Tag Archives: why we can’t have nice things

The Holman Rule


File this under It’s Not Like We Didn’t See it Coming news:

House ReThugs 1 yesterday reinstated an arcane procedural rule that will enable individual lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of any individual federal worker — down to $1. Because…useless stoopid government workers!

Given, use of the Holman Rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment.

But all that really means is the Congress Critters would make massive dealswheel n’ deal among themselves: “I’ll support you’re gutting OSGA if you’ll support me emptying out the EPA.” Yet another step toward “making ‘murika great(ish) again.”

Hear hear, Deplorables. Hear hear!

The Holman Rule

The problem here is the Deplorables (not to mention, please don’t mention the Dims) err –oh, so often– in their assumption the ReThugs will act In Good Faith. Their mistake is believing the Kasich’s, the Rubio’s, the Cruz’s and (Thor save us) the fucking Griffith’s all sincerely desire to institute the best policies for all of America.

Nothing could be further from the truth; they just want what’s best for them. Take the ACA: Repealing ‘Obamacare’ will strip millions (who cannot otherwise afford it) of their health insurance. Just a “bug” of ReThug policy? Nope, it’s the primary goal. And, since it ticks off one of his campaign promises, our Manchurian President-elect will be fine with that.

The Manchurian President-elect also insisted throughout his campaign that the way the current Federal government is run “is bad, it’s very bad. Sad.” 2 In the way of the ReThugs it therefore follows that the Federal government under said individual WILL BE bad, very bad. Why? Because it is a necessary step to the Manchurian President-elect & ReThug’s plan to privatize as much of it as possible, thereby proving the ‘free market’ is the answer to all things.

Given the Manchurian President-elect’s cabinet picks, and now the disinterment of the Holman Rule, it won’t be long before whole Departments either disappear or are gutted, probably starting with the EPA and Education. Energy will slowly follow along, simply because Perry is a tool and it will take him some time to figure out how best to ruin that Department. 3

But the crème de la crème of the ReThug douchery will arrive with tax cuts for the rich (concomitant with fewer services for everyone else) and the inevitable push to “privatize” Social Security. 4

Give these bastards enough time and the whole country will make Brownbackistan look enlightened.

The Holman Rule

Show 4 footnotes

  1.  Actually, this was the brain fart of Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.).
  2. The data is in on that and, at best, it’s a push. Moreover, the worst of the waste in the Federal government comes from the largest spender: The Department of Defense. Which never seriously gets touched. Even though it’s over 50% of the total annual budget.
  3. Pro Tip: Just be yourself, Ricky. That should have the department in shambles in no time.
  4. When a ReThug says “privatize”, hold on to your wallet; what he really mean is “allow a bunch of my old white buddies, already wealthy, to manage {whatever} in order to make them richer by carving out huge fees from you suckers, all while providing negligibly better to worse service. Oh, and I get a nice kickback.”

Hot New Amenity

The U.S. Secret Service is the hot, new “amenity” at Trump Tower, where desperate brokers are trying to lure well-heeled clients into the building on Fifth Avenue that has served as President-elect Donald Trump’s home as well as his campaign and transition headquarters.

Less than a week after Trump was elected, prominent New York real estate agency Douglas Elliman blasted out an email with the subject: “Fifth Avenue Buyers Interested in Secret Service Protection?” to advertise a $2.1 million, 1,052-square-foot condo in the tower on 721 Fifth Avenue.
“The New Aminity [sic] – The United States Secret Service,” screamed the flier sent in an email on Nov. 13 for a one-bedroom apartment on the 31st floor, represented by brokers Ariel Sassoon and Devin Leahy.

“The Best Value in the Most Secure Building in Manhattan,” it stated.

On our dime, of course; whether the costs are $500,000 a day or $3 million a year to rent a floor in Manchurian President-elect’s gaudy, the cost of providing security for the buffoon will be footed by the taxpayers.

Hot New Amenity

Rumors of War

huckabee_herzliya-huckabee

“I have seen biblical prophecy fulfilled in Israel, and no one can deny that.”

President-elect…has reportedly appointed an ambassador to Israel: Mike Huckabee 1, a supporter of settlement expansion and the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, who claimed in the past that Palestinians don’t exist.

Great, yet another death worshipper in a position of power…

Rumors of War

Show 1 footnote

  1. Fun Fact! Mike Huckabee is a Christian Zionist, a sect of Christian fundamentalism that believes the actual Apocalypse will take place exactly as the Bible “foretells”, in the land of Israel.

Water Audit

Well over a year ago we talked with the folks who planned on asking for an audit of the KCMO Water Department; their estimation was it would take a year to achieve.

It apparently takes longer to get stuff done than back in the day 1, but their web presence is finally up and running – you can volunteer here, or just send them an email.

Step up, people – this should have been done years ago, Sly and the Council Stoned to the contrary. When you see these good folk – ourselves included – pushing petitions at the neighborhood shopping markets or going door-to-door, take a brief moment to scribble your signature.

The tax dollars you save may be your own.

Water Audit

Show 1 footnote

  1. Why, when I was a kid I did an audit of the entire DoD in just under a week! Kids these days…

Shoot Matt Lauer

I was appalled by Matt Lauer’s performance last evening.

Lauer is not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination, but last night it became obvious he’s an overt shill for the Trump campaign; take him out behind the barn and put two in his head. Okay okay okay – that would be illegal (notice I didn’t say “wrong”), but the moron should be banned forever from covering anything more serious than the insipid drivel he usually presents early mornings. I mean, WTF – was Maddow not available? 1

It was so bad I wondered at exactly how much money was Lauer paid to fix the forum for Trump? Seriously, someone should be checking Lauer’s bank accounts right now…

Obviously I am not alone in my assessment of Lauer’s lack of adult judgement:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Lauer focused a third of his questioning time on Clinton’s private email server. Her decision to follow Colin Powell’s advice is a legitimate blot on her record. But Lauer did not move the ball forward on the question in any meaningful way . . .

Lauer followed up with four more email-related questions. The impression an uninformed or even moderately informed viewer would receive from this interview is that the email issue represents a sinister crime, perhaps completely disqualifying from office, rather than an unjustifiable but routine act of government non-transparency.

The email exchange would not by itself be so alarming except when viewed in juxtaposition with Lauer’s hapless interview of Trump. Trump began the interview by boldly insisting, “I was totally against the war in Iraq. You can look at Esquire magazine from 2004. You can look at before that.” This is a lie. Trump has been quoted supporting the invasion beforehand and even afterward. Nobody has produced any evidence of Trump contradicting his support for the war before it started. His line to Lauer was transparently ridiculous – how could a 2004 interview supply evidence of having opposed a war that began in 2003? But Lauer did not try even a single follow-up.

Trump went on to make a series of wild and dangerous statements. He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong, effective, and popular leader. Lauer did press him on this point, and when he did, Trump offered the astonishing rebuttal, saying President Obama had done equivalently brutish things. Lauer did not press Trump on his claim that the president of the United States behaves in a fundamentally similar way to a dictator who imprisons and kills political critics and journalists. Trump likewise reiterated his belief that “to the victor go the spoils” is the proper basis for American foreign policy, specifically with regard to his longstanding lament that the United States failed to steal Iraq’s oil after the 2003 invasion.

Lauer’s attempt to press Trump was the completely ineffectual technique of asking repeatedly if he is ready to serve as commander-in-chief. Lauer probably believes the answer is no, but nothing about this question would drive home Trump’s extraordinary lack of knowledge. Instead it allowed him to performatively demonstrate his confident, alpha-male reality show character as a prospective chief executive.

Both of these beliefs stun and appall foreign policy experts in both parties, as readers of the Washington Post or the New York Times know. But the average undecided voter isn’t reading those newspapers. The average undecided voter is getting snippets of news from television personalities like Lauer, who are failing to convey the fact that the election pits a normal politician with normal political failings against an ignorant, bigoted, pathologically dishonest authoritarian…

Is it just me, or is this presidential election starting to feel a lot like 2000 redux?

When the Times and the WaPo go out of their way to spike any stories that present Trump as he is, no embellishments mind you, just Trump’s unabashed self, and have instead decided Hillary’s emails have damned her to Hell, well…perhaps the powers-behind-the-Iron-Throne may not have to call in Florida and SCOTUS to rig the vote (again.)

Wake up, people.

Shoot Matt Lauer

Show 1 footnote

  1. And don’t get me started on the Times of the WaPo – both papers have been less than honest concerning Trump.

Common Property

Uniquely among the world’s rich countries, the United States lacks a comprehensive, universal social insurance system. This is largely due to ideological opposition by Republican Party elites. It took nearly seventy years for Democrats to achieve the expanded, still-less-than-universal coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act—against unanimous Republican opposition. Republicans have continued to sabotage the ACA, successfully blocking the extension of Medicaid coverage in nineteen states. The GOP’s primary plan for Medicare is to shift costs to the elderly. It has resisted full funding of Social Security Disability Insurance and insists that the only acceptable plan for ensuring the financial stability of Social Security is to cut benefits. Meanwhile, thirty-three states, nearly all GOP-led, have cut workers’ compensation programs since 2003, often drastically.

What accounts for this extreme hostility to social insurance? Social Security and Medicare are popular programs, even among the GOP’s base. Republican leaders, however, tend to think of social insurance as a socialist or communist scheme designed to undermine private property and free markets. Their arguments can be traced to Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, whose 1944 book The Road to Serfdom warned that the emerging social democratic regimes of Europe were stepping onto a slippery slope to totalitarianism. Adapted into an illustrated booklet distributed widely by General Motors in the mid-1940s, The Road to Serfdom has fueled American opposition for decades now. Ronald Reagan, probably inspired by Hayek, made a recording opposing Medicare for the American Medical Association in 1961, predicting that it would lead to the state dictating to people what jobs they must perform and where they must live and work.

The ironies here are rich. Conservative criticisms of social insurance reflect profound misapprehensions of its relation to private property. Social insurance, in both theory and practice, arose in defense of private property and against communist and socialist threats. Exploring these origins is essential now because they contain important lessons that will help us strengthen social insurance to meet the challenges of post-industrial capitalism.

Thomas Paine, the great American revolutionary, proposed the world’s first realistic plan to abolish poverty. What he devised were universal social insurance and stakeholder grants, outlined in the 1797 pamphlet Agrarian Justice. (The relation of this work to later programs is not lost on the Social Security Administration, which reproduces the text on its website.)

Tellingly, the happiest places in the world are those nations that laughed at the objections of our Republicans.

Common Property

Anthem-Cigna Merger

So…about that little heard of proposed merger between health insurers Anthem and Cigna; seems there’s a problem. In fact, the whole thing reeks of corruption and conflict of interest:

…Late last week, there was some notable news in the arcane world of insurance regulation: Connecticut’s state comptroller, Kevin Lembo, called on Insurance Department Commissioner Katharine Wade to recuse herself from a review of the proposed merger of the nation’s second- and fourth-largest insurers, Anthem and Cigna, in which the state has a lead role. “The revelations and repeated reports about your financial, personal and professional ties to Cigna,” Lembo wrote to Wade, “will make it challenging for the Connecticut public to view the review process of the Anthem-Cigna merger as fair and transparent.”

Lembo’s letter marked the latest turn in a controversy that, while building for more than a year, has come to a head over the past month —driven in substantial part by the ongoing reporting of David Sirota, the Denver-based senior investigations editor for the International Business Times. On June 1, Sirota published a lengthy piece weaving together previously-known and new concerns over conflicts of interest surrounding the merger review: Wade, appointed to her role in 2015 by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, is a former longtime Cigna lobbyist, her husband is a top Cigna lawyer, her father-in-law works for a law firm that lobbies for Cigna, and her mother worked for Cigna as recently as 2013. Wade’s brother, Sirota reported, also “previously worked as a counsel” for Cigna. Further, after reviewing more than a decade’s worth of campaign finance data, Sirota showed that Anthem, Cigna, and Cigna’s lobbying firm gave more than $2 million to groups linked to Gov. Malloy, with much of that money coming since 2015.

Since then, Sirota has produced more than a dozen follow-ups on the topic —tracking, for example, grassroots groups and state legislators calling on Malloy to remove Wade from the merger review— as what he initially envisioned as a “good little blog item” turned into an investigative series.

Anthem-Cigna Merger

Surveillance Society

…Perhaps it was inevitable that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act would come under threat, as it’s our nation’s strongest law that protects people from facial recognition technology used by private entities. Enacted in 2008, the law was an initiative of the ACLU of Illinois, in response to an episode when a corporation sold off its database of customer biometric information during bankruptcy proceedings.

The Illinois statute requires private entities to get consent from a person before collecting or disclosing their biometric identifiers. Private entities also must destroy collected identifiers within three years, and sooner if they finish using the identifiers for the purpose for which they collected it. The statute extends to “a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry.” The term “face geometry” includes facial recognition. Finally, the statute has teeth: injured parties may sue the private entities that violate these privacy rules.

Surveillance Society

Repeal the Second Amendment

Meanwhile. over at the Rolling Stone

…We need to say loud and clear: The Second Amendment must be repealed.

As much as we have a culture of reverence for the founding generation, it’s important to understand that they got it wrong — and got it wrong often. Unfortunately, in many instances, they enshrined those faults in the Constitution. For instance, most people don’t know it now, but under the original document, Mitt Romney would be serving as President Obama’s vice president right now because he was the runner-up in the last presidential election. That part of the Constitution was fixed by the Twelfth Amendment, which set up the system we currently have of the president and vice president running for office together.

Much more profoundly, the Framers and the Constitution were wildly wrong on race. They enshrined slavery into the Constitution in multiple ways, including taking the extreme step of prohibiting the Constitution from being amended to stop the slave trade in the country’s first 20 years. They also blatantly wrote racism into the Constitution by counting slaves as only 3/5 of a person for purposes of Congressional representation. It took a bloody civil war to fix these constitutional flaws (and then another 150 years, and counting, to try to fix the societal consequences of them).

There are others flaws that have been fixed (such as about voting and Presidential succession), and still other flaws that have not yet been fixed (such as about equal rights for women and land-based representation in the Senate), but the point is the same — there is absolutely nothing permanently sacrosanct about the Founders and the Constitution. They were deeply flawed people, it was and is a flawed document, and when we think about how to make our country a more perfect union, we must operate with those principles in mind.

It’s hard to logically argue with professor Cohen 1

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Correctly parsed the above simply states American citizens shall be able to own weapons in order to defend the country as part of a standing militia/army. Most people ignore that last bit because…inconvenient! So, yeah, we’re fine with repealing the Second, if necessary: it’s all dependent upon Congress’ continuing recalcitrance to address the obvious issue.

The Second Amendment does not in any way, shape or form define what type of weapons Americans shall be able to bear; banning all automatic and semi-automatic weapons is not only legal, its past being a moral imperative. It is a necessity. 2

Repeal the Second Amendment

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Wow! We can feel the rushing air from thousands of knee-jerks from here! Try a chiropractor for that.
  2. And, no – the House ReThugs agreeing to vote on Dems proposals for expanding background checks or banning people on “no fly” lists does not count. Your fuckin’ Aunt Gertrude once found herself on a “no fly” list, not to mention there’s no way in hell the ReThugs will allow registration and background checks to be enshrined into law for gun show purchases – it’s just more of the ReThugs shining on the American public.

Newt Gingrich

“Let me go a step further, because remember, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando involve American citizens. We’re going to ultimately declare a war on Islamic supremacists and we’re going to say, if you pledge allegiance to ISIS, you are a traitor and you have lost your citizenship. And we’re going take much tougher positions. In the late 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt was faced with Nazi penetration in the United States. We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We’re going to presently have to go take the similar steps here.”

Before you start to make apologies for Jabba the Hutt, remember – the fat fuck is a history professor. 1 So he knows how well HUAC turned out. Which argues the piece of shit wants another “red scare”; he wants further governmental intrusion into American’s lives. Which makes sense, I suppose, as that’s exactly what the ReThugs in general want.

The Return of HUAC falls in line with his previous stance on GITMO; he’d love to expand it. And he may get his wish because what he’s proposing would ultimately involve internment camps. 2 Not just for Muslims, I expect, but for anyone the new committee decides is “un-American.”

Maybe you.

At this point all I hope Trump picks someone for his running mate who’s merely oily and venal. Christie, perhaps.

Wake up, people.
Newt Gingrich

Show 2 footnotes

  1.  Said fat fuck’s errors aside: for example, HUAC wasn’t a standing committee until after the war.
  2. And, no, I’m pretty damn sure the ReThugs won’t recognize the glittering irony in setting up internment camps in the U.S. where they refuse to bring in GITMO detainees.