Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Second Rate Life

More and more folks in the new crowdsourcing economy are finding out that customer ratings are now just as important as business ratings, and on the largely unregulated frontier that if you get pegged as a "problem customer" then your life is going to be very, very difficult

But the new platforms let reviews go both ways, and vary in their transparency about the process. Yelp is straightforward: Businesses can post replies to critical customers. On Lyft, the second biggest of the new cab companies, passengers are vaguely warned that “a low star rating” means requests for rides may not be accepted. Uber does not mention passenger ratings at all in its user agreement but noted in a blog post that “an Uber trip should be a good experience for drivers too.” 
It does not seem to take much to annoy some Uber drivers. On one online forum, an anonymous driver said he gave poor reviews to “people who are generally negative and would tend to bring down my mood (or anyone around them).” Another was cavalier about the whole process: “1 star for passengers does not do them any harm. Sensible drivers won’t pick them up, but so what?”

Even those who know Uber best appear surprised by how easy it is to fall from grace. “I was at a 5 for a long time, then I had a string of 4 stars,” Travis Kalanick, the company’s chief executive, recently told San Francisco magazine. “I don’t know what happened. I think what happened was I was a little stressed at work. I was not as courteous as I should have been.” 
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the rental economy — taking its cue from the Internet in general — sees everything as either horrible or great, with little room for nuance. Lyft nods to this when it tells passengers reviewing drivers that ”anything lower than 5 indicates that you were somehow unhappy with the ride.” Drivers can be dropped from their services when they fall below 4.5, but it is unclear what it takes to get banned as a passenger. 
“Have riders been given a temporary cooling-off period or barred from using the app for inappropriate or unsafe behavior? Yes,” Uber said in a blog post, adding that it wanted only “the most respectful riders.” It declined to be more explicit.

So what happens when Uber or Lyft refuse you service because of ratings you can't see and have little control over?  What happens when there are drivers that intentionally rate certain people as bad passengers regardless of how they act?  It's a system that can be easily abused, and if you don't believe it, take a look at the comments section of any of the online articles I link to.

What happens when the comments section of the internet determines who gets service as a paying customer in general?  Uber and other companies like it are leading the way, but what if we get to the point where people start using this to blackball people they don't like?

What happens when your grocery store or your kid's school or your place of worship decides to take up this philosophy?

Something to think about.

Bibi's Bailout Bonanza

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping that congressional Dems can get him out of the gaping chasm he put himself in over his plan to visit Congress, and so far his pleas are falling on deaf ears.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office confirmed Thursday that he had called Democrats and “other friends” in Congress in recent days, and that he “reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue.” 
Mr. Reid, a strong supporter of Israel, said in an interview that he had had a candid conversation with Mr. Netanyahu. He said he had advised the prime minister that the speech, scheduled for March, had become such a problem that some Democratic senators had backed off their support of the quick imposition of new sanctions on Iran. 
“It’s hurting you,” Mr. Reid said he told Mr. Netanyahu. “I said: ‘You have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.’ ” 
“It would have been wrong for me to say, ‘Don’t come,’ ” said Mr. Reid, who is recovering at his home in Washington from a serious exercise accident he sustained Jan. 1. “I wouldn’t do that.” 
Ms. Pelosi said late Wednesday that when she spoke with the prime minister, she had stressed that the speech “could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance.”

Gosh, it's almost like this too-clever-by half plan to "put Obama in his place" was such an overt insult that it blew up in Bibi's face. Doubly so since John Boehner is running as quickly as he can away from this so that Netanyahu and his ambassador to the US are the ones left holding the bag here, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out talking to Ambassador Dermer:

Goldberg: Democrats (including, and maybe especially, Jewish Democrats) believe that the prime minister is sometimes disrespectful to the president, and they worry that your government privileges its relations with the Republicans at their expense. Assuming you believe this is wrong, why is this wrong? 
Dermer: The prime minister and the president have disagreed on issues, but the prime minister has never intentionally treated the president disrespectfully—and if that is what some people felt, it certainly was not the prime minister’s intention.

Nobody believes that. There's every indication that Bibi flat out despises President Obama and if Bibi going around him to speak to Congress as a foreign leader openly undermining the foreign policy of a sitting President isn't intentional disrespect, there's very little that does qualify.

And now the guy is scrambling to try to find some way to save his own ass, because he full well knows what the consequences are as the Palestinians decide to take their grievances to the International Criminal Court rather than the UN. He knows he needs the United States, and right now nobody will give him the time of day.

Can't say he doesn't deserve it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Last Call For Demolition Derby Night

Republicans have finally come clean on their intent to watch SCOTUS fatally wound Obamacare, and to then watch it bleed to death.

Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate see the court challenge as their best hope for tearing apart a law they have long opposed. If the court strikes down the subsidies, Democrats are expected to clamor for lawmakers to pass a measure correcting the language in the law to revive them. Congressional Republicans say there is no possibility they would allow that.

Greg Sargent notes this could play out as overreach as 30 states aren't going to sit idly by and do nothing with taxpayers suddenly having unaffordable health care because the GOP Congress won't fix it.

It is for this reason that there is a hidden upside in a Supreme Court ruling with the challengers. It just might finally force Republicans to own the consequences of their actual current stance on health reform, which is that they favor blowing up Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. Republicans could very well just allow the disruptions to unfold in hopes that chaos is their political friend in the 2016 election. Alternatively, Republicans could enter into real negotiations to fix the law in exchange for changes they want. Or Republicans could finally coalesce behind an alternative that would purport to expand coverage to those who lost it and continue to go without it. Or maybe that alternative wouldn’t purport to do this. Either way, that alternative could be evaluated against what Obamacare had been doing in many states before SCOTUS gutted it. Then we could re-litigate all this in 2016.

I think Greg has it right with the first option:  since when have voters over the last six years punished Republicans for causing chaos?  Certainly not in 2010, and they were rewarded with Senate control in 2014 for doing just that.

So yes, Federal exchange states will burn, it'll become a crisis, and voters will blame Obama not for causing the problem, but for being unable to convince Republicans to fix it.  If this keeps up for two years, the GOP may coast to an easy win.  So what if millions of Americans lose their health care? Most voters will say "Well, the Supreme Court decided the Republicans were right all along" and will choose to punish Democrats.

And the GOP knows it.

Persecution Not-So-Complex

The Department of Justice investigated reporter Sharyl Attkisson's claims that the Obama administration had hacked her computer in order to spy on her as a critic of the President, and found that the woman is pretty much talking out of her ass.

Attkisson, who has written a book about her experiences trying to cover the Obama White House which includes the allegation of hacking, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Postmaster General for the alleged hacking of her home and work computers. Today, Attkisson testified at Lynch's confirmation hearing.

The report from the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General casts a different light on Attkisson's allegations:

The OIG found after inspecting Attkisson's personal computer that the episode she recorded video of—in which the contents of a Word document were being deleted off her screen—was caused by a stuck backspace key. And examination of Attkisson's iMac found that file metadata for the computer's logs had been altered by whoever inspected it. "The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs," the report noted.

"However, it appeared that the searches and queries were conducted while the computer was in operation and without write protecting the drive, which altered file information. This method of forensic examination is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." And when the OIG asked for a copy of the report from the technician who did the examination, Attkisson said, "My attorney says our material isn't yet in a form that's ready to share."

CBS would not make Attkisson's work laptop available to the OIG for inspection, though it had issued a statement saying that her computer had been compromised. But CBS told the OIG that it hadn't hired anyone to perform a forensic test on her iMac, counter to Attkisson's claim.

Ah but in the end she's a hero to the tinfoil morons on the wingnut circuit, and always will be, another victim of Obama's evil liberal conspiracy to silence voices in the press that dare criticize him.
The best part is while the knuckleheads are clearly lunatics, their votes count precisely as much as yours, the difference being that while crazy, they actually vote, and vote Republican.

Bonkers?  Certainly.  But right now the party of bonkers controls 246 House seats, giving them a 58 seat advantage, 54 Senate seats giving them an 8 seat advantage, and control 24 state legislatures and governor's mansions completely, with another 19 states they split with the Dems.

Republicans are winning, and if they get the White House, then the party of Sharyl Attkisson will rule the country.  It's easy to make fun of her.  it's a whole lot harder to get off your ass and vote to stop the people she represents.

Breaking StupidiNews: Mitt Rom-Not

Mitt's out.

Mitt Romney said Friday that he would not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. 
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shared his decision on a conference call with a small group of advisers. 
In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Mr. Romney said, “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”


Texas School Justice Time

Now I can't think of anything that could possibly go wrong with giving teachers loaded weapons and telling them that yes, they can use them on students who are a "threat".

People who are concerned about the use of excessive force by law enforcement may have to deal with another fatal can of worms. If Texas state Rep. Dan Flynn (R) gets his way, teachers will have the right to use deadly force against students in Texas classrooms, in the near future. 
The Lone Star State already permits teachers to have firearms in the classroom, but H.B. 868, also known as the Teacher’s Protection Act, would authorize instructors to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.” Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.” Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force, meaning they would not be liable for the injury or death of student.

For a group of small government conservatives, Texas Republicans sure do want to give government employees the right to use deadly force against people, and to make those employees the sole arbiter of when and when to use that deadly force.

Of course, if you were a Texas Republican, armed with the knowledge that the state's school students are now majority Latino, well maybe you'd overreact with a bill like this too, right? 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Last Call For The Religion Of Tolerance

Republicans continue their outreach to red state Muslims, and they're doing a literally unbelievable job of it.

A Republican state lawmaker in Texas is sending a message to her Muslim constituents: if they want to come calling at her Capitol office, they better pledge allegiance to the United States.

Newly-minted state Rep. Molly White (R) wrote Thursday in a Facebook post that she'd left an Israeli flag on the reception desk in her Austin office to mark the occasion of Texas Muslim Capitol Day. She said she also instructed her staff to "ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws."

"We will see how long they stay in my office," White wrote.

The best part of Texas Muslim Capitol Day?

Embedded image permalink

But remember, health care for poor people is liberal fascism.  Meanwhile, demanding loyalty oaths from citizens is just being a patriot.  I'm probably trying to silence her or something.

Post-Racial America Update

Old habits tend to die hard here in Post-Racial America.

A white politician in Virginia reportedly addressed a black reporter as "boy" at a meeting on Monday, but then tried to backpedal quickly.

Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles, an independent who has run for office as a Democrat in the past, was apparently critcizing reporter Calvin Trice, 43, of the Virginia News Leader newspaper when the offending remark took place. 
"You got it wrong, boy — uh, son," Pyles told the reporter, according to the Virginia News Leader
"That has bothered me," Pyles later told the paper. "It certainly came out, and then I went to 'son.'" 
The News Leader reported that Trice, as well as others present at the briefing, were offended by the way Pyles addressed him. 
"The context was obviously angry and that's a term that when its been used against me was a racial slur, a put down," Trice told his newspaper. 
Pyles said it's just the way he talks, even to those who are dearest to him.

Black reporter reporting facts you don't like?  Hey, it's just the way the guy talks when you call him "boy" right?

And speaking of black professionals in Post-Racial America, it's interesting to note that black professionals with advanced degrees on average earn about the same as  white workers with bachelor's degrees.

You’ve heard of the racial wealth gap, the racial employment gap, and surely also about racial job callback disparities. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an updated look at another dynamic of our racialized economy: the racial income gap. 
As in: In 2014, while white workers 25 years or older with at least an undergrad degree took home median earnings of $1,219 per week, similarly aged and educated Latino workers made $1,007, and Asian workers made $1,328 per week. Black workers with at least a college degree, meanwhile, posted median earnings of $970 per week
The racial income gap is so pronounced that black workers with an advanced degree made $1,149—roughly the same as white workers who had only a bachelor’s degree ($1,132).

But if you work hard and educate yourself, you'll make it in America as a black person, right?

Oh, and starting with some college education, your average black employee earns less than your average woman.  And black and Hispanic women?  That is a national tragedy right there.

Even when we play by the rules we lose.

Barack And Bibi And Not Buddies

The Obama administration has been holding its tongue over Republicans inviting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without informing the White House so far, but it looks like that period of silence has more or less ended with a bang.

The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.

The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.

The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment. The remarks were the latest fallout after Mr. Dermer, without the White House’s knowledge, worked with House Speaker John A. Boehner to arrange the speech, which is scheduled for March.

If there is a head around here that's going to roll, it's going to be Ambassador Dermer's.

Mr. Dermer, an American-born former Republican political operative who is so close to Mr. Netanyahu that he is often called “Bibi’s brain,” became Israel’s envoy to the United States in 2013. White House officials were at first wary that Mr. Dermer would politicize relations between Washington and Jerusalem, but over time cultivated a working relationship with him after concluding that there were advantages in his closeness to Mr. Netanyahu.

The last week has borne out their initial concerns.

Mr. Dermer relayed the invitation to Mr. Netanyahu from Mr. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, without notifying top officials in Washington or Jerusalem. American and Israeli officials said that Mr. Dermer, in the course of a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry just before Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was announced, never mentioned it.

Let's not forget that Dermer was one of Frank Luntz's boys back in the GOP's "Contract With America" days of Speaker Newt Gingrich.  He's a GOP operative through and through, and he decided that his loyalties to Israel and the GOP trumped all.

We'll see how this shakes out, but the crosshairs are definitely on Dermer's career right now should the White House decide to persona non grata his ass.  That however would be a major escalation on our part.

It may very well be warranted.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last Call For The Great Beturbaned Horde

I think of all the Republican politicians I dislike the most, Bobby Jindal has to be at the top of the list simply because he's smarter than a great percentage of them and chooses to spout ignorance like this anyway.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) expressed fears of an extremist Muslim “invasion” of America in an interview on Monday, outlining a strict vision for how Muslims should assimilate into the United States and doubling down on his recent controversial comments about Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe. 
According to Buzzfeed, Jindal spoke at length about Muslim immigration during an interview on the Washington Watch radio show, hosted by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Jindal began the segment by defending remarks he made earlier this month about so-called “no-go zones,” or areas in England and France that some American conservatives have erroneously claimed are so dominated by extremist Muslims that police forces simply do not enter.

If we’re not careful the same no-go zones you’re seeing now in Europe will come to America,” Jindal said. “What is not acceptable and what you’ve seen in Europe and this is a very serious particular threat, you’ve got those that do want to try to impose a form of sharia law. And sharia law is antithetical, mutually exclusive of freedom, in treating women as first-class citizens, it is antithetical to the values we hold dear. And you see, third, fourth generation immigrants in the U.K., France, in other places in Europe that don’t consider themselves part of those societies and that’s very dangerous.”

No-go zones are a complete lie, but Jindal understands that being an Islamophobic Republican as well as a man of Indian descent allows him to make a contrast as "one of the good immigrants" in this country.  He's lowering the discourse on purpose to further his own political ambitions. It's a form of self-hatred and loathing that's been practiced here for centuries, but it's just as tiring now as it was in the days of blaming the Irish, Italian, Greeks and Catholics coming into the country to join America.

Jindal should frankly know better about a lot of things.  But he's lying to his base for a reason.

Cut And Bleeding Red

Reuters reporter Andy Sullivan has a piece today that all but accuses the Obama administration of cutting discretionary federal grants to red states more than blue ones for political reasons.

For the analysis, Reuters divided the U.S. into three categories: Republican-leaning "red" states where Obama got less than 45 percent of the vote in the 2012 election; competitive "purple" states where he won between 45 percent and 55 percent of the vote; and Democratic-leaning "blue" states where he won more than 55 percent of the vote.

Red, purple and blue states have all shouldered steep spending cuts after a 2011 budget deal, the analysis found. But those cuts have not been doled out evenly.

Discretionary grant funding to red states like Mississippi fell by 40 percent to $15 billion between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2013, the most recent year for which reliable figures are available. Purple states like Ohio and North Carolina saw a smaller drop of 27 percent, to $19.8 billion, and blue states saw a yet-smaller drop of 22.5 percent, to $27.6 billion. (The tally does not include disaster aid handed out after Hurricane Sandy, which went largely to blue states like New Jersey.)

The disparity doesn't show up in payments like Medicaid that are distributed through pre-set formulas. It also does not appear in Obama's 2009 recession-fighting Recovery Act. It only shows up in federal aid that is most directly controlled by the administration: "project grants," which are doled out on a competitive basis by career civil servants and political appointees.

Of course, many factors other than politics come into play. Some states aren't good at writing grant proposals - researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, for example, found that poor planning has hurt that state's ability to compete for federal dollars. A governor from an oil-producing state may be less inclined to pursue green-energy grants.

But the disparity can't be fully explained by these factors. At Reuters' request, Hudak ran a statistical analysis of spending over this period, controlling for differences in population, economy, percentage of elderly residents, miles of federal highway and the number of research universities and hospitals.

Red states still came up short. After 2011, the average red state got 15 percent fewer grants and 1.3 percent fewer grant dollars than the average swing state. That comes out to roughly 500 grants and $15 million for an average-sized red state like Tennessee - enough to pay for 115 additional police officers or upgrade a rural airport to handle larger planes.

All of this seems pretty odd until you remember that the Senate gave up earmarks in 2011 under this same budget deal, and oh yes, Sullivan does admit that previous presidents played the same game.

This approach isn't unique to Obama. Under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Hudak found that purple states got about 7.3 percent more grants and 5.7 percent more grant dollars than states that were firmly in one camp.

So federal grant money goes towards presidential swing states?  Whoever would have guessed that?

Super Zandar Funtime Land

And who should come along just under the deadline for filing for running for Kentucky governor than our old cockfighting friend Matt Bevin...

Months removed from a Republican Senate primary loss to Mitch McConnell, the fiery tea-party candidate launched another statewide race Tuesday, this time for Kentucky governor. 
Bevin's unexpected and late entry—he officially joined the race less than two hours before the state's 4 p.m. deadline—is a boon for the party's most conservative elements, as it will boost their voice in a crowded campaign. But for the party as a whole, it complicates an already difficult task: preventing the competitive primary from crippling its candidate before the general election begins. 
With Bevin, Republicans now have a four-way race. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is the perceived front-runner, but he was already competing against wealthy Louisville businessman Hal Heiner and former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will Scott. And with Bevin, the GOP adds a candidate with a combative history—particularly in his nasty race against McConnell last year. 
And if the party is unable to prevent its primary season from becoming an all-out brawl, it risks losing the governor's mansion yet again: Republicans have long sought the Kentucky governorship—and thought they had opportunities to take it in recent races—but the state hasn't had a Republican governor since Ernie Fletcher was ousted after one term in 2007. And over the past 50 years, Republicans have held the state's top spot for only eight.

"They'll beat each other up. Even if they're all good candidates, we'll have four months having a family feud, or at least a family discussion, and that's going to put [Democrats] in a good position," said Trey Grayson, Rand Paul's 2010 Senate primary opponent.

You can read more about Bevin's brutally ugly primary fight against Mitch the Turtle, his "cock-up" of a fall over cockfighting in the Bluegrass State, and a not-so-gentle reminder that Bevin didn't exactly hurt Mitch too much.

Having said that, cone of the other Republicans running for governor here are anywhere near as politically savvy as Mitch, so Bevin might turn out to be real trouble for them.

Which is good for Jack Conway and the Democrats.  We'll see.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Last Call For H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

The Canadian dollar isn't doing so well against its US cousin recently as the economy has stagnated and the Bank of Canada has cut interest rates.  Canada avoided the worst of the subprime housing crash seven years ago, but now the problem is oil prices in freefall, and that's causing a number of painful side effects.

Just ask Canada's NHL teams.

A low Canadian dollar hurts the NHL in a multitude of ways, and both the league and the seven Canadian teams keep an eye on its fluctuations daily. They engage in what’s known as currency hedging to protect themselves from drops, but dramatic falls such as those of late are difficult to protect against. Because player salaries are paid in U.S. dollars, every currency drop hurts those teams’ bottom line. For a wealthy franchise such as Montreal or Toronto, that simply means a lower profit margin. For a team closer to the break-even point, such as Ottawa or Winnipeg, an 80-cent dollar may well push them $5-million into the red and affect personnel decisions in the future. 
Spending to the cap may no longer be possible. 
The dollar’s shift is only one factor, but there’s evidence its movement translates to success on the ice. Between 1994 and 2000, the dollar sat around 70 cents and Canadian teams had an average of only 75 points a season – nearly 10 below U.S.-based ones. Meanwhile, Canadian teams’ most successful season, points-wise, came in 2005-06, when the dollar began to shoot back up to close to 90 cents.

 But it can actually get worse for Canad's small market teams like Winnipeg and Ottawa:

The biggest doomsday scenario for the cap would be if players themselves decide they don’t want it to rise. Every June, the NHL Players’ Association has to greenlight a 5-per-cent cap inflator that helps drive the league’s ceiling higher in anticipation of revenue growth. 
With players currently paying 14 per cent of their salaries into escrow, – a figure that could increase the rest of the season as the dollar falls – they may not want the cap to rise. 
A low or no-growth cap would create massive pain for successful-but-capped out franchises such as the Chicago Blackhawks, who have been signing players under the assumption the NHL’s ceiling will continue to rise. Already, some teams around the league are considering a “vulture” strategy, where they’ll purposely head into the summer with a lot of cap room in order to take advantage of distressed teams.

So yes, the biggest factor heading into the NHL's 2015 summer offseason may be where the Loonie is compared to the Greenback.  There's been talk of the NHL trying to expand to 32 teams as well. The fate of that may depend on currency traders more than anything else here in the next year or two.

Even if expansion is put off, the free agency period could be really interesting this year.

Pence's Professional Pravda

Are you a Republican governor who's thinking about a 2016 presidential run? Tired of "liberal news media" printing their "facts" instead of your truth about your administration? Want to turn your press release department into the actual press, only with taxpayer dollars and your direction?  Then you too can be like Indiana GOP Gov. Mike Pence and start your own news agency!

Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run news service that will provide pre-written news stories to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes compete with them for news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Pence is planning to launch "Just IN" in late February, a website and news service that will feature stories written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.

"At times, Just IN will break news -- publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such 'exclusive' coverage remain under discussion," according to a question-and-answer sheet distributed to communications directors for state agencies last week details.

The Pence news service will take stories written by state communications directors and publish them on its website. Stories will "range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles."

A Pence spokeswoman declined comment Monday, saying the administration would release more details soon.

Hey after all this is the party that swore to destroy the "dead tree" media.  Just put bloggers in charge and "publish information ahead of any other news outlet" yourself!  No need for an adversarial press when you control the information and the means to get it to taxpayers, right?

How long until other states start doing this?

Just Like Dear Old Dad

WaPo's David Farenthold on Sen. Rand Paul's biggest barrier to the Oval Office: Dear Ol' Dad.

Rand Paul wants to lead the United States. On Saturday in Texas, his father was speaking at a conference about how to leave it.

“A lot of times people think secession, they paint it as an absolute negative,” said former representative Ron Paul (R-Tex.). After all, Paul said, the American Revolution was a kind of secession. “You mean we should have been obedient to the king forever? So it’s all in the way you look at it.” 
This weekend was a crucial one for Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky and un­declared candidate for the presidency. He was in California, trying to line up donors at an opulent retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers. 
At the same time, his father — retired after 12 terms in Congress and three presidential runs — was in the ballroom of an airport hotel here, the final speaker at “a one-day seminar in breaking away from the central state.” He followed a series of speakers who said that the U.S. economy and political establishment were tottering and that the best response might be for states, counties or even individuals to break away. 
“The America we thought we knew, ladies and gentlemen, is a mirage. It’s a memory. It’s a foreign country,” Jeff Deist, Ron Paul’s former press secretary and chief of staff, told the group. “And that’s precisely why we should take secession seriously.”

And this is why I always get a good chuckle when people say "Hey Zandar, your crazy-ass senator might end up as President, right?"

No. Not in a million years. Ron Paul and his merry band of rootin' tootin' gold bug Bell Curve dudebro Second Revolution glibertarian dumpster fires will never, ever stop being the Olympus Mons of baggage for Rand Paul's higher aspirations. He can't afford to alienate them because his supporters love the little garden gnome, and he can't afford to have them running around and talking about how great things like secession and Bitcoin and ending the Fed and the Civil Rights Act would be for the next 18 months because stories like this will eventually start becoming a real problem for the donor class.

And that's on top of Rand's own ridiculous statements on civil rights and his questionable hiring practices.

Not sure why the guy is even bothering to run.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Last Call For If You Can't Beat 'Em, Buy 'Em

Thanks to the Citizens United decision, the Koch Brothers are looking to more than double their war chest for buying America's elections, one race at a time.  And they have amassed a network of donors and backers that plan to spend a billion dollars to purchase your votes for the GOP in 2016.

A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors here Monday during an annual winter meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the$407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign.

The figure comes close to the $1 billion that each of the two major parties’ presidential nominees are expected to spend in 2016, and it cements the network’s standing as one of the country’s most potent political forces. With its resources and capabilities — including a national field operation and cutting-edge technology — it is challenging the primacy of the official parties. In the 2012 elections, the Republican National Committee spent $404 million, while the Democratic National Committee shelled out $319 million.

The new $889 million goal reflects the anticipated budgets of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new data-driven technology and policy work, among other projects, along with likely media campaigns aimed at shaping the congressional and White House elections.

So the Kochs have a billion, the Republicans are looking to put together another billion, and the Democrats are playing catch up.  So enjoy America!  If you hated negative political ads 3 years ago, that's nothing compared to the onslaught that's coming, the one designed to make you give up on voting and give up on caring about voting...unless you're a Republican looking for some revenge for the Obama administration.

Odds are pretty good the Kochs will get the best government money can buy.

Duct Tape And Disembowelment

Greg Sargent calls out Republicans who are promising to "fix" the Affordable Care Act should the Supreme Court side with the GOP and end subsidies to the majority of states that are using federally-run insurance exchanges.

Here’s something to watch for: Republicans claiming in some vague way or other that, if SCOTUS does that, they just might be open to fixing the law. This rhetoric — deliberately or not — might make a SCOTUS decision gutting the law more likely
National Journal reports that top Senate Republicans claim they are already eying what to do if SCOTUS rules against the law. NJ reports that a Congressional fix — which would require re-writing a few words of statute — would originate in either the Finance or Health committees. The incoming chairmen of both — Orrin Hatch and Lamar Alexander — have begun to discuss ways of responding to a SCOTUS decision gutting the law, suggesting that perhaps a fix can be had in exchange for other changes to the law Republicans want. 
We should treat such suggestions with extreme skepticism. It’s hard to imagine Republicans agreeing to any fix to the law that doesn’t require enormous concessions from Democrats in return. (Republicans will be under pressure from stakeholders in the states impacted by a SCOTUS decision to fix the law, but they may argue, perhaps understandably, that Democrats are to blame for faulty drafting, so why should Republicans salvage the law for them?) Beyond this, though, some Democrats closely following the health care debate believe there is a possible consequence — unintended or otherwise — that could follow from such rhetoric. 
It all turns on one way Chief Justice John Roberts, the expected swing vote, might decide to gut the law. He might agree with the government’s argument that, read in its larger statutory context, the disputed “exchange established by the state” language doesn’t change the fact that Congress’ obvious intent was to provide subsidies to all 50 states. But he could still say that the language says what it says; that, given its plain meaning, it is obviously a mistake; and that it is not SCOTUS’s job to fix a mistake — that’s on Congress. 
Thus, the “maybe we’ll fix it” rhetoric coming from some Republicans might make it easier to entertain the idea that Congress would fix the law in the event of a SCOTUS ruling against it. The problem is that other leading Republicans have already given away the game: GOP Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and John Barrasso have clearly stated that they view a SCOTUS decision gutting the law as accomplishing what Republicans failed to accomplish themselves through the political and legislative process
As Nicholas Bagley explains, not only is such a SCOTUS ruling very likely to create a huge mess that could all but destroy the law in many, many states, but Republicans have already confirmed they are anticipating this outcome. Whether or not Roberts will care about this is an open question, but it is the reality of the situation.

So no, Republicans aren't going to "fix" Obamacare should SCOTUS rip its spine out, and if they do, the toll the GOP will exact will be devastating.  Most likely the GOP will attempt to both exact a high price, then of course the Tea Party will scuttle the deal and the law will be in real trouble of collapsing.

Republicans of course are perfectly okay with that.  Fixing it would require actual governance, and that, America, is going to cost you.

Executive action is all the rage in the White House these days, and it's hard to imagine a better candidate for unilateralism than fixing the Affordable Care Act in the wake of a crippling Supreme Court decision. That scenario would check every box: Republican intransigence; a top priority for Obama; and severe disruption in real people's lives. 
There's just one problem: A good administrative solution might not exist. 
"There are no administrative fixes that are realistic," said Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress. "We don't believe there's any administrative fix."

As the saying goes, now that we've determined what Republicans actually are, the only thing left to negotiate is the price.

The Year Of The Clown Van

Politico's Roger Simon laments that the Republican circus of 2012 has become the traveling freakshow of 2016, and if this weekend's Iowa Freedom Summit is any indication, for the rest of year this least we're looking at GOP politics as comedic performance art.

The Republican Party’s clown car has become a clown van.
With nearly two dozen possible presidential candidates, the GOP is having a seriousness deficit. There can’t possibly be that many people who are real candidates.

But they can ride in the clown car from event to event, and nobody can stop them.

At the Freedom Summit here Saturday, two dozen speakers ground through 10 hours of speeches in front of more than 1,000 far-right Republicans.

As it turned out, clown car candidates are not necessarily funny. Since they have nothing to lose, they can attack their fellow Republicans with abandon.

Usually they attack from the right, which can force the eventual nominee farther to the right than the nominee wants to go. This risks losing moderate voters in the general election.

This was not a concern at the Freedom Summit, however. The farther to the right, the better.

It was a classic cattle call, with speaker after speaker pandering to the crowd. Sometimes, however, pandering was not enough.

In the circus, the worse thing clowns lob is confetti. In the political circus, the clowns lob grenades. Verbal, to be sure, but they still can be deadly.

Bill O’Brien, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, told the crowd: “I don’t know what is worse, nominating someone because he has been nominated once before (i.e., Mitt Romney) or someone who endorses Common Core (i.e., Jeb Bush). Are we going to nominate one of them?”

The audience bellowed: “Noooooo.

Indeed, Jeb and Mittens were nowhere near this mess, but the rest of them were:  Christie,  Trump, Huckabee, Santorum, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Carly Fiorina, hell even Moose Lady was there.  The coming civil war in Reaganland is going to be brutal and bloody and when it's over the GOP is going to look as bombed-out and soulless as they are in the inside.

And we'll all have a huge laugh and figure that these freaks will be pushed aside for Mitt or more likely Jeb Bush and that the billionaires that really run the party will make their choice and get to work as soon as possible in order to go after Hillary with a united front.

But something tells me it's not going to be as easy as the Kochs and Sheldon Adelson think, especially after this.  All the money in the world might not be able to sell Jeb or Mitt to the Republicans who will be voting the primaries, which could make the July 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland into the Greatest Show on Earth.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Last Call For Identity Theft

And here we have NYT columnist Noam Scheiber's advice to NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio on how to win back nervous white voters.

From the get-go, Mr. de Blasio’s campaign fused two distinct strands of progressivism. The first was economic populism, not least his criticism that Michael R. Bloomberg had placed the interests of Wall Street and the wealthy above those of average New Yorkers.

The second was what some have called “identity group” liberalism, which appealed to black and Latino voters as blacks and Latinos, not on the basis of economic interests they shared with whites. The centerpiece of Mr. de Blasio’s identity-group agenda was his promise to win better treatment for minorities at the hands of the police.

The problem for Mr. de Blasio is that only the first approach has widespread appeal...

If you were to rank issues by their potential to unite whites and minority voters, the most promising would be populist economic issues like raising taxes on the rich. Somewhere in the middle would be an issue like health care, which has large economic benefits for both whites and nonwhites, even if opponents can portray it as a sop to the latter. At the very bottom would be issues with little economic content, but which different racial groups view in radically different ways.

As Nancy LeTourneau notes, this is exactly the kind of thing white progressives often tell politicians when dealing with expanding the Democratic party's big tent: that is the issues of "mainstream" white America must trump that of persons of color.

What Scheiber is basically saying is that if you want to unite whites and minority voters, you have to focus on the issues that are a priority to whites. That's pretty much white supremacy in a nutshell. His big "tell" comes in what he leaves out of that last sentence. The reason racial groups view the issues he places at the bottom differently is because they affect racial groups differently. White people never had to be concerned about "stop-and-frisk" because it almost never happened to a white person. White mothers/fathers, wives, siblings don't spend much time worrying that their son, husband, brother will be harassed/beaten/killed because some police officer jumped to the conclusion that he was a "dangerous black/brown man." But that is exactly how police actions become a priority for voters of color. The fear of what can happen becomes a life-and-death issue for them - as we've seen lately.

She's completely right.

It's easy to say "Hey, deBlasio would get a greater rater of return on his efforts for concentrating on what middle class white New Yorkers want.  They're the ones that swing vote, and they're the ones that matter."  Because deBlasio said that he'd rather do the right thing, he's being punished for it by voters who don't know about and frankly, don't care about issues important to persons of color in the Big Apple.

Therefore, he should stop doing the right thing.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Drunken Moose Lady Assaults Reality

Sarah Palin lost her marbles at the Iowa Tea Party Hoedown Freedom Summit on Saturday, and it was both amazing and depressing to remember that a couple of million votes going the other way would have put this woman one Johnny Volcano heart attack away from leading the country.

As Charles Johnson puts it:

Even by Sarah Palin’s already low standards, this speech is extraordinarily incoherent and scattered. I’ve seen a lot of her speeches (do not pity me, it is my job), and I can’t remember a more garbled, deeply weird performance from Caribou Barbie.

It's a train wreck even for her.  And yet our media treats her as a serious political force in this country instead of a sad, pathetic sideshow.

Look upon this and despair, Tea Party.  This is your face to tens of millions of Americans like myself.

Sunday Long Read: Home Wreckanomics

There's been a lot of evidence that the recovery is finally pushing forward and that America's employment picture has turned around.  But the reality is for black families in America, there's been no recovery, and in fact black wealth and the black middle class have all but vanished in just a few short years.

The recession and tepid recovery have erased two decades of African American wealth gains. Nationally, the net worth of the typical African American family declined by one-third between 2010 and 2013, according to a Washington Post analysis of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, a drop far greater than that of whites or Hispanics.

The top half of African American families — the core of the middle class — is left with less than half of the typical wealth they possessed in 2007. The wealth of similarly situated whites declined by just 14 percent.

Overall, the survey found, the typical African American family was left with about eight cents for every dollar of wealth held by whites.

Depressing doesn't begin to describe it.  And yet just when black families need help the most, Republicans are doing everything they can to pull the ladder of success out of reach.

Many researchers say the biggest portion of the wealth gap results from the strikingly different experiences blacks and whites typically have with homeownership. Most whites live in largely white neighborhoods, where homes often prove to be a better investment because people of all races want to live there. Predominantly black communities tend to attract a narrower group of mainly black buyers, dampening demand and prices, they say.

In places such as Prince George’s County, where many people chose to live at least in part because of the comfort and familiarity they felt in a majority-black community, that meant their home brought them less wealth than if they had purchased elsewhere, economists say.

Scholars who have studied this dynamic and real estate professionals who have lived it say the price differences go beyond those that might be dictated by the perceived quality of schools, or the public and commercial investment made in particular neighborhoods. The big difference maker, they say, is race.

Race.  Even the upper-middle class black families of Prince George's County are now finding that black neighborhoods will always be worth less than white ones.  But remember, racism is over in America because we have a black president, so we don't need the outdated protections of the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act or college admissions.

And now the Fair Housing Act is before the Supreme Court. with red states and banks looking to strip provisions out of that law as well.  Because racism doesn't exist anymore, you see.  We've got to cut public transportation in black neighborhoods because it's too expensive, cut schools because they're failing, cut lending protections so that they can be served by payday lenders and title loan companies, and Obamacare?  That's got to go too.  Cut this, cut that, gotta cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and when we try to fight back at the voting booth, we're told we can't vote because we haven't jumped through the correct hoops, and besides, voting machines are to expensive.  We need to cut those too. 

Not much left to be cut, you know.

Of course, that's the point.

Spy-King The Ball

James Bond has M running the show for him, and if Daily Beast's Shane Harris is right, the US equivalent of M, Frank Archibald, is retiring after the latest CIA/torture turf fight.

The director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, the storied home of the agency’s most secretive intelligence operations, has announced that he plans to retire, The Daily Beast has learned.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd confirmed that the director announced his retirement “after a long and distinguished career at CIA. We thank him for this profound and lasting contributions to both CIA and to our nation’s security.”

As a practice, the CIA doesn’t identify the head of the clandestine service by name. But Frank Archibald was outed in a Twitter post in 2013, and details of his biography were known to some journalists. Archibald, who was 57 when he took the job that year, reportedly served tours in Pakistan and Africa and also headed the CIA’s Latin America division. The Associated Press reported that Archibald "once ran the covert action that helped remove Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from power."

Archibald’s retirement comes at a transitional moment for the CIA. The agency’s director, John Brennan, is considering major changes to the agency’s structure, including the possible creation of new intelligence centers and doing away with the traditional division of CIA into its analysis group and the clandestine service.

Needless to say, the career spooks aren't too happy with this new plan.

Critics of the reorganization, which hasn’t been formally proposed and, officials have stressed, isn’t a done deal, see it as potentially undermining some of the CIA’s core capabilities in favor of organizing the agency around regions of the world. Some in the National Clandestine Service in particular view a reorganization as a threat to the high-degree of independence it has traditionally enjoyed within the intelligence bureaucracy.

“This would be to their mind the greatest threat to their independence since they were created as the Directorate of Plans back in 1951,” one former official said.

Brennan is slated to make public remarks on Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he’ll be interviewed by journalist Charlie Rose. The CIA hasn’t announced what, if any, news Brennan plans to make. But former officials said they’d been anticipating that he might soon unveil more of his thinking about any reorganization.

It's clear that Republicans and the American people are more than happy to keep playing "24" and torturing everyone swarthy in sight in order to stop invisible bomb countdown clocks.  But it looks like Obama has given Brennan his orders to change the agency as a result of that Senate torture report, and Brennan's going to have to deliver.

We'll see how far he gets.  If the nation's top super spy is hanging it up, the changes have to be pretty big.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On The Next Epidose Of NCIS

A dead sailor found off the coast of Cuba.  An affair with a base commander. A naval captain in disgrace.  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, folks.

On January 11, the body of Christopher Tur, was found in the waters off of Cuba. A subsequent investigation uncovered an alleged affair between Tur’s wife and Capt John R. Nettleton, the commander of the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

On January 21, the Navy publicly announced that Nettleton has been relieved of command.

The decision to relieve Nettleton was made by his boss “Commander, Navy Region Southeast, Rear Adm. Mary M. Jackson due to loss of confidence in Nettleton’s ability to command,” according to a statement from Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs.

Following his dismissal from Guantanamo, Nettleton was moved to Florida, where he is assigned to Jackson’s staff.

Sounds like this should be a movie (and probably will be.)

Base spokesperson Kelly Wirfel said that Tur moved to Guantanamo with his family in 2011 and worked at the base commissary. Tur’s obituary lists his job as a loss prevention officer, a title that typically means someone who prevents theft and shoplifting.. Tur’s widow, Lara, who is alleged to have carried on an affair with Capt. Nettleton, works as the director of the base’s Fleet and Family Services. That position would have her overseeing a variety of support programs for military families ranging from counseling services to financial assistance.

Lara reported her husband missing on January 10, a day before the Coast Guard discovered his body.

The adultery alone is enough to seriously ruin Nettleton's career under UCMJ, but with the other man in the picture dead, things get really interesting.  Trust me when I say there are screenplays being written right now about this.

She's Always A Woman To Me

Just a reminder that while rampant, obvious racism is usually frowned upon by Republicans, rampant, obvious sexism is still widely acceptable and in fact is part and parcel of the GOP's anti-Hillary push. WaPo's Aaron Blake:

One WaPo-ABC poll question I didn't get into in this morning's post is this: Does the fact that Hillary Clinton would be the first female president make you more likely or less likely to vote for her in 2016? 
Twenty four percent of people -- including 40 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of women -- say that breaking the last, highest glass ceiling makes them more likely to back her. Two-thirds say it doesn't matter one bit to their vote. 
But if you look a little closer, you'll find something interesting: While most Republicans say Clinton's gender doesn't matter, about one-quarter of them (24 percent) say the fact that she would be the first female president makes them less likely to vote for her. Just 8 percent say it makes them more likely to back her.

Nobody should really be surprised by this, other than I think the number of Republicans admitting this is probably lower than it really is.  And yes, Republicans have a huge issue with women of their own creation.  This week's abortion bill nonsense proved that.

A symbolic messaging bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy threw the party into disarray and was abruptly pulled at the last minute after a group of GOP women and swing-district lawmakers raised hackles over a rape-exception provision that required victims of sexual assault to report the crime to authorities before they could get an abortion. 
"None of us saw it coming," Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) told reporters on Thursday.
Yes, because a woman was saying it.  Good luck in 2016, jagoffs.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Last Call For The Whole Ball Of Wax

GOP is playing with fire here, but it seems like they're confident they will keep control of the Senate in 2016.  If they get the White House too, then the game is over for the Dems if they pull this off.

Top Senate Republicans are considering gutting the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees — a move that could yield big rewards for whichever party controls the White House and Senate after 2016.

The move, still in its early stages, reflects growing GOP confidence in its electoral prospects next year. But it could also have a major immediate impact if a justice such as 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg steps down, making it far easier for President Barack Obama to get a replacement confirmed.

The proposed change would expand on the dramatic move Democrats made in 2013, when they killed the 60-vote hurdle for executive branch nominations and almost all judicial nominees. Republicans have complained bitterly about the Democrats’ action ever since, saying it violated the Senate’s tradition of being a deliberative body where the minority holds big sway. But now, GOP supporters contend, it may be time to bring majority rule to votes on Supreme Court nominations, too.

The 60-vote filibuster threshold would remain for legislation.

The GOP understands that there's a very good change the next President will be able to appoint 2, maybe 3 justices.  They seem to be willing to leverage blocking any further SCOTUS appointments for Obama into assuring that they have precedent for packing the court in 2016 if there's a GOP president.  And let's face it, if a Democrat wins and they still control the Senate, well Hillary or whoever isn't going to be able to appoint anyone anyway.

There is massive upside and very little downside right now for the GOP doing this.  They are counting on cover from the Village, and a short memory of the public, two extremely safe bets.

We'll see what happens, but if I were the GOP, I'd throw the dice on this.

The Mask Slips Again...

...and Republicans accidentally reveal how they really feel about the "working poor".

California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said on Thursday that the minimum wage should not be raised because low pay was necessary for minorities and other unskilled workers who were not worth more than $7 an hour.

During an appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, host Greta Brawner asked McClintock if he could get behind a presidential candidate like Mitt Romney, who is one of an increasing number of Republicans saying that the minimum wage should be at least $10.10 an hour.

But McClintock argued that raising the minimum wage would “rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.”

The California Republican explained that the minimum wage was not supposed to be a living wage that could support families.

“It’s not supposed to support a family. The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. That’s how you get into the job market, that’s how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion.”

McClintock continued: “If your labor is an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job and the minimum wage is $10, you have just been made permanently unemployable. That first rung of the economic ladder has been ripped out and you can’t get on it. That is a tragedy.”

We saw GOP Rep. Aaron Schock attack the minimum wage with a similar argument after the State of the Union address.  If those people were supposed to be earning more than $7.25 an hour, then God and the Free Market would pay them more then that.  The notion to pay people $10.10 anyway just hasn't accurred to Republicans, because they think the millions of families trying to live on that minimum wage aren't worth it, and don't matter.

Since the majority of them vote Democrat, no, they don't matter to Tom McClintock, nor do they matter to the GOP.  They are the enemy, and must be "dealt with".

This is how the GOP treats poor people: you're poor for a reason, and you don't count.  They're too busy sucking up to the billionaires that increasingly own more and more of America's wealth.

Weasels And Measles

Dear anti-vaxxer nut jobs:  This is why you suck and are awful people.

In all seriousness, the anti-vaccination crusade has now brought measles back to the US, a disease that was effectively eradicated here 20 years ago.

We have quadrupled the number of measles cases in the US in one year because of this idiocy, from 150 to more than 600.

Vaccinate your goddamn kids, people.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Last Call For A Silver, Out-Foxed

It looks like the hammer has fallen on long-time New York Assembly Speaker and Democrat Sheldon Silver, as he's surrendered himself to the FBI on federal corruption charges.

In a five-count criminal complaint outlining the charges, Mr. Silver is accused of “using the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars of bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income.” 
He is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion. 
The complaint maintains that for more than a decade, Mr. Silver devised a scheme “to induce real estate developers with business before the state” to use a real estate law firm controlled by a lawyer who had once worked as Mr. Silver’s counsel who orchestrated payments to the speaker for referrals to the firm. 
The complaint said that “there is probable cause to believe that Silver received approximately $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position.” 
Prosecutors, according to the complaint, said that Mr. Silver did essentially no work for the payments. 
Prosecutors seized approximately $3.8 million of Mr. Silver’s money on Thursday morning.

And let's not forget the Feds were tipped off after Gov. Cuomo disbanded in last March the state's anti-corruption commission that he created to fight exactly this type of thing.  Silver needs to resign, just as much as Michael Grimm did after his tax evasion nonsense.  I'd say Silver's alleged crimes are a lot worse.

We'll see.

None Dare Call It Treason, Con't

If you can name another time in American history where a sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives invited a foreign leader to speak to Congress as a rebuke of a sitting US president's foreign policy with the intent of undermining that policy, I'll give you a pony.

House Speaker John Boehner's invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress on Iran is an unprecedented rebuke of President Barack Obama as he and Congress are preparing for a battle over Iran sanctions, experts told TPM. 
The move came the day after Obama threatened in his State of the Union address to veto legislation putting new sanctions on Iran. He warned that new sanctions by Congress would disrupt the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)acknowledged the week before that ending negotiations "is very much an intended consequence" of a new sanctions bill that has been put forward with some Democratic support. 
Although the US and Israel maintain a "special relationship," the discord between the Obama administration and Netanyahu's government has been well documented. Netanyahu welcomed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a visit Israel in the midst of the campaign. And anonymous Obama administration officials have been quoted calling the Israeli prime minster "a chickenshit."

But even with that context, experts on American-Israeli relations expressed shock that Boehner had invited Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran next month. One described it as an effort to "humiliate" and "embarrass" Obama as the two sides dig in over Iran. The invitation from the Ohio Republican positions Congress, rather than the White House, as Israel's ally. 
"It's unprecedented. It's hitting below the belt. It's taking partisanship to a whole new level," Guy Ziv, a professor at American University who has studied U.S.-Israeli relations, told TPM. "It is a way for them to embarrass and humiliate the Obama administration."

Bonus points if you can name any other country whose head of state would be allowed to speak to Congress to expressly chastise a sitting president's foreign policy.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

PS, the reason this is an unprecedented show of disrespect is the obvious difference between Obama and the previous 43 presidents.

Another Snowden Job

Happy New Year from Mother Russia, guys!

Is Apple’s wildly popular iPhone series hiding spyware that can collect information about users without their knowledge? As thoroughly as developers have dug through Apple’s iOS code over the past seven and a half years, one would think functionality like that would have been unearthed by now. According to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, however, iPhones are capable of activating “special software” behind the scenes that collects information about users, who are completely oblivious to the fact that their phones are gathering this sensitive data. 
Edward Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena recently spoke with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, and their conversation spanned several topics. As Russian news site Sputnik noted, however, the iPhone was among the topics that were discussed, and Kucherena’s comments were quite interesting, to say the least. 
“Edward never uses an iPhone; he’s got a simple phone,”Kucherena said. “The iPhone has special software that can activate itself without the owner having to press a button and gather information about him; that’s why on security grounds he refused to have this phone.”

So, it's not even Snowden saying this, but his Russian lawyer, to the Russian press, because "special software."  What proof?  Well, Snowden says so.  It must be true.

It's about ethics in tech journalism or something.

Surely this isn't Putin causing trouble again, going after what has become the symbol of US consumer technical innovation and success, right?

Be like Ed, guys.  Ed would never use an iPhone.  You want to be like Ed, don't you, American?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Last Call For The Boomers

The Millennials are set to overtake the Boomers in population numbers this year in the US, which is going to be a big demographic key to 2016.

75 is the approximate number, in millions, of millennials that the United States will have this year. The total of millennials — those born from 1981 to 1997 — will reach 75.3 million, overtaking baby boomers (1946 to 1964) as the United States’ largest living generation. 
How does a generation that has stopped enrolling members manage to keep growing? An influx of immigrants, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. And, of course, members of the boomer generation, currently at 74.9 million, are beginning to die in greater numbers.

The way the NY Times defines them, Millennials are today's 18-34 year olds.  They're all old enough to register to vote, and those number will only go up next year.  Meanwhile, in 2016 even the youngest Boomers will be 52, and the oldest, 70.  As long as they are the group of Americans most likely to vote, we'll continue to be ruled by Boomer politicians (and yes, this includes Barack Obama, a young Boomer born in 1961.)

So there's a chance at least that our politics will begin to change.  The question is at what rate?

Of course, that rate will be zero if Millennials sit home like they did in 2014.

The State Of That Union, Con't

Yemen and drones aside, President Obama's speech was amazingly notable for what it wasn't, it was in no way capitulation to the GOP for winning the wasn't a mealy-mouthed crawl into irrelevance, and it sure wasn't as hell surrender.  Ed Kilgore sums it up nicely:

In conservative-land, you see, Obama’s first election was a fluke and his second a calamitous accident, both canceled by the ensuring midterms and both destined to be remembered as incidental interruptions of the Long March of Movement Conservatism towards total power. The idea that 2008 and 2012 are just as significant as 2010 and 2014 (maybe a bit more significant insofar as far more Americans participated) is outrageous to the Right, and so Obama mentioning them was the defiant act of a political nonentity. 
Beyond that, the basic framing of Obama’s remarks on the economy left Republicans even deeper in the trap they’ve been in ever since conditions began improving. The main criticism available to them for the performance of the economy is the one Democrats (and Obama himself) have been articulated: sluggish wage growth and growing inequality. But Republicans have little or no agenda to deal with that beyond the usual engorge-the-job-creators stuff dressed up with attacks on the few corporate welfare accounts they’ve agreed to oppose, and then the Keystone XL Pipeline. On this last point, Obama was very clever in dismissing Keystone as one controversial infrastructure project we’re spending too much time fighting over as hundreds of others languish. It made Joni Ernst’s plodding Official Response sound all the more foolish for spending so much time on that one project.

Making the GOP look foolish is easy.  Getting voters to show up and punish the fools in the GOP is the hard part.
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