Monday, January 31, 2011

The Republican Gamble with Our National Economy

Trickle down economics continues to be supported by the Right despite the epic evidence that it is a failure.
Here is a recent Dilbert cartoon that brilliantly illustrates the issue, courtesy of Yahoo comics from last Wednesday.  Enjoy!  Enjoy that is, if it doesn't bother you the growing gap between compensation for most of us and completely over-the-top out-of-control bonuses for overpaid underperfoming executives....who like to outsource,  and to gamble with our economy - and not just on poker night.

A PSA in Support of Opposition to Repealing Minnesota's Gun Purchase Background Check

Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, let me emphasize, I am NOT anti-Second Amendment rights, and I am not againt gun ownership by people who are legal and responsible.  Please, please note that this is entirely in support of keeping guns out of the hands of those individuals who are recklessly violent, engage in criminal activity, are drug users or are dangerously mentally ill.  If you do not fit into one or more of those categories, you are not adversely affected in your gun ownership rights by these activities.  Rather you are safer: safer from criminals and addicts, safer from terrorists, safer from dangerous mentally ill fellow citizens.  Not only are you and your families safer, but so are our law enforcement officers.  That is a worthy goal of safety and sanity that we should all be able to support in conjunction with exercising our 2nd Amendment rights.  In that context, I offer this as a Public Service Announcement.

For criminals, drug abusers and other dangerous people, buying a gun without a background check is far too easy.

Just two weeks after the Tucson shootings, the City of New York sent undercover investigators to a gun show in nearby Phoenix, Arizona where they filmed three gun purchases -- all with no questions asked.

Check out this undercover video and share it with your friends and families.

Federal law prohibits certain categories of dangerous people from owning guns, and licensed dealers can easily screen buyers with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). But the system is easily evaded, especially in so-called "private sales" made at hundreds of gun shows around the country every year.

The Gun Show Loophole is how investigators bought a Glock 9mm and three 33-round high-capacity magazines -- just like those used by Jared Loughner -- without undergoing a background check.

In fact, investigators were able to buy two more handguns, even after informing the sellers they “probably couldn’t pass a background check.” That’s not just outrageous, it’s an illegal sale.

It’s time for Congress to step up and fix these deadly flaws in our gun laws. The background check system must include all the names of prohibited purchasers, and the loopholes that let criminals evade background checks must be closed immediately.

Watch the undercover video from Arizona and spread the word about fixing gun checks:

The fatal flaws in America’s background check system have been exposed at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now in Tucson. Let's do what it takes to stop these tragic shootings.

Thanks for getting involved,

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Republicans in Minnesota Attempt to Remove Gun Precautions That Work. In Their Haste to Appease Gun Fetishists

This op-ed article in the STrib makes an especially compelling argument for retaining effective state-level gun checks, while highlighting the failures of the federal NCIS gun check data base that we pointed out here.  Republicans claims that the two different background checks are redundant, and that the state check is unnecessary seem to be willfully oblivious to the fact that we aren't keeping up our participation in the federal data base.  I think the argument can be made that the Republicans and other conservatives on the right are making their gun decisions on an emotional basis, not on a factual one.

We have provided precisely ZERO names of dangerously mentally ill people to the NCIS data base, and neither have some of the surrounding states to Minnesota.  North Dakota supplied ZERO names to the data base under the category of mental illness;  South Dakota supplied only ONE.  Nebraska has provided precisely ONE.  Iowa provided TWENTY FOUR.  While Wisconsin has provided FIVE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN  names of dangerously mentally ill people who are not allowed to own guns to the federal data base.

For all the regional rivalry jokes in our part of the country, we have a lot in common with the adjoining states.  It is not plausible, it is not credible for a heartbeat that somehow Wisconsin has more dangerously crazy people than Minnesota or the Dakotas or Iowa.  Rather, looking at the stats for the other states, it is clear that what we have is a failure to comply with providing the necessary names to the federal data base, and that if we rely on the Republicans trusting to abandon the Minnesota background check, WE WILL BE LESS SAFE.   What we need is to be fact based, reality based, for a change, not fetish-driven in our regulations of guns. I realize that this is completely contrary to how Republicans operate, but that doesn't change the dangers of what they propose to do. 

What we NEED is to have Minnesota properly supply the federal data base with the names of people who ought not to be buying guns according to enforcing the existing laws.  NOT new laws, not unreasonable laws, but according to existing laws.

According to the information provided by the STrib OpEd:
Last year, the Bloomington Police Department received 541 requests for permission to buy handguns.

Of that total, 37 were denied following local background checks required by Minnesota law. According to officials, those rejections were due to chemical dependency or mental illness issues.

Had Bloomington authorities relied solely on instant federal background checks, every one of those 37 permit-seekers would have been cleared on the spot to buy a gun.

That gives officers time to consult several local agencies for histories of drug abuse, domestic violence, mental illness or stalking.

Claims of a Snow Plowing Slow Down in New York City Turn Out to Be Untrue

Halloran was shovelling something;
a 'snow job' is the  polite name
for what was on that shovel
It was a big story in December, carrying over into the first few days of the new year.  My friends on conservative blogs tried to use it to target their usual bogeymen, the Unions.  The allegation was made by New York City councilman Dan Halloran that five anonymous individuals came to him claiming that New York City snow plow operators staged a deliberate slow down in protest to the demotion by financial cuts of snow plowing supervisors.  Halloran and the right wing media were the ones guilty of perpetrating a 'snow job': "snow job definition n. a systematic deception."

Claims were even made that lives were lost because of unplowed streets and the problems it created for emergency services. Those claims got a lot of coverage; the resulting investigations results did not. 

Four different investigations were launched, two at the city level, one at the state level and one at the federal level.  As we approach the end of January, those results have turned up no such snow plowing slow down, not ordered by Unions, not by individuals, not by anyone.

Here's what we do have.  Dan Halloran seems to have......oh, what's the word?  Oh yes, Halloran LIED. 

This appears to be another one of the right wing hoaxes that gets a lot of coverage on the front end.  Rupert Murdoch news media was all over this making a lot of noise about those Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil Unions as New York City residents were unhappy with the removal rate of a LOT of snow that affected that city. 

But as always, they don't follow up, they don't report the other side, and they sure as hell never print or broadcast corrections or updates that contradict their anti-Union narrative. Because they aren't NEWS organizations, they are propaganda organizations.

So here is what we have; as Penigma readers know, I like to go track down LOCAL news coverage for stories.  A lot of it is very, very good, and it tends to be more detail oriented when people live and work in the areas they are covering:
from DNAManhattan, back on January 14, '11, by Murray Weiss:
There Was No Conspiracy Buried Under All That Snow
Let’s get an important issue out of the way on the Great Blizzard of 2010.
There is no evidence of an orchestrated slowdown, job action or criminality by any sanitation workers or supervisors in Manhattan or in any of the outer boroughs during the snowstorm that crippled the city weeks ago.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Congress Limiting Rape to Forceable Rape ONLY for Abortion: the Republican Culture Wars against Sex and Women

Under Sweden's stringent rape laws, Julian Assange is facing rape accusations, in part for having initiated sex with a woman who was sleeping in the same bed, on the premise that a sleeping woman (or depending on the account you read, half-sleeping or dozing after having gone out to buy orange juice and other groceries for breakfast and then returning to bed) was unable by virtue of her somnolence to give consent to sex.  I find it ludicrous that being half-asleep or even fully asleep in bed, where a man or woman can wake up, and can consent at such an early stage of coitus to equate to a woman (or potentially a man) being incapacitated by either a date-rape drug, or some other pharmaceutical, or alcohol.  I am not a supporter of Assange, but I believe he should be faulted for what he has done wrong, not for a stupid trumped up charge that equates wake-up sex with rape.  That dilutes and  diminishes the seriousness of real rape by making such a charge a joke.

And as the second item of business in Congress, instead of working on legislation relating to jobs or other economic issues, Republicans are addressing rape and abortion in their continuing culture wars, inserting provisions to make rape laws less stringent in the context of abortion funding.
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Non Sequitur, and SO Republican

There is so much I could write, but the picture is worth more than the proverbial 1,000 words.  This by way of Yahoo comics, Non Sequitur, from Saturday, January 22, 2011.  Enjoy!

Guns and Ribbons,

Some of you may have noticed the photo of the loop of white ribbon with a black stripe in the center that is posted in the upper left hand corner of Penigma.  I intend to have it posted there until such time as Gabrielle Giffords returns to Congress, recovered from her injuries, and until such time as the judicial process is concluded for the (alleged) shooter.  But this ribbon is not ONLY in solidarity with the Congresswoman, it is for all of the victims of that terrible shooting.

In that interval I shall continue to advocate for the better funding and participation of the NCIS federal data base for gun checks, and for the other legislative efforts to mitigate gun violence and to keep guns out of the hands of people who are not allowed legally to own guns.  This comes in the same week where in Minnesota we have a Republican effort to abolish our state gun check requirements, over the protests of police and other public safety spokespersons.  And where we have the sentencing of a criminal who used our existing gun laws to engage in gun running and money laundering between Minnesota and Mexico drug cartels. It was by filling out the forms required by the federal government that the ATF was able to track those firearms through the 'iron pipeline', evidence that efforts to track gun sales are effective.

As always, my personal appreciation and gratitude to the genius of editorial cartoonist Ed Stein, for his ability to clarify these issues visually.  His words that go with it on his blog site are well worth a read too.  There are a lot of excellent editorial cartoonists, but I think Ed stands head and shoulders among them.  Thank you Ed - and please visit his site using the blog roll link to Ed Ink!

In Rebuttal to the 2011 State of the Union, both Bachmann and Ryan, No Surprise, Fail Fact a Lot fact checked President Obama's State of the Union address earlier this week; they didn't find any significant fault, although they had some minor criticism.  Next they turned their attention to the rebuttal speeches, from neighboring state Wisconsin's Congressman Ryan, and our own Tea Party Darling, Michele Bachmann... although apparently not so much the darling anymore.  There is a groundswell, an actual grass roots movement, to protest Bachmann being represented as speaking on behalf of the Tea Party in some official, or quasi-official capacity.  The Tea Party patriots sent out this email:
Please call Michele Bachmann's Office and tell her that she does not speak for the Tea Party. Michele has announced she will be giving the 'Tea Party Response' to the President's State of the Union Address. The Tea Party Patriots Organization is a grass roots organization. One person has no right to speak for the whole organization.

And according to the coverage by the Star Tribune:
"They don't like it that Michele Bachmann is speaking on behalf of the Tea Party," said Toni Backdahl, president of the Tea Party of Minnesota, one of several Tea Party factions in the state.
This appears to be a genuine populist response, as distinct from the astro-turf movements, like the Tea Party Express, which is nothing more than a front group for Republican fund raisers. And her usual fawning Fakes News claimed:"Unusual Bachmann Rebuttal Could Scramble GOP Message on Obama Address.", and instead of giving her spiel from the usual GOP site, she had to move it to the National Press Club.  Only CNN, partners (read paid stooges) of the Tea Party Express gave Bachmann the time of day.

Pen and I have an ongoing discussion, pondering if it is just that the right simply doesn't care about facts, or do they actively seek to be lied to?  Clearly, no one is holding these spokespersons accountable FROM THE RIGHT for their inaccuracies. No one on the right is fact checking them, and no one on the right is, so far as I could determine, even acknowledging the egregious failures of fact.

Congresswoman Bachmann's whoppers were 'this big'

Congressman Ryan's Whoppers were 'this big'

No surprise, Bachmann is notorious for her repeated failures to pass fact checks by neutral, non-partisan fact checking orgnaizations.  Her record for fact check failure is intact; she is consistent, if only consistently and badly wrong. Ryan didn't fair to well either, joining Bachmann in repeating previously fact checked lies, with a few additional twists.  The lies are wide-ranging across the usual talking point targets - the size of government, debt and deficits, the Stimulus, and the perenial whipping-boy for right wing lies, health care reform.  No surprise, the bigger whoppers are Bachmann's. So here is the word from
FactChecking the GOP Response

A Quiz on the U.S. Constitution

Given that our recent discussions have touched on Constitutionally guaranteed rights as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, I thought it would be appropriate, and fun, to offer up this entertaining and informative quiz: Inside the Constitution, Your Government IQ.
Of course, they also are the two groups who want to most dramatically and drastically alter the foundation document of our Constitution.........which I think begs, utterly, the question of following, or honoring, that Constitution.
"The Tea Party and new Republican majority in the House want to more literally follow the Constitution."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Children, Don't Discard the Gift

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" Psalm 127:3

            Another writer has stated that on the issue of abortion a religion, (specifically the Roman Catholic Church), is attempting to impose its point of view on others who may or may not believe in that faith.  That’s an interesting allegation, but alleging it doesn’t make it so.  It is a central teaching in the Roman Catholic Church that life begins at conception.  It is just as central to that teaching that abortion for the purpose of “family planning”, or for contraceptive purposes, is morally repugnant.  I understand the desperation argument made elsewhere, that a pregnant woman may undergo an abortion as an act of desperation.  That her motive wasn’t malicious doesn’t make it right.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reaching Out, and Touching Former Minnesota Governor Jesse 'the Body' Ventura: Suing the TSA

Per CNN:
The former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Minnesota against the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA.
The suit alleges enhanced airport security procedures, including pat-downs and full body scanning, violate Ventura's rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures....Ventura had hip replacement surgery in 2008, and the resulting titanium implant routinely sets off metal detectors, requiring him to undergo pat-down searches, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges the pat-downs and the TSA's whole body imaging procedures meet legal definitions of unlawful sexual assault and unlawful video voyeurism.

Ventura, who is host of a TV program called "Conspiracy Theory" on truTV, a CNN sister network, flies two to three times a week for work, according to the suit.

His professional schedule means he must either submit to routine searches, "or retire from his television work and forgo his income," the lawsuit said.

Smack down,
not Pat-down;
Jesse's idea of
professional touching

Shyness & Modesty,
 thy name
is not Jesse Ventura,
Exhibitionism IS
 To say that Jesse Ventura has had a variety of employment in his lifetime is an understatement.  His career choices have included wrestling, which certainly makes the pat-downs by the TSA relatively minor contact.

Transparent? No! Bachmann Hypocrisy, Republicans Talk, a Lot, but Don't Walk the Walk

The English have an excellent saying, "Begin as you mean to go on.", arguing that one does things a certain way, (dare I say, the RIGHT way?) from the very beginning.

So,  NOW is the correct time to call the Republicans on how many ways they are failing to live up to their much-touted promises.

Let us begin with Bachmann, and her closed door session with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, along with the changing explanations, each one fishier than the last.  I refer Penigma readers to this link, to the Daily Kos:.Bachmann's office denies that Justice Scalia met with the Tea Party Caucus.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another Public Service Annoucement to Strengthen the NCIS Gun Background Check Database

From Mayors Against Illegal Guns:

In 1968, two extraordinary leaders were gunned down by assassins: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy.

Today, I was joined by Martin Luther King III and survivors, family members and friends of the victims of the shootings in Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, along with people affected by the nearly three dozen gun murders that happen every day but never make the headlines.

We came together to ask Washington to fulfill a promise made 43 years ago after the King and Kennedy assassinations. Back then, Congress passed legislation to prohibit felons, drug users, and the mentally ill from possessing guns.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Roe V. Wade, Marking the 38th Anniversary

The states are not free, under the guise of protecting maternal health or potential life, to intimidate women into continuing pregnancies.
~Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Roe v. Wade, 22 January 1973

Seventy-seven percent of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will never be pregnant. ~Planned Parenthood advertisement

Abolition of a woman's right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: a form of rape by the State.
~Edward Abbey

Saturday, January 22, 2011 was the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision which confirmed the right of women to privacy, including making the choice regarding abortion and pregnancy.

The battle ground for the next round of culture wars is set, including abortion, as conservatives prepare to invade that privacy, forcibly inserting themselves into the decision making process between women and their health care providers, family and spiritual advisers.

Bangs and Bucks, the Problems with Threatened Republican and Tea Partier Cuts

There is a proverb that fits the current political situation that we should keep in mind as we watch the State of the Union address on Tuesday night; "Penny-wise is often pound foolish".

As I turned on the local news this morning, there was video of a gunman in a Phoenix, Arizona mall on January 5th going on a shooting rampage.  The gunman eventually surrendered to police, and because it did not involve the number of fatalities or a famous person, the story received much less attention than the Giffords shooting tragedy.

With all of the discussions asserting Jared Loughner may be mentally ill, and that it was mental illness that was the problem with Congresswoman Giffords being shot, it is worth noting that Arizona's Governor Brewer just moved to cut the funding for the care of 5,200 of the most severely mentally ill people in that state.  They already don't provide the names to the NCIS of most of the dangerously mentally ill; this suggests they won't even be 'on the radar' of that state, at all.

While browsing for sources for this story, I came across this graphic  which shows the intersection of inadequate funding for health issues, including mental health care, the beginnings of which date back to President Reagan, and the underfunding of the NCIS gun check data base. 

Check out compliance in the state where YOU live, and contemplate your state's funding for the mentally ill, including the dangerously mentally ill.  My state, Minnesota, was 6th from the top, with 0 reported.  I wish I was confident we had 0 dangerously mentally ill people who shouldn't own guns, but I know that is not the case.

This is not so much a gun issue post, as it is a reminder to Penigma readers to realize that when we see the grandstanding in the Congress by Republicans and Tea Partiers about NOT funding the activities of the government, about cutting government employees............remember this is the kind of essential services that are being cut.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Torn in Two

This morning I did something for the first time I wish I'd have been doing for years. I prepared and served breakfast at "Sharing and Caring Hands", a christian homeless shelter in Minneapolis.

Of the 250 or so people we served on a morning after the temperature dropped into the single digits below zero, about 15 were children under the age of 10. They were much like every other child you'd meet, they were upbeat, they liked this kind of food over that, some were shy, some not, and they were universally polite about asking for whatever it was they wanted.

It warmed my heart to serve them especially, it gives me satisfaction outside my ability to quantify to reflect the face of god to those around me, just as it tears my heart in two to consider the reality that in this richest nation on the earth, we have 5 year-old children sleeping outside in cardboard boxes under freeway overpasses, children who've done nothing other than to have the misfortune of being part of a family which doesn't have enough money to eat or afford shelter. Just as my heart is glad to offer them a warm smile and warm food, the anguish is indescribable. Lord lead me to serve them better until I can no longer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Congresswoman Giffords Leaves Hospital with Husband, Headed for Houston Rehab

Giffords' ambulance departing
the Hospital for
the trip to Houston
It was a joy to see the footage yesterday of Congresswoman Giffords venturing outside for the first time in two weeks.  It was an even greater joy today when she left the Tucson hospital ICU to begin her recovery and rehabilitation.  I hope the photo gallery link at the end will bring a smile to our Penigma readers.

This was in my email, and I share the sentiments, It's nice to know that with all the attention being given to the gentle Congreswwoman and her superhero astronaut husband, that those in her office who are her support staff in Arizona also received a little attention.  I imagine living and working in the Tucson area will never be quite the same, and more so for Giffords staff than most.:

 I'm Julie, and I work with the local MoveOn Council in Tucson, Arizona and I wanted to tell you about a moving event we held this past Tuesday. 

Normally, local MoveOn councils organize rallies, district meetings, and other grassroots events. But this Tuesday we were doing something very different. We had the honor of delivering the thoughts, feelings, well wishes, hopes, and prayers of thousands of MoveOn members nationwide to our Congresswoman.

In the days since the tragic events of January 8th, MoveOn members like you showed their support and well wishes with a get well card for the Congresswoman. There were more than 140,000 messages—enough to fill three LARGE three ring binders. We presented these to the Congresswoman's staff along with a heartfelt message of thanks and support for all of their service and dedication.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Asbestos - a Hazard in the News

 A warm welcome to Matt Phillips,
our newest contributing author. 
Please afford him the same courtesy and consideration
that we enjoy from all our readers.
I hope Matt doesn't mind my grangerizing his post
by adding photos (grangerize, to add illustrations,
is the word of the day from and
their hot word blog, from our blog roll; I couldn't resist.)

Most people in the U.S. are at least somewhat aware of the dangers of asbestos, but not many consider it a pressing issue anymore. However, asbestos and asbestos-related diseases appear in the news with some frequency. The most serious of these diseases is mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen. Asbestos use in the U.S. peaked in the mid-20th century, though the dangers of exposure to the substance had been known for many years. Many employers withheld this information from their workers and failed to provide proper protective gear for those who came into contact with asbestos on a regular basis. Since symptoms of mesothelioma can take between 20 and 50 years to manifest, many workers whose health was compromised are only now beginning to show signs of illness and seek restitution.

photo of the then-vacant
Deutsche Bank
at Ground Zero,
one year after the
attack on 9/11/'01
courtesy of
One very prominent source of asbestos news has been the wreckage caused by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. A number of toxins were released into the air upon the destruction of the Twin Towers and surrounding buildings, posing a danger to workers, residents, and rescue personnel. The danger did not completely pass with the settling of the dust, either. The Deutsche Bank building, which is only now being completely disassembled, routinely tested positive for the presence of asbestos, among other pollutants. Tragically, we may have yet to understand the full scope of the toll 9/11 took on public health.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a Penigma Public Service Announcement

For those who keep trying to insist that I am anti-2nd Amendment, let me emphasize this is in opposition to ILLEGAL guns.  It mirrors very closely what I have written on Penigma previously.  The poll (link provided below) was a joint effort by Republican and Democratic polling organizations working cooperatively.

logo from the mayors against illegal guns website
please visit this site if you have any interest in the Arizona shooting

One of the biggest and most dangerous myths in American politics has just been busted.
After the tragedy in Tucson, we’ve heard the same old argument from Washington and the media that Americans are “hopelessly divided” on the issue of guns. But when you get outside the echo chamber and talk to ordinary people, the consensus on guns is clear.
That’s what Mayors Against Illegal Guns did with our recent poll1, conducted jointly by a Democratic and a Republican firm. The data shows that the general public and gun owners agree that we have to take common sense steps to prevent future gun crime.
Check out the polling results below and help spread the facts by forwarding this email to your friends and family.

The truth is, Americans overwhelmingly believe that we can respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners while doing more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Jon Stewart and Sarah Palin, a Study in Laughter and Contrasts

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, with Sarah Palin (insert)
On Tuesday evening, January 18th 2011, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart did a marvelous send-up on the Daily Show justifiably lampooning Sarah Palin, Queen of Quit and, Tweet for being a hypocrite and pseudo-martyr. 

Stewart continues his crusade for sanity that he began with his Washington D.C. rally last fall, (in contrast to Fox's Hannity) with grace and an exemplary measure of fairness rather than meanness, in a segment entitled 'Petty Woman' (a word play on the title 'Pretty Woman").

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The HELL It's "Just Rhetoric", Not Actual Violence, That Some People Are Calling For

This elaborates on those "2nd Amendment Remedies" that Sharron Angle, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin like to talk up.  I strongly suggest those in the 'justified' column, and the 'not sure' columns, all political or other demographics, seriously need to stop getting their ideas about violence from TV, movies, video games and other fiction, and to brush up instead on their serious, non-fiction history on the subject of violence, and revolutions.  Then they should seriously rethink these answers.

Apologies to readers if in the cut-and-paste, the columns don't quite line up properly.  This is the poll question:
Do you think violence against the current American government is justified or not?                                          
                             Justified      Not justified      Not sure
Democrat                                 5                84                    12
Republican                               6                80                    14
Independent/Other                   10               82                     8
Other                                      14                76                   11
Tea Party                                13                75                   12
There are other categories in the poll; this is an excerpt only - follow the link above by clicking on the question for the full poll.

A CBS News Poll, released on January 11, 2011 asked the same question. According to the CBS report on this poll,
"The poll also shows that while three in four Americans say violence against the government is never justified, 16 percent say it can be justified -- the same percentage that said as much in April. Twenty-eight percent of Republicans said such violence can be justified, compared with 11 percent of Democrats and independents."

Monday, January 17, 2011

from the famous editorial cartoonist, Ed Stein

Because one of his editorial cartoon says it better than my drab words in assessing our priorities in this country.
I encourage our readers to follow the link on our blog roll to Ed's site, and become a regular follower of his excellent work.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Violent Threats to Democratic Legislators

A Palm Springs, California man, Charles Habermann, age32, was arrested for making death threats against Congressman Jim McDermott, D-WA over his opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.  Habermann had ..
"threatened to kill Mr. McDermott, as well as the congressman’s friends and family, and to put the congressman “in the trash.
Mr. Habermann threatened to kill Mr. McDermott in a voice mail message on Dec. 9 in an effort to interfere with his vote on the tax cut proposal, the federal complaint said.
Mr. Habermann is the second man to be charged with threatening a member of Congress in the last week. On Friday a Colorado man was arrested for threatening to shoot people at the office of Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, and set a fire around its perimeter.

The two cases represent some of the few threats – among hundreds of similar situations in the past decade – that federal prosecutors deemed serious enough to press charges.

Banning Big Clips Is Supported by Robert A. Levy, Famous Libertarian Gun Rights Attorney

Robert A. Levy, of the Cato Institute, co-counsel for the landmark SCOTUS decision in the District of Columbia v Heller case on behalf of 2nd Amendment Rights, came out in support of the proposals by Democratic legislators to limit the gun clips which hold the large number of bullets used by the shooter of Congresswoman Giffords a week ago.  Levy said:
“I don’t see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines,” Levy said in an interview with NBC. “Justice (Antonin) Scalia made it quite clear some regulations are permitted. The Second Amendment is not absolute.”
“It may stop a few of these looney tunes,” Levy said. While saying that he saw it as a “close call," he said that a restriction of “10 to 15 rounds makes sense.”

Attempts to Repeal Health Care Resume This Week, Continuing the False Claims of Job Killing

"The effect of the law on jobs is likely to be modest," said Katherine Baicker, an economic adviser to President George W. Bush who is now a professor of health economics at Harvard. "The most important effects of the law will be on health costs and coverage and the efficiency of the health care system, not on jobs."
- from an article by Robert Pear, in the New York Times
Even economic advisers to the most recent Republican president don't call the 'Obamacare' health care reform job killing.  Who is Katherine Baicker, and why should we care?  Here is a brief synopsis of her CV to explain why we should pay attention to her opinion:
From 2005-2007, Professor Baicker served as a Senate-confirmed Member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, where she played a leading role in the development of health care policy. She currently serves on the Editorial Boards of Health Affairs, the Journal of Health Economics, and the Forum for Health Economics and Policy; as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Academy Health; on the Congressional Budget Office's Panel of Health Advisers; and as a Commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.
Simply put, this woman appears to know what she is talking about,

Friday, January 14, 2011

More Guns Do Not Equal Fewer Murders - the Statistical Reality

First, before moving on to the topic at hand, let me welcome our newest blog roll addition, Mikeb302000, where guns and gun laws are a regular topic; the link was made active just today. Please give them a visit.  Now, back to our topic at hand.

I believe as a blogger that one of our purposes in writing is to ask the question, 'Is that true?', and then to try to correlate more than one source to answer the question.  One of the things we are here to do is to challenge assumptions. In the 1/14/'11 Friday weekly update was this little gem fact checking a claim made by Senator Mike Lee of Utah:
Lee: And to the contrary, I think there is abundant research suggesting that in cities where more people own guns, the crime rate, especially the murder rate actually goes down, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania countered this false claim by Senator Lee:
That’s not true. A causal relationship between prevalence of gun ownership and crime hasn’t been established by researchers.  
I was intrigued by this study, the article by Richard Florida with the assistance from Charlotta Mellander.  The Geography of Gun Deaths, which included great visuals in the form of maps showing various correlations.  To begin we have their map showing the number of deaths by firearm injury per 100,000 population in 2007.  I would like tomake the distinction that this is not a perfect correlation to Senator Lee's statement, as he refers specifically to cities, while these stats pertain to entire states (and D.C.) and there figures are not limited to murder, but rather reflect all gun deaths: murder and other homicides, suicides, self-defense or police shootings of criminals or by criminals, and accidental gun deaths of all kinds.

Say That Again (or Say What??!)

While others will cover the stupidity of using the term "Blood Libel", and truly it was a stupid comment, I don't care to overkill the discussion and will let it rest with the post below.

Instead, what I would like to focus a small bit of attention on is the duplicity of Palin and her supporters in what she said AFTER saying something about "Blood Libel."

Palin insists that criminals are solely responsible for their criminal conduct, implying clearly that she CAN'T be held accountable for the impact of her words.

In the next breath, in fact in the very next sentence, she said that the "media and pundints" (sic) (by the way Palin happens to be a member of the media) must be careful of the words they use because it "incites the very violence" they condemn.

So which way is it? Do words matter, or don't they? Are words NOT inciting violence only when it's her words, but the words of other media types do incite violence? What totally ludicrous, buck-passing hypocrisy. So she doesn't want to be called out for using words like "un-American", "traitor" and seeking to "reload". And she doesn't want to be labelled as potentially helping (in a small way) to incite and foment violent thoughts among the unstable, but somehow the media saying her words are irresponsible are more likely to incite violence?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A word about the words 'Blood Libel'

I applaud one of the blogs linked on our blog roll for having provided some insighrt into our political language recently, dealing with the terms vitriol and now blood libel.  I offer it here because it provides more light, and perhaps a little less heat, with more understanding for Palin's possible meaning, and for more understanding of the reaction to her choice of words. This post is about understanding language, not about politics. Well done, Hot Word!
The tragedy in Arizona continues to command national attention as well as launch unusual words like “vitriol” into the national vocabulary. Today Sarah Palin referred to accusations that imagery and rhetoric associated with her may have contributed to recent violence as a “blood libel.” Why has this phrase stirred up so much additional strife?

While Palin caused a linguistic sensation in 2010 with her coinage “refudiate” as well as other colorful malapropisms, our hope here is to shed some light on the current uproar rather than add to it.

Blood libels are allegations that a person or group engages in human sacrifice, often accompanied by the claim that the blood of victims is used in various rituals and/or acts of cannibalism. Its use is nearly always excluded to sensationalized accusations and high emotions. Throughout history, these claims have been frequently made against Jews living in Europe and even resulted in lynching and persecution of whole Jewish communities.

Pundits say that the reason this phrase has provoked so much anger is because Palin is using the specific and intense sense of “blood libel” to refer to verbal criticisms, implying an equivalence between both circumstances. The famous linguist Deborah Tannen speculated today that Palin and her advisors are unaware of blood libel’s historical meaning, and that the whole episode is a case of semantic bleaching, a phenomenon where a word or term with a specialized meaning takes on a more generalized set of associations with time. In this scenario, the term may simply be thought to mean “a false accusation regarding responsibility for harm to others.”

If you have any questions regarding meaning surrounding the situation in Arizona or the current political environment, let us know below, and we will try to provide useful terms to help. is a source for authority regarding words – not political actions or opinions. It’s in everyone’s interest to fully understand words and their context to make meaningful connections that are not lost among high emotion and, in the case of the tragedy in Arizona, grief, anger, and more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Connection between Recess......and our Military Recruitment

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy;
All play and no work make Jack a mere toy.
--Maria Edgeworth

It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain as well as in other areas of
study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into
courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood.
--Tina Bruce, Professor, London Metropolitan University
Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.

--Kay Redfield Jamison, Contemporary American professor of psychiatry
Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.

--O. Fred Donaldson, Contemporary American martial arts master
If animals play, this is because play is useful in the struggle for survival; because play practices and so perfects the skills needed in adult life.

--Susanna Miller
I saw a segment of Good Morning America which focused on the decrease in the amount of recess in some schools, in an effort to deal with the pressures of producing better test results on mandatory standardized tests, and as a result of budget constraints.  Although somewhat counter intuitive, it turns out that recess actually helps learning rather thank taking time away from it, as well as helping battle the problem of childhood obesity.  The numerous studies in support of recess were impressive.

This intrigued me after having heard a segment on NPR ten days ago, on a Sunday about the national security issue that we have too few potential military recruits who have sufficient education, or who are in adequate physical condition.

Buying Guns, or Voting - Which Should We Be Making More Difficult?

After the Virginia Tech massacre, the shooting in 2007, an investigation determined that the shooter had legally purchased a gun, and that he was not in any data base.  Even if he had not been able to legally purchase a gun from a licensed gun dealer where a background check was required, he would have been legally able to purchase a gun at a gun show without a background check.  There is NO prohibition that prevents or even discourages a person who is dangerously insane from purchasing a gun at a gun show.

In the United States, to be prohibited from exercising our rights requires a court decision.  A judge has to rule on removing our right to vote, or removing our right to own a gun.  The right has been very interested in restricting the rights of people to vote, actively acting to disenfranchise tens of thousands who are legally entitled to vote their single vote.  The right has been determined to make it as easy as possible for people to own guns, every possible kind of gun, unlimited guns.  They give lip service to preventing guns from falling into the hands of people who are legally prohibited from owning them, or who should be prohibited from owning guns, but they also do everything possible to make owning and carrying guns as unrestricted as possible. Guns can kill and wound people, innocent people.  In attempting to prevent people from voting the danger that Republicans are trying to prevent is merely the election of Democrats or other liberals - the LEGAL election of representative government candidates.

To put this in perspective, a recent article from article from Reuters reports that the United States has 90 guns per 100 people, more than any other nation in the world.  The next closest country in guns per capita is Yemen, at 61 per person.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bat-s**t Crazy Birther Queen Orly Taitz, and the January 2011 SCOTUS decision

(not an actual photo
of Orly Taitz )

Orly Taitz: the gift that keeps on giving......giggles.

Today the giggles (occasionally guffaws) may have finally wound down.  The Supreme Court of the United States has rejected  the plea of Orly Taitz to overturn the contempt sanction of $20,000 imposed on her by my favorite author ever of legal documents, Judge Clay Land. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Walking Back the New York City Snow Plowing 'Union Slow Down' Conspiracy

This initial story was only circulated through the Murdoch propaganda machine; it doesn't deserve to be called news or journalism. The large mostly right-wing fawning followers of this pseudo-news do not check nor hold these sources accountable. This first emerged as a Murdoch owned New York Post exclusive, claiming a scoop that there was an organized union slow down in plowing streets, a slow down which resulted in at least two deaths, due to the inability of emergency vehicles to get through the streets.  The story was, of course, picked up in lockstep by the other Murdoch propagandists - Fox News, etc.  From there the right-wing blogosphere ran with it as fact, not fact checking.

A Land of Confusion and Pain

I have a simple question for my fellow Americans. When can you trust that your neighbor isn’t out to subjugate you, kill your grandparents, and/or make animals suffer needlessly? Put another way, when can you trust that the average person, your neighbor, a conservative, a liberal, isn’t morally bankrupt or evil?

The answer is: January 11th, 2011 and no less so today, than 30 years ago, or 130 years ago.
The average person and in fact the by far vast majority of people, whether they are Catholic or Jew, Protestant or Hindu is/are raised, with ethical ideals as foundational points of instruction. We are all taught to be kind, fair, and honest, to not steal, to not tread too heavily upon the desires and dreams of our fellow human beings.

From the Chicago Sun-Times OP-Ed: Well said!

Read the whole thing here:

We cannot walk away from this one.

We cannot blame one nutjob for the shooting of 19 people Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., and wash our hands of it.

We cannot pretend that this is only about him and not about us.

Worst of all, we cannot say we were not warned.

For more than two years, sensible people have been pleading with their fellow Americans to tone down the rhetoric, to quit with the demonizing, to end the fear-mongering.

In what kind of country, the sensible people asked, do political leaders across the board not condemn a sign at a rally that reads: “We left our guns at home — this time”?

In what kind of country do people show up at presidential speeches with guns on their hips?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Face the Nation, about Facing the Responsibility

On Sunday January 9, 2011, Robert Schieffer made an excellent observation on Face the Nation, after interviewing members of the House and Senate from both the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle.  The entire half hour was devoted to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, ending  in a personal segment by the ever-articulate Schieffer, entitled :
"Rhetoric and Its Consequences: Violence Stirred by Inflammatory Political Discourse Endangers Our Way of Life"
We live as we were reminded yesterday in a dangerous, hair-trigger time, where tempers always seem near the boiling point and patience seems a lost trait.
Democracy's arguments have never been pretty, but technology has changed the American dialogue.

Because we can now know of problems instantly, we expect answers immediately. And when we don't get them, we let everyone know in no uncertain terms.
I was particularly taken by this next part, given the numerous recent posts here, about the number of false accusation made by the right without regard for the consequences.To put this observation in perspective, let me summarize - and these are only a few; by no means is this an exhaustive list.

We had the ice-cream bribery voter fraud hoax, then there was the 103 frivolous ballot voter fraud hoax, followed by the disabled voter fraud hoax, followed in the past few days by the TSA harassing returning soldiers hoax, the indictment of the 'job-killing and budget-busting' inaccuracy, the various false claims that earned pants-on-fire ratings for false accusations about government jobs versus private sector jobs, the false statements that earned the lie of the year award for false statements about health care reform, the Glenn Beck lie about the city in Ohio doing just fine without accepting federal assistance that he uses as an example of why no one should need any assistance, oh and the snow plow slowdown in New York City.....this is just a partial list of false claims and accusations made by the right.  The right making up false accusations about liberals, democrats and unions is practically a cottage industry.

Schieffer went on to say:
We scream and shout - hurl charges without proof. Those on the other side of the argument become not opponents but enemies.

Dangerous, inflammatory words are used with no thought of consequence. All's fair if it makes the point. Worse, some make great profit just fanning the flames. [emphasis mine - DG]
Schieffer continues:
Which wouldn't amount to much if the words reached only the sane and the rational, but the new technology insures a larger audience. Those with sick and twisted minds hear us, too, and are sometimes inflamed by what the rest of us often discard as hollow and silly rhetoric
And so violence becomes part of the argument.
Meanwhile the Republicans on Face the Nation and all the other 'Talking Heads' programming are desperately trying to distance themselves from their own inflammatory rhetoric, claiming the crime was not political, that there is no connection between their attempt to inflame and people responding in an angry or violent way.

The Gun - the Second Update to the Giffords Shooting: Guns and Gold?

There is a familiar mantra on the right, the ideology sound byte, "Guns, God and Gold".  The videos of the shooter addresses some rambling, not very literate statements about gold.  Although hardly reliable or definitive, the shooter is not reported to be religious, which leaves out 'God' in understanding this tragedy on the part of the gunman.  God would seem right now, and during the initial tragedy, to be at the side of Congresswoman Gifford.  The number of people injured and killed caused me to wonder about what the shooter used to cause so much harm to so many people.  And I wondered as well about the legality of the gun purchase by this pot smoking possibly mentally ill shooter.  Coincidentally, Giffords herself owned a Glock, the same brand of gun that the shooter used.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Update to the Giffords Shooting

From the msn news (read the whole article here):
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was the target of a gunman whom he described as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice. He said Giffords was among at least 13 people wounded in the melee. Six people were killed, including Arizona's chief federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and an aide for the Democratic lawmaker. He said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the assailant.
While the list of victims has been made public, I have not yet seen identified the two heroes who tackled the 22 year old gunman. Another person of interest thought to have assisted the gunman is sought.  The political aspects of this attack are outlined by the Pima County sheriff , below.

Another Right Wing Assault on the TSA - from the 1/7/'11 weekly update

Right wing claims based on accusations made by anonymous sources are stock in trade with the right wing blogosphere in their attacks on different aspects and agencies of the Obama administration.  This week's fact update goes after a story promoted by Redstate blogger and CNN political contributor, Erick Erickson. 

This is just one more example of why CNN has lost serious credibility for selecting as a political contributor a man who has made his reputation on stupid, over-the-top, factually inaccurate and outright untrue stories.  They could have found other, better, more honest and factual, more genuinely analytical and insightful conservatives to fill that position.  We can only hope that his tenure at CNN might be brief.

In a story titled "TSA Not to Blame for This" started with this question and answer from their readers.  Anyone can contact with a question like this - so if you have one, please don't hesitate to turn loose on it.

Here is the short version:
Q: Did TSA confiscate nail clippers from a soldier returning on a military charter from Afghanistan, but allow him to keep his military weapon?
A: This tale from an anonymous source is an impossible fabrication. TSA doesn’t list nail clippers as prohibited items, doesn’t screen military charters arriving in Indianapolis, and has no access to the terminal in question.

But after my own factchecking of voter fraud, like the story about the 103 Dinkytown frivolous ballot challenges, I was intrigued to see yet another right wing blogger promoting this disinformation - in this case the national blog, posted by Erickson himself.  These stories are always the same; an inside but anonymous source; a certain number of details, many of which are implausible, but inflammatory; there is a quality, a certain predictability about the details.  If you pay close attention to these stories, there is a sameness, a consistent odd quality to those details that is distinctive.  It is as if the same person writes the actual scenarios, and then different people promote them.  Then more often than not........they're followed up by more claims from anonymous people who we are asked to believe 'were actually there', trying to sell the hoax, the fraud, the lies.  Lastly, there is always some patriotic twist as well. It's almost as if it were one of those formula stories, where names or minor details are filled into blanks, but the essence, the plot is always the same, simply dressed up in different ribbons.  But the stories are still lies, over and over and over; that's because they are part of the right wing deliberation disinformation effort.

Congresswoman Giffords Shot in AZ at Public Event by Armed Protester

Taking the safe out of Safeway, the gentle woman from Arizona who had been targeted for threats and violent vandalism after voting for Health Care Reform last spring, was shot in the head at point blank range as she held a public event to make herself more accessible to her constituents, outside a Safeway Grocery store.

Members of her staff are also reported to have been shot, and members of the public may have been injured as well.  Possibly the best coverage so far has been this from the New York Times.

The shooting prompts the question, is this what Sharron Angle, candidate for the U.S. Senate for Nevada in the 2010 election was advocating in her campaign when she used the phrase 'Second Amendment Remedies'?  A further question comes to mind, is this the result of the Congresswoman's position opposing Health Care Reform repeal?

Congresswoman Gifford has our positive thoughts and prayers for her recovery, as do other members of our representative government, that they be safe from violence from political thugs who do not understand that they are not all.owed to take this kind of action if they don't get their way.

The Label 'Job-Killing Law' Is Another Republican Lie; the Non-partisan Truth from Health Care Reform is Neither Job Killing NOR Budget Busting

This is the entire article as it appears at  I could say more, but I couldn't say it better.  Thank you; thank you!

A ‘Job-Killing’ Law?

House Republicans misrepresent the facts. Experts predict the health care law will have little effect on employment.

January 7, 2011

When it comes to truth in labeling, House Republicans are getting off to a poor start with their constantly repeated references to the new health care law as "job-killing."

We find:

Independent, nonpartisan experts project only a "small" or "minimal" impact on jobs, even before taking likely job gains in the health care and insurance industries into account.

The House Republican leadership, in a report issued Jan. 6, badly misrepresents what the Congressional Budget Office has said about the law. In fact, CBO is among those saying the effect "will probably be small."

The GOP also cites a study projecting a 1.6 million job loss — but fails to mention that the study refers to a hypothetical employer mandate that is not part of the new law.

The same study cited by the GOP also predicts an offsetting gain of 890,000 jobs in hospitals, doctors’ offices and insurance companies — a factor not mentioned by the House leadership.

There’s little doubt that the new law will likely lead to somewhat fewer low-wage jobs. That’s mainly because of the law’s requirement that, generally, firms with more than 50 workers pay a penalty if they fail to provide health coverage for their workers. One leading health care expert, John Sheils of The Lewin Group, puts the loss at between 150,000 and 300,000 jobs, at or near the minimum wage. And Sheils says that relatively small loss would be partly offset by gains in the health care industry.


Attaching misleading labels to legislation is a well-worn tactic in Washington. Conservatives got rid of most of the estate tax after labeling it a "death tax," as though it taxed death instead of multimillion-dollar fortunes. And liberals once won passage of an "assault weapons ban" that didn’t really ban fully automatic military assault rifles, which were already illegal for civilians to own without a very-hard-to-get federal license. Now House Republicans are seeking to repeal what they call "Obamacare: A budget-busting, job-killing health care law." That’s the title of a study issued by the House Republican leadership Jan. 6.

And the GOP is clearly pushing the "job-killer" claim. House Speaker John Boehner used the phrase "job-killing" to describe the health care law seven times on Thursday in a press conference that lasted less than 14 minutes — that’s once every 2 minutes. He also used the phrases "destroy jobs" and "destroying jobs" once each when talking about the law. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Republicans named their bill to repeal the health care law: "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

But is the health care law really "job-killing" as claimed? We find that to be another case of exaggerated and misleading labeling.


To support its claim, the GOP report first cites the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — but the report badly misrepresents what CBO actually said.
House GOP Leadership, Jan. 6: The health care law will cause significant job losses for the U.S. economy: the Congressional Budget Office has determined that the law will reduce the “amount of labor used in the economy by … roughly half a percent…,” an estimate that adds up to roughly 650,000 jobs lost.

In fact, CBO did not predict a 650,000 job loss. The Republican report cites a CBO report from August, which actually said that the economy will use less labor primarily because many people will choose to work less, or retire early, as a result of the new law. (See Box 2.1, pages 48 and 49.) What CBO projects is mostly a reduction in the supply of labor, which is not the same as a reduction in the supply of jobs.

CBO, August 2010: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount—roughly half a percent—primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.

CBO said one reason fewer people will choose to work is that many low-income people will have more money in their pockets as a result of the law expanding Medicaid and providing federal subsidies for many who buy insurance privately. "The expansion of Medicaid and the availability of subsidies through the exchanges will effectively increase beneficiaries’ financial resources," CBO said. "Those additional resources will encourage some people to work fewer hours or to withdraw from the labor market."

Another reason that people might work less is that the new law requires insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions, and also limits their ability to charge higher rates for older persons who buy policies for themselves. "As a result, some older workers will choose to retire earlier than they otherwise would," CBO said.

To be sure, some jobs will indeed be lost, CBO said. That’s because the new law requires many businesses to pay a penalty if they do not provide health insurance to their workers. That "will probably cause some employers to respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers," CBO said. But it also said these firms may hire more part-time or seasonal workers instead. CBO did not estimate the number of jobs likely to be affected either way.

In a more extensive look at the subject, CBO on July 14, 2009, said the effect of the employer mandate "would probably be small." The GOP report did not mention that.

Finally, CBO did not attempt to estimate the number of jobs likely to be gained in the health care and insurance industries. It has projected that the law will result in 32 million Americans gaining health insurance that they would not otherwise have, enabling them to buy more services from physicians and other health care providers. More about that later.

Others Estimate ‘Small,’ ‘Minimal’ Impact

As we have reported previously, The Lewin Group also has estimated a small impact on jobs as a result of the health care law. Senior Vice President John Sheils said Lewin’s analysis showed 150,000 to 300,000 jobs lost, all minimum wage or near minimum wage positions that would be lost permanently. That doesn’t account for increases in jobs in other sectors, mainly health care, that Sheils also expects but hasn’t quantified. All told, he estimates, a "small net job loss."

Lewin is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group but operates independently of the insurance company. The reason that some low-wage workers are expected to lose jobs, as CBO also said, is that some employers who are faced with penalties will pass along those costs to workers in the form of lower wages or reduced benefits. For low-wage workers, their wages can’t be reduced below the minimum wage, so those firms would hire less, lay off workers or use more part-time employment.

Sheils notes that there will be distributional effects, as some sectors gain jobs and others lose them, but the people gaining employment aren’t necessarily the same who lost jobs. He says there’s "a potentially painful process here in changes in employment in some industries … versus others." Skilled workers are likely to benefit.

When we reported on this issue in November 2009, the House was debating a health care bill with tougher requirements and penalties for employers than the law now has. Even under that bill, Elizabeth McGlynn, associate director of the health unit at RAND Corp., told us the effect on jobs "is likely to be quite minimal." McGlynn said: "Most large businesses already offer health insurance. And most small businesses are excluded from the mandate. So it’s relatively few firms that will be affected."

And small businesses — those with 50 or fewer employees — are likely to benefit under the law, Sheils says. "I think they actually could come out ahead," he says. "They don’t face the mandate and they could get a tax credit at least for a while for their health benefit. … It gives them an advantage in the marketplace," if they’re competing against larger firms.

Besides Sheils’ numbers and CBO’s estimate, we haven’t found other nonpartisan figures on the law’s impact on jobs. When we asked Sheils if he knew of others, he said no. He added that he thinks that a lot of economists believe the effect is small, and that’s why they’re not doing an analysis.
1.6 million lost jobs?
The second piece of evidence offered by the GOP report is a study by the National Federation of Independent Business, projecting a 1.6 million job loss. But here the GOP misrepresents the evidence again. The NFIB did not study the new law. Its report was based on a hypothetical employer mandate that bears little resemblance to what was actually passed — and it also projects a gain of hundreds of thousands of health care and insurance industry jobs.

House GOP Leadership, Jan. 6: A study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the nation’s largest small business association, found that an employer mandate alone could lead to the elimination of 1.6 million jobs between 2009 and 2014, with 66 percent of those coming from small businesses.

That refers to a study by the NFIB’s Research Foundation. But that study was issued Jan. 26, 2009 — well over a year before the new law was actually enacted. NFIB has not issued any study of what actually became law, and one of this study’s authors, Michael Chow, told us by e-mail that it has no present plans to do so.

The GOP report refers to the NFIB’s analysis as "independent," but it’s hardly a neutral source. The federation is currently backing repeal of the new law, and has historically been opposed to any requirement that businesses provide coverage for their workers. NFIB also cosponsored with the Chamber of Commerce an ad criticizing health care legislation in 2009.

More important, what the NFIB foundation studied was not what became law. It gave its estimate of the effect of a hypothetical employer mandate that would cover all businesses, and require that they pay at least half the insurance premiums for their workers.

NFIB Research Foundation, Jan. 26, 2009: [T]he employer mandate would cause the economy to lose over 1.6 million jobs within the first five years of program implementation. Small firms would be most adversely affected by the mandate and account for approximately 66 percent of all jobs lost.

Even if that 1.6 million figure were accurate, it wouldn’t apply to the new law that was signed last March. The new law does not require all businesses to provide coverage. It exempts those with 50 or fewer workers. So the "small firms" that the NFIB study says would be "most adversely affected" by the imaginary mandate studied in 2009 will not be affected at all by the actual law. The 1.6 million figure is a gross exaggeration of the likely effect of the law, even using the NFIB’s study as a guide.
We’ve looked closely at the study. It’s not possible to say precisely how big a job loss it would have predicted had the 50-worker exemption been factored in. It predicts that the mandate would cause 467,182 jobs to be lost in firms employing 19 or fewer workers, so the 1.6 million figure is high by at least that much. (See Table 6, page 17.) In addition, the study estimates that 420,600 jobs would be lost in firms employing from 20 to 99 workers, so some large but unknown share of those would also have to be subtracted, possibly reducing the figure to 1 million or less.

And although neither the NFIB nor the GOP leadership report mentions it, this is a gross figure, not a net figure. It fails to account for job gains brought about by the new law, a point we’ve already mentioned. And buried deep in the NFIB’s own report is evidence that those job gains could be substantial.

890,000 New Jobs?

Here’s what the NFIB report said about job gains, on page 20:
NFIB Research Foundation, Jan. 26, 2009: The employer mandate would boost demand for healthcare goods and services, thereby increasing employment in healthcare-related sectors. The number of ambulatory healthcare professionals (physicians, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners) needed will increase by 330,000. An additional 327,000 staff will be required to work in hospitals. Some 157,000 more nurses (net of retirements) will be needed to staff doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, and other provider locations. And payrolls at insurance companies will expand by 76,000 workers.

That comes to 890,000 new jobs.

Although the new law relies more on an individual mandate — requiring nearly everybody to obtain coverage on their own if their employers don’t provide it — the resulting increase in demand for health care services, prescription drugs and other goods would be the same. To repeat, CBO estimates that the law will result in 32 million additional persons with health coverage.

The NFIB study cautioned that some of those 890,000 new jobs might not be filled right away if the increased demand outstrips the health care system’s ability to meet it. But even so, it amounts to a sizeable offset to the jobs likely to be lost due to the employer mandate.

For the record, conservatives aren’t the only ones misrepresenting the law’s likely impact on jobs. The White House claimed in a blog post Jan. 7 that the law "could create more than 300,000 additional jobs" by "slowing the growth of health care costs." The liberal Center for American Progress said in a January 2010 report that "health care reform could increase the number of jobs in the United States by about 250,000 to 400,000 per year over the coming decade." But it remains to be seen whether the law will actually slow the growth of costs for employers and individuals, as the White House hopes it does. And, as we’ve pointed out, claims of large job gains have been contradicted by nonpartisan experts who estimate a small impact on the labor market.

So what about the "budget-busting" label that House Republicans are also trying to apply?

The Congressional Budget Office officially scored the new law as self-financing, projecting that it would actually reduce the deficit over the first 10 years — and beyond. And so it should surprise nobody that CBO said Jan. 6 that repealing the new law, as Republicans propose, would increase the deficit. CBO’s latest figures project that repealing the new law will increase the deficit by a total of $230 billion over the next 10 years (through fiscal year 2021). So keeping it in place would help the budget, not bust it.

Republicans have a point, to this extent: The CBO is forced by law to rely on assumptions that may not turn out to be true, and which Medicare officials say probably won’t happen. The Medicare system’s chief actuary, Richard Foster, issued a report soon after passage of the law saying much of the projected savings "may be unrealistic," and that the law could cause 15 percent of hospitals to become unprofitable unless Congress eases up. "If these reductions were to prove unworkable within the 10-year period 2010-2019 (as appears probable for significant numbers of hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and home health agencies), then the actual Medicare savings from these provisions would be less," Foster said.

If that happens, the law could well turn out to increase the deficit rather than trim it. But that remains to be seen.

A partisan analysis by the GOP staff of the House Budget Committee claims that the law is loaded with "gimmicks and double-counting" and that the net effect will be a "fiscal train wreck" and a big increase in the deficit. We will examine those claims at a later date.

A ‘Job-Killing’ Response
When we laid out some of our findings to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office, spokesman Brad Dayspring, told us: "This is a job-killing law, period. Anyone who argues otherwise is ignoring the construct of the health care law and the widely accepted facts."
–by Brooks Jackson and Lori Robertson

[As wrong as Cantor's office was - at least someone answered the inquiry - for a change; they usually don't respond at all - DG]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Courage to (Grand)Stand

Tim Pawlenty is the former Governor of Minnesota, retiring from that office only a couple of weeks ago when Democrat Mark Dayton was sworn in. Pawlenty, during his tenure, was widely rumored and understood to be positioning himself for a run for the Presidency. In fact in 2008 Pawlenty was likely the 1st runner-up to Sarah Palin to be John McCain's running mate.

During the last two years of his governorship, the state as well as the nation suffered from job loss, escalation in expenses to help those who were now jobless, loss of tax revenue because fewer people were working, etc.. Prior to 2008, Pawlenty had refused to raise "taxes" as some sort of purity test to prove his conservative bonafides. The result was that prior to 2008, Minnesota had used up all of it's "rainy day" reserves, had used bonds and other extensions of credit (though the state is obligated to not run a deficit by constitutional provision). Consequently, by 2008, the state was really tapped-out in terms of how it could deal with crises, how it would pay for any uptick in obligation. Then of course the crash of 2008 did happen, and the state was left with a 4.3 Billion dollar deficit. Pawlenty attempted to deal with this, rather than by raising taxes, by "un-allotting" costs, essentially refusing to pay bills he felt were not a good idea to pay. His action was found unconstitutional and the state, as he leaves office, is now left with a 6 Billion dollar hole to fill. A hole he very much helped to create by expending rainy day funds, by refusing to seek new revenue, etc.. In short, Mr. Pawlenty used every gimmick in the book to avoid raising taxes, and kicked the can down the road for who would pay for it. He sought his own political future in contrast to the best interests of the state, and now there's a large bill to pay. He left office just before that bill would come due.

Now he's written a book titled "Courage to Stand" proclaiming his "courage" in standing up to requests by both parties to seek additional revenue. He further goes on to admonish (in his book) President Obama for certain "promises" and for Obama's failure to live up to those promises. The contrast of someone criticizing someone else for a failure to live up to promises is remarkable, given that he neither would make such promises, doesn't believe ideas, nor ask such conduct of his own party. To that end, I discuss Pawlenty's criciticism and the ironies/hypocrisy of his supposed stand below. I hope the reader will agree his "stand" has been in fact been really grandstanding, and hardly courageous.

The first point Pawlenty criticises Obama for was for failing to "pay for every penny of spending." Truly, Obama made those kinds of promises prior to September of 2008, but sometimes circumstances change what must be done. Unlike the Republicans in Congress and George Bush who didn't pay for any of their tax custs without comensurate cuts in spending, and who took very large surplusses and turned them into massive deficits, the Democrats called (routinely and repeatedly) for paying for such tax cuts with cuts in spending. Then the crash of 2008 occured. Clearly both the Republicans (Bush and those in Congress) and the Democrats (including Obama) understood the need to spend money (incurring large deficits thereby) to keep the economy from utterly collapsing. Hard-core Wall Street andbusiness types, including dyed-in-the-wool conservatives universally said not doing so would have been a unmitigated disaster. So, Pawlenty admonishes Obama for doing what was necessary, what would and did prevent another Great Depression and what his own party backed.

He also criticises him for spending funds on things like health care, but Pawlenty fails to acknowledge that Obama in fact did have a plan to pay for health care. He planned to pay for it by cutting fraud in Medicare. That fraud amounts to no less than 40 Billion per year and is something which certain Republicans now point to as "corruption" in the Obama administration. Also, they now agree they want to cut it (while improperly insulting Obama and making fraudulent claims of corruption) but of course they fail to note they argued against cutting that fraud during the 2010 election, calling it "wrong" to suggest such cuts, and that such fraud existed during the Bush years and they did nothing about it.

Second, Mr. Pawlenty talks about transparency and working in a bi-partisan way as something President Obama failed to do with health care. In truth, the final bill was passed in a rushed manner, but only after a year of struggling to get a bill which Republicans would back. Obama started from Mitch Romney's plan for Massechusetts, meaning he started from a Republican proposal, he invited Republicans to join, he refrained from calling them out for being beligerant and deceitful and he incurred the wrath of his own party for proposing something too conservative. Yet, Tim Pawlenty claims Obama wasn't bi-partisan. Pawlenty's own party members reversed themselves time and again on prior proposals which they had previously supported and they did so because the national party told them to use health care to kill Obama's agenda. Yet, we are asked to accep that HE, Obama, wasn't bi-partisan? I suppose if you say that because Billy asked Sarah out, and Sarah threw sand in his face, spit on his clothes, and dumped a glass of wine on his head, you could say that Billy didn't work hard enough to get Sarah to go out, but you'd be lying or delusional, and you'd hardly be showing courage for "taking a stand." Where were Pawlenty's criticisms of his own party for abandoning their own prior proposals? Where was Pawlenty's criticism of his own party for fostering fear with crazy "death panel' claims? The truth is Obama tried damned hard to get Republican support, including starting off right of center on the overall program, and for pure political gain and nothing else, Republicans without exeption, turned their back on him and the majority of American voters who voted for him and turned their back on the country's future.

With respect to transparency, while the final bill was passed hurredly, the overall proposals weren't and they were transparent. For the vast majority of the bills and proposals were given to Republicans days ahead of votes. By contrast, Republicans (at the behest of President Bush in many cases), repeatedly from 2001-2008 failed to provide bills to Democrats, voted on them in the middle of the night, and generally cut the Democrats off from any participation in government wherever and whenver they could. They did so gleefully in some cases, Dick Cheney famously telling then Senate Minority leader to "f" himself on the floor of the Sentate when Reid asked for a vote on a bill. There was one famous meeting held in a closet, a meeting to discuss whether President Bush had deceived the country into war, which the Democrats had to hold in a closet because Republicans refused to give them the floor of the house to even discuss it. They repeatedly refused to allow any investigation into the facts behind the run up to the war and only relented when they were embarrassed nationally and lost the 2006 election.

Where were Pawlenty's complaints about that conduct or the conduct of Cheney? Did Pawlenty expect President Bush and the Republicans to be transparent? Would he be transparent? Would he conduct himself better than Bush? On what evidence should we believe that? In short, Pawlenty time and again (on this point, on the deficit, on paying for government responsibly) is criticising Obama for not keeping promises, but they are promises Pawlenty would never make and doesn't believe in. He (by his lack of voice and his own actions) doesn't pay as he goes, doesn't believe in transparency, doesn't believe in bipartisanship. During his governorship he repeatedly vetoed bills which had vast support, and when a handful of members of his own party overrode his veto, he and the Republicans in this state had them run out of office.

Mr. Pawlenty wants to hold Obama accountable for failing to live up to promises made when we weren't in crisis (fiscal prudence) that had to be reversed when we were. Yet he fails to acknowledge that he had no voice for speaking out for prudence when we were in comparative good times. He failed to criticise Bush or Republicans for making statements like that "Deficits don't matter" as Dick Cheney once famously quipped in respoonse to complaints about the failure of the Republicans to pay for tax cuts and the commensurate deficits which accrued even though Bush promised they wouldn't. Where was Pawlenty's rebuke of Bush for failing to keep his promise to not run up the deficit. At least Obama had a reason. Pawlenty used gimmicks to avoid the truth and hard choices in the state, he was deeply partisan, often making scurrilous comments about Democrats which weren't fair or true, and NOW he wants to pretend Obama should keep promises he (Pawlenty) neither believes in, doesn't perform to, and would never make?

If that's courage, I'll take honesty first. If that's bravery, I'll take looking out for the best interests of the country over it, and most assuredly I'll take the word of someone (Obama) who changes his mind in the face of catastrophe over the word of someone (Pawlenty) who seeks his own political fortune at the expense of his constituency. What would he hold for the country if elected President? If his taking a stand means this kind of dishonesty, then I'll gladly ask him to stand aside, while honest well-meaning and more selfless people govern responsibly and truthfully.