Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Short Takes

Germany says nein to Greece’s proposal to resolve its debt crisis.

President Obama calls for expansion of human rights to fight extremism.

Wal-Mart to pay $10 an hour minimum wage.

Superbug — Nearly 180 people may have been exposed to a deadly virus at a hospital in Los Angeles.

A first for Texas: a same-sex couple were granted a one-time-only marriage license.

Brrrr — Cold wave strikes the Midwest and East Coast.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Plucking The Pigeons

Where there’s gold, there’s fools, and there’s always someone who’s going to con them out of it.

But, until recently, even the more reputable conservative outlets have remained mum about their fellows’ habit of bilking their followers. Fox News even keeps bringing one of the worst offenders, Mike Huckabee, on air over and over, making it all the easier for him to earn the trust of viewers and then to sell them out to snake-oil salesmen.

But there are signs that some of the most rigidly conservative rightwing writers out there are getting sick of it and are ready to speak out. On Tuesday, Jonah Goldberg of the National Review highlighted a report from John Hawkins of Right Wing News that exposed how many of the Tea Party-style PACs are basically taking money gullible donors think is going to elect conservative politicians and using it for basically anything but that. Ten of the 17 PACs examined by Hawkins took in more than $50 million and only spent about $3.6 million of it on campaigns. SarahPAC, run by Sarah Palin, was a typical offender, spending only $205,000 of their $3 million, or about 7 percent of the funds.

Con men — and women — are in every business, from healthcare to computer fixes, but the gullible on the right are an especially ripe target.  After all, if they’ll believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, is Muslim, gay, and is the love child of Martin Luther King and Agatha Christie, then they’ll certainly send $10 to anyone who asks.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Equal Time

I’d be curious to know just how many regular observers of the American political scene are not at all surprised that the newest Republican mantra is that income inequality is bad and that the Democrats are the cause of it.

That would probably be about the same number of people who were shocked to hear that liberals are the real racists, that Christians are the innocent victims of vicious religious persecution by the LGBT community, and that sharks are the true vegetarians of the ocean.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It’s The Little Things

It’s a big deal when a court rules or a state passes a law that allows marriage equality in a state.  The cameras roll, the happy couples embrace on the courthouse steps, the confetti flies, and of course the wingnuts have their pouts.  It is a big deal when fundamental rights are recognized and generations of mistreatment and shaming are put to an end.

The landmark Supreme Court ruling United States v. Windsor in 2013 that overturned the odious Defense of Marriage Act was not about two women getting married.  It was about the surviving spouse’s inheritance rights, the same that would accrue had they been an opposite-sex couple.  That was the ruling that got us where we are with marriage equality today.  It was about more than just getting married; it was about the little things that make up the life that every straight couple takes for granted.

So it’s good to see that while President Obama embraces the idea of marriage equality, he’s also trying to insure that the rest comes along with it.

President Barack Obama’s $4 trillion budget proposal includes a major change to the Social Security Act that would allow same-sex couples to receive spousal benefits even if they live in states that don’t recognize such unions.

Under current law, gay couples who move from one of the 36 states that permit same-sex marriage to one that does not lose the Social Security benefits heterosexual couples enjoy. “Under this proposal, such married couples would have access to these benefits,” according to the budget.

It’s the first time Obama has suggested such a change, though he stated his personal support for gay marriage in 2012. Last year, the president went further, telling the New Yorker’s Jeffery Toobin that he believes the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution “does guarantee” same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

It will take an act of Congress to make it happen, but it’s a start.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Short Takes

Another big snow hits the Northeast.

ISIS claims to have killed another hostage.

U.S. looks at arming Ukraine forces.

Obama budget aims to reduce income inequality.

Mayor Collins of Toledo suffers heart attack; condition critical.

New England won the Super Bowl.

GOP candidates scramble after Romney’s donors.

Florida prisons chief knocks Gov. Scott over law enforcement scandal.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Short Takes

Hezbollah launches attack against Israeli soldiers near the Lebanese border.

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch had her first day of confirmation hearings in the Senate.

Jordan agreed to terms to trade a prisoner for a hostage held by ISIS.

The Fed cites solid job growth in the economy.

Eight lives left: a cat that was believed to be dead rises from the grave.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Short Takes

The blizzard in New England isn’t over yet.

Americans among those killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Libya.

A lot of people, including President Obama, showed up to pay respects in Saudi Arabia.

Consumer confidence is at its highest rating since 2007.

Mormons try to balance marriage equality and the right to discriminate.

Obamacare cost estimate keeps getting smaller.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Look What You Made Me Do

How do you say chutzpah in Kansas?

Gov. Sam Brownback blames his draconian tax cuts and budget deficits on the state legislature.  No, really.

“I proposed a flat tax with a small budget accelerator,” Brownback said Friday during an address to the Great Topeka Chamber of Commerce, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal. “What I got from the Legislature was a naked tax cut with none of the pay-fors.”

Brownback added that he “took it because it was the best we were going to get.”

Yes, apparently they held a gun to his head and said either his brains or his signature would be on the bill.  What choice did he have?

Friday, January 23, 2015

More GOP Minority Outreach

Here we go with the real reason the Republicans don’t want to raise the minimum wage: those people aren’t worth it.

California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said on Thursday that the minimum wage should not be raised because low pay was necessary for minorities and other unskilled workers who were not worth more than $7 an hour.

During an appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, host Greta Brawner asked McClintock if he could get behind a presidential candidate like Mitt Romney, who is one of an increasing number of Republicans saying that the minimum wage should be at least $10.10 an hour.

But McClintock argued that raising the minimum wage would “rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.”

Mr. McClintock sounds like an unskilled worker himself.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Their Sights

Digby notes an interesting phenomenon: certain people get hysterical when there’s an attack that is labeled as terrorism (i.e. Charlie Hebdo).  They want to declare war against international Islam and shred up the Constitution to protect us.  Yet when there’s a school shooting (i.e. Sandy Hook) these same people get all cautious about a rush to judgment and very protective of civil liberties.

Why is that?

I can think of two reasons.  First, to them any connection to Islam — even if it’s tenuous or done by a fringe splinter offshoot of some tiny faction — makes it The Gravest Threat to America.  So the shooter could have dated a girl whose brother once bought a car from a guy who lived next door to a man named Mustaffah and all of a sudden he’s a jihadist.  Or he could claim allegiance to a radical group that is says it is rooted in Islam but is made up of three other guys who are holed up in a studio apartment in Niwot, Colorado, and making meth on the side.  It doesn’t matter; he’s a believer in Islam, therefore all Muslims are terrorists and they should be hunted down.  By that logic, all Christians should be hunted down because David Koresh at Waco claimed to be a Christian.

A school shooter, however, goes in with a gun he bought at a gun show and gets his ammo over the internet.  He shows up at a campus and slaughter ensues.  But it happens in America and he has a copy of American Rifleman sitting on his coffee table when the CSI team shows up to gather evidence.  Now he’s a lone wolf acting on his own using weapons he purchased legally, and while Wayne LaPierre says it’s a tragedy, there’s no reason to suggest that there’s any need to question his right to own thirty rifles, their barrels shined to a steely glow, and any attempt to prevent such future tragedies will destroy America’s dearly-won freedoms.  Just because he — and it’s always a he — was a card-carrying member of the NRA doesn’t mean that all gun owners are capable of mowing down school kids at thirty bullets per second.

So if it’s wrong to demonize an entire community based on the actions of one person or small group of believers, why does that apply to the NRA but not to Islam?  It shouldn’t, but then it’s a lot easier to demonize Other People than it is to piss off the base of a political party and the largest lobbying effort in Washington.

That’s the second reason.  If elected officials weren’t terrorized by the NRA, we’d have Newt Gingrich and the rest of the Chicken Hawks on cable TV demanding that Congress do something about the guns, and if the NRA doesn’t like it, well, they’d have to realize, just as Pope Francis says, that there are limits to freedom.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Life Among the Lowly

Oh, the humanity.

Whiny BabyJPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, reported a 6.6 percent drop in quarterly profit as legal costs exceeded $1 billion in the wake of government probes, leading Chief Executive Jamie Dimon to claim banks were “under assault.”

JPMorgan agreed in November to pay $1 billion in penalties over its conduct in foreign exchange markets. Investigations into that and other areas of the bank’s business, including alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates, are continuing.

“Banks are under assault,” Dimon said on a call with reporters, responding to a question about legal costs.

“We have five or six regulators coming at us on every issue,” he said, taking a less conciliatory tone after admitting last year that he had a “tin ear” when dealing with officialdom.

However, while legal expenses rose to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, from $847 million a year earlier, total legal costs of $2.9 billion for the year were far less than the $11.1 billion recorded in 2013.

Poor Jamie.  He’ll have to sell off one of the houses in the Hamptons to pay for his lawyers.  How can he live like this?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Easy Street

Oh, how rich:

There is little empathy at the top.

Most of America’s richest think poor people have it easy in this country, according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center. The center surveyed a nationally representative group of people this past fall, and found that the majority of the country’s most financially secure citizens (54 percent at the very top, and 57 percent just below) believe the “poor have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.” America’s least financially secure, meanwhile, vehemently disagree — nearly 70 percent say the poor have hard lives because the benefits “don’t go far enough.” Nationally, the population is almost evenly split.

Why the surprising lack of compassion? It’s hard to say. At the very top, the sentiment is likely tied to conservatism, which traditionally bemoans government programs that redistribute wealth, calling them safety nets. Some 40 percent of the financially secure are politically conservative, according to Pew. And conservatives are even more likely to say the “poor have it easy” than the rich — a recent Pew survey found that more than three quarters of conservatives feel that way.

More broadly, the prevalence of the view might reflect an inability to understand the plight of those who have no choice but to seek help from the government. A quarter of the country, after all, feels that the leading reason for inequality in America is that the poor don’t work hard enough.

Madame Defarge, stick to your knitting.

Thursday, January 8, 2015