Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kansas Karma

I feel sorry for my friends who live in Kansas and have had to suffer under the rule of Gov. Sam Brownback.  He’s basically gutted the state budget in the name of Tea Party fiscal purity.

The state began bleeding when the governor and his party stalwarts cut taxes to practically nothing and the expected resurrection of Ronald Reagan did not happen, defying the prophecy that he would magically shower the state with money.  Of course they refused to implement anything to do with the evil federal government plans to socialize their healthcare.

But reality has arrived and now the state facing a massive budget deficit.  And it seems that the only way to fix it is through Obamacare.

Ah, the freude is especially schaden today.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Reading

The Elephant in the Torture Room — Charlie Pierce on why the Senate torture report let the Bush administration off the hook.

The Iraq War always has been the elephant in the room as the investigations into the crimes of the last administration as regards torture were investigated. (Remember the default setting for that White House in its explanation for there having been no WMD’s was that the CIA screwed up and misinformed them.) Hanging this all on the CIA is to poke in the eye the institution wherein work the people who know how the intelligence used to lie this country into a calamitous war was barbered and stove-piped. They know where the memos are. Their memories are very good. They know the phone numbers of many reporters. It behooves the former president and his minions, no matter how unscathed they were left by the Senate report, to stay on the good side of people, even if that means cheering for torture on the television. And there is also one more reason for them to do it, more horrible than all the rest.

John McCain has come right up to the edge of saying it on a couple of occasions since the report was released. Many of the techniques used by this country in torturing its captives were not designed merely to produce actionable intelligence — and the report states clearly that very little of that was forthcoming anyway — but to produce confessions of any kind, whether that was for propaganda purposes or to furnish their captors with a ginned-up casus belli of their own. That was why the North Koreans used sleep deprivation on American GI’s. That was why the North Vietnamese trussed McCain up into stress positions.

I do not want to believe what I am about to write. I think it’s possible that the barbarians in the White House tortured people in order to produce statements they could use to validate further their bullshit case for their bullshit war. Even I don’t want to believe that we were ruled for eight years by that species of monster. If that is the case, however, somewhere at the CIA there’s a memo, and somewhere there’s somebody in a cubicle that knows where the memo is, and who knows the phone number of a reporter. I suspect the Christmas card list at the Cheney household will be lengthy for the next several decades.

Black Lives Didn’t Matter — Ta-Nehisi Coates on the genteel racism at The New Republic.

Earlier this year, [Franklin] Foer edited an anthology of TNR writings titled Insurrections of the Mind, commemorating the magazine’s 100-year history. “This book hasn’t been compiled in the name of definitiveness,” Foer wrote. “It was put together in the spirit of the magazine that it anthologizes: it is an argument about what matters.” There is only one essay in Insurrections that takes race as its subject. The volume includes only one black writer and only two writers of color. This is not an oversight. Nor does it mean that Foer is a bad human. On the contrary, if one were to attempt to capture the “spirit” of TNR, it would be impossible to avoid the conclusion that black lives don’t matter much at all.

That explains why the family rows at TNR’s virtual funeral look like the “Whites Only” section of a Jim Crow-era movie-house. For most of its modern history, TNR has been an entirely white publication, which published stories confirming white people’s worst instincts. During the culture wars of the ’80s and ’90s, TNR regarded black people with an attitude ranging from removed disregard to blatant bigotry. When people discuss TNR’s racism, Andrew Sullivan’s publication of excerpts from Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve (and a series of dissents) gets the most attention. But this fuels the lie that one infamous issue stands apart. In fact, the Bell Curve episode is remarkable for how well it fits with the rest of TNR’s history.

The personal attitude of TNR’s longtime owner, the bigoted Martin Peretz, should be mentioned here. Peretz’s dossier of racist hits (mostly at the expense of blacks and Arabs) is shameful, and one does not have to look hard to find evidence of it in Peretz’s writing or in the sensibility of the magazine during his ownership. In 1984, long before Sullivan was tapped to helm TNR, Charles Murray was dubbing affirmative action a form of “new racism” that targeted white people.

Two years later, Washington Post writer Richard Cohen was roundly rebuked for advocating that D.C. jewelry stores discriminate against young black men—but not by TNR. The magazine took the opportunity to convene a panel to “reflect briefly” on whether it was moral for merchants to bar black men from their stores. (“Expecting a jewelry store owner to risk his life in the service of color-blind justice is expecting too much,” the magazine concluded.)

TNR made a habit of “reflecting briefly” on matters that were life and death to black people but were mostly abstract thought experiments to the magazine’s editors. Before, during, and after Sullivan’s tenure, the magazine seemed to believe that the kind of racism that mattered most was best evidenced in the evils of Afrocentrism, the excesses of multiculturalism, and the machinations of Jesse Jackson. It’s true that TNR’s staff roundly objected to excerpting The Bell Curve, but I was never quite sure why. Sullivan was simply exposing the dark premise that lay beneath much of the magazine’s coverage of America’s ancient dilemma.

[…]

Things got better after Peretz was dislodged. The retrograde politics were gone, but the “Whites Only” sign remained. I’ve been told that Foer was greatly pained by Peretz’s racism. I believe this. White people are often sincerely and greatly pained by racism, but rarely are they pained enough. That is not true because they are white, but because they are human. I know this, too well. Still, as of last week there were still no black writers on TNR’s staff, and only one on its masthead. Magazines, in general, have an awful record on diversity. But if TNR’s influence and importance was as outsized as its advocates claim, then the import of its racist legacy is outsized in the same measure. One cannot sincerely partake in heritage à la carte.

In this sense it is unfortunate to see anonymous staffers accusing TNR’s owner Chris Hughes of trying to create “another BuzzFeed.” If that is truly Hughes’s ambition, then—in at least one important way—he will have created a publication significantly more moral than anything any recent TNR editor ever has. No publication has more aggressively dealt with diversity than BuzzFeed. And not unrelated to this diversity has been a stellar range ofstorytellingand analysis, that could rival—if not best—the journalism in the latest iteration of TNR.

Real Capitolism — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

The banking giant Citigroup announced on Friday that it would move its headquarters from New York to the U.S. Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C., in early 2015.

Tracy Klugian, a spokesperson for Citi, said that the company had leased thirty thousand square feet of prime real estate on the floor of the House of Representatives and would be interviewing “world-class architects” to redesign the space to suit its needs.

According to sources, Citi successfully outbid other firms, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, for the right to move its headquarters to the House floor.

The Citi spokesperson acknowledged that the extensive makeover of the House is expected to cost “in the millions,” but added, “It’s always expensive to open a new branch.”

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Klugian told reporters, “Instead of constantly flying out from New York to give members of Congress their marching orders, Citigroup executives can be right on the floor with them, handing them legislation and telling them how to vote. This is going to result in tremendous cost savings going forward.”

Klugian said that Citi’s chairman, Michael E. O’Neill, will not occupy a corner office on the House floor, preferring instead an “open plan” that will allow him to mingle freely with members of Congress.

“He doesn’t want to come off like he’s their boss,” the spokesperson said. “Basically, he wants to send the message, ‘We’re all on the same team. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get stuff done.’ ”

Doonesbury — Covering an epidemic.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Last Minute Shopping

The spending bill passed with some real turds in it.

The bill faced opposition from GOP conservatives angry that it failed to defund President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions, and from progressive Democrats who strenuously objected to provisions that weakened rules on banks and loosened campaign finance regulations.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by a vote of 219 to 206, less than three hours before a midnight deadline to avert a shutdown. Fifty-seven Democrats joined 162 Republicans in voting for the bill.

[…]

The spending bill created deep and bitter divisions among Democrats, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and allies of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) saying the party must draw a red line against provisions that help big banks if they want to be seen as credible advocates for the middle class. The progressive faction nearly scuttled the bill.

Meanwhile, the White House has been pushing for passage of the spending bill, arguing to Democrats publicly and privately that Republicans would have more leverage in the new Congress if it were to fail.

We’ve been hearing that bipartisanship and compromise is good and that the best we can hope for is that both sides have something to complain about.  Okay, fine, but somehow I don’t think that this last-minute hash-up is what James Madison and the guys envisioned back when they put this system together.  They probably compromised a bit themselves.

Then again, they didn’t have to deal with cable pundits, breaking news banners, and countdown clocks on the TV, either.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

Over and Out

The police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson has quit his job and forgone his severance package.

Wilson’s lawyer says Wilson resigned because threats had been made against other officers and the department because of his continued employment.

Not to worry; Mr. Wilson collected a nice fee for his exclusive interview with ABC News and the money has been coming in from supporters since last August.  My guess is that he will be the new justice correspondent on Fox News.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How Noble

What a piece of work:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) explained on Tuesday that a new policy that could cut off food stamps for thousands of people in his state would be “ennobling” for poor people.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last month that beginning in 2015, it would no longer request a waiver to the federal work requirement for certain people who use the SNAP program. Up to 65,000 single Hoosiers could lose food stamp benefits unless they are working 20 hours a week or attending job training.

Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Pence argued that 50,000 people had joined the Indiana workforce since 2008 so it was time to return to a “core principle” of welfare reform.

Not everyone who gets food stamps is able to work; many of them are children or the disabled or the elderly.  Not everyone who collects food stamps is sitting on their ass watching Wheel of Fortune and snickering at the minimum-wage shlubs who flip burgers.  A lot of the minimum-wage workers can’t work 20 hours a week because they have other obligations such as taking care of an aging or disabled parent, raising children (remember: family values!) or can’t find a job that gives them enough hours to work to pay for the food.

So not everyone who collects food stamps really wants to hear how Gov. Mike Pence is doing them a favor — “ennobling” them — by forcing them to give up one of the safety nets that any civilized nation or society should provide for those who are least able to help themselves.  And it’s hard to feel noble when you’re stealing food from the cat.

To quote Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof:  “I realize it’s no shame to be poor.  But it’s no great honor, either.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

You Think You Have Problems?

Times are tough for the average rich folks.

The wealthy now have a wealth gap of their own, as economic gains become more highly concentrated at the very top. As the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent pulls away from the rest of that group, the superrich are leaving the merely very rich behind. That has created two markets in the upper reaches of the economy: one for the haves and one for the have-mores.

Whether the product is yachts, diamonds, art, wine or even handbags, the strongest growth and biggest profits are now coming from billionaires and nine-figure millionaires, rather than mere millionaires.

“The very wealthy are often the ones pulling the trigger right now, and they have a very big trigger,” said Jim Taylor, a wealth specialist and managing partner of YouGov, the marketing research and survey firm.

Of course, the lesser 1 percenters are still doing just fine. But a closer look at the divergence at the very top rungs of the ladder offers a more detailed view of the drivers of inequality today. And the divide is reshaping the luxury end of the consumer economy.

Certainly there is some assistance we can render these folks.  Maybe if we relieved them of some of their burden by sharing it, perhaps, with others?

Required theatrical footnote from Fiddler on the Roof:

Perchik: Money is the world’s curse.

Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.

Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Close Ties

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi got along really well with lobbyists.

Partners with a powerful Washington, D.C., law firm aren’t registered as Florida lobbyists, but that hasn’t stopped them from wining and dining Attorney General Pam Bondi the past four years to discuss clients.

Bondi dropped suits or declined to investigate cases after numerous behind-the-scenes interactions with the firm, Dickstein Shapiro, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

A Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald review shows none of the partners were registered to lobby in Florida, meaning their advocacy may have violated state law. They won’t be prosecuted unless someone files a sworn complaint with the state.

Cases involving Dickstein Shapiro clients that fizzled in Florida include Accretive Health, a Chicago-based hospital bill collection company shut down in Minnesota for six years because of abusive collection practices; Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit online school that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said had engaged in “unconscionable” sales practices; Herba­life, which had been investigated by federal and state authorities; and online reservation companies, including Travelocity and Priceline, on allegations that they were improperly withholding taxes on hotel rooms booked in the state.

Since 2011, Dickstein Shapiro has contributed $122,060 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, a super PAC that contributed $750,000 to Bondi’s re-election bid. She sits on RAGA’s executive committee.

[…]

It’s not the first time questions have arisen about how Bondi intermingles politics with her official duties.

She persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution in 2013 so she could host a political fundraiser. At about the same time, Bondi accepted $25,000 from Donald Trump three days after a spokeswoman said she would be reviewing a complaint filed by the New York attorney general against Trump’s for-profit schools. Though they’ve received complaints in Florida as well, Bondi’s office has yet to take action.

Look at it this way: she saved Florida taxpayers millions of dollars by not taking them to court, and those companies made millions of dollars by ripping off the people of Florida with scammy products and not paying taxes.  It’s the glibertarian’s dream come true.

The election is in five days.  Pam Bondi will win re-election in a walk.  That’s how we roll in Florida.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

And We’re Tired Of You

Aw, Chris Christie is annoyed at hearing about poor people.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday that he’s “tired” of hearing discussion on the minimum wage and seemed to suggest that a higher minimum wage isn’t something to “aspire to.”

“I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am,” Christie said during an event at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, according to a recording of his remarks by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge.

“I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, ‘You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized,” he added. “Is that what parents aspire to for their children?”

Well, I’m sure sorry that he’s tired of hearing about the minimum wage.  What a way to ruin his perfect day.  You know who else is tired of hearing about the minimum wage?  The mom who has to feed a family with the money she makes earning it, or the dad who has to pay for other things besides just food and shelter such as healthcare for a child, or the guy who has to work two minimum-wage jobs to pay for the long-term care for a disabled parent.

They’re fucking tired of hearing about the minimum wage, and one of the things they aspire to is getting through the day without being lectured on how boring it is to hear about it from someone who couldn’t last a week on minimum wage.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Real Job

Hey, all you people at Burger King: according to Brad Schimel, the Republican candidate for Attorney General in Wisconsin, you don’t have a real job.

“I want every one of our neighbors to have a job again, a well-paid job, so we don’t have to argue about minimum wage for someone working at Burger King,” he said. “Let’s get them a real job.”

But meanwhile, until the pony and roses and rainbows show up, you’ll have to work at a poverty-level wage with no benefits or any kind of future beyond upselling for a large order of fries.  Ain’t that America?