The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 22nd, 2014: We Have Our Own Local Scandal

Okay, it’s not on a par with Governor Chris Christie’s ever-spiraling George Washington Bridge scandal, nor is it anywhere close to Governor Pat McCrory’s Duke Energy woes, but it’s our scandal, so…

This one involves State Senator Greg Ball (R-NY40), who is no stranger to embarrassing controversies, whether it’s his stance on torture, or his “girlfriend” issues. This time, though, Senator Ball (who is, BTW, a “friend” of Sean Hannity and Fox News) may have committed Joe Biden’s nemesis: PLAGIARISM.

It seems that Senator Ball’s recently proposed legislation, which would prohibit any of New York’s “aquariums or sea parks” from exhibiting killer whales, contained language that appears to be lifted from at least one other source (and possibly a second.) What’s funny/silly/crazy about this is that one source was a teenaged student whose post on this subject originally appeared on The Huffington Post. Naturally, HuffPost has the goods on Ball’s latest pecadillo. Here’s an excerpt regarding the pertinent wording in the proposed bill:

From Senator Ball’s bill:

“In the United States, dolphin and marine animal parks, like SeaWorld, have become a part of an $8.4 billion industry. Accustomed to living in the ocean, and having an infinite amount of space to swim in, dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are place [sic] in captivity.”

From 17-year-old Donald Rapier’s original guest post on HuffPost:

“In the United States, dolphin and marine animal parks, like SeaWorld, have become a part of an $8.4 billion industry. Accustomed to living in the ocean, and having an infinite amount of space to swim in, dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are placed in captivity.”

Senator Ball is blaming a staffer, who has since been fired. This did not prevent City & State, a website devoted to NY politics, from naming Senator Ball to the “Losers” half of their “Winners and Losers” list/poll for this past week. And while this is certainly not the most serious scandal in the world, I trust that the “plagiarist” label will stick to Senator Ball for decades to come, just like it did to Vice-President Joe Biden.

Yeah, right, who am I kidding? This scandal will never plague State Senator Ball in the future, because IOKIYAR.

As an aside: Along Route 22 near the Pawling/Patterson town line, there’s been a billboard up for (what seems like) a couple of years, picturing head-shots of Senator Ball with his beloved Weimaraner. At some point in time, someone ripped off Ball’s entire face, leaving a big blank with some hair. The dog’s picture remains intact. I wish I knew who did it – it had to be deliberate – so that I could thank them for the laugh I get every time I notice it.

This is our daily open thread–discuss whatever you want!

Guest Blog: Occupy Ukraine?

Today’s guest blogging post (and open thread) is by our friend, TerrytheTurtle.

What is happening in Ukraine is awful, bloody, murderously awful. Depending on where you come from in your world view, there are at least three ways of looking at what is happening:

1. If you follow the Western media, it is about Ukraine wishing to “join the EU” (quotes because there are many sources of this over-simplification) and the coverage is dumbed down to this one point time and again. But the EU trade agreement Yanukovych refused to sign after promising to in his manifesto, is only the catalyst, the problems lie much deeper than that.

2. This is part of the Neo-Cold War, pitting American power against the Czar of All the Russias and his part-dictatorship, part-kleptocracy. If you read the full transcript of the intercepted Nuland phone call two weeks ago, there is no question the US is picking sides, and picking which opposition horse to back, the whole point of which seems to be, to use the violence in Ukraine to win ground in a wider struggle. And for his part, Putin, by blaming ‘entirely, the terrorists and radicals’ for the violence, is shamelessly backing his client, Yanukovych, just like he has backed Syria’s Assad. It seems the US and Putin are both ‘playing cards’ and the people of Kiev are doing the dying.

3. The third thesis is that what we are watching is the Occupy movement of Ukraine. Ukraine’s government is controlled by a very small number of hyper-rich Ukrainians who owe their riches to a perpetuation of the same style of oligarchy and kleptocracy that Vladimir Putin sits atop in neighbouring Russia. They want the massive income inequality and lack of social justice to continue – its good for business. But you won’t hear this in the Western media. That kind of discussion is too close to home and would remind people of what Occupy Wall Street was all about. When Yanukovych returned to power, in 2010, as president (in an election the EU certified as fair), mainly because the Orange Revolution had stalled in the world depression after the financial crisis, he changed the constitution away from the 2004 constitution: more power to him and his cronies. Corruption blossomed again. You know the formula: billionaires, owning politicians for favours, closing and selling off factories, looting the old industries where ordinary people made a living and punishing dissent. The Kochs and Waltons would love these people.

What do Ukrainians think about some of this? The most recent poll I could find (Feb 5th) said:

Showing divisions between Ukrainians on foreign policy, 48% said Ukraine should reconsider its rejection of an EU partnership, but 40.3% said it should not.

Asked if the protests should continue, 48% said yes and 45.1% said no.

These divisions have an ethnic and geographic element to them – west is more likely to be ethnic Ukrainian and east and south more Russian. But like the American south, the Russian-leaning part is voting for more income inequality, more Russian-style “democracy”. But Ukrainians seem to distrust the EU only a little less than Russia, especially when it comes to helping them now. It seems to me they feel like they are on their own.

OK, so all this geopolitics aside, you just have to look at the faces of the people in the streets and in the makeshift hospitals to get an idea of which of these theses is closest to the truth and it is complicated, even if I am getting some coaching.  :)  That ordinary Ukrainians just want the freedom to have their government represent them and protect their freedoms from foreign powers (all of them!) and from their own “entitled” citizens and corporations.  Just spend some time on the blogs (helpfully translated on request and forwarded to people like me by friends). You will see what I am seeing and hearing directly.

Yes, there are protesters with guns now and policemen have died, but today’s toll of death was far unbalanced to the 10s of thousands of mostly unarmed protesters, shot in the square, or beaten by police or paid thugs, the “tituski”, in the side streets as they try to leave to take care of families or escape the bloodshed. Or as volunteers try to treat them in makeshift hospitals while the police try to arrest them from the bloody floor where they lie.

Take a look at two of Putin's "radicals and terrorists."

Take a look at two of Putin’s “radicals and terrorists.”

Finally, and I wish it was finally, this article I was sent today goes roughly like this: A former policeman has come to Kiev to find his 19-year-old son, a student in Kiev. Like all fathers he wished his son did not go to the protests, but as a Ukrainian he was proud of his son to go. He holds in his hand the helmet he wore, covered in blood, a single sniper bullet hole in the helmet where his forehead was. Facebook posts are full of pictures of young people like this….

And yes, like Zooey said Thursday, this could be us too, someday soon.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 17th, 2014: Pick an Issue?

I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”

Which issue matters most to you in 2014?

__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare

__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy

__Raising the Minimum Wage

__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom

__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work

__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs

__Supporting Small Business Startups

__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology

Other:

I went with “Other”, more or less:

While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.

Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.

How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?

This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 15, 2014, The Myth of the One Percent

If you’re like me, you probably never heard of Tom Perkins before this week. And you’re sitting at your computer naked. Tom Perkins, it turns out, who I’m sure has never heard of you or me, is what they call a “venture capitalist.” They invest in other companies, sometimes saving them and turning them into profitable companies, sometimes stripping them of their assets and taking the money for themselves, and sometimes they provide seed money for companies that eventually become hugely successful behemoths like Amazon and Google, which is what Tommy’s little venture capital firm did. And he got rich…er. We know this is true by virtue of the fact that Tommy is still, to this day, a venture capitalist. Otherwise he’d be what we call “broke.” And because he made so much money doing whatever the hell it is that he does, he thinks he’s better than you or me. So much better that he actually wrote to the Wall Street Journal to tell them that the “attacks” on the top 1%-ers were just like Kristallnacht, except for the bloodshed and the part where the top 1%-ers were gunned down in the homes into which they were forced to move. But otherwise just like that. Which is absolutely ridiculous as evidenced by the fact that he’s alive to bitch and moan about how he’s treated.

I missed it at the time (not being a consumer of the Rupert Murdoch Propaganda Dissemination Machine), but he apparently took a lot of flak for those comments. The flak must not have bothered him because in a recent interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, he told the audience that “I think the parallel holds.” (He neglected to add “minus the bloodshed and gunfire.”) This happened at a Q&A session titled “The War on the 1%.”

Asked to offer one idea that could change the world, Perkins proposed a change to Americans’ voting rights: “You don’t get to vote unless you pay $1 in taxes…If you pay $1 million in taxes, you should get a million votes. How’s that?” (In an interview after the forum, Perkins said he was simply “trying to be outrageous.”)

In all fairness when you watch him say that, he does kind of sort of look like he’s trying to be a little over the top, but he also reminds me of “Victor/Victoria,” the story of a woman, pretending to be man, pretending to be a woman. He meant it, but he was only joking, but he really did mean it. And he would be surprised to learn just how wrong he is, too.

You see, he’s wrong because he thinks such a proposal (as given) would take away the right to vote for the 47%-ers, the ones the RW capitalists think pay no taxes at all because they pay no federal income taxes. And they pay no federal income taxes because they earn too little to have to pay federal income tax. But that doesn’t mean they pay no taxes at all. If they drive they buy gas, and so they pay gasoline taxes. They also pay sales taxes on at least some of their purchases throughout the year. So it’s quite plain that they pay at least “$1 in taxes,” so they would still get to vote under the Perkins Plan. But that’s not the only thing he was wrong about.

He also said that “if Germany had American gun laws, there would have never been a Hitler.” Now, if by that he meant that had Germany had a Constitution which guaranteed some kind of right to own and carry (i.e., “keep and bear”) guns, then maybe he would be right. Maybe. But like many gun rights advocates, Perkins probably falsely believed that Hitler took away gun rights. Actually, the opposite is true. Hitler expanded gun rights and only took them away from a few. And considering that the German army had more than just guns (they had tanks, planes, and, for a while at least, submarines), it’s hard to believe the Jews could have fought their way out of Germany to find a home elsewhere. This is just lazy, NRA-style thinking.

He was also wrong when he defended Capitalism by saying, “Look, free-market capitalism, it’s what has created most of the wealth in the world, and it’s the only way to proceed. Free. Market. Capitalism.” That’s really a stupid thing to say when you apply some thought to it. You’re using a measuring rod (wealth) that only applies to one system (Capitalism) to measure how well that system (Capitalism) does at this one measure (creating wealth.) That’s like saying “American-style football is the best way to score touchdowns.” Other economic systems do not have excessive wealth as one of their goals, so naturally you won’t find many people excessively wealthy in those systems. And that’s actually a good thing and a goal we should have here in the United States. You see, Capitalism only works when money circulates throughout the system. When I sell you something, I use part of the money you give me to pay the vendor from whom I purchased what I sold you. I also use part of it to buy something for myself from another vendor. That vendor, in turn, pays his vendor for what I bought from him, and uses the leftover money to buy something else for himself. And so on and so on. (I’m not an Economics professor, so we’re not going to go into all the complicated things rich people exploit to increase their cut of these transactions.) Somewhere along the way, sometimes at many places along the way, people in the top 1% get their cut of these transactions. Except they’re not spending their cut, because they already have so much money they don’t need to spend it. As Nick Hanauer explained in his TED talk, those who make a thousand times as much money each year as you do not buy a thousand times as many things as you.

Perky also tried to gain sympathy for people in his wealth stratosphere saying, ”I don’t think people have any idea what the 1 percent is actually contributing to America.” To that I need only say two words, “Koch Brothers.”

To which Perky would answer that they’re suffering from “persecution,” and that our nation’s progressive tax code is “persecution” of the wealthy. Not at all. When this country had a real progressive tax code (back when we had the last fiscally conservative Republican President, a man known as Dwight David “Ike the Spike” Eisenhower), high tax rates kept income inequality in check. When we hear the rich paid 91% in taxes back in 1960, it wasn’t 91% on every dollar they earned. It was 91% on every dollar they earned above $300,000. It was 83% on income between $100,000 and $150,000. [For proper perspective, a head of household paid 20% tax on income up to $2,000, and it went up about 1-4% for every $2,000 for a while. Then the cutoff levels increased between tax brackets until you reached 91% on all income above $300,000. On a total income of $2,000, you would pay $400 in income tax, leaving you $1,600 for your other expenses in life. People actually lived on that kind of income back then. On total income of $400,000 (and there were people making that kind of money, and even more), you would pay $326,480 in income taxes, leaving you a mere $73,520 on which to support your family. And remember, you could get by on only $1,600, so there was really no reason to bitch and complain because an additional $100,000 of income brought you only $9,000 after taxes. At that point, you could already have anything you wanted - short of what the super-duper-uber-rich had - and you probably didn't even notice that extra money.] It may sound like punishment if you were the type who felt you should have every dollar of income you “earned,” but in reality it helped keep our country back then from turning into what our country has become now – a land where having billions of dollars puts you in control of practically everyone else’s lives. Back in 1960, we decided that you, as an individual not elected to govern, should not have that much power over people’s lives. We weren’t going to take everything, but we were also going to make sure you didn’t end up with everything. Because then the money wouldn’t flow and the economy would collapse.

And speaking of income inequality, Perky wouldn’t go there. After calling the government “a giant beast which has to be fed,” he claimed taxes would have to go “up and up and up.” (Really? Did his accountant tell him how much less in taxes he started paying when Bush cut taxes in 2001?) But when he was reminded that government financing helped create the Internets (“It’s a series of tubes.”) that helped make him wealthy, he shot back, “Adam, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m not going to go there.” You see, there are incredibly wealthy people, like Tom Perkins, who think that they owe nobody for the vast amount of wealth they’ve managed to accumulate in life, one way or another. They think of themselves as “self-made millionaires.” The reality is that there is no such thing in this country as a self-made millionaire. Whether you did it legally or illegally, every dollar you earned was done within the framework of a Liberal Society that provided both the foundation and some of the building blocks that make it possible for you to make that money. You didn’t build the roads you used to move your goods around. You didn’t hire, train, and headquarter the police forces you relied on to protect you and your business. You didn’t create the education system and hire the teachers it uses to train the people you would hire to do the things you can’t do yourself. You didn’t get rich by yourself; you did it with our help. So you are not entitled to “every dollar you earned.” In fact, when your other business ventures failed before this one took off, you didn’t end up on your own. We were there to help you out, even to help you get started on the business that did make you rich.

And you rich people are not the true job creators, a myth the Republican party you bought and own has been spreading for decades. You don’t create jobs, you create businesses that supply consumers (most of them middle class) with goods or services they want. (And sometimes people who have nothing start those businesses.) If consumers don’t want what you have to offer, you’re not going to keep employing people to do nothing, so you’re going to fire them. That doesn’t make you a job creator at all. So stop acting like the country owes you a favor.

So to all you Tom Perkins in the world, get over yourselves. You’re not more important than the rest of us, and you don’t deserve to have more of a say in who governs this country than we do. You get one vote. We all get one vote. And whether or not you choose to believe it, the world can get along just fine without you, Tom Perkins. Do you really think you can get along without us?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 8, 2014: Why Republican Religiosity is Wrong

According to my dictionary, the definition of “fact” is

n. 1. the quality of existing or of being real; actuality; truth.
2. something known to exist or have happened.
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation.

Facts are important. When Reality offers a challenge, you must deal with facts if you’re going to solve the problem. You can’t solve a real problem if you ignore the facts, or worse, try to act as if the opposite were true. Now look at the definition of “belief”:

n. 1. something believed; an opinion or conviction.
2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to vigorous proof.
3. confidence, faith, or trust.
4. a religious tenet or tenets

Notice the difference between these two words. Facts have the quality of being real and actual, where beliefs do not require any reality or actuality. You can believe something with all your heart but it won’t make it a fact if it’s not actually true. Beliefs can be wrong (and often are), but facts, by their very definition, cannot be wrong, because they are what is true, what actually happened. When it comes to education, you cannot treat belief as equal to fact. You cannot give an opinion or conviction equal weight with something real, actual or true. It may, in the long run, turn out that what someone believes is true, but that doesn’t justify teaching it as an actual fact, reliable as anything based on scientific evidence or experiment. Just because you believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean everyone else should be taught your belief as it were an actual fact. Especially, and I cannot emphasize this enough, if your belief is a religious one.

There are many Americans (far, far too many, IMHO) who believe that The Bible is factually true, that it is literally the Word of God, and that it should be taught in public schools. I have yet to hear any of these proponents specify which version of the Bible should be considered “The” Bible, and this, in itself, is problematic for me. Not so much that people can’t decide which version of the Bible they want taught in public schools, but that there are so many versions of the “literal Word of God” in the first place from which a choice must be made. They’re all different in some way or else there wouldn’t be different versions. But how can any one of them claim to be the literal Word of God if they differ? And just because King James I commissioned a new version of The Bible which he hoped would replace the one then currently in widespread use, why should that version be given any more credibility than any other version? It’s not because the King said so, as James did not make any order or proclamation that this version of The Bible be used in place of any other. It might interest you to know that the Geneva Bible, the one eventually supplanted by the KJV, was even more popular among the Pilgrims than the KJV. So when enthusiastic Conservative Christians claim America was founded on the principles of “The Bible,” it’s important to know which version they mean. But I digress.

In Missouri, Republicans want belief to be given equal authority to fact. A second-term State Representative, Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), has introduced a bill that would allow parents to pull their children out of classes where evolution is being taught. “What my bill would do is it would allow parents to opt out of natural selection teaching,” Brattin explained. “It would not prohibit the child from going through biology from learning about cell structure, DNA and the building blocks of life.” Mr. Brattin has been trying for several years to get Intelligent Design taught in high school science classes as an alternative theory to Darwin’s theories about Natural Selection. This despite the fact (there’s that important word) that courts have consistently ruled against public schools teaching Intelligent Design as Science because it’s nothing more than Creationism dressed up in a sexier framework. [A quick word about Natural Selection. Its advocacy of "survival of the fittest" does not, as its opponents often say, mean "survival of the strongest." Rather it means survival of the species most suited - i.e., "fit" - for a given environment. If the edible leaves on the plants are higher up on the tree, the species that can reach them are more likely to survive and pass on their physical characteristics to their offspring than the ones who can't reach them as easily. It has nothing to do with strength, but with suitability to one's environment. The species that thrive, survive, and the ones that don't, won't.]

No matter how they try to disguise it, Intelligent Design is nothing more than Creationism, and Creationism is nothing but Religion, and Christianity in particular. And it’s a violation of the First Amendment to require publicly financed schools to adhere to any particular religion, even Christianity. It doesn’t matter that it’s the most popular religion in the United States, it’s still a religion and it still violates the Separation of Church and State to endorse any one over the other. You might believe it’s true, but you can’t prove it through any scientific methods, and that’s the primary reason it has no place in a Science class room. Evolution, on the other hand, has testable hypotheses and is constantly being confirmed by new findings and evidence. If you have to infect the minds of the young with something as ridiculous as Intelligent Design (its main argument seems to be that you can’t prove it’s wrong, and the fact that you can’t explain every aspect of Evolution somehow proves that Intelligent Design is right, as if the only two choices were a 100% understanding of everything that ever happened or blind acceptance that a God designed and made everything and that this is the reason you can’t understand it), then a Philosophy or Religion or Study Hall class might be the more appropriate place. But you do not teach Creationism as Science when it is anything but. People should be free to believe it if they wish (though they’re wasting their time and lives doing so), but it shouldn’t be public policy that every child in school be taught that this particular Religion is as true as Science.

But if you think that the Science class is the only place where Republican Christians want their religious beliefs to decide all aspects of our lives, think again. Not only does Mary Helen Sears of Houghton Count, Michigan, claim that Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia,” but she also believes homosexuals prey on children, that “Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit” and that Republicans “as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.” Why does it matter what she thinks? Because she’s a candidate for a Michigan seat in the Republican National Committee. And she would join a man the party chairman asked to resign “for the good of the party” for his anti-gay comments. He would not do so, and due to specific party rules about representation on the national committee, a seat for only a woman was opened when a woman on the committee stepped down to concentrate on her Senate campaign. The funny thing about this anti-homosexual strain in today’s GOP is that there is no universal agreement on whether not the Bible bans homosexuality. Listening to the anti-gay crowd, you’d think the Bible was filled cover-to-cover with anti-homosexual pronouncements, but in truth there are only seven passages in the Bible that mention the subject, and not one of them is associated with Jesus! (Nor Satan, for that matter.) Why these folks think the Bible is more concerned with male homosexuality (lesbianism is not actually condemned outright anywhere in the Bible) than it is with income inequality or helping the poor is beyond me, and it is dangerous for America if they are given any kind of political power. Having your opinion influenced by Biblical teachings (whatever they may be) is one thing, but having those beliefs carved in stone by them is something altogether different. And it’s dangerous for Americans to put people who think this way in positions of political power in the secular United States of America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

Watering Hole: Tuesday February 4, 2014 – Tidbits (bite-size morsels on food and environmental politics)

Is Monsanto giving up on GMO Foods? Well maybe not cash cows like corn and soy, but veggies don’t seem to want to respond in ways that make them better through genetic manipulation. Mother Jones has the whole story… No GMO Monsanto!

House votes to de-fund food stamps in Blue States. After de-funding the left, the Right’s next goal is to make the poorest among us grovel for food on the street. I guess getting free food when so many Americans are working for theirs is just too much for them to bear.They would much rather have the poor begging in the streets (again)

Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear. The famed annual migration of monarch butterflies to Mexico is at an all time low and may be history. Who to thank? Start with the big M. Urban sprawl is a boogeyman here as well. Read on…
Flight canceled.

And now for some good news…
Slow Cities: The Growing Movement Putting Sustainability and Community Back in the Forefront. It all starts in Europe, of course. First it was the Slow Food movement, and now out of Italy again Cittaslow, an expansive vision of how smaller places can remain viable. Here are the variables in play:

Contain fewer than 50,000 people
Commit deeply to preserve and sustain the environment.
Encourage thoughtful development and use of new technologies for sustainability.
Foster local culture and preserve heritage traditions.
Promote healthy eating and lifestyle.
Support local artisans and businesses.
Welcome visitors.
Encourage active participation in community life.
Read on…
Create a slow city (or neighborhood) near you.

The Watering Hole, February 1, 2014: Christie is Not Yet Buttered

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast, he’s just not buttered yet. In a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting they reconsider their decision not to pay the legal fees of former Christie Administration official David Wildstein, who resigned after reports surfaced that he was the one who ordered lanes going to the George Washington Bridge be closed the first week of school last year, it was asserted that “evidence exists” which contradicts the governor’s claim that he knew nothing about the lane closings until he read about them in the paper after they had re-opened. The nature of that evidence is not revealed in the letter, which reads in part:

It has also come to light that a person within the Christie Administration communicated the Christie Administration’s order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee. Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.

Precisely which statements of Governor Christie’s can be proven false is not made clear.

Should Mr. Wildstein’s allegations prove true, that he has evidence which contradicts the Governor’s pleas of ignorance, there is no way that Christie can survive as Governor of New Jersey, let alone run for President in 2016. He has publicly stated many times that his administration was a reflection of him, and of the way he wanted to run New Jersey. And with information being reported that many of his top administration officials were involved in this bridge lane closing, people he consulted with on a daily basis, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that the Governor himself knew nothing about the bridge lane closings while they were happening. Which was the central theme of his now-famous two-hour presser. And it would be bad enough if this whole using-federal-property-for-political-retaliation (which is why the bridge lane closings are now the subject of a federal investigation) was the only scandal facing the administration. It’s not.

Enter Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Dawn Zimmer. A couple of weeks back Mayor Zimmer made the public allegation that New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno told her that if she would move on approving a land development deal tied to another Christie Administration official, her town might receive federal Hurricane Sandy relief money faster. “In an interview with MSNBC early today, Zimmer said Guadagno — the state’s first-ever lieutenant governor — pulled her aside during an event in Hoboken in May and made the connection explicit.”

“She pulls me aside and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It’s very important to the governor,” Zimmer said, referencing a journal she kept during the interaction. “The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right. These things should not be connected. But they are,” she says. “‘If you tell anyone I said it, I will deny it,’” Zimmer said, quoting from her personal journal.

Mayor Zimmer told several people about the conversation after it happened, and some of them have publicly confirmed that they were told this. But at the request of the U.S. Attorney investigating this alleged bribery of federal funds, none of those people are talking to the media anymore. Lt. Gov. Guadagno has denied the allegations as “illogical.” On a personal note, I did not find her denials credible, and the contention that Mayor Zimmer’s claims were “illogical” seems rooted in the idea that it would have been wrong of the Lt. Gov. to make the kinds of threats she did, so that’s all the proof one needs that she didn’t do it. That doesn’t work for me. If Mayor Zimmer is telling the truth (and I personally believe she is), then a denial is exactly what we would expect to hear. In fact, I would have been shocked if Lt. Gov. Guadagno confirmed the story, especially since she would go to jail if she did. The primary problem for the Christie Administration is that the evidence seems to support the allegations made against it, and its own claims of innocence do not strike people who know them as true. Even worse, as more stories come out, it appears that incidents surrounding the GWB lane closings and the Sandy Relief money (which also include charges that the Christie administration gave a contract to a firm who had a higher bid but who wanted to use the governor in the commercials, right before his re-election bid) are not isolated, and that more is yet to come.

And that’s why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast. He’s just not buttered yet. But he will be. It’s just a matter of time.

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss Chris Christie, his administration, his denials of the charges against him, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 27, 2014: The Lies of Mike Huckabee

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, last Thursday former Governor Mike Huckabee made some pretty ignorant comments regarding Democrats, women, contraception, and reality. Among the many lies he told was this:

And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Okay, where to begin? There are so many things wrong with just this one sentence. First of all, and this is an important point to make because it will come up again later Continue reading

Sunday Roast: Giving the unemployed the finger

In the face of empirical evidence that unemployment benefits help boost the economy, Congress went ahead and let the benefit expire for 1.3 million people — with another round of cuts coming right up.

Yes, I said “people.”  Not slackers, takers, losers, or lazy fucks, as Republicans and Tea Party morons like call the long term unemployed.

Officially, there are three people applying for every job in this country, but with so many people off the official unemployment roles (like me) — because their benefits ran out long ago, they’re so discouraged and depressed they don’t even look for work anymore, or they’re elderly or disabled — the actual number of people applying for each job is probably eight to ten.  Far too many of those jobs have absolutely no benefits, and don’t pay enough to keep a roof over your head AND keep the lights and heat on AND eat halfway decently.  Pick one!

But listen to the GOP/Tea Party, and you’ll hear patronizing statements that unemployment benefits make people lazy, shiftless slobs, who will feed off the government teat forever — this from career politicians who feed off the government teat.  Apparently, the best way to get people off unemployment is to just let the funds run dry, and accuse hard-working Americans of being lazy, blood-sucking shits, rather than actually passing a jobs bill (hey, the President has one!) or a sufficient stimulus bill.  Oh yes, they’ll extend unemployment benefits, but children, veterans, the elderly, and the hungry are damn well going to pay for it — unlike in the Bush years, where nothing was paid for EVER, and the GOP were happy as clams.

And gee whiz, where did all this unemployment come from anyway?  Let’s all ignore the FACT that George W. Bush crashed the economy in 2008, and had been hemorrhaging jobs out of this country long before the crash.  No no no, all this unemployment is because of President Obama’s socialist, fascist, Marxist, commie, pinko, nazi policies — again, flying in the face of actual evidence to the contrary — not because of constant Republican obstruction and blatant refusal to do the work they were sent to Washington DC to do.

Do you know how long they’ll keep doing this to the people of this country?  Yes, the people — do you actually think YOU are immune to GOP policies?  They’ll keep doing it as long as the people stay silent; as long as the people stay out of the voting booth; and as long as they can keep the people fighting among ourselves over things like the “War on Christmas,” so-called religious persecution, taxes (except the taxes of the top 1% aka the “job creators”), and other social issues that are only the business of those actually involved.

Pay no attention to the 97 days the millionaires in the House of Representatives will work this year — naming post offices, repealing Obamacare again, and railing against dirty, dirty women who want unfettered access to birth control, because they just don’t want to push out an unwanted baby every year — or their rapist’s baby EVER.  No, of course, lazy blood-sucking GOP/Tea Partiers aren’t the problem — it’s the unemployed.

Right.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss whatever.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 11, 2014: Things Really Did Go Well In Fort Lee Toll Plaza, Didn’t It?

Let me start by saying nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. (As, I write this, I’ve made two typos in the first two sentences.) You’re not perfect. Conservatives aren’t perfect. (They’re not reading this.) So I’m not going to examine New Jersey politics through the prism of perfection. But I do believe I’m a basically good person. And I’m sure you’re a good person. Conservatives aren’t reading this. But what is it about the Great State of New Jersey (my neighbor to the southwest-ish), birthplace of such brilliant talent as The Boss (Bruce Springsteen to you non-rock fans), and Jon Stewart, the host of the coincidentally-named The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher, the man Conservatives hate to the point of orgasm, that produces some of the most vicious, incompetent, and, yes, corrupt state government in the entire United States?

A poll taken thirteen months ago, after the mayor of Trenton, Tony Mack, was indicted on federal corruption charges, asked readers of nj.com, “Is New Jersey corrupt?” Their results:

No. A few lunatic leaders will never spoil our state. 7.11%
Yes. The evidence speaks for itself. 80.96%
Maybe. How much would you give me to say “no”? 11.93%

As that same news site observed, “Richard Nixon slept here; now it will be history.

So the whole Fort Lee Toll Plaza scandal (I refuse to call it that “b”-word ending in that “-ate”-word. For crying out loud, people, try to be original, for once! What happened to “Tammany Hall” or “Teapot Dome”? Why must every scandal end in that “g”-word?) is now known to be a conspiracy. And since it involved a federal bridge (it’s an interstate bridge, which makes it fall under Federal, New York, and New Jersey law), the FBI will be investigating. We know that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which oversees the operations of the bridge) started asking questions about why the bridge was closed, and that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ask that Mr. Foye back off his investigation. The initial public speculation about why this happened centered on the mayor of Fort Lee, who thought he was being punished for not endorsing the Governor in his re-election bid. But that didn’t sit well with some people, among them Rachel Maddow. According to her reporting, there was another, more plausible target: The Leader of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Fort Lee is in her district. And traffic problems are a well-known retaliation tactic in New Jersey politics. It’s a state with a very heavy car population, and elected officials’ careers hang on how well they resolve their constituents’ traffic problems. We also have reports that Gov Christie was highly pissed about her blocking one of his nominees to a judgeship. Shortly after that, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly e-mailed Christie-appointee David Wildstein to suggest “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to which Mr. Wildstein replied, “Got it.”

“Got it”? Got what? Exactly what was it that he “got”? That some kind of retribution was in order? The response clearly implies that two people made a plan to do something that quite likely violated several state and federal laws, and that this later involved others who communicated ways to carry out the plan. This is literally a conspiracy, so, naturally, everybody’s theory about what happened will accurately be called a “conspiracy theory.” But there are some questions I’d like to have answered.

How many other times did members of the Christie Administration deliberately manipulate things to retaliate against a political opponent, where the public safety was endangered? How much did Governor Andrew Cuomo know about why what happened in Fort Lee happened, and did he ask Patrick Foye to back off in his investigation? And will anybody go to jail for what happened?

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 28, 2013: It Was Never About Free Speech

As you may know by now, A&E Networks (a joint venture between the Hearst Corporation and Disney–ABC Television Group) has lifted its suspension of Duck Dynasty family patriarch Phil Robertson over comments he made in an interview with GQ magazine. The suspension was originally announced as “indefinite,” but it appears that by “indefinite” they meant “nine days.” And since this is in the middle of duck hunting season, and since by contractual agreement there would be no filming of the series during this-two-month period, the effect of the suspension was nil, nada, zip, nothing.

13duck-articleLarge-v2

Ten episodes already filmed will begin airing in mid-January with all the family members included, and when filming resumes all family members will again participate. So, despite the dustup and media frenzy over this, in the end nothing will change as far as the show itself is concerned. As Duck Dynasty is one of the most popular shows on cable television (they supposedly get over 13 million viewers each week, but those are industry estimates based on their own finagling of numbers), A&E just couldn’t bring itself to accept a possible drop in revenue should the family pull out of production altogether, which they threatened to do. Many famous conservatives flocked to their defense (couldn’t resist) and in doing so, they seemed to show a complete misunderstanding of what free speech is about.

Phil Robertson’s right to free speech was Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 21, 2012: What’s Your Comfort Level?

After an interview in GQ magazine with Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson was published, in which Mr. Robertson had some harsh and completely inaccurate things to say about both gay people and what life was like for black people in the pre-civil rights days, a lot of conservative mouthpieces took to their various publications to support him. Stepping up to present his own hyperbolic testimonial was Red State founder and former CNN contributor, Erick Erickson.

Really, Erick? This idea gives you comfort? Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 4th, 2013: Bellies Up!

After mulling over possible topics for today’s thread, I decided to dispense with the craziness out there (Rand Paul’s chickenshit non-challenge to a duel with Rachel Maddow was tempting, but…) and just start the week off with:

CUTENESS!

Baby Panda (not my photo)

Baby Panda (not my photo)

surrender to cuddles

Fluff's big belly (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Fluff’s big belly (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Spotted-bellied Fern (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Troi's belly before...

Troi’s big belly before…(photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Troi's belly now (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

…Troi’s big belly now (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

This is our daily open thread — I hope that so much cuteness will help to start Monday off in a cheerful way.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 26, 2013: Pick a Topic, Any Topic

As I sit here writing this, it’s Saturday morning, and this post is way overdue. It’s always difficult for me to pick a topic on which to write. I suppose I need to learn to discipline myself more, but that’s the problem with trying to learn to be disciplined – it takes discipline, and since I clearly lack it, I’m probably going to have a tough time learning it. Sure I was in the Air Force when I was young and wanted to put off paying back my college loans (Note: I’m one of the fourteen Americans who actually did pay back his student loans), Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 21st, 2013: Mixed Nuts

First, Foreign Policy Magazine got a little ‘spacy’ towards the end of the shutdown, with author Michael Peck penning a pair of fantasy articles titled “The Empire Shuts Down” and “One Starship to Rule Them All”

Next, this piece from moneynews.com, features the always-wild-looking “economist” Jim Cramer prognosticating – and perhaps precipitating, if anyone pays attention to him – the shakiness of the dollar. An excerpt:

As the world laughs at Washington’s antics, CNBC’s Jim Cramer says smart money should look for any possible means to flee the dollar.

The United States is “a laughing stock around the world, maybe worse than Italy in some ways when I look at benchmarks,” he said on Squawk Box. “We have obviously lost the faith of a lot of countries.”

If there is a way to take your money out of this country, Cramer suggests putting it in Germany. If he were in the shoes of China, Kuwait, Brazil or Japan, “I would do it immediately,” he claimed.

Third, from Newsmax.com, Amy Woods has a piece on another peanut gallery member: “Sen. Coburn: ‘We’re Drunk’ on Government Spending.” Here’s a bit:

“Special-interest groups, and not the tea party, caused the 17-day government shutdown, Sen. Tom Coburn said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We didn’t do anything except create a big mess in Washington, and I’m not so inclined to think it was the tea party as much as it was outside interest groups and a few individuals within our party that took advantage of that situation,” Coburn said. All the bickering about the Affordable Care Act distracted Americans from the fact the government spends too much, he added.

Next, an October 19th article from Alternet brings us “Right-Wing Lunacy Never Sleeps: 10 Nutty, Vile and Absurd Utterances From the Fringe This Week.” In this round-up, Justice Antonin Scalia reaffirms his racism, Tony Perkins babbles some nonsense about Democrats wanting a theocracy, Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan continue to howl in the wilderness, and more.

Finally, also courtesy of Newsmax, the other gum-flapping self-important Limbaugh, David, proves that he is just as delusional as his louder brother in “GOP Poised for Post-Shutdown Comeback”:

“Obamacare represented not only one of many policy setbacks under Obama but also the ever-acquisitive government’s consumption of another one-sixth of the formerly capitalist and robust American economy.”

[That's a load of horseshit, David, enough with the fake "government takeover of healthcare" bogeyman. Last I looked, the U.S. is still a capitalist nation, and the last time we had a "robust American economy" was under a Democrat, President Bill Clinton.]

“Then Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee ratcheted it up a notch, going to the Senate to call Obama out on his destructive agenda and promising to do everything they can to defund and derail Obamacare. Cruz’s 20-plus-hour floor speech was a seminar in the eloquent communication of conservative principles.”

["...eloquent communication of conservative principles"? 'Green Eggs and Ham'? I don't think that David Limbaugh (or his louder brother, for that matter) watched the entirety of Cruz's rambling and sometimes incoherent "seminar."]

“Just as my brother, Rush, gave millions of conservatives hope through his radio show by validating the legitimacy of their beliefs, Cruz, Paul, and Lee let us know that we have people in office fighting for us, as well.

“I reject the conventional wisdom that Cruz and his warriors hurt our cause by increasing the likelihood of our defeat in 2014. To the contrary, they enhanced our cause by energizing the base and fighting. And they laid serious gloves on Obama; his approval rating has never been lower. They also gave him an opportunity, which he fully embraced, to demonstrate his mean-spiritedness, his pettiness, and his dishonesty for all to see.

“The shutdown was not the disaster he promised any more than sequestration has been; he was hyper-partisan and gratuitously punitive during the ordeal; and his egregious misrepresentations about Obamacare were manifesting themselves throughout.”

[Sorry, but to Rush Limbaugh, the word "hope" is part of a punchline, certainly not something that Rush ever gave to his Rushbots. You can "reject conventional wisdom" all you want, but that doesn't mean that conventional wisdom, in this case, is wrong. Obama's approval rating is currently around 50%, according to a recent Rasmussen poll; on the other hand, according to the Gainesville Times, a new poll puts Congress's approval rating at an all-time low at 5%. I'm not sure exactly what planet David Limbaugh, along with the other mixed nuts listed above, inhabits, but it must be a particularly miserable place to dwell.]

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, get cracking!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 19, 2013: And Single Payer is Bad Because…?

It all started, at least this most recent episode of right wing nuttery did, at the so-called “Values Voter Summit” convened earlier this month in Washington, DC. For those unfamiliar with the Values Voter Summit (and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of it), it’s a gathering, put together by several right-wing organizations who feel they know how best to raise your children and hosted by Family Research Council head Tony Perkins (who can understandably be confused with the knife-wielding maniac in Hitchcock’s “Psycho”), of a bunch of very frightened people listening to a collection of very ill-informed speakers fabricating the dangers of a world where conservative values are given the treatment they deserve and crumpled up, set on fire, and dumped into the deepest part of the ocean, never to be heard from again. I wish! Sadly, because stupid people outnumber intelligent people in this country, Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 7th, 2013: All the Crazy That Fits

It’s been a while since I put on my hip waders and stepped into Newsmax, so here’s a few gems:

From “Rev. Billy Graham Prepares ‘Perhaps … My Last Message’” by David A. Patton:

“In an exclusive interview, the Rev. Billy Graham tells Newsmax that President Obama’s “hope and change” mantra is nothing more than a cliché and warns that the nation faces increasing threats to civil and religious liberties from its government.

Graham, who is preparing for possibly his last crusade, this time via video, said America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

“Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles,” Graham wrote in response. “‘Hope and change’ has become a cliché in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change from what God has blessed,” he stated, an obvious reference to President Obama’s campaign motto.

“Our country is turning away from what has made it so great,” he continued, “but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; he knows our hearts need transformation.” ~~~

Many believing Christians believe in a coming Armageddon, a final battle between good and evil prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Graham tells Newsmax it is not wise to “speculate” about the dates of such a battle, but he adds that the Bible says that there “will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord.”

“I believe all of these signs are evident today,” Graham wrote, adding that “the return of Christ is near.

“Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming,” he says.”

Next, from “Rove: Obama Wants to ‘Break the Republicans'” by Amy Woods:

“Republican strategist Karl Rove on Sunday described President Barack Obama’s behavior throughout the budget showdown as “stubborn obstructionism” whose goal is to “get more money and break the Republicans.”

“The stubborn obstructionism of the president … has a purpose, which is to try and get the Congress to agree to the Senate Democrats’ spending number, which is $91 billion bigger than the House, and bust the sequester, and end the 2011 spending agreements,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is attempting to put the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling and, in fact, naming the amount of the debt ceiling on the Congress and not on himself.”

Third, from “Rand Paul: Democrats’ Stubbornness Keeping Government Closed” by Sandy Fitzgerald:

“Paul denied that House Republicans led to the shutdown by refusing to fund the government.

“The House Republicans said they would fund all of government, and they did,” Paul said. “They funded all of government short of one program. So they really were never wanting to shut down government over this, they were wanting to fund government, and then have a debate.”

He further blamed Obama for his refusal to negotiate for the shutdown.

“When you say the president wants 100 percent of Obamacare or he will shut down the government, that’s exactly what happened,” said Paul. “If he [Obama] doesn’t get 100 percent of his way – his way or the highway – then they won’t do any spending bills that don’t include everything that he wants. That’s him unwilling to negotiate, that’s him being unwilling to compromise.”

Had enough? How about one more? From “Rep. Graves: Obama To Blame if Country Defaults” by Amy Woods:

“Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Sunday the party is “united” in its belief the government should re-open and negotiations with Democrats should continue to avoid a possible economic default over the debt ceiling.

“We have had a tremendous fight over keeping the government open and protecting Americans from Obamacare,” Graves said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no reason to default. The president’s the only one demanding default right now.”

Sorry, but I have to throw this last link in, just for laughs: Another one by Bill Hoffman, “From Senate to Center Stage: Fred Thompson Makes Broadway Debut”. The author of the piece completely omits any mention of Thompson’s disastrous run for the Presidency, or the fact that Thompson’s most recent “acting” gig has been on ‘Reverse-Mortgage’ commercials.

This is our Open Thread. Have at it!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 5, 2013: This Week In Right Wing Nuttery

The Right Wing’s detachment from Reality would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous to America. After all, some of these people inexplicably are elected Members of Congress or government, and others inexplicably are influential in the Conservative movement, even if they deny it. I’m baffled as to why anyone, including these people, would think their viewpoints merit attention.

First there’s self-appointed Tea Party Darling and Canadian-born gadfly Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz. Senator Cruz Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 30th, 2013: “UBUNTU”

I know that Wayne posted this on yesterday’s Sunday Roast, but it bears another look – especially in light of the myriad inhumane arguments, diatribes, and lies rising to a cacophonic crescendo over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Just look at so many of the self-serving and ignorant comments on Think Progress’s various threads about the ACA. It’s getting to the point where I think I’d rather live in a more simple society where greed and selfishness are not idealized.
ubuntu

These children put the childish “adults” running/ruining our country to shame. It seems that those who supposedly revere our founding fathers have forgotten one of the earliest ideals of this once-great country, as depicted in the Great Seal of the United States:
Great Seal of the United States

“E Pluribus Unum”: “Out of many, one.”

“Ubuntu”: “I am because we are.” Even those children understand the basic concept of what a workable society should be, and are living it. Why the fuck can’t we?

This is our daily open thread. I’m totally disgusted – how about you?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 28, 2013: There Are No Death Panels In The ACA

Yesterday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (who was actually born Cow Blitzer) tormented his viewers by hosting retiring Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann for a discussion on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare” by its supporters and “the end of Civilization as we know it” by its detractors. During the conversation (it wasn’t really an “interview” because she pretty much evaded answering just about every single question Blitzer put to her), Bachmann brought up the myth that the ACA has “death panels” in it. And while she also brought up a great number of other lies (I only noticed Blitzer pushing back on one of them, to which she said she would send him the proof; yeah, right), I want to focus on just the one about the death panels. They don’t exist.

Many people Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 21, 2013: Pru Too Big, Too

The Financial Stability Oversight Council, a US Treasury Dept agency created with the passage of Dodd-Frank, has designated insurance giant Prudential Financial as “too big too fail,” a move that forces the third non-banking institution so designated to undergo additional oversight and stress testing to avoid the kind of financial crisis we endured before. The Pru joins American International Group (better known as AIG) and General Electric Capital Corporation (better known as GE Capital) as non-banks to earn the distinction, and it’s one they don’t want. The FSOC “determined that material financial distress at this company — if it were to occur — could pose a threat to US financial stability,” but they stressed that there were no signs of trouble at the moment. The Prudential said in a statement that it is “reviewing the rationale for the determination and our options.” The rationale, I’m sure, has to do with the fact that Prudential has over a trillion dollars in assets worldwide. If they were to engage in extremely risky behavior they could bring about global financial ruin. They should be scrutinized more closely.

Better yet, they should be broken up into smaller companies that can’t be bring down the entire global financial markets should they fail. “Too big to fail” is the same as “too big to exist.” No person and no corporation (they are not the same thing) should ever be so big and financially powerful that they could bring down the world economy should they stumble. That is not a sound financial footing. I’m neither an economist nor a person educated in the field of Economics, but I can promise you this: No economy can work if the money within it doesn’t circulate. If all the money is in the hands of too few people, then it stands to reason there isn’t enough leftover for everyone else to use. Hoarding more money than you’ll ever need to use in your lifetime is not just selfish, it’s actually harmful to everyone else. In order for society to function, people need to have money to spend to get the things done that they need done. For example, I’ve got a gutter that needs to be repaired. Money’s a little tight right now so I can’t get it done. If I could, the gutter repair company would not only fix my broken gutter (which could save me money down the road form damages caused by the broken gutter), but they could take the money I pay them and use it not only to pay their workers, but also to pay for the materials they used to fix my gutter. Their workers, in turn, would take their paychecks and go to the store to buy groceries, and the companies from which they bought their supplies to fix my gutter would use their money in a similar way. And the money would move from one business to the next, into the hands of the workers, who in turn would circulate the money around getting the things done that they need done. None of us are getting rich off the one or two transactions we have with that money, but we’re all getting what we need. That doesn’t happen when rich people sit on money they don’t need. (And, no, their investment into more stocks does not help the economy nearly as much.) What good is having more than you need? How do you benefit from excessive selfishness? And why do we treat the philosophy of Selfishness as something positive?

To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, the Republican Party has been so busy trying to keep their jobs that they forgot to do their jobs. The Tea Party faction (a project of the Koch Brothers and their ilk) has got the semi-normal members of the party so frightened of losing their jobs that they cave in out of fear of being primaried out of Congress. The result is forty-one pathetic attempts to defund Obamacare. I keep hearing them say how Obamacare is “destroying” the country, yet I never once gear exactly how this is happening. No one ever truthfully explains how the law is harming our nation. What I do hear is example after example of how conservative business owners are trying to get around Obamacare by cutting employees’ hours so they won’t have so many full-time workers who are eligible for health insurance. In other words, because some people will be selfish, everyone has to suffer. Instead of denouncing the greedy business owners, conservatives have held them up as examples of what could go wrong with healthcare reform. “Obamacare is bad because greedy, selfish people like me can take advantage of it and my workers.” Maybe the law needs to be strengthened, not repealed.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Prudential, the Koch Brothers, your greedy, selfish Republican relatives or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 12th, 2013: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Twenty-five years ago this month, I went to the Women’s Health Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, NY, to have my tubes tied.

Wayne and I were planning to get married in October that year, and had decided that, since neither of us felt that we had the temperament to raise children, having my tubes tied was the best route to go. I had been on the Pill off and on for about 10 years, and didn’t want to be exposed to its possibly harmful side effects anymore.

Even back then, as a fully-grown 32-year old adult, at a facility which catered to both happily pregnant women and unhappily pregnant women and teens seeking abortions, the doctors assumed, despite my protestations, that I might change my mind. They insisted that I have the type of tubal ligation which could be undone, even though they admitted that this procedure was more painful than the no-going-back type (they were definitely right about the pain!) That was the first time in my adult life that a decision about my body and reproductive choice was forced upon me by others.

That seems like ages ago now; but it also seems like ages ago (instead of a mere 17 months) that I began writing about the Republican War on Women (see here, here, and here), and in the meantime the suppression of women’s rights by Republicans just keeps getting worse.

This year, the main spotlight has been on Texas, where it took two “Special Sessions” of their legislature to pass a strict anti-abortion bill that couldn’t get passed in their regular legislative session. The only good thing that resulted from this extended knock-down drag-out fight was that it made a political star of State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose tenacious example and amazing filibuster brought thousands of Texans and millions of American women together in support of both Wendy and women’s rights.

Since then, however, more states have jumped on the he-man-woman-haters-club bandwagon. North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory, after promising during his campaign that he would not sign any new abortion regulations, went ahead and did so. Then, adding insult to injury, he offered women protesting outside of his mansion a plate of cookies.

After that, Iowa is now contemplating a bill banning what’s called “telemedicine abortion”, where the doctor can prescribe the abortion pill to a woman online rather than in the doctor’s office.

And most recently, despite the legislation’s failure to pass in Georgia’s legislative session, Governor Nathan Deal(R) “vowed to use his executive power to enact it anyway.”

Lastly, getting back to Texas:

On the final day of the second session, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) — the only Senate Democrat who supported the recently approved omnibus anti-abortion bill — filed a measure to require women to complete a mandatory adoption certification course before they may seek an abortion. Lucio has suggested he will attempt to keep pushing that measure during the third session.

It’s hard to find a current answer to ‘how many states now have strict anti-abortion laws?”, but according to answerbag.com (from 2010):

Thirty-eight states have laws that prohibit abortions after a specific point in the pregnancy, except in cases where the late-term abortion might save the woman’s life or protect her health. Sixteen states have laws in effect that do not allow for late-term abortions.

And, according to religioustolerance.org:

At least 16 states still have pre-1973 anti-abortion laws on the books even though they are clearly unconstitutional and nullified under Roe v. Wade.”

Will the attack on women’s reproductive rights ever end? When will Republican women wake up and realize just how much Republican men despise them, want to keep women second-class citizens, and will do anything to control their reproductive health and rights? And when will male Democrats grow a collective pair and denounce Republican men as the ignorant, greedy, hate-filled, misogynistic bullies that they are?

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind?

Sunday Roast, August 11, 2013: They’re Both Wrong

Just this past Thursday (remember that day; a mere three days ago) Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) had an unpleasant conversation with a constituent who insisted that Barack Obama was constitutionally ineligible to be the President of the United States. She claimed to have proof in the form of some papers supposedly gathered by Arizona Bigot-Extraordinaire Joe Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse (which I sincerely hope didn’t use a penny of taxpayer money pursuing this non-crime), but the Congressman was not interested in looking at them. He said to her (and it sure sounds like this to my hard-of-hearing ears), “I don’t even give a shit.” She tried to claim it was “a matter of law.” For his part, the Congressman’s argument was that “We had four years to take care of that,” and that because Obama was re-elected, it was a “dead issue” and “we lost that argument.”

They’re both wrong.

No matter how many times they bring it up, Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 5, 2013: Of Two Minds

Over the past seven years there have been at least sixteen studies done on the differences, if any, between the brains of self-described conservatives and those of self-described liberals. The results show many substantial differences, not simply in physiology but in the framework within which we view things. The studies began with a Sept 2006 report which showed Continue reading