Jail Jamas

Jail Jamas

From the era of the Bickersons (look it up) when every comic who appeared on Ed Sullivan did entire routines based on “the old ball and chain”, the pajamas that show just how much you think that marrying each other was a life sentence at hard labor.

It comes with a comical gift card entitled “Lose all hope ye who enter here”. Comical trombone sound extra.

With Allies Like These…

Jonathan Turley writes (via the Daily Mail) of the Saudi man sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes for insulting Islam. 

Daily Mail – “Raif Badawi, who started the ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, has been held since June 2012 on charges of cyber crime and disobeying his father – a crime in the conservative kingdom and top U.S. ally.”

Turley – “Badawi’s chief crime appears to be insulting the Royal family and of course conservative religious clerics. The judge also ordered the closing of his site.

“By the way, this was treated as a light sentence. Badawi could have been executed after being accused of apostasy. That charge was dropped but that still left insulting Islam.”

Yes, we hate Iran, but these guys are our besties?  For all their money and western educations they’re a bunch of Medieval maniacs whom we hope will hit the 17th century at some point soon! The oil can’t run out a minute too soon. As soon as it does I expect the entire Saudi ruling class will get to know the lessons of the French Revolution up close and personal. 

Meanwhile in Russia, our on again off again frenemy, they’ve gone in the opposite direction as the U.S. on gays declaring a war on homosexuals. From a NYT piece by Harvey Fierstein:

On July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.

A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a lawallowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.

These kinds of intolerance don’t happen in a vacuum so we aren’t surprised to hear stories about skinhead neo-nazis brutally beating gays

In a country where citizens, nonprofit organizations, and even tourists can be fined or jailed for expressing public support of any kind for the LGBT community, reports are now emerging that private citizens are taking the government’s persecution of LGBT people into their own hands — creating fake social network profiles and bogus online personal ads, tricking the men (mostly teens) who respond into showing up for a date, then torturing them. Publicly. And the police are letting it happen.

It’s all well and good to boycott Stoli, as LGBT advocates are doing (although there’s some question whether Stoli itself has anything to do with Russia anymore as they are not a government owned business), but Fierstein believes this kind of retrograde cruelty and intolerance needs to be faced down in the most public way – by boycotting the 2014 Olympics. Given the stomach turning news coming out of Russia, that’s a conversation worth having.

I bring you The Nipple Bra

I bring you The Nipple Bra

No fooling around, this is a legit ad, I’m guessing from the 70s.

“Our exclusive braless-look-bra is the very first to have it’s own built in nipple. Imagine having that sensuous cold-weather look all the time.”

I am pretty sure that women would not consider that a thing. Men might.

Okay, my concern is that if the weather IS cold, and you don’t line it up right, 4 nipples.

Obamacare is Great, But Single Payer is the Future

Public Citizen, a D.C. non profit organization released a policy paper called “A Road Map to ‘Single Payer’” that lays out the strategy for a pioneering state, just one, to get the ball rolling on a true single payer system like Canada’s providing 100% coverage to all citizens.

In 1962, the Canadian province of Saskatchewan instituted a government-funded system that provided universal health care services to its residents. Less than a decade later, Canada adopted the Saskatchewan model nationwide.

In 2011 Vermont passed a law calling for the creation of a system and they’re working towards that. But tiny Vermont can’t lead. Giant California can. Why California can lead the way to Single Payer in the U.S. shows how California can be the state Public Citizen is calling for to be the first. They passed laws in 2006 and 2008 calling for single payer but they were vetoed by Gov. Schwarzeneggar. However, California now has a Democratic governor and super majorities in both its houses. 

By the time California votes to move to a single payer system – the earliest date possible is 2017 when the Affordable Care Act allows states to set up their own systems – Congress will have gone through two more election cycles. Voters will be less white, and probably less conservative, and the changing composition of the House of Representatives may allow for passage of single-payer waiver legislation for states, perhaps even with “state’s rights” support from a few Republicans.

Gotta happen, sooner rather than later. 

McD could easily pay a living wage with modest price increases

Well, this was what I was wondering as the fast food worker strikes were covered on MSNBC last night: how feasible is it to ask these franchises to pay a living wage, or around double what they pay now? A U. of Kansas study answers very possible. A Big Mac would go up .68 cents, other items could go up more modestly. A .17 cent raise for everything on the dollar menu would no longer make it a dollar menu, true. But this would allow a doubling of wages and benefits for every McDonald’s employee. Excluding the CEO, I suppose, who earned nearly $9M.

Morelix looked at McDonald’s 2012 annual report and discovered that only 17.1 percent of the fast-food giant’s revenue goes toward salaries and benefits. In other words, for every dollar McDonald’s earns, a little more than 17 cents goes toward the income and benefits of its more than 500,000 U.S. employees.

OR as Business Insider says, they could just double employee’s salaries, not raise prices, and make less money.

Okay. Either way, that would be great for the economy in the tradition of Henry Ford’s paying way above market for his employees so that they could afford to buy the product they made.

The Great Rick Perlstein (Nixonland) was on Up with Steve Kornacki This Weekend

In case you missed it, Rick exhibited his usual ability to quickly analyze the bigger movements in politics. He’s working on a book on Reagan and that’s great news because the superlative Nixonland unpacked the politics of the 60s and connected it to today. I’m sure Perlstein will do the definitive book on the Reagan era that directly connects Nixon to Reagan to Rush Limbaugh to Tea Party. 

I’ll quote here because it’s worth it.

“I think the reason Obama’s rhetoric and his whole strategic approach to his presidency fails is because going back six years or more, he fundamentally misunderstands the Republican Party. He doesn’t understand they behave, this kind of Leninist cell waiting in the mountains, waiting for the final apocalypse. He claims Reagan as a role model, a transformative presidency. Reagan every day said, “there’s a problem that screwed Americans: the Democratic party and the liberals.” By drawing that distinction he taught Americans to think that way. Barack Obama is constitutionally incapable of saying, “we have adversaries.” That every time a Democratic president comes in that they handle the government more effectively. Every time a Democratic president comes in, they create more jobs than the Republicans. But to say that would be constitutionally impossible for Obama because he needs to tell this story about reconciliation — there is no Red America, there is no Blue America.”

Perlstein uses the word “fails” to describe Obama’s “rhetoric and his whole strategic approach” and some might think that’s too strong but I agree with Rick. I’ve always wanted to see Obama go right at the GOP and channel FDR:  

“Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

But while Obama has had a moment here and there, he’s never been full throated about the opposition he faces. Even when they called him a liar at the State of the Union, he kept his equanimity. Kept his cool. His greatest failure will ultimately be that he did not utilize FDR-like motivational language in the run up to the 2010 elections. Very simply he needed to sound the alarm that “if you don’t go out to vote in 2010 your vote in 2008 will not matter one whit – you will not get the change you voted for 2 years ago.” Progress in the U.S. was taken hostage by that one election failure which allowed the GOP to take state houses and governor’s mansions and gerrymander themselves into 10 years of electoral advantages.

“The presidency is, in important respects, a rhetorical office it’s a bully pulpit as TR called it. And one of the things Ronald Reagan was very good at was losing well. When he lost lost a fight, let’s say when he had to raise taxes, he was very good at using that to drive home his fundamental message: “I have to raise taxes because those liberals made me do it. That’s just what liberals do.” Ultimately, everything, whether he won or lost, he made that a generational project of telling a story about how the world works that kept on hammering home what he wanted the presidents after him to do. 

And lo and behold, that’s what the presidents after him did, even Clinton and Obama.”

Reagan made Democrats after him defensive and tentative. Clinton didn’t fight back, he triangulated and that got us deregulation and DOMA. 

Reagan didn’t really have an opposition. Sure Democrats disagreed with his approach and philosophy, but they were happy to deal with him and thought that his election meant you had to do so. They thought they were just being civil. But Reagan, ever the conservative opportunist, took every opportunity to demonize them in public – and that, above all, is his legacy. He took the Nixonian politics of grievance and resentment and turned the volume up to 11 against liberals. And that became the raison d’etre of right wing talk radio which raised a generation of thoroughly indoctrinated ideologues that since 2010 populate the Congress and State Houses all over the country.

Obama may feel that he can’t attack, due to the angry black man thing, but his legacy depends on getting people to recognize the nature of the opposition he has faced and rejecting the GOP. Often in his first term, you had to wonder whether he himself was cognizant of the opposition to him. Now he seems to get it. But what will he do?

Go FDR Mr. President. Go Reagan. Attack on behalf of your party.

4 of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives

Let’s repeat that:

“4 out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”

The Associated Press uses data to show the new American truth. No dream. A very real feeling reality. It’s harder out there for almost everybody.  

  1. it takes two paychecks to pay for what one paycheck paid for a generation ago
  2. huge proportions have no savings and live paycheck to paycheck
  3. paycheck disruption is usually catastrophic
  4. huge numbers have no healthcare ins. and even those who do can be bankrupted by a healthcare emergency
  5. huge numbers of people have shockingly few assets

Sure, globalization can be blamed for some of this. But only because instead of exporting our high (union) standards on pay, labor safety and environmental protections, businesses looked for bottom line enhancement and exported the jobs.

There are so many data points that can be pointed to to show the degradation of the middle class, but it comes down to a basic understanding of what government can and should do.

Conservatives say government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. But if government does not act as a countervailing power to check business in favor of individuals, then the winners and losers will have been preordained.

Are the Suburbs Where the American Dream Goes to Die?

My personal feeling about suburbs is not equivocal.

Rural is brilliant, the original creation, natural unspoiled environment and its organic evolution to include grazing and arable land for crops. 

Urban is just as noble. The aggregation of business and labor together in a more efficiently organized society. Cities also evolved, organically around ports and hubs of trade and represent the extent of human achievement.

Suburbs are artificially created residential districts purposefully situated outside of cities, close enough to commute (although completely dependent on the automobile), but with more light and space like nature, in order to have it both ways. But really they have neither. They’re “communities” in name only with the only common denominator for its inhabitants being a desire for more privacy, space and safety – indeed the opposite of a community. Suburbs are a netherland that evoke alienation from the urban, the rural and their own neighbors. We can say now after 80 or so years of development that the impact of their sprawl on the land, energy consumption, water consumption, transportation and air pollution and a dozen other items have all been negative.

I don’t like them. We’d all be better off if they’d never developed.

But they did and we have to live with, and learn from, the consequences. 

Matt O’Brien in the Atlantic asks Are the Suburbs Where the American Dream Goes to Die? as he unpacks research showing that upward mobility, which has taken a hit in America over the last few decades, is stronger in densely populated areas.Image


So why does a kid from the bottom fifth in the South or the Rust Belt have such a hard time making it to the top fifth? It’s not how progressive local taxes are. Or the cost of college. Or how unequal a place is. At least not much. The research team of Raj Chetty and Nathanial Hendren of Harvard and Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California-Berkeley found that these factors only correlated slightly with a region’s social mobility. What seems to matter more is the amount of sprawl, the number of two-parent households, the quality of elementary and high schools, and how involved people are in things like religious and community groups.

So sprawl has negative effects on upward mobility, at the same time that it also has to take a hit in the debate about the American obesity epidemic, in a separate article How Sprawl Makes Fighting Childhood Obesity So Much Harder.

If I were a parent in Loudoun County, I’d be upset, too. Growth there has essentially been a leapfrog pattern of automobile-dependent sprawl since the county began transforming from farmland to new suburbs a couple of decades ago. It’s the usual mix of wide arterial roads, connectors with no sidewalks, and randomly placed cul-de-sac subdivisions. 

School sprawl has been part of the pattern, too, with large campuses placed at a distance from most students and their families.  Check out the locations of three Loudoun County schools on the satellite map above:  they have all been placed on former farmland just beyond the reach of sprawling new subdivisions.  And please don’t think I’m picking on Loudoun County; this is the case all over suburban America.

While the reasons for the dramatic increase in childhood obesity surely are many and complex, one of them is reduced physical activity. Walkable schools could help.

The article lists a number of good suggestions for suburban school development that it would just be prudent to follow. 

Getting back to the economic issues of mobility, there is a differential between certain low density suburbs with little mass transit and higher density suburbs where mass transit was seemingly ignored in the planning stages. I think history shows that it was purposefully ignored, for a reason. And that’s how we get to race.

This brings us to the story of Robert Moses, the master planner of New York, whose biography by award winning biographer Robert Caro, “The Power Broker”, (written before his tomes about LBJ) is a tremendously informative read that I highly recommend. If you don’t know who Moses was, in short, he was responsible for almost all of the highways and bridges built in the New York City area from the 20s through the 60s. His sphere of influence expended across the country but he was well known as the most powerful man in NYC. He was an autocratic megalomaniac who also happened to be racist (and an anti-semite, despite his own Jewish background).

He quite famously hated mass transportation and loved automobiles. Thus he can take almost single handed credit for the development of Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island as suburbs of NYC through the building of the Long Island Expressway, Grand Central Parkway and most of the arteries that allowed New Yorkers to spread out to Long Island and transform it from mostly farming and fishing to the first and biggest suburb of a major city.

In constructing certain of the east-west roads that had to cut across north-south cross traffic, he personally designed overpasses that would not accommodate buses. He deliberately did this to keep people who did not own cars (read: black people) from ever being able to access his vision of a lily white Long Island.

That kind of thinking informed the development of suburbs in many places.

Now, it’s not that suburbs outside the South and Rust Belt are some kind of integrated utopia — far, far from it — but rather that density changes things. Well-off whites who work in the city and live close by have an interest in paying for the kind of public goods, like mass transit, that benefit everybody. Well-off whites who live far away don’t. Atlanta, of course, is the prototypical case here:going back to the 1970s, it’s under-invested in public transit, because car-driving suburbanites haven’t wanted to pay for something they think only poor blacks would use (to come, they fear, to their lily-white cul-de-sacs). 

Thomas Jefferson was a genius, but wrong about his vision of an agrarian utopia for America.  Whereas Hamilton was wrong about a lot but his vision of cities as the economic heart of the country was right.

Over time, as people left the countryside for the cities during the Industrial Revolutions, this vision morphed: it became a nostalgia for (and even snobbery of) small towns. It’s a vision that Republicans still cling to. Remember when Sarah Palin talked about “real America“? Or when Republicans warned that high-speed rail and bike lanes were some kind of socialist plot? It’s a vision of America at odds with the American Dream today.