A Confluence of Events

I was sort of hoping somebody was going to hide marijuana joints all over my apartment for me to find and smoke tomorrow, but I doubt it’s going to happen. :(

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The Millionaire Party

Monopoly Man

Tonight on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show Prof. Dorian Warren of Columbia University (citing the book White Collar Government by Nicholas Carnes) wondered aloud what it would be like if the millionaires formed their own political party, a party representing just 3 percent of Americans.

  • The Millionaire Party would already occupy the White House.
  • They would control the House of Representatives.
  • They would have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
  • And the Millionaires would have a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.

While there is no such thing as the Millionaire Party, does it matter that the wealthiest Americans set the tax rates for the wealthy, that white-collar professionals choose the minimum wage for blue-collar workers, and that people who have always had health insurance decide whether or not to help those without? Could be.

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Will Obamacare lead to single-payer?

Markos Moulitsas argues it will:

Had Republicans embraced their Heritage-devised plan, worked with Democrats to best shape it in their mold, then accepted this market-based approach in bipartisan fashion, Obamacare’s numbers would look much better. And if overwhelming majorities approved of the plan, any hope of future progress on the issue would be dead in the water. Republicans might not have their ideal (i.e. screw the uninsured), but their CEO buddies would still be living large and they’d still be able to boast of a market-based solution in line with their political ideology.

But with approval of the law still in iffy territory, liberals have room to agitate for further improvements without having to tackle an entrenched and deeply popular law. And with Republicans refusing to allow even minor technical fixes to the law to improve its efficacy, their continued undermining of the law makes it just as easy in the longer term for liberals to push for bigger and broader chances.

There’s a lot taken for granted in these two short paragraphs.  But Markos is absolutely right that by failing to embrace the ACA and do everything in their power to make it work, Republicans have left liberals with the political space to argue in favor of single payer.  Any failure in any part of the ACA provides space to argue for single payer – Republican governors reject Medicaid?  They wouldn’t need to if every American were covered by Medicare for all.  Insurance companies still find ways to cancel policies?  That wouldn’t be an issue if we had  a single payer system.

Here’s my pushback to Markos’ argument: Republicans shut down the government to defund the ACA.  They’ll crash the world economy to prevent single-payer.  More problematically, however, is that the ACA will work well enough that Dems won’t want to take on that bruising political battle again.  We need a Democratic majority in Congress to make the technical adjustments any large law requires, to make the ACA work then to introduce a public option.  At that point, my instincts tell me market forces will end up driving us to single-payer.

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The Brendan Eich Brouhaha

About the only commentary on the Brendan Eich controversy that strikes me as having value is Martin Longman’s postfrom the Washington Monthly today:

The principles are the right of people to not do business with people they don’t like, and the right of two people in love to get married regardless of their genders.  If you can figure out how to respect the first two of those principles without injuring the the second two, let me know.

 

 

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Lions, Christians and Fake Oppression . . . oh my

My schedule has been unbelievably frantic for about six months so my usual blogging habits are taking a beating.

That said, I want to linkfarm a couple great articles.

First, Paul Waldman’s “Thrown to the Lions” from the Prospect:

There have been many odd and interesting developments in American conservatism in the last few years, but there are few that liberals find more incomprehensible than the belief among many conservative Christians that not only are they currently being oppressed for their religious beliefs, but that today’s outrages are but a prelude to a far more vicious and violent crackdown on Christianity that is right around the corner.

Then Martin Longman’s take down at the Washington Monthly of Jim DeMint’s absurd ahistorical frankly fucking stupid reasoning about the Civil War:

There’s a certain splendor to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint’s retelling of the history of the Civil War.  It’s almost as if DeMint and Sarah Palin are both graduates of the same finishing school for garbled buffoonery.  I think this comment belongs on a plaque in the Smithsonian as a living testament to what has become of conservative “thought leaders” in this country.

Then nice piece from Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly:

The Mike Huckabee speech in Iowa that provided the jumping-off point for Paul Waldman’s argument about the limited power of the Christian Right is interesting in its own right. It also strikes me as relevant to the disagreement I seem to be having with Jonathan Chait about the distinction I’ve made between objective racist policies and arguments and the subjective state of mind of those who promote them.

I like Kilgore’s piece because he touches on an idea I’ve been pondering with regard to marriage equality – lots of people declare themselves unbigoted and say they have no problem with gay folk, yet support policies which objectively harm gay persons.  In a sense, it gets back to a video I shared ages ago, it’s not what’s in your heart, it’s that thing you said or did that matters.

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Cliven Bundy on Faux News


Note: Original video was taken down off YouTube. This is from Cenk Uygur.

Via Media Matters:

Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, has been fighting the government over grazing rights on public land for nearly a quarter century. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay government fees required to allow his cattle to exploit public lands. In 1998, the government issued a court order telling Bundy to remove his cows from the land, as part of an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise located there. And in July 2013, a federal court ordered Bundy to get his cattle off public land within 45 days or they would be confiscated. The confiscation began this month, and the cattle will be sold to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes.

Night after night on Faux News Channel, Sean Hannity sympathizes with Bundy’s claims against the government and cheerleads for a gun battle. Faux News goes ballistic about “takers” unless it’s a right-winger who’s trying to get something for free, and then suddenly not paying your own way is okay or even downright laudable.

UPDATE:
Nevada ‘range war’ protest growing in size after video of encounter with federal agents

UPDATE:
Armed Right-Wing Militia Members Descend On Nevada To Help Rancher Defy Court Order

This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.

Last October, the federal government returned to court and obtained a new order, providing that “Bundy shall remove his livestock from the former Bunkerville Allotment within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.” A third federal court order issued the same year explains that Bundy did not simply refuse to stop trespassing on federal lands — he actually expanded the range of his trespassing. According to the third order, “Bundy’s cattle have moved beyond the boundaries of the Bunkerville Allotment and are now trespassing on a broad swath of additional federal land (the “New Trespass Lands”), including public lands within the Gold Butte area that are administered by the BLM, and National Park System land within the Overton Arm and Gold Butte areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.” The third order also authorizes the federal government to “impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass.”

UPDATE:
Drudge Report Recklessly Hypes Confrontation Between Rancher And Federal Government

Drudge is now promoting an article from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website Infowars.com that suggests BLM and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) are working together to take over the ranch so the Chinese government can turn it into a solar farm.

UPDATE:
Safety Concerns Force Feds To Pull Out In Illegal Cattle Grazing Dispute

UPDATE:
Three Ways That Nevada Rancher And His Right-Wing Militia Supporters Could Wind Up Behind Bars

UPDATE:
Nevada rancher calls on sheriffs to disarm federal agents in cattle dispute

UPDATE:
Militant Former Sheriff Planned To Put Women ‘Up At The Front’ If Violence Erupted In Rancher’s Showdown With Feds

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If Walmart Paid Its Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up?

Via Slate:

In the series “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp,” Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark traces how big-box stores make billions from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. What’s more, the wages of many workers at these stores are so low that the workers themselves qualify for food stamps—which the employees then often spend at those big-box stores.

This video crunches the numbers on how much Walmart, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp economy, might have to raise prices across the board to help a typical worker earn a living wage.

Are safety-net programs designed to help struggling Americans padding corporate profits at taxpayer expense? BTW friends don’t let friends shop at Walmart.

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‘Game of Thrones’ is Back

Game of Thrones

Season 4 of the best show on TV, “Game of Thrones,” began last night. Normally-evil Comcast actually let their customers watch the premiere episode, “Two Swords,” without having to subscribe to HBO. HBO’s online service, HBO GO, crashed.

The story picked up with the melting down of Ned Stark’s heirloom Valyrian sword “Ice,” and ended with Arya Stark recovering “Needle,” the sword that was stolen from her. In between, we caught up with Dany’s dragons and her army marching towards Meereen. Jaime Lannister is back at King’s Landing, but he’s a changed man and it’s not the same as when he left. His brother Tyrion is trying to cope with the arrival from Dorne of Prince Oberyn (aka the Red Viper), seeking revenge. Jon Snow has returned to Castle Black, carrying a warning of imminent attack by the wildling army of Mance Rayder.

If you haven’t seen “Game of Thrones,” you’re missing one of the best TV series ever.

More info:
Everything You Need To Know For ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 4

UPDATE:
Recap: ‘Game of Thrones,’ Season Four, Episode One: “Two Swords”

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Where Is The Dignity In This?

Dogs are pretty clever. They get to have three squares and lots of hugs by treating their masters like Ultra-Kings. This doesn’t always result in respect and sometimes problems arise, but all-in-all, the symbiotic relationship has been proven to work really well for quite a long time.

Not wanting to get any further into philosophical observations I have about dogs, I’m going to get right to the great cartoon from from MarkFiore:

I prefer cats. They’re a lot like anarchists, but if you treat them right, they’ll love you till the end.

Humans should probably be democrats, but these labels get all mixed up today.

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Maine Senators Use The Word “Torture” To Describe CIA Torture

Torture posterWell, this is amazing. Following months of public pressure, the Senate intelligence committee voted 11-3 on Thursday to declassify portions of the lengthy investigation into the CIA’s use of torture at secret black sites around the world. The executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate panel’s 6,300-page report will be released.

Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) supported the release of the Senate Torture Report, using a word that nobody thought Washington politicians have in their vocabulary (emphasis added):

We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values. While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred. Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program.

Our vote to declassify this report does not signal our full endorsement of all of its conclusions or its methodology. The report has some intrinsic limitations because it did not involve direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or other Executive branch personnel. It also, unfortunately, did not include the participation of the staff of Republican Committee members. We do, however, believe in transparency and believe that the Executive Summary, and Additional and Dissenting Views, and the CIA’s rebuttal should be made public with appropriate redactions so the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program.

Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again.

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Surely You’re Joking, Gov. Herbert!

Arch Canyon
Arch Canyon, Manti-La Sal National Forest

But he’s not joking. (And stop calling him “Shirley.”)

On April Fool’s Day, Governor Gary Herbert signed into law H.B. 160, the so-called “Utah Wilderness Act.” Unlike the REAL Utah Wilderness Act (98 Stat. 1657, signed into law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan), this bill did not designate a single acre of wilderness land. Why did the Utah legislature pass a fake wilderness law?

Two years ago, Gov. Herbert signed H.B. 148, the Transfer of Public Lands Act. It was a blatant violation of both the Utah and United States Constitutions. The Act purports to require, among other things, that the federal government must transfer title of all public lands in Utah to the state before January 1, 2015. This includes lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.

Article III, Section 2 of the Utah Constitution says in no uncertain terms that the people of Utah “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof.” Likewise, Section 3 of Utah’s Enabling Act, the legislation which led to Utah’s birth as a state, contains this same disclaimer.

Our legislature has chronically underfunded state parks. There is no plan and no budget for the state to manage the 30 million acres now administered by federal land agencies in Utah. The so-called “Utah Wilderness Act” is an attempt to cover up the state government’s lack of seriousness by establishing a mechanism for state-level “wilderness” designation. But it’s a farce.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. With these bold and eloquent words, wildlands were declared essential:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

H.B. 160′s sponsor, Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton), included this key language (originally drafted by Howard Zahniser, one of the founders of The Wilderness Society). But Utah Republicans struck it out of the bill, as too “highfalutin.”

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Alternative fuel

Why this is not on the table is mind-boggling. Even if you are someone who doesn’t believe in climate change or that pollution causes severe health problems (Which is just as stupid as not believing in math), then either way, oil is not going to last forever. We need fuel for our ships, our cars, our airplanes. Fuel is the reason we can cross the shores quickly, it’s how we get food from an agricultural state like California to a state like Utah that has more people than the land can provide food for. Only a fool would think this oil will last forever. It took 64 million years to make petroleum. It takes about 64 days to ferment a plant into alcohol. Even is a monetary sense, the idea of drilling is more costly because the methods of reaching oil have become pricier. Why is this not being discussed? The only thing we do have in terms of “renewable” is that 10% ethanol at the pumps and that’s only there because the Corn Lobby wanted to prove they have a bigger dick than the Oil Lobby.

To be fair, there is a push from the airlines to produce biofuels and there has been some traction going on with that. But that’s only because the airlines feel a huge weight around their neck from gas prices and it costs them money. For us, the consumer, we don’t have that type of power. It’s either fill your tank or you’re fired. Still if there was a way to make it more available, it’s better to do it now than to wait until all the problems of an oil shortage stack up.

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