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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 18, 2014

 
Californians support reform of Proposition 13 corporate giveaways

by David Atkins

The Field Poll is one of the most reliable polls in California. One of its latest findings shows enormous support for changing California's Proposition 13 as it relates to commercial properties, a reform known as "split roll":

A majority of Californians favor tweaking Proposition 13, the state’s landmark restriction on property tax increases, as it applies to business and commercial properties, according a poll released Thursday.

The Field Poll found that 69% of registered voters favored changing tax laws to ensure that commercial and business properties are reassessed when they change ownership, which would trigger a higher property tax rate.

Prop. 13, the 1978 ballot initiative that transformed property taxes in California, restricts yearly property tax increases on homeowners – but once a home changes ownership, the tax rate is reset based on the new reassessed value.
Because of the complexities of the law, however, commercial and business properties are not always reassessed when they change ownership. The poll found strong bipartisan support for changing Prop. 13 to include those properties.
Real estate and taxation experts have estimated that the loophole costs the state tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue, and has shifted more of the state’s tax burden onto homeowners.
It's arguable that something did need to be done to prevent taxes on homes from increasing beyond the ability of people to pay. But Proposition 13 was a drastic, overreaching step that led inevitably to overinflation of real estate prices in California.

Proposition 13 also essentially constitutes a massive giveaway to baby boomers and early Xers at the expense of later generations. Houses purchased in 1985 for $50,000 are often worth ten times their original purchase price today, but the property taxes on them have barely increased. That same house if sold to a new homebuyer would have its property tax reassessed at the current value--and there is absolutely no chance that a $500,000 house today will be worth $5 million or even $1 million in twenty years, simply because wages aren't keeping pace with the rise in home values. Taxes to fund schools, infrastructure and social services decreased, home prices increased beyond reason, and a fairly narrow band of people received the benefits at the expense of their children. People like to pretend that isn't so because they're under the delusion that the home and stock price increase of 1975-2008 was anything but a perverted, unsustainable aberration created by artificial asset inflation at the expense of the public square and workers' wages. Wages and assets will find a more sustainable equilibrium, one that will inevitably lead to a well-deserved downturn in asset values.

Even worse, however, is the situation with commercial property. That situation has two key problems. First, many commercials simply never change hands. Disneyland pays little more than 1970s-era property taxes. Second, many commercial properties can be "gifted" through inheritance and other means in such a way that it doesn't constitute a "transfer" under state law.

While far too many of the Californians who actually vote continue to receive the benefits of the homeowner provisions of Proposition 13 (a situation that may change as the number of less entrenched voters who are so priced out of the real estate market that they can only afford to rent becomes ever larger), most Californians are very clear that corporations are making off like bandits off rules designed to protect homeowners.

That bodes well for California's finances, and for a greater degree of tax fairness.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

 
The GOP should have gone RTL instead of NRA.  Bad call.

by digby

Greg Sargent has a story about the GOP starting to have a wee problem in their districts over Obamacare:
Asked by a constituent why he thinks repealing Obamacare’s protections is a good idea, Rep. Ross replies: “I don’t.” Though Ross has repeatedly voted to repeal the law, he cites his own health reform alternative – which includes well known Republican ideas like HSAs and mechanisms for “temporary” coverage for people with preexisting conditions – and laments that the GOP has not coalesced behind a comprehensive alternative. He says:
“I think one of the most unfortunate things my party did the last three years was not offer an alternative to health care…I wish we had an alternative. For the next six months, we’re going to go into an election, knowing that we’re not going to do anything to address health care. Because we’ve gone so far in the last few years saying No, that we don’t have an alternative to say Yes to. And I think that the American public, when they go to vote, are going to look at credibility before they look at substance.”
They made a mistake. They adopted the NRA all or nothing strategy when they should have adopted the "pro-life" death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy. If they had just chosen a few elements to deride instead of barking about 'repeal" every five minutes they'd have something to work with. After all, many elements of the reforms are things they should, by all rights, be in favor of. Since they are not required to set forth any policies or programs that make any sense or have the possibility of working the way they say they will they could have initiated a strategy of picking it apart while still being in favor of "reform."

In fact, that's undoubtedly where they will go with all this. After all, refusing the Medicaid expansion has been a huge success.  They can be the instruments that hurt poor people while telling them that it's Obamacare's fault. Win, win.

Probably the smartest thing the president's team did was adopt their pejorative "Obamacare" as their own. That made the right wingers lose their heads --- how could they accept any part of the ACA if it had Satan's name attached?


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Never say they take their eyes off the ball

by digby

Bernie Sanders reminds us this little historical fact:
It is not widely known that David Koch was the Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate in 1980. He believed that Ronald Reagan was much too liberal. Despite Mr. Koch putting a substantial sum of money into the campaign, his ticket only received 1 percent of the vote. Most Americans thought the Libertarian Party platform of 1980 was extremist and way out of touch with what the American people wanted and needed.

Fast-forward 34 years and the most significant reality of modern politics is how successful David Koch and like-minded billionaires have been in moving the Republican Party to the extreme right. Amazingly, much of what was considered "extremist" and "kooky" in 1980 has become part of today's mainstream Republican thinking.

Let me give you just a few examples:

In 1980, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate David Koch ran on a platform that called for abolishing the minimum wage. Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, not only does virtually every Republican in Congress oppose raising the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, many of them, including Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are on record for abolishing the concept of the federal minimum wage.

In 1980, the platform of David Koch's Libertarian Party favored "the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs." Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party, as seen in the recently passed Ryan budget, is to end Medicare as we know it, cut Medicaid by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million people -- 1 in 8 Americans -- would lose health insurance or fail to obtain insurance by 2024. Most of them would be people with low or moderate incomes."
There's more. And it's chilling.

So is this:
Charles and David Koch hit a milestone on Wednesday, as a $1.3 billion boost to their collective fortune sent their net worth above $100 billion, according to Bloomberg News.

The brothers are majority stakeholders in Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the U.S., after Cargill Inc. They are now the fifth- and sixth-wealthiest people in the world.
They had half of that --- still an obscene amount of money --- just three years ago.

They could easily spend 50 billion dollars on politics and still be among the 10 richest people in America. And they are just the kind to do it. They are radical, true believers who have only one big mission in life. I think you can see by their "platform" what that is.

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The Wingnut Welfare Monarchy

by digby

Can you believe this?  It's not as if Limbaugh and company wouldn't do this for free. Or that they aren't already millionaires hundreds of times over. They're just giving them money because ... well, because:
A POLITICO review of filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012. Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented, with legacy groups like The Heritage Foundation ending their sponsorships and groups like the Tea Party Patriots placing big ad buys.
It's the sheer amount of money they have that always astounds me.

Atrios is holding a fundraiser and as one of the last remaining founding prog-blogs, he needs your support:
12 years ago I started this sucky little blog, mostly because this "blog" thing seemed to be taking off and it was dominated by conservative assholes and eventheliberals, like every other medium at the time. I figured I could be a liberal asshole on the internet well enough. About that time lots of other people joined in - I'm not really claiming to be a pioneer here. And of course there were the protoblogs, such as the long missing Media Horse and the sadly departed Bartcop.

I can't say this "job" is "hard" relative to the shit most people put up with, but there is something about the constant stress of having to come up with a post every couple of hours. I hit publish and immediately start thinking of what to post next. Yes I know I have a reputation for not writing anything, but writing is the easy part. Having something to say is the hard bit.

Thanks to the community for keeping it interesting. "Internet commenters" have a bad reputation - often deservedly - but they're generally the most interesting part of an interesting site. Without commenters here I would have bored myself to death years ago.

12 years ago I was 30. I am not 30 anymore. It's been a long strange trip!

Consider a wee contribution to keep this going a bit longer. Hopefully we've managed to help change things for the better, just a bit anyway.

We don't have rich assholes throwing millions at us, I can tell you that. Without you readers we will disappear. And then you can read Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg and listen to Joe Scarborough and Rush Limbaugh. They don't have to hold fundraisers.

Click over and throw a few bucks his way.



Update: Driftglass reminds us that the Queen of all Wingnuttery, Ayn Rand, approved the welfare back when little Paulie Ryan was a mere twinkle in her eye. (Well, that might have been the Dexies, but you know what I mean ...)


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Clive Bundy needs to read the Nevada Constitution

by digby

The Atlantic had an interesting take on the latest right wing hero Clive Bundy. He claims to be a big States' rights guy, naturally:
Well, you know, my cattle is only one issue—that the United States courts has ordered that the government can seize my cattle. But what they have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to the land, and have seized access to all of the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing. They've closed all those things down, and we're here to protest that action. And we are after freedom. We're after liberty. That's what we want...
In another interview he said:
"I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada," Bundy said in a radio interview last Thursday. "I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing."
Except he doesn't abide by Nevada state laws. In fact the Nevada constitution makes a mockery of everything these "states' rights" zealots are saying today:

Here it is:
All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

I don't think it can be any clearer. This man is defying the laws of the United States of America and the clear constitutional directives of the State of Nevada. He does not have a leg to stand on.

I'm sure he'll declare that he's following Biblical law or some such nonsense if confronted This isn't about law, it's about the right wing's conviction that the United States doesn't really exist.

Unless they want a war in which case they'll be waving the flag so hard it will cause a hurricane. Consistency isn't their strong suit.




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But then, he's obviously a silly fool.
 
From the "who me?" fiiles

by digby

I don't know how a person goes through life with so little self-awareness:



I wonder.

That, from the fellow who  wrote this:

The Right Man is the first inside account of a historic year in the Bush White House, by the presidential speechwriter credited with the phrase axis of evil.David Frum helped make international headlines when President George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address linked international terrorists to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. But that was only one moment during a crucial time in American history, when a president, an administration, and a country were transformed.

Update: You wonder why people are always bringing up Orwell?  Check out Frum's latest piece at The Atlantic. The headline:

We Need More Secrecy

Why government transparency can be the enemy of liberty

Also too: war is peace


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The Bizarro World's greatest pundit strikes again

by digby

Dick Morris is the worst pundit in America, everyone knows that. In my latest piece for Salon I examine his latest jihad against the Interstate Compact allowing states to use the national popular vote for president in the electoral college which is unwittingly hilarious. Basically, he comes right out and admits that if they allow the popular vote to determine the winner, Republicans will lose:
Morris is best understood as the top pundit in DC Comics’ The Bizarro World of Htrae, a cube shaped planet in which everything is opposite of what we know as reality here on Earth (opposite of Htrae, get it?)Take his latest offering in upside-downism: he claims that in their latest nefarious vote fraud scheme, George Soros and his Democratic minions are preparing to steal elections from Republicans by having states adopt the national popular vote to determine electors in the electoral college.

Yes, you read that right. Using the national popular vote to determine who wins the presidency would be stealing elections. Let that sink in for a minute.

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Read on. It's fun.


* Correction: Marvel Comics changed to DC Comics. I regret the error. Deeply.


 
How many people did we torture anyway?

by digby

In case you missed this last week with all the exciting developments in the ongoing search for Amelia Earhardt, here's an update on the Torture Report from McClatchy:
A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn’t constitute torture.

The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”

The findings are among the report’s 20 main conclusions. Taken together, they paint a picture of an intelligence agency that seemed intent on evading or misleading nearly all of its oversight mechanisms throughout the program, which was launched under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and ran until 2006.

Here's the good news. We can totally believe the secret intelligence agencies now when they assure us that they aren't doing anything illegal, unconstitutional or immoral.

So let's just settle down about all that spying on everyone. They told us they weren't using the information for any purposes beyond keeping us safe from the terrorists. We can trust them. Absolutely.


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New York is the latest domino to fall on road to disempowering the Electoral College

by David Atkins

Good news:

New York has joined the campaign to effectively end the Electoral College’s role in determining winners of presidential elections.

Under the National Popular Vote Compact, which Gov. Cuomo signed off on Tuesday, the state has agreed to award its electoral college votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote.
Currently New York’s electoral colleges votes go to the winner of the state’s popular vote.
The Senate and Assembly approved the legislation last month.

The compact only takes effect once enough states have signed on to give it the required 270 electoral college votes. With New York’s participation, the movement has 165 votes.
Unfortunately there is a long way to go. With the recent exception of the Oklahoma state senate, Republican governors and legislatures have been predictably resistant to the national popular vote. And even if Democrats controlled the statehouses and governor's mansions in presidentially blue states like Michigan Pennsylvania and Colorado, they wouldn't be terribly inclined to support it because they might see fewer campaign stops as presidential candidates started stumping more in New York and California instead.

Still, it's a fight worth pursuing. Most urban centers are totally ignored in presidential elections, and the focus on small populations of persuadable voters in a few battleground states warps American public policy on a number of fronts, including Cuba policy, coal policy and many others.

An America in which a presidential candidate could more effectively maximize the share of the vote in big blue cities than fight over tiny pockets of undecided voters in Florida or Missouri would be a more progressive nation.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 
Yoo is confused

by digby

So John Yoo is widely considered to be a brilliant legal mind?
John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general and author of the 2002 memos advising the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques, said the Pulitzer committee’s decision did not vindicate Snowden.

“I’m not surprised the Pulitzer committee gave The Washington Post a prize for pursuing a sensationalist story, even when the story is a disaster for its own country,” he said. “I don’t think we need automatically read the prize as a vindication for Snowden’s crimes. Awarding a prize to a newspaper that covered a hurricane does not somehow vindicate the hurricane, [and] awarding a Pulitzer for a photo of a murder does not somehow vindicate the crime.”
Huh? The stories for which these journalists won the Pulitzer weren't about Edward Snowden or his alleged crimes. They were about the NSA's secret activities. It's the NSA that is the hurricane or the murderer in his scenario. If the award vindicates Snowden (not its intent, but rather its effect) it's because without him there would be no story not because the stories were about him. What the hell is he going on about?

I guess it makes sense that this fellow would be hostile to the NSA story. After all, if someone hadn't leaked the Bybee memo, we might never have known about the torture regime. And it's obviously a good thing he was disgraced by the exposure of his sadistic view of American power to keep him off the bench. I feel kind of sorry for his students though.

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"Personhood" gains steam

by digby

In case anyone wants to tell me again that we needn't worry about the right wing "moving the goal posts" and that once a group of people have secured a basic human right, there's no going back, take a look at this from Greg Sargent:
The issue isn’t being discussed at all by Washington prognosticators these days. But you can bet that some of the most hard fought Senate races this fall will feature big fights over “Personhood” measures, which have declared that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization. 
A number of GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting Personhood in some form. Once primary season is over, and the Senate general elections get underway in earnest, you are likely to see Democrats attack Republicans over the issue — broadening the battle for female voters beyond issues such as pay equity to include an emotionally fraught cultural argument that Dems have used to their advantage in the past. 
This has already appeared in the Colorado Senate race, but it will likely become an issue in other races, too. In Colorado, the Republican candidate, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, renounced his previous support for Personhood after entering the contest, admitting it would “restrict contraception,” but Dems seized on the reversal to argue that Gardner only supports protecting women’s health when politically necessary. 
Gardner co-sponsored the “Life at Conception Act,” which provides for Constitutional protection of the right to life of each “preborn human person,” defined as existing from the “moment of fertilization.” The Pro-Life Alliance describes this as a “Personhood” measure.
Other GOP Senate candidates are on record in similar fashion. Co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act include Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Steve Daines of Montana, both expected general election candidates. Meanwhile, according to McClatchy, three leading GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina — Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon, and Mark Harris — all favor a “Personhood” constitutional amendment that would “grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.”
Read on.  There's more, a lot more. Enough to send chills down your spine.

Now I'm sure that Democrats feel they will prevail on this and it's likely that it will accrue to their benefit in many places in the upcoming election. But all these candidates and office holders taking this position means that this "personhood" atrocity is becoming a mainstream position among Republicans.

So what's the point of this latest in the incremental war against a woman's right to choose when she wants to reproduce?
The single most important goal for any personhood law is to restrict, if not make totally illegal, the right to access abortions. If the zygote is a legal person, then Roe v. Wade was found on false grounds and no longer applies. Also, the idea of "viability" as a test no longer applies. A zygote or fetus must therefore be protected from being killed, just like any other person is.

Following that, most forms of hormonal birth control can potentially be attacked. Birth control works in two ways. First, it regulates the body so an egg is normally not released. No egg, no baby. However, sometimes an egg is released, but the hormones make the uterus a hostile environment for the zygote, causing it to pass out of the body with the woman's next cycle. If you assume a "person" begins at conception, birth control would necessarily be harmful to that person. Murder, if you will. The Virgina and Oklahoma State Legislators which are pushing personhood bills, were asked by those in opposition to put a basic rider protecting a woman's right to access hormonal birth control. In both cases, they gave a resounding "no", despite claims that they are not trying to make birth control illegal.

Another serious issue that is being brought up by ob-gyn's in the states trying to pass personhood laws, is the effect this will have on risky pregnancies, specifically ectopic pregnancy, because there is not sufficient legal markers/legal language to define a pregnancy as a "healthy one", nor define the rights of the fetus if it cannot survive...

Less likely, but still possible ramifications can include drastic laws against smoking, drinking or drug use while pregnant. While most women who want to be pregnant limit or remove those from their lives during pregnancy, some women do not, and some women cannot. Especially if they do not want the child in the first place. Though likely a violation of their civil rights, women are already charged for child abuse if they use while pregnant; personhood laws only make that situation worse. One can imagine a woman addicted to drugs who is living on the streets. She cannot have an abortion, but any child she has will face extreme health problems if it survives to term. And our answer will be to put her in jail.

Any miscarriage can potentially be considered manslaughter or a murder, depending on what the woman did or did not do during her pregnancy.
I actually don't think those last are less likely. Since the point of all this is to control women, I have no doubt that any pregnant women would be subject to legal problems if busy bodies thinks she is failing to behave in what certain people believe is a properly maternal way.

This is not some hysterical fringe discussion anymore. It's going to be part of the Fall campaign. And win or lose, the anti-abortion zealots will have succeeded in making the unthinkable thinkable.

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President Obama reinforces conservative economic framing

by David Atkins

The White House twitter account posted today:



Regular readers of this blog will be able to identify the problem here: businesses don't actually create jobs. In fact, the goal of a business is to be able to make as much profit as possible while employing as few people as possible.

Companies don't create jobs. Customers do. It would be nice to have a President who helped communicate that reality to the American public.


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Your wingnut whine 'o the day

by digby

Courtesy the WSJ:
The choice of Mr. Colbert is a strange business model for CBS. Gallup calibrates 38% of Americans as conservatives, 34% as moderates, and 23% as liberals. Friends who know Mr. Colbert, even some conservatives, tell me he's a good human being. But if he doesn't widen his appeal beyond those who lean strongly left, CBS will be writing off a large part of its potential audience. Carson hit the advertisers' sweet spot with a broad appeal to all consumers. It's a misnomer that comedians are rebels. At least not the successful ones who reflect the views of their fans.

Politically, Mr. Letterman took a left turn in recent years. It enraged many on the right when he mocked Sarah Palin's daughter and even today continues to bash Mr. Bush. And it didn't help his ratings. Now, by picking Mr. Colbert, CBS seems to be signaling that its target demo is Democrats of a decidedly liberal stripe.

I think they'll be content to keep Letterman's audience, thank you very much.

That piece was written by Johnny Carson's longtime head writer who has become a political consultant. Gosh I wonder what party he consults for?

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Big streaming event today at 6pm Eastern, 3pm Pacific: Thomas Picketty with Krugman, Stiglitz and Durlauf

by digby

Via Moyers:
On Wednesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. Eastern time, Thomas Piketty will join economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Steven Durlauf in New York to talk about his new landmark book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
In a review, Krugman, who will appear on Moyers & Company this week, calls the book “magnificent” in part because it will “change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics,” adding that the French economist’s influence “runs deep.”

“The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.”
Click here to watch the livestream.

This is the book everyone's talking about. It's said to be a towering work of scholarship and a tremendous breakthrough in the way we understand how the economy works.

Krugman wrote about it here in a piece called "Why We’re in a New Gilded Age."


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Those birthpangs are getting life-threatening

by digby

It looks like there are some major complications in that birthing of the democracy over in Iraq. We got them pregnant but the baby has two heads and may not survive:
[A]s Iraq prepares for its first national election in four years on April 30, it is hard to imagine democracy activists rallying weekly in Iraqi streets. For months, suicide bombers have been dynamiting themselves in crowded Shiite markets, coffee shops, and funeral tents, while Shiite militias and government security forces have terrorized Sunni communities. The Iraqi state is breaking apart again: from the west in Anbar province, where after weeks of anarchic violence more than 380,000 people have fled their homes; to the east in Diyala province, where tit-for-tat sectarian killings are rampant; to the north in Mosul, where al-Qaeda-linked militants control large swathes of territory; to the south in Basra, home to Iraq’s oil riches, where Shiite militias are once more ascendant; to Iraq’s Kurds, who warn that the country is disintegrating and contemplate full independence from Baghdad.

More than 2,500 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the year, including nearly three hundred in the first ten days of April; in the capital itself, which has become a showcase for the country’s multiplying conflicts and uncontrolled violence, there have been several brazen attacks on government buildings, and a terrifying string of car bombings, including eight on April 9 alone.

In theory, this month’s parliamentary elections, which are being contested by parties from across the political spectrum, will allow voters to take a stand against extremism. While many Iraqis say they are disillusioned with their current leaders, however, few think their vote is likely to produce major changes: Most of the candidates play to the fears of their own sects, or seem too weak to change the currently hateful mood. Across Iraq, people seek diversions through a trip to a mall or coffee shop, half-expecting a fatal explosion, or they lock themselves away at home losing themselves in American movies and video games. Others seek solace in the sectarian fantasies now promoted by the elite political parties: the stories told by many Sunnis of Iran’s domination of Iraq through militias and political figures, and by the Shiite religious parties of a plot hatched in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey to destroy the Shia communities in Syria and Iraq.
Oh, and then there's this:


Decades ago, in the years after Iraq gained independence, a tradition of child marriage persisted in its hills and plains. Upon their fathers’ orders, Iraqi girls were betrothed to strangers and rivals alike to resolve tribal disputes or incur favor.
childmarriageBut in the mid-1970s, such acts — called “fasliyah” — were prohibited as the nation moved toward secularization and modernity.

“This decree [banning fasliyah] constituted the first step toward a civilized Iraqi community,” reports the Middle East publication Al-Monitor, “which would put an end to the failures of the tribal… society.”
[...]
Now the Iraqi government is poised to legalize child marriage for the nation’s majority Shiite Muslim population. But the law, which some expect to pass before this month’s parliamentary elections, would do significantly more than that.

Called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, it would prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, prevent women from leaving the house without their husband’s consent, automatically grant custody of children older than two to their father in divorce cases and legalize marital rape.

The law, which proponents say will save women’s “rights and dignity,” would also permit boys to marry as young as 15 and girls to marry as young as nine. Girls younger than nine would be permitted to marry with a parent’s approval.

Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister, expressed outrage this week in an interview with the Telegraph. He said the law would legalize the abuse of women.

“It allows for girls to be married from nine years of age and even younger,” Allawi said. “There are other injustices [in the law] too.”

The legislation, which was introduced late last year, was condemned by international rights groups.

“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch.“This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”

The irony of all this is that one of the main human rights rationales for the invasion, as it was with Afghanistan, was that it was going to free the ladies. Remember this?
"We’re getting the band together," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told the group on their first conference call last week.

The "Band" is made up of the people who brought you the war in Afghanistan—or at least the accompanying public-relations campaign. Their greatest hit: exposing the Taliban’s treatment of women.

Now, they’re back for a reunion tour on Iraq. The Band's instrument, of course, is information.
Karen Hughes famously toured the Middle East clumsily telling anyone who'd listen that she was "a working mom" and Laura Bush made the women of Afghanistan and Iraq her personal cause. This was mostly for domestic consumption, of course, and it worked to some extent. A lot of feminists were torn on this account --- they had been trying to alert the world about the Taliban for years.

But it's always dicey to try to fix such problems with a war against religious fanatics. Particularly when that's only a convenient humanitarian excuse for a ruthless war over resources. So, here we are, 11 years after the invasion --- Iraq is exploding and women are being driven back into medieval times. Heckuva job, Bushie.


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Enlisting the ladies

by digby


“I just don’t have time for anything,” a housewife told a newsmagazine. “I’m fighting Communism three nights a week.”

The link goes to a Perlstein discussion of the Tea Party back in 2010. It's such a perfect example of the way the GOP enlists women to work on their behalf: it's just another housewife chore. Here's their 2014 version:

Signaling that the Republican Party is getting serious about wooing women, the Washington Post reported Monday that the Republican National Committee is planning to recruit an army of volunteers who will court young female voters in Democratic-leaning suburban areas.

The co-chair of the RNC, Sharon Day, is slated to launch the "14 in '14" program Monday in West Virginia, according to the Post, aiming to "sign up women who will commit 30 minutes per week in the 14 weeks before the election, making calls, recruiting other women, identifying voters and getting people to the polls."

President Barack Obama carried female voters in 2012 -- unmarried women in particular -- and winning over that voting bloc could tip tough mid-term elections in the GOP's favor.

“Women are a very important part of the electorate and the RNC is very serious about engaging,” Day told the Post. “The Democrats have relied on desperate attacks and we are going to aggressively work to correct the record and build relationships with women voters.”

I want you to look at the picture here:


There are only a couple of women there who are younger than I am. If the idea is that these women are going to be able to persuade their single granddaughters to vote for throwback patriarchs who think they're sluts if they use birth control, I suppose this might work. Otherwise, I think they have a long row to hoe. But then political strategists who declare proudly that "women are an important part of the electorate" --- as if it needs to be pointed out --- might not be as tuned into the real world as one might hope.

The GOP is one of the two major American parties and wields considerable power in our government. And their women sounds little different than that housewife back in the 60s. It's actually rather depressing.

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Rand Paul, the sin-eater

by digby

My Salon piece this morning is about the Republican establishment dreaming of forming a grassroots rebellion against ... Rand Paul and the base of the Republican Party.
In a time of partisan gridlock and a political scene that’s become so dull and predictable that cable networks are devoting weeks of 24-hour news coverage to an airplane that doesn’t exist, progressive news junkies can turn to one bright spot to lift their spirits and feed their political souls: the open warfare breaking out between the various factions of the Republican coalition. The tension between the radicals and the establishment has been around for decades and the energy waxes and wanes depending on the circumstances. Even in the bright glow of the Reagan apotheosis, Newt Gingrich and his revolutionaries were making trouble from the back benches. But this time is a little different[...]

What’s new in this cycle is the rise of the agitated “moderates” who are taking to the pages of their traditional media to lash out in anger at Tea Party excesses — or at least at a certain “non-mainstream” Republican who can sit in as the far right’s all-purpose sin-eater. (You don’t want to directly confront that rabid Tea Party base. It bites.) That man is Sen. Rand Paul.
Read On ...

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House conservatives STILL can't figure out what their healthcare "alternative" is

by David Atkins

This story, perhaps more than any about Wall Street, foreign policy or national security, shows just how far to the right both parties have gone:

Top House conservatives are pressuring Republican leaders to bring an ObamaCare replacement bill to a vote by the August recess.

Conservatives cheered when Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pledged a vote during the House GOP’s annual retreat in January, viewing the commitment as a central element of the party’s vow to be “the alternative party” and not merely stand in opposition to President Obama.

Yet 10 weeks later, party leaders have given no indication when they might present a plan or what form it will take.

Conservatives like Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), are pushing for a vote by the time lawmakers leave town for five weeks at the end of July.
“At the end of the day, we feel it’s really important to bring a bill to the floor that is a true replacement to the president’s healthcare law,” Scalise said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Look, leadership’s come a long way in the last six months on that, and we’re continuing to talk to them to try to get to a point where we actually have a vote on the House floor by the August recess.”

Scalise wants the party to adopt a single, comprehensive replacement for ObamaCare, but party leaders have not signed off on that approach. In recent weeks, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has suggested the House might vote instead on a series of healthcare bills.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has shied away from making any commitment at all, appearing to downplay the importance of holding a floor vote within a specific timeframe.

At a press conference last week, Boehner said Cantor and other top Republicans are “trying to build a consensus over what an alternative would look like.”
Of course they can't figure out what a conservative alternative would look like. Beyond going back to the old system of basically letting people with pre-existing conditions get sicker and die, there's isn't a more conservative alternative than the ACA. The ACA was the conservative alternative. It was the Heritage Foundation's idea. It was the idea implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. It's essentially a hefty government subsidy to health insurance companies to give them millions of new customers who previously couldn't afford coverage.

That doesn't make it bad per se, and it's certainly better than what we had before. But of all the possible forward-looking solutions to the healthcare crisis in this country, the ACA was the most conservative option possible. It's most progressive aspect is the Medicaid expansion--which Republican governors are blocking out of pure spite.

Democrats adopted that conservative approach partly to keep the medical and pharmaceutical industries happy, partly because many Americans currently covered by their employers would stupidly but understandably want to stick with the devil they know instead of take a chance on a "Euro-Socialist" approach, and partly because they were hoping for a few Republican votes to make it "bipartisan."

Republicans should have been thrilled with the result. Instead, they acted like the ACA was a nefarious Communist plot, and used atrocious lies about the bill to win big in 2010. That victory in turn helped them cement what will likely be over a decade in control of the House.

But it also means there's almost nowhere left for Republicans to go on healthcare. They can't really advocate for going back to the old system. And they certainly can't come up with a solution for those with pre-existing conditions and those priced out of healthcare entirely without a solution that looks very much like the ACA. They're all the way out on the right edge of the cliff, backed against the precipice by the right-leaning ACA. To go any farther right would mean jumping off the ledge.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 
Girls up front

by digby

I'm pretty sure they feel darned clever about this:
Some allies of rancher Cliven Bundy were prepared to make as much of a media spectacle as possible if violence were to erupt, saying they would put women on the front lines in the event federal officials turned to deadly force. Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack told Fox News Monday, as reported by the Blaze:

We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.

Mack, a self-professed Tea Partier, is one of a host of right-wing figures who stood behind Bundy and made him a conservative celebrity after he refused to pay grazing fees based on his claim that the federal government is not entitled to own land.

Mack served as sheriff for Graham County between 1988 and 1997, and is part of a group known as the “Oath Keepers” that denies the supremacy of federal law and has been deemed part of a wave of new militia groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the federal government that challenged the constitutionality of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
This is actually not all that uncommon. Human shields are often used in certain kinds of conflicts. The Taliban does it, for instance. Bashar Assad does too. Saddam and Qaddafi both did it with relish.

You can certainly see who their inspirations are.

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Fergawdsakes. Shoe Truthers? Really?

by digby

The right wing is staging one of the stupidest hissy fits ever. They are saying that Hillary Clinton staged that shoe throwing incident the other day. It's so dumb even Rush seems a little bit embarrassed by it and I didn't think that was possible:

Rush Limbaugh jumped on board the crazy train Monday, telling listeners that he can "totally relate" to those who believe that "everything the Clintons do is staged or choreographed." While he has not studied the incident in detail, he believes what people told him about Clinton's reaction not being "natural."

"I'm sorry, I'm ill-equipped to comment," Limbaugh said, proceding, of course to comment at some length. "Maybe it's because, in my subconscious, I think it was staged, or set up, or whatever. ... I don't know why anybody would be throwing a shoe at Hillary unless -- maybe it's an attempt to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and wackos."

You don't need to have shoes thrown at you to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics.

The think Clinton didn't "react naturally" because in their minds she should have jumped on a broom and flown at the assailant cackling madly and screaming "I'll get you my pretty!!!!"

Jesus. Did they find that plane yet?


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Sexual abuse in the quiverfull movement. Is anyone surprised?

by David Atkins

While repulsive, I don't think this should be a surprise to anyone:

A leading advocate of the patriarchal Quiverfull movement groomed a teenage girl as his “personal sex object” and then used the purity culture to shame her into silence, according to a lawsuit filed by his victim.

Douglas Phillips resigned last year from Vision Forum and Vision Forum Ministries over what he described at the time as an extramarital affair.

But the lawsuit, reported by Right Wing Watch, revealed more details about this relationship and the ways that women are treated in the Quiverfull movement – which has been popularized by the prolific Duggar family and their TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting.

Attorneys claim Phillips, a close friend to the Duggar family and an associate of actor Kirk Cameron, “methodically groomed” Lourdes Torres since she was 15 years old and led her to believe they would be married.

Phillips told the girl this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, “was going to die soon.”

Torres appeared in two Vision Forum films, “Alone But Not Alone” and the anti-feminist documentary “Return of the Daughters.”

Right Wing Watch also noted that when Torres graduated from high school in 2003, Phillips wrote a blog post commending her parents for “bringing their daughter into mature Christian womanhood.”

But at the same time, according to the lawsuit, Phillips indoctrinated Torres with the “patriarchal mindset” and “subtly began to manipulate Ms. Torres, so that he could use her for his sexual gratification.”

The suit claims Phillips repeatedly groped and touched Torres inappropriately and masturbated on her, “against her wishes and over her objections,” over a period of years.

“While Ms. Torres would have felt compelled to submit to Douglas Phillips, the purity culture would have meant at the same time, her submission made her ‘damaged goods’ in her eyes, the eyes of her family, and her community — raising the cost for her to come forward to call him to account,” the suit claims. “She was, in fact, in a ‘no-win’ situation.”
That "no-win situation" is exactly what religious patriarchs want women to be in. It's all about sexual control.


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A tinderbox waiting to explode for at least three decades

by digby

This story in the Washington Post about the Kansas assassin is just creepy:

When I learned that the man accused of shooting innocent bystanders Sunday at a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement home in Kansas City was a former Klansman named Glenn Miller, I shuddered.

Thirty-three years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I read a small item in the Raleigh News & Observer that mentioned Miller, then the grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Miller, it turns out, ran a paramilitary training camp in rural North Carolina.

I couldn’t understand how, in late-20th-century America, the KKK could operate in the open less than an hour from our elite, ivory-tower campus. I was an editor of Duke’s daily newspaper, the Chronicle, so I did what any reporter would do: I called Miller and asked for an interview. Always looking for publicity, Miller readily said yes, but he had one condition. “We ain’t no equal-opportunity employer, you know,” he said. “So don’t bring down no blacks and no Jews.”

It get worse. "I smell a Jew....."

I saw Morris Dees last night on Chris Hayes and he explained that this guy lost face among his fellow Nazis and may have been trying to prove his bonafides to his cohorts with this latest shooting. My God ...


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Why isn't this called what it is: terrorism?

by digby

The authorities have charged the Kansas assassin with a hate crime, which it surely is. But just because he was a white American male who wanted to kill Jews instead of a Muslim fanatic wanting to kill Jews (or other Americans) doesn't make it something other than terrorism, does it?

Mark Potok at the SPLC had this to say on PBS last night:

GWEN IFILL: For anybody watching who is a little confused, I want to be clear this man goes by a couple different names, Frazier Glenn Cross, Glenn Miller, Frazier Miller, just so everybody knows we’re talking about the same person.

Are people like this always loners, individuals, or are there conspiracies out there we should be keeping — or that you are keeping an eye on?

MARK POTOK: Much, much more often than not these days, they are loners, so-called lone wolves.

And that is largely because conspiracies tend to be found out so very quickly, and often quite easily by law enforcement. And also conspiracies, when actually a whole group of people actually plan a crime or a domestic terrorist attack, they will very likely all go down if even only one of them is caught.

So, today, almost all of these attacks, certainly the most dangerous attacks, come from lone wolves or people with operating with just one or two friends like, for instance, Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

GWEN IFILL: At what point — you mentioned Timothy McVeigh — that is an example. At what point do we begin to treat these kinds of attacks as domestic terrorism, not just as hate crimes or individual acts?

MARK POTOK: Well, I mean, they are domestic terrorism. Let’s be plain.

There is nothing to distinguish this from other forms of terrorism. It is a way in this case of terrorizing the Jewish community around Kansas City in particular, but around the country in general. And that’s what terrorism is. It’s a criminal act that is aimed at far more people than the immediate victims.

You know, the law enforcement has been off and on about being candid about the terrorist nature of these attacks. But I think, today, by and large, American law enforcement is perfectly well aware that there is a very serious domestic radical right and some people within that milieu are, in fact, terrorists.

It's not that they never charge white supremacists with terrorism. But they don't seem to see it in the same light as Islamic terrorism. But then, white supremacy terrorism has always been given a wide birth in this country. (As is anti-abortion terrorism.)

Juan Colehas a good piece up about this case. And he links to his earlier piece called the Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others, which is useful at times like these:

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.

9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.

10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.

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Factoid 'O the Day

by digby

Via the AFL-CIO's awesome web-site called "Executive Paywatch":

In 2013 the CEO to worker pay ratio was 331:1 and the CEO to minimum wage worker pay ratio was 774:1. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, a country where hard work and playing by the rules would provide working families a middle-class standard of living. But in recent decades, corporate CEOs have been taking a greater share of the economic pie while wages have stagnated and unemployment remains high.

So what's the point? This just means that the CEOs work 774 times harder than a janitor or a waitress. Obviously. Also too, they have better character and higher morals. Otherwise, this might be seen as a self-dealing system of exploitation. And it can't be that. Because if God didn't think rich people were simply worth more he wouldn't make it so they could keep all the money.


Is it possible to make too much money? “Is it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein shoots back. “I don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation. As the guardian of the interests of the shareholders and, by the way, for the purposes of society, I’d like them to continue to do what they are doing. I don’t want to put a cap on their ambition. It’s hard for me to argue for a cap on their compensation.” 
So, it’s business as usual, then, regardless of whether it makes most people howl at the moon with rage? Goldman Sachs, this pillar of the free market, breeder of super-citizens, object of envy and awe will go on raking it in, getting richer than God? An impish grin spreads across Blankfein’s face. Call him a fat cat who mocks the public. Call him wicked. Call him what you will. He is, he says, just a banker “doing God’s work”


 
Good timing

by digby

Well, not exactly:
The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.

The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.

“We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,” said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau.

I suppose they figure with all the hoopla around the new law it's better to have it be part of the chaos rather than waiting another year when it will look as though the numbers are dropping. But honestly, couldn't someone have thought of this a couple of years ago, before the law took effect?

I cannot say for sure that a conservative regime wouldn't have managed this timing better. The government is a big lumbering beast and it's often hard to control all the moving parts. But in general, conservative governments tend to use the government for political purposes more overtly --- and get away with it.

For instance, remember this slick play from the Bush admnistration?



They could have just sent the checks.  But instead they first sent every taxpayer a letter taking credit for it. At taxpayers expense! This administration couldn't even get the funds legitimately necessary to educate people about Obamacare.  And when they went to the private sector to ask if they'd pick up the slack the Republicans went ballistic and accused them of lawbreaking.  (I won't even go into the bogus IRS scandal that continues to this day.)

The most notorious use of the government for overtly political purposes in the Bush administration was the use of the US Attorneys office to tilt election results, although that one backfired when some prosecutors decided they didn't want to risk their reputations. But it's a testament to their chutzpah that they felt so comfortable wielding power that they even tried.

I don't think the Democrats should stoop to that level of manipulation (and lawbreaking) obviously. But knowing what the other hand is doing and plan ahead for maximum results is simply good management. And I think Democrats tend to discount that skill from a political perspective and often fail to take advantage of opportunities.  At the very least they should be alert to opportunities that avert political problems.

Perhaps it wasn't possible to effect this change in census questions earlier, although at the pace government moves it's hard to believe this hasn't been in the works for some time. Sure, they might have been accused of playing politics. But so what? The Republicans will accuse them of playing politics anyway --- and the Democrats would do the same if the shoe were on the other foot.  The difference is that Republicans weigh the pros and cons and don't worry about the Democrats' handwringing.  It's a big advantage for conservatives: they get to rail against Big Government inefficiency even as they use it for their political advantage.

Update: It turns out that the NY Times article is a bit misleading.The change will measure the difference between 2012 and 2013, which should give them a proper baseline for Obamacare.

And yes, the right wingers are freaking out saying this is jacking the number somehow in Obamacare's favor, which is nonsense of course. And as the Vox link above points out, most of those who follow this issue use a number of tools including Gallup which measures a large sample.

Still, this sort of thing is unhelpful:

Census officials did have at least some concerns about changing the measurement of the uninsured rate at this moment. In a memo obtained by the Times, it was described as "it is coincidental and unfortunate timing."

"Ideally," the same memo says, "the redesign would have had at least a few years to gather base line and trend data."

Maybe they could just get them to shut up?

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ABC must not want a latino audience. They've just hired a hardcore immigrant basher

by digby

My new piece for Salon is on Laura "anchor fetus" Ingraham:
Nobody has been more of a vociferous critic of the news media’s alleged liberal bias than talk radio host and conservative commentator Laura Ingraham. Going all the way back to her years as a notorious campus activist making her name as a vicious homophobe (since partially recanted,) she has been hitting the mainstream media for its so-called liberal bias. This “Reliable Sources” exchange with E.J. Dionne from early 2003 is an amusing example of how the best of them get the job done:

KURTZ: Let’s turn now to media bias. E.J. Dionne, you wrote a column recently saying there is no longer any such thing as the big, liberal media. Is this a fantasy we’ve been talking about for some years now? … You’re saying that the “New York Times” and the “L.A. Times” and “The Washington Post” and the networks and magazines have been intimidated and they’re cowering and they can’t do their jobs anymore?

INGRAHAM: I must have missed that.

DIONNE: That’s not what I said…

INGRAHAM: When they cover a Bush press conference, how is it covered? Is it covered in a fair and balanced way…

DIONNE: Bush has gotten an extraordinarily good press. I challenge you to compare…

INGRAHAM: He’s been an extraordinarily good president, much to the media’s chagrin.

You see, when a Republican president gets bad coverage it’s because the press has a liberal bias. When he gets good coverage it’s because he’s so good.

Read the whole thing to get a taste of her real passion: hating on undocumented workers.

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In other privacy news, app maker secretly sells location data of 50 million people. Almost no punishment.

by David Atkins

I have this flashlight app on my phone:
Even judging by the low standards of creepy data-mining apps, “Brightest Flashlight” did something pretty egregious. The free app, which was installed by at least 50 million Android users, transmitted users’ real-time locations to ad networks and other third parties. It was, in other words, a stalking device disguised as a flashlight.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission exposed the app’s antics and also announced a proposed settlement with the app maker, GoldenShores Technologies, a one-man operation based in Idaho. In doing so, the agency explained how Brightest Flashlight used legal flim-flam in a privacy policy and user license agreement to obscure what the app was up to.

The terms are now final, and they’re underwhelming, to put it mildly.

In a Wednesday announcement, the FTC confirmed that GoldenShores and owner Erik Geidl are not to collect app users’ geolocation without clearly explaining how and why they’re doing so and, in broad terms, say who is receiving that information. The flashlight app maker will also have to keep records for the FTC to inspect, and Geidl will have to tell the agency about any new businesses he decides to start in the next 10 years. He also has 10 days as of the order to delete all the data he collected.

On paper, the order looks like stern stuff but, in practice, it’s hard to see how this amounts to real punishment. Even though Geidl did something deeply unethical, compromising the privacy of tens of millions of people, he will not pay a cent for his misdeeds.
I suppose I could uninstall the app from my phone, but what would be the point? It's not as if Google, Verizon, Microsoft, Twitter and about a dozen other companies don't also know my precise GPS location every single second of every single day. Facebook would know, too, in addition to the hundred other things it knows about me--if I bothered to put a Facebook app on my phone.

Dozens of companies know every single website I've ever visited. A dozen different financial institutions know every single purchase I've ever made that wasn't in cash. I guess a few dozen more companies knowing exactly where I am every single day won't much much of a difference. I pretty much gave up on any passive expectation of privacy long ago.

I wouldn't be surprised if Google, Verizon and AT&T couldn't essentially ID most drug dealers and their customers just by using big data to figure out who hangs out suspiciously long in places people wouldn't normally hang out, and who comes to visit them at those places. Fairly soon dozens of different companies will have the ability as well. Given what we know about the NSA at this point, I'd be surprised if the government didn't already have that data. I just think they probably don't care all that much.


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Monday, April 14, 2014

 
Chasing leakers by any means necessary

by digby

Kind of fitting that this piece by Spencer Ackerman ran the day the Guardian and its NSA reporters (including Spencer) won the Pulitzer Prize:

The US government’s troubled military trials of terrorism suspects were dealt another blow on Monday when proceedings were halted after an allegation surfaced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned a member of a 9/11 defendant’s defense team into a secret informant.

Judge James Pohl, the army colonel overseeing the controversial military commission at Guantánamo, gaveled a hearing out of session after barely 30 minutes on Monday morning, following the revelation of a motion filed by the defense stipulating that the FBI approached an unidentified member of the team during the course of an investigation into how a manifesto by accused 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed found its way to the media.

Defense attorneys argued the government plunged them into a potential conflict of interest, as they would need to potentially defend themselves against a leak investigation, risking their ability to put their clients’ legal needs ahead of their own.

They implored Pohl to investigate, and if necessary, assign their clients with new independent counsel to advise the defendants about the existence and implications of conflict of interest. That could be a lengthy process – potentially the next delay for a proceeding that has yet to get out of the pretrial stage nearly two years after the latest incarnation of the 9/11 military trials began.

“We have an impossible situation in terms of representing our client … on any issue,” said James Harrington, a civilian attorney for Mohammed’s co-defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh in the case, which carries the death penalty.

“To say this is a chilling experience for all of us is a gross understatement,” Harrington said.
That would be the point, I'm pretty sure. Nothing must stop the pursuit of leakers. Nothing. Even if it means subversion of the constitution. Because freedom.

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The Pulitzers reward real journalism

by digby

Congratulations to the winners. It gives me hope that journalism still understands its role in a free society:



Totally deserved in every way.

Update: Of course...






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Welfare works. Private sector charity doesn't

by David Atkins

Matt Yglesias puts together a simple chart showing the awesome power of the welfare state to do good:



The "T&T" in the chart refers to "taxes and transfers": i.e., the implementation of large-scale social welfare programs.

The only reason that our poverty rates haven't gone down as much as those those of other countries is, of course, that our social welfare programs are far weaker than in those other countries. As Yglesias says:

The point? Child poverty is a problem government can help solve, if voters want it to. In Scandinavia, voters do want the problem solved, and they're willing to pay the taxes necessary to get there. In the United States, not so much.
We may be a more religious nation than most. But that quite clearly hasn't made us more moral.


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Those silly younger voters

by digby

You just can't trust them at all:
President Obama inspired a generation of young people to support his historic election in 2008. And in 2012, despite the struggles of his first term, Mr. Obama still managed to win the support of a full 60% of voters age 18-29. But the man who once dreamed of being a transformative leader in the Reagan mold is inspiring few of those young people to follow his lead.

"For all the talk about the movement that elected Mr. Obama, the more notable movement of Obama supporters has been away from politics. It appears that few of the young people who voted for him, and even fewer Obama campaign and administration operatives, have decided to run for office. Far more have joined the high-paid consultant ranks," reports the New York Times NYT. "Unlike John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who inspired virtual legislatures of politicians and became generational touchstones, Mr. Obama has so far had little such influence."

The Times quotes Harvard pollster John Della Volpe: "If you were to call it an Obama generation, there was a window...That opportunity has been lost." Mr. Della Volpe's polling of 18- to 29-year-olds shows that only 35% now believe that running for office is an honorable pursuit. "We're seeing the younger cohort is even less connected with [Mr. Obama] generally, with his policies, as well as politics generally," he told the Times. The paper also quotes former Obama pollster Sergio Bendixen saying that Mr. Obama's onetime core supporters among the young "went on to the next website and then the next click on their computer. I just don't see the generation as all that ideological or invested in causes for the long run."

You mean that whole "come to Obama" thing didn't invest young people in ideology and causes? Go figure. (There were some of us who predicted that the delirious American Idol "I've got a crush on Obama" approach might result in some disillusionment when Real Life intruded on the fantasy, but we were naysaying fools.)

You cannot blame young people for feeling like their excitement about Obama didn't really add up to all that much. It's not that they have short attention spans. It's that their lives are shit and it's doubly disappointing that their lives are shit after they placed such faith in "Hope 'n Change."

But hey Democratic strategists, go ahead and blame the voters for feeling like it doesn't matter if they vote. What could possibly go wrong?


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The demographic tale

by digby

This tells the story better than anything else I've seen:

Pew demographics photo 847889448_zps3dc36b29.gif

That bulge you see going through the snake is the baby boomers of course. And as you can see, we're going to be nothing but a group of very old ladies before too much longer. So all the panic about Social Security and the other old age problems are going to work themselves out quite naturally in a fairly short period of time. There is no need to panic. Indeed, it's important not to cut the programs for those very old ladies. They (we) are probably not going to be able to be big "job creators" or producers at that point and will need help before we finally die off.

And if I might just add a little boomer's lament: we didn't ask to be born any more than the rest of you did. To the extent we are selfish, destructive failures as a generation, take a look at just how huge a generation that is and consider that a whole lot of us as individuals tried to do the right thing in our lives. There were just so many of us.


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Lady Liberty is a hippie

by digby
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said that America "can't invite the whole world" to enter the country, no matter how much some immigrants may love the U.S.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Paul said that when lawmakers focus only on the reasons immigrants enter the U.S. illegally, it makes "people think, 'Well, because they're doing this for kind reasons,' that the whole world can come to our country."
So true.

I think we probably need to do something about this, though.




Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Maybe it's time to rip that old statue down and put it in a museum somewhere.


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It's torture. If they still won't call it what it is, you know it will happen again.

by digby

There is just no excuse for this:
Much has been made in the past decade or so about the news business' sudden conversion to euphemism when it came to describing techniques that had been previously universally recognized as torture. One study, for instance, found that major outlets abruptly stopped defining waterboarding as torture when the Bush administration began using it.

That tendency has not abated in recent years, and a look through recent newspaper and television coverage shows that many outlets are still hesitant to use "torture."

McClatchy, which published the leaked findings from the Senate report, called them "harsh interrogation techniques," even as it provided a gruesome description of what those techniques were:
The techniques included waterboarding, which produces a sensation of drowning, stress positions, sleep deprivation for up to 11 days at a time, confinement in a cramped box, slaps and slamming detainees into walls. The CIA held detainees in secret “black site” prisons overseas and abducted others who it turned over to foreign governments for interrogation.
The Washington Post referred to "brutal," "harsh" and "excruciating" techniques.

A New York Times article mentioned "brutal methods."

Reuters wrote about "brutal interrogation methods that critics say amount to torture."

The Associated Press actually described the report in one article as a "torture report," though it later used the term "enhanced interrogation techniques" in quotes.

Read on. Television is just as bad.

This is unacceptable. And at this point the news media has to take some responsibility for perpetrating the myth that "the US doesn't torture." If you won't put the word in black and white, you aren't being truthful with the American public. Indeed, they are making it safe for the government to do it again.

They are now officially propagandists for the torture regime.

Does everyone recall what the US media used to call what the North Vietnamese did to prisoners? Torture:

"Stress positions"  



Many men were handcuffed or tied to a stool as a means of slow torture. The [detainee] sat in one position, day and night. Each time he would fall over, the guards would sit him upright. He was not allowed to sleep or rest. Exhaustion and pain take their toll. When the [detainee] agreed to cooperate with his captors and acquiesced to their demands, he would be removed. Here, I have pictured a guard named "Mouse," who liked to throw buckets of cold water on a man on cold winter nights. 

You're always sitting either on the floor or on a stool or concrete block or something low. The interrogator is always behind a table that's covered with cloth of some kind, white or blue or something. And he sits above you and he's always looking down at you asking you questions and they want to know what the targets are for tomorrow, next week, next month. You don't know. You really don't know. But he doesn't -- he's going to have to have an answer of some kind. Now the back of the room comes the -- the torture. And he's a -- he's a big guy that knows what he's doing. And he starts locking your elbows up with ropes and tying your wrists together and bending you
"Sleep Deprivation"  



Some men were tied to their beds, sometimes for weeks at a time. Here, I have drawn a picture showing the handcuffs being worn in front, but the usual position was with the wrists handcuffed behind the back. A man would live this way day and night, without sleep or rest. 

The guards come around the middle of the night just rattling the lock on your door. That's a terrifying thing because they may be taking you out for a torture session. You don't know. 

"... obviously this is an emotional thing to me, was listening to the screams of other ... prisoners while they were being tortured. And being locked in a cell myself sometimes uh, in handcuffs or tied up and not able to do anything about it. And that's the way I've got to spend the night."

"Isolation"  

The ten months that I spent in the blacked out cell I went into panic. The only thing I could do was exercise. As long as I could move, I felt like I was going to -- well, it was so bad I would put a rag in my mouth and hold another one over it so I could scream. That seemed to help. It's not that I was scared, more scared than another other time or anything. It was happening to my nerves and my mind. And uh, I had to move or die. I'd wake up at two o'clock in the morning or midnight or three or whatever and I would jump up immediately and start running in place. Side straddle hops. Maybe four hours of sit ups. But I had to exercise. And of course I prayed a lot

I won't go into how much those "harsh techniques" resembled the torture methods used by our own government. It's obvious. And it's just a small sample.

That little excerpt above was from a post I wrote 10 years ago. And they don't even include "waterboarding" which Vice President Cheney called a "no brainer" and said he'd do again without a second thought.

I don't know what these news organizations fear from calling torture what it is. But I can guarantee it's not as bad as what was done to those prisoners or to the reputation of the United States of America. If we can't even call the torture by its real name it's hard to see why the government won't see this as just another semantic debate and do the same thing if they feel it's "necessary." I guess much of the news business feels it's immune from that sort of thing but the rest of us should worry. If the US government has officially defined deviancy down to the point where torture is no longer torture, you have to wonder where it might end? After all, the world is full of danger. Who knows who they might think they need to "interrogate" with "enhanced methods" next time?

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