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Retrograde Republicans

So we’ve watched republican pundits and politicians support the confederate flag for a week now. The obvious motivation is that the republican party is home to the lion’s share of racists in America. But I think there’s actually a more dominant motivator here beyond racism.

Watch this Bill O’Reilly clip (via The Young Turks);

 

I love The Turks, but I think they missed an important part of that clip. At one point, O’Reilly says, “We don’t have a system where racism is acceptable at all. We don’t.” Then he goes on to say, “The world is being told by anti-American haters, that we are a rank racist society, and that is a lie”.

This is about exceptionalism and the glory days (in his mind), when America was the envy of the world.

Conservatives by definition, hate it when things change. It doesn’t matter what the change is. Change in and unto itself is viscerally abhorrent to conservatives. They like for things to stay the way they are, regardless of how they are. I think that people like Bill O’Reilly genuinely don’t see themselves as racist. I think O’Reilly sees himself as a “traditionalist” who has great regard for the traditions established in the glory days of the United States. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Bill O’Reilly is a giant bigot, but that’s how he sees himself.

We’re in a time now when things are changing at lightning speed so conservatives are more frustrated than ever. No one was talking about marriage equality in 2000. In fact, that push didn’t really start until after the hate-the-gays platform of the 2004 elections. In ten short years, we have marriage equality in more states than not, and hateful bakers are chained to their kitchens and forced to bake gay wedding cakes for twelve hours a day, seven days a week. By next week, we will have equality in all fifty states (yes, I have confidence in how Kennedy is going to go on this one).

Conservative heads are exploding. They’re being left behind by the country whose traditions they so love.

And now the flag tornado. In one short week, that flag has come down in Alabama and been pulled from several retail outlets. Eight days. And it’s going to come down in several more statehouses. Yes, losing a symbol of racism is painful to republicans, but not as painful as so much change in so short a period of time.

That fucking flag didn’t start going up in statehouses in the south until one hundred years after the confederates surrendered to the United States and ended their quest for a treasonous exit from this country. Why one hundred years later? Because it was a racist middle finger to the civil rights movement, which was winning. This isn’t a time honored tradition. It’s a fifty year old tradition of resisting change.

To rub salt in the tradition-loving conservatives’ wounds, every single change they’ve resisted was a positive change for the country. From ending slavery, to labor laws to women’s suffrage, implementing social security and medicare, taxing the fuck out of the rich to end the depression, and marriage equality. Liberals have always won, and liberals have always been right. The one and only “idea” conservatives have ever had, beyond leaving things the way they are, is going down inflames because Americans largely understand that trickle down economics is complete bullshit. The being wrong part doesn’t much seem to bother conservatives, but the constant (and now rapid) change is causing them great consternation.

Bill Kristol, the wrongiest republican ever, is pissed off that retailers are kowtowing to liberals and removing their confederate hate merchandise. That’s the free market, baby. But he (and a lot of other republicans) can’t stand it. They despise a Pope who actually espouses Christian values, rather than the bastardized version they worked so hard to create. He’s breaking with right wing Pope tradition, and they can’t stand that he’s on the same page with Jesus when it comes to the rich and when it comes to consuming the resources on this planet. They hate their own ideals and institutions when those ideals and institutions help to bring about change.

This is just too much change for them to deal with, and it’s coming in rapid fire. We have cell phone cameras finally showing America what black people have been telling us for decades about the brutality that police have been inflicting on them. Republicans hate that. They like things the way they were, when they didn’t have to be confronted with the institutional racism that produces the privilege they enjoy, and used to be able to deny they had.

This is about more than racism. This is about losing the country they once had to an ideology they’ve always despised. They see the desire to force change by taking action and criticizing injustice as being unpatriotic to the country. If you don’t love the United States just the way it is, then you hate it and you’re unpatriotic. That’s why they hate liberals, and that’s why they get irrationally pissed off over something as trivial as “liberal light bulbs”.

Bill O’Reilly said it in the clip I shared above:

“The world is being told by anti-American haters, that we are a rank racist society, and that is a lie”.

Implying that the US is imperfect is unacceptable to republicans and to a lesser degree, conservatives. In my opinion, that’s what the heart of this hate flag controversy is about for them. No rational person honors losers, not even if they had enough courage in their unjust and fucked up convictions to die for them. The confederacy was on the wrong side of history but beyond that, they were losers, wholly undeserving of any respect. Republicans don’t like losers. But they like these losers. Why?

Yes, it’s about racism but I don’t think that’s the heart of the issue here. Al Franken nailed the heart of this issue  twelve years ago in his book, “Lies And The Lying Liars That Tell Them” when he said the following;

“We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America like a 4-year-old loves his mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world. That’s why we liberals want America to do the right thing. We know America is the hope of the world, and we love it and want it to do well.”

That’s the issue. And no matter how fucked up the wrongs liberals want to change are, conservatives will fight against us tooth and nail. And they will continue to lose 100% of the time.

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Denny Hastert Speculation

I haven’t really said anything about this because we don’t know what happened with Hastert. Since I’m not fond of speculation, I’m going to hold off on comment until we have a better idea of what happened.

To be clear, we have more questions than we do answers. We know that Hastert was paying off someone who was bribing him over something. We know that that something has a sexual component to it and that its being referred to as “misconduct”. That’s all we know from the indictment.

An anonymous source at the FBI said that the person doing the blackmailing (they’re calling him “individual A”), knew Hastert for “most of Individual A’s life.” Another anonymous source at the FBI says that “It was sex.”

That’s all we know.

We don’t know when the misconduct happened, other than it was “years earlier”. That could be five years or it could be twenty-five. We don’t know. Everyone is assuming that it happened while Hastert was a high school wrestling coach, but I haven’t seen a source on that piece of information from any media outlet reporting it. It hasn’t been attributed to anyone. Not an anonymous source at the FBI, not someone close to the victim/blackmailer, not anyone that I’ve found so I can’t treat it as “information” as much as “speculation”.

We know that the extortion started in 2010. That’s the part that makes everything much more murky than people are assuming. If the event happened during Hastert’s tenure as a wrestling coach (from 1965 – 1981), why did the blackmail take so long? Why didn’t the blackmailer step up when Hastert got the speakership was at the height of having so much to lose? Why is Hastert paying? Is he unaware of the statute of limitations? Does the blackmailer have some sort of hard evidence? It’s hard for me to believe that Hastert would feel threatened to the tune of $3.5 million by someone saying that he (Hastert) did something twenty-five years ago. He could easily dismiss the accusations as the wild claims of a would be black mailer.

I feel like there are more questions than there is information here, so I’m not going to speculate on whether he was involved in pedophilia or simply closeted gay sex.

We do know that he’s a hypocrite, but we’re not positive about whether his votes on gay rights issues were hypocritical, or whether his family values platform is where the hypocrisy hive lies.

There is one funny part of the indictment that I can’t resist commenting on. When the FBI questioned Hastert about the large bank withdrawals , he said (from the indictment) that “……he did not feel safe with the banking system”. Right. That’s why as speaker, he went to great lengths to pass regulations that would make banks much safer places for people to keep their money.

Is he aware that he’s a republican, and that the most heinous sexual misconduct he and his party have ever committed involves sodomy with all of the big banks?

I thought that part of the indictment was hysterical.

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American Poverty Is Awesome

The right wing keeps saying that. Fox routinely points out that poor people in America have refrigerators, so they’re clearly not suffering enough to actually feel any kind of sympathy for. In a post earlier this month, I talked about lead paint in poor neighborhoods, and the neurological damage it does. I framed that piece around Baltimore, but it’s true of any poor neighborhood in the US.

Being poor in America really isn’t the leisurely life of strip clubs and lobster dinners republicans would have you believe it is. Our poor people aren’t actually the lucky ones compared to poor people around the world. Let’s take a look at some statistics for Baltimore, which has a diverse array of income levels and neighborhoods.

Roland Park is a wealthy Baltimore neighborhood. The life expectancy of  residents of Roland Park is eighty-four years old. That would be five years above the national life expectancy of seventy-nine years. Three miles away from Roland Park is one of Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods, downtown/ Seton Hall. The life expectancy of a resident there is sixty-four. That’s twenty years (or 31%) less life, just for being born poor. These gaps in life expectancy are not unique to Baltimore. They exist all over the US although twenty years is one of the biggest gaps. Here’s a little perspective on life expectancies around the world. Countries with a lower than sixty-four year life expectancy are largely in Africa, and all third world. Afghanistan has a life expectancy of sixty-one years. Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Namibia all have life expectancies of sixty-four years. Turkmenistan has a life expectancy of sixty-five, and India comes in at sixty-six. If you’re born in Pakistan, you can expect to live three years longer than someone born in a poor neighborhood in Baltimore. Iraqis can expect to live five years longer than poor people in Baltimore. If you’re born in Mexico, you can expect to live thirteen years longer than a poor person in Baltimore. I can go on, but you get the point.

Let me stop you before you get to thinking that higher crime and homicide rates are the primary drivers of the life expectancy gap. 70.1% of deaths in downtown/ Seton Hall are “avertable deaths”, meaning that if access to health care were the same as in the wealthy neighborhoods, they wouldn’t be happening. Here are the biggest causes of death in downtown/ Seton Hall:

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We have approximately 15% of our population living at or under the poverty line. That 15% number represents 46.5 million Americans. The way the poverty line is defined in the US is basically at $16 per day, per person. Of that 46.5, 20.4 million live at less than half of poverty (so less than $8 per day per person).  Mind you, that’s supposed to cover rent, utilities, food, and everything else you need.

You know how $2 a day is the global poverty number that’s usually used? Well, Brookings tried to figure out what the percentage of Americans living on $2 a day is. It turns out that this isn’t so easy to do. The income of extremely poor people in the US doesn’t remain fixed for long periods of time. In other words, they can average $2 a day for a month or two, but any tiny amount of income puts them at an average of $3, $4, or $6 a day. You should read the study for a more detailed explanation, but Brookings came up with a range of 0% – 5% of households in America who live in $2 a day. 0% doesn’t appear to me to make much sense, since the method used to get there is by using consumption surveys as opposed to income surveys, the way the World Bank counts poverty all around the world. The problem is that when graphing both consumption and income surveys, the correlation between the two diverges significantly in the US compared to third world countries. In other words, at an income of $2 a day, the consumption survey doesn’t diverge proportionally to the income survey compared to someone with an income of $20 a day. It’s complicated, but it basically doesn’t seem like a reliable measure. So 0% doesn’t seem accurate, but neither does 5%.

But that’s okay because the actual percentage isn’t as important as the trend. Let’s say for arguments sake that 2% of American households are living on $2 per day, per person. Since 1996, that $2 a day global poverty rate has been reduced by 1/3. In the US, it’s going in the opposite direction. The factor that keeps Americans above that $2 a day line are SNAP, welfare (which can only be collected for a total of five years over the course of a lifetime), social security, and medicare. First world programs. That’s the only thing keeping our “$2 a day” population under 5%.

Why is the extreme poverty class in the US growing, while it’s shrinking in the rest of the world? Republicans. They keep cutting life saving social programs in an effort to end all that high living that we all know is happening in slums all across the country. All of that welfare, food stamp, medicare, and medicaid fraud they can’t find must be stopped! By the way, any retail business would be fucking overjoyed with a loss rate of under 10%. Relative to the private sector, these loss (fraud is less than 4% in each program) numbers are a freaking miracle. But nonetheless, they need to stop the poor people from bleeding us all dry with their eating and such. Plus, if the don’t have food, they can sell those awesome refrigerators and air conditioners that came with their mold and lead riddled apartments, thereby enabling us to cut welfare even more because they would be living large on that pawned refrigerator money. It all makes perfect sense if you think about it.

Republicans are literally turning this country into the slums of Ibadan, where you can expect to live longer than you can if you grow up in Baltimore. That’s actually not true, and I must apologize for the hyperbole. Adolescents in Ibadan are actually more hopeful and healthy than adolescents in Baltimore so I apologize for the unfair comparison.

Poverty in the US is getting worse, and contrary to what the right wing is telling you, being poor in America isn’t awesome sauce. In fact, it won’t be long before people living in the slums of New Delhi aren’t professing their gratitude that they don’t live in the US.

The richest country in the world should not contain poor neighborhoods that are comparable to third world slums. That just shouldn’t fucking happen.

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A Trans Republican?

So all the jokes about Bruce Jenner’s deviant lifestyle choice in being a republican have been put out there. I made a few myself because it’s a inexplicable choice.

I’ve chosen to post articles about all of the anti-trans (specifically) legislation that republicans have put forth in various states. These bills really address no problem at all. They’re designed to humiliate, ostracize, and dehumanize members of the trans community. Some of these bills involve fines for peeing without producing ID. Others involve handcuffs. Some incentivize people to seek out and turn in a trans person peeing in the "wrong" bathroom by enticing them with $2500 in compensation for the emotional trauma they went through, what with peeing next to someone so icky and all.

These republicans claim that they’re goal is to "protect" the public by preventing the sexual assaults that have never materialized, but need preventing anyway. Republicans don’t see the trans community as human.

So Bruce Jenner really is inexplicably stupid and self destructive in his support of the republican party. Except that I think I can explain it, although I can’t make it less stupid. Bruce Jenner will never be fined for using the wrong bathroom. Bruce Jenner will never be jailed for using the wrong bathroom. Bruce Jenner will never have this done to him;

Veronica

 

 


 

 

 


This is Veronica Bolina on two weeks ago. Cops in Brazil did this to her.

 

 

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This is what she normally looks like.

That’s never going to happen to Bruce Jenner. Not by cops, and not by anyone else.

Bruce Jenner will never have to deal with being trapped in a body he knows he doesn’t belong in because he can’t afford the surgeries, medications, and therapy involved in getting where he knows he should be.

In short, Bruce Jenner’s primary concern is with keeping his money. Like most republicans in California, he gets to be a republican because democrats have created an environment where they have that luxury.

California spent money on all of the things that you need to spend money on to attract business and grow an economy. According to a study by Endeavor, entrepreneurs choose where they want to start their companies based on several factors.

  • Access to a skilled and educated talent pool. California had set up a great higher education system that was accessible to all until Reagan killed free tuition to state schools. Even though a great education isn’t available to as many people in CA, it’s still there.
  • Access to clients and suppliers. California invested in the kind of infrastructure that makes people want to live in a certain place over another. Local transportation, airports, and highways are all means of attracting people to a city or state.

Wanna know what these entrepreneurs didn’t cite as a factor in deciding where to start their companies? Low taxes. Only 5% of entrepreneurs included that on their list of factors.

California did the opposite of what (for example) Kentucky is doing. They’re sitting around and whining about being piss poor because the big, mean government won’t let business squeeze every last bit of natural resources out of the land and sets taxes too high for anyone to want to start a business there. California in the mean time, ran out of gold a long fucking time ago but since they invested in building infrastructure and universities like UCLA and Berkeley, they are now the world’s seventh largest economy.

California spent the money it needed to in order to create a climate for California republicans to prosper, and have no worries other than how not to pay to maintain the environment that enables their wealth.

Bruce Jenner gets to focus on his taxes because he doesn’t have the needs of a poor transgender person living in a red state. He doesn’t have to worry about being the victim of a hate crime because California is a much more open and accepting place than other states. Let’s keep it real, his wealth largely protects him, but living in an accepting culture doesn’t hurt.

Don’t misunderstand me, my intention is not to blame Jenner for his views or to diminish the positive impact I believe he’s going to have on trans acceptance in the US. I’m just trying to explain how someone in his position may have come to hold republican view. He’s completely sheltered from the destructiveness of conservatism. You can’t be responsible for now knowing what you don’t know. He’s living in a bubble (okay, it’s actually more like a circus tent) where he’s not exposed to these efforts by republicans to humiliate and denigrate him.

He’s lucky enough to spend time worrying on how to keep as much of his money as he can so that he can pass it down to his lovely family, who will undoubtedly create more jobs that Google, if only they get the chance to inherit all of his money without paying any taxes on it.       

           

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Your Estate Is Now Safe

By "your", I don’t actually mean yours. I guess I do, but only if you own one of the top .2% of the biggest American estates who have been suffering under the onerous and tyrannical estate tax system. It’s tyrannical because the government actually claims that your heirs should have to pay taxes on money they inherit from you. You know, like they would have to pay on lottery money or unemployment benefits that they’ve been contributing to their whole working lives. If you ever need to take advantage of that unemployment insurance you’ve paid for, you have to pay federal taxes on that money. But dammit, taxing your heirs for receiving money they didn’t earn is a bridge too far!

I am a firm believer that if you had the forethought to be born into a filthy rich family, you shouldn’t be penalized for having better boot straps than the poor bastard who thought that being born to poor people was a good life plan. Why the fuck should you pay taxes on the money that you didn’t earn, but watched (when you weren’t at your tennis lesson) your parents earn. Or worse yet, weren’t around when your grandparents earned it, but are clearly bootstrapped to. I mean, being born to wealthy people is hard work. Why should a rich person have to pay taxes on money that drops out of the sky for them, the way you pay taxes on the money you spend 40 – 60 hours a week working for? I mean, it’s not the rich guy’s fault that you’re the kind of sucker who obtains money by working for it. Why are we punishing the innovation of being born rich?

We all know that the best way to stimulate the economy and create jobs is to let Paris Hilton have her grandfather’s money for free. She’s obviously going to spend it in a much smarter way than the government, who will probably squander it on a road or a republican war that even republicans don’t want to pay for.

Let me explain how the estate tax works for the 99.8% of you lazy moochers who aren’t familiar with it. In 2015, any inheritance you (again, I don’t mean you, you fucking loser) get is tax free for the first $5.43 million dollars. I’m sorry, when I said $5.43 million dollars, I mean per person. So if you’re inheriting from Mummy and Papaaa, you get $10.86 million dollars of free money. Just to give you a little context, the amount that was free in 2001 was $650k per person.

To recap, right before we launched two wars, heirs of large estates got $1.3 million dollars of free money from Mamaaa and Papaaa. Today, since we’re still paying for those wars, they get $10.86 million dollars of free money. That’s today, but don’t worry because republicans in the house just voted to make things more fair. They want to make the entire estate free for the heirs. They really are a party of the people. There are precisely 5,500 people whose estates will be affected by this bold move to fight the power and stand up for the middle class.

Obviously, the estate tax is an attempt to loot money from hard working children of billionaires, and it must not stand! Let’s review the origins of the estate tax. The estate tax was born in 1916, and it was proposed and passed under the auspices of fair taxation. Cordell Hull, who sponsored the legislation said,

"I have no disposition to tax wealth unnecessarily or unjustly, but I do believe that the wealth of the country should bear its just share of the burden of taxation and that it should not be permitted to shirk that duty."

Representative William Cox, who supported the estate tax said,

"It is the first successful attempt to make wealth bear its just and proportionate burden of taxation."

At its original implementation in 1916, the estate tax was set at 10% of all estates worth over $5 million dollars. It went up very quickly. For 1917, it was 15% on all estates worth over $5 million dollars. But in 1917, it was raised again to 15% of net estate in excess of $5 million plus war estate tax 10% of net estate tax in excess of $10 million. Huh. So because we were at war, the legislators at the time thought that raising taxes would be the prudent and fiscally responsible thing to do. Oh, but we’re just getting started on the increases. By 1932, the estate tax was 45% of net estate in excess of $50 million. And then here a’come FDR to raise it to 60% of net estate in excess of $50 million in 1934, but that didn’t last long. By 1935, he increased it to 70% of net estate in excess of $50 million. And then came 1940, where there was another war to pay for. He increased the estate tax to 70% of excess of net estate over $10 million plus a defense tax of 10% of the total tax computed under the basic and additional estate taxes (in effect, maximum tax was 77%). From 1941 until 1977, they decided not to fuck around with all that language and just set the estate tax at 77% of excess of net estate over $10 million. Can someone remind me when the golden era of economic expansion in the US was again? Jimmy Carter came in and changed the tax to 70% of excess over $5 million. And then Ronny, patron saint of the wealthy, set it at 65% of excess over $4 million for 1982, 60% of excess over $3.5 million for 1983 , and 55% of excess over $3 million for 1984 – 1988. For 1987 – 1998, the rate was set at 55% of excess over $3 million (effectively 60% for estates in excess of $10 million but less than $21,040,000 because of a surtax to phase out benefits of the graduated rates and unified credit). That was as low as Ronald Reagan could conceive of dropping it. But fear not, Buckley v Valeo was starting to being in dividends. For 1998 – 2001, Bill Clinton set the rate at 55% of excess over $3 million (effectively 60% for estates in excess of $10 million but less than $17,184,000 because of a surtax to phase out benefits of the graduated rate).

To be clear, the intention behind an estate tax was twofold. It was the best way to pay for things because what better time to tax someone, than when it’s on money they didn’t break their backs earning? The second purpose was to prevent oligarchy. FDR correctly said,

"Great accumulations of wealth cannot be justified on the basis of personal and family security. In the last analysis such accumulations amount to the perpetuation of great and undesirable concentration of control in a relatively few individuals over the employment and welfare of many, many others."

I don’t care if you like that or not. FDR was right, and there’s nothing you can say to change that empirical fact.

Huh. As soon as we lowered the Paris Hilton tax, wealth started to become mega-concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of people. Today. 400 people own the same wealth as 50% of Americans. That is not a fucking accident. Taxation is always a redistribution of wealth. It always had been, and it always will be. First worlds have never been built in any way other than through an involuntary taxation system. The question is, do we want to redistribute across, or up?

During the time when the top estate tax was set at 77%, the top corporate and income tax rate was higher (at 91%). This forced reinvestment in companies and the country. There was no incentive to loot money from your company or your country because you were just going to pay it all out in taxes. That’s what created the greatest economic expansion in the history of our country. Again, I don’t care if you don’t like it. It is what it is and all of your theorizing and quantum physics, parallel universe nonsense isn’t going to change the empirical facts of what happened.

So let me share some estate tax fun facts so that you can really see (in case you’ve been confused for fifty years) who republicans champion.

  • In 2013, among estates that paid any tax at all, the effective tax rate was 16.6%. To put that into perspective, if you make 40k per year, your federal tax rate is 25%.
  • In 2013, a total of one hundred and twenty (that is the largest nonpartisan number I could find) small businesses and small farms paid any estate tax at all.
  • The largest estates are comprised of 55% in unrealized capital gains. This is money that has never been taxed. Not once. Capital gains become "realized" when you sell them. That’s when you pay taxes on them. If you’ve never sold stocks, that your parents bought for you when you were born, taxes have never been collected on that wealth. So a billionaire would have a very large amount stashed in unrealized capitalized gains, since they’re never really having to face a situation where they have to sell the stock they’ve been sitting on for generations, so that they can buy a sandwich.
  • Repealing the estate tax entirely, as republicans want to do, will cost $269 billion dollars over the next ten years.

So you decide: is the GOP the party of the people? Are you the person they’re fighting for? Let’s be clear, someone is going to have to pay that missing $269 billion dollars. Just like someone has been paying for every top tax rate cut. That unicorn republicans keep referring to, where spending less is an option has never happened. Remember, they never paid for their last two wars. Wars that will cost us money until their invention ISIS, and every other terrorist group that forms as a result of destroying Iraq are completely eradicated. And bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bombing Iran isn’t free either. So if you’re opposed to negotiating with Iran, you’d better get ready to pony up your share of that war plus the $269 billion dollars you want Paris Hilton and the Walton miscreants to have.

Someone has to pay. Who do you want that someone to be?               

           

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The Anecdotal Obamacare Story That Matters

If you’re even casually familiar with me, you know that I have almost no use for anecdotal "evidence". Anecdotes are not evidence of anything other than what one person believes they’ve seen at one specific moment in time. Obamacare has brought a glut of anecdotal Obamacare horror stories to my various social media pages. Statistically speaking, every single American who got screwed by this law has ended up finding me on social media. No seriously, the numbers simply don’t support these claims of devastation and woe. One guy claimed that his insurance premiums increased by 250%! Holy shit! Surely Fox News would have found him if this were true, right? I mean, they paraded a bunch of Obamacare "victims" whose stories all turned out to be 100% bullshit. Fox was really in need of a legitimately fucked over insurance consumer. Why didn’t this guy take this opportunity to possibly become a right wing hero a la Cliven Bundy? Why? Because he told me he was in Arizona. I looked up the stats for his state. Turns out that in Arizona, rates went down by ten percent for 2015. Oopsie! I never heard back from him after I shared that data with him. I guess he died at home alone, of a stubbed toe that got infected because he couldn’t afford the one million dollar copay that came with his wretched Obamacare plan. Poor bastard.

And then there was the vet who insisted that the VA was the worst health insurance in the world, and that Obamacare was going to destroy the previously awesome private insurance market. When I pointed out that the VA has always had a higher satisfaction rating than private insurance, he got huffy and played the "I’m a vet and you’re not" card. I let him know that I would be happy to ignore his attempts at acting intellectually superior with actually being intellectually superior if he could find me a single year in which the VA’s approval rating was lower than that of private insurance. He didn’t even bother to do that, instead opting to insist that he knew better because of his first hand experience. I assured him that the curmudgeon contingent was included in those approval ratings. He was unmoved by reason, logic, or anything that might not fit with what he "knew".

These are just a couple of anecdotal examples of why I have no use for anecdotal "evidence" (see what I did there?) Wanna know where I’m going next? Yep, I’m going to share an anecdotal Obamacare story. This is the story of James Webb, a fifty one year old self proclaimed teabagger and veteran. He hates commies and Obama. He does love guns though. He really, really loves guns. He loves to make videos of himself shooting guns. Lots and lots of ‘pew, pew, pew, pew, pew’ videos on his youtube channel. He hates the fact that the gays have ruined The Walking Dead for him. He refers to the Ferguson protestors as the "cesspool of America", who come from "generations and generations, and generations of living off the government". He’s been posting videos on youtube for seven years now so if after reading this, you decide that he was a plant, let me assure you that he isn’t.

Anyway, James posted a video last week that will double the one million views mark he crossed last month (congrats James), in a matter of days. James posted a video explaining why he might vote for Hillary Clinton. See, James retired last year because Obamacare set him free from having to work for health insurance. He’s not interested in losing the awesome and affordable coverage he has. Before I get to the latest video about who he’s going to vote for next year, let’s watch a video he put up seven months ago, explaining how Obamacare allowed him to retire at the age of fifty.

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Notice how he starts off by saying that, "In the Obama administration, the least [sic] you work, the more you get. Now I know it used to be you worked hard, you saved hard and you retired, but not anymore". But as he kept talking he says, "I’ve been pulling that wagon for thirty-one years. It’s my turn to ride in it, and I’m going to ride. I’m going to ride in that wagon, and I deserve it." This is a guy whose right wing programming is at odds with what he’s seen and lived.

To republicans, if you don’t work until you die, you’re lazy. I know I’m skipping ahead but let’s get into some of the replies he got to the video he posted last week. Some republicans weren’t happy with his considering voting his own self interest in 2016. One woman said, "Heaven fucking forbid you have to go back to work. Since when is retiring at age fifty acceptable?…..Get off your fat ass and go back to work…..You are what’s wrong with this country." This is my favorite part of the stupid twat’s email to him, "People who vote based on what’s best for them are fucked up people. You need to be thinking about what’s best for society as a whole and future generations, and our planet, and humanity as a whole." Yeah, she said that to justify voting republican. WOW! That just redefined the parameters of cognitive dissonance. Another guy writes James to call him a troll. He demands that James explain himself and the affliction that justifies his early retirement.

These people aren’t morally outraged that James is retired at the age of fifty. They’re enraged that they can’t. And the reason why they can’t, is because they’ve bought the whole line of right wing bullshit that keeps them slaves to the billionaires who bought their party. They have Stockholm Syndrome and they can’t allow anyone to suffer less than they expect to have to suffer. These are the same dumb dumbs who insist that welfare recipients should be subjected to drug testing. I post statistic after statistic about state after state, where testing welfare recipients has unearthed very little drug use while costing taxpayers a lot of money. I always get replies to those statistics, proclaiming that "if you’re on welfare, you should be drug tested". But I just showed you that doing that wasted a whole bunch of your taxpayer dollars for no good reason at all. But NO! People on welfare must be punished, and reason, logic, and fiscal responsibility are irrelevant! These people are not rational. They’re probably not even hateful by nature. But their struggles make it necessary to punch down at people who they need to be on the rung below them. Because if there’s nobody suffering beneath you, what does that make you in the grand scheme of society?

I always ask myself, as part of deciding where I land on an issue, "who are you advocating for?" If you want to humiliate poor people, even though it’s going to cost you money to do it, who are you advocating for? If you’re insisting that James’ lazy ass need to get a job right now, who are you advocating for? We see James himself do it at the beginning of the video I posted above, when he said that under Obama, people no longer need to work hard. He can’t even hear his own contradiction when he goes on to say that he’s put in thirty-one years of work, and deserves to enjoy his life. Here’s the difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives believe that they’re the worthy exception to the rule. Whether it’s taking food stamps, collecting unemployment insurance because of a layoff, or signing up for Obamacare; they earned it but everyone else is a moocher. Liberals believe that everyone who needs help should have it. The exceptions are the teenie, tiny ( I can post dozens of examples) few who abuse the system.  

Here’s a couple of other things about James that I noticed. He went from the military, straight into a government job where he became eligible to retire at the age of fifty. That dreaded big government he and his ilk hate, is who he worked for. And that dreaded government he worked for provided him with the pension that Ronald Reagan and the republican party don’t want anyone to have. That’s why they invented 401k’s. They weren’t funneling enough money to Wall Street, or enough company profits up to the top with pension plans so they concocted 401ks to steal (I urge you to watch that video) more from you. Everything that James has gotten for his hard work, is something that he’s voted against having. He says that he’s voted republican for thirty-two years.

And by the way, that finish line at age sixty-five wouldn’t exist at all, were it not for democrats. Republicans never wanted, and still don’t want you to have medicare or social security. They also don’t want for you to earn a living wage in exchange for working hard. Is anyone under the impression that cleaning office buildings is work for lazy people? Are they too lazy to work and too lazy to bootstrap themselves into college with that $7.25 an hour they wouldn’t even be earning if republicans had their way? Their whole fucking system is designed to keep you a lifelong wage slave. The only way you get anything in republican paradise, is to be born into it. If you’re not born into a family that can send you to college, you’re literally shit out of luck. You’re worse than shit out of luck, because they will treat you like a lazy piece of crap for not being able to get yourself to college on the crap wages they insist you should earn. I showed you in a post last week, that if you’re born poor in America, 70% of you will stay poor. Republicans like it that way. And poor republicans have been programmed to like it that way. That’s why they avail themselves of the opportunity to shit on someone else, every time they get a chance.

This post is already longer than I intended, so I’m going to wrap it up soon. The reason why James’ anecdotal Obamacare story matters, is because it runs contrary to his ideology. What he realized isn’t what he expected to realize. That just makes him more credible. Here’s the video where he talks about his struggle with his 2016 vote;

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And here’s a follow up he posted yesterday; 

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Notice how the second video lacked explanation? I wonder if that’s because it’s just an inexplicable decision? I believe that James will ultimately vote his own self interest because once the thinking starts, the programming really can’t reassert itself. I don’t know who the nominees are going to be, but I’m pretty sure that James won’t be voting republican.

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Mike Pence Will Never Be The Nominee

So Mike Pence, governor if Indiana is thinking of running for president. This tells me that his political instincts spectacularly suck.

I’m sure everyone knows that he signed a ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (or RFRA) last week. We already have a federal RFRA, but that one doesn’t go far enough for Indiana republican legislators. It doesn’t allow business to discriminate against (for example) the LGBT community because of their religious beliefs. This law not only empowers businesses to refuse to serve, hire, rent to, and a whole slew of other things to a member of the LGBT community, but it also shields them from being sued if they do.

A little context: there was a law suit in New Mexico (who has its own RFRA) called Elane Photography v Willock. That was a case where a same sex couple sued a photography studio for refusing to photograph their wedding. The New Mexico RFRA protects a business from being sued by the government over their "free exercise" of their religion. The defendants tried to use the New Mexico RFRA as a defense, but New Mexico’s state supreme court ruled that RFRA didn’t apply since the government wasn’t a party in the suit. Indiana decided they weren’t going to make that mistake, so their RFRA includes language that bars someone who was discriminated against from suing the bigot that did the discriminating.

Why did I start this post off by saying that Mike Pence’s political instincts suck? Because a poll taken earlier this month has 40% of republicans supporting marriage equality. While that’s not a majority yet, the context is really important; two years that number was 27%. The tide is turning, and it’s turning fast. The republican presidential primaries don’t start for another eight months, and the general election is almost a year and a half away. What do you think the numbers are going to look like then?

Mike Pence is pandering to that charming republican base that the world is leaving behind. You don’t have to be a forward thinker to see that’s a bad idea. All you have to do is to look at the polls for today. But beyond that, the thing that really makes Pence a political idiot, is the fact that he hasn’t noticed that the only candidate who is officially in the race right now, is playing to the same base. So if no other republican comes into the primary by making a play for the dinosaur base, Pence is going to be splitting that vote with Cruz. That base represents roughly 24% of us. It’s that 24% that approved of Bush until the bitter end. The 24% that thought Sarah Palin was awesome even after it was clear that she didn’t know anything, and that English may well be her second language.

As if making a play for the base, when the only candidate in the race is going after those same people isn’t dumb enough, he hasn’t noticed something really relevant about recent history. No republican has successfully pivoted from the base to the middle for the general election. Mitt Romney certainly didn’t do it. His pivot turned into a spin, which turned into a face plant. McCain couldn’t pull it off either. He got a bigger ass kicking in the general than Romney got. That "bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" idiocy wasn’t forgotten by the general electorate who were tired of war.

George W Bush didn’t run as a whackadoodle in the primary but then again, he didn’t have to. He had the Bush name. That’s something I will never understand either. Poppy is not a popular president among republicans. They never talk about his awesomeness. So why the hell would you vote for the idiot (it was clear he was an idiot in the primaries) son of a president you don’t hold in high esteem? And now they have to pretend like the son’s presidency didn’t happen either. W is persona non grata at the conventions and everywhere else. And now they’re thinking about voting for the brother and son of the two presidents they have to pretend never existed? How long do they think they can keep this up? I think that one hundred years from now, when republicans are still only acknowledging Ronald Reagan as their awesome president, someone is going to notice there’s something wrong with them.

But I digress. My point is that this mythological pivot from the whackadoodle right to the middle has never been pulled off. Anyone who thinks they can do it, isn’t playing the smart odds.

Signing RFRA was the dumbest thing he could have done at the very time he’s thinking about a presidential run. The legislature is going to have to go back to eliminate the really fucked up language in Indiana’s RFRA, and Pence is going to have to sign the amended version. Yes, they will try and save face by claiming that they basically changed some punctuation marks, but that won’t matter. The base will know.

Every move he made this week was a mistake. Running for president after this will be an eve bigger mistake. He royally screwed up because he has no political instincts to speak of.          

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Tom Cotton, YOU Don’t Understand Our Constitutional System

So I learned something new yesterday that I thought I’d share with you. Remember the stupid Tom Cotton letter? You know, the condescending one he addressed to The Islamic Public Of Iran? You know, the one that started with,

"It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system…".

The one that then goes on to say,

"Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Well, in a delicious twist of irony, it appears that nothing Tom Cotton said in his dumbass letter is true. Nothing, except maybe the spelling of his name in his signature. The president can negotiate and bind this deal without a single member of congress weighing in, and it cannot be undone by the next president. So if you’re keeping score, that would be the trifecta of wrong on the part of the whackadoodle freshman senator from Arkansas.

I learned that there are three kinds of international agreements. From the article;

"…..these forms of international agreements include: “treaties,” which receive the approval of two-thirds or more of the Senate; “congressional-executive agreements,” which receive the authorization or approval of a majority of both houses of Congress; and “sole executive agreements,” which are concluded by the President on his own constitutional authority without formal congressional or senatorial participation."

Naturally, I did some more research since one source is never going to cut it for me. I found some background information on FindLaw. The constitution doesn’t exactly make a distinction between treaties and agreements (of either flavor), but Thomas Jefferson did broach the subject in a report he prepared for George Washington while he (Jefferson) was Secretary Of State. Here are his words;

"Considering the value of the interests we have at stake and considering the smallness of difference between foreign and native tonnage on French vessels alone, it might perhaps be thought advisable to make the sacrifice asked, and especially if it can be so done as to give no title to other the most favored nations to claim it. If the act should put French vessels on the footing of those of natives, and declare it to be in consideration of the favors granted us by the arrets of December 1787, and December 7, 1788 (and perhaps this would satisfy them), no nation could then demand the same favor without offering an equivalent compensation. It might strengthen, too, the tenure by which those arrets are held, which must be precarious so long as they are gratuitous.

It is desirable in many instances to exchange mutual advantages by legislative acts rather than by treaty, because the former, though understood to be in consideration of each other, and therefore greatly respected, yet when they become too inconvenient can be dropped at the will of either party; whereas stipulations by treaty are forever irrevocable but by joint consent, let a change of circumstances render them ever so burdensome."

In the first fifty years of the US’s independence, sixty treaties were made compared to twenty-seven executive agreements. When WWII started, the count was at eight hundred treaties and twelve hundred executive agreements. For the period between 1940 and 1989, there were seven hundred and fifty-nine treaties and thirteen thousand and sixteen executive agreements. In 1989, the US was party to eight hundred and ninety treaties and five thousand one hundred and seventeen executive agreements made by Saint Ronny of Republican Mythology.

I know what you’re thinking at this point; those are just numbers so what kind of executive agreements are we talking about? Good question. The peace agreement with Vietnam in 1973 was an executive agreement. The "Destroyers for Bases Agreement of 1940" was an executive agreement that FDR signed. He gave the UK fifty overage destroyers in exchange for 99-year leases on certain British naval bases in the Atlantic. The Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq that George W Bush made didn’t require a congressional vote, so that was an executive agreement. So these aren’t insignificant agreements.

I found a myriad of court cases that uphold the authority of executive agreements. You can find those pretty easily if you’re interested in doing some more research. The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of executive agreements several times, starting with United States v Belmont in 1937. There’s Dames & Moore v. Regan, and Weinberger v. Rossi, and several more similar SCOTUS decisions. Those are just a few of many, but you get the point.

So to recap:

  • Executive agreements have been made without the approval of congress, starting with our first president.
  • These executive agreements have been pretty substantial agreements to do everything from establishing peace, to trading arms, to defining the length of a US occupation.
  • The Supreme Court has been upholding the authority of these agreements over and over again for decades.
  • Tom Cotton and his forty-six republican peers in congress are complete idiots, who should avail themselves of the large staff they each possess to do the type of research I managed to do with just me, my computer, and my tired eyes.

This stupid letter of Tim Cotton’s is going to do the opposite of what he intended for it to do. Instead of derailing these talks with Iran and humiliating President Obama, he has strengthened the resolve of both our president and the Iranians who have been publicly mocking Cotton. And he is once and for all going to prove the "three dimensional chess" credit that Obama has been getting getting for six years now.      

 

 

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Republican Contempt For The Constitution

In case you missed it yesterday, forty-seven republicans in the senate sent a letter to the Ayatollah of Iran, letting him know that Obama’s word in the negotiations is basically meaningless. Think I’m being hyperbolic? See for yourself;

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.
 
We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.
 
First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.
 

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics.  For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.  As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

Here’s the thing; congress’ role with regard to foreign treaties, is to vote on a deal after the president has done the negotiating. Congress does not enter into treaties with foreign countries. And it’s unprecedented for congress to step in to halt a treaty. This has literally never happened before.

These idiots think they stuck it to the black guy but what they actually did, was take another step toward turning the US into the clown car of developed countries. Step one was with the perpetual government shutdowns over deciding whether to pay for the spending they already approved (and spent). That was nice. Those headlines all around the world that basically said, "WTF, United States?" were awesome. So was the downgrading of our credit rating. So now what they’ve done, in addition to letting the world know that we don’t take our debt all that seriously, is to tell the world that we don’t take our president all that seriously and neither should they.

I’ve never witnessed this level of disrespect for the office of the presidency. Not even when it was deserved in 2000, when the president was selected by the Supreme Court (it’s a fact, look it up), rather than duly elected by the citizens of the United States. No one in congress threw a temper tantrum to subvert the powers of the executive branch, just because the presidency wasn’t legitimately won by that occupant of the oval office. I didn’t see this level of disrespect when congress passed The Boland Amendment explicitly banning president Reagan from "overthrowing the government of Nicaragua or provoking a war between Nicaragua and Honduras". Reagan flat out ignored that law and went ahead and did as he pleased anyway, and that congress never undermined him the way this congress is undermining President Obama.

These were legitimately questionable presidencies and still, congress respected the authority given to the president by the constitution. Why? Well for one, I don’t think it ever occurred to them to so thoroughly crap on the constitution, the way this congress has.

But more importantly, I want to believe that there was some thought given to precedent. This moronic republican congress is utterly incapable of calculating the ramifications of their actions. President Obama has less than two years left in office so shitting on him in public doesn’t have much of an upside if you really think about it. It is well within congress’ power not to ratify any deal Obama makes with Iran. From the constitution;

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…..

All they had to do, was to wait for their turn to vote on any deal Obama may have made with Iran. This letter wasn’t about killing the treaty. It was about undermining Obama. They weren’t afraid that Obama was going to make a bad deal, as their leader President Netanyahu warned. They were afraid that he was going to make a really good deal that was going to neutralize this bogeyman they love so much, for good. But they actually did way more than that. They permanently undermined the executive branch. They diminished not only this president, but all future presidents, as well as all future congresses.

They literally turned the United States government into the laughing stock of the world. They turned themselves into a joke.

Read me now, quote me later; they insured that President Obama will have an approval rating greater than or equal to the 68% that President Clinton had when he left office. I’ll go a step further so that you don’t have to wait nearly two years to see if I know what the hell I’m talking about; by summer, President Obama’s approval rating is going to be around 50%. These morons in congress have ensured that President Obama will be seen as one of the most beloved presidents in history. Why? Because the American people don’t like to see their president picked on by congress or anyone else. We’ve seen this movie before with Bill Clinton. On December 18, 1998, the house spent the whole day debating the impeachment of President Clinton. On December 19, 1998, the house approved two articles of impeachment. On December 19 – 20, 1998, Gallup reports the highest approval rating of the Clinton presidency at 73%.

My prediction isn’t wishful thinking, or rectally generated. I usually have a basis I can point to when I embark on the fool’s errand of making predictions!

Here’s another thing that congress didn’t take into account; sanctions against Iran. We alone, can’t successfully damage Iran with our sanctions. We have partners all around the world that joined us in squeezing Iran hard enough to get them to the negotiating table. I suspect that more than a few of our allies in these sanctions is going to question whether going along with the US still seems like a good idea. The sanctions that Obama negotiated had their desired effect; getting Iran to the negotiating table. If our congress is saying that we won’t be sitting on the other side of that table, under any circumstances, I don’t see why our allies would continue with the sanctions.

There is literally no upside for congressional republicans or the American people at large, in what those forty-seven idiotic senators did yesterday. They accomplished nothing for themselves, for you, or for the rest of the world. And if they get to their goal of starting a war with Iran, it’s going to be your kids that fight it.

Elections have consequences. This last election had nothing but negative consequences for all of us, regardless of party affiliation.

 

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Republicans: A Party Of The People

It’s shutdown time again kiddies! But fear not, because we’re close to accepting a republican proposal to avoid all of that ugliness. I wanted to share some of the awesomeness that republicans are insisting on extorting in exchange for keeping the fucking country running for a few more months (cause they’re doing us a favor here).

We’re going to basically eliminate a provision of Dodd-Frank that requires banks separate their trades of financial derivatives from their consumer services. This means that republicans want to go back to federally insuring fucking JP Morgan Chase from any big losses they suffer on their roulette wheel of derivatives gambling.

YAY more bailouts!

They want to raise caps on campaign donations from $32,400 to $324,000 because the people have spoken and we obviously all want to see more lobbyist money piped into our elections. Here’s how the New York Times describes the impact:

Donors could write checks to the new accounts three times as large as the contributions normally allowed to party committees. Initial calculations suggested that the bill would expand the amount that any one person could donate to party committees to more than $777,000 each year from what is now a maximum of $97,200.

WHEW! Thank god that heavy burden of campaign contribution caps has been lifted from the average American’s shoulders. Here’s the great part of that provision; no one wants to take credit for inserting it into the budget bill. But all you need to do, is look at public statements regarding campaign finance to know that is was definitely a republican.

YAY oligarchy! 

Another provision says that no local or federal funds can be used to “to enact any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution”. So fuck your vote, marijuana is going to remain illegal regardless of what the people have voted for.

YAY states rights!

The republicans insist on more spending ($1.46 billion) on planes that the DOD doesn’t want (15 EA-18G).

YAY fiscal responsibility!

I’m going to need some help here: who does this sound good to?

Here’s your chance to offer up an opinion without being asked for a shred of evidence to back it up. Take advantage of it republicans and help us all out.

Who wants to give Boeing more of your money in the form of corporate welfare for planes that don’t work, and that DOD doesn’t want?

Who thinks that raising campaign contributions is going to help you?

Who here is interested in paying for another bailout?

What part of this is beneficial to you personally?

And lastly, what does your party stand for? Can you tell me? I need to know what you’re voting for because frankly, I’m at a loss here and I need some help.

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