Friday, September 30, 2011

Early Halloween Friday: Zombie Jamboree

Latest Attack On Michelle Obama: She Went To Target

From Media Matters:

Right-wing media have attacked Michelle Obama for going shopping at Target, claiming she went " 'incognito,' Lady Gaga-style" and asking, "Who does she think she's fooling?" Right-wing media have previously attacked the first lady for everything from promoting health initiaitves to wearing a red dress at a state dinner.

Michelle Obama Visits Target ...

Washington Post: "Hey Isn't That...? Michelle Obama At Target." From a September 29 post onThe Washington Post's Reliable Sources blog:
Michelle Obama shopping at Target Thursday. An AP photographer (small world!) happened upon the first lady at the Alexandria store, pushing a cart and carrying bags.
Michelle Obama Target
Michelle Obama, center, with an unidentified aide -- we're assuming, anyway. Who else would be working two BlackBerrys at Target? [The Washington Post, 9/29/11, emphasis original]

... And The Right-Wing Media Attack

Limbaugh: "It Has Gotten So Bad, They Had To Send Moochelle Out There In A Lady Gaga-Type Getup. She Went Shopping At Target." During the September 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh said: "It has gotten so bad, they had to send Moochelle out there in a Lady Gaga-type getup. She went shopping at Target." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/30/11, via Media Matters]
Malkin: Obama Went To Target "About As 'Incognito' As Lady Gaga." In a September 29 blog post, Michelle Malkin attacked Obama for shopping at Target, writing that Obama was "about as 'incognito' as Lady Gaga's outfit at her younger sister's graduation." Malkin went on to call the first lady "the glamour queen" and further stated that Obama's Target visit was "[t]o counter the negative diva buzz" and that it "[l]ooks like she left the bling at home." [, 9/29/11, via Media Matters]
The Blaze: "What Luck!" Obama "Wasn't Snapped Without Make-Up, With Messy Hair Wearing Sweatpants To Do Her 'Everywoman' Shopping." A September 30 post on The Blaze stated:
Our First Lady has sooome luck. Not only is her hubby the leader of the free world, but just as the Obama camps [sic] is desperately looking for a way to relate to America's Average Joes, a staff photographer with the Associated Press just so happened to be there to document her recent Target shopping jaunt.
What luck! Obama also wasn't snapped without make-up, with messy hair wearing sweatpants to do her "everywoman" shopping... like some of us who will remain nameless.
Exit question: I could see a quick stop in at the local Target store as something that might happen out on the campaign trail.  But who really believes Michelle Obama left the White House to pop in at the Alexandria, Va., Target because the East Wing ran out of paper towels? [The Blaze, 9/30/11, emphasis in original]
Weasel Zippers: "Honestly, Who Does She Think She's Fooling?" A September 29 Weasel Zippers post titled, "Pic of the Day," stated, "See, Mooch is just like us!" and showed a photograph of the first lady at Target. The post went on to ask, "Honestly, who does she think she's fooling?" [Weasel Zippers,9/29/11]
Beck And Co-Hosts Mock Obama For Going To Target. On his September 30 radio program, Glenn Beck and his co-hosts mocked Obama for going to Target and asked, "Did you see the agonizing photos of Michelle Obama as a Target shopper?" [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 9/30/11]

Right-Wing Media Figures Have Consistently Attacked Michelle Obama

Right-Wing Lip Readers' Michelle Obama Derangement Syndrome. Following a ceremony on the 10th anniversary of 9-11, various right-wing blogs and The Washington Times claimed that Michelle Obama likely disparaged the American flag during a memorial ceremony. [Media Matters, 9/14/11]
Washington Examiner Blamed Obama's "Let's Move!" Campaign For Pedestrian Deaths. A January Washington Examiner story claimed that the first lady's "Let's Move!" campaign could be linked to an increase in pedestrian deaths. The Washington Examiner article was later promoted by numerous right-wing media outlets. [Media Matters1/20/11]
For the truth behind The Washington Examiner's article, SEE HERE.
Wash. Times: Michelle Obama "Doesn't Seem All That Happy With The Man She Married 19 Years Ago." In an August 28 Washington Times op-ed, Joseph Curl wrote that Michelle Obama "doesn't seem all that happy with the man she married 19 years ago." Curl also asked, "Man, how miserable is Michelle Obama?" [The Washington Times, 8/29/11, via Media Matters]
The Blaze Claimed "Michelle Obama Might Have Taken The 'Happy' Out Of McDonald's Happy Meals." A July 26 post on The Blaze stated:
A child could once feel excitement over hearing a parent utter those beautiful words: "honey, we're going to McDonald's for a Happy Meal." But those carefree days are over and that sense of childhood wonderment and abandon is about to be seriously curbed by a new McDonald's policy that cuts an order of fries in half, throws apple slices, raisins and pineapple chunks around as if they were ketchup, and just generally makes Happy Meals "healthier," and, less happy. And even though the apples are reportedly not well-received by customers, guess what? McDonald's is forcing the fruit in its Happy Meals anyway. Whether you want it or not.
And what's more, politics, perhaps even the White House itself, could be to blame.
So after all the years of satisfied customers "lovin' it," it is political pressure, including First Lady Michelle Obama's war on childhood obesity, that reportedly forced McDonald's hands.
McDonald's: another casualty in the Nanny State's war on personal choice, or is the fast food giant bringing this on themselves? Will the new, and perhaps not improved, McDonald's menu affect your decision to patronize the long-time burger institution? [The Blaze, 7/26/11, via Media Matters]
For the truth about McDonald's decision to make its Happy Meals healthier, SEE HERE.
Right-Wing Media Spun "Help From The Media" Comment About Obama Children To Suggest Media Bias.  The Drudge Report and Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism both attacked Michelle Obama's statement during a CNN interview that "we have help from the media" to suggest media bias. Obama was actually thanking the media for respecting her children's privacy. [Media Matters6/25/11]
Right-Wing Media Stooped To Suggesting Michelle Obama Is Fat.  Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing media figures rallied against Obama's "Let's Move!" fitness and nutrition campaign by attacking her eating habits and calling her fat. [Media Matters, 2/14/112/21/11]
Right-Wing Media Attacked Obama's Dress Choice For State Dinner. Right-wing media attacked Obama for wearing a red dress to a White House state dinner, suggesting she did so to honor "Commie Red China." [Media Matters, 1/20/11]

Romney and Perry: Wrong on Jobs and Wrong for Michigan

From The Michigan Democratic Party

Former Representative Bart Stupak and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer Respond to GOP 2012 Candidates’ Failed Economic Policies
LANSING – Republican 2012 candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry may be traveling to Michigan tomorrow to deliver speeches at a political conference, but neither candidate has a plan that will deliver what Michigan needs most: jobs.
On Friday afternoon, former Michigan Representative Bart Stupak and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer responded to Romney and Perry’s economic agendas, highlighting how both would be bad for Michigan workers and families.
“Both of these guys claim to be job creators, but their records speak for themselves. Mitt Romney’s private sector record was made up of corporate takeovers and layoffs. Rick Perry’s most recent action on jobs was laying-off tens of thousands of teachers in his own state,” said former Representative Bart Stupak. “When the auto industry was struggling, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed titled ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’ Rick Perry was quick to jump on the bandwagon, and he’s still railing against the effort that saved the auto industry and created thousands of jobs.”
“For more than 70 years, Americans have known that a lifetime of work meant the guarantee of Social Security after they retired,” said MDP Chair Mark Brewer. “Rick Perry calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme and he argues that we should abolish it. Mitt Romney claims he’s fighting for future generations of seniors, but in reality he’d just turn your money over to the same Wall Street bankers who drove our economy to the brink. Imagine what would have happened if your retirement depended solely on the stock market over the past few years.”
Both Romney and Perry will address the Michigan Republican Party’s exclusive policy conference on Mackinac Island this Saturday.

Democrats call for investigation of Justice Clarence Thomas

By Eric W. Dolan/Raw Story

Twenty House Democrats called Thursday on the U.S. Judicial Conference to formally request that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate Justice Clarence Thomas's non-compliance with the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.
Justice Thomas indicated on his annual financial disclosure forms that his wife had received no income since he joined the bench in 1991, despite the fact that his wife had in fact earned nearly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation from 2003 to 2007.
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires Supreme Court justices to disclose their spouse's income.
"To believe that Justice Thomas didn't know how to fill out a basic disclosure form is absurd," Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said. "It is reasonable, in every sense of the word, to believe that a member of the highest court in the land should know how to properly disclose almost $700,000 worth of income."
"To not be able to do so is suspicious, and according to law, requires further investigation. To accept Justice Thomas's explanation without doing the required due diligence would be irresponsible."
The letter (PDF) comes a day after President Barack Obama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, his landmark health reforms.
Seventy-four Members of Congress in February signed a letter calling for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from cases involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because of his family's financial ties to groups dedicated to lobbying against it.
In response, Justice Thomas released his new financial disclosure form in May. It indicated his wife received a $150,000 salary from the group Liberty Central in 2010. The group, which she co-founded, fights to repeal health care reform, among other things.
The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law.

In Response To A String Of Sexual Assaults, New York Police Tell Women To Cover Up Instead Of Catching The Attacker

By Marie Diamond/Think Progress

In response to a string of at least 10 unsolved sexual assaults in Brooklyn, New York police are reportedly stopping women on the street who are wearing clothing they say is revealing and advising them to cover up if they don’t want to be raped. The Wall Street Journal reports on the disturbing message police officers are allegedly spreading:
Lauren, a South Slope resident, was walking home three blocks from the gym on Monday when she was stopped. The 25-year-old, who did not want her last name to be used, was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when she claims a police officer asked if she would stop and talk to him. He also stopped two other women wearing dresses. [...]
He pointed at my outfit and said, ‘Don’t you think your shorts are a little short?‘” she recalled. “He pointed at their dresses and said they were showing a lot of skin.”
He said that such clothing could make the suspect think he had “easy access,”said Lauren. She said the officer explained that “you’re exactly the kind of girl this guy is targeting.”
The New York City Police Department did not deny that officers were stopping women to talk to them about their clothing, but reasoned, “They are simply pointing out that as part of the pattern involving one or more men that the assailant(s) have targeted women wearing skirts.” But however well-intentioned, focusing on women’s choices — rather than the attackers’ — is just another way of blaming potential victims. It’s wrong to suggest that women are responsible for the actions of the attacker, or can somehow control whether they are targeted or raped.
Jessica Silk, the founder of a community group formed in the wake of the attacks, Safe Slope, criticizes the reported tactic as “completely inappropriate.” She says that instead of discouraging women from wearing certain types of clothing, police should be sending the message “Here are ways you can protect yourself.”
Many women in the neighborhood, who are already frightened and taking steps to protect themselves, are protesting that their clothing choices shouldn’t even be part of the discussion. Lauren, one of the women who was stopped, asks, “Where do you draw the line? I can’t wear shorts?” She says she thanked the officer but said she would prefer that he focus on catching the perpetrators, rather than scrutinizing women’s appearance.

Note To GOP And The Media: Buffett Did Not Disagree With The Buffett Rule

By Pat Garofalo/Think Progress

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett appeared on CNBC today, where, of course, he was asked about the Obama administration’s “Buffett rule,” which stipulates that millionaires should not pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families. Buffett said he is happy to have lent his name to the administration’s push:
Q: Are you happy you said yes [to having your name on the Buffett rule]?
BUFFETT: Sure, I wrote about it.
Q: Are you happy with the way it’s been described? Is the program that the White House has presented — a million dollars and over — your program?
BUFFETT: Well, the precise program, I don’t know what their program will be. My program will be on the very high incomes that are taxed very low. Not just high incomes, some guy making $50 million a year playing baseball, his taxes won’t change. Make $50 million a year appearing on television, his income won’t change. But if they make a lot of money and they pay a very low tax rate, like me, it would be changed by a minimum tax that would only bring them up to what other people pay.
Watch it:
Somehow, the media (goaded by Republican misinformation?) have taken this to mean that Buffett does not support the Buffett rule, which is only a principle and not, at the moment, a specific proposal. But Buffett was asked repeatedly if he disagreed with the rule and never said that he did — he merely pointed out that the specific idea he has been promoting, from which the Buffett rule grew out of, is a minimum tax rate for the ultra-wealthy.
Some seem to be tripped up by Buffett’s saying that an athlete making $50 million wouldn’t see his or her taxes go up. But that’s entirely consistent with the Buffett rule, since wages that athletes earn are taxed as income (at 35 percent), not as an investment (and therefore at 15 percent) like much of Buffett’s income. It’s that break on investment income that, in large part, allows the wealthy to pay lower tax rates
Later in the interview, Buffett explained that he is not sure that he will support everything in the American Jobs Act, President Obama’s plan to spur job creation. But that was distinct fromthe question regarding the Buffett rule. When he was asked if he disagreed with the President’s plan to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year (which has nothing to do with the Buffett rule), Buffett said “no, no, no, no.”
Buffett also said he is “supportive of the action” Obama is trying to take to put people back to work. So for those trying to turn this into a “Buffett v. Obama” story, as Mitt Romney would say, “nice try.”
TPM lays out how the false version of the Buffett story spread on Twitter.
During an earlier interview on CNN, Buffett not only said that “there’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won,” but implied that the Buffett rule should also apply to millionaires.

Breaking Their Promise To Focus On Job Creation, House GOP Proposes Slashing Job Training Programs

By Marie Diamond/Think Progress

House Republicans yesterday released their draft budget proposal for labor, health, and human service, which in one fell swoop revives the assault on all their favorite bugaboos, including Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, the National Labor Relations Board, and President Obama’s health care reform law. The GOP also targeted heat subsidies that prevent low-income families from freezing in the winter, and slashed education funding by $2.4 billion. The bill also eliminates the Administration’s “Race to the Top” education reform program and reduces eligibility for Pell Grants for low-income college students.
Perhaps most surprisingly for a party that claims to be focused on job creation, the GOP budgetreduces funding for job training programs that give the unemployed the skills they need to find work in an ailing economy:
Employment Training Administration (ETA) – The legislation provides the ETA with $7.5 billion in new discretionary budget authority – $2.2 billion (-23%) below last year’s level and $2.1 billion (-22%) below the President’s request. Much of this reduction is due to the transition of employment and training programs to a federal fiscal year and the elimination of $2.4 billion in advance appropriations for the 2013 fiscal year.
Slashing funding for these training programs by nearly a quarter will deprive thousands of workers of a better chance to find employment. The bill also cuts the Department of Labor’s funding by $2.6 billion and “increases oversight” of job training programs by requiring the GAO to conduct a study on their cost-effectiveness — a transparent pretext for further diminishing the programs. The budget also laughably claims to “foster a pro-job growth environment” through a number of anti-union measures.
The national unemployment rate remains above 9 percent and 25 million Americans are unemployed or can’t find full-time work. Yet this is not the first time congressional Republicans have tried to zero out job training programs.
In February the plan proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — and approved by almost the entire GOP caucus — gutted federal job training funding by nearly 50 percent. Republicans’ preoccupation with abolishing these programs illustrates that their talk about creating jobs is nothing more than empty rhetoric to conceal a pro-corporate agenda.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fox's "Straight News" Joins In The Fearmongering About Privacy Of Health Care Records

 by Marcus Feldman/Media Matters

Fox's supposedly "straight news" division decided to join its opinion programming in fearmongering that the privacy of Americans' medical records is being compromised by the Affordable Care Act.
On yesterday's America Live, Megyn Kelly convened a panel that included a Fox "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Marc Siegel to discuss an proposed rule by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The proposal would allow the HHS or state authorities to collect raw data from patients in order to accurately gauge the risk pools for the health care exchanges being set up by the Affordable Care Act. Fox however, ascribed far more nefarious implications to the proposal.
And because no misinformation about the Affordable Care Act ever actually dies, Siegel -- a serial health care reform misinformer -- and Fox contributor Andrea Tantaros used the HHS rule to drag out the old chestnut that senior citizens should live in fear of the Independent Payments Advisory Board created by the Affordable Care Act.
The panel, too busy stoking fears of Big Brother bureaucracy, failed to mention that in its call for comments about its proposed rule, HHS went to great lengths to acknowledge patient privacy risks and discuss potential avenues to mitigate risk.
From HHS' proposed rule:
We recognize this approach may raise concerns related to consumer privacy and standard submission formats. Accordingly, we propose national standards to address each of these issues. We seek comment on the proposed approach, as well as comments on the potential advantages and disadvantages of the alternative approaches.
In paragraph (b)(3), to address consumer privacy concerns, we propose that States must utilize specific privacy standards in its data collection risk adjustment procedures. We solicit comments on whether submission of issuers' rate setting rules should be required.
Furthermore, any data used by the HHS or the states would be subject to de-identification so as to ensure the privacy of patients:
Uses of risk adjustment data. The State, or HHS on behalf of the State, must make relevant claims and encounter data collected under risk adjustment available to support claims-related activities as follows:
(1) Provide HHS with de-identified claims and encounter data for use in recalibrating Federally-certified risk adjustment models;
At the end of the segment, Siegel and Tantaros once again trotted out the oft-used right-wing claimthat senior citizens are going to lose out because of the creation of the Independent Payment  Advisory Board (IPAB) to help control Medicare costs:
TANTAROS: I don't mean to scare, I know there's a lot of seniors watching now, but the independent panel that the president put together for Medicare, they're going to have a lot of senior's records anyway because this panel of twelve bureaucrats is going to be deciding what care Medicare patients can get, it's already the law of the land, it should be a very big concern.
SIEGEL: That's a great point Andrea's making now, because the information, once they glean it, is going to be used to decide one treatment better than another, what treatment should be approved, what test should be approved.
In fact, the Affordable Care Act says that  IPAB proposals "shall not include any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits."
But according to Fox's "straight news" division, you should be afraid, very afraid.

The poor and working poor lose another battle in class warfare

Communications Guru/blogging for Michigan

Michigan Republicans and the Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Maura Corrigan has opened another front in the ongoing war on the poor and working poor; this time with rules that will kick more than 15,000 people off federal food assistance on Oct. 1.
DHS changes its eligibility rules to kick anyone off with assets greater than $5,000, and the total value of all family vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, all-terrain vehicles and recreational vehicles cannot exceed $15,000. Every dollar over $15,000 counts against the $5,000 limit.
The new Bridge Magazine from the Michigan Center has an excellent article on this, and it points out that this was another knew-jerk reaction from the GOP-controlled Legislature. The reporter points out that when Auburn resident Leroy Fick won $1 million in the Michigan lottery, 15,000 people lost their food stamps.
Fick actually was honest and called his DHS caseworker within a week to say he had won the lottery and to turn in his Bridge Card, but he was told he still qualified for food stamps because food assistance is based only on income. Because Fick had chosen to take a lump-sum payment of about $850,000, instead of monthly payments spread over 20 years, his winnings were considered an asset, not income. The media got hold of the story, and it sparked outrage; Republicans used it to continue their class warfare.
It makes sense to disqualified lottery winners, but a family going through temporary tough times will be SOL unless they sell most of the stuff they worked hard to earn. This move comes on the heels of news that thepoverty rate in Michigan jumped 20 percent since 2007, and Republicans are hell-bent on shredding the social safety net.
The caseload for food assistance dropped from March to April of this year by nearly 24,000 cases; the first decrease from the previous quarter in many years despite the bad economy and Michigan having the third worst unemployment rate in the country. That’s because Corrigan took food stamps away from 30,000 Michigan college students in August.
But there is more. In this economy the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature passed a bill in July limiting lifetime welfare benefits at 48 months and immediately throwing 12,000 families into even deeper poverty. When the bill goes into effect on Oct. 1, some 12,600 families with children will lose the paltry $510 a month they now receive, giving Michigan the honor of having the harshest time limits on cash assistance in the Midwest.
The Legislature also reduced the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor earlier this year after failing to eliminate it completely. In March the Governor signed a bill that cut unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, making Michigan the only state in the country to reduce unemployment benefits at a time when unemployment is at the highest it has been in many years.
This is class warfare, not math, and the working class continues to lose badly. Gov. Rick Snyder has said “job 1 is jobs,” but not a single jobs bill has been introduced in the Legislature that was swept in on the jobs mantra. Instead, all they have done is make the working class more poor and gone after social issues; like so-called “partial birth abortion” and labor unions.

Columnist offers to fund drug tests for Florida lawmakers

By David Edwards/Raw Story

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday that he would be willing to pay for drug tests for the Florida lawmakers who voted to drug test welfare recipients.
“Interestingly, the governor’s pee-in-the-cup mandate doesn’t apply to the one bunch that whizzes away more tax dollars than anyone else — the legislators who pass such useless laws,” Hiassenwrote in a recent column. “I say line up all 160 of ‘em for a patriotic whiz-fest at the Capitol clinic. You think more than 2.5 percent might test positive? Let’s find out. And I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket. Seriously.”
Welfare repents were “an easy target,” he explained during an interview with Maddow Wednesday. “This is class warfare. This is picking on the folks who happen to be unemployed, especially the ones with children. And they are testing at such a lower rate than the general population. The most recent federal drug survey shows national drug use at about 8.9 percent — almost nine percent. These people are living like monks compared to them.”
“If you get a majority — close to a majority [of lawmakers] saying yes, I would please like to be there along with a camera crew if you don’t mind,” Maddow said.
“Yeah, but the deal is all or nothing,” Hiaasen remarked. “That’s what they do to the applicants for the welfare fund. It’s all or nothing. Everybody’s got to do it. So, all 160 of these folks have to stand there with their little cup and do the deed. And if the lab sends me a bill, I’ll send a check.”
Watch this video from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Sept. 28, 2011.