Saturday, February 13, 2016

Dispatches From Bevinstan, Con't

This week Gov. Matt Bevin, champion of smaller government, paragon individual responsibility, and destroyer of onoerous regulatory burdens, signed into law the "Kentucky Women Are Too Stupid To Be Allowed Reproductive Choices" Act.

The signing of Bevin's "Informed and Consent" abortion bill started with a five-minute-long prayer, which received a loud applause from supporters of the new legislation. 
The bill, signed last week, requires women seeking abortions to have a face-to-face consultation -- in person or by live video chat -- at least 24 hours before an abortion. 
The previous bill allowed women to listen to a recorded message about risks and benefits. 
"Many have fought for a long, long time to see meaningful prolife legislation come out of this legislature and be signed into law. This is the first of any significance in 12 years,” Bevin said. 
"We know that abortion is wrong at its core. It's evil. So we're never going to go away,” Susan Kenney said. 
And there are some who don’t agree. 
"Planned Parenthood is the most effective abortion reducing, abortion preventing organization that exists," Geoff Young said. 
"We are going to celebrate and appreciate the importance of human life and the sanctity of every human life,” Bevin said.

Sure, unless that life needs Medicaid, in which case it can go screw itself.  Needless to say, Bevin's getting burnt online.

Women in Kentucky are taking to social media to ask Governor MattBevin questions about their vaginas in protest at a new anti-abortion bill signed by the Republican governor. Twitter users have been using thehashtag #askbevinaboutmyvag to direct gynaecological questions at the first-term politician.

The bill requires women to have a face-to-face consultation - either over live video chat or in person - at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion. Previously, women were required to only listen to a recorded message about the risks and benefits of undergoing the procedure. Bevinis also supporting a bill that has passed the Kentucky senate, requiring any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound - if the bill becomes law, doctors who do not comply could face fines between $100,000 and $250,000 (£69,000 and £172,000). 
Derek Selznick, director of the Kentucky ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told the Lexington Herald-Leader: "This is not informed consent. This is about politicians trying to bully, shame and humiliate women who have already made the personal, informed and heart-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy."

Which is exactly what Bevin and his holy rollers are doing.

But you voted for him, Kentucky.  You get what you pay for, right?

That Big Grayson Area

It's been a while since we've checked in with Rep. Alan Grayson, back in the House and running for Marco Rubio's seat in the Senate.  As the New York Times notes, Grayson has an interesting day job outside of being in Congress: that of hedge fund manager. And the House Ethics Committee apparently has a few questions for him.

This highly unusual dual role — a sitting House lawmaker running a hedge fund, which until recently had operations in the Cayman Islands — has led to an investigation of Mr. Grayson by the House Committee on Ethics.

The inquiry has become public, but emails and marketing documents obtained by The New York Times show the extent to which Mr. Grayson’s roles as a hedge fund manager and a member of Congress were intertwined, and how he promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business.

Interviews and the documents show that Mr. Grayson told potential investors in his hedge fund that they should contribute money to the fund to capitalize on the unrest he observed around the world, and to take particular advantage when there was “blood in the streets.” 
The emails also show how Mr. Grayson’s work for the hedge fund, which had $16.4 million in assets as of October, at times interfered with his other duties. In August 2015, after Mr. Grayson introduced legislation calling for larger annual increases in Social Security benefits, he signed off on a plan to highlight the proposal at an event in Tampa, Fla., emails obtained by The Times show. But the plan was scuttled, two former aides said, when economic turmoil in China sent stock markets tumbling globally and Mr. Grayson had to turn his attention to the fund. 
Ken Scudder, a spokesman for Mr. Grayson, disputed that account. “There has never been any time when Representative Grayson’s investment activities have disrupted any of his work, whether official or campaign-related,” he said. 
Mr. Grayson says he has done nothing wrong. “Here is something that is not true: that I somehow traded on my membership as a U.S. congressman to get clients for this fund,” Mr. Grayson said in an interview. He added that in the last year he had refunded the full original investments put in by his two outside investors in a fund that had faced steep losses — leaving only Mr. Grayson and a family trust invested in the fund.

Look, Grayson would make an infinitely better US Senator than Marco Rubio and I hope he wins, but...the guy is literally a Wall Street hedge fund manager.  Let's not pretend he's some sort of scrappy outsider here who doesn't play the game.  There's a reason Congress is filled by the rich elite in both parties, and Grayson's one of them.

He has a spine.  He also has a hedge fund.  They are not mutually exclusive.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Last Call For More And More

The cottage industry of black intellectuals scolding President Obama for "not doing enough for the black community" will continue as long as they can make money off selling books, and the most recent entry in the genre is Michael Eric Dyson's "The Black Presidency" and this Salon interview with David Daley is indicative of the game.

You’re saying, for example, he hadn’t been pulled over in Ferguson time and again and given tickets that got him jailed and unable to get to work
That’s right. Some of that, but not a bunch of it. Enough to be sensitive to it, but not enough to be angered by it. 
Would he have been able to be angered by it, though? If he was the kind of person who was angered by it, would that have threatened the same kind of multiracial coalition that put him in office? 
You’re absolutely right. If Obama had been a different kind of black man, he never would have been a different kind of president, because he couldn’t have been president. In many ways, the things that he felt, saw and believed, permitted him a kind of racial innocence and racial optimism that many white Americans were able to tap into. This is somebody we know, this man is familiar with our mores and folkways, our intuitions, our rhythms, our timbre, our tone, the echo of our voice. This is a man who intuits it. As a result of that, Obama was put into office because he didn’t bring precisely, when we see him, this baggage. Obama did not guilt white America, and as a result of that, they repaid him with the benefit of becoming the president of the United States of America. And that’s an understandable exchange, but in that exchange there have been some costly negotiations, one of which is the assault upon black identity and being. Another of which is that Obama did not champion those people as citizens of the state that he ran. It’s not simply that because you’re black and they’re black you’ve got to hook them up. No, it’s because they are citizens of the state that you preside over. 
When Obama said repeatedly, “I am not the president of black America.” True, but you are president of black Americans, and they are citizens as well. So caught in the troubled nexus of political idealism and racial innocence, or at least racial optimism, was the progress of black people. And that was sacrificed on the altar of Obama’s elevation. 
And here we are in year eight of this administration and something as elemental as Black Lives Matter is a flashpoint of controversy and debate. 
So true. The irony, of course, is that Black Lives Matter emerges under Obama. The first black presidency has elicited all of these horrible, racist sentiments and, equally powerful, a movement of black peoples, of a younger generation in particular, who are not only combating the structural flaws of a state that disallows or discourages the flourishing of black people, but [are] attacking as well the aesthetics and the representation of blackness. The animus toward blackness as an ideal, they’re fighting on both levels. On a cultural level and a political level. This is a peculiar mark of a black presidency, because of its deep and profound symbolism. They therefore are fighting symbol with symbol, as well as substance against substance. It’s a remarkable movement in that way.

And if this sounds familiar, it's the same damn argument that Cornel West and Tavis Smiley keep making: Obama wasn't black enough to scare white people until after he decided to actually try to change things for the better. Once that happened, he was too black for Fox News and not black enough for people like West, Dyson, and the rest.

Nobody sets up black America for failure like black America, I'm telling you.

This Is Spartanburg!

The battle for South Carolina's primary votes are heating up for both parties, but for Hillary Clinton the state is something of a must win (the way New Hampshire was for Bernie).  Matthew Yglesias actually nails it here when he says Clinton needs to get moving if she wants to win.

In the states ahead, Clinton needs exactly what she didn't have in Iowa and New Hampshire: a clear winning argument against Sanders. Right now, though, she has four arguments, many of which are in tension with each other:
  1. Clinton and Sanders largely agree on goals, but Clinton has a more realistic plan for achieving those goals.
  2. Sanders's left-wing policies on taxes, health care, and higher education are in facttoo left-wing and should be rejected in favor of more moderate ones.
  3. Sanders is not in fact as left-wing as he seems, as you can see from his stance on gun control and his votes on the 2007 immigration reform bill.
  4. Whether or not you prefer Sanders on the merits, you should vote Clinton, because Sanders is easier for the Republicans to beat.
All four of these arguments have some merit, but there's no particular reason to think that any of them are naturally more appealing in the big March states or to minority voters than they were to white voters in the early states. If she's able to get more persuasive on point 4, and do a better job of clarifying which of 1 through 3 she actually wants to argue, then there's every reason to believe she'll win the nomination. But if she continues to muddle through buoyed by a vague sense of inevitable minority support, then she's in trouble.

I'll throw in a fifth reason: turnout compared to 2008.  It's down big time for the Democrats in both Iowa and New Hampshire so far.  The argument that Bernie and Hillary have to work to earn votes makes much more sense when you realize that turnout is worse than 8 years ago, and significantly so.

Let's hope that happens.

The Master Debaters, Democratic Edition Con't

Last night's Democratic presidential debate before Nevada showed Hillary Clinton finally taking Bernie Sanders supporters seriously, something Sanders still has yet to do with Clinton's backers.

Clinton got in some good jabs on Bernie, opening up and saying that Sanders was basically right about the economy and the country being rigged in favor of the 1%, but Sanders hit back on the issue of huge corporate donations from Wall Street.

Both candidates had excellent answers on criminal justice reform and police reform, outstanding stuff.

But where Bernie lost me was on race relations.  Clinton gave a great answer to moderator Judy Woodruff's question:

WOODRUFF: Secretary Clinton, I was talking recently with a 23 year old black woman who voted for President Obama because she said she thought relations between the races would get better under his leadership, and his example. Hardly anyone believes that they have. Why do you think race relations would be better under a Clinton presidency? What would you do that the nation's first African American has not been able to?

CLINTON: Well, I'm just not sure I agree completely with that assessment. I think under President Obama we have seen a lot of advances, the Affordable Care Act has helped more African Americans than any other group to get insurance, to be taken care of, but we also know a lot more than we did. We have a lot more social media, we have everybody with a cellphone.

So, we are seeing the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society. I think President Obama has set a great example. I think he has addressed a lot of these issues that have been quite difficult, but he has gone forward. Now, what we have to do is to build on an honest conversation about where we go next.

That's the correct answer here, Clinton immediately rejecting the notion that race relations getting "worse" under Obama is somehow Obama's fault for being black.

Sanders's response was okay for the first half...

SANDERS: Well, I think, Judy, what has to be appreciated is that, as a result of the disastrous and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of lives were hurt. People lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings. Turns out that the African-American community and the Latino community were hit especially hard. As I understand it, the African-American community lost half of their wealth as a result of the Wall Street collapse.

So when you have childhood African-American poverty rates of 35 percent, when you have youth unemployment at 51 percent, when you have unbelievable rates of incarceration -- which, by the way, leaves the children back home without a dad or even a mother -- clearly, we are looking at institutional racism. We are looking at an economy in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And sadly, in America today, in our economy, a whole lot of those poor people are African-American.

True.  It is institutional, he's absolutely correct.  But then...

WOODRUFF: So race relation was be better under a Sanders presidency than they've been?

SANDERS: Absolutely, because what we will do is say, instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we are going to create millions of jobs for low-income kids so they're not hanging out on street corners. We're going to make sure that those kids stay in school or are able to get a college education.

And I think when you give low-income kids -- African-American, white, Latino kids -- the opportunities to get their lives together, they are not going to end up in jail. They're going to end up in the productive economy, which is where we want them.

The problem with racism in this country will be solved by ending Wall Street tax breaks?   Race relations will absolutely be better under Sanders?

This is exactly the kind of conflation of class and race that really pisses me off about Sanders. He. Does. Not. Get. It.  I'm not saying he's as bad as Rand Paul, who was clearly running a hustle, but Sanders keeps thinking the problem is class warfare and not racism.  He sees the problem, but his solutions are "all lives matter".

Which is a shame, because both candidates were stellar on mass incarceration issues.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Last Call For The Kids Are All...Something

The picture that accompanies this Atlantic piece on Bernie Sanders winning the youth vote is bugging the hell out of me.

If Bernie's voting bloc keeps looking like this, he's not going to beat Hillary outside of states like, well, Iowa and New Hampshire.  This is not America's "youth vote" any more than this picture represents all of America, and I think a lot of pundits have forgotten that this week.

Just saying.

Dispatches From Bevinstan, Con't

When Glibertarian douchebags like Matt Bevin complain about the "onerous regulatory climate" that "costs jobs" what they mean at every turn is getting rid of protections for consumers so that they can be screwed over by corporations. Kentucky's insurance providers are a perfect example of this.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s new insurance commissioner this week dropped Kentucky’s legal defense of a 2012 consumer-protection law intended to help life insurance beneficiaries. 
The law requires insurance companies to make “good faith efforts,” using public death records, to determine if policyholders have died so their benefits can be paid. 
Attorneys for Insurance Commissioner H. Brian Maynard — a former life insurance executive — on Monday filed a motion to dismiss their previously aggressive defense of the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act before the Kentucky Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case were scheduled for Friday at the high court
“If this is the direction the Bevin administration is moving in, putting insurance industry profits above protecting the consumers, then I’m very, very disappointed. I would hope the governor doesn’t really know what happened here, and he’s just been misled by some industry lobbyists,” said Bob Damron, the former state representative from Nicholasville who sponsored the law. 
Maynard spokeswoman Ronda Sloan said the state Insurance Department did not have a comment Wednesday morning on why it dropped its defense of the law. 
Before Kentucky and roughly two dozen states started to pass similar versions of this law, Damron said, the life insurance industry was sitting on more than $1 billion in unclaimed benefits, often because companies did not want to know that their customers had died. Once they officially knew a policyholder was dead, that meant they had to contact the listed beneficiary and cut a check, he said. 
“A lot of times, nobody in the family knows the deceased even had a life insurance policy, or they’ve long since forgotten if they knew, so the benefits go unclaimed,” Damron said.

Bevin appoints an insurance executive as Insurance Commissioner, and suddenly the state is no longer interested in defending laws that insurance companies have sued over that would actually make them honor their insurance policies, screwing ordinary people out of money.

This is how Bevinstan works, folks.  This is exactly who you voted for, or in our case, didn't bother to get off your ass to stop when you had the chance in November.

Welcome to Bevinstan.

Read more here:

Back To Ferguson

So last time I had checked, the Justice Department and the City of Ferguson, Missouri had worked out a consent decree for dealing with the city's odious, racist police practices, having worked out a deal to reform the city's police and courts like adults.

And then, Tuesday night, the Ferguson City Council unanimously voted to scrap the parts of the deal they didn't like and throw months of negotiations out the window with an eye towards running out the clock on the Obama administration, and taking their chances with the next administration being much, much less interested in prosecuting civil rights violations.

In other words, these guys wanted nine more months to comply at the minimum, and wanted to push any sort of actual reform until 2017, where of course a Republican administration running the DoJ would dropkick the case into the deepest well they could find, never to be heard from again.

The Justice Department delivered their response Wednesday afternoon.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that it would file suit against Ferguson, Mo., after the city rejected an agreement to overhaul its beleaguered criminal justice system and address allegations of widespread civil rights abuses.

“Their decision leaves us no further choice,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in remarks prepared for a news conference announcing the suit.

Ms. Lynch said residents of the city had waited too long for reforms. “They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer,” she said.

The Ferguson City Council voted, 6 to 0, on Tuesday night to reject the deal, which had been negotiated by Department of Justice and city officials. Council members expressed concern over the cost of that deal, but now face the prospect of a lawsuit that could cost millions in legal fees even if they prevail.

Ferguson has responded in kind:

Mayor James Knowles signaled Wednesday the city is ready to take on theJustice Department in federal court after municipal leaders voted to revise a tentative agreement to overhaul Ferguson's troubled police department and court system.

The mayor's comments came a day after city council members in the St. Louis suburb voted unanimously to remove language from the agreement that, local officials assert, mandates big raises for police officers. City leaders also sought to cap fees for required federal monitoring of the program at $1 million.

"The ball is in their court," Knowles said at a hastily called news conference Wednesday. "We're sitting and waiting to talk. If they want to threaten legal action, then that's what they're threatening."

Knowles is a scumbag of the lowest order, frankly.  He fully expects to get away with it. He just might, too.

But not if Loretta Lynch can help it.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Last Call For The Clown Car Contracts

Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina are out.  No surprise there, they finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in New Hampshire last night.

Behind Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush.

But the smart money still seems to be on Rubio, right Josh Marshall?

In a year when Donald Trump is now the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination, It is likely wise not to rule anything out. But it is also worth noting that in addition to almost certainly ending Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, Chris Christie probably also ended Rubio's political career.


So where next? 
Not the House, not the Senate and clearly not the presidency. He's already been at the pinnacle. It's hard to go back to anything else. The obvious path is to take a few years off and come back to run for Governor as a more seasoned, more mature politician. If that goes well, he's back in business as a national politician, maybe even one better positioned to make a fifty-something run for president. 
But you usually don't get multiple chances at this - especially if you get marked as a loser. The most likely scenario is that Marco Rubio's career in elective politics is over.

What a difference three years makes, huh.

Full-body portrait of Marco Rubio

How's that working out for you, Marco?

The Big Blue Eff You

Facebook founder (and burgeoning philanthropist) Mark Zuckerberg wants to give India free internet., which in a country like India which primarily accesses the internet via mobile phone is a massive deal. However, India's telecom industry just told him to go jump in the Ganges and take his free internet with him and it looks like the country's internet regulatory commission is following suit.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released their long-anticipated ruling on net neutrality in India. The regulators have ruled against differential and discriminatory pricing of mobile data on the basis of content.

This ruling will affect Free Basics — Facebook’s controversial plan to offer free, but limited Internet access — in India. Mark Zuckerberg has been campaigning to bring increased digital connectivity to the developing world. Free Basics, which claims to have 15 million users in more than 35 countries around the globe, is part of Facebook’s quasi-philanthropic efforts. India is the second largest market for Facebook users after the United States and considered vital to its continued growth.

Today’s much-anticipated ruling by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was not about Free Basics per se. Rather, regulators were reviewing pricing schemes like “zero-rating,” where mobile operators offer access to some websites and services for free, while charging for others. Advocates for digital equality arguethat zero-rating gives an unfair advantage to subsidized content, distorts the market for smaller players, and squashes innovation. Supporters of Free Basics, on the other hand, counter that urban elites who already have Internet access should not deny access to the poor, even if more equitable methods exist.

It seems the last thing India's government wants is Americans coming in and giving people just enough "free" internet to access Facebook all day and have to pay for everything else.

Free Basics was ostensibly targeted at Indians who had never experienced the Internet or could not pay for data plans. However, Facebook recently struggled to provide a reporter with the name of a single Free Basics user in India who had never been online before. Free Basics allows users free access to limited resources including Wikipedia, Bing search, and the weather, as well as a lightweight version of Facebook. Yet normal data charges apply for outside websites, like Google search results, for example. 
Facebook’s promotion of Free Basics has been orchestrated like a political campaign. In December, Zuckerberg published an op-ed in the Times of Indiadefending Free Basics. In it, he repeated Facebook’s claim that half of the people who go online through Free Basics end up paying for access to “the full Internet” within 30 days, but offered no further details about the study. “Who could possibly be against this?” Zuckerberg asked. “Surprisingly, over the last year there’s been a big debate about this in India.” Other countries have prohibited Free Basics. It is not offered in Chile, for example, because the government banned zero-rating in 2014.

If you want to know why I think Zuckerberg and his philanthropy are full of absolutely self-serving crap, this Free Basics scam is exactly why. This is precisely the kind of metered access that net neutraility laws in the US are supposed to prevent, and why Republicans are very eager to shut them down.

Imagine that Facebook gave you "free" mobile internet data -- only for accessing Facebook and search engines -- but the second you clicked on a web site, you had to pay as you go with the kind of data rates that would make AT&T and Verizon actually blush.

Given no net neutrality rules in India until now, that's the game Facebook decided it was going to play. That should be a big alarm bell to everyone about the necessity of net neutrality here in the US and indeed everywhere, but you can guarantee those rules go away the moment we get a GOP president again.

America already has the most expensive internet in the developed world.  The answer is not "free internet" with strings attached,

Smack, Crack, And Black

I cannot agree more with the sentiments of this op-ed piece in the NY Times about how differently America treated the largely black victims of the crack epidemic of the 80's and 90's, and how America's growing heroin epidemic in white, rural America is being treated today.

It is hard to describe the bittersweet sting that many African-Americans feel witnessing this national embrace of addicts. It is heartening to see the eclipse of the generations-long failed war on drugs. But black Americans are also knowingly weary and embittered by the absence of such enlightened thinking when those in our own families were similarly wounded. When the face of addiction had dark skin, this nation’s police did not see sons and daughters, sister and brothers. They saw “brothas,” young thugs to be locked up, rather than “people with a purpose in life.”

To be clear, no one laments the violence that the “crack bomb” set off in inner cities more than African-Americans. But while shootings, beatings and robberies cannot be tolerated anywhere, the heroin epidemic shows that how we respond to the crimes accompanying addiction depends on how much we care about the victims of crime and those in the grip of addiction. White heroin addicts get overdose treatment, rehabilitation and reincorporation, a system that will be there for them again and again and again. Black drug users got jail cells and “Just Say No.”

It would be cruel and perverse to seek equal abandonment of those now struggling with addiction as payback for the failures of the ’80s. Nor do I write in mere hopes of inducing cheap racial guilt. The hope, however vain, is that we learn from our meanest moments. 
Even today, as black communities face pressing problems of addiction and chronic unemployment and the discrimination in hiring that helps to perpetuate it, many are dedicated to ignoring racial prejudice. Faced with searing examples of unconscionable police violence against unarmed black men, of concocted justifications laid bare by video, too many still speak of isolated cases and overblown racial hysteria. With condescending finger-wagging, others recite the deplorable statistics of violence within poor minority neighborhoods as though racist policing were an antidote or excuse. Both responses ignore that each spectacular moment of unjustified police violence represents countless instances of institutionalized racial control across generations. 
No sane community faced with addiction and crime would invite or acquiesce to brutal policing as their fate, and no moral community would impose it as a primary response. We do not have to wait until a problem has a white face to answer with humanity.

A thousand times this.  The 90's got us three strikes laws, warnings about black "super-predators" and mass incarceration because SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE ABOUT THE BLACKS.

25 years later, it's Indianapolis and Des Moines and Omaha with the heroin epidemic.  And suddenly, America is all about second chances and criminal justice reform.

Funny how that worked out, huh.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Last Call For Climate Of No Change

The Supreme Court all but signaled the end of President Obama's EPA plan to regulate power plant emissions by ordering the regulations halted until the case can be heard by the high court.

The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations "an unprecedented power grab."

By temporarily freezing the rule the high court's order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.

The court's four liberal justices said they would have denied the request.

The plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030.

Appellate arguments are set to begin June 2.

The compliance period starts in 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.

Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that power plants will have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that may end up being overturned.

At this point, there's little doubt that there's five justices willing to kill the plan even though the Supreme Court wouldn't hear the case until at least 2017.   At this point the courts have all but put an end to recess appointments, immigration reform, and now climate change that Republicans refuse to act upon.

This one is going to hurt, frankly.  There's little doubt that a Democrat in the White House wouldn't tackle regulations like this again until a second term, and it will take at least that long to get control of the House back from the GOP.

Another six years of dicking around and refusing to do anything about climate change is only going to make things worse.
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