Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Be Careful What You Wish For

(Editorial cartoon by Steve Sack 5/30/13 and published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  Click on image to enlarge and then come back.)

A couple of days ago I put up a post which tried to figure out why the GOP stalwarts, who have plenty of money, hadn't moved on to putting up primary opponents to Tea Partiers who are costing the party voters all across the country:

For example, why aren't they grooming someone to take on Michele Bachmann.  She is being sued by an Iowa Republican leader for stealing an email list.  She is under a House Ethics Committee investigation.  She continues to spout ridiculous conspiracy theories, embarrassing her party every time she is fact-checked by the major mainstream media outlets.  The Democrats have targeted her for defeat and will pour money into their candidate's campaign (finally!).  She's from a conservative district; surely there is someone there who would do the job for the GOP.

So, shortly after the post went up, Michele announced that she would not be running for re-election in 2014 in her own patented word-salad way.  From her home-town newspaper, the Strib:

Her announcement, which came as she embarked on a congressional tour to Russia, surprised friends and detractors alike. It capped a tumultuous two-year period in which Bachmann went from leading Republican presidential contender to barely hanging on to her congressional seat while coming under investigation for campaign spending that occurred during her short White House run.

Starting as a grass-roots activist who knocked out a veteran incumbent in her first legislative race, Bachmann quickly emerged as a national conservative icon. She commanded a loyal following even after her 2012 presidential ambitions died quickly when she went all-out to win the Iowa caucuses and came up well short. Along the way, she became one of the country’s most prolific political fundraisers, with a vast network of small donors. ...

Democrat Jim Graves, who came close to unseating Bachmann last year, said his former foe’s decision makes clear that she “recognized that it would be an uphill battle for her going forward.”

Graves announced his candidacy last month and says he will battle whoever replaces her on the Republican ticket.

Without Bachmann in the race, a host of Republicans began salivating at the chance to run in a rare open seat in the state’s most conservative congressional district. As of late Wednesday, no GOP candidate had officially stepped up to run, but many were publicly assessing the possibilities.   [Emphasis added]

Michele's avowed reason is that she never considered her seat in Congress as an occupation, which is so wonderfully ironic I can hardly stand it.  She and her Tea Party colleagues have served as an occupying force in this Congress so that no work for the people could actually get accomplished.  Her backers no doubt had that in mind.

So why is she leaving?

I still don't know.  Maybe she's received a better offer, perhaps from Fox (who might want the latest iteration of Sarah Palin on staff).  Maybe her contributors have been less forthcoming this time around and she realized that Graves might beat her.  Maybe the Karl Rove traditionalists have told her it was time for her to move on and offered her a cushy spot in one of the right-wing think tanks.  Nobody seems to know at this point.

What I do know is that she has ruined the easy post for lefty-bloggers, the easy test for fact-checkers, the easy subject for political cartoonists, and none of us are happy about that.

She also has dashed the hopes of an easy victory for Jim Graves and the Democratic Party.

A mixed blessing, to be sure.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cheap Justice

(Cartoon published by the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star 8/28/09.  Click on image and then return.)Thi

This is one of those "good news-bad news"  posts.  Wal-Mart got nailed, but it will cost the company less than the corporation probably takes in in a couple hours.  From the Los Angeles Times:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. admitted to improperly handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its stores nationwide, pleading guilty Tuesday to several federal criminal and civil counts and agreeing to pay more than $81 million.

The accusations against the retail behemoth spanned three criminal cases from the Justice Department and a related civil case brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wal-Mart said its failings -- not training workers to properly deal with and discard hazardous waste, including pesticides, detergents, paints and aerosols, some of which ended up in municipal trash bins or in local sewers -- were remedied years ago.
Prosecutors also said waste taken back to stores by customers was delivered by the company to product return centers without required safety documentation.

“The incidents on which the charges are based occurred years ago and involved the transportation and disposal of common consumer products,” the company said in a statement. “No specific environmental impact has been alleged and since then, Walmart designed and implemented comprehensive environmental programs that remain in place today.”   [Emphasis added]

Like I said, $81 million is just a drop in the bucket for a company that grinds its suppliers overseas and grinds its employees at the stores here, providing them with zero benefits.

But here's the kicker.  You will notice that the law suits were  filed years ago and Wal-Mart says it remedied the problems years ago.  In other words, the corporation has been sitting on that $81 million for all those years.

Rat bastards.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dissin' The Function: Updated

(Click on image to enlarge and then boogie on back.)

This time David Horsey has taken a look at the sequester and points out the obvious pain it is causing, and not just to the poor and the elders.

It is not in the news much anymore, but the automatic across-the-board cuts – the spur to legislative action that resulted in no action – continue to kick in. In the aftermath of the monster tornado that struck Oklahoma last week, a detail that went largely unnoticed was that federal money for emergency relief had been slashed by $1 billion because of the sequester. The disasters won’t stop, but the money might run out.

Meanwhile, the budget for the National Institutes of Health has fallen by nearly $2 billion. That means hundreds of fewer grants for research into new ways to prevent or treat diseases.

As the wildfire season approaches, the U.S. Forest Service is asking 41 states to return millions of dollars that are part of a revenue-sharing scheme that goes back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt. Thanks to sequestration, the Forest Service says it cannot afford to share anymore. ...

Even though the federal deficit is dropping – due, in particular, to the increase in taxes for the rich that kicked in on Jan. 1 – Congress remains mired in tired rhetoric and false premises about overspending and big government. Instead of wasting time bloviating about tea party fantasies, our leaders should get busy cleaning up the mess they have made by failing to do their jobs.   [Emphasis added]

Why, yes, David.  Our leaders should pull the plug on sequestration, but they won't.  The House as presently constituted won't allow it.  The wackaloon Tea Partyists continue to rule.  Nothing of substance will come out of this Congress.

And here's what I don't get:  why aren't mainstream Republicans doing something about it.  Why aren't they primarying the worst of the lot.  Surely at this point they can't be hurt any more than they're already being hurt.

For example, why aren't they grooming someone to take on Michele Bachmann.  She is being sued by an Iowa Republican leader for stealing an email list.  She is under a House Ethics Committee investigation.  She continues to spout ridiculous conspiracy theories, embarrassing her party every time she is fact-checked by the major mainstream media outlets.  The Democrats have targeted her for defeat and will pour money into their candidate's campaign (finally!).  She's from a conservative district; surely there is someone there who would do the job for the GOP.

Karl Rove has the money, as do other more "traditional " Republicans.  Why are they holding back?

I really have no idea.


Michele has announced that she won't be running for re-election.  I have to admit that I'm surprised.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Much Ado About Something Or Other

(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge / The Kansas City Star (May 23, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Michael Hiltzig took a very sensible look at the brouhaha over the IRS's "targeting" of conservative 501(c)(4) groups in his latest column.  He notes the amazing job this agency does overall, even with diminishing numbers of employees, and he correctly assesses what's actually going on here.

Ordinary taxpayers should be skeptical of this sort of theater. The last time the IRS was hauled over the coals for its supposed wrongdoing — in 1998, when the ostensible issue was the mistreatment of innocent individual taxpayers by revenue agents — Congress' true underlying motive was to hamstring its enforcement program against corporations and wealthy taxpayers. And that's precisely how things turned out.

What's the underlying motive today? Most likely to hobble the agency's scrutiny of political organizations claiming legal advantages as "social welfare" groups under section 501(c)4 of the tax code, which allows them to keep their donors secret. Indeed, during last week's hearing, Issa almost gave the game away by observing that the (c)4 designation covers "organizations that perhaps all of us have grown to like." Sure, because they funnel campaign cash to politicians on both sides of the aisle, anonymously. ...

...although the law says a 501(c)4 group must be "exclusively" devoted to social welfare purposes — that is, no politicking — IRS regulations say an applicant is still all right if it's "primarily" devoted to social welfare — that is, only a minority of its work amounts to intervening in campaigns. It was left to the Cincinnati staff to parse terms such as "campaign intervention" and "primarily."

If Congress desires there to be a bright line distinguishing (c)4 eligibility, it will have to draw the line itself. But plainly it prefers that these politically fraught decisions be made by civil servants who can then be hauled to the gibbet and hanged for their "incompetence" if things get hot.

When the issue of Congress' accepting this responsibility came up in last week's hearing, Issa ran for the hills: It's not his committee's job to write tax law, he said, but the Ways and Means Committee's. "The one thing we don't do is we don't pass tax law," he said, with a hint of relief.   [Emphasis added]

Mr. Issa (Wackaloon, CA) doesn't pass any kind of law.  All he and his Tea Party compatriots are interested in doing is (as the Judge cartoon suggests) raising scandals, imaginary ones.  Governing would be too hard and it would take an honest effort by all parties.  That's sad, because there is something that could be done about this particular issue, according to Open Secrets.  In a handy Frequently Asked Questions about 501(c)(4)s, here is a pretty solid summary of what could be done:

A number of suggestions have been made to try to fix the problem of political organizations gaming the system and using the (c)(4) loophole to shield the identities of their donors. The most straightforward is to ban 501(c)(4) groups from being involved in politics at all. That is in fact what the law says, but the language was, in effect, weakened when the IRS began applying the "primary purpose" test; that put the IRS in the business of making judgments about what activity is political.

Alternatively, social welfare organizations could be required to disclose the identity of their donors if they participated in political activity. Others have suggested that IRS officials draw a "bright line" delineating exactly how much political activity is acceptable, and then enforce it. The current understanding that groups may spend up to 49.9 percent of their resources on political activity was drawn from rules barring groups from having politics as their primary purpose, but exists nowhere in law or regulations.

Both suggestions would require Congress and the White House to act.  I don't see that happening this time around. Neither does Michael Hiltzig.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (May 22, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then kindly return.)

It's Memorial Day, a day in which we remember and honor those men and women who died in the military service of this country.  It's a day I mourn my brother who died of Alzheimer's hastened by the chemical exposures he sustained in Viet Nam.  It's a day in which other families mourn the deaths of their lost soldiers, some dying as recently as a week or so ago.

And for what?

To say they died to preserve our democracy just doesn't cut it with me anymore.  The last ten years I've come to realize that what my brother and others died for was to keep the 1% fat and happy and, unfortunately, in control.

That democracy has been sold to the highest bidders, from the White House right on down to the local dog catchers.  Our Congress can't get even the tiniest bit of gun control passed, although an overwhelming majority of Americans want at the very least background checks for those who would purchase guns.  Our president has continued the shredding of those rights guaranteed by the Constitution carried out by his predecessors.  And our courts have tilted, nay careened, to the right to protect corporate interests to the detriment of we-the-people.

And I don't see an end to any of that.

So I mourn.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Poetry: ee cummings

if you like my poems let them by
if you like my poems let them
walk in the evening,a little behind you

then people will say
"Along this road i saw a princess pass
on her way to meet her lover(it was
toward nightfall)with tall and ignorant servants."

--ee cummings

Sunday Funnies: 3 X Toles

(Published 5/20/13)

(Published 5/21/13)

(Published 5/22/13)

All published at the Washington Post.  As usual, click on image to enlarge and then return for the next 'toon.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: World's Tiniest Frog

(Photograph courtesy Christopher Austin, Louisiana State University and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this newly discovered critter.)

Michele: Still Working The Room

(Editorial cartoon by Steve Sack and published 4/14/13 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Click on image to enlarge and then be so kind as to return.)

Michele is still flashing her shiny keys around, anxious to keep her base focused on Tea Party Business rather than on her pending Ethics Committee investigation and the law suits she's involved in.  There's been all sorts of fact checking done on Bachmann's latest pronouncement, but I thought the one from the Washington Post captured things nicely.

 “So now we find out these people are making decisions based on our politics and beliefs, and they’re going to be in charge of our health care. There’s a huge national database that’s being created right now. Your health care, my health care, all the Fox viewers health care, their personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest secrets will be in that database, and the IRS is in charge of that database? So the IRS will have the ability potentially deny health care, to deny access, to delay health care.”

— Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), on Fox News, May 15, 2013

 “When people realize that their most personal, sensitive, intimate, private health-care information is in the hands of the IRS that’s been willing to use people’s tax information against political opponents of this administration, then people have pause and they pull back in horror.”

— Bachmann, on ABC News/Yahoo, May 20

With the Internal Revenue Service in the news, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has taken the opportunity to marry that scandal with her ongoing battle against the president’s health-care law, a.k.a. “Obamacare.”

The picture she has sketched is pretty frightening — that the “most personal, sensitive, intimate, private health-care information is in the hands of the IRS” via a vast database. ...

The Pinocchio Test

Bachmann has made a sweeping claim: the “most personal, sensitive, intimate, private health-care information is in the hands of the IRS” under the health-care law. There is no evidence to support this assertion, and she is simply scaring people when she repeats it on television.

Bachmann thus continues her record-breaking streak of outlandish claims.

Four Pinocchios

(Emphasis in the original.)

Michele has spoken truthfully about one thing, however:  The Democrats are targeting her this time around.  This could be fun.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

We're Number One

(Editorial cartoon by Glenn McCoy / Belleville News-Democrat (May 23, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return, please.)

Glenn McCoy may be a conservative, but I think we all would agree with him on this issue.  The coverage of the recent horrific tornado in Oklahoma was its own disaster, ranking right up there with the "Dewey Wins" headlines decades ago and, in a way, with the predictions of a Romney win in 2012.

What was especially awful was the thrusting of microphones and cameras into the faces of people who didn't know if their families were safe or where they were.  Just as bad was confronting a mother who had located her young son and was clearly shaken.  I'm looking at you Wolf Blitzer at CNN!

I know the rise of the internets and the 24-hour news cycle brings new pressures to bear on news organizations, but perhaps reporters and assignment editors could dial it down a few notches so we can be presented with facts instead of rank sensationalism.

Is that too much too ask?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Bite Of The Apple

David Horsey took a look at the recent news about Apple's tax avoidance scheme and came to some pretty solid conclusions.

Apple, America’s richest, most innovative consumer technology company, is also the most creative in hiding billions of dollars in profits from the taxman, according to congressional investigators. But on Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out that his company’s creative tax sheltering, far from being illegal, is made possible by the loophole-ridden tax laws of the United States.

Cook told the senators that Apple paid a $6-billion tax bill to the federal government last year. Not only does Apple pay everything owed to the IRS, Cook said, the company does not employ gimmicks to avoid required tax payments. ... is preposterous to think the current dyspeptic Congress will get past its dysfunction and find common ground on the best way to reform the tax code. Too much ideology and too many lobbyists stand in the way. As a result, Apple and every other American corporation will continue to slip through the gaps in the outmoded law with big bags of cash bound for foreign lands.  [Emphasis added]

In other words, what Apple did was perfectly legal.  And it will continue to be able to shelter those billions because there is no way that this Congress (and perhaps any other Congress) will do anything about it.  The money being thrown around by lobbyists and campaign contributors will see to that.

And that's the shame of it all.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tea Party Jihad

(Click on image to enlarge and then trot on back.)

David Horsey has taken another look on the seemingly unending "scandal investigations" by the GOP and has come up with a very interesting word to describe the activity which has essentially brought Congress to a standstill.

Now that more extensive, dispassionate reporting has been done about the "scandal” at the IRS, it is abundantly obvious that what is being called “targeting” of tea party organizations and other conservative groups was the result of bureaucratic confusion, not political conspiracy.

The facts, of course, will not get in the way of this latest Republican jihad against the Obama administration. Republicans will continue to pump up the illusion of scandal for weeks to come and, just as some folks on the right remain convinced that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, those same people will take to their graves the conviction that he and his minions at the IRS plotted to impede the liberties of tea party activists. ...

The shortcut they used in trying to identify groups whose political activities might bar them from getting a tax break was to employ keywords like “tea party” and “patriot” in data searches. As a result, numerous conservative groups got snared for extra scrutiny. But they were not alone. More than 400 organizations of various types got special attention, including two dozen or more liberal groups.

That is not so much a case of targeting as it is an example of casting a wide net to scoop up a variety of politically oriented associations. And it definitely falls far short of a serious scandal. Watergate, this is not. Nor does it have any of the prurient appeal of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. In the end, no one is going to care that a few tax bureaucrats buried by an avalanche of paperwork found a clumsy way to try to dig themselves out.   [Emphasis added]

The reference to "this latest Republican jihad" is almost perfect.  It's only flaw is that it's not really fair to the Islamic sense of jihad, which is a righteous battle.  Still, the Tea Party wing of the GOP probably does see this as a holy war and the rest of the party is only too happy to go along with the wackaloons if it means gains in 2014 and victory in 2016.

The important fact, however, is that while the IRS used shortcuts, not just conservative groups got snagged.  Liberal groups also got audited or at least checked out.  Unfortunately our fearless leader threw a couple of IRS officials under the bus before getting all the facts himself.

Also unfortunate is what all this mucking around in faux scandals is costing the country: money and time that could be better spent on solving real problems.

But, hey!  That would involve buckling down and doing some work that would actually benefit the nation.  We can't be having that, can we?

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Daddy Don't Get It

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Meg Waite Clayton has a very interesting take on President Obama's refusal to allow open dispensing of Plan B to young women.

In the uproar about making the morning-after contraceptive known as Plan B available to our daughters, there has been no similar outcry about condoms and our sons. Anyone of any age can walk into a drugstore — as well as most grocery and big-box stores — and buy condoms. If you want to remain anonymous, you can pay cash; no ID is required. If you're too embarrassed to face the checkout clerk, use the self-check aisle or, for $17.97, get a box of 100 — flavored or with "added sensations," even — delivered to your door in a plain brown box.

President Obama has suggested that restrictions on making Plan B available to younger girls are justifiable because we can't be confident that a younger girl in a drugstore "should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries … to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect." ...
 The only reasonable objection to making Plan B available over-the-counter to anyone of any age is that, as parents, we want to know if our children are sexually active. But then why aren't we questioning the easy ability to buy 100 condoms for less than the cost of movie tickets for a boy and his date? ...

Teenage boys are expected to desire sex, and sexually active boys are often described as studs. We may not physically stone women in the U.S. for being sexually active before marriage, but sexually promiscuous girls are still verbally stoned as sluts. Is there a word for a promiscuous boy that compares with "slut"?    [Emphasis added]

It is certainly possible that the president's decision was based on the fact that he has two teenaged daughters, and he doesn't want to think about them having sex.  Most fathers get squicked out whenever "daughter" and "sex" are used in the same sentence.

But even if that is not the case, he would certainly know that our culture does not happily allow for women, especially young women, having sexual drives.  I am reminded of a now notorious radio broadcast by one of the fouler Republican wackaloons with regard to a law school student testifying about insurance coverage for birth control.  Rather than lead us away from this cultural misogyny, the president chose to cave to the worst elements in Congress and in the country.

As Hecate would say, "Patriarchy ... you're soaking in it."

And isn't that a shame.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Not Exactly

(Editorial cartoon by Glenn McCoy / Belleville News-Democrat (May 17, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Doyle McManus took a look at the three scandals currently swirling around the White House and seems to believe that this state of affairs is typical for a second-term president.

What is it about presidents' second terms that makes them seem so scandal-ridden? Simple: The iron law of longevity. All governments make mistakes, and all governments try to hide those mistakes. But the longer an administration is in office, the more errors it makes, and the harder they are to conceal.

Just ask Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, all of whom spent much of their second terms playing defense.

The longevity rule caught up with Barack Obama last week as he wrestled clumsily with not one controversy but three: the Internal Revenue Service's treatment of "tea party" groups, the Benghazi killings and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press telephone records....

If Obama is both smart and lucky, all three controversies will gradually fade away, assuming no more wrongdoing comes to light. His Republican critics already run the risk of repeating their error in the 1998 impeachment of Clinton; if they hound the White House on charges that don't pan out, they'll be vulnerable to charges that they're wasting time on partisan squabbles.   [Emphasis added]

 I agree that the second term is difficult for most presidents, but this series of events is a zebra with a different stripe.  Yes, Obama is behaving clumsily, stumbling gracelessly on the first two "scandals" involving the IRS and Benghazi.  On the third, he at least has used the cover provided him by the various iterations of the Patriot Act, passed overwhelmingly by the congress critters since 9/11, 

Ironically, that third scandal has merit, but not exactly the one the wackaloons in the current Congress want to touch.  I think that's why we've seen fewer fireworks being shot off on that one.

I also think that what really is ginning up the controversies is a desire to keep the wackaloons in place for the 2014 election, perhaps even after the 2016 election.  If the basest base of the GOP can be kept energized, the Tea Party movement (primarily funded by Our Owners) will last a little longer and its hangers-on (Ryan, Bachmann, and Issa) will be in place for another couple of years at least.

It's never too early to campaign for the next election.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Langston Hughes

Let America be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

-- Langston Hughes

Sunday Funnies: 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (May 15, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 5/17/13 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

As always, click on image to enlarge.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Tokay Gecko

Photograph by Erin Yard, Your Shot and published at National Geographic.

Michele Stays Busy

(Editorial cartoon by Steve Sack and published 4/14/13 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Click on image to enlarge and then be so kind as to return.)

Michele Bachmann, convinced that her constituents are as distracted by shiny keys as she is, continues to lead the wackaloons in the House in pointless exercises.  From the Star Tribune:

For Rep. Michele Bachmann, Thursday hearkened back to the halcyon days of 2009, when her Tea Party supporters flocked to the U.S. Capitol and she led Republican opposition to President Obama’s health care law.

Tea Party rally? Check. House vote to repeal Obamacare? Check.

The Tea Partiers rallied around the Minnesota Republican in the morning to express their outrage over the IRS’s disclosure that it had targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Hours later, by a vote of 229-195, the GOP-led House passed its 37th attempt to defund all or part of the health care law, a measure championed by Bachmann. “This issue is now revived,” Bachmann said of the repeal bill. “It’s back on the table.” ...

But Bachmann still plans to ride the issue in Minnesota, where she has launched a two-week television ad blitz focusing on the repeal of Obamacare, an issue that helped thrust her into the national spotlight three years ago and that became no small part of her 2012 presidential bid.

The ad campaign, 18 months before voters go to the polls, represents an unusually early start in congressional elections. But Bachmann faces a potentially tough challenge next year in her rematch with DFL businessman Jim Graves, who lost by just 4,296 votes in November in an overwhelmingly Republican Sixth District.

Bachmann also has been battered in recent months by ethics and campaign finance allegations stemming from her presidential campaign. Her ads are running as she is in settlement talks in connection with a politically damaging lawsuit filed by a former staffer who accuses her of covering up the alleged theft of a proprietary database taken by the chairman of her Iowa caucus campaign.   [Emphasis added]

I imagine Michele has been doing a lot of dialing-for-dollars  to cover the costs of those ads and to help pay any settlement she reaches with the former staffer in his law suit.

I also imagine that there are several powerful groups perfectly willing to finance her, just as they did during her presidential bid and her last re-election campaign.  Will it be enough?

That all depends on the House Ethics Committee report.  I think we know what that will look like.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Granny Bird Award: Medicare Fraudsters

This edition of the Granny Bird Award, an award issued from time to time to those who harm the interests and benefits of the elders, goes to those who are fraudulently collecting money from Medicare.

From McClatchy DC:

Doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals were among 89 people recently arrested in nine cities, accused of scheming to defraud the Medicare program of nearly $223 million in false billings, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering and violating federal anti-kickback statutes for submitting claims to Medicare for purchases, treatments and services that, according to federal officials, either were medically unnecessary or never provided.

In many cases, patient recruiters, Medicare recipients and others were paid cash to supply beneficiary information that later was used in billing scams, federal law enforcement officials said. Most of the alleged fraud involved home health care services, but the charges included mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment and ambulance services. ...

Over the past three fiscal years, every dollar spent fighting health care fraud has returned an average of nearly $8 to the U.S. Treasury and the Medicare Trust Fund, Holder said. But that success is threatened by the across-the-line federal budget cuts known as sequestration, which cut $1.6 billion from the Justice Department’s budget for the current fiscal year, he said.   [Emphasis added]

The illegal conduct was spotted by the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) primarily by a sophisticated computer program, but also by elders who checked the report from CMS each receives regularly and noted charges for goods and services they did not receive.  In other words, CMS is doing its job, but needs elders to do theirs as well.

While I am not Eric Holder's biggest fan, I do think the DOJ has been doing its job well in prosecuting Medicare fraud.  I hope the sequester is lifted soon so that we can continue to nail the sleazes who would rob the system so vital to elders.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

What's Really Wrong

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (May 14, 2013) and featured at McClatchy, DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Michael Hiltzig took a look at one of the three major "scandals" swirling around the White House.  His conclusions pretty much mirror mine.

It's strange how "scandal" gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the "scandal" of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status.

Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years.

The bottom line first: The IRS hasn't done nearly enough over the years to rein in the subversion of the tax law by political groups claiming a tax exemption that is not legally permitted for campaign activity. Nor has it enforced rules requiring that donors to those groups pay gift tax on their donations. ...

Our lunatic campaign finance system is what turned the typical C4 from a volunteer fire department into a conduit of anonymous political cash. Big donors were given the green light to spend freely on elections by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. That wasn't good enough for some; they wanted to distribute their largess secretly.

C4s were there for the exploitation, and the result has been a wholesale decline of donor disclosure on the national level: As recently as 1998, nearly 100% of all donors to federal campaigns were publicly identified, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. By the 2012 presidential election, that was down to 40%. ...

The danger inherent in the latest faux controversy is that the IRS will have its wings clipped before its investigation of C4s is fully fledged. Politicos and pundits are in a lather over the questions the agency put to targeted organizations to determine their social welfare bona fides — things like the identity of their board members and the amount of time and money spent on "electoral issues," and endorsements of candidates. These facts would be pretty fundamental to determining whether an organization is political, wouldn't you say?  

The real crime is the way Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have scammed the system.  This brouhaha over the IRS targeting conservatives is simply to deflect an examination of that crime.  Unfortunately, the Village press is only too happy to cooperate in that deflection.

Or it was.  Let's see if AP is going change its tune now that they've been subjected to a loss of constitutional rights, eh?  Maybe AP and other news organs will start doing their jobs a little more assiduously.

Nah ... that's too much to ask.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Because We Need More Benghazi

(Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

The Republicans are not done with Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!, and so neither is David Horsey.  Once again he points out that a rational and serious discussion of what went wrong so that the incident isn't repeated in the future would be helpful, and once again he notes that neither party is in the mood for such a rational and serious discussion.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 70% of Republicans believe the administration has been “dishonest” about what happened at Benghazi. Only 16% of Democrats feel the same way. But 60% of Democrats believe Republicans have “gone too far” pursuing the issue while 65% of Republicans think their party’s representatives have handled it “appropriately.”

This stark partisan divide is hardly a surprise given the sour state of American politics, but, on an issue of national security, one would wish for broader middle ground in which concern for objective facts, not political advantage, would guide people’s opinions. ...

Playing a public relations game with the situation does not reflect well on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department or on the Obama White House. However, this game of semantics was a fairly typical example of inside-the-Beltway spin doctoring and posterior protecting. It is not nearly in the same league of monumental cover-ups of illegal acts that took place with Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal.

And that’s the problem with the current demand by many Republicans for a special committee to be set up to investigate the Benghazi affair. That seems a pretty obvious ploy to pump up the issue for political advantage and to do as much damage as can be done to the former secretary of State, who just might be the future Democratic presidential nominee.   [Emphasis added]

2016:  that's the whole point of this exercise in wackaloonacy.  This has little if anything to do with Obama.  He has given the GOP everything they've wanted, even things it didn't ask for.  It's all about the Hillary.  They've got to have some red meat to throw to their basest base in 2014 and they have to deny the Democrats the White House in 2016.

This is yet another reason why we can't have nice things.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's Still A Man's World

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett published 4/2/13 in the Lexington Herald Leader and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

There's nothing too surprising in this brief article in the Los Angeles Times (quoted in its entirety):

It's a well known fact that men still out-earn women in the working world.

That gender gape [sic] means that a full-time working woman will earn $443,360 less than her male counterpart over 40 years, according to a recent study by the National Women's Law Center.

Translated another way, a woman needs to work 52 years compared to a man's 40 years just to break even with him.

The study came to its conclusion by taking the 2011 wage gap between full-time men and women -- $11,084, according to the U.S. Census Bureau -- and simply multiplying that over four decades, which is taken as the average span of a career.

The results assume the earnings gap stays steady through the years. Although woman have made made significant strides at closing the difference, the gap actually widened last year. In 2012, women earned 80.9 cents per every dollar earned by men, compared to 82.2 cents the year before, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

That can partly be explained by the recession and its aftermath, when government cuts disproportionately affected women in the public sector. And as the economy recovers, many women are finding jobs in low-wage industries such as retail and hospitality.   [Emphasis added]

 It's one thing to still be behind;  it's another to be losing ground.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Comes The Dawning: Updated

(Editorial cartoon published by Mike Luckovich for the Atlanta Journal Constitution 3/29/11.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I've been waiting for the wackaloons in Congress to wake up to the fact that while they've got nothing when it comes to Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!, they might have something with respect to an IRS targeting of 501(c)(4) groups prior to the last election.  Those groups are registered with the IRS as "educational" entities and don't have to report where they get their funding as long as they don't go over a certain limit in political advertising.  In that regard, see my post here.

Early last week, the IRS issued an apology for targeting those groups with certain key words in their name to check to see if they were going beyond their allowable limit on political work.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Internal Revenue Service improperly screened applications from conservative groups that sought tax-exempt status, a senior IRS official said Friday.

IRS staffers selected for more review the applications that included the words “tea party” or “patriot,” Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations, said in a conference call with reporters.

“That’s absolutely inappropriate and not the way we should do things,” Lerner said.

The staffers also requested information the IRS does not normally ask for, including donor lists.

Lerner first disclosed the improper screening in response to a question she received at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Assn. in Washington earlier in the day. In the conference call that followed, she said that of 300 applications staffers selected for additional review, about a quarter were selected solely because of the flagged words. The rest were selected for a “broad spectrum” of reasons, Lerner said. She could not elaborate on the other groups’ purposes or politics. ...

Lerner said the staffers selected the applications with “tea party” and “patriot” in them for expediency, not out of political bias.   [Emphasis added]

Now, I tend to believe the IRS spokeswoman when it comes to the issue of expediency, as did Libby Spencer in her take on the issue:

I'm also remembering the IRS has been hit by austerity fever same as every other federally funded agency. Also, the applications for this particular status by politically motivated individuals has exploded in that time frame. So you have fewer workers reviewing umpteenth more applications and they took a shortcut to meet their quotas.

Have to agree with Think Progress here. The real problem is they used the wrong keywords. While it's true a lot of these Tea Party groups are fleecing the gullible rubes, they're just the grifters. It's the deep pocket front groups who are cheating on the codes.    [Emphasis added]

 Like I said, the IRS apology was made public on Friday, but it wasn't mentioned by the GOP players until Sunday.  Sen. Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Issa (Wackaloon-CA) both mentioned it on the bobbleheads on Sunday.  And the Benghazi issue continues to take up most of the oxygen.

Of course, the White House response played along, stating that the Inspector General's report will be reviewed carefully and implied that heads would roll if the IRS was playing politics.  Apparently it hasn't occurred to our president that far more Republicans were abusing the system than Democrats, probably because the Democrats hadn't figured out how to make the system work.

This one is going to be fun to watch.


From Josh Marshall at TPM:

Marco Rubio just called on President Obama to fire the Commissioner of the IRS. Small problem: the Commissioner in place when all this happened was Bush appointee Douglas H. Shulman. He left just after the November election and there’s an acting Commissioner currently in place.  [Emphasis added]

Like I said, this one is going to be fun.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring – 
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –

--Emily Dickinson

Sunday Funnies: 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution 5/10/13.)

(Political cartoon by Matt Bors and published by Daily Kos 5/7/13.)

As always, click on image to enlarge.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Green Tiger Beetle.

(Photograph from Ifthethunderdontgetya.  Click on image to enlarge.  Click on link to see other incredibly fine nature photographs.)

Not Amused

(Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

David Horsey isn't nearly amused in his latest column as he was in the one I posted on yesterday, and with good reason.  The whole Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! tempest is one that shows just how dysfunctional the GOP's idea of governance is and what effect that is having on Congress.

The latest round of House hearings about the Benghazi incident provides a perfect example of how American politics has been warped and gummed up by bombastic, partisan extremism. A cool, methodical inquiry could well uncover serious mistakes and provide remedies so that future incidents can be thwarted before more American diplomats are killed in the line of duty. But the current generation of Republican lawmakers does not know how to do cool. Hot rhetoric more suited to a Glenn Beck tirade seems to be the only way they know how to communicate.

A prime example is Rep. Steve King of Iowa. On Wednesday, he said he did not know “what took place, and who was where doing what and why,” yet he declared, “I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is.”

Yup, King does not actually know any details, but he is sure Benghazi is vastly bigger than the two biggest political scandals of the last 40 years. Either King does not really have a clue what Watergate and Iran-Contra were all about or he simply thinks if he really, really believes, wishes upon a star, picks a crop of four-leaf clovers and asks Santa, he and his party will luck into a scandal big enough to topple a president they despise.   [Emphasis added]

I agree with Horsey that a rational investigation of the Benghazi incident is necessary.  We really do need to  find out why the response as to what actually happened was so garbled by the State Department in the immediate aftermath.  We also need to discover why the various US agencies weren't working together closely to prevent the murderous incident from even happening.  That, however, would require a level of rationality and concern for good governance that the wackaloons in the House are incapable of.

That said, I also think that setting up the case for impeachment is only part of the rationale for this inanity.  The wackaloons know that right now Hillary Clinton is the leading contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and she just might beat whomever the GOP puts up.  I suspect she is as much a target as Obama.

And that means 2014 will be an important election for both parties.  Will the GOP regulars manage to tamp out the Tea Party Irregulars?  Will the Democrats manage to pick up seats in the House and the Senate?

This isn't popcorn time for the nation.  It's nail biting time.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging


(Click on image to enlarge and then come back here.)

And now for something amusing to end the work week.  David Horsey had his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek for this column.  Horsey suggests that Gov. Christie just might have messed up his political career by having the weight loss surgery.

The cable news pundit corps immediately questioned whether Christie was dropping weight to prepare for a presidential campaign in 2016, as if staying alive to see his children grow up and have children of their own were not motivation enough. However valid or specious, such speculation carries the clear implication that Americans would not elect a fat man to be president.

Is that true?

According to a recent poll, 76% of voters in New Jersey have a positive view of overweight candidates. It is hard not to think that has a lot to do with Christie’s current popularity in his home state, but it may also indicate that some people are more comfortable with a politician who looks like them, rather than one who is too slim. (Could that be contributing to the pathological hatred some folks have for our current svelte president?)

A 2012 Gallup survey put the share of Americans who are obese at 26.2%. Another 36.1% are overweight. That is a large base of potentially sympathetic voters for a candidate who enjoys his Krispy Kremes, Double Whoppers with cheese and 64-ounce sodas from 7-11. President Bill Clinton was notorious, not just for sneaking around the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky, but for sneaking out for a Big Mac at the McDonald’s a block from the White House. Perhaps Clinton remains one of the country’s most popular political figures because he not only feels the pain of common people but feels their appetites as well.   [Emphasis added]

Ah ... nothing like a good chuckle to end the work week on a positive note.

Thanks, David.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Granny Bird Award: Hospitals Who Overcharge

This edition of the Granny Bird Award, given from time to time to those who adversely affect the rights and benefits of the elders, goes to those hospitals who overcharge for surgical procedures frequently required by the elders.

The Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a report showing the unbelievable variance in charges for procedures covered by Medicare.  The Los Angeles Times has checked California hospitals on that list and has found some pretty dramatic differences in charges for such procedures as hip replacements and gall bladder surgery.  Here's what the Times found on hip replacement:

Medicare released pricing information Wednesday for more than 3,300 U.S. hospitals on the top 100 procedures and treatments in 2011. The federal health program for seniors and private insurers only pays a fraction of these billed charges.

Nonetheless, this information shows the wide variation in prices among hospitals for common medical procedures at a time when policymakers are wrestling with how to hold down rising healthcare costs.

Officials said they released this data in hopes that increased transparency will help squeeze some excess cost out of the system and enable consumers to become savvier shoppers for healthcare.

One of the most common surgeries is for an artificial joint replacement. Medicare data show that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles charged, on average, $110,123 for those cases. Keck Hospital of USC billed an average of $123,885 and Prime Healthcare's Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood averaged $220,881.

In contrast, Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine billed Medicare $52,066, on average, for joint replacements and Kaiser's Los Angeles Medical Center charged $35,524.   [Emphasis added]

The spread on laprascopic gall bladder surgery is just as variable.  And, as the article points out, the "cash" price is often dramatically lower than any quoted price for the insured.

The problem is that elders don't have the ability to shop around for a good price.  Whether they have a Medicare Advantage plan or a straight Plan B and Plan D, they are pretty much stuck with the facility their doctor is on staff at.  And then what?  What about the balance?

And, just as importantly, who pays that balance?  Who ultimately gets stuck with the bill and what does that do to the cost of healthcare for everyone?

No, the system is messed up and needs to be cleaned up.  It's long past time to take medical treatment out of the hands of private enterprise.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

That Special Gift

(Click on image to enlarge and then hustle on back.)

I've held off on commenting on the story of the 5-year-old who shot and killed his baby sister with his very own bb gun for several reasons.  First of all, I knew that I would be waking up my libertoonian nephew who is no doubt going to give me gas on the story.  But second of all, I held off because I have some conflicting views (sorta kinda) on the whole issue.

David Horsey, however, has crystallized my thinking (sorta kinda) to some extent.

This week, a 5-year-old Kentucky boy was playing with the mini-rifle he had gotten as a gift and ended up shooting and killing his 2-year-old sister. Apparently, even kindergartners have a right to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed.

For many people, it was a revelation that there are companies that manufacture guns specifically for children. The boy in question had a Crickett rifle, a smaller version of an adult weapon designed specifically for little trigger fingers. The guns come in a variety of happy colors, including pink and even swirls.

Some people think giving guns that shoot real bullets to kids is a rather insane idea, but not folks in the gun culture, where it is perfectly normal. A state legislator in Kentucky, Rep. Robert R. Damron, insisted that the kiddie rifle was not the problem.   [Emphasis added]

Now, as to my first concern:  there are a lot of hunters among my family back in Wisconsin.  They hunt deer, duck, quail, whatever the season calls for.  And they eat what they kill.  Because it's a generational thing, the kids do get guns before they're 18, but I'd like to think that the kids are also given a great deal of gun safety training, perhaps even by the NRA.  I have no problem with that.  So John?  You can relax a little.

My second concern, however,  is the fact that kids as young as 5 are being targeted with size and design and color (making it look like a toy), and that at least this gun was accessible to the 5-year-old at a time when he wasn't being monitored.  What is up with that?

In California, all guns (even bb guns) must by law be locked in a gun safe or have a trigger lock in place.  It's hard for me to imagine why this kind of law isn't on the books everywhere.  Obviously it isn't.  The combination of the two concerns was deadly in this case.  The child thinks guns, all guns, are toys to be played with and so guns, all guns, can be played with.  That 9mm in the drawer next to the bed to shoot intruders is just as much a plaything as the baby bb gun is. 

And that is just wrong.  Tragically so.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Shame on US

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 4/30/13 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Doyle McManus visited the issue of the prisoners still being held at Guantanamo Bay, many of whom are being force-fed because of their hunger strike.  He raises a couple of important issues, but I think he left one crucial part of the equation out.

The president campaigned in 2008 on a pledge to close the camp; once in office, he signed an order to move the prisoners to the United States within a year.

Since then, however, in the face of congressional opposition and political obstacles, he has backed away.

Only now, with a hunger strike among some 100 of the camp's 166 detainees entering its fourth month, does the president seem to have reengaged.

Obama, of course, blames Congress for making it impossible for him to close Guantanamo. But as with most ugly messes in Washington, there's plenty of blame to go around. ...

Part of the problem, at least initially, was that the detainees' home countries didn't all want them back. But a State Department negotiator, Daniel Fried, went to work on that problem and solved most of it. Yemen has agreed to take its 56 of the 86 cleared detainees; Afghanistan has asked for 17 detainees back; even Britain has requested the release of a Saudi citizen whose wife and children are Londoners.

The Obama administration created another part of the problem itself. In 2010, after Al Qaeda put a Nigerian terrorist with a bomb in his underwear aboard a flight to Detroit, the administration suspended all detainee transfers to Yemen, where the plot had been hatched. Since then, Yemen has become more stable and the United States has worked with its government to build a rehabilitation facility for returning detainees, but officials say it isn't ready yet.

Congress weighed in too. Alarmed by reports that some released detainees had rejoined Al Qaeda or the Taliban, members of Congress demanded a formal assurance from the secretary of Defense that no future parolee would return to the battlefield. ...

None of those steps alone will result in the closure of Guantanamo. Obama has endorsed indefinite detention for terrorist suspects, at least as long as the war with Al Qaeda persists. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, the head of Southern Command, says he's already thinking about upgrading medical facilities to take care of the detainees as they age.

But reducing Guantanamo's population would solve a big chunk of what has become an apparently insoluble problem. Resuming the transfers, especially for those who have already been offered a ticket out, would offer remaining detainees at least a shred of hope.

Obama and his aides say they are looking at all those remedies now. It's a shame it took a hunger strike to remind the president of his own convictions.   [Emphasis added]

All of this mess is complicated by the fact that some of the original detainees should never have been detained in the first place.  They were picked up because someone having a totally unrelated argument with them "sold" them to the Americans.  They weren't terrorists then, but I have no doubt that many of them harbor a deep hatred for the US today, so the point is, sadly, moot.

Others were picked up who were training for terrorism, but not against the US.  The Uighers, for example, wanted to fight the Chinese.  Unfortunately, the Chinese were financing our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, so even though there were Americans willing to take the Uighers, that was not about to happen.

Even with these complications, however, McManus is right:  a president who supports indefinite detention without any traditional due process for suspects who might be terrorists coupled with a Republican determination to deny any kind of victory to Obama makes the closure of Gitmo nigh on to impossible.

The one element McManus did overlook is our role in this heartbreaking scenario.  We have to share in the infamy as long as we just sit back and shrug our shoulders, claiming impotence in the face of two mighty adversaries.  We should be screaming long and hard at our representatives, all of them.  We should be kingbirding them to the point that the media has to report our actions.  Otherwise, we share in the shame.

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Monday, May 06, 2013

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge / The Kansas City Star (April 26, 2013)and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then be good enough to return.)

The NRA held its annual convention this weekend, and the speakers all pretty much fell into the wackaloon category.  You know:  Wayne LaPierre, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, those kinds of folks.  Here's how the Los Angeles Times lead off its coverage of the freak show:

Vowing that “we will never surrender,” the leader of the National Rifle Assn. claimed victory over recently defeated gun control legislation and denounced “political and media” elites for vilifying gun owners and supporting laws that would limit their rights rather than stop criminals.

“We will never give up or compromise our constitutional freedom — not one single inch,” NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre told hundreds of supporters at the group’s annual meeting here. “This is our time to stand and fight, now and in the next election.”   [Emphasis added]
It's a long article, one well worth reading in its entirety and I urge you to do so.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.  You see, there's more going on here than just the NRA organization.   The clown show has a very serious and very arrogant group behind it, as Judge's cartoon suggests.  From Open Secrets:

The latest lobbying reports show that despite decades of dominance on the issue of gun rights, the National Rifle Association was shoved aside by a newcomer -- and it wasn't a new gun control advocacy group.

The National Association for Gun Rights, a "no-compromise" gun rights group with close ties to Ron and Rand Paul, spent more than $1.8 million in the first quarter of 2013 -- almost $1 million more than the $830,000 spent by the NRA. It's the first time the group has lobbied at the federal level.

When it comes to shelling out for lobbyists, the NRA has regularly outspent all other groups that count guns as their primary issue. But even though the NRA spent more in the first quarter of this year than in the final quarter of 2012, it was swamped by the NAGR, which regards the NRA as too soft on gun rights.    [Emphasis added]

This is another article you should read all of.  NAGR included more information than it needed to in its report, signalling that the payees should pay attention, close attention.  And who are the recipients of the money from the NRA and NAGR?  Open Secrets will help you find that info as well:  folks across the political spectrum have nibbled the lettuce.

And that's why we can't have nice things.

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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sunday Poetry: William Wordsworth

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

--By William Wordsworth

Sunday Funnies: 3-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution on 5/1/13.)

(Political cartoon by Yaakov Kirschen and published 4/29/13 at Dry Bones.)

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (April 30, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

(As always, click on image to enlarge and then return for the next cartoon.)


Saturday, May 04, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Soft Coral

(Photograph by Wolcott Henry and published at National Geographic.  Click on image to enlarge.  Click on link to learn more about these critters so essential to ocean health.)

Obama's Plan B

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

I've gotten used to the war on women being waged by the GOP.  That said, I wasn't quite prepared for the same battle being waged by a Democrat, especially the one occupying the White House.

Women's rights groups have expressed disappointment with the Obama administration's decision to maintain age restrictions on the drug.

"While the President has been a champion for women, he's behind the curve when it comes to Plan B," read a statement from Nita Chaudhary, of the organization Ultraviolet. "We need him to catch up. Plan B should be available over-the-counter to women of all ages. It's the right thing to do."

Plan B One-Step is just one brand of emergency birth control that uses the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy by blocking ovulation and impeding the mobility of sperm. It does not cause an abortion in women who are already pregnant, nor does it harm a developing fetus.

Reproductive rights groups have urged the Food and Drug Administration for more than a decade to make the drug available to all consumers without a prescription. As a result of litigation, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York ordered that all levonorgestrel-based emergency birth control drugs be made available to all consumers over the counter by Monday.

In a harshly worded ruling, Korman said the decision to maintain age restrictions on the drug was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable," and placed blame on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, as well as pressure from two White House administrations.

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it was seeking to overturn Korman's order in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. attorneys have also asked that the judge's order be stayed, pending resolution of the appeal.    [Emphasis added]

The FDA had recommended the drug be made available over the counter without restriction as safe and effective.  It was the HHS Secretary, presumably with at least the approval of President Obama, perhaps at his direction, who added the age limit of 15.  Since then, President Obama has continued to maintain that he is quite comfortable with the age limit.  That's why his Department of Justice is appealing the District Court ruling.

The fact of the matter is that the age limit is indeed "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable."  Girls can become pregnant before 15.  Some girls as young as 11 are fertile and are targets for pedophiles.  Some perhaps not clear on sexual intimacy are already experimenting before age 15.  What about them?  They should be forced to bear children they cannot possibly raise adequately?

Why is it that President Obama's DOJ has the money and the staffing to attack such things as unrestricted Plan B and medical marijuana, but can't find the time or need for attacking such things as bank fraud?  Quite a tell, don't you think?

Morons.  Evil, evil morons.

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging