Michelle “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann Not Running

No, Michelle Bachmann will not be on the intelligence committee anymore and the jokes that ensued from that oxymoron will suffer the most. 

Bachmann says her decision not to run in 2014 had nothing to do with concerns about being re-elected. She narrowly won a fourth term in 2012 over Democrat Jim Graves, a hotel magnate who is running again in 2014.

Bachmann also says recent inquiries into her 2012 presidential campaign did not affect her decision.

Not being in a position of responsibility, like her rival/heroine Sarah Palin, Michelle can more freely travel the country raising money for her and Marcus to live a lavish lifestyle on, speechifying to the Rascal riding, science denying, Jehovah-God loving masses, without the bother of any of that Congressional foo faw.

While I’d love to dance a jig at this news, and yes, unquestionably America is better off with Michelle Bachmann nowhere near levers of power, it would have been better to defeat her in Nov. 2014. This actually gives the GOP a better chance of defending the 6th District of MN, a solidly red district.

(On the other hand, you’ll never go broke betting on the GOP to find an equally moronic candidate to replace her with and blow it. Bless their hearts.)

Ironic that this happened the week the romance novel based on her life with Marcus came out. Yes, that’s a thing.

A new novel billed as an “old-fashioned bodice ripper romance” was inspired by the life of tea party champion and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the book’s publisher claimed. 

Fires of Siberia, written by Tréy Sager, centers around Danielle Powers, a presidential candidate “full of firebrand pluck and red state sex appeal,” according to the book’s press release.It will be released Wednesday by Badlands Unlimited, a company founded in 2010 that “publishes e-books, limited edition paper books, and artist works in digital and print forms,” per the press release. 

Like the rest of her career, one can only giggle. If you want to relive her greatest moments here you go.


New York bike share program has me excited!

This new bike share program started and I noticed that there was a docking station across from my office and another by the PATH trains.  So I could, conceivably, grab a bike and ride it FOR FREE, the 11 blocks to the train anytime I friggin’ want to. As fast as I walk it would only cut a few minutes off the trip, but the whole idea of grab a bike, go, drop it where you like (well, where there’s a docking station close to where you like) and the 1st 45 minutes are free has me all tingly. I love my city!



Judicial Nominations Coming – Challenging the Right’s Lingering Influence

Important story in the NYT about White House plans to nominate 3 new individuals to posts to the 11 member D.C. Circuit Court, which right now is dominated by conservatives.  

Often called the second most important court in the country, the Washington court has overturned major parts of the president’s agenda in the last four years, on regulations covering Wall Street, the environment, tobacco, labor unions and workers’ rights.

The Senate approved Sri Srinivasan last week 97-0 to fill a seat on that court. Republicans have been talking of eliminating the 3 open seats in order to solidify their conservative majority.

With the confirmation last week of Sri Srinivasan, Mr. Obama’s first successful nominee to the court, it now has four Democratic appointees and four Republican appointees. But of the six additional “senior” judges, who previously served full time on the court and still regularly hear cases, five were appointed by a Republican president, giving the court a strongly conservative flavor.

“The court is critically important — the majority has made decisions that have frustrated the president’s agenda,” said Nan Aron, a liberal activist who has called for Mr. Obama to be more aggressive in nominating judges. “Our view is that balance must be restored on that court, and the empty seats must be filled.”

This is important for two key reasons:

  1. While the GOP is swimming against the demographic tide, through the Federalist Society they have long endeavored to make sure that even if they can’t get conservatives elected nationally, their philosophy influences the nuts and bolts of society through the courts.  (Funny though that the only story you ever hear about ideologically packing the courts in the liberal media is about FDR in the ’30s.)  The Roberts Court has given us Heller, Citizen’s United  and a perfect record of favoring commerce over individuals in the courts and that conservatism permeates the judiciary all the way down the line.  The Mitch McConnell plan is to delay all nominations for as long as they can so that the Obama administration can’t fill the vast number of judicial openings with non-conservatives, which brings us to…
  2. This story may presage the potential June/July Harry Reid showdown on the filibuster, at least as far as nominations go.  

In the meantime, the Washington circuit court continues to churn out decisions, some of which are undermining the president’s hard-fought legislative and executive agenda.

This indicates that the under the radar war of ideas will finally be joined by POTUS and Sen. Reid.  That third leg of the governmental stool called the judiciary is often ignored by the public, but conservatives know that the influence of lifetime appointments to federal courts has disproportional effects on society.

Which Way Does the Wind Blow? Do we need to get radicalized?

Firstly, if the first thing you think of when we use the word “radicalized” is the Boston Marathon bomber and other nutjobs – we have to take that word back to its rational, political roots.

Please read this piece by Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of Jacobin, a true leftist magazine – Letter toThe Nation’ From a Young Radical

We talk about pushing Obama from the left and we, or at least I, bemoan that there’s barely any actual left anymore in this country (making the drivel spewed on Fox News about the “far left”, “socialists” and “communists” as much galling as it is hilarious). Sunkara analyzes the current state of liberalism and asks whether we’ll make any progress at all without a more ideologically robust alternative party pushing from the left whether that be “Labor”, “Socialist” or “Working Families”.

This is not a simple matter because it might mean separating from the Democratic Party – saving the party by leaving it? Does it means adoption of a more parliamentary system in form and function? Does it mean we have to change our way of communicating to a more confrontational style? Lots to think about.

To radicals, the sad state of liberalism comes as no surprise. It represents merely the re-emergence of flaws embedded deeply in its roots, making so much of the social policy that The Nation supports difficult to revive. American liberalism is practically ineffective and analytically inadequate—and a jolt from its left is a prerequisite for its resurgence. 

That feels so right.  But how?

Which is to say that the left needs a plan—a plan that must incorporate more moderate allies. American radicalism has had a complex and at times contradictory association with liberalism. At the peak of the socialist movement, leftists fed off liberal victories. Radicals, in turn, have added coherence and punch to every key liberal struggle and advance of the past century. Such a mutually beneficial alliance could be in the works again. The first step is to smash the existing liberal coalition and rebuild it on a radically different basis.

This piece is a must read. And a must comment. Please let me know what you think in the comments section.

Tax Follies Continued – we are underpricing our government’s value

To further the conversation that I started on May 22 with this post Good Times were fueled by government taxing and spending supporting a vibrant private sector I offer this chart that shows the diminution of corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenue since 1950. That beige stripe that has narrowed over the last 60 years represents corporations and their shrinking contributions. Corporations do contribute about half of payroll taxes but overall their contribution is down from 32% in 1950 to 17% now while their profits have gone up exponentially. So much so that a company like Apple can have $102 billion parked offshore.

Individual taxes have increased from 45% to 63% although individual incomes have on the whole stagnated since 1970.


What I’m Reading – “The Working Poor” by David K. Shipler

“Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.”

I was connected to this book, first published in 2004, by a course in poverty my son was taking and a poverty workshop the professor hosts each year. Pulitzer Prize winning author David K. Shipler came to the workshop and talked for 2 hours and signed a copy of his book for me.

Shipler based the main thrust of his “The Working Poor, Invisible in America” not on statistics and think tank papers but on the personal stories of numerous individuals and families he interviewed and got to know, following their struggles over the course of several years – letting their stories speak for themselves.  He was able to continue to update their stories in subsequent paperback printings.

The first takeaway from all of the stories of what it’s like to be part of the working poor in America is that being poor in itself is a job. The labyrinth of bureaucratic hoops to jump through to get education, job training, job counseling, a job or essential assistance with food, housing, healthcare, are all complex and disconnected. The various band aids we create as a society to make us feel better about leaving the less fortunate on their own are generally underfunded, not well thought out or coordinated. They’re also uniformly mean, seemingly more focused on preventing the cheating of the system than the utilization of it. Countless times we see situations where a person is just keeping their head above water with aid, as they try to better themselves (often with a family they’re responsible for). When they succeed and get a (low paying) job, with which money they could finally dream of getting a little bit ahead, relieving the struggle a smidgen, they find their aid is cut so they are forced to continue to tread water and are now struggling to make ends meet just as much as before, only now with the a job and a separate set of challenges.

Second, it struck me that the lives so many people living in our society, right under our noses, the challenges and degradations they suffer each day, are really quite unimaginable for most middle class Americans.  The stories of rampant physical, mental and sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse so common that a young girl could ask her case worker how many times she’d been raped, because in her neighborhood, in her family, in her life, rape is just a thing that happens.  Rape happens to everyone.  

Also, the shocking lack of parenting skills that polite society so takes for granted that it’s a given that it’s an insult to people to question them. Not questioning someones parenting is almost as sacrosanct as the second amendment in this country. But Oh My God there are people who have children who cannot relate to them in the most basic ways. Never mind communication skills or ability to teach fundamentals of reading and writing or citizenship, these people cannot even do simple play with their children, because nobody did it with them. They’re so caught up in a dog eat dog world that they even see their own children as competitors to beat rather than progeny to raise – and the cycle continues. These are the stories that are most heartwrenching.

Shipler’s final takeaway is the question of whether the failures are a matter of lacking the skill to solve issues of poverty or lacking the will to solve them.  Some problems we know how to deal with, we have the skill, but the will do do it nationwide, to the extent necessary to make a difference, is lacking. For other issues, we still struggle with developing a comprehensive strategy, so the skill isn’t there. 

The greatest problem of will is caused by a political system that creates those band aids and has no appetite for anything more.  And this is not a partisan issue, it’s bipartisan because neither party really considers the working poor their constituency because the poor in America DO NOT VOTE. Which is a huge shame because they have the numbers to make politicians pay attention to them if they registered and voted. Even then there would of course be no guarantees that issues of poverty would be addressed because the poor don’t always vote in line with their class interests when they do vote. Especially the rural poor, who if they voted and voted consciously could make a real difference in State Houses and the Congress.  But they don’t vote, and often when they do vote it’s in line with the upper classes of their state that keep politicians in charge with no will to create change that would benefit the working poor. 

It takes a willing government to make the comprehensive changes necessary to effect progress on these issues, from healthcare to education to job training.  We have in America an essential antipathy towards government that goes back to Tom Paine in Common Sense: “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”  That sentiment has been resurgent in modern politics as espoused by the movement conservatives of the last 30 years and their extremely narrow view of government responsibility (in regards to the poor and middle class in any case) typified by the Federalist Society cant that “The state exists to preserve freedom.”  This narrow view of government is most often interpreted as a ringing endorsement of government’s responsibility for protecting the homeland, but little else.  As Shipler says,

“It is a ringing truth but a stingy statement.  The state exists not just to preserve freedom. It exists also to protect the weak. It exists to strengthen the vulnerable, to empower the powerless.to promote justice. It exists to facilitate the ‘pursuit of happiness.'”

Amen.  And further, if one considers the words of FDR’s unfulfilled Second Bill of Rights seriously, it is not just a liberal value to strengthen the weakest link in society, it’s likewise a conservative value to give that hand up that creates more freedom and economic power. 

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Unfortunately, necessitous men also make cheap labor. And that conflict between the words of FDR, Jesus and true conservatism on the one hand, and short sighted business interests that rely on cheap labor on the other, are the real crux of our American crisis of conscience: the skill and resources are largely there to solve hunger and poverty in this country, but the will to bring the invisible into the light and lift them up to full citizenship is not there.  

Student loan legislation going, how you imagine it would.

So I wrote back on May 11th about Sen. Warren’s no-brainer proposal to head off oncoming increases in federal student loan interest rates by allowing students to borrow money at the same rates as banks.  As of July 1st, without some intervention the rates will double from 3.4% to 6.8%.

So what do the Republicans in the House do?  Propose a law that potentially actually jacks up the rates.  John Kline (R-MN) introduced a bill that links the rates to the rate of U.S. borrowing, or a “market-based” approach. (Head smack) Yeah, markets. Great.

Kline’s bill would replace the current fixed interest rate system with rates based on the yield of the 10-year Treasury Note, which was 1.97 percent as of Monday. Kline’s bill would tack on:

  • 2.5 percent for subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans, with a cap at 8.5 percent (current rates are 3.4 percent and 6.8 percent respectively);
  • And 4.5 percent for graduate and Parent PLUS loans, capped at 10.5 percent (the current rate is 7.9 percent).

The rate borrowers pay would vary year to year, but students would have the option of consolidating their loans and locking in a fixed rate after graduation.

Are they kidding?  No, they never are.

Taibbi on Wall Street – Congress may not watch them but he does

It’s always so cute when Republicans will talk about how complicated a bill is, and brandish a stack of paper as if to say “if it’s this thick and complicated it got to be crap.”  Sometimes that’s just silly, of course, but often they’re right – it is a crap sandwich.  A crap sandwich that they put together in their nightmarish kitchen.  Like the tax code.  It wouldn’t be infinity pages if it hadn’t been bent and twisted into a legal pretzel so that the 1% and corporations and their tax attorneys and accountants can mine nuggets of gold out of all those pages of shit.  Nuggets placed there in secret by the lawmakers dragging those tomes around as props.

Shit is way more complex than it has to be and it’s always that way because the lobbyists (who pay the lawmakers off for access) get their greedy sticky fingers into it and lard it up with their wants and needs and/or poison pills.

It’s a strategy that the GOP and their lobbyist minions do to have it both ways: (1) their big business cronies get the fullest possible benefit from some piece of shit legislation while (2) the lawmakers complain to their base about what piece of shit legislation it is for fund raising purposes.

In regards to Dodd Frank, Taibbi lays out how.

It’s becoming an annual tradition: Spring rolls around, and while nobody is looking, Wall Street quietly lays siege to Washington and reaches a hand out to yank the last remaining teeth out of the government’s financial regulatory head…

But this is the key to understanding how financial lobbyists succeed in getting what it wants on the regulatory front: They never stop. It’s not a war of ideas, it’s a war of resources. You march up the Hill with some crazy idea about overturning a bill prohibiting bailouts of companies that engage in risky derivative trades, you get knocked down, and you march up again, then you march up again, and again . . .

With each successive attempt, you peel off a few more Committee members in the House, slowly but surely weakening resolve. And while you’re attacking on the legislative front, you also file a series of lawsuits that tie up the process by targeting reforms in court, and then you also send armies of lobbyists to sit in the laps of regulators during the rule-making process, so that key new laws (like the Volcker rule, designed to separate risky trading from federally-insured depository banking) are either written in reams of industry-friendly language, or delayed altogether.

No matter how bad your ideas are, and how unpopular they are (or, rather, would be, if anyone in the general public understood them and/or cared enough about them to complain to their congressional reps), you can still score huge wins just by continually attacking and chipping away…

Moreover, the Democrats have become the victims of their own pusillanimity on these issues. The main Wall Street argument against these new rules is that they’re excessive and onerously complicated. But they’re only complicated because the Democrats didn’t have the stones in the original Dodd-Frank debate to insist on simple concepts like putting all trades on open exchanges.

As usual, read the entire article to understand how deeply we’re being screwed. Oy!

Tone Policing Only Goes One Way – Amanda Marcotte

I like this piece a lot.  Amanda articulates a few issues that I find frustrating:

1. that false equivalence that lumps liberals rhetoric criticizing conservatives in with conservative rhetoric demonizing liberals. It’s not the same. There are different levels of tone here. The difference between saying “you’re a sexist” and “you’re a cunt” are not equivalent.

The thing about tone policing that is so galling to liberals particularly is it only goes one way. Even while the tone police cluck their tongues and accuse “both sides” of lowering the level of discourse, the only examples they ever give a crap about are the ones—often straw examples, of course–coming from the left. We saw this in Ron Lindsay’s speech at CFI, where he devoted time to the apparently world-shaking phenonemon of college-age anonymous blog commenters abusing the concept of privilege in arguments with trolls, but gave nary a nod to denouncing the bad faith arguments, stalking, and harassment that characterize the anti-feminists in the “debate”.

2. The constant conservative whine that criticism of their ideas is denying them free speech. But then even more galling is that some liberals will give them cover in the effort to be more fair than necessary.  In this context it was Michael Kinsley’s criticism of “the pro-gay police” for forcing homobigot Ben Carson to withdraw from speaking to Johns Hopkins.

It is worth noting that Carson routinely criticizes pro-gay people in ways that would probably make them feel uncomfortable speaking, say, in front of his church’s congregation. But only one kind of criticism of ideas is an assault on “free speech”: Liberals criticizing conservative ideas. Conservative ideas are so delicate that to criticize them is the same thing as banning them from being uttered allowed, and the fact that Carson seems to be able to go on TV routinely and share his point of view shouldn’t distract us from the fact that it’s a big meanie-head meanie thing to do to point out that the wrong people are wrong.

3. “Political correctness,” a term I hate because it is was created by the right to make light of and ridicule the people calling them out as racist, sexist and just plain RUDE, is always invoked by the right against the left, never the other way around. 

Indeed, the entire term “political correctness” relies on this unarticulated understanding that the only person who can ever be rude rendering judgment of the opinions of the other side is progressives. Conservatives bitch about liberals constantly, usually in much nastier fashions, but are pretty much never accused of trying to enforce their political correctness on liberals. Refraining from having an opinion about the other side’s opinions is strictly a moral obligation of the left in mainstream discourse.