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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hillary's Legions: Would You Believe They're White Voters?

Let's not get carried away, lady. Okay, you are doing pretty well for a non-candidate.

Okay, not completely. But she does better among whites than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter:
Would you look at that? Obama, who won only 39 percent of the white vote in 2012, is swooning because he's lost even more of it. But Clinton's grabbing 46 percent of the white vote. That's better than Obama did in 2008 (43 percent), better than John Kerry did in 2004 (41 percent), better than Al Gore did in 2000 (42 percent). It's even better than her husband did in 1996 (43 percent), though that result—like the 1992 result—is skewed by the presence of Ross Perot. You have to go back to 1976 to find a Democrat who polled better than 46 percent with whites. And when Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated Gerald Ford, the electorate was 89 percent white overall. In 2016 it's likely to be closer to 70 percent white. In 2016 a Democrat who wins only 40 percent of the white vote and holds close to Barack Obama's totals with nonwhites can win easily.
Special bonus reason for Democratic gloating: In the theoretical Romney race, Clinton wins 62 percent of voters who make less than $50,000. Yes, even after the scandal of her speaking fees.
Reince Priebus and Karl Rove can float attacks all they want. Maybe won't stick, huh guys? Wait til she plays the war-on-women card. Shit storm. Wait, maybe you already played it for her. Oops...

Sometimes Atrios Says It Best

He often does. Especially when it's about how we Americans conduct our war fun:

What Could Go Wrong

I'm amazed how little discussion there has been, over the years, about how maybe sending immense amount of weapons to regions supposedly filled with bad people who want to kill us wasn't such a good idea. Yes I know we were spreading peeance and freedom and in order to do that nothing was more important, after painting schools, than arming and training the local military (I'm not saying this makes any sense, but it was The Plan.) You know, I would have thought "free guns for Muslims" might have upset the Pam Geller wing of the Republican party a bit more than it did, but...
Over the past decade, the U.S. has poured unimaginable amounts of money into training and equipping Afghanistan’s army. Now, the Department of Defense office in charge of auditing the process is saying many of the 747,000 weapons given to the ANSF have gone missing and could end up fueling escalating attacks by Taliban insurgents if they fall into the wrong hands.
Just about right, Atrios. I wonder what's going to happen when we pull out of Afghanistan after 13 years. Any ideas?

Don't worry. We won.

I Wanna Dress Like Today's Cops. They're So Cool!

This is how our cops gear up for non-violent civil disobedience. Oooo, so brave!

I couldn't help but flag this photo of our dedicated RoboCops taking on McDonald's workers in May. Where are the tanks and Bradleys, guys? That would put them in their place.

Where have we seen this kind of force before? Hmm...

Oh yeah...Cops responding to labor.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. What causes this? Greed. And it ain't the workers, baby.

Note. There's a reason cops dress the way they do. It's freedom, Homeland Security peace and freedom! Freedom rocks!

As George Takae might say, oh myyy!

The Way They Roll: MS Gov Refuses ACA Medicaid Expansion and...

...the uninsured go up in Mississippi! Who's fault is that? Obama's.

Mississppi's Governor (and horrible human being) Phil Bryant. Uninsured
growing in your state? Well, refuse Obamacare and then blame Obama!

We always wonder why they do this, and we always come up with the same conclusion: They opt to lie and deceive because it works among the several brain-dead coalitions that make up their base: uninformed white people, super-uninformed white people, Fox News white people, and Obama-Derangement-Syndrome informed white people. (Formerly called racists).

One of these days, guys like Bryant will wake up and find their base is seventeen white people in a Jackson diner. Till then, it's on with the bullshit because it's working!
July 27--JACKSON -- Gov. Phil Bryant placed the blame squarely on President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act for Mississippi's status as the only state where the number of people without health insurance has increased.
Says Bryant, in response to the news about Mississippi and its healthcare problems:
But Bryant said without expanding Medicaid or aggressively publicizing the exchange, "We are already making tremendous strides in increasing access to health care and health care services."
He cited the recent move to expand the University of Mississippi Medical School to produce more doctors and the development of "telehealth" to improve access for people in rural areas of the state as initiatives that will make a difference.
 I never knew that being full of crap is the road to the governorship of Mississippi, but, hey, dude's got grit! What about the three Southern states that accepted the Medicaid expansion?
Only three Southern states participated in the Medicaid expansion -- Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia. All three experienced some of the biggest drops in the percentage of uninsured residents -- 10.74 percent in West Virginia, 8.35 percent in Kentucky and 7.1 percent in Arkansas.
Proof that Obamacare isn't working! Well, proof in Mississippi, anyway.

This may have nothing to do with anything, but you've got to admit it's weird.

How weird is it?

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on October 24, 2013, that's how weird.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Complex Problem, Simple Solution: Universal Basic Income

The way the system works: These guys have $100 billion. Does that make sense?

I've been thinking and writing about a universal basic income for a while now, so when it pops up elsewhere, I'm excited. David Atkins, at both Washington Monthly and Hullabalo, helped reignite discussion of it in the past week. Atkins links several articles together to buttress his case.

Atkins cited this WaPo article by Max Ehrenfreund, whose premise was that conservatives, one would think, would embrace the universal basic income because it would take the place of a slew of government programs.

Ehrenfreund offers a link to an earlier piece by Mike Konczal that makes the point that the UBI shouldn't be thought of as merely utopian but rather practical, as well. He highlights the aspects of American life that can be liberated from markets:
Another somewhat related focus of the left is the issue of decommodification, or whether certain goods should be provided through market logic. As Naomi Klein argued in "Reclaiming the Commons," one goal for the left is to oppose “the privatization of every aspect of life, and the transform­ation of every activity and value into a commodity.” This has a long history on the left; Daniel Rodgers argued that a major focus of early 20th century progressives was “to hold certain elements out of the market's processes, indeed to roll back those parts of the market whose social costs had proved too high.”
According to this line of thought, the goal isn’t to ensure a sufficient amount of market access and purchasing power, but instead to remove markets from the way people interface with certain goods, such as education or health care. As the welfare-state theorist Gøsta Esping-Andersen argued, decommodification is defined as a situation in which “a service is rendered as a matter of right, and when a person can maintain a livelihood without reliance on the market.” A UBI would delink survival and subsistence from the labor market, advancing this goal.
Another project is to expand the say workers have in their workplaces. This includes not only unionization, but also a more general project of democracy that doesn’t end once you walk through your employer’s door. As Century Foundation Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg and labor attorney Moshe Marvit have argued, labor organizing needs to be considered a basic civil right.
Much of this approach is already on display in European social democracies. The keys are removing certain commodities from markets that don't perform well, education and healthcare being two of them. We also have, in essence, commodified child-rearing and caring for the elderly. Since we don't get paid for that, many families choose to take the woman out of the labor force to deal with these necessities. Again, Europe deals a bit better with these issues, especially in Scandinavia. got into the act as Dylan Matthews, who's been writing about this issue for a while, had a good piece on what we've learned from controlled experiments with a UBI. Matthews references the Manitoba experiment -- which I had studied a while back -- but doesn't discuss it much. That's worth a deeper look.

David Atkins wrote about the UBI here, here and here.

I wrote about it here.

Congressman Paul Ryan, for some reason attracted attention this week by coming out with this new idea for treating the poor humanely:
  1. Take all the federal spending on safety nets and eliminate the huge federal safety-net bureaucracy by block-granting the money to the states.
  2. The fifty states create fifty bureaucracies, thus using the money more wisely.
  3. These fifty bureaucracies hold the recipients of their poverty programs accountable and take away benefits if they don't successfully follow the states' "life plan" by accessing training and getting a job.
  4. ????
  5. Jobs for all the poor!
Or we could follow Rick Santorum's prescription:
There is income inequality in America. There always has been and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be. Why? Because people rise to different levels of success based on what they contribute to society and to the marketplace and that's as it should be.
Thanks for clearing that up, Rick. Left unsaid but clearly implied is that some portion of society ends up contributing nothing and the marketplace rewards them with nothing. And that's how it should be. How very American -- and Christian -- of you.

Yes, I Am Pro-Choice Because...

I am pro-women. Below see epic picture.

The biggest scandal, the biggest failing, in America is how we treat women. It starts when we men act like we own women's bodies. That sounds like a funny statement. Oddly, as you well know, it isn't.

A premise of Star Trek was that mankind had evolved to the point where we had become better stewards of our animal selves. Many in the U.S. sort of take that for granted, that we are becoming better, and that may well be true.

I find myself, in the end, when considering how women are treated -- and I'm not talking about Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or any other 15th-century throwback -- I have to conclude that we have not transcended our animal nature. We men bigger, women watch out.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Arizona Shows Us How to Execute People!

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer: Our execution sucked but it was "lawful."

I've long been against the death penalty, and since we've had two horrifically botched executions recently -- one in Oklahoma and, just this week, in Arizona -- the 8th Amendment has been making a comeback, at least in rational circles.

Murderers don't make for very sympathetic characters. I don't need to describe their crimes here to demonstrate why at least a few of us will rise up and say, "I'd throw the switch in a heartbeat!" A decent majority -- 60% -- still favor the death penalty in the U.S. That number has been slipping steadily for years, and, after the execution of Joseph R. Wood in which it took two hours -- two hours! -- for him to die by a barely lethal injection, it's sure to slip some more.

Like Josh Marshall, in this excellent piece on his TPM blog, I feel that we are seeing an end game emerging in the slow movement toward a nationwide ban, but like Marshall, I don't see it happening soon. But it will happen.

In the meantime, we'll see something that we've seen in policy differences brought on by regional politics: Blue states will increasingly block or ban executions, and red states will account for more and more of them as time goes by. This actually makes sense and is reasonably predictable, as rural and mountain states that favor guns and law-and-order will continue to embrace the death penalty. A pick-up truck owner with a gun rack in Montana is more likely to support the death penalty than a Prius driver in Berkeley, California.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate puts it about right:
On Wednesday afternoon, in a ritual that has become increasingly—indeed almost numbingly—familiar, the state of Arizona administered a secret drug protocol that took almost two hours to kill a man. Joseph R. Wood III was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. The murder was gruesome, and Wood was guilty. He shot his victims in the chest at close range. The only question that remains, as yet another state botches yet another execution, is whether the two hours of gasping and snorting by the accused before he finally died is excessive, or whether it sounds about right to us.
If it doesn't "sound about right" to you, then you might someday if not today join me in moving past barbarism and vengeance and say enough is enough. Ban the death penalty.

We'd have the extra pleasure of joining the rest of civilized society. The U.S. is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to employ the death penalty (Cuba hasn't executed anyone in 10 years), and Japan is an example of a civilized country also using the death penalty, which is commonly accepted in Asia.

Yeah, America, let's continue doing this.

Friday, July 25, 2014

This Is How We American Humans Roll on Fox News

Hannity, yesterday. Presented without comment, other than to assume that if a news host acted this way as often as Hannity does -- on just about any network I know -- he would be toast. With Fox, their decency meter, oh wait, they have no decency meter.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Conservative Bubble World: ACA Can't Help Anyone

In this article by Greg Sargent in WaPo, it's clear that conservatives and their Republican adherents broadly think Obamacare doesn't or can't help anyone. The funny thing about this is that even as millions of uninsured are getting insured, Republicans don't see this as happening or won't or can't acknowledge that such a thing might be a public good. Why?

One reason is that they live in Bubble World. (You know what I mean by that.) Another, equally likely reason is that, sure, they're being helped but in the wrong way, in that a government solution must be an evil by definition. Sounds right to me. Sargent:
Crucially, an astonishing 72 percent of Republicans, and 64 percent of conservatives, say the law hasn’t helped anyone. (Only one percent of Republicans say the law has helped them!) By contrast, 57 percent of moderates say the law has helped them or others. Independents are evenly divided.
Perhaps these numbers among Republicans and conservatives only capture generalized antipathy towards the law. Or perhaps they reflect the belief that Obamacare can’t be helping anyone, even its beneficiaries, since dependency on Big Gummint can only be self-destructive. Either way, the findings again underscore the degree to which Republicans and conservatives inhabit a separate intellectual universe about it.
Big Gummint. That's got to be it. I've always believed a huge headwind for ACA adoption is that Republicans would rather pay more for healthcare than go through the exchanges and get a good deal.

Quite likely so. Now, remember that Republicans are delighted that Big Gummint provides them with religious liberty, code words for making sluts pay for their birth control and making it darned near impossible for sluts to get abortions.  Now that's some goddam good Big Gummint!

Government providing healthcare? Bad! Government controlling sluts? Good!

But now comes bad news from Planned Parenthood: Huge numbers of Republican women, it turns out are sluts! Oh noes! Survey says:
Seven in 10 Republican women (72 percent) said that birth control should be included as preventive health care, covered without any out-of-pocket costs. - See more at:
Seven in 10 Republican women (72 percent) said that birth control should be included as preventive health care, covered without any out-of-pocket costs. - See more at:
Seven in 10 Republican women (72 percent) said that birth control should be included as preventive health care, covered without any out-of-pocket costs. - See more at:
Seven in 10 Republican women (72 percent) said that birth control should be included as preventive health care, covered without any out-of-pocket costs.
Of course, Republicans can deal with this news because it's all lies. Everybody knows that! And everybody knows Republican women are anti-abortion, right? Oops, up to 81 percent of Republican women are abortion sluts, too. Who knew? Republicans for Choice commissioned a poll to find out:
Ann Stone, National Chairman of Republicans For Choice who sponsored these questions on choice included in this national survey, said:
“There are two important conclusions to be drawn from this survey.  First, the majority of the GOP 71% (up to 81% with leaners) is solidly in favor of women having control over their reproductive decisions, or in other words, they are pro-choice.
Second, national pollsters need to stop using self-labeling to gauge true sentiment on the issue of choice. These labels ahve clearly lost their meaning. Clearly, 70% of people who call themselves pro-life are actually in favor of the woman making the decision on choice which in fact makes them pro-choice.
We challenge ALL national pollsters to start including this main question (Q1) in all of their surveys to test the validity of this outcome."
The question and its results are below (the pollster is the same one used commonly by the Washington Post):
Q1       Regardless of how you personally feel about the issue of abortion…who do you believe should have the right to make that decision regarding whether to have an abortion…Should the woman, her family and her doctor make the decision or should the government make the decision?
            1          Strongly the woman, her family and her doctor
            2          Not strongly the woman, her family and her doctor
            3          Not strongly the government
            4          Strongly the government
            9          Don’t know
            0          Refused
                                   GOP/ IND/ DEM
Strongly the woman 71% /80%/ 89%
Not strongly the woman 10%/ 6%/ 5%
Not strongly the government */ * /0%
Strongly the government 3% /2%/ 1%
Conclusion: the GOP is 71% pro-choice and up to 81% with leaners.
 That's some powerful sluts in the family, Republicans. What's up with that?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another Republican Waterloo? (Hint: Immigration)

Obama may be dumb, but he's not stupid.

If Ron Brownstein's reporting is to be believed, Barack Obama is set to change the stakes of the immigration reform battle with an executive order protecting undocumented workers with children who are U.S. citizens from deportation. This could affect as much as 50 percent of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. today.

Republicans will erupt in fury, but they do so at their peril:
Such a move would infuriate Republicans, both because the border crisis has deepened their conviction that any move toward legalization inspires more illegal migration and because the president would be bypassing Congress. They would likely challenge an Obama order through both legislation and litigation. Every 2016 GOP presidential contender could feel compelled to promise to repeal the order.
Those would be momentous choices for a party already struggling to attract Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership initiative at the conservative American Principles Project, warns that if Republicans "again fall for the trap" and try to overturn an Obama legalization plan without offering an alternative path to legal status, the party will condemn itself to another lopsided deficit among Hispanics—and to a likely defeat—in 2016. David Ayon, senior adviser to the polling firm Latino Decisions, says that if Republicans erupt against an Obama legalization initiative, it "could turn the Latino vote as ruggedly anti-Republican as the black vote."
On many fronts, Obama seems to be only reacting to events. But on immigration, as on other social issues such as gay rights and contraception, he is driving decisions that could shape the two parties for years—and cement the Democratic hold on the coalition of growing demographic groups that powered his two victories.
Oh yeah. Let the games begin.

The surge of child refugees may have delayed Obama, but it won't deter him.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Back to the Future: It's the Cold War All Over Again

Vladimir Putin: He'll sputter out just like the Soviet Union. Of course, it'll be messy.

I spotted this blog post by TPM's Josh Marshall, and I agree with his assessment: The shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over rebel-held eastern Ukraine is a game changer. Check the declining polls for Putin and Russia, before the shootdown. Imagine the polls now, especially as the rebels run roughshod over what should be a solemn duty to the dead and to the investigation of what caused this crime against humanity.

Though I don't respect California Senator Diane Feinstein as much as I did before she became such a mainstream centrist, I do agree with her that we've slipped back into full-on cold war with Russia. It certainly is back to the future on this one.

Commentators all over the map are fond of saying Russians are chess players, and so we should view Vladimir Putin's moves as carefully calculated. Yes, Putin may be playing well back on the Russian stage, but out in the world, Putin is single-handedly driving Russia's reputation into a ditch, one he won't easily extricate it from.

The world will soon accept that the state of things in eastern Ukraine are Putin's doing, and so is the fate of flight MH17. He as good as shot it down himself, he's that culpable. When you go around throwing bombs and one of them inadvertently causes death and mayhem, it's your show. Putin should know this by now.

I had imagined a few weeks back that he'd learned his lesson and backed off just in time. Then he thought, "Wait, I can get away with some more mischief before the West catches on." Trouble was, he was busted, and Obama slapped more sanctions on him, with the EU piling on just a little. Now, with the passenger-plane shootdown, Putin drowning in his own soup. He'll splash around for awhile, thinking he can play fast and loose when no one looking again, but that isn't going to work.

Why? The U.S. and Europe can ride out a bump in relations, but Russia can't. Its economy is dependent on Europe more than Europe is dependent on Russian oil, gas, and resources. Sure, Russia can make nice with China, but that only goes so far. Then it has to make nice with China, and  there can be high opportunity costs.

Undoubtedly, things won't go exactly the way I hope they will. Europe won't cut Russia off. But as things grow tougher in Russia, as they most certainly will, the Russian people may tire of Putin's counterproductive antics. He may then only get by with Stalinesque tactics. He may stay in power but lose the love of the people. Then he becomes a punk in the eyes of the world, including the Russian people.

Then it's only a matter of time. Putin -- and his brand of skinhead behavior -- will be on his way out, sooner or later.

You can lock up Pussy Riot, but you can't lock up your nation, forever.

Thanks to TPM's excellent reporting.

Republicans to Recalibrate Their Immigration Policy? (hahahahahahahahaha)

America, America, God shed His grace on thee!

I choose pictures to run with my opinion pieces (What is it I write exactly?) that I hope are representative of the topic. In this case, a snarky caption is meant to catch the irony -- or the emotion -- of a particular set of people engaged in a particular action. In this case, I'm showing a group of white individuals stopping the federal government from moving children from overcrowded immigrant processing centers to less crowded ones.

Fact: The children will end up in some processing center or another without being summarily expelled from the country. So, the protest we see above amounts to just so much hate-inspired froth. Unpleasant though it might be, the reality is that it's ineffective, beyond perpetrating a belief system, one that many of us truly hope amounts to a death rattle, a twitch of the corpse, if you will, of white America's racist xenophobia.

That belief system is Republican-sponsored "We-ism" or "Me-ism" (We're the real America, WE DON'T WANT YOU!!). In other words, conservative white Christians hate brown children, especially if they're trying to get into the Real America of conservative white Christians.

Or maybe all the people in the photo are Obama supporters, you know, bleeding-heart liberals.

Not likely, or am I missing something?

Not likely. So when I read a NYTimes article stressing that the GOP are treading a fine line and if they're not going to lose Hispanic voters, they might want to, I don't know, try to not appear like the most hate-filled, xenophobic dicks imaginable. Oops, too late. But oh, they must try:
Today, as a wave of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America poses a new crisis for Congress and the White House, Republicans are struggling to calibrate a response that is both tough and humane, mindful of the need to reconcile their freighted history with Hispanic voters and the passions of a conservative base that sees any easing of immigration rules as heresy.
Mmmkay. Let's see, what would a tough and humane way to deal with these children be that would make the Hispanics more likely to vote for white conservatives? I know: Let's give them all teddy bears before deporting them? Apparently that's Glenn Beck's approach. However:
As Breitbart News noted, "Beck did acknowledge that not everyone who is unlawfully entering the country, though, is an innocent child," and "said he did not mean to say that conservatives who oppose his efforts are not compassionate or good-hearted." 
Beck has delivered a monologue subtitled in Spanish urging parents not to send their kids to America and demanded that the children be sent back home. He said it was his hope that the illegal immigrant children ultimately return to their countries and think the Americans they met were "amazing." Beck hoped that the children would decide to make something of themselves in their home countries and try to come to America the right way in the future.
Thanks for clearing that up, Glenn. First, give them teddy bears, then demand they be sent home immediately but urge them of course to make something of themselves before returning to the great, great, great America of their dreams, the "right way."

I get it. The kids deserve to be here the "right way," but for now, get the fuck out. Calibrate that, Republicans.

These patriotic Americans are talking about...

...these children.

We understand, or should, the plight of these refugees. (They are, in fact, refugees.) Beyond the petty, fear-mongering, hate-filled politics of it, the GOP could act like humans if they cared to. Fat chance.

Say what you will, shills for the Republican Party. There will be no calibration. Just weird-ass braying. Yep, I hear it here, there, Murieta, and everywhere. Good on ya, GOP. You make America proud.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Obamacare Denialists: It's Blinders Now, Blinders Forever

Paul Krugman makes the best case yet that the GOP will run their Obama hatred into the ground before they'll acknowledge that a conservative healthcare plan that was hatched to oppose Hillarycare all those years ago, while not as good as single-payer, is working quite well, thank you.

No thanks to you, GOP.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Americans -- Including Republicans -- Like Their Obamacare

You'd think from this picture that only white people hate Obamacare. Funny
thing is you'd be right, except now the majority of white people like it, too!

In the who-thought-this-was-happening-while-we-hated-Obamacare department, it turns out that not only is Obamacare working the way it was designed -- except in Republican states who refuse to take federal money to insure the uninsured -- but it's also wildly popular, you guessed it, among Republicans.
What was more surprising is that people who got the new coverage were generally happy with the product. Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before—including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year—were happy with their new coverage.
How many Republicans are going to campaign this fall on repealing Obamacare? Probably a lot, because reality isn't how they roll. They roll on fear and loathing. But we're onto them. Hope their base get weirder. OMG, is there any room left for that?

Go Obamacare!

Why Convservatives Don't Want to Help the Economy

Just leave it to the markets. They're always right, right?

Paul Krugman pointed out the obvious in today's column:
Who are these always-wrong, never-in-doubt critics [of expansionary monetary policy]? With no exceptions I can think of, they come from the right side of the political spectrum. But why should right-wing sentiments go hand in hand with inflation paranoia? One answer is that using monetary policy to fight slumps is a form of government activism. And conservatives don’t want to legitimize the notion that government action can ever have positive effects, because once you start down that path you might end up endorsing things like government-guaranteed health insurance.
He goes on to point out that, additionally, the wealthy elite benefit from higher interest rates -- which drive up unemployment -- because they derive more of their income from interest income.

But his main point is that conservatives don't want economic success for America if it demonstrates what government can do to help its citizens. After all, that's socialism! Isn't it?

Well, no, that's sensible government action when needed. You'd think we'd all want that, but you'd be wrong.

Free Markets Get Things Right Eventually. Or Not.

Circular logic at its best, or worst:

I've enjoyed Jeff Macke in the past. His droll, quirky-jerky interview style is different. But then he had to open his "capitalism rocks!" yap and editorialize.

Now the smarter amongst us might have thought, "No, capitalism doesn't always get it right if left to "its own pace." In fact, that's the problem: If left to its own devices you get Gordon Gecko more than you get Mother Teresa.

Where am I wrong here? Sorry, Jeff Macke. There is a reason the SEIU asks for $15 for fast-food workers. It's a living wage, something free markets don't want to give to workers. That's why government is needed, and that's to fix markets hellbent on whatever the market will bear. Okay?

The American Dream: The Roberts Court's Intellectual Collapse Is Legal!

"Hey, Nino, being legally correct but stupid kinda blows...but it's fun!"

Okay, my assertion that the Roberts Court has descended into idiocy with Hobby Lobby has to have a caveat attached:
The Court ultimately decided that due to RFRA, a religious belief doesn't have to be scientifically sound in order to exempt its believer from the Obamacare requirement. The day after the Hobby Lobby ruling, a majority of justices ordered the lower courts to hear multiple lawsuits against the birth control mandate, including those that challenge other contraceptives which medical researchers overwhelmingly agree are not abortion-inducing.
Perhaps cognizant that scientific evidence wasn't legally relevant, the Obama administration didn't seek to argue the point. Don Verrilli, the president's lawyer, conceded that it is the "sincere belief" of the challengers that the contraceptives in question induce abortion, "and we don't question that." But he disagreed with their claim and noted such a belief is not reflected in state and federal law.
"The whole purpose of RFRA is to honor people's religious beliefs and so science steps out of the doorstep in RFRA," Rosenbaum said. "The wonderful thing about being religious is you can believe all sorts of irrational things."
Okay, Little Sammy Alito, you got me. When you said in your Hobby Lobby opinion, "It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial," you're on apparently safe legal ground. But morally, you and your Catholic conservative men are jackasses, and you know it. Unless you don't. Holy crap.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Those Who Came "Out" Early Are the Heroes

I always marveled at -- respected -- gays that were out, often waaay out, early in this whole ballgame. Atrios is right about it, so here's a complete reprint of his usual terse statement:
A rather obvious point, but the real heroes of marriage equality are all of the queer people who were courageous enough to be out long before that choice was anywhere close to being risk-free (it still isn't, of course). The potential cost of being out was of course affected by financial privilege and location. Easier for some than others. Not judging. But that federal judges all probably know gay people - and know that they are gay - is likely (don't know for sure!) the biggest factor of all of the pro-equality rulings over the past few years.
I remember hanging out with my first out gay, back in the late 1960s, and not surprisingly it was in San Francisco. He was out out and celebrated all the facets of his gay personality in that special flamboyant way of those years. I also remember discovering -- surprise surprise -- that he was a human like me, only way more fun and imaginative and daring.

It didn't get me over my institutional homophobia -- I admit to evolving, just like a typical hardheaded lib -- but he opened the door. Glad it's getting kicked wider and wider open.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Brazil the Punishment, the World the Glutton

I favored Brazil to win until I noticed how good Germany was. Then, when Brazil's top defender, Thiago Silva, got suspended for the Germany game by double-yellow-carding, things got grim. When star striker Neymar went down to injury, things when from grim to black. Still, Brazil was Brazil and the host country, and entering into the contest, Brazil played with almost manic determination. Then the 11th minute came after which this followed:

The game ended 7-1 Germany. Brazil will mourn until long after we're all gone from the planet. They called the 2-1 loss in the 1950 final to Uruguay the Maracanazo, or the Maracanã Blow. They'll probably call this loss dia do julgamento, or Judgment Day.

RIP Brazilian hopes and dreams.

(h/t Slate)

The Intellectual Collapse of the Roberts Court

Nino Scalia: "Let's let Sammy write the opinion. He'll be fucked for life!"

I got from news analysis making the rounds that the Hobby Lobby opinion was bound to be written by Justice Samuel Alito because it was his turn. He rose to the occasion with one of the most indefensibly idiotic assertions in the history of Supreme Court jurisprudence -- not that I'm an expert. I doubt, however, that it takes an expert to parse Alito's nonsense. Here, then, is Alito concerning the rationale for allowing a religious belief to trump third-party rights:
It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.
Let me translate as best I can:
There is no rational test for religious beliefs, therefore, we, the Catholic male majority of the Supreme Court, cannot require even vague plausibility for religious beliefs to be acceptable enough to deem a federal law as unenforceable.
I could have been more concise:
My Hobby Lobby opinion is irrational, but so is religion! Our forefathers should have thought of that!
A rational takeaway? What else but that five Catholic conservative Republican men, also known as the ruling majority on the Court, are intellectually bankrupt?

Parsing yet again: Alito asserts that, because this is about religious faith, "But it ain't rational!" is a meaningless objection.

History will not be kind. But for now, we are so fucked.

"Fine, so I used to be witty and acerbic. Now, I'm irrational and increasingly
baffling in my legal analysis. So Sam Alito is an intellectual monster, huh??"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mustn't-Read: Teenagers to Grow Up Conservative?

The New York Times, in its wisdom, decided to publish a story that offers -- actually quite limply -- the possibility that teenagers growing up under Obama's "weak" presidency could turn conservative in response.

Some stories need to be ignored, but read this one to understand how laughable a concept can be and still get "ink" in a prestigious paper. To get a sense of how this story ought to be received, do read the comments. People ain't buying it.

For another story not worth reading -- in the Times no less! -- read for a laugh this one called "Can the G.O.P. Be a Party of Ideas?" Seriously! The ideas? Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul retreads... Sheesh.

Block grants to the states! Apprenticeship programs! Social Security is too bulky to work! Wow! How innovative! Ideas!

Today's GOP hard at work: Back to the drawing board?

Must-Read: If Conservatives Are Patriots, Why Do They Allow Corporate Tax-Dodging?

Barry Ritholtz flags a Fortune article that challenges conservatives' patriotism. Really, cons, do you hate America or what?

Must-Read: Echidne Speaks the Truth on Hobby Lobby (and Ur-Sluts)

Via Eschaton, I got a link to Echidne -- a statistics expert who waxes wise about many topics -- holding forth on what drives conservatives to rail against "employee subsidized consequence free sex." Read it. It's lays out the fallacies and hypocrisy quite nicely.

She reminds us -- though some of us men figured this out decades ago -- that for every slut woman having conception-free sex there is a willing man -- I'm not sure willing is a strong enough word -- at the heart of the operation. We men love us some sluts women.

I'm not saying liberals have a monopoly on uncomplicated, fun-filled sex, but I will say here's another reason to be happy not to be a conservative. The mixture of guilt, hypocrisy, self-loathing, fear, anger, confusion, resentment, and, I suppose, pleasure that must accompany the act of coupling with a conservative's favorite slut woman must make for a real moral haymaker of a sexual act.

Good luck with that, cons. We liberals just want to get laid. We could give a shit who pays for the conception-free part. (Observation: In an evolved society, everyone pays for it.)

Not that there's anything wrong with being a dad. Swedish men get
480 days paternity leave. Talk about an evolved society.