Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Last Call

Virginia is for lovers.  Lovers of the losing side in that little fracas we had 145 years back or so, that is.

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has quietly declared April 2010 Confederate History Month, bringing back a designation in Virginia that his two Democratic predecessors -- Mark Warner and Tim Kaine -- refused to do.

Republican governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore issued similar proclamations. But in 2002, Warner broke with their action, calling such proclamations, a "lightning rod" that does not help bridge divisions between whites and blacks in Virginia.

This year's proclamation was requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A representative of the group said the group has known since it interviewed McDonnell when he was running for attorney general in 2005 that he was likely to respond differently than Warner or Kaine.

"We've known for quite some time we had a good opportunity should he ascend the governorship," Brandon Dorsey said. "We basically decided to bide our time and wait until we had more favorable politicians in Richmond."

Dorsey said the governor's stamp of approval would help the group publicize the month and aide tourism efforts in the state. 
Look, there's no reason to pretend that Confederate history isn't part of the history of the United States of America.  However, declaring Confederate History Month in Virginia doesn't exactly make me want to give my tourism dollars to the Old Dominion, ya know?  It's history.  I've been to many historic sites in the state over the years, from Williamsburg to Roanoke to Jamestown and all over in between.  It doesn't mean some people are necessarily going to celebrate that particular chapter in our history, because it wasn't exactly a happy one.

Good thing we live in the post-racial era of Barack Obama, huh.

The Violence Continues

When the right wing noise machine goes around proclaiming that being in the political minority means that the majority party is unconstitutional, illegitimate, and un-American for the simple crime of going with the majority party's platform rather than the minority one, then you get stories like this.
Charles Alan Wilson, a 64-year-old Washington man who was angered over health care reform, has been charged with threatening a federal official for allegedly making profanity and misogyny-laced death threats in messages left for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington announced today.

The complaint alleges that Wilson called Murray's office multiple times between March 22 -- the day after the health bill passed the House -- and April 4. In one message, he allegedly said that Murray "had a target on her back." In another, he allegedly said, "I want to (expletive) kill you."

The press release from the U.S. attorney continues: "Wilson discussed assisting others in an attempt to kill the senator. Wilson's threats were in response to the passage of the Health Care Reform Act." Wilson was arrested this morning.

The complaint quotes well over a dozen passages from Wilson's alleged messages, which contain multiple death threats as well as the full range of misogynistic slurs.
To review, Sen. Murray received expletive laden death threats for voting to extend health care coverage to 32 million Americans.  On multiple occasions, I might add.  Over a two week period.  Republicans didn't like that.  Murray is a Democrat.  Therefore, this was apparently justified in the mind of Wilson.

But the people who are against Obamacare are mainstream, everyday "real" Americans who don't have extremist views at all.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

American Spectator's Phillip Klein asks:

Will Obama Get Blamed for Mining Disasters (as Bush Was)?

Reading news accounts of the event, it strikes me that during the Bush administration, disasters like this were immediately seized upon to score political points. Specifically, when the Sago mine disaster happened in 2006, it was used as yet another example of Bush rewarding oversight positions to corporate allies who would allow lax standards to prevail.

Well, it would be one thing if Bush and Obama were equal on this subject, but Klein doesn't even ask why anyone would think to blame Bush for Sago, even though he basically answers his own question above.
OSHA's budget has been cut each year President Bush has been in office, when adjusting for inflation. Since reaching an all-time high in FY 2001, OSHA's overall budget has fallen more than five percent under Bush.

Funds appropriated for enforcement activity fell almost 8 percent from FY 2001 to FY 2008. (See Graph 1b.) Although money appropriated for enforcement activity has fallen during the Bush administration, the number of inspections conducted by OSHA and state regulators has remained consistent.

While the overall budget and enforcement budget at OSHA have declined, the budget for compliance assistance has risen. OSHA compliance assistance programs allow federal regulators to work with businesses to promote voluntary compliance and assist in understanding federal regulations.

Peg Seminario, director of safety and health for the AFL-CIO, said in testimony before a Senate worker safety panel that the budget shifts are reflective of the Bush administration's attitude toward workplace regulation. She said the Bush administration has "[r]epeatedly favored voluntary compliance over enforcement and programs directed at employers over those for workers."

Although Seminario recognizes the problems associated with resource constraints, the real problem, she says, has been in OSHA's management. In the area of enforcement, Seminario points out Bush's OSHA, unlike previous administrations, "hasn't had high-profile focused initiatives on major hazards." As a result, "There is no sense of overall presence," she adds.
In other words, the Bush administration cut the enforcement budget and allowed much more voluntary compliance for companies to enforce themselves.  The result: disasters like Sago.  There was a reason why Bush got nailed for Sago:  his policies created a climate where worker safety took a back seat to company profitability in dangerous industries like mining.

How is Obama different
Although OSHA’s budget would grow only slightly under Obama's proposal, the new budget will focus more heavily on enforcement. OSHA will add 25 new inspectors, and shift 35 employees from compliance assistant to enforcement. The budget contemplates an increase in inspections by 9 percent. (These increases are on top of the 100 new inspectors added in FY 2010.)   According to EHSToday, Labor Secretary Solis will be reducing the funding to OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) – the program that served as the model for EPA’s Performance Track program developed under the Clinton Administration but terminated under Obama. 
New inspectors, more enforcement, and a reduction in voluntary compliance.  That's your difference.  Sadly, Obama's additional measuresdid not come soon enough to prevent Montcoal, and many of the safety procedures mandated under the MINER Act passed after Sago have yet to be implemented in a huge majority of the mines.  Energy companies are dragging their feet and complaining about costs.

Klein is correct that Bush is not the real culprit any more than Obama is.  The coal mining and energy companies that run the industry however bear the brunt of the blame...and the blood on their hands from miners who died serving King Coal.

Mining's a touchy subject here in the Bluegrass State.  Miners make good money in a state not exactly known for high-paying jobs.  Especially in this economy, you will find miners willing to take the risks to make money to put food on the table for their families.

Having said that, when energy companies are cutting corners and dealing with "voluntary compliance" with the rules of safety, there's something wrong.  Massey Energy, the company that operated the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, had 57 safety violations in the last month alone.  OSHA inspections can only go so far, in the end the mine operators have to be responsible for how their own mine is run.

Massey Energy failed.  25 are dead.  To answer Klein's question, the answer is "no" nor should Obama get the blame for this.  Perhaps it was unfair to saddle Bush with the blame for Sago.  The real bad guys here are the energy companies that run the mines.

Net Neutrality Neutered

The courts unleashed a massive blow against theFCC  today as a three-judge appellate court unanimously ruled that the FCC has no right whatsoever to enforce net neutrality.
Because the FCC "has failed to tie its assertion" of regulatory authority to an actual law enacted by Congress, the agency does not have the power to regulate an Internet provider's network management practices, wrote Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Tuesday's decision could doom one of the signature initiatives of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat. Last October, Genachowski announced plans to begin drafting a formal set of Net neutrality rules--even though Congress has not given the agency permission to do so. That push is opposed by Verizon and other broadband providers.

"Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation," Comcast said in a statement. "We have always been focused on serving our customers and delivering the quality open-Internet experience consumers want."
Net neutrality proponents responded to Tuesday's ruling by saying the FCC should slap landline-style regulations on Internet providers, which could involve price regulation, service quality controls, and technological mandates.

The agency "should immediately start a proceeding bringing Internet access service back under some common carrier regulation," Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn said. The Media Access Project said, without mentioning common carrier regulations directly, that the FCC must have the "ability to protect the rights of Internet users to access lawful content and services of their choice."

In a statement on Tuesday, the FCC indicated that it was thinking along the same lines. The D.C. Circuit did not "close the door to other methods for achieving this important end," the agency said. A spokeswoman declined to elaborate. 
So the problem is this:  Congress has to pass a law to give the FCC this power.  That law will never survive a GOP filibuster attempt much less ConservaDems in the Senate so plan B isto have the internet regulated like landline phone lines.

In the meantime, broadband companies are thrilled they can now charge as much as they want to while choosing to limit access to whatever parts of the internet they want to as well.

When you're the only broadband provider in town, you're at their mercy...oh yes, and the US has one of the lowest percentages of broadband availability of any country in the Western world.  Everyone wants to charge for content, nobody wants to pay for the infrastructure to get that content to your home or business, and that includes broadband providers and the GOP won't allow the government to do it.

That leaves you, the consumer.

Better hope the FCC figures something out soon.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Newt Gingrich's job is apparently to go on national television and lie to America.
From the April 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GINGRICH: But my general experience is that, you know, you don't have people walk up to you in an airplane and start attacking you very often, or you're in really deep trouble. I think what [Sen.] Harry [Reid] ought to do is get in a car and drive around Nevada, where people are overwhelmingly opposed to hiring 16,000 IRS agents as health police.
From the April 6 edition of NBC's Today:
GINGRICH: First of all, this is a really bad bill. The more we learn about it, the worse it is. If you say to the average American, do you really want to have 16,000 more IRS agents as a brand-new health police? They're going to say no.
Only as I've pointed out before, the "16,000 plus new IRS agents to enforce insurance compliance" is a complete falsehood created by...the GOP.
A March 29 PolitiFact.org article stated that the source of the 16,000-plus figure was a March 18 report by the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee. According to PolitiFact, the GOP determined the figure by using a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis that concluded the IRS "'would probably' need to spend 'between $5 billion and $10 billion over 10 years'" for "implementing the eligibility determination, documentation, and verification processes for premium and cost-sharing credits" in the health care bill. But PolitiFact noted that "even as it offered the 16,500 figure, the Ways and Means Republicans' report offered caveats as well."
So, the Republicans simply lied about this, and Newt Gingrich goes around selling that lie.  It really is that simple.  What's even more curious is our "liberal media" allows Gingrich to continue to do this and he remains unchallenged when he says it.

Al Gore invented the Internet.

Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.

16,000 plus IRS agents will be needed to police health insurance compliance.

But You Will Never Take...OUR FREEDOM

Via Taegan Goddard, we learn The Heritage Foundation now ranks the US as below 80 in its annual survey of "Economic Freedom" scores, where 100 is apparently some sort of Galtian Utopia and 0 is We're All Karl Marx Now.  Seems 1.0 out of 100 is apparently North Korea if you're looking for a reference, so now we're in the second-highest category, the dreaded "Mostly Free" nations including Denmark, the UK and Bahrain (unlike...Canada with its 80.4.  Go figure that one out...the country with the quasi single-payer health care plan has more economic freedom than we do.)

Dispatches From The Wilderness

I've referenced Dave Weigel's articles over at the Washington Independent for some time now.  This morning, Dave starts his new gig over at the WaPo's blog section chronicling the conservative movement.
But what do you want to know about the movement? There's more coverage of the right -- by activists, by journalists, by seething critics who can't believe that the party that lost Indiana to Barack Obama is on the verge of a comeback -- than there ever has been. Democrats, who've won their largest and most liberal congressional majorities since the 1960s, cede news cycle after news cycle to second-term members of Congress and half-term former governors. Tea Party activists, who used to mock the media for ignoring their rallies, have become sought-after, endlessly quoted political players. (At the National Tea Party Convention in February, the ratio of Tea Partiers to reporters reached three to one.) The liberal institutions that were built to entrench a permanent Democratic majority -- Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, the netroots -- spend as much time on shocked and shocking reports about conservatives as they spend promoting their agenda.

So there's no shortage of news about the right. There is, I think, a shortage of coverage that puts the movement in context. This is where "Right Now" comes in. I've spent most of my reporting career covering the conservative movement, from the we-had-it-coming midterms of 2006 through the "Ron Paul Revolution" of 2008 through Sen. Scott Brown's (R-Mass.) upset victory this year. If you stayed close to conservative activists and strategists throughout that period, you knew that something like the Tea Party movement -- some massive rejection of George W. Bush's legacy, some force that drove the GOP further to the right -- was inevitable. You weren't surprised to hear people once again bashing the Federal Reserve rhetoric or talking about how the 10th Amendment could give states some defense against liberal policies.

The goal of this blog will be to explain what the right is doing, thinking, and planning as it hurtles toward the possible salvation of the 2010 midterm elections. That's going to mean a lot of on-the-scene reporting, interviews with the people driving this movement, and close reading of the arguments making headway among the people trying to bring the Obama era to the quickest possible end. 
In other words...actual journalism.  Good to see Dave moving up in the world:  his take on the right is a voice that badly needs to be heard.   Needless to say, adding Dave Weigel's Right Now blog to the roll.  Knowledge is power, and it's good to know what these guys are up to.

Taking It Personally

The "Personhood" legal movement is gaining in states with the goal of extending the definition of person to include fetuses, effectively outlawing abortion and neatly criminalizing a host of other medical services and procedures to boot.
"We are defining the word 'person' as a human being … regardless of age, level of functioning, perceived ability or disability," said Cal Zastrow, co-founder of Personhood USA, which formed in 2008. "When there is an innocent person, the law should protect them."

Proponents in Colorado and Mississippi succeeded in getting these "personhood" measures on the ballots. In six other states, including Missouri, volunteers are collecting signatures.

The idea that life begins at conception is not new in the abortion wars. But some established anti-abortion groups are not backing this new drive, calling it a flawed strategy.

"If the amendment is meant to be a direct attack on Roe v. Wade, it is poorly advised," said a statement released by Missouri Right to Life. "Direct attacks in law, as in war, lead to defeat if they are mounted in the wrong circumstances. It gains nothing to act without a strategy that has a decent chance of succeeding."

Abortion-rights advocates see the push as a backdoor way to strip away women's reproductive rights. They say the movement threatens in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research and some forms of contraception, including the intrauterine device.

"It's an abortion ban by any other name," said Ted Miller, a spokesman with NARAL Pro-Choice America. "They can't sell it to the public by being upfront and honest, so they're using rhetorical deception."
Not to mention the side effect of making criminals out of any woman who suffers a miscarriage, after all.  What legal rights are given to these new people?  Who advocates for them?  Even birth control could be considered a criminal act under this.

But any and every price must be paid to win this battle for some.

(Citi)Group Of Con Men

Former Citigroup execs are due tomorrow and Thursday on Capitol Hill to answer a few questions about some very interesting subprime mortgage practices
The hearings are the first by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to focus on a single company. Witnesses include former Citi CEO Chuck Prince and former Chairman Robert Rubin, who was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration.

The panel also will hear from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan; a former risk officer with failed subprime lender New Century Financial Corp.; and former executives and regulators from government-backed mortgage giant Fannie Mae . The three days of testimony are designed to provide a firsthand accounting of decisions that inflated a mortgage bubble and triggered the financial crisis.

Much of the tension at hearings Wednesday and Thursday will come as the 10 bipartisan commissioners examine Citi's role in financing, packaging and selling risky mortgage loans.

Citi was a major subprime lender through its subsidiary CitiFinancial. The bank pooled those loans and loans purchased from other mortgage companies and sold the income streams to investors. As borrowers defaulted, Citi absorbed losses on mortgage-related investments it held on and off its books.

Mortgage troubles at Citi, defunct investment bank Bear Stearns and elsewhere exposed cracks in the financial system. In late 2007 and throughout 2008, those fissures grew into a full-fledged credit crisis that crippled the global economy.
Remember folks, this all started with a simple, five-letter word:  Greed.  Everyone was playing the multi-trillion dollar shadow banking shell game with subprime, and when the musical chairs stopped, a select few walked away winners, and 99% of us walked away losers...especially the vast majority of Americans who didn't see the game was on in the first place.

It'll be nice to get some answers.  It'll be even better to get some real financial reform going, but the powers that be will make sure that doesn't happen.  After all, it's going to take a bit to set the board back up to play again, and the smart parties want to be ready ahead of time before the next massive bubble crash puts the rest of us in the poorhouse for good.

In Defense Of The Indefensible

The usual suspects on the right are working overtime in order to justify yesterday's bombshell video showing US soldiers killing two Reuters journalists in Baghdad along with civilians including children in 2007.  There's no defending this, but the Wingers try anyway.  First up:  Weekly Standard's Bill Roggio:
Baghdad in July 2007 was a very violent place, and the neighborhoods of Sadr City and New Baghdad were breeding grounds for the Mahdi Army and associated Iranian-backed Shia terror groups. The city was a war zone. To describe the attack you see in the video as "murder" is a sensationalist gimmick that succeeded in driving tons of media attention and traffic to Wikileaks' website.
Everyone was a target, you see.  Who's stupid enough to live in a war zone with kids?  They should have just moved.  Stupid Iraqis, why did you get in the way of our bullets of justice?  Cap'n Crunch also is eager to blame the Reuters journalists.
War correspondents take huge risks to bring news of a war to readers far away.  What this shows is just how risky it is to embed with terrorists, especially when their enemy controls the air.  War is not the same thing as law enforcement; the US forces had no responsibility for identifying each member of the group and determining their mens rea.  Legitimate rescue operations would have included markings on the vehicle and on uniforms to let hostile forces know to hold fire, and in the absence of that, the hostile forces have every reason to consider the second support group as a legitimate target as well.   It’s heartbreaking for the families of these journalists, but this isn’t “collateral murder” — it’s war.
The funny part is Ed bandying about rules of engagement and what constitutes a legitimate rescue operation in a city shattered by a war we started by invading the country illegally in the first god damn place.  But the cake is taken by Rusty Shackleford over at the Jawa Report:
So, the helicopter pilot and ground controllers see armed men with a convoy approaching and taking fire and .... Wiki Leak has the nerve to call this murder?

They've even embedded it on a site they call "Collateral Murder."

These people are beyond stupid, they're evil.

Worst case scenario this is a few innocent being accidentally killed in the fog of war.

But the video doesn't even appear to be worst case scenario. It appears, in fact, that the video shows armed insurgents engaging or about to engage US troops. The Reuters camera men had embedded themselves with the insurgents. This makes them enemy combatants themselves and should have been shot.
He doesn't even try to throw up a false RoE argument, he's just all for shooting journalists covering "terrorists" of which everybody who wasn't a coalition soldier in 2007 in Baghdad apparently qualified as.  Shoot them all, let God sort them out.  It's stupid and evil to consider these people anything other than legitimate war zone targets, to even question our right to end the lives of any Iraqi we choose.

And this continues in both Iraq and Afghanistan today.

And these guys can't comprehend why they hate us, only that they are the faceless, Muslim enemy.  Reuters puts a face to some of them and is summarily attacked mercilessly by those looking to justify a multi-trillion dollar quagmire.

The defense of the indefensible, indeed.  We should have never been in Baghdad in the first place.


Related Posts with Thumbnails