Browsing the blog archives for March, 2014.

Brian Boru’s March

Obama Administration

Something a little more traditional.

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Fields of Athenry


Time for some music.

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Irish Amnesia

Obama Administration

The terminally clueless Paul Ryan’s crusade against free school lunches and other benefit programs is one of the issues that marks the difference between “movement conservatives” and normal people. It’s likely the rabid crew at CPAC ate it up, so to speak, but do the wingnuts really think the average suburban soccer mom voter is angry that children from impoverished families qualify for a bigger lunch subsidy than other children? It’s not like all school lunches aren’t partly subsidized, you know. Does Ryan not know that? Is he calling for an end to all school lunch subsidy? If not, how much subsidy does it take to eat one’s “soul”?

And his recent comments about the work ethic of inner city men were not only racist; they were ignorant. The fact is that entrenched poverty in the U.S. tends to be rural as much as urban. There are exceptions to everything, of course, but if you look at both patterns of poverty and where people who receive food stamps and other benefits are actually living, the highest rates of such benefits tend to be in low population density areas, especially in the South.

I’ve spent enough time in Ryan’s state of Wisconsin to know that parts of Wisconsin are poor, especially in northern Wisconsin where there is less dairy farming and a lot of the jobs are seasonal. If people didn’t get benefits they’d never make it through the winter. And off the Sioux reservations, that area is also almost all white.

Timothy Egan has written before about how Ryan’s “eat the poor” rhetoric repeats the same arguments against helping the Irish that the English made during the famine, but it bears repeating and he’s repeating it

There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs.

But you can’t help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy.

The Irish historian John Kelly, who wrote a book on the great famine, was the first to pick up on these echoes of the past during the 2012 presidential campaign. “Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy,” he wrote then, “is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine — and hurt them badly.”

Preach it, brother Timothy.

Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry, on his father’s side. “I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine,” he said last year during a forum on immigration.

BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod. Centuries of British rule that attempted to strip the Irish of their language, their religion and their land had produced a wretched peasant class, subsisting on potatoes. When blight wiped out the potatoes, at least a million Irish died — one in eight people. …

… the Irish were starving to death at the very time that rich stores of grain and fat livestock owned by absentee landlords were being shipped out of the country. The food was produced by Irish hands on Irish lands but would not go into Irish mouths, for fear that such “charity” would upset the free market, and make people lazy.

It’s not just Ryan. I don’t know what it is about Irish-Americans and wingnuttia, but it seems a disproportionate number of spokesmouths for the Right have Irish names. Off the top of my head — Hannity, O’Reilly, Noonan, Buchanan. Rep. Peter King used to be an IRA supporter, I understand. The Irish “made it” in America thrugh public emplyment (Irish cops and firefighters, anyone?) and labor unions, after all. Are the descendents still trying to prove they are white?

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Stuff to Read

Obama Administration

I’ve passed the 50,000 word mark in The Book and am working on the last chapter, so there will be an end sometime this spring. I’ve got four days left in my Indiegogo Crowd Source campaign, for any of you feeling generous or desiring of an autographed copy of the eventual print-on-demand paperback.

There’s an outbreak of measles in NYC, thanks to anti-vaccine hysteria. I got immunized the old-fashioned way, by coming down with measles when I was 10 or 11 or so, because they didn’t have the vaccine yet. I mostly remember this because I broke out with poison ivy at the same time.

I don’t know if anti-vaccine absurdity is exclusively leftist, but it does strike me that while righties are puritanical about sex, lefties tend to be puritanical about food and health remedies. I don’t know why that is, or which is more annoying.


It’s starting to look like the missing Malaysia jetliner is not missing because of an accident.


Why Nothing Is Truly Alive” — food for thought.

When the Crazy Drifts Toward the Evil” — there’s a lot of The Stupid mixed in there as well.

And speaking of stupid — Bobby Jindal is arguing that Obamacare, particularly expanding Medicaid, hurts the disabled.

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Spy vs. Spy

Obama Administration

Sen. Diane Feinstein has been a knee-jerk apologist for secret government surveillance until this week, when she realized that the government may have been spying on her. Oops!

How do you spy on a spy? In the case of Senate investigators, you do it by adopting some of their methods. During the five year investigation into the CIA interrogation and detention program, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, working in a windowless room at the spy agency’s headquarters, suspected that key documents had been removed from their computer network. Luckily, they had a hard copy. To keep it from being destroyed, Senate sleuths spirited the document from the CIA and put it in a safe in the Hart Senate Office Building. The move set off a chain of events that broke open on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the intelligence committee, accused the CIA of spying on her investigators. CIA Director John Brennan insists the CIA isn’t trying to thwart her investigations. The Justice Department is now conducting two inquiries: one looking into whether the CIA illegally snooped on congressional investigators and another looking into whether those investigators broke the law. The accusations include lying to Congress and to the Justice Department, and spying on congressional investigators to hide what the CIA was doing. Frank Underwood will no doubt be weighing in soon.

I don’t know that anyone’s actually in charge of anything in Washington. It would almost be comforting to think that the Obama Administration is actually directing this, which would mean someone is actually directing it, which means someone might actually be held accountable. But my guess is that the surveillance/security apparatus is becoming its own branch of government, and that’s much worse.

See also Annie Laurie.

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How Obamacare Is Forcing This Poor Oppressed Woman to Save Money

Obama Administration


A Dexter cancer patient featured in a conservative group’s TV ad campaign denouncing her new health care coverage as “unaffordable” will save more than $1,000 this year.

Julie Boonstra, 49, starred last month in an emotional television ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity that implied Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ vote for the Affordable Care Act made her medication so “unaffordable” she could die. …

… The Detroit News and fact checkers last month cast doubt on the accuracy of the TV ad. On Monday, Boonstra acknowledged which health plan she chose, offering the first evidence of cost savings..

Boonstra said Monday her new plan she dislikes is the Blue Cross Premier Gold health care plan, which caps patient responsibility for out-of-pocket costs at $5,100 a year, lower than the federal law’s maximum of $6,350 a year. It means the new plan will save her at least $1,200 compared with her former insurance plan she preferred that was ended under Obamacare’s coverage requirements. …

…Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year, she previously told The News. It didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses.

By contrast, the Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.

When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”

“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.

So, basically, she opposes the ACA because she is extremely stupid.

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Righties ♥ Pooty

Obama Administration

Eschaton has a round up of the Right’s expressions of love for Vladamir Putin. You can almost feel their hearts, and other body parts, fluttering over Pooty’s assumed manliness. When Mike Huckabee says “I know the only time that Vladimir Putin shivers is when he takes his shirt off in a cold Russian winter,” I want to tell him he and Vlad should just get a room.

Some of this infatuation is gratitude for doing something to make President Obama look bad, but there’s more to it. I found an article from last September on The Secret American Sub-culture of Putin Worshipers that’s fairly disturbing.

Three months ago, Americans for Putin, a Facebook group, sprang up “for Americans who admire many of the policies and the leadership style of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin” and think he “sounds better than the Republicrat establishment.” The group has an eight-point policy platform calling for “a unified [American] national culture,” a “firm stance against Israeli imperialism,” and an opposition to the political correctness it says dominates Washington. Though that group is relatively small (167 likes as of Wednesday afternoon, ticking up every few hours), the Obama’s-so-bad-Putin-almost-looks-good sentiment can be found on plenty of conservative message boards. Earlier this year, when Putin supposedly caught—and kissed—a 46-pound pike fish, posters on Free Republic, a major grassroots message board for the Right, were overwhelmingly pro-Putin:

“I wonder what photoup [sic] of his vacation will the Usurper show us? Maybe clipping his fingernails I suppose or maybe hanging some curtains. Yep manly. I can’t believe I’m siding with Putin,” one wrote. “I have President envy,” another said. “Better than our metrosexual president,” said a third. One riffed that a Putin-Sarah Palin ticket would lead to a more moral United States.

The Americans for Putin facebook page still isn’t that popular. But see also Michael Tomasky, “Why Neocons Love the Strongman“:

Now of course these people can’t openly cheer for Putin, because that would constitute outright treason, but they can test treason’s perimeter fence and probe it for weaknesses. I don’t quite think they want war with Russia; Russia ain’t Iraq. And obviously I don’t believe that if it came to that they’d be against their own country.

But that said, they are certainly undermining the commander in chief at a pivotal moment—not merely protesting his policies, but denouncing his character.

And don’t we suspect that they’re doing this because there’s a little part of them that wants a full-blown crisis? Of course there is. A crisis would vindicate them. A crisis would make the neocons—at risk of being flushed down history’s toilet by Rand Paul, who’s suddenly being called “front runner” by more and more people—relevant inside the Republican Party again.

Tim F. asks why authoritarians love strong daddy figures, and points to this 2008 interview of Jeff Sharlet on his portrait of the right-wing Christian group “The Family” and its naked admiration for … Hitler? Um, yeah.

See also Republican Hypocrites Attack Obama For Not Being a Thug Like Putin.

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Bartcop, 1953-2014


One of our own has passed. See more.

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Ugly Things That Crawl Out From Dark Places

Obama Administration

At Salon, Katie McDonough posted excerpts from court briefs filed in support of the “Hobby Lobby” suit that claims the contraception coverage mandate is a violation of the employers’ religious liberty. Since these are public documents I thought I’d just post it all here and give my reactions.

Beverly Lahaye Institute

Relying entirely on the 2011 IOM Report, the Government asserts that by increasing access to contraceptives, the Mandate will promote public health by decreasing unintended pregnancies. At the risk of stating the obvious, getting pregnant is not like catching a contagious disease.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it is well documented that there is a strong correlation between use of birth control and reduced numbers of unwanted pregnancies as well as fewer abortions.

If the Government intends to broaden the definition of ‘women’s health and well-being,’ and thus the goal of the Mandate, to include non-health related concepts such as emotional well-being and economic prosperity,

Yeah, it’s not like pregnancy or other gynecological issues treated by birth control pills have anything to do with women’s health.

then it should likewise have considered the documented negative effects the widespread availability of contraceptives has on women’s ability to enter into and maintain desired marital relationships.

Men don’t want to marry women who aren’t breeders?

This in turn leads to decreased emotional wellbeing and economic stability (out-of-wedlock childbearing being a chief predictor of female poverty), as well as deleterious physical health consequences arising from, inter alia, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence.

So if we let women use birth control, they are more likely to have out of wedlock children, get STDs, and get their teeth knocked out by thuggish boyfriends? And didn’t you just say that touchy-feely stuff isn’t a legitimate women’s health issue?

American Freedom Law Center

Thus, it has come to pass that the widespread use of contraceptives has indeed harmed women physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually — and has, in many respects, reduced her to the “mere instrument for the satisfaction of [man’s] own desires.” Consequently, the promotion of contraceptive services — the very goal of the challenged mandate — harms not only women, but it harms society in general by ‘open[ing] wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.’

Yeah, before 1960, when they invented The Pill, there were no cheating spouses or rape or prostitution or any of that stuff, and women were respected by men for their minds and good character. (/snark)

Responsible men and women cannot deny this truth.

Call me irresponsible, then. At least I’m not stupid.

Eberle Communications Group, Inc., D&D Unlimited Inc., Joyce Meyer Ministries, Southwest Radio Bible Ministry, Daniel Chapter One, U.S. Justice Foundation, Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, Institute on the Constitution, Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Policy Analysis Center

Stripped of its “evidence-based” facade, the IOM Committee Report encourages amoral recreational sex without reproductive consequences to be the optimal “quality of life” and “life course orient[ation]” for all American women.

(Raises hand) Does this mean that postmenopausal women are all supposed to be nuns?

The IOM Committee’s message is unmistakable. Female sexual activity without risk of pregnancy is to be encouraged by the contraceptive mandate, not only by making a wide range of contraceptives available, but by an education and counseling program designed to ensure that more and more women do not get pregnant unless “at the point of conception” they want to.

Yeah, it’s not like women should have any say about whether we get pregnant or not. Let us control our own reproduction, and the next thing you know we’ll be wearing pants and flying airplanes and demanding the vote.

This mandate is grounded in the “opinion” of the IOM’s 16-member committee that a woman’s “health and well-being” are adversely affected by the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

We’re all just cows. We’re supposed to drop our calves every spring and not make a fuss about it.

Westminster Theological Seminary

[The] government’s argument goes, the Mandate promotes women’s health because making abortifacients cost-free will enable women who want to be sexually active but do not want to be pregnant will avoid the risks of self-destructive behaviors by stopping pregnancies that may later contribute to their engaging in such behaviors.

I’m not even sure what that says. I think there’s a syntax error in there somewhere. And I take it all birth control methods are “abortifacients.”

The motivation by those using abortifacients is to avoid pregnancy, not to avoid their own supposed, possible, subsequent self-destructive behaviors that might attend an unwanted pregnancy.

In other words, if women didn’t make such a Big Bleeping Deal about unwanted pregnancy, everything would be just fine.

Therefore, by contending that using abortifacients will guard against the adverse health effects of self-destructive behaviors by avoiding pregnancy, the government, in effect, is purporting to protect women’s health without their knowing it.

This makes sense only if one assumes all women are colossally stupid.

The Mandate does not purport to protect women from discrimination based on their being women or based on their being pregnant. What it purports to do is to provide women a cost free way to avoid exercising an aspect of their womanhood — their unique capacity to bear children. Promoting gender equality in that way does not, and cannot, legitimize the Mandate. But beyond that, abortifacient use can never achieve gender equality when it comes to pregnancy avoidance. Abortifacients can terminate an existing pregnancy.

The vacuity is strong in this one.

Women Speak for Themselves

It is “demeaning and destructive” to argue that contraception helps women achieve equality. Most women aspire to and do rear children deserve social support.

Women should have equal opportunity only to stay barefoot and pregnancy and not have anything to say about it. Also, more syntax issues.

Make of all this what you will.

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Icky Issa

Congress, Obama Administration

House Democrats issued a strongly worded motion condemning Rep. Darrell Issa for his thuggish behavior. If you haven’t heard about it already, Dana Milbank provides detailed account of what happened yesterday at the House Oversight and Government Reform panel at which Issa made goons seem genteel.

Joan Walsh provides some information I did not know:

Issa had once again called former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner to testify before the committee, knowing she was going to again use her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But what Issa didn’t reveal is that Lerner’s attorney had offered last month to share her answers to the committee’s questions via what’s called a “proffer.” That’s when the subject of an investigation reveals the rough outlines of what they know, which can also help determine whether they deserve immunity from prosecution (in order to get them to share more). But Issa rejected the proffer and staged a show trial designed to have Lerner take the Fifth again, in front of television cameras and a packed hearing room.

The Republicans ought to be embarrassed, but of course, they aren’t.

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