Oregon Joins Call for Amendment Overturning Citizen’s United

I think I’ll start a permanent page about this.  

Oregon becomes the 16th state to vote to call on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to take money out of politics and deny equal rights to corporations. 

 For those counting at home, like I am, the following states have urged such action so far:

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

The Crisis of Needing an Abortion in a Blood Red State

Irin Carmon writes a great report on the reality on the ground if a woman needs to terminate a pregnancy in Oklahoma. It’s likely very similar in all of these blood red states that celebrate being “pro-life” while making people suffer. Their self-righteousness is insanely misguided.

Earlier that month, at home in Oklahoma City, the Davises were told that the boy she was carrying had a severe brain malformation known as holoprosencephaly. It is rare, though possible, for such a fetus to survive to birth, but doctors told them that he would not reach his first birthday. “He would never walk, lift his head,” Jessica, 23, recalled in an interview.

“I could let my son go on and suffer,” she said. Or she could accept a word she didn’t like – abortion – “and do the best thing for my baby.”

 

Jonathan Turley asks the question…

If 24% of Americans have no faith how come they’re so under represented in American politics? Citing a new Yougov poll

Yet, I am struck by the large number of atheists and agnostics given their small influence on politics. Compare more powerful groups like the 34 percent of gun owners or 22 percent Tea Party supporters or 12.9 percent over 65 or 3.5 percent Gay population or the 2.2 percent Jewish population. Non-believers constitute 25 percent of the population but continue to be not onlymarginalized politically but vilified socially. It is an interesting contrast with other groups of similar or strikingly smaller size with more power politically.

The Overton Window on atheism is moving quickly. No religious affiliation is the fastest growing group. When we get a high profile atheist win elected office the political cover and influence will come.

It is pretty striking how the 2.2% of Jews has such incredible influence.

The comments section on the YouGov poll is great. Atheists took that over.

It’s bloody hilarious. One of these loons even told me this (comment can be seen below): “Mitchell, you are obsessed and trapped by your own rationality.”

Oh snap! Trapped in the real world! What absolute incompetence.

Whiskey Tooth Paste

Whiskey Tooth Paste

After a long day spent wearing your X-ray glasses that you mailed away for and getting a gander through women’s clothing, you could sit back, relax and give yourself a good stiff tooth brushing with what the postman brought you.

Just rinse with soda and ice, a twist of lemon if you prefer.

How did this not clean Colgate’s clock?

It might be the 6 proof. That’s less alcohol than your avg. mouth gargle has today. Hardly worth it.

Will Obamacare Attacks Backfire on Right or Will They Mind Fu the Left?

The always thoughtful Michael Lind, author of the highly recommended Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, writes in Salon about how GOP Obamacare hypocrisy will backfire because the right wants to enact similar policies to replace Medicare and Social Security. Paul Ryan’s plans for Medicare look just like the exchanges in Obamacare. 

Conservatives want all social insurance to look like Obamacare.  The radical right would like to replace Social Security with an Obamacare-like system, in which mandates or incentives pressure Americans to steer money into tax-favored savings accounts like 401(k)s and to purchase annuities at retirement, with means-tested subsidies to help the poor make their private purchases.  And most conservative and libertarian plans for healthcare for the elderly involve replacing Medicare with a totally new system designed along the lines of Obamacare, with similar mandates or incentives to compel the elderly to buy private health insurance from for-profit corporations.

If you don’t like Obamacare, you should really, really hate the proposed conservative alternatives to Social Security and Medicare.

Lind goes through Polislice favorite Mike Konczal’s exegesis of how the ACA rollout is a bigger problem for conservatives than liberals because the problems are because of the complexity forced on the system by its market based nature and means testing. Also, the failure of GOP governors to allow their states to participate contrasts nicely with those states that are participating and having no problems and falling premiums.

However, the smarter conservatives who are thinking several moves ahead (e.g. Ross Douthat) understand that this failed rollout is a significant problem for conservatives. Because if all the problems are driven by means-testing, state-level decisions and privatization of social insurance, the fact that the coreconservative plan for social insurance is focused like a laser beam on means-testing, block-granting and privatization is a rather large problem. As Ezra Klein notes, “Paul Ryan’s health-care plan — and his Medicare plan — would also require the government to run online insurance marketplaces.” Additionally, the Medicaid expansion is working well where it is being implemented, and the ACA is perhaps even bending the cost curve of Medicare, the two paths forward that conservatives don’t want to take.

But then Lind uses political jiu jitsu to show that liberal defense of the ACA could be used by conservatives to justify their plans to ACA everything. Mind blown, man! Mind blown!

I predict that it is only a matter of time before conservatives and Wall Street-backed  “New Democrats” begin to argue that, with Obamacare in place, it makes no sense to have two separate healthcare systems for the middle class — Obamacare for working-age Americans, Medicare for retired Americans.  They will suggest, in a great bipartisan chorus:  Let’s get rid of Medicare, in favor of Lifelong Obamacare!  Let’s require the elderly to keep purchasing private insurance until they die!

Once Medicare has been abolished in favor of Lifelong Obamacare, perhaps by a future neoliberal Democratic president like Clinton and Obama, Social Security won’t last very long.

I appreciate the forward thinking alarmism, I do. I just think that there’s really nobody on the left defending the ACA from the standpoint of this was the best idea and a great step forward.  We’re all “holding our noses” and pulling for it because it was the best we could do and way overdue.  I can’t find anybody anymore who doesn’t think that a single payer program wasn’t a better idea and the eventual goal.

The “Industry Left Us” Lie

I’m fascinated by the history of New York City. We’ve been living in one of the most fascinating times for NY and cities in general. The common understanding is that NY was dying in the 70s and 80s and made a miraculous comeback in the 90s that has brought us the resurgent powerhouse NY of today. The population is back up over 8 million and growing, people feel safe and mass transit works.

It seems like these things were just inevitable, they happened because of complex interrelated ebbs and flows in economics and social desires. People left cities to go to the suburbs taking the middle class tax base with them. Manufacturing left Northeastern cities to chase cheaper labor in the South, Mexico and Asia. “But,” the hopeful say, “it’s all cyclical and they’ll come back.”

Bullshit. Nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s always policies that cause growth or regression.

First, you have to understand that the dynamics of a city change at a glacial pace and have 20-30+ year lag times. If the city was indeed dying in the 70s then that was caused by decisions made in the 30s, 40s and 50s.

Secondly, these declines happened because people made them happen – decisions were made to prioritize the wrong things. The “1929 Regional Plan for New York” was the blueprint for New York’s development over the next 50 years. It planned for the massive expansion of highway capacity. It included highways, bridges and tunnels that were built and others that were fought by community activists and not built (ex: a crosstown highway that was supposed to be built through Greenwich Village and the extension of 5th Avenue through Washington Square Park!). The Plan included mass transportation, but those provisions were ignored. It planned for the clearing of entire neighborhoods for these highways, or for “urban renewal.”

Sometimes the people who made the Plan, or those who implemented it, were well meaning but misguided and made decisions that they thought were prudent decisions for future growth – they were just wrong. Often the decisions were based on individuals own profits, and egos, as well as great misunderstandings about how cities work.

NYC was always an industrial leader with many varied large and small industries and manufacturing. In fact, it still has a great deal of manufacturing under the radar in places like Long Island City. But the industries and manufacturing that left the City were not predominantly driven out by labor issues or environmental regulation.  They were driven out because real estate is king in NY and developers could get a lot more money for a piece of land by cutting it up into smaller parcels or building high rise apartments on it rather than large scale warehouse/manufacturing spaces. Many areas of the city, like Soho for example, were “upzoned” by the City at the request of developers, allowing the owners to evict their industrial tenants and make more money tearing down and building bigger or splitting large warehouse or manufacturing spaces into those famous loft apartments. Companies that owned their own buildings and land also could not resist and sold to developers to increase their bottom lines. Everyone made out except the mom and pop companies who couldn’t afford to relocate and, of course, the employees whose jobs were eliminated or moved.

Often this was done by taking an area like Soho, or Greenwich Village, that were the epitome of what we today call “mixed use” with large and small industry, commercial and residential inhabitants, and declaring it “blighted” or a “slum”. This happened in neighborhoods that were functioning communities, if slightly run down. Clearly, areas like the Village and Soho (eventually named as “Historic Districts” and revitalized instead of the planned clearings) were not “slums”. They may have needed some renovation and some rebuilding, but they were not at all what we think of as “blight” – like the South Bronx of the 70s that was a burned out shell of a neighborhood.  Often these neighborhoods were thriving communities that had developed over decades with both large and small businesses, schools, social hubs, hangouts, parks. Communities on the West Side of Manhattan, the Concourse in the Bronx, Red Hook and Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, were ripped apart in the name of progress and profit. Once an area was declared blighted or a slum, then developers could even get federal money to come in and tear down industrial facilities, tenements, brownstones, buildings that may have needed some renovation and TLC but were perfectly sound, even unique landmarks.

This upzoning and the clearance of entire neighborhoods for highways and urban renewal is estimated to have uprooted nearly 1,000,000 people from the 30s through the 60s, and the displacement of thousands of businesses. This alone would account for the declines in population and manufacturing jobs without factoring in globalization and other supposed causes of deindustrialization. Curiously, in the 80s, as NY continued to shed garment industry jobs, the precise number of jobs lost in NY were gained in Los Angeles.

So the shedding of industrial jobs in NY didn’t just happen, any more than it did in less well diversified, one-industry towns like Pittsburgh and Detroit.

It’s amazing but it’s really only in the last 50 years that anybody sought to actually take on the study of cities and how they develop, what works to create thriving neighborhoods. Before that you had Robert Moses and the meat hatchet approach. He was chiefly in charge of prosecuting the Plan.

Robert Moses was the most powerful man in NY for 40 years and the most influential individual in urban planning all over the country. He never held elected office, but as the head of as many as 12 different public authorities in New York State and City he served 6 governors and 5 mayors. He had the inside deal on federal money coming from D.C. and could make almost any project he wanted happen.

Robert Moses was a racist who loved automobiles, although he never learned to drive himself. He loved highways, parkways, thruways and bridges because they were projects you could point to, you could see them, they were a tangible “improvement.” They took good people (read: white, affluent people) where they wanted to go. He hated mass transit because it was democratic, even poor people could afford it. So when he built his beloved highways and was advised to make provisions for mass transit to run alongside or on the median, for the future, he never did. In fact, on Long Island, the bedroom community of NY that he almost singlehandedly invented, he purposefully made overpasses too low for buses to be able to go under and access the beaches and parks he created. Moses, like almost everyone of his generation, believed stubbornly that if a new road was built and that quickly became congested by traffic, then another road would relieve that traffic. He never wanted to understand the truth that building more roads and parking spaces, more capacity for cars, would consistently be offset by more cars on the road. Each bridge and highway he built was predicted to solve the congestion problem which just got worse.

At the same time he was building all these highways (the Long Island Expressway, Cross-Bronx Expressway, FDR Drive, Harlem River Drive, Henry Hudson Parkway, Interborough Parkway, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Tri-Borough Bridge, Verrazano Bridge, etc.) through NYC and displacing entire neighborhoods, he was starving the MTA for funds. A meticulously maintained subway, trolley and bus system was purposely starved for funds creating “deferred maintenance” policies. After 20 years of this it started to take a toll. The trolleys were dismantled. Moses’ biographer Robert Caro wrote, “When Robert Moses came to power in 1934 the city’s mass transportation system was the best in the world, When he left power in 1968, it was quite possibly the worst.” In 1981 ridership had declined to the same level as 1917!

The deliberate deterioration of mass transit was another major factor for the exodus of the middle class. And the resurgence of the city can be traced to the massive change in priorities that took place in the 80s after the defeat of Westway, a massive expressway and development project that was supposed to be built along the Hudson River. Community activists fought and defeated the planned 12 lane expressway and landfill development project. Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Hugh Carey were able to trade in that highway money for mass transit money and they began rebuilding the subways and buses of NYC. Since 1985 nearly 200 subway stations have been rebuilt and every car and bus in the fleet has either been rebuilt or replaced along with tracks, switches and other infrastructure.

Cities, and the neighborhoods within them, grow organically so long as there’s judicious interference in their growth and evolution.  Like a plant, or a person, if they get the right balance of things they need to thrive, and a minimum of trauma or infection (that which they can overcome), neighborhoods will find a way to be fruitful places for business and individuals to thrive. When neighborhoods die it’s usually because of an inorganic interference in the form of bad planning – an intervention the neighborhood did not need and could not overcome – like a virus.

The decline of NYC did not just happen, nor has its revival been happenstance. It took a lot of bad decisions to get us to the 70s and a lot of much better ones to get us where we are today.

Equal Rights Amendment Still Out There

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I’ve written about how it’s massively ridiculous that our Constitution (hallowed be its name) to this day does not guaranty rights for vaginas and their owners. The history is interesting because it was first introduced in Congress in 1923, 3 years after women got the right to vote. It was brought up and tabled every year in Congress from 1923-1970! The time just wasn’t ever right to add women to the protections of the Constitution. Women were too busy keeping everything together so that Men could concentrate on blowing it all up.

The 1970s effort to fix this travesty via the Equal Rights Amendment seemed like a no-brainer, except for the people with no-brains who declared it the work of the devil and communists. They claimed equal rights would force all women to serve in the military, become lesbian witches and wear white after Labor Day. And that profound argument killed the ERA 40 years ago.

The senate approved the ERA on March 22, 1972 with an artificial deadline imposed of 7 years for it to be ratified by 3/4 of the states (38 of 50). 35 states ratified the ERA before the deadline in 1982 (it had been extended once), 3 states short of ratification.

So I’ve been wondering what ever happened to that effort? How does the just effort to bring 51% of the population up to the level of the 49% just disappear forever, like POGS?

Apparently on the down low there are some legislators working on this. Sens. Menendez (NJ) and Kirk (IL) have sponsored S.J. Res. 10

‘Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

‘Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

‘Section 3. This article shall take effect 2 years after the date of ratification.’

In our Congress (aka House of Vampires), Carolyn Maloney (NY) has proposed H.J. Res. 56 that mirrors the Senate proposal.

They’ve also proposed that, because there is no actual time limit set in the Constitution for ratification of amendments, that the original 35 states that ratified be counted. So only 3 more states would need to ratify.

But really in 2013, would any state not ratify? Seriously, even Mississippi, I think, would have to give it up for women.  Mississippi women could always use the Lysistrata strategy if necessary. That would get me to vote for anything.

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Besides the justice it would represent to have this “oversight” finally rectified, I believe that getting an amendment to the Constitution done would be salutary to the nation’s political awareness of our ability to do so. Then we would have a better chance of passing other further necessary amendments like the amendment to reverse Citizen’s United.

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]

Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.