Archive for National

Sep
11

Stupid is as stupid does

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Many have commented on the recent Facebook posting by a Georgia Republican state senator. Fran Millar complained about siting an early voting location in a South DeKalb mall heavily used by African American residents, a location with large black churches nearby. Millar then made things worse in followup comments:

“I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.”

That feeling among Republicans goes back at least to Paul Weyrich’s oldy-goldy, Goo-Goo syndrome speech from 1980.

George Chidi, a Georgia journalist writing in the Guardian, acknowledges the partisan flavor of the location decision, calling the plan “a gigantic middle finger to Republicans intent on suppressing black voters.” But if Republicans want to head off “the coming demographic Armageddon,” Chidi believes, they might just want to start courting those black voters.

Considering that early voting will begin in a few weeks, I want pivot to Millar’s crack about preferring “more educated voters” to more voters generally. It’s easy to sneer at Millar for (basically) calling constituents stupid. Besides being condescending, it’s not the message to send people right before you ask for their votes.

Yet, I sometimes hear the same from lefties about poor, white, Republican voters. Occasionally, they just blurt out that voters are stupid. More often it’s couched in a dog-whistle complaint about people voting against their best interests. Which, if you think about it, is just a more polite way of saying the same thing.

As a field organizer in the South, I remind canvassers that, no, those voters are not stupid. They’re busy. With jobs and kids and choir practice and soccer practice and church and PTA and Friday night football and more. Unlike political junkies, they don’t keep up with issues. They don’t have time for the issues. When they go to the polls they are voting to hire someone to keep up with the issues for them. And when they look at a candidate — your candidate — what they are really asking themselves is simple: “Is this someone I can trust?”

One of my favorite southernisms is, “I wouldn’t trust anyone my dog doesn’t like.” That, I caution canvassers, is how most Americans really vote, like it or not. And if you don’t purge the thought, those “low information” voters? They will know you think they’re stupid before you do. Right before you ask for their votes.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
11

Failing at Thought

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Sigh.

Then she said she wanted the government to force McDonalds to pay more “so I won’t have to struggle.”

If you think it is the government’s job to force your employer, who is more likely than not paying you before he pays himself, to raise your wages, you’ve got a problem and it is not your employer’s problem and it is not my problem.

I don’t think that McDonalds needs to worry about making payroll.

Without struggle, there is no progress. Forcing your employer, via government action, to pay you more is not struggling.

They missed the part about me being a conservative and not libertarian and therefore supporting a social safety net for people who cannot take care of themselves.

Nice struggling straw man there. And your whole position seems to be that government should not force employers to raise wages which, without even raising the minimum wage from it’s paltry $7.25 an hour, it is already doing. Sounds like you would abolish the minimum wage. So definitely not libertarian.

And apparently it’s a conservative first principle to allow markets to race to the bottom and have everyone else pick up the tab for their failure. But I didn’t get the part about the safety net being for people who cannot take care of themselves. People who hold a full time job can’t take care of themselves? Anyway sounds a whole lot like redistributin’ the wealth.

Meanwhile another conservative has a different take on it:

“The bottom line is that the American government right now spends $250 billion a year on social welfare programs to benefit the working poor,” he said. “What we have right now is the classic case of businesses privatizing the benefits of the workers, but socializing the costs — shifting the burden to taxpayers and the rest of society. And I think businesses should stand on their own two feet and pay their own workers, rather than force the taxpayers to make up the difference.”

Standing on their own two feet also known as picking yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Categories : Economy, Labor
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“It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. I am not willing to defend them anymore.” – retiring Wisconsin state Senator Dale Schultz, the sole Senate Republican to oppose early voting limits

The New York Times editorial page the other day turned it’s ire on voter the fraud squad. Specifically, on Texas where the Justice Department and other groups are in court challenging its absurdly restrictive 2011 identity card law. (Almost as absurd as North Carolina’s.) The Times states the obvious: These laws are about erecting obstacles to Democratic-leaning voters voting.

The laws’ backers rely on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling upholding an Indiana voter-ID law, but at least two of the judges in that case have since admitted they were wrong. Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge who approved the law, said last fall that voter-ID laws were “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” And former Justice John Paul Stevens, who voted with the majority, said that in retrospect the dissent was “dead right.”

Rather than find a way to appeal to a wider swath of voters, Republican lawmakers rig the game with pointless obstacles to voting. The courts are finally catching on, but in the meantime, many of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens are shut out of the democratic process.

Oh, you have to give the voter fraud squads their due for dedication. Whatever else, they are persistent. The “evidence” they produce to support their claims of rampant fraud are voluminous. What they lack in quality they make up for in quantity. Fraud theorists have never produced actual wrongdoers in numbers to justify claims of widespread fraud. But statistical analyses? They produce those in bulk.

They’ve got nothing. But we are to be impressed by the sheer volume of the nothing. So much so that we will agree to requiring every American to present a photo identity card before voting. Because nothing says freedom like a government official asking to see your papers.

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Categories : Vote Suppression
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Sep
08

Privileged lanes

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London bicycle courier, Oxford Street
Photo: ProfDEH, Wikimedia Commons

Can’t stop thinking about Ferguson, MO.

Over at A Little More Sauce, jdowsett draws an analogy between bicycle riding and white privilege that doesn’t rely on impugning anyone’s character. He very cleverly uses the highway infrastructure’s bias towards cars over bicycles to illuminate how the social infrastructure is skewed in ways many rarely notice.

I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.

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Your dystopian future has arrived. NPR’s May series, Guilty and Charged, explored the spreading judicial practice of judging people guilty of misdemeanor offenses then imprisoning those unable to pay fines and an expanding menu of fees. (The poor.) But while practice of billing defendants for their punishment may be relatively new, the municipal courts in St. Louis County, MO, where the unarmed Michael Brown was shot by police last month, resemble something out of Dickens. Or else Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Radley Balko (Rise of the Warrior Cop) painted a detailed portrait of the county’s legal culture — if you can call it that — in the Washington Post last week.

It’s a world in which white flight created a string of subdivisions-turned-towns stretching north and west from St. Louis. As black families followed, whites retreated or quickly established dozens of zoned, postage-stamp-sized municipalities.

“The state’s one requirement before giving you the power to zone was that you had to incorporate and draw up a city plan,” [University of Iowa historian Colin] Gordon says. “That plan could be as simple as getting an engineer to slap a ‘single family’ zone over the entire development. Your subdivision is now a town.”

Gordon says this is why the towns in St. Louis can have such unusual names, such as Town & Country or Bellefontaine Neighbors. “Look at a place like Black Jack in North County. It began as a private subdivision in the 1970s. When they saw the looming threat of housing projects, they quickly zoned the neighborhood as single-family and incorporated as a municipality.” Today Black Jack is more than 80 percent black. There’s a similar town of about 1,200 people near Ferguson, just across the street from the Normandy Country Club. It’s 91 percent black, has a 35 percent poverty rate, and has a median household income 40 percent below the state median. Its name? Country Club Hills.

As black families filtered in, the towns too small to sustain local government with property and sales taxes made police departments into profit centers that generate revenues by shaking down residents, most of them poor.

“You see that sort of thing a lot,” [legal aid attorney Michael-John] Voss says. “We’ll get a client who was pulled over and cited for failure to provide proof of insurance, or driving with a suspended license. But there’s no additional citation for a moving violation. So why was she pulled over in the first place?”

But the stop might generate a string of violations, fines and fees that, if not addressed, result in arrest warrants and court costs.

There are many towns in St. Louis County where the number of outstanding arrest warrants can exceed the number of residents, sometimes several times over. No town in Jackson County comes close to that: The highest ratios are in the towns of Grandview (about one warrant for every 3.7 residents), Independence (one warrant for every 3.5 residents), and Kansas City itself (one warrant for every 1.8 residents).

St. Louis County is a dispiriting labyrinth of speed traps and police demands to see permits and papers. Those so targeted are unlikely to afford the fees, much less an attorney to help get them discharged or reduced. Balko explains that with 23,457 pending arrest warrants in 2013 in Pine Lawn (roughly 7.3 per resident), the town brought in about $576 per resident. Antonio Morgan’s story is especially instructive and infuriating. Just trying to support his family by repairing cars makes Morgan a police target, like Brazil‘s “terrorist” heating and air conditioning engineer Archibald “Harry” Tuttle.

It’s a place where the poor are prey, and the prey are black. With “the every day harassment and degradation” of such a system, it’s a wonder Ferguson, MO didn’t explode sooner.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Corruption, National, Race
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Sep
06

9/11 Daze

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George W. Bush made me a blogger of me. Writing was the only way of dealing with the intensity of the frustration at America’s
Bush-era follies:

A flood of post-September 11 articles asked how the attacks happened, what we would do next, and why terrorists hate us. One savvy pundit asked, Would America keep its head?

We invaded Iraq on trumped-up intelligence. We conducted illegal surveillance on our own citizens. We imprisoned people without charge, here and abroad. We rendered prisoners for torture and tortured others ourselves in violation of international law. All the while, millions of staunch, law-and-order conservatives supported and defended it, and still do. Vigorously.

Did America keep its head? Uh, no.

Just as a friend’s PTSD flares up each year at this time (she lost a loved one in the New York attack), we’re still coping with the aftermath of decisions made by Bush’s Mayberry Machiavellis. So sure that they were God’s instruments (if not Halliburton’s), they could rationalize all of it. Their elaborate justification memos in legaleze are still trickling out.

“We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief .?.?. that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority” to order warrantless wiretapping — “an authority that Congress cannot curtail,” Goldsmith wrote in a redacted 108-page memo dated May 6, 2004.

The program, code-named Stellar Wind, enabled the NSA to collect communications on U.S. soil when at least one party was believed to be a member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate, and at least one end of the communication was overseas.

The ACLU obtained the memos through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Staff attorney Patrick Toomey tells the Washington Post,

“Unfortunately, the sweeping surveillance they sought to justify is not a thing of the past,” Toomey said. “The government’s legal rationales have shifted over time, but some of today’s surveillance programs are even broader and more intrusive than those put in place more than a decade ago by President Bush.”

Now that Bush is home in Texas painting and Vice President Dark Side is still stumping for renewed U.S. intervention in the region his intervention helped destabilize, we are still dealing with the after effects of their misrule.

Has any one else noticed: Have any of these former global players from the Bush administration actually set foot outside U.S. borders since leaving office? Can they?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Torture
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Sep
04

Like Beer? You’ll love Koch.

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Tapes and transcripts leaked recently from the Koch brothers’ annual summit meeting are filled with eye-popping details. For example, their efforts to market their free-market gospel to uninterested young people are as ham-fisted as Fox News Channel’s ill-fated 1/2 Hour News Hour. Joan Walsh writes:

“I have a big surprise for everyone here: Young people like beer,” joked Evan Feinberg of the Koch-funded Generation Opportunity. At least I think he was trying to make a joke. GenOpp is the group behind those “Creepy Uncle Sam” anti-Obamacare ads that backfired against the right. So understandably, Feinberg didn’t mention Creepy Uncle Sam, but bragged about GenOpp’s recent “Free the Brews” campaign, which used his generation’s interest in craft brewing to advance the Kochs’ deregulation agenda.

They hope to use phony interest in beer and food trucks to entice young people into trying Koch. Essentially, this is GenOpp’s recruitment pitch to twenty-somethings:

Do you like beer?

Hey, me too!

You know, we should get together and lower marginal tax rates.

Walsh calls Feinberg’s career “a case study in the way wingnut welfare creates a culture of dependency, or alternatively, the debilitating effects of affirmative action for white people.”

Jokes aside, this approach reminded me of … something. Oh, yeah. There are lots of sources on this, but this one will do:

To more effectively recruit new believers, cult members sometimes organize special events, a tactic which allows them to camouflage their true motives. They know that people are more likely to attend a networking mixer, a youth group or a charity fundraiser than they are to sign up for an information session on the interdimensional doomsday prophesy of Gur the Dragon of Death.

Except in this case the sessions were framed as a death match between the Kochs and the collectivists:

In his speech titled “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” Charles Koch echoed an op-ed he wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal in both his paranoia and self-pity. The billionaire oil industrialist, hosting some of the most powerful men in Washington, without irony claimed in his speech that he and his brother were “put squarely in front of the firing squad.” He later framed the path ahead for America as a binary choice between freedom and collectivism, a catchall term he used to describe liberalism, socialism, and fascism.

Audio and transcripts are here if this sort of thing from the Kochification Church is your cup of Kool-Aid.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Religion
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Sep
03

No Free Lunch

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Our friends on the right get almost gleeful whenever they see an opening to use their superior command of economics to explain to liberals how the world really works.

Yet, the basic concept they themselves have trouble wrapping their brains around is “no free lunch.”

Gov. Sam Brownback’s tea party-driven economic experiment in Kansas is taking a toll. The latest poll shows him trailing his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, by 8 points. The Kansas City Star says Brownback is “paying a political price for bold leadership.” This is what bold leadership looks like:

Brownback has slashed income taxes, cut thousands off welfare, curbed abortion rights, tried gaining control of judicial appointments and made a failed attempt to cut arts funding.

When the moderate wing of his party stood in the way, Brownback successfully campaigned for conservatives more in step with his political philosophy so he could exert a tighter grip on the statehouse.

The result? His state’s economy is headed into the tank after slashing income taxes at Brownback’s urging, with more cuts scheduled and growth below projections. Standard & Poors downgraded Kansas’ credit rating in August. Davis charges that another Brownback term will bring cuts to Kansas schools.

Five hundred women from across the state gathered last week at the Taking Back Kansas convention in Wichita, put on by Women for Kansas and chaired by Lynn Stephan. The bipartisan group aims to turn out Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in November. Most of the candiidates they support are Democrats.

“Women in this state are scared,” Stephan said. “We’re going broke” under the leadership of Brownback’s tea-party fiscal ideas. Schools and hospitals in some small towns may have to close, she said, and then “the town will dry up and blow away.”

Although she considers herself a moderate Republican, Stephan said that “the Republican party abandoned me 10 years ago.”

That’s about two decades after the party abandoned reality for the magical thinking of trickle down economics and started worshipping the Market as a deity.

As much as conservatives discuss curtailing entitlements, many of them behave as if they are entitled to kick ass on any country they feel is stepping out of line, and to doing so without paying for it. They feel entitled to beat their chests about how exceptional America is, and entitled to the public infrastructure their parents and grandparents built with their taxes and sweat in making it a world power. Yet they seem to have no sense of pride in maintaining it. Not their responsibility. They’re taxed enough already.

They complain their taxes are too high, and all the while the country is running a budget deficit that proves they are not paying enough to cover its costs and to keep it from crumbling. A report last year ranked U.S. highways 18th in the world, behind Korea, Luxembourg, and Saudi Arabia.

Point this out, and conservatives insist that the problem is government is spending too much. That we need to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse — the bane of Republicans’ perpetual motion economy.

See, America could maintain its infrastructure, fund top-notch schools, and support a costly global empire indefinitely without raising taxes just by eliminating the friction of waste, fraud, and abuse.

And by installing this simple device — one that big oil companies have tried to suppress — your car can get 500 miles per gallon. Order now!

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Economy, Republicans
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Sep
01

Now You’re Talking

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“Folks, they want to destroy public education,” the state Senate minority leader told a room full of supporters last year. He said it as though he had just figured it out.

Since the Republican sweep in 2010, Democrats have spent so much time in state capitols defending against one frontal assault after another coming from yards away. They tend not to notice troop movements on the fringes of the political battlefield. Is The Village any different?

Outside the bubbles, it’s been clear for years that destroying public education is where charters, vouchers, and online schools are taking us under the guise of helping the disadvantaged. But one rarely sees it put so bluntly as this week. The WaPo’s Valerie Strauss quotes the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of public policy and economic development:

“The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a workforce in the future.”

Yup. Like Robocop, your kids are product. Maybe. Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson explained that globalization means, “I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business … American businesses will adapt.” So unless the little darlings offer some upside to their bottom lines, they add no value. Why should the 1% pay to educate American children when other nations will pay to educate theirs for us? And besides, how much education do waiters and gardeners really need, anyway?

OTOH, if corporations could tap the unrealized potential of that government-guaranteed, recession-proof, half-trillion-dollar stream of public tax dollars states “waste” each year on not-for-profit, K-12 public education? The Big Enchilada? Now you’re talking.

Which is why, as the Education Opportunity Network explains, charters don’t need ad campaigns. They need regulation. There are some good “mom and pop” charters out there, sure, but they are just small fry, bait for the bigger fish. The Progressive reports:

There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

It’s almost as if charters have become what the Progressive calls “a racket.”

Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.

In 2010, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. has been an ALEC member, declared K-12 public education “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

The transformation has begun.

“Education entrepreneurs and private charter school operators could care less about innovation,” says [associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, Kristen] Buras. “Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on-the-cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities.”

Hide yer children. And yer wallets.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Education, National
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Sep
01

Happy Labor Day

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Categories : Labor, National
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