Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mormonism Will Save the Poor!

Tyler Cowen, brainiac libertarian econ professor. He believes the poor should
become Mormons and fix their whole shit in a minute. Whaddya think, Mitt? Funny 
underwear and BOOM! no smoking, no drinking, no card-playing and then JOBS!!

Atrios catches a Lawyers, Guns, and Money post about Tyler Cowen's solution to all the poor people. Yes, this was a hideous thing to say: 
You and other thinkers on the right have proposed that cultural factors play a large role in the widening income gap. What are you suggesting?

Note that the observed stagnation in earnings has plagued male earners, not women. Women continue to do better in the work force and also in education, or if they choose not to advance this is often a voluntary decision, linked to childbearing.

Men are perhaps better suited for old-style manufacturing jobs, and women are often better suited for service sector jobs. A lot of men seem to have problems with discipline and conscientiousness.

If we are looking for a remedy, a greater interest in strict religions would help many of the poor a lot — how about Mormonism for a start? Just look at the data. Many other religions prohibit or severely limit alcohol, drugs and gambling. That said, this has to happen privately rather than as a matter of state policy.
Oh, yeah, just become a Mormon and -- BOOM!!! -- job city. But what I found to be even more contemptible was this bit at the end:
So, your conclusion is we should obsess less about rising inequality in America.
We should focus policy on increasing the quality and affordability of housing, health care and education, and on raising the rate of technological advancement. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about this red herring of “inequality” writ large any more.
By the way, the biggest inequalities are those across borders. So if we are talking policy, how about a more liberal immigration policy for the United States? That should be the No. 1 priority for anyone concerned about income inequality.
I've attempted to parse Tyler Cowen on his blog, and he's pretty dense, though he's always struck me as being, I don't know, creepy. But I'm pretty sure, beyond the duplicity of calling income inequality a "red herring," he's saying that the biggest inequalities are across borders and the way to fix that is for the U.S. to allow so much immigration that wages are smashed inside our borders so that the income gap will now be inside our borders! Internal inequality for the win!

Where am I wrong?

I'm So Surprised the CIA Spied on the Senate!

CIA Director John Brennan holding up fingers to indicate how
many seconds he thinks before lying like a dog.

I am shocked to see lying in this establishment:
The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the George W. Bush administration.
CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee’s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., on Buckley’s findings, and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.
“The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report),” he said.
Brennan has decided to submit the findings for review to an accountability board chaired by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Boyd said.
Okay, there's a boatload of bullshit in that excerpt. Shall we name them?
  • They admit they lied.
  • The liar briefed the lied-to that he had lied to them. Brilliant.
  • The liar apologized for what was in a report that his own outfit wrote about his lying.
  • The liar is going to submit the findings that he's a liar to an accountability board, presumably so he will be held accountable. Prediction: not gonna happen, being held accountable, I mean. Liars gotta lie, right?
  • WTF Evan Bayh??!!?? Didn't he go off and melt somewhere? Who led him back to civilization? Make him go away again. (Who appoints dicks like Bayh chairman of anything? Oh yeah, his bros.)
Evan Bayh was governor of Indiana and a U.S. senator. Okay five seconds:
Name something he ever did. Go ahead. Time's up. What did you think of?
Nothing. Yeah, me too.

Run, Mitt, Run!

Holy crap.

There's hardly a groundswell yet, and yesterday Slate genius -- I actually mean idiot but I admit I like this guy -- John Dickerson wrote a piece saying there's a fabulous line-up of GOP hopefuls for 2016. Still, this article in The Week is the second article I've seen making the case for a Romney III.

Please, please, please run, Mitt. Please!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We've Always Been at War with the Sunni, Long Live the Shia!

Pakistani Sunni composing a love letter to America.

We've always been at war with the Sunni, of course except when we weren't. Right now, we're considering which side to favor in the Iraq debacle (of our own making):
The Pentagon signaled Tuesday that it is mulling its largest ever shipment of Hellfire missiles to Iraq as the government in Baghdad digs itself in for a prolonged fight against militants who have taken over hundreds of square miles of territory across western and northern parts of the country.

The State Department has approved the possible sale of 5,000 AGM-114K/N/R missiles and related parts and training, Pentagon officials said. The estimated cost of the deal would be about $700 million, and dwarf previous shipments of Hellfire missiles to Iraq.
Now, by sending Hellfire missiles to Iraq to fight the militants, we're choosing the Shia of the Iraq government over the Sunni, which comprise the militants. When was the last time we did the opposite? Hmm...
...American officials estimate that, from 1985 to 1992, 12,500 foreigners were trained in bomb-making, sabotage and urban guerrilla warfare in Afghan camps the CIA helped to set up.
Since the fall of the Soviet puppet government in 1992, another 2,500 are believed to have passed through the camps. They are now run by an assortment of Islamic extremists, including Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist.
Bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia in 1979, aged 22. Though he saw a considerable amount of combat - around the eastern city of Jalalabad in March 1989 and, earlier, around the border town of Khost - his speciality was logistics.
From his base in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, he used his experience of the construction trade, and his money, to build a series of bases where the mujahideen could be trained by their Pakistani, American and, if some recent press reports are to be believed, British advisers.
The above was excerpted from an article in The Guardian in 1999, more than two years before 9/11. The faction in Afghanistan that we were arming and supporting was headed by Osama bin Laden, a Sunni. Clever, America, real clever.

But we've always been at war with the Sunni! Saddam Hussein was a Sunni. True enough, and we sure went to war with him. Twice. Then we hanged him. Nice Dead Sunni... Except, uh, what about this?
United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War, against post-revolutionary Iran, included several billion dollars' worth of economic aid, the sale of dual-use technology, non-U.S. origin weaponry, military intelligence, Special Operations training, and direct involvement in warfare against Iran.
Support from the U.S. for Iraq was not a secret and was frequently discussed in open session of the Senate and House of Representatives. On June 9, 1992, Ted Koppel reported on ABC's Nightline, that the "Reagan/Bush administrations permitted—and frequently encouraged—the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq."
Okay, so back then, because we hated Iran -- a Shia nation -- we were at war against the Shia while we armed Sunni Iraq. That makes sense.

It makes about as much sense as supporting the establishment of the Shia-dominated Iraq government that replaced the Sunni-dominated government of Saddam Hussein that we helped depose.

Now that the Sunni-dominated militants have taken over the fight against the Shia-dominated Syrian government of al-Assad, we thought of arming the Sunni against Assad, except then they allied themselves with the crazy-ass ISIS who then went and attacked the Shia-dominated army of Iraq. Now we don't know what to do, except send missiles to the Shia government in Iraq, you know, the one we hate (that would be al-Maliki and his thugs).

Good grief.

What would John McCain do? Well, uh, let's check:
 Great job Senator McCain! Yes we know you are for arming pretty much any group around the world and for getting U.S. Armed Forces entangled in any conflict worldwide but this is a little much even for you. Talk about backing the wrong horse! These are some of the people you called “moderates” when you were in Syria. They don’t seem so moderate as they are machine gunning people to death in drive bys.
McCain chillin' with ISIS leaders before he realized all rebels aren't created equal.

It sure is easy picking the right side to arm! What would Lindsey Graham do? Well, uh, let's check:
Graham echoed McCain’s views, but also acknowledged that new military action in Iraq likely would be unpopular with most Americans.
“To the American people, I know you’re war-weary, I know you’re tired of dealing with the Mideast,” he said. “But the people that are moving into Iraq and holding ground in Syria have as part of their agenda not only to drive us out of the Mideast, but to hit our homeland.”
Fair enough. They don't like us. But here's a thought: If we keep arming the other side every other war, everyone will hate us, even those we haven't personally blown up before. Uh, just a thought.

When he was young, we gave bin Laden arms to blow up the Soviets. Then
we got Saudi Arabia to host our bases (bin Laden was a Saudi). Well, Osama
didn't like that, so then he decided to blow us up. Weird how that worked.

Changing who we back from year to year is weird. Funny, but now that we're afraid of the Sunni, we're making nice with Iran. Israel (our dear friend) doesn't like that because Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon -- two militant Shia groups -- are their deadly enemy. Wonder how it'll all work out. A clue: Don't ask John McCain or Lindsey Graham.

GOP Caught on Three Sides as Obamacare, EPA Shine

Hospitals getting paid more because of Obamacare?
Oops, GOP, I thought you were the party of business...

Funny, but that's the case:
HCA Holdings Inc. (HCA), the largest for-profit hospital chain, yesterday raised its forecast and reported a 6.6 percent drop in uninsured patients at its 165 hospitals, a reduction that grows to 48 percent in four states that expanded Medicaid, a top initiative of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. WellPoint Inc. (WLP), which made the biggest commitment of any publicly traded insurer to the Obamacare markets, raised its guidance today after handily beating analyst estimates for the quarter on rising membership linked to the overhaul.

Taxpayers too may be benefiting from the law approved in 2010. Medicare spending rose by just $1 per beneficiary in 2013, the fourth year in a row that saw a slowdown, the government reported yesterday.
"Obamacare's turned out to be quite good for health-care companies," said Les Funtleyder, a portfolio manager at Esquared asset management, in a telephone interview.
From "Obamacare's a disaster on all levels" to "OMG Obamacare's a freaking winner," along with the general GOP silence on the matter as we head to the 2014 elections, you'd think at some point it might start to be a losing issue for the GOP. I think you might be right. Here's the Dems starting to push:
“In order to better understand the basis for your opposition, I request that you provide ... copies of any state-specific analyses, studies, or reports that you ordered, requested or relied on to inform your decision,” Cummings said in the letters.
He specifically asked for how much funding the states would forgo by rejecting Medicaid expansion, how much the states themselves would have had to pay, how many jobs would have been created with Medicaid expansion, and how many residents would have to forgo "preventive services and other medicare care" without expansion.
At the same time, Cummings asked three Republican governors who decided to accept Medicaid expansion -- Arizona's Jan Brewer, Ohio's John Kasich and New Jersey's Chris Christie -- for the same kind of information, to help explain why they did elect to adopt a key provision of Obamacare.
It's easy to dismiss this as a stunt -- since maybe it is -- but all the same it's part of a pattern that's emerging of pressure building on the GOP governors and legislatures to explain why the poor have to die in their states. I see it building. We'll all see as the season goes on.

On another front, conservative environmentalists -- evangelical ones at that -- are parting company with conservative obstructionists and are openly praising Obama for his EPA actions:
WASHINGTON — The Rev. Lennox Yearwood punched his fist in the air as he rhythmically boomed into the microphone: “This is a moment for great leadership. This is a moment for our country to stand up. This is our moment.”
But Mr. Yearwood’s audience was not a church. It was the Environmental Protection Agency.
The E.P.A. on Tuesday held the first of two days of public hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mixed in with the coal lobbyists and business executives were conservative religious leaders reasserting their support for President Obama’s environmental policies — at a time when Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change.
More than two dozen faith leaders, including evangelicals and conservative Christians, are expected to speak at the E.P.A. headquarters in Washington by the time the hearings conclude on Wednesday.
“The science is clear,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, the senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners, an evangelical organization with a social justice focus. “The calls of city governments — who are trying to create sustainable environments for 25, 50 years — that’s clear.”
I've always thought that conservatives should be among the loudest calling for sustainable environments. It's good to see it happening.

Henry Blodget Gets Real with Corportations Sharing Their Profits with Workers!

Are these workers hamburger manufacturers? Henry Blodget thinks so. (So do I.)

Imagine a really, really nice capitalist talking all socialist on you. You'd see Henry Blodget this morning on Yahoo! Blodget's explanation isn't really socialism, by the way, as much as libertarian conservatives might want you to think so. Blodget just explains why stifling middle-class wages (and thus producing a low-wage, lower-class, under-consuming society) is not actually good for the bottom line:

I like that he's honest about the notion that he wishes the government didn't have to step in to force corporations to act in the best interests of society with a minimum wage increase. Society should just make the decision that the well-being of workers is good for it. What Henry is not saying is that the way society makes decisions together is called government!

Note. Okay, it also could be Christian churches preaching that Jesus would want higher wages because, well, it's Christian to do unto others, etc. In the absence of that (not going to happen thing), then it's government, y'all. Go National Labor Relations Board!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mainstream Media Turns (on the GOP) with Obamacare

This took a while:
On July 1, the hospital in rural Belhaven, N.C., closed — a victim, in part, of the decision by the state’s governor and legislature to reject the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.
Six days later, 48-year-old Portia Gibbs, a local resident, had a heart attack. The medevac to take her to the next-nearest hospital (as many as 84 miles away, depending on where you live) didn’t get there in time.
“She spent the last hour of her life in a parking lot at a high school waiting for a helicopter,” Belhaven’s mayor, Adam O’Neal, said outside the U.S. Capitol on Monday, holding a framed photograph of Gibbs.
A week after Gibbs’s death, O’Neal began a 15-day, 273-mile walk to Washington to draw attention to the outrage in Belhaven, which he blames on the combination of an “immoral” hospital operator and the failure of Republican leaders in his state to accept the new Medicaid funding the hospital needed to stay afloat.
What makes the mayor’s journey all the more compelling is he’s a white Southerner and a Republican officeholder who has conservative views on abortion, taxes, guns — “you name it,” he told me. But ideology and party loyalty have limits. “I’m a pretty conservative guy, but this is a matter of people dying,” he said.
This starts with Dana Milbank. It doesn't stop here. The floodgates of public opinion may finally be open.

Special clinic for the poor: When people don't have access, it's a moral failure.