposed by the social order in order to enjoy our full natural potential. Although American conservatives have been skeptical of that idea, and indeed stood against its destructive influence during the time of the ’60s radicals, they nevertheless also have a sneaking tendency to adhere to it. They are heirs to the pioneer culture. They idolize the solitary entrepreneur, who takes the burden of his projects on his own shoulders and makes space for the rest of us as we timidly advance in his wake. This figure, blown up to mythic proportions in the novels of Ayn Rand, has, in less fraught varieties, a rightful place in the American story. But the story misleads people into imagining that the free individual exists in the state of nature, and that we become free by removing the shackles of government. That is the opposite of the truth.
We are not, in the state of nature, free; still less are we individuals, endowed with rights and duties, and able to take charge of our lives. We are free by nature because we can become free, in the course of our development. And this development depends at every point upon the networks and relations that bind us to the larger social world. Only certain kinds of social networks encourage people to see themselves as individuals, shielded by their rights and bound together by their duties. Only in certain conditions are people united in society not by organic necessity but by free consent. To put it simply, the human individual is a social construct. And the emergence of the individual in the course of history is part of what distinguishes our civilization from so many of the other social ventures of mankind.
The second is something we wrote almost 10 years ago. As so often happens, it calls to mind a comment Tex made about the price of affluence being that we slowly stop building new things or striving for something better and begin to expend all our energy preserving what we already have. We believe she called it, "playing prevent defense", though this may be yet another of our amusingly clueless sports references. Still, watching what has become of our foreign policy, it often seems that we have become far too fond of running out the clock.
The third essay was written three years later for the 4th of July. It is a love letter to America. Not the sappy, naïve worship typical of infatuation, but more the deep, abiding affection of long association in which one has seen all the faults of the loved one but finds that even so, the good far outweighs both ancient hurts and the daily irritations we are resigned to bear with good grace:
I love my country not because she is perfect, but because she wants so badly to be. I even love her faults, even the kind of obsessive navel gazing angst that mistakes fallible humans and imperfect realization of our ideals for evidence of pervasive moral rot and in so doing, makes conscience the scourge that would make moral cowards of us all...
It is a dangerous moral equivalence which is so afraid of sinning that it would not kill a rabid wolf, lest it starve the flea on its back.
America is not a destination but a journey and in loving her, we must not become so firmly fixed upon the goal that we lose heart when we stumble a time or two upon the road. For stumble we will. After all, we are but human; all too imperfect clay with which to form the more perfect union our founding fathers envisioned.
I love this country because she was born in turmoil; baptized by fire and lighting; conceived from the highest aspirations of Enlightenment thinkers: words that ring as true today as they did over two hundred years ago:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
After everything, those words can still bring tears to my eyes. America is a nation of idealists, founded by men who risked their lives and fortunes to reach for something the world had never known before. Something that is spreading like wildfire across the globe.
Democracy, with all its faults and upheavals and failures. And successes.
May it ever be so.
July 01, 2014
A female homemaker (but we repeat our ownselves) takes on the entrenched forces of Big Labor and state government and wins big. Some might see this as a huge victory for women - evidence that the distaff half of the human race are not as helpless and powerless as some would have us believe:
Pam Harris, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn, was watching the news Monday with some of her co-plaintiffs when the announcement came that they had won.
As the verdict was being read, one of the co-plaintiffs whispered into Harris' ear, "It looks like they knocked on the wrong door."
That's probably the one thing that officials with the state of Illinois, the defendant in the case, and the Service Employees International Union, which could lose thousands of members as a result of the ruling, would agree on after Monday's ruling.
Five years ago, Harris was an unpretentious Illinois homemaker with no background in political activism when the SEIU knocked on her front door in an attempt to get her to join the union.
She participates in a state-funded home caregiver program for the mentally disabled that Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, had recently declared eligible for collective bargaining.
She said no, but the state and SEIU refused to take that for an answer. Both assumed that she could be prodded into joining.
What could one woman who needed the program to be able to take care of her developmentally disabled son do, anyway?
Plenty, it turns out. Harris saw the effort as an intrusion and fought it every step of the way. First, she organized the union's defeat in a 2009 mail-in election. Then she challenged the declaration all the way to the Supreme Court.
"This is really cool," Harris told me Monday. "I don’t have to worry — and other families don't have to worry — their homes will become union workplaces."
Her victory, obtained with help from the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, means that not only can she not be forced to join a union, but neither can other Illinois home caregivers. Most are individuals caring for disabled family members.
If a homemaker with no prior political experience wins a huge battle that benefits not just women but all families providing home care to a loved one and no one notices, is there any evidence that women can fight their own battles and win (even in our hopelessly sexist/racist/Otherist society)? This seems like an important angle for a media obsessed with telling us we can't even manage our own household finances, much less take on The Patriarchy.
Yet - unexpectedly! - the prevailing "womyn driven" narrative is that those Big Mean Powerful Men over at SCOTUS are making it impossible for ordinary women to obtain birth control at all. Because - wait for it - the legal right to choose/use birth control is meaningless unless we can also force someone else to pay for it, too:
How did women get birth control before President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act? Before Obamacare, a woman could go to a doctor and get birth control. She often had to pay or make a copayment for contraception. But in the 2014 political lexicon, that means she had no access.
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision, which recognized family-owned corporations' religious right to not offer contraception mandated under the Affordable Care Act in their employee health insurance plans. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg charged that the ruling would "deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' religious beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure."
Women - those poor, pretty, muddle headed little dears - are apparently incapable of budgeting, prioritizing expenses, or managing their money intelligently so that needs come first and luxuries come second. The real irony here is that if we can believe this fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute the haves and the have-nots appear to have the same access to the number one method of birth control: the Pill.
•Ninety-two percent of at-risk women with incomes of 300% or more of the federal poverty level are currently using contraceptives, compared with 89% among those living at 0–149% of the poverty line
Now it may be that the 0-149% who are near the poverty line are already getting free birth control from the government, but in that case, just what "access problem" is solved by the ACA?
Oh, and the second most widely used, non-permanent method of birth control? Not covered by the ACA at all:
It's almost as though posturing and demonstrating "solidarity" with helpless womynkynd were more important to these folks than actually guaranteeing access to birth control.