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The Biggest Republican Lie Of Them All

So I posted a meme on Facebok and G+ last night that said, “A conservative says If It Hasn’t Happened To Me, I Don’t Care. A liberal says This Should Never Happen To Anyone, That’s Why I Care”. I agree with the meme, and posted the following story to accompany the meme:

This happened to me 30 minutes ago.

I was walking home. 1 block from my house, I saw someone that I hadn’t noticed before that moment fall on the sidewalk. He was an elderly man with a cane laying on the sidewalk beside him. I asked him if he was okay, and if he needed something from me. He had a very thick accent, so I couldn’t understand most of what he way saying. The only word I could make out was, “shelter”. So my mind started doing the math; I don’t really want to take him home, but I can’t leave him laying on the street. I was closing in on calling an ambulance.

At that moment, another woman in a car pulled over to ask if she could help, not knowing if I knew the man. I told her that I didn’t, and that I couldn’t really understand him. She tried asking the same questions I had asked. We agreed than an ambulance was what was needed. The only other 2 people walking down the street both stopped to help (both men). One of them noticed a hospital bracelet on his arm. At this point, the woman was on the phone with emergency services, so an ambulance was on the way. At some point, we noticed another plastic hospital bracelet on his other arm that said, “fall risk”. We still couldn’t get much information from him, as to his circumstances.

At some point, I realized that his accent was Russian and it occurred to me that he had come here for a better life.

The EMTs took him away. It wasn’t until after they got him on the gurney, that we noticed a pool of blood where his head was laying. I was fairly freaked out by the amount of blood. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m kind of glad that he had an injury that would get him admitted into the hospital for the night. It wasn’t life threatening blood loss, but it was a warm bed for the night blood loss.

My only thought was that this shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially to someone that came here for a better life.

I also added the following comment;

Let me add one thing. I believe that a conservative, or even a republican would have done exactly the same thing I did. Because I know that you’re only heartless and self serving in theory, but not in practice. I just need for you to bridge that gap that I know exists.

I then got a few comments from republicans, who missed the  whole point and crushed my sunny optimism. I’m not going to speak to the comments that were just purely hateful because there’s no point. I’m going to speak to the ideological comments making the “nanny state” and “dependency” arguments because those arguments are, in my opinion, the biggest fallacy republicans have ever put out. The “dependency” argument arose when I asked one commenter to give me one example of a piece of legislation that republicans passed that helped most Americans (I actually asked this of several commenters, but only bothered to answer). When he couldn’t come up with a single example of republicans helping people, he fell back on the old “we should help ourselves because it’s not government’s job to do it” crap.

This is the biggest bullshit argument I’ve ever heard and frankly, it’s designed to absolve republicans from any responsibility for doing anything helpful for the American people. Government help does not disincentivize people from helping themselves or others around them and to claim it does, is to ignore the world around you. Time after time, we see communities coming together after a natural disaster or a traumatic event. We always see people coming to eachother’s aid.

Look at what happened during Hurricane Sandy. Immediately after the hurricane struck, dozens of groups formed and organized to get food and supplies to neighborhoods that took the brunt of the storm. I happen to live in a part of Manhattan that wasn’t affected at all. I heard about Occupy Sandy gathering supplies, food, and donations to help lower Manhattan (other areas too, but I live here) victims of the storm. I headed down to one of the meetup locations here in Harlem with flashlights and food that were taken down to the lower east side. Everything south of 30th street was completely without power for nearly a week. Thousands of shops and bodegas that were on the border between “first world Manhattan” and “third world Manhattan” strung extension cords and power strips outside their shops so that the “third worlders” could charge their electronics. People came together to help eachother on an island where 74% of us are registered democrats. We believe that government is there to help, and it was. FEMA was here putting people into hotel rooms and issuing checks so that people could get temporary housing until their residence was inhabitable again. They set up headquarters next to high rise buildings that were completely flooded so that they could directly respond to the needs of the hundreds of people who could no longer get into their building. Where FEMA fell short, neighbors took up the slack.

We knew that the government was coming, and we still sprung into action. We worked with the government to fix everything. We didn’t sit around waiting for the government to fix everything. This isn’t unique to New Yorkers. This happens all the time, all around the world and all across the country.

We are not  disincentivized by government assistance. $30 a week in SNAP benefits or a lifetime maximum of 5 years of welfare benefits isn’t keeping anyone from getting a job. The lack of jobs is what’s keeping people from getting a job. If you believe otherwise, you know nothing about human nature and how self esteem works. If you don’t think that being on public assistance is a deeply humiliating thing for the vast majority of people, you really need to get out more. Or more likely, you need to stop thinking of yourself, or your friend who needed unemployment insurance for a while as “worthy” or “the exception to the rule”.

Until you can show me how this helps yourself or anyone else, you need stop perpetuating this bullshit argument. You need to stop trying to absolve yourself from taking any responsibility for contributing to the world you live in. Be honest with yourself about who you are, and stop with the big lie that you’re only trying to help by doing nothing and advocating for nothing. Personally, I will continue working with the government to make things better, while I fight for better government.

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We Won’t Be Calling It Obamacare By Next Summer

According to a Bloomberg article this morning, 100,000 people purchased insurance on the federal exchanges in November alone. That’s nearly 4x more than the nearly 27,000 who bought insurance on the federal exchanges in October.

127,000 enrollments nationwide may sound low, but it’s actually very promising for a number of reasons. First off, if you look at when people actually bought health insurance in Massachusetts when they rolled out their own Obamacare, you’ll realize that the lion’s share of enrollments will happen just before the deadline to buy. There’s no empirical reason to believe that the same thing won’t happen nationally.

Secondly, those 127,000 people represent enrollment in just the states who have governors that refused to help their constituents get affordable insurance. That number does not include people in NY, CA, KY, or the other twenty-three states who took the medicaid expansion and set up their own exchanges. California alone has enrolled 80,000 people, and Kentucky has enrolled about 50,000 people so that 127,000 federal enrollment number is already smaller than those of just two states who embraced the ACA. The number of people who have been able to purchase insurance as a result of the ACA is much higher than we’re currently aware of.

Thirdly, you need to look at the trend. A four time multiplier on the number of enrollments from one month to the next is much more telling than the overall number. This is especially true since we’re still four months away from the deadline to buy insurance.

But there is one factor that is more relevant to the success of the ACA than overall enrollment numbers; how many people under the age of 30 are signing up? We don’t yet know what that number is on the federal exchange. I don’t believe we’re going to know that number until March or April. But we do know what is happening in Kentucky. 41% of the people that bought insurance in Kentucky are under 31 years old. That’s a huge percentage that I never saw coming. I suspect (I don’t have the data on any other state yet) that the percentages will be similar in all of the states that elected to take the medicaid expansion, since Kentucky doesn’t have a substantively younger population than any of the other states. I also suspect that the national percentage of under 31s will be lower, absent the medicaid expansion. For the under 30 population in the expansion states, coverage is well under $100 a month. It will be around, or a little bit higher than $100 for those same people who live in states where their governors are trying to undermine Obamacare. It’s reasonable to expect that higher costs will equal lower enrollments. I would be shocked if that 41% were cut in half in the more expensive states. But if we assume that nationally, the under 30 percentage is 20%, we will definitely get the 2.9 million enrollments that we need to keep the current premium levels.

In other words, this reform is most assuredly going to work. None of the early indicators suggest otherwise to me. I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised at how well this is going. I was very skeptical was passed, but I’m always happy to be proven wrong by evidence

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Not So Much With The Nuclear

So the headline today is that the senate “invoked the nuclear option” and made a rules change that would limit the endless filibustering.

Not so fast. Using the term “nuclear” makes it sound ginormous, when it’s really not. To be clear, what the senate did today was to ensure that a majority vote on executive branch and non-Supreme Court judicial nominations. That’s it. They eliminated the “super majority” nonsense only on executive branch nominees. Nothing else. The minority in the senate can still filibuster everything else. So we’re still stuck in super majority hell for any other bill.

Why such a limited “nuclear” strike, when they could have effectively eviscerated the filibuster? The standard argument is that democrats understand that they will one day be in the minority, and are therefore not interested in neutering minority rights. Nonsense. The senate changed the rules today. They can change the rules tomorrow, and every day after that. And if democrats in the senate don’t think that republicans won’t go ahead and eviscerate the rights of the minority if they ever take over, they haven’t been paying attention to GOP tactics. Republicans went “nuclear” when they launched an unprecedented number of filibusters on the duly elected majority. I’m not buying the “looking ahead at future ramifications” horseshit argument.

No, I think that democrats limited the radius of the nuclear strike because they want the cover that having recalcitrant republicans give them. The blue dogs and the corporatists like being able to avoid taking votes on many of the issues that republicans filibuster. Not voting on those issues allows them to keep both their “blue dog” and their “democrat” cred. This enables certain democrats (like Dianne Feinstein, for example) to not cast votes that may jeopardize their seats. I mention Dianne Feinstein specifically, because I really believe she would be in trouble in California if she had to let her blue dog freak flag fly. Most of the blue dog senators would probably be safe because they legitimately represent states whose views are blue doggedy. But the corporatists would be in trouble.

This “nuclear” vote wasn’t about making government run much more smoothly. It was limited for a reason. I suspect that Harry Reid was worried about protecting “democratic” seats. I think he’s mostly wrong. I think that if a corporatist democrat gets ousted for being too corporatist, they’re more likely going to be replaced by a more democraty candidate, than they are by a republican. Limiting the “simple majority” to executive branch nominees isn’t going to have much impact on elections, since most people don’t pay much attention to judicial nominees.

While it may seem like Harry Reid took a giant step forward to restore democracy, it’s really just a tiny little baby step. Don’t everyone get too excited over this.

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Libertarian; So Full Of Shit

We’re all familiar with the basic ideas behind libertarianism. They really boil down to two words; freedom and responsibility. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? It sounds great, until you grow up and experience life. But I’m not going to take apart the ideology again (see my past posts).

In this post, I’m going to point out how libertarians are massively full of shit, particularly when it comes to the “responsibility” part of their equation. Let me begin with the granddaddy of all libertarians; their messiah, Ron Paul. We’re all familiar with his incredibly racist newsletters (if you’re not, click here). You know, the ones that bore his name, but that he didn’t write and had no idea how they happened, even though they helped raise enough money to get him out of 3/4 of a million dollars worth of debt in the 80s? How a “responsible” person racks up that kind of debt (it would be equivalent to around $2 million today), I don’t know, but I digress. So the newsletters wrote themselves and had the happy side effect of paying Paul’s bills? Really? What happened to taking responsibility? When your name appears on something, isn’t it purely your responsibility? Not when you’re the grand poobah of libertarianism, apparently. I can’t tell you how many times a libertarian has replied to my posts about the newsletters by using the “it wasn’t his fault” defense.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we saw the grand poobah’s miscreant son follow in his father’s footsteps. Rand Paul was caught plagiarising lots of shit. What did Mr Freedom and Responsibility do? Did he take responsibility and apologize profusely? Not even remotely. He blamed the media who exposed him, calling them “hacks and haters”. I couldn’t help but notice that he never called them liars. Even he couldn’t, with a straight face, say they were lying. No, they were hacks and haters for telling the truth. He still hasn’t really taken responsibility for his own actions. Responsibility is the annoying and inconvenient half of the libertarian formula. And how did libertarians react to this information about their demigod? They mostly obfuscated by pointing at someone else, who they claim did something worse. When they addressed what he did, they dismissed it as a “footnoting” problem.

Now we have another asshat libertarian who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. Yesterday on Facebook, I posted a story on Mark Patterson. He’s a state representative in Idaho who was pissed that conceal/ carry application was denied because he failed to disclose a rape conviction that was on his record. It was a conviction because he plead guilty. This guy is a staunch libertarian acolyte of the grand poobah, so you would naturally expect that he would apologize for not disclosing the rape conviction, take responsibility for it, and move on his merry way, right? You won’t be shocked to hear that he didn’t do that. In the (now) libertarian tradition, he didn’t take any responsibility for the fraudulent application, claiming that the Men in Black guys erased his memory, or something. Maddow did a segment on this asshat last night. She turned up another rape trial (no conviction that time) and a whole bunch of other gratuitous lying. In addition to dodging that whole responsibility thing by claiming amnesia, this libertarian acolyte decided to follow the grand poobah and his miscreant son’s path by attacking the sheriff who denied him the permit. He’s rantings include claiming, “[the sheriff] ….a bare-knuckled campaign to intimidate me from serving the people of Idaho.” So the sheriff is trying to intimidate you by denying you a permit that you’re not legally entitled to have because of what you admitted you did? I Googled, and Googled, and Googled, but I never managed to find the part of his statement wherein he took responsibility for what he did.

I’m starting to see an epidemic among libertarians. One in which they cast off the “responsibility” part of libertarianism whenever it becomes inconvenient for them. Now keep in mind that this is a group of people who love to point the finger of hypocrisy at everyone else. Let me be clear, I’m not accusing all libertarians of being full of shit. But I am accusing all libertarians who support the Pauls, and anyone who behaves the way they do of being full of shit. If you support and bolster people who champion libertarianism without taking responsibility for themselves, you’re full of shit.

And you’re seriously undermining your ideology. You are why libertarianism is a joke that I thoroughly enjoy mocking mercilessly.  And you know what? When I point at you and laugh, it’s not my fault. I take no responsibility (you should all appreciate that). It’s your fault for not making an effort to be less full of shit and less laughable. Seriously, you should focus making the case for why your ideology is so brilliant, instead of constantly demonstrating you’re full of shit. Take responsibility for yourself. Hold your leaders responsible for what they’ve done, and show me why you have it right, and I have it wrong. But until you do that; I laugh, oh how I laugh!

 

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Safer

Readers of this blog or followers of the various places I exist on social media know that I spent several months volunteering with the Bill de Blasio campaign. I must say that last night was a good night. There was much jubilation at the victory party last night. Progressivism steam rolled both fear mongering and the tired fallacies of trickle down economics. My primary reason for jumping on the de Blasio bandwagon when he was in fourth place was really centered around his position on ending stop and frisk and firing Ray Kelly. I’m not going to rehash the reasons why ending this policy is so important to me, since I already made my case here. De Blasio’s stance on ending the practice of stop and frisk actually turned out to be the primary line of attack against him. His opponent actually put this ad out two weeks before the election;

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGVDSr0-PFY[/youtube]

It was a disgusting and transparent attempt at scaring New Yorkers. Classic modern republican campaigning. It’s never about getting you to vote for something, but instead to get you to vote against something out of fear.

While canvassing for the campaign, I actually spoke to a few (mostly older) people of color who were afraid that New York would be less safe if our police force didn’t stop harassing young men of color. That was actually kind of shocking to me because I expect that if someone isn’t going to base their opinions on the facts, they would surely base their opinions on their own self interest. I want to now share some facts with you, that I shared with those people I spoke with. Yes, crime is down in New York City. Crime was on a steady downward slope for ten years before Ray Kelly ever started his racially discriminatory practices. That would be two years before Guiliani started these unproved and racist approach, referred to as "the broken window" theory. stop and frisk is part of that strategy. The idea is that if you spend your resources going after low level street crimes, you will discourage those small time criminals from becoming Jamie Dimon (or something).

Here are some more facts about crime;

From 1994 – 2010, crime started to sharply decline in many large cities in America.

During that time, New York City’s violent crime rate dropped 29%.

In that same time period, Los Angeles’ violent crime rate dropped by 59%.

In that same time period, New Orleans’ violent crime rate dropped by 49%.

In that same time period, Dallas’ violent crime rate dropped by 37%.

In that same time period, Baltimore’s violent crime rate dropped by 37%.

These statistics all came from the FBI’s uniform crime reports. I encourage you to look them up for yourself. 

None of these cities were practicing the blatant racism that is stopping and frisking young men of color. If I wanted to be as stupid and reactionary as supporters of stop and frisk, I would be proclaiming that stop and frisk slowed down the decline of crime in New York City. But since I’m not an idiot, and I understand that correlation isn’t causation, I’m not going to make that claim, although producing a republican style "you’re going to be shitting in your pants" ad around this premise might be kind of fun.

No one has ever produced any credible evidence that stop and frisk is effective. My belief in the destructiveness of this program isn’t based in a warm and fuzzy egalitarian, one world utopia. It’s based in pragmatism. So if you’re worried that on January 2nd, New York City is going to become a post apocalyptic, Thunderdome-like hellscape, you’re just wrong. And if you think that I’m just some doe eye sunny optimist, you should definitely provide me with your evidence to the contrary.

But until you do that, my pants will be devoid of the shit that irrational fear produces, and so should yours.  

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It’s The Contractors, Stupid

Now that the government is open again, republicans are finally getting their opportunity to talk about something other than their cravenness and incompetence; the failure that is healthcare.gov. To be clear, the failure is limited to the website and in no way, shape or form extends to the ACA at large.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the launch of healthcare.gov was a monumental disaster. As an aside, the issues aren’t all emanating from just the federal site. Most of the state run sites were also poorly coded. We don’t have one giant federal failure, we have one giant federal failure and twenty some odd state failures.

Yes, the site was overwhelmed with traffic. But there were telltale error messages that are indicative of bad coding. There were sql errors, query errors, and javascript errors. These errors would not have been the result of overwhelming traffic. For those of you who don’t know much about software development (I’m not an expert, but I’m reasonably knowledgeable), the query errors and the sql errors indicate that there are issues with the back end and with the database. In other words, the bad coding goes all the way to the core. The javascript errors tell me the front end is also fucked up. These back end issues typically can’t be resolved in a few days, especially if the site isn’t taken completely offline while the code is reviewed. In other words, keeping the site live will prolong the repairs. Additionally, it’s much more difficult to find the errors in someone else’s code so fixing the problems is really challenging.

There doesn’t seem to have been much quality assurance testing done prior to launch. I literally can’t imagine that even a canned piece of QA software, didn’t pick up those query errors.

In discussing this disaster, everyone is missing the heart of the problem, which is the way in which government contracts are awarded. Our government doesn’t award contracts to a company that has a proven track record of successfully completing the type of task they’re being contracted to complete. Our government awards government contracts to companies that have a proven track record of securing government contracts. This ineptitude is often compounded by the practice of either awarding a contract to a crony, the biggest lobbyist, or someone’s nephew. The job almost never goes to the company most qualified to deliver the best result.

That’s what happened here. This is a case of an incompetent company getting a contract to do develop the ACA website. I haven’t been able to find out any details on who the contractor was, or the means by which this contract was awarded. I know there’s at least one journalist working on this, but the media is once again asleep at the wheel. We should be having a national conversation about the menace that are inept government contractors, and how they continue to be awarded for their incompetence with more government contracts. But thanks to the media, we’re once again missing the opportunity to have an important conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not absolving the administration from their responsibility in all of this. It is well within their power to award government contracts in a more effective way. They simply did nothing to fix the fucked up way in which we dole out federal tax dollars to contractors.

The Obama administration definitely failed here. But let me just say that it takes a special kind of stupid to conclude that the ACA is a failure on the basis of bad software coding. Making that conclusion really does take the kind of  simpleton that is beyond my comprehension.

That said, this situation isn’t a catastrophe since everyone has until March 31, 2014 to get health insurance before the $95 fine (you read that correctly, the fine is $95 or 1% of your annual salary) for not signing up is imposed. . The fact that they launched the site so far ahead of the deadline is a good thing. It’s inconceivable to me that these issues won’t be resolved before the December 14, 2013 deadline to sign up for coverage that is effective on January 1, 2014.

As we’re listening to the hyperbolic doomsdayers, let’s apply a little perspective to this situation. This fuck up didn’t kill anybody, unlike when KBR electrocuted  at least eighteen of our soldiers in Iraq. Personally, I would be delighted if delaying someone’s ability to find out how much money they were going to save on health insurance was the worst thing that an incompetent or greedy government contractor ever did.

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Pork Is The New Normal

So I woke up this morning, and did what I usually do; scoured the news. The news today is, of course, all about the budget deal. Predictably, there is lots of analysis on who “lost” and who “won”. I don’t care about that, since everyone has figured out that part of the whole equation, except to say that democracy won. Our already fucked up system of governance didn’t get more fucked up by setting the precedent that a recalcitrant minority can undo the will of the people, as well as unraveling decades of duly passed laws.

The more important story to me, is about everything that was included in this bill. Rachel Maddow spoke about some of the “pork barrel” items in the bill like;

  • $450 million in Colorado flood relief 
  • $600 million to fight forest fires
  • Money for the widow of the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg
  • Back pay for state workers funded through federal grants
  • A $2 billion dollar increase in funding for the Olmsted Lock dam in Kentucky

I didn’t highlight that last one to single out Mitch McConnel for being extra, super porky (although…). I highlighted that last one because it illustrates something about Mitch McConnell in particular, but many members of the senate at large; they all know how fucked up the government is. The very act of including some of these things in a bill that wasn’t going to get any scrutiny, due to time constraints is a tacit admission that their fucked up government can’t fund anything any other way.

They understand that Colorado will remain in shambles, and that we can’t fight forest fires, or pay the widow of a United States senator the “normal” way. We can’t get jack shit done the “normal” way, and it’s in large part Mitch McConnell’s fault.

Remember, until the 2010 election, when the tealiban won some seats in congress, Mitch McConnell was the nutbag in chief in the GOP. Okay, co-chief. He had Paul Ryan by his whackadoo side. They were the ones insisting that we cut, and cut, and cut the budget without raising a nickle in revenue to balance the budget. They championed the idea that the United States’ only problem is that we just spend way too much money, and that we can do with less.

Guess what, Mitch? Your little $2 billion dollar pork project demonstrates that you know you’re full of shit. Now McConnell is trying his best to push the responsibility for this spending off on Dianne Feinstein and Lamar Alexander, who are on the senate appropriations committee but it’s abundantly clear that they made a deal with McConnell.

I will admit that I don’t know anything about this dam project. I don’t know if it’s vital to Kentucky, or if it’s a giant gift to McConnell’s donors. But I do know that it’s no more or less important than all of the other infrastructure projects that are waiting for funding all across the country. I know it’s not more pressing than feeding the working poor in Kentucky. I know that very poor families in Kentucky are more concerned with feeding their kids, than they are with building a dam. Curiously, McConnell porked up a dam instead of bringing some of that evaporated food stamp money back home to his constituents.

Paying for shit that you’re interested in, while eliminating funding for programs that you’re not, doesn’t demonstrate that we can do with “less”. And having to pay for those projects that you’re interested in by using sneaky underhanded tactics proves that we can’t do with less, and you know it.

I suspect that McConnell’s dam may have gotten funded with stimulus money, had McConnell not done his damndest to whittle down as much as he could. He and the rest of the GOP wouldn’t have to fund things with federal money like thieves in the night, if they would just admit that we can’t do with less. Pork is the new normal.

I’m not avoiding talking about the Lautenberg pork because I’m a partisan, prone to excusing democrats. I don’t care about the Lautenberg pork because democrats aren’t the ones that have been pushing this “we can do with less” bullshit. The issue here is the hypocrisy, and the way that hypocrisy has sped up an already untenably fucked up government.

This runaway train is most assuredly going to crash and unfortunately, the only solace we get in all of this is that the conductors go down with the train. I know that this won’t help feed your kids or get you a job, but it’s all you get in tealiban America.       

 

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Fighting Extremism With Extreme Measures

I’ve been thinking about this insane government shutdown and all of its moving parts. Let’s be clear, there are a lot of moving parts, despite all of the memes boiling the situation down to one thought.

Yes, the GOP is essentially trying to subvert democracy and the democratic process by trying to blackmail the president into reversing everything the American people voted for. They want to disappear the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that America collectively voted for it twice. They want to implement the draconian Ryan budget, despite the fact that America said, “NO!” to Paul Ryan and his budget. Something that very few people are talking about, is the fact that democrats are culpable in all of this. Obama established a pattern of behavior when he negotiated over the debt ceiling a couple of years ago, and congressional democrats didn’t help this time around by presenting a budget whose cuts exceed those in the Ryan budget. It’s a little difficult to place all of the blame on republicans for trotting out an insane tactic that has worked well for them in the past. There’s plenty of blame to go around here.

That said, the lion’s share of the blame here lies with a small group of whackadoos that represent roughly 1/4 of the house GOP; the tealiban. The insane ones who are so severely ideologically driven, that on any given day, they can’t see past today. They’re the nutters you’ve seen on TV for the past two days, who despite a giant mountain of evidence, are channeling a doped up Charlie Sheen and claiming they’re “WINNING!”

They are unfortunately being enabled by a pathetic John Boehner, who refuses to put a vote on a clean CR (continuing resolution) on the floor. A clean CR would pass, since there are enough republicans in the house who would vote with with democrats to pass it. Boehner is suffering from the same delusion that Obama suffers from; he thinks that he can get these people to like him and to work with him. He can’t. These people despise him and they always will, just like republicans despise Obama and always will. They’re just not into you, and they never will be. Trying to appease these morons won’t get Boehner any further than it got Obama, and attempting to do so will present a slew of new problems every single day.

But fear not, Bitchy has not one, but two solutions to end this. The first solution lies with Obama. This whole debt ceiling situation is about allowing the treasury to print up more bonds to sell in order to raise the cash to pay the debt. Most of you know this, but raising the debt ceiling doesn’t create more debt. It’s about giving the treasury the ability to pay for the existing debt. Don’t confuse the debt with the deficit. The debt refers to all of the money that we owe. It includes spending from a decade or two ago, and the interest on that spending. The deficit refers to the debt to revenue ratio for any given year. So raising the debt ceiling is about nothing more than selling more bonds. I think the president should just go ahead and instruct the treasury to print up more bonds to sell. Congress will likely challenge this in the courts, and it will invariably end up with the Supreme Court. I believe that a strong argument for ending the process of having to raise the debt ceiling can be made under the fourteenth amendment. Section four states;

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

In other words, once congress approves the spending that created the debt, that debt is no longer in question. I honestly believe that this is a winning argument that would put an end to this insanity forever without taking any constitutional power away from congress.

My other solution is going to sound batshit crazy, because it relies on congressional republicans taking action. There is a way for the less crazy republicans to end this shutdown and neuter the tealiban forever. If seventeen of them went to Boehner and let him know that they were going to switch parties, thereby turning the house over to the democrats, they could force Boehner to stand up to the extra, super turbocharged crazies. I’m pretty sure that Boehner would fold as soon as the words “Speaker Pelosi” made it into his little pea brain. If the threat doesn’t do it for him, they should switch parties just to end the shutdown. This would give Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker Of The House, the power to put a clean CR up for a vote. To my knowledge, there’s nothing to prevent congressional members from switching parties every day so they could always switch back as soon as that vote is taken.

I know how crazy this sounds, but it would solve a lot of problems for the GOP. They have to do something about the tealiban before that small minority blows up the whole party. Big thinkers in the GOP (I know, I know) should be able to see the long term gains in taking this kind of action. The tealiban has already cost the GOP both senate and congressional seats. They need to stop the bleeding now, before it snowballs. It will most definitely snowball since the nutters’ seats are completely safe due to the insane gerrymandering republicans did in 2010. So what’s basically happening, is that the nutters have all the job security in the world, and the less crazy are being forced to up the crazy or jeopardize their own seats. Something needs to be done to stop the bleeding, and republicans are the only ones that can do it.

Will republicans ever do this? Of course not. I haven’t completely lost my mind. It’s crazy, but it would work. Honestly, we’re in a place where the only way to fight extremism is with extreme measures like the ones I’ve suggested. I don’t see any way to stop the insanity for any length of time without extreme remedies being taken.

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I Know Rambo, You Would Have Saved The Day

Another day, another mass shooting, another excuse for the gun nutters to flap their useless gums.

The first wave of batshittiness came in the form posting memes about how Bill Clinton passed a law in 1993, disarming military bases. These memes, of course were accompanied by the assertions that if these bases weren’t “gun free” zones, yesterday’s shooting would have been stopped by an armed Rambo. I didn’t comment, because I like to have facts upon which to form my thoughts, but I found it fairly inconceivable that a military base in America would be left sans any protection. Sure enough, we find out that there were an ample number of armed marines guarding the base.

Did that shut the nutbags up? Of course not. Facts never do. The next wave of fact-free douchebaggery asserted that if there were more armed people on that base, the problem would have been solved. Because naturally, the armed guards at the base were overtaken by the shooter because the real Rambos on the base weren’t armed. Okay, well now you’re shitting on our marines and their training in order to maintain your batshit crazy world view, but don’t let that stop you.

So the problem in America is that Rambo is never armed when these shootings happen. Never mind the fact that there were armed armed guards at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, and the shipyard yesterday. The problem is that none of these armed guards are Rambo, the way these nutters are. They would have saved the day with their guns, if only they had been there. Here’s the problem with the Rambos. Despite their mad shooting skills, they seem to lack the ability to show up when it counts. In fact, armed civilian intervention (with a good result) accounts for 1.6% of all mass shootings in the past 30 years. Rambo saving the day is very rare.

There was one case in our data set in which an armed civilian played a role. Back in 1982, a man opened fire at a welding shop in Miami, killing eight and wounding three others before fleeing on a bicycle. A civilian who worked nearby pursued the assailant in a car, shooting and killing him a few blocks away (in addition to ramming him with the car). Florida authorities, led by then-state attorney Janet Reno, concluded that the vigilante had used force justifiably, and speculated that he may have prevented additional killings.

But there are also these stories;

In 2005, as a rampage unfolded inside a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington, a civilian named Brendan McKown confronted the assailant with a licensed handgun he was carrying. The assailant pumped several bullets into McKown and wounded six people before eventually surrendering to police after a hostage standoff. (A comatose McKown eventually recovered after weeks in the hospital.)

In Tyler, Texas, that same year, a civilian named Mark Wilson fired his licensed handgun at a man on a rampage at the county courthouse. Wilson—who was a firearms instructor—was shot dead by the body-armored assailant, who wielded an AK-47.

So the Rambo factor can go either way. Sometimes, more people get killed because a Rambo managed to work out that timing thing, and ended up at the right place at the right time.

But these fucking nutbags cling onto their fantasies of being Rambo and someday saving the day. Never mind that your fellow Rambos seldom seem to get it right. You’re special, and someday your day in the sun will come.

I have a message for the Rambos of the world. Until you personally have stopped a mass shooting, or any shooting for that matter, you need to shut the fuck up. You have neither statistics nor anecdotal evidence to support your lunatic fantasies or your childish claims. That’s what you are; a fucking child with childlike fantasies. Do us all a favor and engage yourself on a more productive fantasy, like becoming an astronaut, or a fireman. Your Rambo fantasies are comical.


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Stop, Frisk, And Fruitvale Station

I’ve been pretty active and vocal about my support of Bill de Blasio’s candidacy to become the next mayor of New York. My primary reason for supporting de Blasio is my desire to end stop and frisk, although I also agree with most of his platform.

Stop and frisk is something that I encounter every day, even though I’ve never stopped or frisked. I live in Harlem, and I work and play downtown. Trust me when I tell you that even though I’m usually on this small island, I feel like I routinely cross a border between different cities. Two cities that I’m actually very familiar with because I grew up in the bay area in California. I spent a lot of time in San Francisco. I also spent a fair amount of time in Oakland, going to concerts and having chicken and waffles on the way to Berkley.

Oakland and San Francisco represent a perfect parallel to the two cities that are Manhattan. Everybody knows about Oakland and how incredibly volatile a place it is. Oakland is stuck in this endless loop of racial discord and violence, where it’s impossible to tell who “the good guys” are. We’ve all seen the videos of how the police treated the peaceful protestors of Occupy Wall Street. We also saw that the Occupy Oakland protestors were among the very few in the world who had some vandals among them. The racial tensions in Oakland are so bad that there are literally no “good guys” left.

The cops are no better than the “thugs”. This isn’t a situation that happened overnight. It’s a product of institutional racism and the anger over that racism. Oakland cops are vicious. I don’t mean hyperbolically vicious, I mean vicious. They’re not incidentally vicious, they’re institutionally vicious meaning it’s not a situation where there are a few bad apples. They’re trained to be vicious. They’re taught that young black men are the enemy, and that they need to always keep a close eye on the enemy. And that “close eye” they keep on the enemy makes everyone (but especially young black men) distrust and hate them. So we have a situation where the citizens and the cops have been, perhaps irrevocably, divided.When you treat a group of people like they’re not legitimate members of the community, they eventually “check out” of the community and they’re then blamed for not being part of the community. It’s an endless cycle that’s destructive to everyone involved.

And since the cops in Oakland routinely find the criminal activity they’re looking for, their training is validated. Young black men are bad. That experience on the job eventually seeps into one’s psyche and produces a genuinely racist police force. You eventually see all black men as criminals and they in turn, see the police as armed bullies. We all saw this dynamic play out at Fruitvale Station in 2009.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoD-PbbUPYQ[/youtube]

 

The same thing is starting to entrench itself in Manhattan. Our policemen have been trained to seek out young minority men for extra scrutiny for nearly 12 years now. That training is starting to seep into their psyche. I’m honestly starting to see something that I didn’t see ten years ago, when I moved here. Until about a month ago, a day never went by when I didn’t see someone being stopped. To be clear, I’ve literally never seen a white person stopped. I’ve also never seen someone stopped south of 96th Street. It’s always young men or boys of color, and it’s always in my neighborhood in Harlem. And in my neighborhood in Harlem, you never call the cops for anything because cops are not our friends. The situation wasn’t this bad when I moved up here 9 years ago. The tension is now palpable, and it’s getting worse. Last week, there was an incident involving two young Muslim girls. Here are details from ThinkProgress;

Last week, a family claimed New York Police Department discrimination against Muslims took a violent turn when police officers allegedly beat two sisters, ages 12 and 14, who were wearing hijabs, or headscarves. The girls, Lamis Chapman and Khalia Wilson, were playing in a park in Bronx, NY at around 9:30 pm. when officers told them the park was closed. As the officers followed the girls out, they reportedly threw Lamis and Khalia to the ground, held them in chokeholds, and ripped off their hijabs. And when their 15-year-old brother ran to help, he said the cops, “charged me, picked me up, and slammed me on the floor.”

“I kept saying, ‘I’m 14! What are you doing? We’re not bad kids,’” Khalia said later.

According to the NY Daily News, the entire confrontation was captured on video by a college student, Johnathan Harris, who says he was punched and pepper-sprayed by the cops. Harris said the officer told him “Come here, you little motherfucker. You like recording?”

The situation is escalating, and it needs to stop soon. You’ve jumped the shark when you can’t tell the difference between young girls and a threat to society. It can’t go on now that the whole world is aware of it. If it continues through this level of scrutiny and awareness, it will never end. And with no end in sight, I’m worried that we’re going to become Oakland. Five years ago, I would never have thought twice about walking the two blocks home from the subway after midnight. I’m not as comfortable now.

Stop and frisk is not making me safer. The truth is that there’s no evidence that it’s making anyone safer. Ray Kelly and Mike Bloomberg keep saying it’s making us safer, but they have yet to produce any evidence to support this claim. They keep pointing to lower crime rates in New York, and insist that we have stop and frisk to thank for this. But the fact of the matter is that crime rates in New York, and in the country at large were going down steadily for ten years before Kelly and Bloomberg. Until somebody shows me some concrete evidence that stop and frisk works, and that it’s not causing the racially charged time bomb I see every day, I’m done with it.

One of the moderators of the mayoral debate last night asked all of the candidates if they would reconsider their stances on stop and frisk (they all claim they’re against it as it stands, but some are more against it than others) if crime started to go up after they modified (or ended) the program. They all gave the wrong answer. They all answered “no”. That is categorically the wrong answer. If crime starts in increase, you have to look at every possible reason for that increase. That includes stop and frisk. I’m not completely tunnel visioned into believing that this program doesn’t work. I just don’t need to revisit my position that it needs to end, until I see some evidence that it helps in any way.

I honestly believe that electing either of the two candidates (Quinn and Thompson) that aren’t willing to articulate specific changes they would make to the program will have disastrous results for New York. I don’t want to see Manhattan turn into Oakland. And I honestly believe that making huge, demonstrable changes like firing Ray Kelly is the only way to avert that scenario.

Bill de Blasio is the only viable candidate who plans on doing exactly that. I am concerned for my safety, and I don’t believe that continuing stop and frisk is good for my own self interest.

 

 

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