19 May 2018

It Was Inevitable………

The Trump administration is going balls to the wall to defund Planned Parenthood and reduce access to birth control services by reviving the Reagan gag rule:
The Trump administration is proposing to bar clinics that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving federal family-planning funds, a far-reaching move that would deprive Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers of millions of dollars a year.

The proposal would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between clinics that receive $260 million annually in federal funding and any organization that provides abortions or referrals to abortion clinics.

The move delivers on a long-held objective of abortion opponents, who are staunch supporters of President Trump. In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that it “would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions” and that Trump “is pleased to support” it.

The president plans to unveil the proposal Tuesday in a speech before the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee that opposes abortion, according to two administration officials.
The Republicans look at the Margaret Atwater's book The Handmaiden's Tale, and they think, "I gotta get me some of that."

Tweet of the Day


Cynthia Nixon is campaigning at a subway platform.

This is the same subway that Andrew Cuomo has been under-funding for years.

This is what they are handing out to would be subway passengers who are wondering why their train is late ……… Again.

Nixon is a long shot, but it does look like she will be putting the kibosh on his Presidential aspirations.

H/t naked capitalism

Why, "F%$# the Cable Companies," Is Such a Good Campaign Slogan

While people remain exclusively fixated on the telecom industry's attacks on net neutrality, the reality is companies like Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon are busy trying to eliminate nearly all federal and state oversight of their businesses. And while deregulation has its uses in healthy markets as part of an effort to protect innovation, you may have noticed that the telecom market isn't particularly healthy. As such, the end result of eliminating most meaningful regulatory oversight without organic market pressure in place is only likely to make existing problems worse.

This battle is getting particularly heated on the state level. After the Trump administration dismantled net neutrality and consumer privacy protections, states began flexing their muscle and attempting to pass their own privacy and net neutrality rules. ISP lobbyists, in turn, tried to head those efforts off at the pass by lobbying the FCC to include (legally untested) language in its net neutrality repeal "pre-empting" states from being able to protect broadband consumers in the wake of federal apathy.

And in the wake of the net neutrality repeal, companies like Charter (Spectrum) are trying to claim that states have no legal authority to hold them accountable for failed promises, slow speeds, or much of anything else.

For example, Charter is already trying to use the FCC net neutrality language to wiggle out of a lawsuit accusing it of failing to deliver advertised speeds. And the New York Public Service Commission also recently stated it found that Charter has been effectively lying to regulators about meeting conditions affixed to its $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. As part of the deal, Charter was supposed to deploy broadband to a set number of additional homes and businesses, but regulators found (pdf) several instances where Charter actively misled regulators.

Last week Charter replied to these allegations by again claiming that states have no authority over them. As part of that effort the company is already citing the FCC's preemption language buried in its net neutrality repeal:
Seriously.  If Democrats are running for office, and not mentioning this sh%$, they, and their high priced consultants, are engaging in political and electoral malpractice.

18 May 2018

Is This Even News Any More?

Another lethal school shooting, this one in Texas near Houston, with 10 dead so far:
A male student used a shotgun and a .38 revolver in a shooting spree at a high school in southeast Texas on Friday morning, leaving at least 10 dead — the majority believed to be students — and 10 others wounded, the authorities said.

In what has become a national rite, the authorities arrived en masse at a campus, this time at Santa Fe High School, 35 miles from Houston, as students fled in tears. The suspect, whom the authorities identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, appears to have obtained the weapons from his father who legally owned them, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said at a news conference.
The shooter is wypipo, so there is no talk of terrorism, despite the fact that he posted Nazi sh%$ online.

You know how it is: Wypipo are never terrorists.

About the only thing different about this time is that some MAGA loser showed up packing heat and waving a flag:
Trump supporter earned the rebuke of a fellow Second Amendment fan when he brought his open-carry pistol and an American flag to the scene of a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas that resulted in the reported deaths of multiple students.

When asked what his first thought was upon hearing about the active shooter at Santa Fe High School, the unnamed Trump supporter said he first thought he needed to “get to the school,” and then the phrase “make America great again.”

He told a reporter from Houston’s KHOU that he was there “offering support,” and that a “god bless y’all will go a long way right now.”

As he walked away, the camera panned to the man’s hip to show that he had a pistol holstered on his belt — a fact that enraged another resident interviewed by the news station.
I'm not making this up, you know. (Anna Russell abides)

I guess that this is the point where I offer thoughts and prayers, right?

We Need a Death Penalty for Corporations

Case in point, Wells Fargo:
Some employees in a Wells Fargo unit that handles business banking improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The behavior again raises questions about Wells Fargo’s risk-management practices and controls. The bank has been sanctioned in recent months by federal regulators for problems in these areas and as a result can’t grow its balance sheet.

The employees in Wells Fargo’s so-called wholesale unit, which is separate from its retail bank, added or altered information without customers’ knowledge, according to the people familiar with the matter. The information added varied from social security numbers to addresses to dates of birth for people associated with business-banking clients, the people said.

………

The behavior took place in 2017 and early 2018 as Wells Fargo was trying to meet a deadline to comply with a regulatory consent order related to the bank’s anti-money-laundering controls, the people said. The employees were also working to get documents in order prior to new requirements from another regulator for disclosures related to proof of beneficial ownership of businesses, the people added.

Wells Fargo became aware of the behavior in recent months from employees, the people said. After investigating, the bank discovered the behavior wasn’t an isolated incident, the people added. The bank is still investigating the matter, one of these people said.

………

The altering of information within the business-banking division of Wells Fargo, which serves small firms with annual sales ranging from $5 million to $20 million, comes as the bank is continuing to grapple with the fallout from the sales-practices scandal that erupted in September 2016. That involved bank employees fabricating information to open as many as 3.5 million accounts without customers’ knowledge or authorization.
The phrase, "Rotten to the core," applies here.

If there is a company who is as unequivocally merited its erasure from the universe, it is Wells Fargo.

To paraphrase Pat Boone, Wells Fargo should, "Be displayed publicly and have all of his fingers and toes broken, and then publicly executed," as a warning to other miscreants.

So, Is Your Money on "Suicide" or "Natural Causes"?


When juxtaposed with their preventing his communication with the outside world, I'm beginning to see the actuarial possibilities as kind of bleak:
The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the withdrawal of additional security assigned to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has remained for almost six years.

………

Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected him while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin.

Rafael Correa, the then Ecuadorian president who approved of the operation, later defended the security measures as “routine and modest”.

However, his successor, Moreno, appears to differ in his view. His government said in a statement: “The president of the republic, Lenin Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately.

………

Moreno has previously described Assange’s situation as “a stone in his shoe”.
I inclined to believe that, "A stone in his shoe," translated from the Ecuadorean dialect of Spanish to, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

This will not end well.

17 May 2018

F%$# Them

I am, of course, referring to Amazon and Starbucks, which are manifesting petulant butt-hurt over a tax bill which results directly from their impact on Seattle:

Amazon has threatened to move jobs out of its hometown of Seattle after the city council introduced a new tax to try to address the homelessness crisis.

The world’s second-biggest company has warned that the “hostile” tax, which will charge firms $275 per worker a year to fund homelessness outreach services and affordable housing, “forces us to question our growth here”.

Amazon, which is Seattle’s biggest private sector employer with more than 40,000 staff in the city, had halted construction work on a 17-storey office tower in protest against the tax.

Pressure from Amazon and other big employers, including Starbucks and Expedia, had forced councillors to reduce the tax from an initial proposal of $500 per worker. The tax will only effect companies making revenue of more than $20m-a-year.

The tax is expected to raise between $45m and $49m a year, of which about $10m would come from Amazon.

………

“We are disappointed by today’s city Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” said Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice-president. We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

………

Campaigners said the company should be forced to take financial responsibility for Seattle’s cost of living, which has forced many families on to the streets. There are almost 12,000 homeless people in Seattle region, equating to the third-highest rate per capita in the US. Last year 169 homeless people died in Seattle. The city declared a state of emergency because of homelessness in late 2015.

………

Politicians from 50 other US cities wrote an open letter to Seattle council in a show solidarity with the councillors attempt to tackle Amazon’s impact on the city.

“By threatening Seattle over this tax, Amazon is sending a message to all of our cities: we play by our own rules,” the letter said.

Starbucks had also fought against the tax, with its public affairs chief, John Kelly, accusing the city of continuing to “spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside”.
These guys have been driving the cost of living up in Seattle, and aggressively fighting any sort of taxes to address this issue, and somehow or other, it's everyone else's fault.

F%$# them, and f%$# all the capitalist ubermenschen who have their hands out for public subsidies.

6 Democrats Who Should Never Get Your Votes Ever Again

They are Senators Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Bill Nelson (FL), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Mark Warner (VA).

Simply put, they just voted to appoint admitted torturer Gina Haspel as head of the CIA, and this is a direct endorsement of torture, and they know it.

This is not about politics.  This is about right and wrong, and they have morally disqualified themselves from any position of authority.

This is an affront to basic human decency:
What's a little harsh interrogation between friends? President Donald Trump's pick Gina Haspel was today voted in by the Senate as the new head of the CIA, despite playing a key part in post-9/11 torture programs under President George W. Bush.

Her role in destroying the CIA's damning torture tapes in earlier years makes her the perfect spy boss for Trump, the President for whom force, secrecy, and lies are solutions to every problem.
Let me reiterate:  Trump does not matter here.  This isn't about Donald Trump, or the Republican Party, or the Easter Bunny.

This is about torture, and this is about rewarding torturers, which these 6 Senators just did.

Note that this was not an empty gesture.  Their votes were crucial to her approval:
Lawmakers approved Haspel’s nomination 54 to 45, with six Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no, after the agency launched an unprecedented public relations campaign to bolster Haspel’s chances. She appears to have been helped, too, by some last-minute arm-twisting by former CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, who contacted at least five of the six Democrats to endorse her bid to join President Trump’s Cabinet, according to people with knowledge of the interactions.
Do the math.  If they had all voted against the torturer, it would have been 48 to 51, if just 5 of them had voted against the torturer, Haspel would still had been rejected by 1 vote.

There is a special place in hell for these cowards.

16 May 2018

And the House Will Never Allow a Vote, and Trump Will Veto It

Still, the fact that Democrats managed to peel off a few votes and overturn the repeal of net neutrality is good policy and good politics:


The US Senate today voted to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, with all members of the Democratic caucus and three Republicans voting in favor of net neutrality.

The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would simply undo the FCC's December 2017 vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Trump, Internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has scheduled his repeal to take effect on June 11. If Congress doesn't act, the net neutrality rules and the FCC's classification of ISPs as common carriers would be eliminated on that date.

Democrats face much longer odds in the House, where Republicans hold a 236-193 majority. Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, but Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke ranks in order to support net neutrality and common carrier regulation of broadband providers.

The vote was 52-47.
The optimist in me celebrates this.

They cynic in me wonders how many Democrats in the Senate would have voted yes if there was any possibility of it actually being passed.

There Were Primaries Last Night

I'm going to lead with irony.

For your consideration, West Virginia Republican State Senator Robert Karnes, an implacable foe of unions, who said that the teachers' strike in his state, "I can’t say that it will have zero effect, but I don’t think it’ll have any significant effect because, more often than not, they probably weren’t voting on the Republican side of the aisle anyways."

He was turfed out yesterday:
Labor activists, it turns out, know how to get involved on the Republican side of the aisle, too. Karnes was facing a primary challenge from fellow Republican Delegate Bill Hamilton, who beat him, with all the votes counted, 5,787 to 3,749. It was a blowout.
Oh Snap.

It was generally not a good night for former Republicans running as Democrats, anti-abortion politicians:


Tuesday’s primaries featured the crucial state of Pennsylvania plus a smattering of contests in the not-so-crucial states of Nebraska, Idaho, and Oregon.



………

But it’s clear the party is moving in a leftward direction, with even the most mainstream new Democratic candidates on the scene embracing views that would have been extremely daring five or 10 years ago. They are also simply riding positive momentum from the national political environment and — in the specific state of Pennsylvania, though not nationally — from some newly favorable district boundaries.

………

A real sign of the shifting winds of American politics came from the victory of a pair of first-time candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America who knocked off two incumbent state legislators from a well-established Pittsburgh political family.
Both Dom and Paul Costa, the incumbent losers, were on the conservative side of modern Democratic Party politics but also seemingly well-entrenched.
Instead, they lost — to Sara Innamorato, a 32-year-old nonprofit manager and former Apple retail store worker, and Summer Lee, a 2015 graduate of the Howard University School of Law. Their wins are ideological victories for the left but also reflect basic demographic dynamics. Women, and especially younger women and women with college degrees, are the core of the anti-Trump political mobilization, and candidates who can mirror and channel that specific demographic are well-positioned to win Democratic primaries this cycle.

………


By contrast to the Innamorato and Lee wins, Bernie Sanders endorsed Rich Lazer in the PA-5 primary, and Sanders and his Our Revolution organization invested heavily in Gregory Edwards’s campaign in PA-7.

Edwards ended up losing to a former Allentown solicitor named Susan Wild who ran with the support of Emily’s List, which works to get pro–abortion rights Democratic women elected to office. (The third candidate, longtime Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli — an anti-abortion, anti-immigrant Trump supporter — would have been a very awkward fit for the House Democratic caucus.) And Lazer came up short against Mary Gay Scanlon.

………

It’s rare to see an incumbent lieutenant governor attract vigorous primary challenges, but Mike Stack managed to land himself in an unusual sweet spot. Scandals related to his spending and treatment of state employees weren’t bad enough to drive him from office in disgrace but did cost him the confidence of the state party (Gov. Wolf hasn’t endorsed him for reelection) and drew a number of challengers into the race.

The winner is John Fetterman, the heavily tattooed mayor of the small town of Braddock outside Pittsburgh. He was also challenged by Nina Ahmad, a physician and former deputy mayor of Philadelphia. The two challengers were both avatars of competing visions of the future of the Democratic Party, with Fetterman emblematic of a back-to-the-future drive to connect with the white working class and Ahmad representing a vision of a diverse party firmly grounded in the classes of professionals and social service providers.

Fetterman ran for Senate in 2016 as a kind of Berniecrat (though without really garnering support from Sanders himself) and surprised observers by pulling 20 percent of the vote against two much better-known opponents. This won himself a reputation as a charismatic figure and potential rising star.

………

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not endorse primary candidates, per se, but it does maintain a roster of Red to Blue program members who are considered the party’s best prospects for flipping seats. It sometimes adds people to Red to Blue before nominations have been settled.

………

But Brad Ashford, who served one term in the US House of Representatives from the Omaha-based second district, has not had it so lucky. Ashford, a moderate who used to be a Republican state legislator and who ran for Omaha mayor as a nonpartisan independent, fits the DCCC recruiting model perfectly.

Local progressives rallied instead behind Kara Eastman, a more conventional liberal who runs a nonprofit called the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance. In national politics, she secured support from Justice Democrats and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Despite running a platform of single-payer health care and a $15-per-hour minimum wage, Eastman didn’t snag an Our Revolution endorsement (likely because she backed Clinton in 2016) but also didn’t secure support from Emily’s List or NARAL. They overlooked Ashford’s past as an anti-abortion state legislator in favor of his solidly pro-abortion rights record during his two years in the House.

The race was incredibly close (and hadn’t yet been called at press time [It's been called, Eastman won by about 1%]), a fact that doesn’t bode well for the DCCC’s top choices.
I've heard reports that the so-called professionals at the DNC and te DCCC are concerned.

F%$# them.

Also, for those candidates who won despite meddling:  I suggest that they take this personally when the Beltway incompetents come around looking for support in a few months or a few years.

It's Called Monopoly Rents and Oligopolies

The good folks at the New York Times have noted that healthcare costs in the US started rising sharply relative to other developed nations around 1980.

Ignoring the obvious error (Dean Baker notes that the increase in US medical inflation started in the 1970s, not the 1980s) the history is clear: this began with a major push toward deregulation that began under the Carter administration, along with largely successful efforts to privatize what had been publicly owned research and development.

The walk-back from meaningful antitrust enforcement, and to deregulate many aspects of the market economy, along with efforts to privatize federally funded research progressed rapidly during the late 1970s, culminating with the disastrous Bayh-Dole act, which had the effect of handing government research to private entities.

Later, under the Reagan administration, the break-neck pace of these changes further accelerated.

It became the wild west, and a very opaque one at that, and to paraphrase former banking regulator Bill Black, if looting is possible, it has already happened.

What's more the proceeds of the looting are almost immediately reinvested in rent seeking activities like campaign donations, to embrace and extend the regime.

Rinse, lather, repeat.