Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Tears of a Mitt

So this documentary sounds really interesting, and I plan on seeing it. The trailer has the scene from election night when Romney realizes he's going to lose... holy crap.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DC Raises The Minimum Wage

Extremely awesome news:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The D.C. Council has given final approval to raising the city's minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016.

Tuesday's vote was a formality, with the council already having approved the minimum wage hike unanimously.

The bill now goes to Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray for his signature. Gray has advocated for a more modest minimum wage increase, but he's not expected to veto it given the council's unanimous support.
This is going to be a real improvement in a lot of peoples' lives. Well done to everyone involved.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

So Where Can Snowden Apply for His Reward?

This is far from a final ruling on the subject, but from the legal stuff I read if *this* judge can give them a favorable ruling... the NSA is in trouble:
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon put his decision to grant an injunction against the NSA on ice, predicting a government appeal would take at least six months. He said he was staying the ruling pending appeal "in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues." Even after the appeals court rules, the Supreme Court will probably have the last word. "This is the opening salvo in a very long story, but it's important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata program," said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert at the American University law school.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winning the Hearts and Minds

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- A U.S. drone mistakenly targeted a wedding convoy in Yemen's al-Baitha province after intelligence reports identified the vehicles as carrying al Qaeda militants, two Yemeni national security officials told CNN on Thursday.

The officials said that 14 people were killed and 22 others injured, nine in critical condition. The vehicles were traveling near the town of Radda when they were attacked.

"This was a tragic mistake and comes at a very critical time. None of the killed was a wanted suspect by the Yemeni government," said a top Yemeni national security official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to talk to media.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the report.

The convoy consisted of 11 vehicles, and the officials said that four of the vehicles were targeted in the strikes. Two of the vehicles were completely damaged. Among the killed were two prominent tribal leaders within the province.

Residents in Radda were outraged about the attack and called on the Yemeni government to put an end of drone strikes in their region.

"More than 50 innocent civilians in our town have been killed by drones," said Abdullah al-Kabra, an eyewitness to the drone strike.

"All those who were killed were supportive of the governments anti-terror campaign. That will surely not be the case of their tribes and families if the government does not strongly intervene," he added.

Yemeni security experts have argued that drones have on numerous occasions have directly played into al Qaeda's favor, turning peaceful tribal communities into vengeful killers.
We just killed 14 innocent people attending a wedding. In your and my name.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Unspoken Political Truths

Couldn't have said it better myself:
This is the point of every "grand bargain" there has ever been. The idea is that if both parties agree to do it, no one can be blamed and no will lose their job for supporting something terrible.

Another truth is that massively bipartisan things are usually really bad. NAFTA, all the major financial deregulation bills, the Iraq war, Bankruptcy reform and so on. When people go on and on about the days of less partisanship when everyone could get along and pass things that everyone could agree on, it's worth remembering that most of that stuff was horrible.

Friday, December 6, 2013

RIP Nelson Mandela



There aren't many heroes out there, but he really is one. A remarkable human being.

I'll have something to write about the reaction to his death when I get the time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Please Stand By...


In finals hell. Won't be posting for a few days. Apologies. Have plenty of stuff I'd like to write about when this madness is over, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pope Noam Chomsky

I love this pope.
On the importance of remembering those who are less fortunate: "We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences."

On the seriousness of economic exclusion: "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills."

On the failure of traditional economic dogmas:  "... some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

On exploding inequality: "While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few."

On the world's obsession with money: "We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose."

On the dangerous mix of inequality and consumerism: "It is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric."

On the role of the state in providing for the common good and regulating the economy: "This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. "
I agree with what atrios says here too:
I'm not catholic and the guy doesn't represent me, but christianity - including catholicism - seems to have been reduced "abortion, contraception, and gay people are evil" over the past several decades. If the dude manages to adjust the balance on those things - even if he thinks those things are still bad - I'll applaud. Supposedly we're all sinners, it just hasn't been clear why some sins have been more important than others lately.
Keep it up new pope!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not Going to War With Iran is a Good Thing

I've only read the basics of the deal, but anything that makes us or Israel attacking Iran less likely is a good thing. Times like this are useful to point out the warmongering psychopaths among us by watching the people who reflexively oppose any deal. Kudos to the Obama Administration and John Kerry putting time and energy into this route.

Peace is good. We should try it more often. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's Pronounced Nuuuuuu-CU-LAR


Harry Reid finally did the right thing. And this is big fucking deal. Eliminating the filibuster for nominations is key because it's not some deal that solves the problem for this specific set. He's changed how the senate will govern, probably forever.

I've had several like minded friends express concern to me that if we eliminate the filibuster Republicans will be able to force through really awful stuff once they regain power. Let me quickly explain why this was the right move:

1) If the Republicans regain the Senate (and have a Republican president and house), they would have used the nuclear option on the first day of the session, for legislation, for supreme court nominees, for absolutely everything. Trust me on this. Only Democrats get ask questions about whether or not they should use power the power they have. And if the Republicans didn't, they actually have a base that will boot them out of office for fucking up.

2) The Republicans have been able to get 40 of their members to walk in lockstep on every major bill/nominee they've wanted to kill. There is a 0.0% chance the Democrats would do the same. The corporate dems, the gangs of gangs, the ones who don't have any reason to fear enraging their liberal base (spoiler: all of them). But what if they nominated a Supreme Court justice as horrible as Scalia or Alito? Exactly.

The Republicans would waited 5 minutes to make this change not 5 years, and even if they hadn't it's not like the Democrats would have put up a fight. And besides, it's making an undemocratic institution slightly more democratic, which is always a good thing.

This is major progress towards giving us a functional government. Not just because filling the courts with these nominees is important (it is), but because the senate is governed by made up undemocratic rules, and the sooner you start changing them, and the sooner staffers and DC journalists stop getting the vapors any time it's mentioned... you get steps closer and closer to the real thing, eliminating the filibuster (and the Senate entirely, but I'll take this for the moment). Proving things like this can be done is critical breaking down these imaginary barriers that have been used so long in institutions like the senate to shield corruption and disgusting lawmaking. It took far to long to get here, but I'm glad we've taken this step forward.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sign That You Are Treating Your Workers Like Shit


This is from a Walmart in Ohio, where they are running a canned food drive for their own employees.

If this is needed, you are probably not paying them enough.

Related: Walmart is America's largest employer by a lot.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The ACA Will Be Used to Refute Liberalism

This was one of my biggest concerns and things that was pushing me towards opposing the law. I agree with what Chris Hayes said last week that we need to work our hardest to make the ACA work because it's going to be hung on "our side" no matter what happens, but this is still so annoying because you could see lots of these issues coming from miles away and so much of it was preventable.

Friday, November 15, 2013

There is a better way

This is no radical, this is the former president of the Center for American Progress and Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.

But we knew this all along. We know what works, and we know what would have been an easier path to improving our healthcare system. Some people pushed for an ACA style reform because they are owned by the insurance industry and liked it for that reason, and some people were sold on the idea that it would be easier to pass because it was a compromise with the insurance industry.

We'll never know what could have passed, but I'll go to my grave thinking a simpler idea like a medicare buy in could have worked. When you're dealing with something on this large of a scale, the ability to minimize the complexities and places where things can go wrong matters. In retrospect, it was an aspect of the ACA's stupidity that I didn't emphasize enough.

Anyway, I remain convinced that a medicare buy in is the policy principle we should have organized around 5 years ago, and the one we should be organizing around today. Obamacare is going to be a disaster (actually seems like it could be even worse than I had imagined which is saying something), and this will work without having to completely undo the rube goldberg structure that the ACA needs to exist. Let's do this. Dream big for ideas that actually work. Another world is possible.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Obama's Approval Ratings Heading South

I'll admit that this shocked me a bit. I knew things weren't going well for Obama and that the economy is still awful, but I didn't think it was this bad:


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The ACA Will Not Stop Private Insurance Companies From Screwing Us

During the debate over the ACA, one of the main contentions from people like myself was that any reform needed to (at the very least!) provide a public alternative to the insurance companies because as long as they are the only game in town, they will continue to do shit like this:
Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people like Donna spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked.
The extreme lengths to which some insurance companies are going to hold on to existing customers at higher price, as the Affordable Care Act fundamentally re-orders the individual insurance market, has caught the attention of state insurance regulators.

The insurance companies argue that it's simply capitalism at work. But regulators don't see it that way. By warning customers that their health insurance plans are being canceled as a result of Obamacare and urging them to secure new insurance plans before the Obamacare launched on Oct. 1, these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces.
TPM has confirmed two specific examples where companies contacted their customers prior to the marketplace's Oct. 1 opening and pushed them to renew their health coverage at a higher price than they would pay through the marketplace. State regulators identified the schemes, but they weren't necessarily able to stop them.

It's not yet clear how widespread this practice became in the months leading up to the marketplace's opening -- or how many Americans will end up paying more than they should be for health coverage. But misleading letters have been sent out in at least four states across the country, and one offending carrier, Humana, is a company with a national reach.

"If you're an insurance company, you're trying to hang onto the consumers you have at the highest price you can get them," Laura Etherton, a health policy analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told TPM. "You can take advantage of the confusion about what people get to have now. It's a new world. It's disappointing that insurance companies are sending confusing letters to consumers to take advantage of that confusion. The reality is that this could do real harm."
Everyone could see this coming. Once this issue stops, there will be new ways that the insurance companies try to screw us as long as they are existence.

"Insurance companies argue that it's simply capitalism at work", and and they aren't entirely wrong. As long as they are trying to make a profit and subject to weak regulations, they will be constantly looking for ways within this new framework to screw people and increase their profits. It's what they do.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How Political Power Works

I always enjoy it when someone states things you have said in a much more concise and eloquent manner. Ian Welsh does just that:
Politicians do most things because someone wants them done who can hold them accountable if they don’t do it. That includes bad things, and good things. Anyone who doesn’t understand this reality doesn’t understand even the most basic part of politics.
...
Note that gays were originally ignored by Obama as well.  What did they do?  They got in Obama’s face personally, heckling him and they organized a very effective donor boycott.  As a result, they got much (but not all) of what they wanted from him.

Holding someone accountable means “inflicting pain”.  If they don’t do what you want, you must be able to do something to them they don’t like (heckling), or take away something they want (money).

Like FDL or not, the last serious attempt by left-wingers other than gays to hold Obama accountable was when they refused to go along with the Affordable Care Act if it didn’t include a public option.  FDL said “if this bill has no public option, we won’t support it.”  When it didn’t, they didn’t.  You may think that’s not a good red-line, but they had a red line.  Of course FDL, virtually alone, did not have the juice: they could not inflict enough pain or take away enough funding  or create enough bad publicity for Obama to care, especially when powerful interests (read: insurance companies), didn’t want a public option.  (For doing so, FDL was attacked by all the usual suspects on “left-wing” blogs and labelled firebaggers.)

Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.
Understanding how to interact with the political process is extremely basic, but it's something people on the left fuck up constantly. I'll try to write more on this subject when I have more time because I think it's pretty important and you see the same mistakes over and over and over.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Virginia, this is your new governor


A few highlights from his past from this great Mother Jones post:
Allow me to explain. McAuliffe represents an unseemly slice of Washington. His primary role in politics for the past two decades or more has been raising money—most notably, for the Clintons. He cooked up the idea of essentially renting out the Lincoln bedroom during the Clinton administration as a fundraising vehicle, and he smashed all previous presidential fundraising records in the process. When McAuliffe was the Dems' top fundraiser, a campaign finance scandal besieged the Clinton White House. Coincidence? No. McAuliffe was all about pushing the envelope when it came to the political money chase.

That alone might not be enough to render him a distasteful political candidate. What's different about McAuliffe is his brazen mixing of his campaign fundraising activity and attempts to enrich himself personally. Many of McAuliffe's business deals have come about due to his place in the political cosmos, not because he possesses a wealth of business skill. That tangled history has linked him to a long list of unsavory characters.

Let's take a look at some of his business associates over the years.

Richard Swann: Swann is McAuliffe's father-in-law, and his story starts back in 1980, when Swann helped found American Pioneer Savings and Loan in Florida. Ten years later, federal regulators seized the thrift, which was drowning in bad loans and foreclosed real estate. The bailout cost taxpayers more than $500 million. Swann settled charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which found that Swann and a partner had broken the law in selling $10 million worth of junk bonds from the thrift to shore up its reserves. Investors—mainly mom and pop depositors at the thrift—lost their shirts, and Swann eventually filed bankruptcy. But he saw an opportunity in the wreckage of his former savings and loan. In 1991, he helped McAuliffe set up a partnership to buy up the failed thrift's former real estate assets, which were being sold at rock-bottom prices as part of the federal liquidation.

Swann and McAuliffe persuaded the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pension fund to finance the purchase of Orlando strip malls and apartment buildings on the cheap in a highly risky investment scheme. The pension fund put up $38 million; McAuliffe put up nothing, but he got a 50 percent stake, meaning that if the deal went south, the pension fund would lose millions while all he would lose were his free shares in the partnership. The deals didn't perform well, and the union never got its promised 9 percent preferred return—about what Treasury bills were paying back then. McAuliffe, though, walked away with $2.4 million after the pension fund bought him out. The US Department of Labor sued the union for making imprudent investments and two IBEW officials were forced to pay six-figure fines; the union had to reimburse the pension fund for the losses. Swann and McAuliffe escaped unscathed by the investigation.

Tony Coehlo: Coehlo is a former California congressman who resigned in 1989 after the disclosure that he had taken a sweetheart loan from the operator of a troubled savings and loan operator and used the money to buy junk bonds from the notorious Drexel Burnham Lambert, which that year paid a record $650 million to settle criminal charges with the SEC for stock manipulation. Coehlo and McAuliffe worked together on various political campaigns, but they also were involved with a real estate firm in Washington, DC. Former business associates accused the pair of using their political connections to win improper commissions on deals involving federal agencies. The matter eventually was settled confidentially.

Gary Winnick: Winnick was the founder of Global Crossing, a fiber optic company that earned McAuliffe $8 million on an initial investment of $100,000—a deal he accessed because he was working as a consultant to Winnick before the company went public. Winnick had been an acolyte of junk bond king Michael Milken before starting Global Crossing. His management of Global Crossing has been compared with Ken Lay's leadership of Enron. He and other top executives hid the company's losses and cashed out more than a billion in stock before the company collapsed in 2002 and caused $54 billion in shareholder losses. Lots of people thought Winnick should have gone to jail, but he avoided any serious federal action. McAuliffe cashed out his shares in Global Crossing before it crashed and was not accused of any wrongdoing, but his profiteering in this case has been a political liability for him.

Anthony Rodham: When McAuliffe in 2009 created GreenTech, a now-troubled electric-car company, he turned to an old pal for assistance in courting foreign investors: Tony Rodham, who is best known as one of Hillary Clinton's embarrassing brothers. A former repo man, prison guard, and private eye, Rodham by then had a long history of trying to cash in on his famous sister's connections and generally causing problems for her. In 1999, he and brother Hugh nearly caused a diplomatic crisis with a plan to sell hazelnuts from the Republic of Georgia; their partner was a local political boss who also happened to be a political rival of the country's president and US ally, Eduard Shevardnadze. Over the years, Rodham has been in the news for the occasional fistfight and for child-support arrears. He was implicated in the Clinton pardon scandal. But McAuliffe somehow thought Rodham was just the guy to help him with his electric-car venture. Rodham owns a company that solicits foreign investors for American projects (deals that allow these foreign investors secure US visas). GreenTech relied heavily on foreign investors. Now, the car company (McAuliffe resigned from the firm to run for governor) and Rodham's visa operation are under investigation by the SEC.

Joseph Caramadre: Caramadre is a Rhode Island estate planner who pleaded guilty to scamming terminally ill people by stealing their identities and buying annuities in their names. When they died, Caramadre and his investors could cash in. McAuliffe invested $33,000 in this scheme in 2006 and netted $47,000 in return. Caramadre also was a big donor and fundraiser for McAuliffe's first run for governor in 2009, giving $27,000 to McAuliffe's campaign. (Caramadre apparently wanted to become an ambassador to the Vatican.) During this most recent governor's campaign, Bob Lewis, a veteran AP reporter, was fired for reporting inaccurately on this episode, and the matter evaporated as a campaign issue. But that doesn't change a basic fact: McAuliffe was doing business with this guy.

The list of McAuliffe's questionable business dealings goes on. But he has used his substantial influence to try to minimize the news coverage of his various wheeling-and-dealing. In 1996, the New York Daily News fired reporter David Eisenstadt after he wrote an unfavorable story about McAuliffe potentially having connections to notorious fundraiser John Huang, who in 1999 pleaded guilty to felony charges for arranging more than $150,000 in illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic Party. McAuliffe later gloated to the Washington Post about having called paper owner Mort Zuckerman to get Eisenstadt canned.
The craziness of this isn't that I was really happy he won, considering the alternative was a dude who doesn't think women are people. Another victory for the "Corrupt over crazy" Democratic party electoral strategy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

The GOP Will Learn No Lessons Because Their Base Will Not Change

I know I've been kind of harping on this point, but I like to use space particularly for times when I think the main media narratives out there are completely bonkers. Greg Sargent:
Tomorrow, a year will have passed since the Dems’ big victory in 2012 touched off an extensive bout of Republican soul searching about the future. The RNC’s post-election autopsy declared the need to articulate an affirmative governing agenda for “those who seek to climb the economic ladder,” to broaden the party’s appeal to Latinos and women, and to demonstrate more sensitivity to young voters who view gay rights as a “gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be.”

One year after Election Day 2012, here’s where we are:

The Republican Party is still doing all it can to undermine the Affordable Care Act without offering a meaningful alternative — after doing the party untold damage with a government shutdown crisis over it – and Republicans are absolutely convinced that this time, the law is certain to fail. The House GOP leadership is likely to kill comprehensive immigration reform for the year and may not even allow a vote on it in 2014. Republicans are likely to lose a major purple-state gubernatorial race against a flawed Dem candidate, in part because the GOP nominated a Tea Party candidate with a harsh stance on women’s health issues who is losing massively among female voters. Senate Republicans are set to filibuster a measure that would end discrimination against gays in hiring decisions – and may block it in the House.
Explaining this phenomenon isn't complex. The base of the Republican party is largely made up of bigoted misogynistic neanderthals with a 1800s view of the world. The biggest threat to the job security of most Republicans is if this group of people is unhappy with them. It is destroying the party in state and national level races, but it does make sense. Republicans don't need to re-branding or heroically allow a vote on immigration reform that will pass in spite of them. They need to stop appealing to their base, which of course is political suicide. So unless a lot of house members suddenly decide they no longer want their prestigious well paid jobs... this will continue for some time.

There will be more calls for change after the ass kicking they will receive in Virginia at the hands of Terry fucking Mcauliffe... but like the ones after the 2012 loss, they will fall on deaf ears. There is a lot of energy and grassroots activism in the GOP, and unfortunately for them comes from a group of people who have ideas that the vast majority of the American people find loathsome.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

GOP Pollster: Stop Pandering to Racists!

It won't happen, and this is not surprising, but the messenger is interesting:
A prominent Republican pollster is urging his party to resist stoking racial anxieties among white voters and "throw in the towel on the immigration issue."

Freed Steeper, who served as an adviser to both Presidents Bush, told the New York Times in a story published Wednesday that the GOP may continue its struggles in national elections if it keeps up its often derisive rhetoric toward Hispanic voters.

“Racism may be a part of it,” Steeper admitted. “The Republican Party needs to stop pandering to that.”

Steeper then gave Republicans some blunt advice on the matter.

“The Republican Party needs to throw in the towel on the immigration issue," he said.

The prospects of immigration reform have been shrouded in doubt after months of inaction by the GOP-led House of Representatives on a bill that passed the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who helped lead the push to pass that legislation, said earlier this week that Congress should dial back its reform efforts.
Gerrymandering will prevent this from happening, since many republicans don't need to worry about appealing to non bigoted conservatives in order to win re-election. More people on the right will probably start pointing the dangers of this strategy out, but until the electoral calculus (or the racist GOP base) changes, the behavior of those pandering to them will not.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No, Obama Administration. We Don't Need to Cut Social Security.

Their never ending quest continues. The level of urgency and frustration here from Sperling is telling:
In his usual elliptical and prolix way, Sperling seemed to be laying out the contours of a bargain with Republicans that’s quite a bit different that what most Democrats seem prepared to accept. What stood out to me was how he kept winding back around to the importance of entitlement cuts as part of a deal, as if he were laying the groundwork to blunt liberal anger. Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue—something most Republicans reject. If Sperling mentioned revenue at all, I missed it.
But he dwelt at length—and with some passion—on the need for more stimulus, though he avoided using that dreaded word. He seemed to hint at a budget deal that would trade near-term “investment” (the preferred euphemism for “stimulus’) for long-term entitlement reform. That would be an important shift and one that would certainly upset many Democrats.

Here’s some of what Sperling had to say. He led off with the importance of entitlement cuts. (All emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes here [in Washington] we start to think that the end goal of our public policy is to hit a particular budget or spending or revenue metric—as if those are the goals in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that each of these metrics … are means to larger goals. … Right now, I think there is among a lot of people a consensus as to what the ingredients of a pro-growth fiscal policy are. It would be a fiscal policy that—yes—did give more confidence in the long run that we have a path on entitlement spending and revenues that gives confidence in our long-term fiscal position and that we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation. That is very important.”

That’s a vague, guarded, jargon-y Washington way of saying, “We’re going to have to accept entitlement cuts—get used to it.” Then came the justification, which was the weakness of the economic recovery:

“You have to think about this as part of an overall pro-growth, pro-jobs strategy. Also, there’s no question that right now we still need to give this recovery more momentum. We cannot possibly be satisfied with the levels of projected growth when we are still coming back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Sperling repeatedly drew a distinction between a deal that “hits a particular metric” and one that is “pro-growth,” leaving no doubt that the White House favors the latter. I took “hits a particular metric” to mean “secures X amount of dollars in new tax revenue.” Sperling’s clear implication was that that’s not something the White House is concerned about.
They won't stop. As long as Obama is in the White House, he will continue to use his political capital on pushing for a grand bargain that cuts social security. That's the reality of it, and how we respond is on us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If You Need Health Insurance, Please Stand By


With the amount of time I spending reading and trying to learn more about politics, I'd like to think I'm not terrible at vaguely predicting things. Sometimes I get things right, sometimes I get things wrong, but I'm usually in the ballpark. It's the times when something hits me completely out of left field that I take notice. The disastrous ACA rollout is one of those times.

For a background of anyone that is not used to reading this blog, here are two qualifiers:

-I am not a fan of vast majority of the policies President Obama has pursued done during his time in office.

- I am not a fan of the ACA as a law, and to this day debate whether I would have voted for the law had I been a member of congress.

With that out of the way, here is why I'm shocked:

-My endless policy disagreements aside, I feel like Obama's Administration has been well above average as far as executing their agenda competently. I actually get annoyed when liberals confuse Obama having a different policy agenda to theirs with incompetence.

-I have spent years writing about the ACA and reasons I think it is a shitty law and could/will be a disaster. Technical fuck ups of this scale would not have made the top 1,000 of those reasons. I think that creating all this infrastructure was no an efficient way of doing things and not needed if we had done my preferred option of a medicare buy in... but that's not even really the same as this. These are purely technical fuck ups could actually prevent the law from working:
This is an "834 EDI transmission." Insurers sometimes call it, more simply, "an 834." It is a technical, back-end reporting tool that consumers never see. It is meant to be read by computers, not human beings. It's the form that tells the insurer's system who you are and what you need. And it might be the new health-care law's biggest problem.

Insurers report that, in some cases, 834s are coming in wrong. That's a much more serious problem than the online traffic bottlenecks that have dominated coverage of the health-care law's rollout.

If people can't get into the Web site, then they simply have to come back later. But if they believe they've signed up for a plan but their 834 is a garbled mess -- or, even worse, clear but wrong -- it could mean chaos when they actually go to use their health insurance. For that reason, inside the health-care industry, the 834 problems are the glitch that is causing the most concern.

To back up a moment: 834 transmissions aren't new. They have been around for decades as the standard form that employers use to tell their insurance companies which workers are on their health insurance plan each month.

An 834 transmission contains enrollment data like an individual's social security number, their dependents and the plan that they picked. That data is, obviously, critical: If it comes in wrong, an applicant may not get the right plan, or family members may not be covered, or identity may not be verifiable.
...
The 834 transmission is the one form, in the giant machinery of HealthCare.gov, that lets insurance companies know who signed up for their product. It is the electronic file that lets them get to work printing member cards, mailing them out and, eventually, paying claims.

The 834 transmissions have begun filtering out to health insurance plans. The only problem? A lot of them are wrong.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one insurance plan got an 834 for a subscriber who, according to the data, had three spouses. This was surprising because the individual was not a polygamist. Two dependents had been incorrectly coded as spouses.

Others have gotten reports for people joining the plan, unenrolling and re-enrolling multiple times in the course of a week -- or even the same day.

Right now, health-insurance plans say they can manage these problems. Few enough enrollment forms are coming in that they're able to hand-check each one. "What our company, and I'm assuming others, are doing is throwing people at it," one insurer told Wonkblog. "We're overcoming the tech flaws with manual reviews and manual rigor and manual processes. That's fine right now, but when you start looking at the scale of what the Obama administration wants to do, that's just not going to scale up."

This approach undermines the very point of 834s, which is to make it possible for the computer system to automate the process of enrolling tens or even hundreds of thousands of applicants each day.

"The purpose of the electronic transaction is to be able to do this with a minimum amount of human intervention," says Stanley Nachimson of Nachimson Advisors, a health IT consulting firm. "The hope would be that the health plan's computers will be able to understand the transaction and do all the processes automatically."

Some in the industry believe HealthCare.gov's traffic problems have been a blessing-in-disguise for the program: If applicants were being able to sign up easily but the 834 forms were coming in with this many errors the results could be disastrous.

"Some days its going to be 100,000 coming in," Laszewski says. "The good news right now is there is a small enough number that they can scrub the data manually."
There are plenty of other problems, but I wanted to highlight this because I think it's something that's been missed in the coverage. You can fix a shittily designed or slow website. This is a far more serious problem. If people think they're signing up for insurance and they aren't or even worse, they are and they are signed with the wrong information - that is obviously a disaster, maybe one the implementation can't recover from.

I know the Republicans have been trying to destroy Obamacare and hurt it's implementation every step of the way. That sucks, but if you expected any different you should be out of a job.You had THREE FUCKING YEARS to get this up and running.


There is still time to get this together, but while they fix it people are getting letters like this, telling them they are being kicked off their current plan, and must find insurance in the exchanges by January 1st or go without insurance.

The stakes are high and they better get their shit together. I had honestly thought the technical feasibility of this law was the least of their concerns, and boy was I wrong.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Democrats Organizing to Cut Social Security (Part 10,000)


If it's a day that ends in y during the Obama Administration, there is some group of democrats attempting to lay the groundwork for social security cuts. DSWright at firedoglake:
You would think after winning the shutdown and debt ceiling battle Democrats would press their advantage, instead they seem to be volunteering cuts to Social Security as a solution to a future budget deal. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin went on Fox News to promote a deal that would cut Social Security in exchange for tax increases.
Durbin said that Republicans had to put tax revenue on the table to get entitlement cuts. Fox host Chris Wallace noted that Durbin has previously supported entitlement cuts, and asked why Republicans should have to give up tax increases to get something that many Democrats support. President Barack Obama has repeatedly endorsed Social Security cuts as part of budget deals, and Durbin acknowledged that he did support Social Security reforms.
“Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years,” Durbin said. “The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don’t wanna see that happen.”
Yeah, social security is not going to "run out of money in 20 years" but if you've read this blog or spoken to me in the last 10 years you probably already know that. They want desperately to cut social security. They try every which way to make it happen. They pre-compromise with social security cuts not because they're bad negotiators but because THEY ACTUALLY WANT THESE CUTS. The administration is pushing this, and the congressional leadership has made it clear during the other 10,000 times they've floated this idea that they're on board as well.

We'll fight them like hell on this, and hopefully we win again. But seriously, fuck these people.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monsters

The Bush Administration really contained some of the worst people in the universe (via atrios)
A senior official from former President George W. Bush's administration is quoted in “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House” saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.

"The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy," the anonymous official said, according to Politico.
This is the same week a study came out showing that the Iraq war killed 500,000 people. How the fuck do they sleep at night?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Less Shame?

I don't know the source for this outside of the fact that it was sent from ToT reader Dan, but this is absolutely fantastic:


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Shutdown is Over

Several weeks ago I wrote this about the shutdown:
(1) The house GOP is legitimately nihilistic and gives no fucks and cares about basically nothing other than standing up to the black Kenyan Muslim. They don't care about the consequences of shutting down the government or sending the world economy into a great depression. It doesn't seem like much will convince them otherwise, and any non insane ending to this saga involves the house passing something with a lot of democratic votes.
... 

My best guess is that the government shuts down for a week or two and enough Republicans panic that the house passes something with majority democratic support which ends the standoff. This would lead to unspeakable carnage on the Republican side, but it's kind of hard not to see that regardless of what happens here.
And several weeks later this is basically what happened. I'd like to pretend I'm some sort of master prognosticator, but the reality is the ending of this idiocy was obvious for some time now. There was absolutely no reason this needed to happen. And yet, for really dumb reasons, it did. Fuck all those involved. Ted Cruz in particular, because seriously fuck that guy.




Tuesday, October 15, 2013

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Chris Hayes' segment on the rally at the WWII memorial furthers the point I was making in the last post on the GOP base. Just appalling stuff:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's Not About Obamacare

It's about this:

Obamacare has become an avatar for Obama, and that's the only reason anyone in the wingnut base cares. It's about pandering to racist shits and the absolute dumbest people on earth. If you're looking for an upside it's that a lot of these people will be dead in 20-30 years.

And by the way I'd be willing to bet fucking anything that former White House spokesman Ari Fleisher isn't a racist. He just knows the bigoted neanderthals he needs to appeal to do stay relevant on the wingnut TV/Radio appearance/Book tour circuit that pays his bills.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Better Plan: Stop Pandering to Racists

Republicans have this thing figured out:
The Republican National Committee announced Monday that it has hired "Hispanic engagement staff" in seven states to improve the party's outreach to Latino voters.

“Today’s announcement is unprecedented,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a release. “This off-cycle effort will ensure our message of ‘opportunity for all’ reaches voters. We are building a ground game that will allow us to compete for every voter and will outlast any one cycle or campaign. I’m certain with these early and unprecedented investments we can achieve Republican victories up and down the ballot now and for years to come.”

A Gallup poll released in August found that Hispanics overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party. Priebus admitted this summer at a gathering of Latino public officials that the GOP had done a "lousy" job of connecting with the Latino community.

The RNC hired Hispanic state directors and field directors in California, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia, according to the release.
This is all well and good, but the better plan would be to have elected officials in your party stop loudly saying racist stuff all the time. You don't need re-branding, you need to stop trying to appeal to the racists that make up a large portion of your party's base.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Government Shutdown Explained

The shutdown was caused by house Republicans trying to defund Obamacare in the budget. It was their way of trying to hurt Obamacare one last time before it becomes law. Until it wasn't:
“This is not just about Obamacare anymore,” centrist Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., said.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Obamacare was convenient because it's OBAMAcare and the bill is not very popular at the moment, but it could have been anything. This has always been about the performance art of standing up to the Kenyan Muslim as a way to impress their crazy base. And they're willing to shut down the government and send the world into a recession to prove that point. Fun times. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Obamacare and the long term fight for a sane Healthcare System

At this point my thoughts on the subject largely echo atrios'. As usual I think he said this really well:
As I've written plenty of times, I remain somewhat optimistic that Obamacare will be a modest improvement over the current system, though I do think there are some worries about how it will evolve long term. On one hand I support decoupling insurance from employment, but on the other hand if the decoupling happens without genuinely affordable substitutes being available then we aren't improving things. This stuff should be easy, not complicated, but DC is allergic to doing anything to help people without adding a Rube Goldberg layer on top of it, and funneling money to the Rube Goldberg machine operators in the process.
At the time of passage I was extremely torn on how I would have voted if I was in congress. In the end I figured I would have voted for it, because crappy private insurance is better than no insurance and there are a lot of people with no insurance. With that said, I have huge concerns of how it will evolve going forward having permanently cemented the private insurance industry's role in this process when they serve no beneficial purpose for anyone and should not exist.

I think the new exchanges system will work very well in states with good democratic governors (especially ones that want to run for president), and be anything from workable to inconvenient to a disaster everywhere else.

Looking into the future I think the next logical step is organizing around a medicare buy-in option to be added to all exchanges while trying to pass single payer systems on a state level. The system won't improve to the degree it needs to until we've added a medicare element, and let's go for the real deal, not some watered down public option. Until the private insurance industry is removed from the equation, there is only so much we can do to improve the system. That's obviously a long term goal (and one we've just made more difficult for ourselves), but the most important aspect of a campaign is picking the right target. Our main target needs to be putting the private insurance companies out of business, and we can move out on the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies from there.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown


My guess is that this lasts a few days or a week, the pressure will mount enough on house Republicans to cave and pass a clean budget, but with sequester cuts because the Democrats already pre-compromised on that because of course they did.

Also guessing this deal will include a debt limit raise, because at that point the house republicans are going to be in such dire straights that they won't want to do this again.

There were a lot of really dumb moves here, but then again, when you're working with this crowd it's far form unexpected. The shutdown will do well at preventing people from being primaried, but will make the rest of the country hate them with a ferocity that could cost them the house in 2014.

It's also an example of how the GOP is hurt by the conservative media bubble that these folks operate in. A lot of the house genuinely believe that they will be greeted as liberators for shutting down the government to block Obamacare. "Obamacare" is not popular, but it's also not THAT unpopular. You know what is THAT unpopular? Shutting down the government, especially when people find out it's to block Obamacare. While people might not like "Obamacare" in the abstract form it's been in until today, they REALLY won't like the people who caused the government shutdown. Just about everyone outside of the conservative bubble has figured this out, including the house and senate Republican leadership. All that's left are lonely house tea partiers fighting the good fight while making their national party more toxic by the minute. If these neanderthals weren't fucking up the economy and putting people out of work, it would be goddamn hilarious.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Alex Pareene on CNBC is Worth Watching

You can make an argument that CNBC is just as toxic propaganda spewing machine as fox news. Like most sane people, I watch CNBC... well never, but if you needed a reason to never watch them again, you've got it. Pareene writes today how he blew it but I think he did pretty amazingly. These people live in a made up universe and it's nice to have someone burst their bubble even if they have no idea what's going on. Check it out, it's entertaining if nothing else:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ted Cruz is an Enormous Douche

Nothing we didn't know, but this is particularly repulsive:
Ted Cruz might play a down-home Texan but turns out the firebrand Republican was an elitist Ivy Leaguer back in the day.

The Princeton grad held the bar high while a student at Harvard Law, refusing to study with pariahs who hadn’t done their underground at Harvard, Princeton or Yale, according to a GQ profile of the first-term Senator.

“He said he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown,” Damon Watson, a law school roommate of Cruz, told the magazine.
People who say things like that should be fired out of a cannon into the sun.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's Crash The World Economy And Shut Down The Government For No Reason


I haven't written much about the impending government shutdown/debt ceiling raising battle because I may have reached my limit of discussing idiotic congressional politics.

How did we get here?

House Republicans and Ted Cruz in the Senate are threatening to shut down the government unless Obamacare is de-funded. There is a 0.0% chance Obama will defund Obamacare, so this is why there is an impasse. There is major infighting on the Republican side on how to proceed. The tea party people don't give a shit about what happens if the government shuts down or we don't pass the debt ceiling increase in a bid to de-fund Obamacare. The Republican leadership knows that doing either of things would be bad, and more importantly a major political loser for any of them. As a result they are trying to do the same trick they've always pulled on their base, pretend to fight like hell while not shutting down the government and crashing the world economy. Have the crazies in the house caught on to their leadership's bait and switch game? They might have, and that is largely the reason for this impasse. Led by the the rightwing organizations, the Republican base has been whipped into a frenzy thinking that this strategy will lead to the de-funding of Obamacare and have been organizing around that goal since the summer, despite the fact that it will never happen. This makes the usual cave that avoids political suicide much harder for the Republican leadership this time around.

Where are we now?

The house passed a budget that de-funded Obamacare, and have sent it to the Senate where it will be voted down. Then the House GOP leadership will probably try to sell their caucus that they tried their hardest, but their plan didn't have the votes and they need to try something else. How the House GOP caucus responds to that determines how bad this is going to get.

Why does this keep happening?

There are two main factors here:
(1) The house GOP is legitimately nihilistic and gives no fucks and cares about basically nothing other than standing up to the black Kenyan Muslim. They don't care about the consequences of shutting down the government or sending the world economy into a great depression. It doesn't seem like much will convince them otherwise, and any non insane ending to this saga involves the house passing something with a lot of democratic votes.

(2) The Obama administration started this disastrous process of negotiating over the debt ceiling several years ago, when they tried their hardest to negotiate a deal that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for raising some taxes and cutting social security or medicare. They have since realized what a bad idea that was (negotiating over the deb ceiling, not cutting ss/medicare which that have continued to push for), but the precedent is set. In some ways the right isn't wrong about seeing these crisis points as their best moments of leverage. They had a tangible victory with the sequester, and while the White House sees the error of their ways now, it's not unreasonable for the wingnuts to want to repeat that success.

How does this end?

My best guess is that the government shuts down for a week or two and enough Republicans panic that the house passes something with majority democratic support which ends the standoff. This would lead to unspeakable carnage on the Republican side, but it's kind of hard not to see that regardless of what happens here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Atrios Said

Really agree with this:
One thing I get the sense from the Clintonites and Obamaites (sometimes the same people) is the belief that when it comes to the economy, they did everything fucking right. The Clintonites saved the world from a deficit which didn't matter (which was promptly turned into tax cuts for rich people) and were in power during the 90s boom, and the Obamamites saved the world from The Second Great Depression. Things aren't perfect, but everything that's wrong really just isn't their fault.

The Clintonites solved the wrong problem and benefited from the internet boom, the Obamaites failed to address the things (and made them worse) - banksters/foreclosure crisis - that they actually had some money and power to deal with.

Shit is fucked up and bullshit. That might change if we reach full employment any time soon, otherwise...
I really do think Democrats or liberals suffer from a lack of imagination when it comes to this stuff. Everything that happens immediately becomes AS GOOD AS IT COULD HAVE BEEN NO MATTER WHAT.

That just isn't true. Well, maybe it's true, but it's a lot more likely that it isn't. It could have been better, and it could have been worse. Just because Obama didn't let a great depression happen (great job!) doesn't mean he has 'as good as could be done' with the economy and as atrios notes, he fucked up on the worst on three of the biggest elements (unemployment, housing, fixing banks).

When I talk to left leaning people I sometimes feel like I'm living in a bizzaro world. The economy is still fucking awful for everyone that isn't rich. Some degree of that falls on the man who has been president for five years.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Mass Shooting, This One Close To Home

Happened a few miles from where I work. To absolutely no one's surprise, it turns out the shooter was mentally ill:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The former Navy reservist who slaughtered 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard had been hearing voices and was being treated for mental problems in the weeks before the shooting rampage, but was not stripped of his security clearance, officials said Tuesday.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee with a defense contractor, used a valid pass to get into the highly secured installation Monday morning and started firing inside a building, the FBI said. He was killed in a gun battle with police.

The motive for the mass shooting — the deadliest on a military installation in the U.S. since the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 — was a mystery, investigators said.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that there was no known connection to international or domestic terrorism and investigators have found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.

Alexis had been suffering a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.
During this treatment (he was getting treatment!!!) he was able to keep his security clearance, and probably buy a gun.

The gun he had with him, the AR-15 assault rifle, is the same one used in the Newtown shootings and Colorado movie theater shootings.

Walking to work I saw a pickup truck speeding down the street with 5-6 dudes in army gear with assault rifles in the back, and figured something bad was going down. When I checked twitter and found out about the shooting, the saddest part was that I wasn't even surprised. I've become so desensitized to stuff like this I didn't even change much about my day, or stay glued to news reports. Reacting to a shooting has become almost a morbid routine, anticipating gun nuts saying something stupid, watching politicians and commentators to find ways to idiotically blame video games, finding out that the killer was dealing with serious mental health problems and so on and so on. This is going to have to change, but if it isn't going to change from Newtown, I'm just not sure what will make a difference. The two state senators who went to the mat for gun control just lost elections... in fucking Colorado of all places. I don't mean to sound to pessimistic but I really do wonder sometimes if there is something rotted in our culture when it comes to guns. Any time an issue like this becomes a culture war flash point rather than a normal policy issue, we're usually fucked, and guns seem no different. It's not that this is impossible, but I think this might go in the bag of issues like major immigration reform that can only be passed under a Republican president.

I hope I'm wrong, but somehow if the last several years of gun violence don't wake this country up, I doubt one more tragedy will make a difference.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Larry Summers Won't Get The Chance To Fail at The Highest Level


He has withdrawn from consideration to be chair of the Federal reserve in response to growing pressure against his nomination. Absolutely fantastic news:
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has removed his name from consideration for Federal Reserve chair, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Summers notified President Barack Obama on Sunday via phone call, and sent a letter shortly after.

"I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration or, ultimately, the interests of the nation's ongoing economic recovery," Summers said in the letter.

In recent weeks, Democratic leaders have warned against a Summers nomination; a Senate aide said the move would lead to a "very tough" fight for Senate confirmation. As it stands, Democrats only have a two-vote majority on the Senate Banking Committee. With assumed opposition from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and a recent announcement of opposition from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a Summers confirmation faced an uphill battle.

When rumors of a Summers nomination began to pick up in late July, Obama gave a "full-throated defense" of the former secretary in a closed Senate meeting. A Democratic lawmaker at the meeting said the president ripped The Huffington Post for making Summers "a progressive whipping boy," telling Democrats "not to believe everything you read in The Huffington Post."

Obama also faced opposition from a coalition of progressive groups who began to speak out against a Summers nomination once speculation started to gain traction. MoveOn.org, CREDO, The Other 98%, Democracy For America, UltraViolet, the Campaign for America's Future, DailyKos, the National Organization for Women, Mike Lux's American Family Voices and Color of Change were among those involved in the coalition.
I strongly believe that Summers was Obama's first choice, and that the only reason he has withdrawn is that our pressure has worked. People mobilized hardcore against summers, and this was a real victory.

Alex Pareene makes a good point here:
The volume and strength of liberal opposition to a potential Summers pick seemed to surprise both Summers’ allies and liberals unused to Democrats ever actually successfully challenging Democratic presidents from the left. But once three Democratic Senators on the banking committee all said they’d vote against Summers, it became clear that his nomination would be a circus. And a pointless circus, because there have been, this whole time, numerous highly qualified and entirely uncontroversial choices to run the Fed.

Summers’ supporters now moan that the president didn’t do enough to “push back” against the anti-Summers campaign. All the White House did was dispatch the president to personally try to sell lawmakers on Summers, plant numerous stories praising Summers in the liberal and nonpartisan press, and repeatedly claim that the most prominent other candidate for the position, Janet Yellen, was insufficiently manly. The problem wasn't a lack of effort on the president’s part, the problem was the entire professional history of Larry Summers.
And why wouldn't they be shocked? The Obama administration has seen almost no liberal campaigns against them like the one they did with Summers.

It's a reminder of how to win things. Real pressure on Obama, outside actors/groups constantly raising
hell, leading to several senators saying they'd vote no and making his confirmation impossible. Don't pay nice, make sure there is a political price to be paid for something and people will take you seriously. You might even convince them that it isn't worth the effort. That's what happened here, and it's the lesson for the future: Outside pressure works.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: Franz Ferdinand

If you're easily creeped out by obviously fake blood and guts horror stuff, this video probably isn't for you.

Really like the song though, and the whole album. Extremely underrated band in my view.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

GOP Non-White Outreach Continues to Flourish

It's the stuff like this that has all non-white people running from flocking to conservative ideas:
A group opposed to comprehensive immigration reform compared millions of the nation's undocumented immigrants to Sept. 11, 2001 plane hijackers -- on the 12th anniversary of the terror attacks.

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC posted an email to its website Wednesday asking members to write lawmakers and "Amnesty supporters" such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us and urge them to vote against immigration reform.

"Today, let us bow our heads in prayer for those lost on 9/11 and the thousands of Americans who continue to be slaughtered each year by illegal immigrants who are being supported by large corporations and our own government and politicians," wrote William Gheen, the group's president.

"Let's hit these office phone lines, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages hard today, and instead of pro Amnesty supporters, let all Americans speak against Amnesty on 9/11!" he added. "The illegals are trying to hijack the cockpit of America's government! Let's roll!"
As I've said a million times, until the GOP decides to purge these people (their base) from their party, no amount of minority outreach/existence of Marco Rubios will change anything about their electoral position.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Other Issues Got the Syria war Treatment?

President Obama made his case to the American people that we should go to war with Syria last night and it was a lot less than convincing.

After watching his speech, my main take-away was that Obama really, really wants to bomb Syria. He made a speech on national TV. His administration is constantly calling members of congress to whip their votes. My point is this is what it looks like when President Obama is going all out in support of something. It isn't always successful and there are limits to what the president can change using this type of advocacy, but it's the most he can do from his position.

Other things he has put this type of effort into passing:

The Bailout (before he was elected, but he whipped house democrats to pass it)

The Affordable Care Act

A "Grand Bargain" that raised taxes in exchange for cutting the social safety net

The background check gun control bill

Bombing Syria

I'm writing this while fairly tired so I may be missing a few, but that's what I can come up with off the top of my head.

That's a weird list, isn't' it?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

George Zimmerman Remains the Worst

The worst person in the world:
George Zimmerman has been taken into custody following an incident that may have involved a gun, CBS News has confirmed.

In a telephone interview the Lake Mary, Florida police chief said George Zimmerman was in "investigative detention" after his estranged wife, Shellie, called authorities to say he was threatening her and her parents with a gun. She later backed off from that statement, saying she never saw a gun despite what she told the 911 dispatcher.
You would think that getting away with murder would make you want to keep a low profile or at the very least to STOP THREATENING PEOPLE WITH A GUN! Apparently not.

Monday, September 9, 2013

RGIII: The Return


Here's hoping his leg stays attached this year and he leads us to the promised land.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: The Eastern Sea

I forget who turned me on to this band, they're pretty awesome and I like this song a lot.


What an awful week. And maybe we'll be at war soon! Definitely what we need.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gambling on Poker > Gambling on Matters of Life and Death, Apparently


Warmonger John McCain, playing poker during the Senate hearing on whether or not we should bomb Syria.

His response is to make a joke
The response of NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent is to defend him:
Come on guys, it was a THREE HOUR hearing! Do you know how long that is? Deciding who lives and dies can be soooooo dull.

Fuck all of these people.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Can the US afford to Not Bomb Britain?

Teju Cole is an amazing writer, and earlier wrote one of my favorite things ever on Kony 2012 when it was still about the music rather than the dude who founded it masturbating in public. Anyhow, he always seems to nail issues like this so perfectly, and his series of tweets today was so spot on I wanted to share some of the highlights for posterity.

Here are some of my favorites. You can find the full list and interview with Cole here:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hey Let's Not Bomb Syria

After horrifying evidence of a chemical weapons attack most likely carried out by the Syrian government came to light, everyone was obviously upset and appalled.

But there weirdly only seems to be one response from our political press corps and politicians, which is to bomb anyone who might (or might not) be responsible.

It would be nice if we were capable of examining what happened, soberly looking at how or if we can be helpful without immediately starting the drumbeat have our bombs fix the situation. Because in addition to all the innocent people they'd inevitably kill, bombs will not fix an extremely complex civil war. There is a very good chance it will make things worse.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Class War Exists, We are Losing

The economy continues to be great for some, much less great for others:
WASHINGTON -- U.S. banks earned more from April through June than during any quarter on record, aided by a steep drop in losses from bad loans.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says the banking industry earned $42.2 billion in the second quarter, up 23 percent from the second quarter of 2012. CNNMoney additionally reported Thursday that the nation’s biggest banks are expected to hand out more in compensation in 2013 than they did in 2009 -- the final year of the recession -- including $23 billion in bonuses.

On the same day the FDIC announced the record profits, fast food workers across the nation walked off the job in protest of what they see as low wages and poor treatment. The demonstrators are demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage and protections against retaliation for joining a union.

Hourly wages for nonfarm workers fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest quarterly drop since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking wage growth in 1947. Yet CEO pay continues to steadily rise, with total compensation growing by 876 percent between 1978 and 2012.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rahm Emanuel: Still the Worst

The long and the short of this is that Detroit is in some serious shit, where as Rahm just likes to watch people (particularly unionized public worker people) suffer:
We see this attitude on display currently in the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings. It is even more clearly on display in efforts by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to default on the city’s pension obligations.

The basic story in both cases is that the contracts that workers had labored under are being laughed at by the elites because they find it inconvenient to carry through with the terms. In the case of Detroit, public sector workers face the loss of much of their pension as a result of the city’s effort to declare bankruptcy.

These workers could be forgiven for laboring under the illusion that they would see the pensions for which they worked. These obligations were actually guaranteed under the state’s constitution.

But Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevin Orr, thinks a constitutional guarantee is just a joke that you tell people to trick them into working. Even though the City of Detroit is legally a creation of the state of Michigan, Orr believes that he can ignore the state constitution and pursue a federal bankruptcy that could have workers’ pension cut by as much as 90 percent.

As bad as the story is in Detroit, there is the reality that the city really does face an economic crisis. Its population has shrunk more than 60 percent from its heyday in the 1950s. At the national level, Detroit has been the victim of policies designed to weaken U.S. manufacturing to the benefit of finance, like an over-valued dollar. At the state level, it has suffered from an urban policy that invited middle-class people to escape from Detroit’s social and fiscal problems by stepping over the city line.

Chicago presents a qualitatively different picture. It is a vibrant city with a diversified economy. While large chunks of Detroit have been nearly abandoned, developers are moving to build on long abandoned railroad yards and factory sites in Chicago. In Detroit, paying for pensions or anything else without outside assistance poses a real problem. In Chicago, the cost of the city’s pensions is an inconvenience.
While media like to play the scary number game -- $20 billion in unfunded pension liabilities – this comes to about to about 0.5 percent of the city’s GDP over the next 30 years, the time period in which the shortfall would have to be made up. The city could of course raise this much revenue, but the current mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks it would be too inconvenient. And hey, these are just contracts with workers, not obligations to people who really matter.

Emanuel’s cavalier attitude toward contracts with the city’s workers apparently does not apply to its other contracts, for example its deal with Morgan Stanley to lease its parking meters for 75 years. The city arguably received less than half the market price for this long-term lease, but Emanuel apparently thinks the city can still afford to honor its contract with the huge Wall Street bank.

Contracts with Wall Street types always seem to draw more respect than contracts with workers. Folks may recall that when AIG was bankrupt and effectively a ward of the government, we were told by the Obama administration (where Emanuel was then chief of staff), that it had to pay out $165 million in bonuses to its senior staff. Many of the AIG employees, who had taken the company into bankruptcy, pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from these bonuses.
I haven't seen many polls since his approval plummeted during the teachers' strike, but Rahm getting his ass kicked in the next election would be pretty fucking sweet.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fukushima Isn't Getting Any Less Permanently Ruined

Yikes:
A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated.

Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.

He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

Meanwhile the chairman of Japan's nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks.

The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.
The whole article is terrifying and worth reading if you have the time.

Basically water levels have been lowering in these tanks for some time and it's not hard to figure out the contaminated water went. It's also a reminder about the scope and time horizon on these environmental disasters. I will be seeing reports on Fukushima for the rest of my life. Yellow tailed tuna won't spawn in the gulf of mexico for 30 years. Being hyperbolic about the damage these disasters have caused doesn't really do them justice.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free Chelsea Manning

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday. After the ruling, she asked President Obama for a pardon in a genuinely moving statement:
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We've been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we've had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy – the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps – to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."

I understand that my actions violated the law; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
Update: This morning, Manning released a statement stating that she is a female and wants to be referred to as Chelsea. I've updated the post to reflect that. As many of you know, I write most posts the night before (or earlier in the week) and set them to post automatically during the day. Thanks to Kari for reminding me to change the post based on today's news.