Posted: March 10, 2017 Filed under: Affordable Care Act, Affordable Care Act (ACA), Afternoon Reads, corruption, Diplomacy Nightmares, Domestic Policy, Donald Trump, FBI
It’s getting really difficult to find anything upbeat these days out there on the news front. Usually,there are several areas with persistent messes. Today, things folks never thought we’d have to worry about are suddenly in play. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day nor did it fall in day. It seems like the US is on a downward spiral that rivals the speed of light or at least a hefty meteor. Bets on how long we last at this rate?
Suggestions on how can we stop this?
Much of the destruction is going on inside the federal government while Kremlin Caligula puts on a show. We’ve learned that Trump and cronies are planting lobbyists and ideologues to cripple agencies. The State Department appears to be one of the major functions of government that is in a death spiral. The Russian Connections between Trump and his cronies run deep. There’s no longer a need to connect the dots. It’s a four lane highway between Trump Tower with off ramps all over the place.
It appears that the Trump Syndicate may have been laundering money for Russian Oligarchs. Here are some links to get caught up on the Russia fiasco. Many of these are updates from stories that BB wrote about yesterday.
From CNN: “The super-secret division in charge of the Russia investigation“.
From the Palm Beach Post: “Trump in Palm Beach: Why did Russian pay so much for his mansion?”
From The American Interest: “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections”
By the late 1990s the actual chaos that resulted from Yeltsin’s warped policies had laid the foundations for a strong counterrevolution, including the rise of ex-KGB officer Putin and a massive outpouring of oligarchic flight capital that has continued virtually up to the present. For ordinary Russians, as noted, this was disastrous. But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.
The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):
[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.
All this helps to explain one of the most intriguing puzzles about Donald Trump’s long, turbulent business career: how he managed to keep financing it, despite a dismal track record of failed projects.4
According to the “official story,” this was simply due to a combination of brilliant deal-making, Trump’s gold-plated brand, and raw animal spirits—with $916 million of creative tax dodging as a kicker. But this official story is hokum. The truth is that, since the late 1990s, Trump was also greatly assisted by these abundant new sources of global finance, especially from “submerging markets” like Russia
Rex Tillerson is incapable of doing an actual job. The State Department is in disarray and it’s hard to see how Tillerson is doing anything to change that. Here’s some analysis from David Ignatius writing for WAPO.
Tillerson’s State Department has been in idle gear these past two months. He doesn’t have a deputy or other top aides. His spokesman can’t give guidance on key issues, because decisions haven’t yet been made. Tillerson didn’t attend important meetings with foreign leaders.
As a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, Tillerson is accustomed to a world where a visible display of power is unnecessary, corporate planning is meticulous and office politics are suppressed. But this is Washington
“I am an engineer by training. I seek to understand the facts,” Tillerson said at his confirmation hearing. That sounds reassuring, but it doesn’t fit the glitzy, backstabbing capital that spawned the television series “House of Cards.”
“He may pay some cost up front for not meeting Washington expectations,” notes Stephen Hadley, national security adviser for President George W. Bush and a Tillerson supporter. “The short-term buzz was that he’s out of the loop, but Tillerson is playing for the long game.”
Tillerson couldn’t even get his choice for a deputy pass President Bannon.
The Republicans in the House and Senate are using the chaos to cover up their end game. They’re trying to dismantle everything from Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA, the EPA, Social Security, Dodd Frank, and just about anything used to protect citizens from the malfeasance of of short sighted, profit-oriented business practices which rule the US commerce landscape. The GOP is planning a full scale assault on Federal Regulations.
There is a flurry of anti-regulatory legislation floating around Capitol Hill, but it is becoming clear that the key Republican vehicle to rein in rulemaking will be Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s Regulatory Accountability Act. A 16-page draft of the legislation obtained by POLITICO was significantly less radical than several aggressive bills recently passed by the House of Representatives, but industry groups have pinned their hopes on this one attracting support from enough moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster and make it to Trump’s desk. And even if the Portman bill won’t automatically ensure “the deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by White House adviser Steve Bannon, it could still dramatically curtail the power of government regulators in the long run.
Portman has not yet introduced the bill, but behind the scenes in Washington it is already the subject of furious lobbying by more than 150 public interest groups that oppose it as well as more than 600 business groups that support it. It is much narrower than a bill the House passed last month with the same name, but would still revamp and insert new bureaucratic hurdles into the federal regulatory process, which the Obama Administration used to enact tough new restrictions on coal plants, Wall Street banks, for-profit colleges and other corporate entities. The Portman bill would add new obstacles for agencies to overcome before enacting economically significant rules, require them to choose the most cost-effective alternative, and give judges more discretion to block regulations when the regulated interests object.
“When I visit a factory or small business in Ohio, one of the complaints I hear most from employers is that there are too many costly and unnecessary regulations that limit their ability to invest in their business,” Portman said. “We need a smarter regulatory process that promotes job creation, innovation, and economic growth.”
Portman and the Washington business community are portraying his reforms as a pragmatic approach to burdensome red tape, hoping to distinguish them from more extreme Republican bills that would give Congress a veto over all major rules, eliminate the deference that courts traditionally give to federal agencies, and even forbid those agencies from implementing rules until every lawsuit against them is resolved. House Republicans have passed five regulatory reform bills this year, and have introduced a dozen more, but insiders say most of them are doomed to die in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster. That’s why Portman is now negotiating over his more temperate language with Democratic senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who are both up for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won easily. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida and independent Angus King of Maine have supported similar bills in the past.
Trump has not outlived his usefulness to the Republican Agenda of installing a warped Christian Theocracy and a kleptocracy capable of ruining the environment and killing people. Portman obviously decided Trump was the way to sneak a lot of things through.
And then there’s Paul Ryan who thinks the only thing that should occur right now is decimation of the ACA regardless of the results. It’s right there on his Power Point. It pretty much looked like the Republican version was DOA yesterday but now Senate Republicans are actually talking about changing the Senate rules to get it shoved through one way or another. This is despite the massive outrage about the repeal.
A growing number of conservative lawmakers on Thursday urged GOP leaders to push the limits of how much of the health law they can reshape under a powerful procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation — and to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she doesn’t decide in their favor.
Such a gambit would require the unlikely buy-in of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a noted institutionalist who earlier this year avoided talk of changing his chamber’s rules to kill the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.
If the Senate changes precedent for what can be passed under reconciliation now, a future Senate — whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats — could enact a wide range of legislation with just a simple majority.
“There are limits to what we can do” on Obamacare while complying with the Senate rules, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said in a Thursday floor speech. Under reconciliation guidelines, bills can be passed in the Senate with a simple majority and cannot be filibustered, as long as their provisions have a direct impact on spending or tax levels.
I wake up every day in fear of what’s coming next. It seems that everything I’ve ever planned my old age around is now collapsing around me. The Republican Plan is a massive DumpsterFire. Paul Krugman has some great analysis.
Obamacare rests on three main pillars. Insurance companies are regulated, prevented from denying coverage or charging higher prices to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Families receive subsidies linked to both income and premiums, to help them buy insurance. And there is a penalty for those who don’t buy insurance, to induce people to sign up even if they’re currently healthy
Trumpcare — the White House insists that we not call it that, which means that we must — preserves some version of all three elements, but in drastically, probably fatally weakened form.
Insurers are still barred from excluding the sick, but they’re allowed to charge older Americans — who need insurance the most — much higher premiums.
Subsidies are still there, in the form of tax credits, but they’re no longer linked to either income (as long as it’s below $75,000) or the cost of insurance.
And the tax on those who don’t sign up becomes a small surcharge — paid to insurance companies, not the public — on people who sign up after previously letting coverage lapse.
Affluent young people might end up saving some money as a result of these changes. But the effect on those who are older and less affluent would be devastating. AARP has done the math: a 55-year-old making $25,000 a year would end up paying $3,600 a year more for coverage; that rises to $8,400 for a 64-year-old making $15,000 a year. And that’s before the death spiral.
For the combination of price hikes and weakened penalties would lead many healthy Americans to forgo insurance. This would worsen the risk pool, causing premiums to rise sharply — and remember, subsidies would no longer adjust to offset this rise. The result would be even more people dropping out. Republicans have been claiming that Obamacare is collapsing, which isn’t true. But Trumpcare, if implemented, would collapse in a Mar-a-Lago minute.
How could House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who the media keeps assuring us is a smart, serious policy wonk, have produced such a monstrosity?
The only thing that’s been fun about this is the Twitter Attack on Paul Ryan and his Power Points.
So, I know a few people that have been basically kidnapped by their families and put into conversion therapy. This story of a survivor is chilling reading.
TC, a 19-year-old gay man who spoke to The Huffington Post anonymously for this article in order to protect his safety, is a survivor of conversion therapy practices.
TC was subjected to conversion therapy in 2012 when he was 15 years old after his parents discovered he was gay. The conversion therapy practices took place in the basement of a church after school hours, and were explained to TC and his parents as having two separate components. He told The Huffington Post:
The first step ― which usually lasted six months ― [is] where they “deconstruct us as a person.” Their tactics still haunt me. Aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment and occasional physical abuse. Their goal was to get us to hate ourselves for being LGBTQ (most of us were gay, but the entire spectrum was represented), and they knew what they were doing…. The second step of the program, they “rebuilt us in their image.” They removed us of everything that made us a unique person, and instead made us a walking, talking, robot for Jesus. They retaught us everything we knew. How to eat, talk, walk, dress, believe, even breathe. We were no longer people at the end of the program.
TC said that the conversion therapy sessions would take place every weekday, with shock therapy treatments lasting approximately an hour, and aversion therapy lasting three.
This is torture. Pure and Simple.
So, this is what they’d fund while getting Insurance 101 wrong.
Paul Ryan actually said “The whole idea of Obamacare is…the people who are healthy pay for the…sick. It’s not working, & that’s why it’s in a death spiral.”
No Speaker that’s a risk pool and it’s how insurance works.
Everyone pays into the pot and draws on it when they’re sick. Younger people, who tend to be healthier than older people, pay for health insurance like everyone else. They’ll rely on it when when they need it, probably more when they’re older and there are younger, healthier people filing in behind them. It’s the same with car insurance
. Some people pay for decades and never get into an accident and never collect on their coverage (though the likelihood of anyone never using health insurance is unlikely).That’s what actuarial figures are all about, so an insurance system can assess the risks of segments of customers to determine what everyone needs to put into the pot so there’s enough to pay out when someone needs the money.
Ryan has perhaps been on taxpayer-paid health insurance for so long that he has forgotten how the concept works. He believes that’s only the way it works for Obamacare. “The conceit of Obamacare,” he said at his press conference on Trumpcare, is that “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people.” That’s why Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” he noted.
Twitter had a pretty predictable response to Ryan’s summary of health insurance: Duh.
Meanwhile, every one except the stupid, the greedy, the mean, and the crazy resist.
Well, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: June 13, 2016 Filed under: 2016 elections, American Gun Fetish, Barack Obama, Breaking News, children, Domestic Policy, Donald Trump, FBI, Gun Control | Tags: AR-15, mass shootings, NRA, Orlando Shooting
Once again we see the results of toxic religious zealotry and resentment whipped up to the point that some nutter feels compelled to kill in the case of the Orlando massacre. This occurs all too frequently in this country. You may recall the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting where we saw Robert Dear go on a shooting spree with the same deadly combination of anger whipped up by right wing politicians and preachers, mental illness, and easy access to weapons. One claimed ISIS inspiration and Islamofascism. The other was inspired by Christofascists in the US that bring you terror in the name of Fetus Fetishism.
We still haven’t heard about the motives of the Indiana man–a 20 year old white guy–in terms of why he was going after participants and viewers of a California Gay Pride parade. Suffice it to say, the politicization of the private lives of the GLBT community by Republicans, their presidential candidate, and the various religious whackos that they court likely will come into play at some point.
Harassing and encouraging anger is just one political tool used regularly by Republicans these days. I have noticed that the silence is deafening right now on James Wesley Howell. The press can is clearly focused on the bloodbath and the sensational background of the Pulse Shooter rather than wondering why we manage to get bigger and badder displays of hatred and anger these days. I’m not sure that most people realize that any Abrahamic-based religion is going to beget violence in some folks. It goes with territory. A few of them take retribution and strict commandments from their angry sky fairy way too seriously. This is especially the case if they have some kind of severe emotional or mental disorder.
(Spoiler Alert) It’s the easy access to guns of all kinds in this country. The irresponsible and cynical use of anger and outrage to gain power and money is out of control. Religion is just another vehicle to whip up the anger and the outrage and it frequently turns deadly.
The weapon of choice for mass shooters is the AR-15 rifle. This is one of the weapons that was included in the assault weapons ban signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 that expired in 2004. The rifle was used in Orlando, Aurora, Newton, and San Bernadino. It’s easily obtainable and the latest shooter–who had a history of Domestic Violence and was under the eye of the FBI for terrorist rantings–had a license to carry it and to obtain it legally. Let that sink in.
There were calls to ban the weapon after the Newtown shootings, which led to a spike in sales. Gun manufacturers have called the AR-15 one of the most popular weapons in the U.S., with more than 3 million estimated to be in circulation.
“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did this morning: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” lawyer Josh Koskoff, who’s representing Newtown families in their lawsuit against the gun industry, said Sunday.
Regulations on magazine capacity for the weapon vary from state to state, but it can fire 45 rounds a minute.
Most forms of the gun had been prohibited under the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004, following ferocious lobbying by the National Rifle Association.
The NRA has used its lobbying might in the years since to bury attempts to revive the ban.
“During the decade of the ban, there were half as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade before, and a third as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade after,” said Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, a strategist involved in the original legislation.
Hillary Clinton has called for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban that her husband signed in his first term. This is one of the reasons that I am so happy she is the nominee. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has some extremely neoconfederate views of gun control that he reiterated yesterday. He believes it is a state and local issue, voted against the Brady Bill many many times, and has supported relieving gun manufacturers and stores of any liability for the damage done by their product.
Hillary Clinton has called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history that left 49 people and the gunman dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
In forthright comments a day after the massacre at the Pulse Club, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic party issued a call for a return to “commonsense gun safety reform” and lambasted the Republican-controlled Congress for what she called a “totally incomprehensible” refusal to address the country’s lax gun laws.
“We can’t fall into the trap set up by the gun lobby that says if you cannot stop every shooting you shouldn’t try to stop any,” she said.
Clinton’s tough stance on gun control sets up a torrid fight with her Republican rival for the White House Donald Trump, who has positioned himself as a champion of the second amendment and dismissed any calls for greater gun controls as weakness. She insisted that while she did believe that law-abiding American citizens have the right to own guns, it was also possible to see that “reasonable, commonsense measures” could be taken that would make people more safe from guns.
One of the things that stuns me is the ease with which a guy on the FBI threat radar could get a permit to carry and purchase a rifle that no civilian should own.
A day after the deadliest mass shooting in US history, questions are mounting over why the shooter Omar Mateen was legally able to buy an assault rifle and handgun despite having been investigated twice by the FBI for suspected terrorist sympathies.
Mateen, 29, launched his attack on Pulse club, an LGBT venue in downtown Orlando celebrating its popular Latin dance night, at 2.02am on Sunday morning.
Twenty minutes into the spree he took the bizarre step of making a 911 call in which he reportedly referred both to Islamic State and the Tsarnaevs, the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013.
Sunday’s attack – which left 49 clubgoers dead and 53 injured – was launched by Mateen using a .223-caliber assault rifle and 9mm semi-automatic pistol with multiple rounds of ammunition that had been purchased quite lawfully in the week before the rampage using Mateen’s firearms license. Mateen was shot dead by police.
He also held a permit to work as a security guard, which he did at a courthouse in Port St Lucie, Florida, even though he was interviewed three times by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 following separate reports of extremist behavior and connections to terrorism that were in the end deemed insubstantial.
Mateen was released because no evidence of wrongdoing was found by the FBI. He’s a natural born American so that provides him the usual protections. This is something that appears to have blown completely pass Donald Trump whose rhetoric and bragging were dialed up to 11 yesterday. He revisited his call to ban all Muslims from entering the country despite the fact that all three of the shooters claiming support for Islamofascim–Nidal Hassn (Fort Hood),Syed Rizwan Farook, (San Bernardino) , and Mateen (Orlando)–were American citizens. Only Farook’s wife–Tashfeen Malik–was foreign born.
The presumptive Republican nominee pulled no punches in a lengthy statement yesterday, going so far as to call for Barack Obama to resign and reiterating his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States (despite the fact that the shooter was born in New York).
“In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam’. For that reason alone, he should step down,” Trump said in his press release. “If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘Radical Islam’ she should get out of this race for the Presidency. If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”
“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” Trump added. “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.” (To be fair, this mischaracterizes Clinton’s position.)
The statement followed a stream of self-congratulatory tweets.
Clinton has decided to adopt the use of radical Islam. Let’s hope she will also be brave enough to point out radical Christians like Ted Cruz’s “Kill the Gays” pastor or the horrid group at Westborough Baptist Church. She used the term on several morning news shows today.
Hillary Clinton on Monday broke from President Barack Obama in referring to the terrorist attack as “radical Islamism,” countering Donald Trump’s accusations that both she and Obama are weak on tackling terrorist threats.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” on Monday morning, Clinton said words matter less than actions, but that she didn’t have a problem using the term.
“And from my perspective, it matters what we do, not what we say. It matters that we got Bin Laden, not what name we called him,” Clinton said. “But if he is somehow suggesting I don’t call this for what it is, he hasn’t been listening. I have clearly said we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism, and we will.”
Both terms “mean the same thing,” Clinton continued, adding, “And to me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”
“I have clearly said many, many times we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism or radical Islamism, whatever you call it,” Clinton said later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reiterating, “it’s the same.”
The U.S. cannot, on the other hand, she added, “demonize, demagogue and declare war on an entire religion.” Clinton also said she could assure Americans that she is equally committed to fighting Islamic extremism as well as protecting law-abiding Muslims.
The President spoke on the radicalization of Mateen several hours ago.
President Obama said Monday that the Orlando mass murder was “inspired” by violent extremist propaganda on the internet and there’s no evidence the killing spree was ordered by ISIS.
“We see no clear evidence that he was directed externally,” Obama said from the Oval Office, using another name from the Islamic State terror group. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL.”
Obama said investigators are tracing Omar Mateen’s “pathway” to murder by reviewing his internet searches and other materials.
“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama said.
“All those materials are currently being searched … so we will have a better sense of pathway that the killer took in the making a decision to launch this attack.”
Obama made the brief remarks after meeting with FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other security officials.
The Orlando shooting and the shooting that might have been in California both are rooted in hate and easy access to guns. Both shooter and potential shooter had histories of mental illness. The Orlando shooter had a history of Domestic violence which in many states would stop him from getting access to any gun. Clearly, we have a problem in this country with hate and guns turned on the hapless population. One of our political parties has weaponized hatred and bigotry then enabled shooters by catering to all the whims of the most radical elements of the NRA gun lobby.
Clinton is right. This has to end on all accounts.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 9, 2016 Filed under: 2016 elections, Domestic Policy, Economy
I’m still trying to get my thoughts together about the number of bomb throwers in both political parties that seem to want all levels of government to go to wreck and to ruin. They are being led by some of the most ignorant politicians I’ve ever had the displeasure to observe. Some folks are angry and eager for easy and very wrong answers.
It’s really easy for most people to confuse their personal pet experience with reality for the rest of the country as a whole. I get really tired of having anecdotal information put on the same level of seriousness as a peer-reviewed, published study. As an economist, I can tell you the number of people ignorant of generally well-known outcomes discovered through research and built up into theory in my field is highly limited. I shared this article by economist Greg Mankiw down thread over the weekend. I thought it was worth highlighting its main points.
I’ve said this a lot of times but the entire Sanders/Trump shtick on trade and the Sanders shtick on “big” banks is seriously out of step with reality. Mankiw succinctly writes about a few things that economists know that populist, anger-spewing office seekers don’t take time to learn. Now, Mankiw worked on the CEA for Dubya. He’s not the least bit politically Democrat but what he’s written here are things that economists and policy wonks know to be true from decades of study. Economists generally don’t argue on the facts on the ground or on theory. It’s how the policy should reflect that information that is usually a source of contention. There’s a lot of myths out there this election cycle. Here’s a few of them.
American manufacturing has disappeared.
The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, says, “We don’t make things anymore.” Judging from the surprising success of Mr. Trump’s campaign, this theme apparently resonates with many voters. But it is just not true.
When do you think manufacturing output reached its peak in the United States? The answer: right now. Manufacturing output achieved a record high in the most recent quarter of data. The nation’s manufacturers are now producing 47 percent more than they did 20 years ago.
What has declined is manufacturing employment, which is 29 percent lower than it was 20 years ago. Producing more output with fewer workers is called higher productivity, which in turn is driven by technological innovation. This change is hard on displaced workers, but it is good for the economy over all. Rising living standards are possible only if productivity increases.
Bad trade deals are what ails the economy.
Mr. Trump says he would negotiate better trade deals. Bernie Sanders brags about voting against the trade deals of the past. Hillary Clinton has split with President Obama and withdrawn her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The experts have a different view. Among those who devote their lives to studying the economy, there is a broad consensus about the overall benefits of free trade and trade deals. Of course, trade hasn’t been a boon for people who have lost their jobs because of foreign competition. But in 2014, the University of Chicago’s IGM Panel surveyed prominent economists about whether “past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.” A few respondents were uncertain, but most said yes. Not a single economist responded in the negative.
The economy is rigged.
To be sure, we live in challenging times. Meager growth and rising inequality have resulted in stagnant incomes for much of the working class and declining incomes for those with the lowest levels of education.
But to say that the economy is rigged, as Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton have done, assumes that some small group of oligarchs planned this outcome. Clearly, the wealthy and powerful try to protect their interests, and they sometimes succeed. But the economy is a complex, decentralized system. Many outcomes are under no one’s control.
The biggest problem is that the devil is very much in the details which is where the challenges of policy exist. It used to be–back in the day when I entered the business which is 1980 if you don’t count my undergrad stint as a teller–that every list of the top largest banks in the world had nothing but US banks. That hasn’t be the case for some time. China has now replaced Japan in the list but you’ll see that US banks have a presence on the list but don’t comprise the entire list. Australia, Canada and the UK also have some very large banks.
Countries and multinational corporations are huge and the amount of money they need to bank, borrow and use transactionally can only be handled by huge banks. The thing that makes them systematically dangerous is not their size. It’s the amount of ownership vs. deposits and their investing behaviors all of which are regulated internationally through the Bank of International Settlements and the Basil Committee recommendations.
Nationally, we have the Federal Reserve Bank where I have actually worked with regulating huge regional banks in the south. We have a number of laws on the books–most notably Dodd-Frank–that reflect international standards and our own goals for keeping systemic risk down in the financial system. It’s certainly not perfect and we do see many banks fighting some changes. We need to build on all of that and we need to pay better regulatory attention to the shadow banking industry. I’ve written extensively about that here since the Financial Collapse. Any one that suggests that it’s only size that matters needs to go back to school. We’ve discussed this before but the Clinton policy is subtle, nuanced, and up to the job if her administration can get it through a belligerent congress. I have more faith that she can do that than the bomb throwers who have challenged her for office.
Same with trade deals. There are many many aspects to trade that are good and it far outweighs the damage it can do to a few domestic industries. It’s a form of progress. Really. Every single consumer on the planet gets access to things cheaply that they never would which helps every one’s standard of living. I don’t think it’s a good idea to argue that jobs should only exist within your borders and every one else can just starve trying to make a living. We’re all better off through trade but there are people that are hurt by it. Again, it’s policy details that can see that trade does not ruin folks’ lives who are on the losing end.. It’s similar to what Clinton argues about transitioning Kentucky coal miners to clean energy industries. Technology is still a huge factor in job lose. Those folks in industries that lose domestically need to be helped by all levels of government. Even they will eventually see their paychecks access more as long as we can ensure they can still earn livings.
The problem that we see here is that we have a party that does not believe in a role for any form of government in anything and it stymies the kinds of policy details that ensure stability in big banks and ensure that our workers can find jobs and are trained properly for new industries if need be. None of this will happen if we elect politicians who are insurrectionists of one type or another.
Paul Krugman’s Op Ed today in the NYT calls Donald Trump an Ignoramus.
Last week the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — hard to believe, but there it is — finally revealed his plan to make America great again. Basically, it involves running the country like a failing casino: he could, he asserted, “make a deal” with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out.
The reaction from everyone who knows anything about finance or economics was a mix of amazed horror and horrified amazement. One does not casually suggest throwing away America’s carefully cultivated reputation as the world’s most scrupulous debtor — a reputation that dates all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.
The Trump solution would, among other things, deprive the world economy of its most crucial safe asset, U.S. debt, at a time when safe assets are already in short supply.
Of course, we can be sure that Mr. Trump knows none of this, and nobody in his entourage is likely to tell him. But before we simply ridicule him — or, actually, at the same time that we’re ridiculing him — let’s ask where his bad ideas really come from.
Well, read the answer because it’s easy. It comes from republican lawmakers like Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz. Some of these Trumpisms even come from Romney. Krugman states that Trump’s “blithe lack of knowledge largely follows from the know-nothing attitudes of the party he know leads.” He concludes by being very complimentary to Clinton who’s economic policy is the only one rooted in reality and in accepted economic theory.
One of the wackiest things I’ve read in a long time is this story about how American Airlines handled an economist working on one of its flights. I fully admit to doing pretty much the same thing on long flights. I drag out my work. I’ve never thought you could be considered terrorizing a seat mate will doing Differential Equations, but I guess you can in the paranoid world of angry white people. Here we have an Ivy League economist of Italian descent causing panic in the skies.
What do you know about your seatmate? The agent asked the foreign-sounding man.
Well, she acted a bit funny, he replied, but she didn’t seem visibly ill. Maybe, he thought, they wanted his help in piecing together what was wrong with her.
And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all! Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so she had Said Something.
That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.
The curly-haired man laughed.
He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or another foreign language, or even some special secret terrorist code. They were math.
Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.
Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
So, here’s a few other policy issues that you may want to read about today. More and more cities are realizing that AirBnb is just a way to get around local zoning and commerce laws. It’s pushing up rent and creating homelessness in all the major tourist destinations of the world.
A 20-year resident of San Francisco, Tarin Towers lived in a rent-controlled apartment in the Mission District. Her building, a six-unit Victorian, was home to people who had stayed in the Mission for decades as the neighborhood changed around them. Some of her neighbors were multigenerational families, some were elderly, some were disabled. As long as the building remained rent-controlled, they should have been protected from the city’s skyrocketing housing market. But in 2013, the building was bought by well-known real estate speculator Fergus O’Sullivan, who saw he could make more — a lot more — with new tenants. But first, he had to get the old ones out.
In some ways, San Francisco renters are lucky. Their city has rent-control laws, unlike most places in the U.S., where your landlord can get rid of you as soon as the lease ends. In San Francisco, in many cases, a landlord must pay for the privilege of kicking you out — sometimes handsomely. As Towers’ landlord started renovations on her building, turning it into an all-day construction site, her neighbors started taking buyouts — some as high as six figures. But when Towers looked around at San Francisco real estate, she realized that after splitting a buyout with her housemates and paying taxes and lawyers’ fees, the amount she would get for leaving wouldn’t enable her to pay higher rent elsewhere in the city.
Towers held out as her old neighbors left and new tenants started moving in. Unlike the old neighbors, these new people were young, mobile, transient. And there were a lot of them. O’Sullivan, it turned out, had leased the building to a startup called the Vinyasa Homes Project. Towers soon discovered that Vinyasa had listed her building on Airbnb, advertising it as a “co-creative house.” The listing made it sound almost like a commune. “You want to join a community of like-minded peers who are doing inspirational things?” it read. “This is the place for you.” Unlike in the communes of yesteryear, however, each bed is going for more than $1,500 a month — and these are bunk beds in shared rooms. That means each apartment could now be bringing in $10,000 a month in rent.
ca. 1958, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA — Dr. Norbert Wiener Standing at Blackboard — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Ben Rhodes has been under fire this election for his role in negotiating the Iran Deal. Here’s his response.
In recent years, few things have been as exhaustively debated or written about than the Iran deal.
That debate reignited this week after a long article about me included a section about the Iran deal. There are many issues raised in an article of this length, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to respond to those topics in the weeks and months to come.
However, given the importance of the questions raised about the Iran deal over the last few days, I want to make several points about one issue: how we advocated for the deal.
First, we never made any secret of our interest in pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama campaigned on that position in 2008. We pursued several diplomatic efforts with Iran during the President’s first term, and the fact that there were discreet channels of communication established with Iran in 2012 is something that we confirmed publicly. However, we did not have any serious prospect of reaching a nuclear deal until after the election of Hasan Rouhani in 2013. Yes, we had discussions with the Iranians before that, but they did not get anywhere. After the Rouhani government took office, our confidential negotiations with the Iranians accelerated, and quickly led to public negotiations within the P5+1 process that began at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013. Whatever your analysis of the relative weight of moderates or hard-liners in the Iranian system, there is no question that we were able to achieve a deal only after a change in the Iranian Administration.
Second, we did aggressively make the case for the Iran deal during the congressional review mandated by statute last summer, as it was imperative that the facts of the deal be understood for it to be implemented. Opponents of the deal had no difficulty in making their case — through commentary, a paid media campaign, and the distribution of materials making a variety of arguments against the deal. Tough and fair questions were raised; sometimes, there were also inaccuracies about the nature of the deal. Given our interest in making sure that any misinformation was corrected, and that people understood our policy, we made a concerted effort to provide information about the deal to any interested party, including to outside organizations and any journalists covering the issue. This effort to get information out with fact sheets, graphics, briefings, and social media was no secret — it was well reported on at the time. Of course the objective of that kind of effort is to build as much public support as you can — that’s a function of White House communications.
You can read more about Ben Rhodes and the controversies at these links. The NYT link at the top is the article that kicked off the latest controversy.
From the NYT: “The Aspiring Novelist who became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru”.
From Politico: “White House aide Ben Rhodes responds to controversial New York Times profile”
Jaws dropped in Washington’s tight-knit foreign policy community when Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser and one of President Barack Obama’s closest aides, was quoted in the New York Times Magazine deriding the D.C. press corps and boasting of how he created an “echo chamber” to market the administration’s foreign policy.
Marbled with the kind of overly candid observations that sank Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the wartime general who was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden in a 2010 Rolling Stone profile, the article, written by David Samuels, hit like a bomb. It portrayed Rhodes as a real-life Holden Caulfield, a prep-school brat with literary pretensions whose greatest work of fiction was crafting the White House’s “narrative” to defend the Iran nuclear deal from its critics.
It’s really a shame that you can’t write analysis of complex policies like these on the back of a cereal box and expect every one to have enough background in the material to actually grasp it. It does seem to me, however, that as responsible voters in a democratic society that people could at least try to get better information. It’s not like it’s not easily accessible these days.
So there’s a few things on wonky policy to get us started today.
What’s on your reading and blogging list?
Posted: May 22, 2015 Filed under: Affordable Care Act (ACA), Domestic Policy, Health care reform, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Affordable Care Act, King v. Burwell, SCOTUS
I’ve got all kinds of personal reasons to hope that when the Supreme Court decides King v. Burwell next month that one just one Republican-appointed justice will consider the complaint trivial and it will be dismissed. That’s because I will be among the millions of people that will lose their health care. Jonathan Chait-writing for New York Magazine--wonders if that’s really what Republicans want in the year running up to a Presidential election.
Next month, the Supreme Court will rule on King v. Burwell. If all five Republican appointees support the plaintiffs (there’s no chance any of the Democrat-appointed justices will take the lawsuit seriously), some 7 million Americans will quickly lose their insurance. The prospect that this will occur has induced a wave of panic — not among the customers at risk of losing their insurance, who seem largely unaware, nor even among Obamacare’s Democratic supporters, but among Republicans. The chaos their lawsuit would unleash might blow back in a way few Republicans had considered until recently, and now, on the eve of a possible triumph, they find themselves scrambling to contain the damage. It is dawning on the Grand Old Party that snatching health insurance away from millions of helpless victims is not quite as rewarding as expected.
Unlike the Obamacare lawsuit that failed three years ago, the latest case is not based on a radical legal theory. Instead it is based on a novel reading of legislative history. The law allows states to set up their own exchanges to sell insurance to those who don’t have it through employer coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid. If states don’t establish an exchange, the federal government sets one up for them and, as it does with the state exchanges, offers customers tax credits. The trouble is that the law authorizing tax credits defines the exchange as “established by the state.” This ambiguity — does “by the state” not also mean the federal government? — was a technical omission. Many other parts of the law indicate its intent to make tax credits available to customers on the federal and the state exchanges alike.
The plaintiffs are led by a Vietnam veteran in Virginia named David King who makes $39,000 a year and objects to having to purchase insurance on a federal exchange. He would be exempt from this requirement were he not eligible for the tax credit — his $275 monthly payment would rise to a disqualifyingly unaffordable $648 — and this exemption, his lawyers argue, was exactly Congress’s intent. Without tax credits, the insurance would be unaffordable to most customers, triggering an actuarial death spiral that would destroy the individual insurance market in any state that attempted it. The plaintiffs insist Congress created the threat of self-destructing federal exchanges to coerce states into creating their own. (Disregard the copious evidence that the law’s drafters, and officials at the state level in both parties, believed federal exchanges would include tax credits.)
The lawsuit works more on the level of an elaborate prank than as a serious reading of the law. And yet it stands at least some chance of success — it only needs to persuade Republican-appointed judges. That prospect has grown suddenly unnerving because, unlike previous Republican efforts to strangle the law, the current one comes as Obamacare is functioning extremely well. Premiums on the exchanges have come in well under projected costs, customers report higher satisfaction with their coverage than those who have employer-sponsored insurance, and overall medical costs have grown far below the projected rate. It is one thing to take away a scheduled future subsidy, of which most intended beneficiaries are unaware. It is quite another to take away a benefit they’re already using.
Can you imagine the optics of people being taken off chemotherapy, dialysis, or insulin shots? So, Republicans are gearing up a way to blame it on Obama or trying to find a way to get the extreme right to compromise and provide a short term extensions of the credits should SCOTUS agree with the plaintiffs.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has likewise warned that a successful lawsuit would create problems. “Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. For decades, medical deprivation of this sort used to be a uniquely American fact of life, at least among industrialized countries. Obamacare has turned it into something different: an actual political problem for opponents of universal health insurance.
Neither Johnson nor Sasse has a real plan designed to stop those horrors from taking place. Instead, their aim is to give Republicans a way to divert the blame onto Obama. The party is circulating contingency plans to temporarily restore the tax credits in exchange for crippling the law in other ways. Phil Gramm, the former Republican senator turned conservative-think-tank “visiting scholar” and financial-industry lobbyist, has proposed that Republicans pass a bill to temporarily extend the credits in return for eliminating the law’s regulations prohibiting insurance companies from rejecting old or sick customers. Competing proposals by Johnson and Sasse would likewise weaken Obamacare’s insurance regulations, ultimately destroying the law’s functionality. Gramm evenacknowledges that his plan “would put Obamacare on the path to extinction.” Obviously, Obama is not going to sign a bill that puts Obamacare on the path to extinction. The purpose is simply to give Republicans a talking point — they can say they passed a bill and blame Obama for vetoing it. But odds are that Republicans will fail to unify around a bill that can pass both houses of Congress with only Republican votes, because some will deem even a bill that causes Obamacare’s eventual demise unacceptably conciliatory.
At that point, it will fall to the states to either establish their own exchanges or watch their individual-insurance markets collapse. Neither option is terribly attractive for Republicans. The former means surrender. Doing nothing means sowing chaos, deprivation, and death. Will Republicans let this happen?
Legal Analyst and Lawyer Jeffrey Toobin has a lengthy article in The New Yorker examining the issues.
So that’s the theory: millions will suddenly be uninsured, and will blame Republicans. As Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, put it recently, “I don’t think they will [win the case]. If they do, that’s a problem that the Republicans have.”
No, it’s not. If the Obama Administration loses in the Supreme Court, the political pain will fall almost exclusively on the President and his Party. To paraphrase Colin Powell and the Pottery Barn rule, President Obama will have broken health care, so he owns it. To the vast mass of Americans who follow politics casually or not at all, Obamacare and the American system of health care have become virtually synonymous. This may not be exactly right or fair, but it’s a reasonable perception on the part of most people. The scope of the Affordable Care Act is so vast, and its effects so pervasive, that there is scarcely a corner of health care, especially with regard to insurance, that is unaffected by it. So if millions lose insurance, they will hold it against Obamacare, and against Obama. Blaming the President in these circumstances may be unfair, but it’s the way American politics works.
Republicans, of course, will encourage this sentiment. The precise legal claim in King v. Burwell is an esoteric one. It is not based on a claim that Obamacare is unconstitutional. (The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law three years ago.) Rather, the central assertion by the plaintiffs is that the Obama Administration violated the law itself. In any event, the subtlety of the issue at the heart of the case will surely be lost in its aftermath. The headlines will read, correctly, “Court rules against Obamacare,” and this will be all that matters. The Republicans will argue that the Supreme Court showed that the law was flawed from the start, that the Obama Administration is lawless, that a full repeal of the law is the only appropriate response to the Court’s decision—and that the millions who lose their subsides should blame the sponsor of the law. Watch for references to a “failed Presidency.” There’ll be plenty of them.
Understandably, perhaps, the Administration has courted this kind of reaction. Better than anyone, Administration officials know the scale of the problems that would be created by a loss in the Supreme Court. Advertising this possibility makes sense as a litigation strategy; Obama officials don’t want to make it easy for the Supreme Court to rule against them. In testimony before Congress and elsewhere, Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (and the defendant in the case), said that the Administration has no contingency plan for an adverse ruling in the Supreme Court. But playing chicken with the Justices only works if it works. If the Supreme Court strikes down the subsidies, the Administration will also have to answer for why it didn’t prepare for this possibility.
“Conservatives” have tried to laugh off the concerns.
A few weeks ago, the Heritage Foundation’s Edmund Haislmaier published an “Issue Brief” entitled “King v. Burwell: A Loss of Subsidy Does Not Mean a Loss of Coverage.” That’s a provocative title, considering 87 percent of the 8.8 million enrollees from federal exchanges receive those tax credit subsidies, meaning they have low or moderate incomes.
Haislmaier recently was seen saying it’s “premature” to conclude the huge drop in the uninsured rate since Obamacare passed is the result of Obamacare passing. In this brief, he correctly points out the Affordable Care Act and previous federal and state laws would enable current Obamacare enrollees to switch to some other form of health insurance if the lawsuit he supports succeeds in making their current plans unaffordable. (The brief also chides low-income people for using their subsidies to buy “king-crab-legs-and-steak” insurance rather than take the cheapest possible “powdered-milk-and-frozen-peas” plans.)
“In sum, should the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in King v. Burwell result in people losing insurance subsidies, the affected individuals will have options for maintaining their coverage or choosing replacement coverage,” Haislmaier wrote. There’s even a chart.
Is that good news for people at risk of losing their health insurance subsidies? Maybe not. “Of course, some might still not be able to afford the unsubsidized premium even if they switched to a less expensive plan,” Haislmaier adds as a disclaimer. Of course.
That seems like it could be a problem, since 83 percent of Obamacare enrollees on the federal exchanges have annual incomes of 250 percent of the federal poverty level or less, which works out to no more than $23,450 for a single person, according to Avalere Health, a consulting firm. In other words, these aren’t Americans with a lot of extra money. And the average value of the tax credits they stand to lose is $263 a month, a substantial amount for people at this income level.
There’s a lot of variation in the price of health insurance, but a look at national average premiums and cost-sharing requirements illustrates what the “Let them eat Bronze plans” line of thinking ignores.
A 40-year-old at the poverty line, which is $11,770 for a single person, would pay $20 a month for a mid-tier Silver plan with tax credits. That amounts to about 2 percent of her annual income. Take away the subsidies, and her premiums jump almost 14-fold to $276 — or about 28 percent of her income.
What about dropping down to a lesser Bronze policy with higher out-of-pocket costs like deductibles?
That would cost almost 11 times as much as the subsidized Silver plan, at $213 a month, or about 22 percent of her income. Another person making twice as much money as her would see his premiums for the same Silver policy rise by 80 percent, which would eat up 14 percent of his income. His premiums would rise by 39 percent if he switched to a Bronze plan, which would cost him 11 percent of his yearly earnings.
Even opting for a slimmer policy might not make sense for lower-income people, considering how much more Bronze policyholders have to spend before their coverage kicks in. For example, the average deductible for an individual Bronze plan is $5,181, compared to $2,927 for a Silver plan, according to Health Pocket.
And this doesn’t even factor in the effects of a second type of subsidy only available to people earning up to 250 percent of poverty, which reduces their out-of-pocket health care expenses, and which also would go away in the high court rules for the plaintiffs.
Some are seeing this as the classic American “State’s Right’s” argument that has been responsible for–among many other things–the Civil War.
But what may eventually prove to be the key line of questioning may have been kicked off by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who expressed concern about the consequences of a ruling for the challengers. If a state’s residents don’t receive subsidies, she told Carvin, it will lead to a “death spiral”: because a large group of people in those states will no longer be required to buy health insurance, but insurers will still be required to offer insurance to everyone, only sick people will buy health insurance. And that will cause everyone’s insurance costs to rise, leading more people to drop out of the insurance market. States will then feel like they have no choice other than to establish their own exchanges to ward off the “death spiral” – a scenario that is so coercive that it violates the Constitution.
Perhaps critically for the government, Justice Anthony Kennedy – who is often regarded as a strong supporter of states’ rights – also expressed concern about the possibly coercive effect of a ruling for Carvin’s clients. There is, he told Carvin, “something very powerful to the point” that if the challengers prevail, the states have to choose between the death spiral and creating an exchange. “There’s a serious constitutional problem,” he concluded. (Carvin tried to downplay this concern by telling Kennedy that the government had not raised this issue, but Kennedy quickly retorted that “we sometimes think of things the government doesn’t argue.”)
Like Carvin, Solicitor General Don Verrilli – the government’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court – also faced questions about the challengers’ right to sue. But between his acknowledgement that, as Carvin had asserted, a veteran who had only served a short time would not be eligible for free health care and the lack of certainty about the plaintiffs’ 2014 annual incomes (which would determine whether they would be required to buy health insurance at all), the issue didn’t seem to have much traction with the Justices.
On the merits of the challenge to the subsidies, Verrilli faced repeated questions from Justices Scalia and Alito, who were both obviously skeptical of the government’s arguments. Scalia pushed back against Verrilli’s argument that the challengers’ reading simply doesn’t work, while – by contrast – the government’s interpretation accounts for the ACA’s structure and design. The question, Scalia admonished Verrilli, is not what Congress intended; the question is what it actually wrote in the statute. But in any event, Scalia queried a few minutes later, if the Court were to rule for the challengers, did Verrilli and the government actually expect Congress to “really just sit there while disaster ensues?” (Based on Verrilli’s response – a dubious “This Congress?” – the answer appeared to be yes.)
Justices Alito and Scalia also contested Verrilli’s assertion that, had Congress actually intended to force states to choose between setting up their own exchanges and depriving their residents of subsidies, it would have done so more clearly. Scalia asked rhetorically why, because the ACA is “not the most elegantly drafted statute,” would it “be so surprising” if Congress didn’t make the states’ obligations obvious? Alito added that, if Congress didn’t want to limit the subsidies to the residents of states that had set up their own exchanges, it could have used more precise language to do so – as it did, for example, in making clear that the District of Columbia (which is not a state) nonetheless qualifies as a “state” for purposes of the ACA.
So, we’re down to brass tacks again. Will the ACA go down on a technicality which, essentially, is what the law is all about?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: February 18, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, academia, Art, Barack Obama, Citizen's United & Super Pacs, court rulings, Domestic Policy, Environment, Eric Holder, executive orders, History, immigration, morning reads, public education, Republican politics, Republican presidential politics, Revisionism, U.S. Politics, We are so F'd | Tags: David and Charles Koch, Koch Brothers
Well, what do ya know? Obama administration puts immigration protections on hold after order – LA Times
President Obama’s plans to protect millions of immigrants from deportation were frozen on Tuesday while his administration scrambled to appeal an order by a federal judge in Texas temporarily halting the program.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the Obama administration has put off for now the first step in implementing the program, expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative that has granted a temporary reprieve from deportation for nearly 600,000 young people. The administration had been scheduled to begin accepting applications for the expansion Wednesday.
Johnson said the administration was also putting on hold plans for a much larger program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which could apply to around 4 million adult immigrants.
“The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction,” Johnson said in a statement, referring to the judge’s order. “In the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.”
I don’t know…I thought that the Federal Court could not overrule an Executive Order. I mean, seriously…isn’t it a Presidential Order?…Above Congress and stuff? (But you know, I am talking out my ass here. It just felt good to say what I first thought about when I’d heard about this “temporary injunction”….to be honest with y’all. )
Really, my mind is not working very well the past few days. It sounds crazy, but the only thought I can seem to work on is trying to write out a metaphor for the Koch Brothers, and the lingering effect they will have on our country, as to their crappy Angel Soft toilet paper…and the fibery dingleberries the stuff leaves behind.
Oh sure, they make it out like the product (shit paper) their selling you is the best quality and hell…they say it is so fucking cheap to boot. But the truth of the matter is, you are being fucked in more ways than you realize. Because they are charging you the same prices for way less than what you used to get, they’ve got a monopoly on the shit paper isle as it is anyway so what choices do you really have…and, as if they do it purposely, those bits of linty irritant only continue to remind you just what an annoying pain in the ass the Koch Brothers really are. (Oh, and they are going to bring down the whole of civilization as we know it…you’ll see.) But that somehow connects to a reference to a backed up septic tank… due to the said nappy ass toilet paper in the first place, but then you see I am back where I started.
Ugh, what the hell am I saying, here are your links for today:
Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History — NYMag
This week in things we wish were just a Colbert Report sketch, an Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that would cut funding for the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History. The 11 Republicans who approved the measure over the objections of four Democrats weren’t trying to win over Oklahoma’s lazy high school juniors. Tulsa Worldreports that Representative Dan Fisher, who introduced the bill, lamented during Monday’s hearing that the new AP U.S. History framework emphasizes “what is bad about America,” and doesn’t teach “American exceptionalism.” It’s a complaint that’s been spreading among mostly conservative state legislatures in recent months, and has some calling for a ban on all AP courses.
Earlier this month, the Georgia state Senate introduced a resolution that rejects a new version of the AP U.S. History course for presenting a “radically revisionist view of American history” and minimizing “discussion of America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, [and] the religious influences on our nation’s history.” It says that if the College Board does not revise the test, Georgia will cut funding for the course. The exam has also sparked controversy in Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Colorado, where students in Jefferson County protested last fall when a school board member said the course should be modified to promote “patriotism,” and discourage “civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”
I can’t bear to link to any more stories like that. Let’s all look at some cool pictures.
Photographer Captures 100 Female Artists In Their Homes And Studios
A great portrait is more than just a frozen reflection of the subject’s appearance. It’s a chance moment, blanketed in natural light, in which the subject’s authentic self is visible in her expression, her stance, her aura. A great portrait blurs the line between a subject and her surroundings, all contributing equally to the overall impression of a singular human being.
Photographer Barbara Yoshida captured not one great portrait, but 100. And to make it all the more glorious, her subjects are all female artists, groundbreaking in their own right.
Vivian Maier, The Mysterious Nanny Behind A Trove Of Brilliant Street Photography, Is Going To The Oscars
The story of Vivian Maier is probably one of the art world’s most compelling mysteries. A nanny by profession, she was an alarmingly talented and vastly prolific photographer whose keen eye for the mundane produced some of the 20th century’s most intriguing works of street photography. At times she was a Mary Poppins, trekking across a city like Chicago with a gaggle of children passing like ducklings behind her. At other times, she was Weegee, tuned into the pulse of urban centers, her lens drawn to crowds of celebrity, crime and everything squished in between.
The juxtaposition of being a lifelong caretaker in one moment, chasing kids and bickering with parents, and a relentless documentarian on the other, churning out rolls of film a day, is enigmatic in itself. But the real kick is that Vivian Maier is a name no one truly knew until about 2007. It was then that a former real estate agent named John Maloof unknowingly purchased a box of her photographic negatives for $400. Fast forward through a heavy dose of research and detective work, and you have “Finding Vivian Maier,” the Oscar-nominated film that recounts the life of a woman the art world reveres, but no one actually seems to know.
How One Artist Is Challenging The Harsh Reality Of Street Harassment In Mexico City
In 2012, Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh embarked upon a project titled “Stop Telling Women to Smile.” The series, comprised of portraits pasted on the sides of buildings, aimed to combat street harassment targeted at women by commanding offenders in public spaces to think before they speak.
“Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women worldwide,” the artist proclaims on her site. “This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street — creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”
The Veiled Feminism Of Moroccan-Born Photographer Lalla Essaydi
In his landmark book, Orientalism, the late scholar Edward Said wrote of “exteriority,” a disconnect between the traveler’s fantasies and reality. Reading the travelogues of French writers, Said once explained that he found “representations of the Orient had very little to do with what I knew about my own background in life.”
50 Unexplainable Black & White Photos
That is the least strange of the bunch.
Artists Liven Up A Children’s Hospital With Vibrant Murals, Thus Making Our Day
As you’re probably well aware, hospitals tend not to be the most visually enticing of spaces, especially for kids. Between the fluorescent lights, the sterile aesthetic and the deluge of achromatic hues somewhere between oatmeal and taupe, the spaces where so many humans experience their most physically and emotionally trying moments really aren’t helping much as far as ambiance goes.
That’s where the power of art comes in.
These Are The Ballerinas And Ballerinos Of Instagram
American Ballet Theater icon Misty Copeland has over 402,000 followers on Instagram. To compare, athletes like Venus and Serena Williams have 89,500 and 992,000 followers, respectively. Michael Phelps has 462,000. Danica Patrick has 26,900.
Of course, ballet is easily the most photogenic of the sports. An art form that toes the line between performance and feats of athleticism, it’s filled with pirouettes and arabesques that when frozen in a frame appear like paintings or perfectly sculpted statues. Misty’s Instagram account is filled with shots both on and off a stage, flexing her muscles and practicing her craft. And she’s hardly the only ballerina — or ballerino — to grace the platform. One glimpse at the popular Ballerina Project account, followed by an impressive 641,000, and it’s easy to see why dance fans are quick to double click on the endless stream of posed portraits.
This Is Forensic Sculpture, A Combination Of Art And Science That Aims To Solve Cold Cases
Each student at the Forensic Sculpture Workshop at the New York Academy of Art (NYAA) begins with a skull. More specifically, each begins with a plaster replica of a real human skull made by a medical examiner, a facsimile of an unidentified crime victim in New York City.
From this foundation, the students sculpt a face, using a block of clay and whatever information they can glean from the ongoing investigations — such as age, height, gender and race. They also included grimmer details, such as the locations of bullet holes or crushed bones.
The resulting sculptures, lifelike in their realistic portrayals, capture the likenesses of unknown citizens who faced cruel and untimely deaths from a variety of gruesome circumstances, in the hopes that someone walking by the university windows will see a face and recognize it.
From The Womb To The World, These Babies Were Photographed Just Seconds After Birth
In his series “Cesar,” the French artist captures babies in their first moments of life — specifically, between three and 18 seconds of existing outside the womb. As you may have ascertained from the project’s title, all of Berthelot’s subjects underwent (and survived) a Caesarean section — a procedure in which the baby is removed via an incision in the mother’s abdomen. Berthelot’s first child was born after a C-section, serving as the inspiration for this powerful project.
Rare Photos Of What The Circus Looked Like Nearly A Century Ago
The circus has always been a space rife with visual splendor. Long before a certain FX anthology series brought “freak shows” into the pop culture conversation, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey made clowns and acrobats essential elements of entertainment when they merged in 1919. In fact, together, they amounted to “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Witness the Death of the ’60s in Ken Light’s Era-Defining Photos | Mother Jones
Ken Light’s photos from 1969 to 1974 document the social landscape of America as it frayed at the seams, rife with turmoil. As a young photographer, Light captured the country at this pivotal moment, and his frontline protest photos in Ohio and political images from the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami show the opposite ends of the spectrum.
But the photos that make his new book, American Stories in the Age of Protest, so great are less-familiar ones: the everyday person out waving flags in support of Nixon, the garage band taking to a makeshift stage in support of McGovern, the kids hanging out in West Oakland. It’s photos like these, so common at the time, that gain importance with age. They give contour and meaning to historical projects such as this.
Thirteen Most by Luc Sante | The Gallery | The New York Review of Books
Light reveals new details of Paul Gauguin’s creative process — ScienceDaily
History News Network | The real inventor of Monopoly finally getting some credit
Exploring the teenage brain, and its drive for immediate reward — ScienceDaily
Raw Eggs and No Husband Since ’38 Keep Her Young at 115 – NYTimes.com
Meet the lamb that thinks it’s a sheep dog – CBBC Newsround
Sheep Forgets How To Sheep, Frolics With Dogs Instead
BBC News – The Seattle pig who thinks she is a dog
Think of this as an open thread, there is just one more thing…try and stay warm cause it is fucking cold out there.
Posted: March 12, 2014 Filed under: 2014 elections, abortion rights, Accommodation and Compromise, Afghanistan, birth control, court rulings, Democratic Politics, Discrimination against women, Domestic Policy, fetus fetishists, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Iraq, legislation, misogyny, morning reads, Planned Parenthood, PLUB Pro-Life-Until-Birth, Political Affective Disorder, Psychopaths in charge, Real Life Horror, Religious Conscience, religious extremists, Reproductive Health, Reproductive Rights, Republican politics, science, Tea Party activists, the GOP, U.S. Politics, Vagina, Violence against women, War on Women, Women's Healthcare, Women's Rights | Tags: Brenda Starr Reporter, Firehair Queen of the Sagebrush Frontier, Lady Luck, Sally O’Neil, Sally the Sleuth, the dames in Gangsters and Gun Molls, Underworld, women in comics 1940's and 1950's
I am a coward. A big fat coward. I’ve spent the last countless days avoiding the computer so that I could have an excuse not to go online.
Why? Because one of my oldest childhood friends from Florida…whom I’ve lost touch with over the years, but is someone who is connected deeply to my memories of growing up that I could not even comprehend a world without her…this person who shared life dreams with me…is currently getting treatment for third-stage breast cancer.
The chemo is making her sick as hell. Her long natural curly hair is all gone, she’s bald, and the things that seem to keep her going now are the three kids (20, 15 and 6) and her crazy family and her close friends, which are more like family to her then the one she and her sister survived from.
Honestly, I cannot tell you how many adversities she has fought through. My one repeated memory of her locking her bedroom door when we were little, and sleeping with a kitchen knife under the bed should give you a hint. The fact that the mother did not “believe” the stories…or divorce the father until years later. Oh…it is amazing that the family has even worked through it, albeit understandably with tensions still intact.
It was something I could not face. To read her email telling me how her treatment was going, what it was doing to her physically, financially and emotionally. Shit.
I finally sent her a message yesterday and told her what a coward I was…and why I had not responded to her the past couple of days. I am so pissed at myself.
It really makes me want to check out even more, especially with so much crap going on, and so many good people like my friend…struggling to get through the day. As if she did not have all the shitty obstacles of her life to get across, then to have additional road blocks put up by rich ass dickwad politicians and hypocritical assholes. The hoops she has jump to get her treatments covered in Gov. Rick Scott aka Voldemort’s State of Florida is ridiculous. It just adds to an already stressful situation. I hate it.
The reason for that longer than usual opening is to give you the sense of my mood. My frustrations.
Now, on to a few items of fancy this morning…you see these old comic clips?
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
She was the first woman “heroine” main character to have a comic book all to herself. Years before Wonder Woman!
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is a fictional, American comic book jungle girl heroine, originally published primarily by Fiction House. She was the first female comic-book character with her own title, with her 1937 (in Great Britain; 1938 in the United States) premiere preceding Wonder Woman #1 (cover-dated Dec. 1941). Sheena inspired a wealth of similar comic-book jungle queens. She was predated in literature by Rima, the Jungle Girl, introduced in the 1904 William Henry Hudson novel Green Mansions. Sheena was ranked 59th in Comics Buyer’s Guide’s “100 Sexiest Women in Comics” list.
An orphan who grew up in the jungle, learning how to survive and thrive there, she possessed the ability to communicate with wild animals and was proficient in fighting with knives, spears, bows, and makeshift weapons.
This woman kicks ass…as you can see if you take a look at her archive of comics:
Here…at this link (which is a site Boston Boomer sent to me a little while ago The Digital Comic Museum and it is fantastic.) The Digital Comic Museum > Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
Or…here: Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Fiction House)
Both are good sites with lots of downloadable comics that have become part of the public domain.
One thing you will notice is the change in Sheena as she transitions into the 1950’s woman.
Take a look at this gallery of covers and see the way she is represented, in both the artwork and situations on the covers and the various titles and headlines.
Sheena went from a cover where she is alone kicking a guy’s ass in a crocodile suit and, “She rules a world of killer beast and savage men!” to an ape grabbing her suggestively around the waist, and a dudebro saving her by shooting another ape with, “Trek the jungle trails of killer beast and savage men with Sheena wild beauty of the Congo.”
Well, that was just my observation.
The Digital Comic Museum has some wonderful comics to look through. Luckily they have more Women in Red comics, so maybe another installment of our shero is in the future?
Other strong woman characters from the late 30’s and 40’s included Brenda Starr Reporter, Sally O’Neil Cop,
Sally the Sleuth in Crime Smashers (Check out the first Sally the Sleuth story here… Love the lipstick gun!), Firehair Queen of the Sagebrush Frontier, Lady Luck (who was later replaced by Wendy the Waitress) and the dames in Gangsters and Gun Molls and Underworld.
I think if you spend some time, and bookmark some of those pages, you will have an enjoyable few hours wasted away…and forget reality of what is going on in the real world…where those women in the comic books from the 40’s seemed to be given more credit for being an individual “thinking” human being (flawed or not) than what the assholes give women of today. I mean I am not blind to the advances that have been made, but seriously? Links below the jump will connect to this point.
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