Category Archives: Meet the 112th!

Must. Look. Away.

From The Hill just now . . . someone should take this gentleman into a quiet corner and calm him down. Maybe give him some milk and cookies.

Report: Rep. Steve King mulling bill to repeal everything Obama has signed

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken critic of just about everything President Obama supports, is considering introducing a bill that would repeal everything Obama has signed into law.

Well done John McCain. For that, we’ll get off your lawn

Stand back McCarthy! (and where are Walsh and Wilson?)

John McCain is still that old guy down the street who yells at you. He is still the guy who was willing to risk this country in Sarah Palin’s hands. And he is too enamored of war for my comfort.

Another thing John McCain is? He is one damn stand-up guy.

What’s remarkable about this is that it is remarkable. Where were his colleagues? Who else spoke as forcibly? And publicly? Good on him.  (video posted thanks to Orhan who once again came to the rescue.)

Ezra Klein writes down the details: the 112th Congress is the. worst. ever. Really.

This, from Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog at The Washington Post today:

14 Reasons why this is the worst Congress ever

And he lays them out, clearly, with graphics and – in spite of his blogname – in a non-wonky way, focusing on comparisons between this 112th Congress and previous.

Guess what.

He starts with this week’s 33rd vote in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Holding that vote once makes sense. Republicans had promised that much during the 2010 campaign. But 33 times? If doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result makes you insane, what does doing the same thing 33 times and expecting a different result make you?

Well, it makes you the 112th Congress.

Notwithstanding Mark Twain’s famous quip, Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress . . . but I repeat myself, these ladies and gentlemen – well,  not so many ladies – are, indeed, The. Worst. Congress. Ever.

You want some adverbs with that?

The Sunlight Foundation has published a (seriously wonky) report that measures the grade levels at which our congress critters speak. Their study covers 1996 to this 112th Congress, in both the House and Senate. It’s getting a bit of notice around the buhlogospheric-system and deservedly so. Fascinating stuff.

They say that congressional speech has dropped a full grade level in that period, with Tea Party freshman accounting for much of the most recent decline. (Which Senator speaks at the lowest grade level? Can you guess? Rand Paul bitches!)

The whole thing is here and there are a few interesting sidebars on their blog as well. I don’t think it’s at all clear from the study (I did say it’s wonky) if the change has any significant effect on clarity or successful communication, which after all, is the point of language. But even if utility is unaffected . . .

This grabbed my attention.

Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. . . .

Let the fittest survive . . . and get rich. USA! USA! USA!

An interesting graph from a column in the venerable Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) : it details who is covered by Medicaid, the program Paul Ryan described as “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”.

The largest group covered by Medicaid by far is children. The second biggest group, adults, contains large numbers of pregnant women. Medicaid covers about 40% of births in the United States. The third largest group includes people who are blind or disabled. That leaves what are known as dual eligibles. Those are elderly people who are so poor that they receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits.

If I’m reading this chart correctly, while children constitute the largest constituency, the blind/disabled receive the most dollars.

(link is from a Paul Krugman column)

But in the House they “ARE the 9%!”

An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of the overall message in President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News poll of speech watchers.

According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks. Only nine percent disapproved.

Last year, 83 percent of viewers approved of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union remarks.

Maybe we could open one so we could close it?

According to a tweet from NBC News’ Jamie Novogrod, [Michelle] Bachmann responded to the recent raiding of the British embassy in Iran, by saying that if she was President, she would close down the U.S. embassy there.

Oh, what the hell . . .

Oh, and her short list for VP? Trump, DeMint and Rick Santorum. Unbeatable!

Ketchup to reduce debt. Who knew?

Richard Nixon said ketchup was a vegetable and the only vegetable he ate. And yet the man lived to 81. Plus he got all famous and wrote books and stuff.  So maybe Congress is on to something here.

In the great tradition of this country congress declared ketchup still a vegetable “following intense lobbying from the pizza and French fry industries.” (Lottsa fried potatoes still okay too.)

This agreement improves childhood nutrition by providing school nutritionists with the ability to serve healthy foods kids enjoy while avoiding burdening schools with massive new costs,” institute President and CEO Kraig Naasz said in a statement. “Of particular interest to frozen food producers, this agreement ensures that nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally-funded school meals.”

It’s a damn good thing they’ve managed to find time to pass this bill, as busy as they’ve been with matters so critical to the nation by addressing the tough economic issues like . . . ( 🙂 ! I’m kidding. Fooled ya’, didn’t I!)

The 112th Congress is on pace to be one of the least productive in recent memory — as measured by votes taken, bills made into laws, nominees approved. By most of those metrics, this crowd is underperforming even the “do-nothing Congress” of 1948, as President Harry Truman dubbed it.

 

Those Commies are still out there you know . . .

The way Jesus wanted it

This is last week’s story and we political junkies know all about it: Congress voted 361-9 to re-affirm that the motto of the United States is still In God We Trust. But did you know that our ever-vigilant congress critters took time to do it five years ago too? I guess we can’t be too careful. This time, they had a thoughtful debate, but we may assume that this is the sentiment that carried the day:

“Is God God? Or is man God? In God do we trust, or in man do we trust?” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). He was laying out the deeper meaning behind this debate — saying it was a chance for the House to reassert that it believes there is divine goodness and order in the universe.

If there isn’t, Franks said, “we should just let anarchy prevail because, after all, we are just worm food. So indeed we have the time to reaffirm that God is God and in God do we trust.”

I was in school when the beautiful motto of this nation was tossed aside for a cheap political point. E Pluribus Unum –  Out of Many, One. Probably the finest most aspirational motto of any state in history.

But there were Commies out there in the ’50’s and they were – gasp! – godless! And atom bombs would not be enough to protect us; only a deity could do that. So we shielded ourselves with a completely unoriginal, generic motto, one that would make any theocracy proud: In God We Trust. Which means exactly nothing.

That wasn’t enough of course, because maybe Uncle Joe Stalin wouldn’t bother to read our motto. So to be really really safe, we added a little protection into the Pledge of Allegiance as well.

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all would no longer do. To assure full-fledged homeland security, it had to be One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (God’s justice or man’s?)

I never say it. I like the old one.

This man is out. of. his. mind.

The Family Research Council just honored Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) for his “support of the family” perhaps because Joe Walsh supports his own family by owing them six figures in back child support. But hey, Christians forgive each other, right?

After watching these videos (long – go make the coffee), I’m thinking if I were his wife and the custodial mother of his children, I’d take the financial hit and consider it a bargain just to have him out of the house and away from sharp objects.

(The original vid I posted above wouldn’t open for some. Thanks to mac at Talk & Politics for providing one that works)

Dialogue, 2011 style

How can I market my books and myself for FREE?

Run for president.

From a Bachmann email to her supporters yesterday:

 

They haz met the enemy, and they iz them

Lookee here.

Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total, according to a Roll Call analysis of Members’ financial disclosure forms

Rep. Cantor dances to my drummer

Serendipity!!

It’s mere hours since I posted Uncle Jay and his delightful video mocking the House Calendar (from 2010), and here comes Majority Leader Cantor, of the United States House of Representatives with the official 2012 House Calendar. Looks like our congress critters are going to be in session a full 109 days. This is sadly par for the course and we know there’s no reason to work a little overtime.

 

Oh well, at least that means more cool CSpan programming.

FL 13 is just bursting with pride

My very own congressman, Vern Buchanan (R), has made yet another ‘most corrupt’ list. And this time he’s Number Two! (Vern is often under investigation right here at home too.)

This from The Street, the investment newsletter:

2011’s Most Corrupt

  • Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.)
  • Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fl.)
  • Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)
  • Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.)
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.)
  • Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)
  • Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Oh.)
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
  • Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)
  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.

Congressional leadership: not a clue

The 'gang' of four

David Frum was George W. Bush’s speechwriter mostly on economic issues. (He probably should have stayed in his comfort zone because he also authored the phrase ‘axis of evil’ about which enough said.)

Lately, he’s become a frequent critic of the rhetoric of not only the Tea Party but of Republicans in Congress. To wit: John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor and John Kyl, the Republican leadership in Congress, wrote a letter yesterday to Ben Bernanke.

Frum:

I’m not shocked by much any more, but I am shocked by this: the leaders of one of the great parties in Congress calling on the Federal Reserve to tighten money in the throes of the most prolonged downturn since the Great Depression.

One line in the letter caught my eye as summing up the unreality of the Republican leaders’ position:

“We have serious concerns that further intervention by the Federal Reserve could exacerbate current problems or further harm the U.S. economy. Such steps may erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers.”

Are they serious? We are living through the most rapid deleveraging of the American consumer since the 1930s.

. . . if you’ve convinced yourself that Obama is the Second Coming of Malcolm X, Trotsky, and the all-conquering Caliph Omar all in one, then perhaps capsizing the US economy and plunging your fellow-citizens deeper into misery will seem a price worth paying to rid the country of him.

But on any realistic assessment of the problems faced by Americans – and not just would-be Republican office-holders – [the problem] is the recession, not the presidency.

Duane gets it exactly right

We built this and it built the Southwest

Duane Graham has a very insightful post on the Obama Speech over at The Erstwhile Conservative (for those of you who don’t know him, he’s in Joplin and wrote very movingly of the devastation that city suffered from the tornadoes a few months back.)

He liked this part of Obama’s speech (and I agree – it had real power):

OBAMA: We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union.  Founder of the Republican Party.  But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges.  (Applause.)  And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves — where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports?  What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges?  Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill.  Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip?  What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do?  (Applause.)  How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

In his own voice, Duane adds:

Recently I heard a story about the eventual deterioration of important National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites, which provide stunningly accurate forecasts of major weather events.  In its Tea Party-inspired wisdom, Congress has more than cut in half the funding for the maintenance and upgrading of those types of satellites.

What a small country we are becoming.  We struggle to pay for weather satellites, for God’s sake.

A post and discussion downstream touches on the same subject. Here.

Congress goes home to see the constituents in August you see . . .

From Andrew Sullivan:

20 percent of the US House of Representatives will be on tours of Israel in the next three weeks. Staggering. Of all the countries salient to US foreign policy, it’s clear who calls the shots. A tiny country of six million with barely any strategic advantage for the US since the Cold War. But to note the fact that there is an Israel lobby that has unparalleled influence in Washington is de facto anti-Semitic.

Twenty friggin-percent! Sounds like J-Street still has a lot of work to do. AIPAC is killin’ em.

Sunday funnies. Not.

We elected them, but how do we unelect them in a gerrymandered nation world owned by a multinational meglithic oligarchy? (h/t friend Shep)

CLARIFICATION: My words above (unlike the cartoon itself) are actually not directed at the newly elected Tea Partiers, who may be the least ‘owned’ members of Congress. My words are directed at the majority of our Congress Critters, all too many of whom daily do the bidding of their Galtian overlords. (hint: that’s not us)

I do not heart Maureen Dowd

But every once in a while she turns an especially good phrase. In a column this week, she describes our overlords and the city on a hill as:

. . . .a shrieking, destructive, primal, feudal, apocalyptic, wasteland of partisan banshees . . .

I would add ‘tribal’. And maybe ‘wholly owned’.

Can’t we all just get along?

I’m losing faith in the ‘Obama plays a long game’ theory. (h/t mac who brought this up today )

Gotta admit though, the Pentagon is about to deep-six DADT and that didn’t happen by executive order. Obama suffered the slings and arrows that descended on him when he didn’t just do it on January 21, 2009. He allowed the process to work until the support was broader. I suppose that’s that is playing  a long game.

Anyway, Tom Tomorrow nails it –  this is how Democrats see things today – click to enlarge.

Stop the LED; what was good enough for Thomas Edison in 1880 is good enough for me

Save the incandescent!

So sayeth Republicans in the 112th Congress.  Because there’s nothing else going on this week.

House Republicans plan to bring to the floor next week legislation that would water down a provision in a 2007 energy law that requires light bulbs to be more energy efficient . . .

Barton’s Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act would repeal a provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that requires traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient beginning in 2012.

This Rep. Barton, ardent creationist and perennially anti-science in all its manifestations:

. . . The first question from C-SPAN’s moderator: “What causes, in your perspective, global warming?” Barton’s reply: Well, the short answer would be God.

The House Committee no doubt was forced to act upon discovering to their horror that the 2007 law was totally part of a socialist-terrorist-loving-faggot-elite plot.

Incandescent light bulbs are gradually being replaced in many applications by other types of electric lights, such as fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps, cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), high-intensity discharge lamps, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These newer technologies improve the ratio of visible light to heat generation. Some jurisdictions, such as the European Union, are in the process of phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient lighting. In the United States, federal law has scheduled the most common incandescent light bulbs to be phased out by 2014, to be replaced with more energy-efficient light bulbs.[3] In Brazil, they have already been phased out (by law from 2007 until 2010)[4]. Traditional incandescent light bulbs were phased out in Australia in November 2009.[5]

Who are we really? Part I

Today, Nicholas Kristof suggests we indulge in a feel-good fantasy when we describe who we are. He starts with a quiz – identify the country:

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country . . . Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t even imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution.  . . .citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan. . .

This sounds like where today’s Republican Party want to take us.

. . . as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let’s be clear about our direction . . .

Of course it’s different this time

As Congress faces the vote to raise the debt ceiling – something we do every year –  the blogosphere is full of posts on the subject. Posts by blogfriends Kay and BeneathTheTinFoilHat led me to Perspectives where there is lots of bloggy goodness on the subject. This chart caught my attention.

A question for Mr. Ryan

(I’m sure this question can be posed with more clarity by someone else – I have a limited vocabulary when money comes into the conversation.)

About those people under 55 who be cut off from Medicare as we know it . . . . will they continue paying into Medicare until retirement? Is that money going to current recipients or is it going to go into one of those lockboxes and held for the use of those future happy retirees to use when they go shopping for policies in the private market? Or is that money going to finance the share that government supposedly will provide. If they’re going to keep paying into ‘Medicare’, will workers be paying at the same rate? So many questions. So few answers.

A lesson from history. I doubt it’s lost on Obama.

The video below is the panel discussion on a pending government shutdown from PBS’ Washington Week show broadcast on November 17, 1995. It’s a fascinating example of the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

The arguments were very much the same as today. The debt was a huge issue for the public; the debt clock had just been erected in Times Square and Ross Perot ran for President on the problem of the debt – he got almost 20% of the vote, which for a third party candidate in this country is enormous.

In that debate fifteen years ago – as seen by politicians and pundits –  Clinton was seen as a compromiser and Gingrich as strong and unmovable. Gingrich’s House had made ‘compromise’ a dirty word which pleased the base in those days. The House Republican freshmen and sophomores were largely new and from outside government. They ran on standing firm about the budget and  social issues, which were more dominant than today – the Religious Right had serious power.

The final outcome? Clinton won the public’s vote; at the end of the battle, he was more popular than he’d been when it began. Republican numbers plummeted and the journey to Gingrich’s ultimate disgrace had begun. Of course, neither Newt nor his congress were done. They went on to impeach Clinton, but he came out of that one even more popular.

Bill Clinton not only bested Gingrich – he beat the national debt too.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

From Politico – meet Title X

Primer on Title X: the fund behind the Planned Parenthood rider

With hours remaining before a government shutdown, Title X has become the most-talked about title in D.C. since “Game Change,” but what exactly is it?

House Republicans say there’s no long-term budget deal without defunding it; Senate Democrats, like Dianne Feinstein of California, say the GOP is using the policy point as a way to “really sock it to women.” Many have referred to repealing the measure as defunding “Planned Parenthood” — but that’s not quite the entire picture.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the umbrella of organizations funded by Title X extends far beyond Planned Parenthood. In 2008, 88 grantees provided family planning services to 5 million women and men through 4,500 clinics, and other health centers and nonprofits.

According to a fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues, of the 36 million women who needed contraception in 2008, 17.4 million used publicly funded services.

Additionally, Title X only provided for 12 percent of public funds made available for such care. Medicaid, by contrast, accounted for 71 percent.

Title X was approved in 1970, championed on the Hill by former President and then-Congressman George H.W. Bush and signed into law by Richard Nixon.

“We need to make population and family planning household words.” Bush said in 1969 when the legislation was being debated. “We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather are using it as a political steppingstone. If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter.”

CSpan has an exquisite ear

Just got home and checked in with CSPAN 2 to see in whose hands rest the fate of the nation this hour. Over visuals of tweets from the floor, CSpan is broadcasting the pianoforte (or whatever) sound of The Keystone Cops.

The adults have left the room.

Okay, so our one-story-at-a-time-all-the-time news media are obsessed with the play by play of ‘will they or won’t they?’. Will they pass the 2010-11 budget? Will they pass a continuing resolution? 

Whatever they pass – and they’ll pass something – it takes us to October. So the work on the  2011-12 budget needs to be underway now. And in July we have the matter of raising the debt limit, which is something I believe we have done pretty much every time.

So something will resolve today’s cliff hanger. What’s the next one?  And the next one?

It has occurred to me that maybe all the Republicans  really want is to keep the government shut down long enough to see Grover Norquist smile. Just once.

He’s a creep and he looks like one

And based on no evidence other than his creepiness, I beleive he diddles little boys and whispers ‘don’t tell’. That’s what I think.