Category Archives: Republicans

Contempt for the Great Generality: Hatch, Grassley, and the Great Unwashed

Every once in a while a Republican is caught being honest.  Consider the commentary from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley on the value of eliminating most of the inheritance tax because “they” invest, but the rest of the country…not so much. So, what to do when the comments create a social media fire storm?  Backtrack:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday said his comments that the estate tax rewards those who don’t spend “every darn penny” on “booze or women or movies” were taken out of context, saying he meant that the government shouldn’t punish investment.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Grassley said in a statement.”

Nice try, but the “out of context” excuse has gotten thinner than the roast beef at the deli counter.  Senator Hatch (R-UT) was a bit more subtle when discussing the children’s health insurance funding, but not by much:

“In his speech, Hatch also said he thinks CHIP has done a “terrific job for people who really need the help” and noted that he had advocated for helping those who can’t help themselves throughout his Senate career. But, he continued, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” He blamed a “liberal philosophy” for creating millions of people “who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

There they go again.  Oh, those Undeserving Poors who just Want Stuff, and won’t work for it.   The median household income in Nevada is $52,421, meaning half the families in Nevada have annual income below that figure.   So, what does it cost to get the kid’s tonsils removed?  ($4,153 to $6,381, with an average cost of $5,442)  How about that common childhood injury — the broken arm?  Expect this to carve out some $2,500 from the family budget.   It the youngster has a chronic condition — asthma, heart problems,  diabetes,etc. the price, of course goes up, and up and up.   We’re not talking here about “people who won’t lift a finger.”  we’re discussing families — working families who are hard pressed to find the resources to pay for medical treatment for their children.  And now we come to the place where Hatch and Grassley’s perspectives merge in a miserable view of humanity.

What these members of the US Senate are doing is using the old Reagan Era “Welfare Queen” mythology to camouflage their contempt for their fellow Americans.

“They” just want everything done for them.   “They” won’t lift a finger.  “They” are cheating me out of my money.  It’s never something like the single mother of a six year old who has asthma having to maintain a family budget while keeping up with the costs of inhaler medication.  Nor, do we hear much about the family in which both parents are working two jobs to keep close to that $52,421 number, and who are coping with a youngster with diabetes.  Well, well, sputter the solons, we weren’t speaking of Them.  Of course not.  And, I’m assured they weren’t talking about children suffering with cerebral palsy or other chronic conditions with serious financial implications for the family.  So, who are they talking about?  The hard truth is that they aren’t talking about anyone!

They aren’t talking about real people.  They are talking about that imaginary Great Unwashed, who are Welfare Queens, who are urban — and probably African American.  The subject of the Hatch-Grassley fears are highly generalized, mostly mythological, nearly always racist, ideas about the Undeserving Poor, who don’t “lift a finger.”  People, whose stories would touch our hearts and stir our empathy, are ignored in favor of painting with the broadest spray can nozzle possible a picture of urban, black, moral decay from which white America may safely distance itself.

They can (almost) manage some sympathy for the poor white families in remote areas of  America.  However, mention cities, and the racism kicks in.  It’s a hard and tragic thing to see the loss of employment in mining regions but no such sympathy is extended to the members of minority communities who languish in the Rust Belt.   However, even that small instance of empathy is victim to Republican ideas of virtue.  Those afflicted with opioid addition in those former mining regions may be unemployable because of their addictions, but by Republican lights must be employed in order to qualify for treatment.  In short, they can’t win for losing.

The Republican Party, once the party of progressive legislation, and even later of fiscal conservatism, has devolved into the party of racists, radicals, and unreasonable shills for corporate interests.  It’s a sad state of affairs. And, a sadder commentary on the political discourse of contempt.

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Filed under Health Care, Politics, racism, Republicans

It’s Different When Black People Do It: Sessions and the Black Identity Extremists Report

Deflection and distraction seem to be the order of the day. Republican members of the House Committee on the Judiciary appear to be riding some hobby horses which raise issues long resolved, or long justifiably ignored.  .  However, setting aside the Russian issues for a moment, Representative Karen Bass (CA-37) inserted an extremely important question about “extremist groups.” That would be African American “extremist groups.” 

Has the Department of Justice compiled a report on White Identity extremists? It certainly had prepared a report on Black Identity Extremists, but Representative Bass wanted to know if Black Lives Matter was to be target of Justice Department investigations.   The Attorney General asserted that he had not read the report.

One thing about the report that is immediately apparent is how short the report is, inserting six instances of highly dissatisfied persons attacking police and law enforcement officers.  There is a relatively lengthy section on the old BLA of the 1970s.  Not to put too fine a point to it, the August 2017 report is a wet dream for white supremacists.   What renders this a nightmare is that the Attorney General of the US can’t define what a “black identity extremist” is, and wasn’t all that clear about what a white identity extremist might be — at least until he was prompted by Representative Bass who brought up the ubiquitous Sovereign Citizens and the KKK.

The report provides a definition:

“The FBI defines sovereign citizen extremists as individuals who openly reject their US citizenship status, believe that most forms of established government, authority, and institutions are illegitimate, and seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, to further their claim to be immune from government authority. The mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics may not constitute extremism, and may be constitutionally protected.”

This adequately describes the overall “sovereign” citizens — black and white, but doesn’t define precisely what a black identity extremist might be. We’re left with this vague description:

“The FBI assesses it is very likely some BIEs are influenced by a mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizen ideology, and BIE ideology. The FBI has high confidence in these assessments, based on a history of violent incidents attributed to individuals who acted on behalf of their ideological beliefs, documented in FBI investigations and other law enforcement and open source reporting.”

BIE “ideology” is apparently predicated on being upset by the use of excessive force and unjustified killings by law enforcement personnel by African Americans.   “The FBI assesses it is very likely a Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Evidently, African Americans can be “radicalized” by anti-authoritarian sources.  Who’s an anti-authoritarian?  ACLU?  Black Lives Matter? Anti-Defamation League?  Libertarians? The League of Women Voters?

What makes this report, and its reception, so disturbingly important is that when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on White (right wing) Extremists in April 2009 the Republicans were “outraged” at the prospect of labeling “patriots” as extremists, and the Secretary had to defend the report from none other than the American Legion which bellowed “Americans are not the enemy.”  By April 16, 2009 the Department had to issue an apology!

But when African Americans get outraged about police use of deadly force, or when law enforcement officers shoot first and answer questions much later and community members express grief and agony, then they are “BIEs” and are properly the subject of FBI scrutiny?

This issue deserves at least the same investigation as the initial 2009 report incurred, and at least the comment the 2009 report initiated.  Until the day the Department of Justice is called upon to defend this report we’d have to conclude that it “really is different when black people do it.”

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Filed under Politics, racism, Republicans

Demolition Days On End

The television talking heads are talking about today’s sound and fury from the White House as “Demolition Day;” as if every day the mullet-maned moron occupying the Oval Office hasn’t been doing this from day one.

What is buttressing my sanity for the moment is the fact that MMM had a 49.4% approval rating in Nevada as of January 2017 (38.9% disapproval) and dropped to an approval rating of 43.6% in September 2017 and a disapproval rating of 51.2% in the Silver State.  [CNBC]

Much more love from the Republican Congress and the President and Nevada’s going to find itself in a world of hurt.   Case in point:  If the Republicans get their way in the FY 2018 budget 56,044 Nevada families will lose food assistance as of 2023, and 52,613 will lose them as of 2027.   But wait, there’s even more fun … another grand idea in this budget fiasco is to shift $100 billion of SNAP costs to the states.  So, Nevada would have to come up with 10% of the costs by 2020 and this increases to 25% in 2023 and beyond. Just in case lower income, mostly working, families in Nevada aren’t punished enough the GOP plan says states will have more “flexibility” to cut benefit levels to “manage costs.”  Of course Nevada will have to figure out how to get lower income working families basic food items at the local groceries, at state expense.  In case someone’s thinking this makes economic sense (that tired old canard about welfare queens on food stamps with waste and fraud) the actual numbers indicate that for every $5.00 spent on food stamps $9.00 is generated in economic activity. [CBPP] [MJ]

Case in point: The FY 2018 budget calls for cuts in fire-fighting operations.  As if the fires in California weren’t headline news at the moment.  The IAFC isn’t happy  seeing an FY 2017 budget of $2,833,000 for wildland fire management cut to $2,495,058 in FY 2018; or cuts to State Fire Assistance from $78 million down to $69.4 million, and Volunteer Fire Assistance from $15 million to $11.6 million.  And, by the way, the FLAME program (pdf) funding (wildfire reserve suppression fund, large fires) would be eliminated in the GOP budget.  Supposedly, the FY 2018 would sustain current 10 year average costs for fire suppression. [ECO]  The word “supposedly” is used with some caution, because as we experience climate change effects, the cost of fire suppression can be reasonably expected to increase, with a coterminous effect on budgets.   Meanwhile, there’s the matter of expensive fires in Napa and Sonoma counties.

And, then there’s the not-so-small matter of FEMA:

“The president’s budget blueprint calls for FEMA’s budget for state and local grants to be cut by $667 million, saying that these grants are unauthorized or ineffective. The program it explicitly calls out as lacking congressional authorization is the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, and a second proposed change would require all preparedness grants to be matched in part by non-federal funds. All of FEMA’s pre-disaster grants are meant to reduce federal spending after disasters, and according to the agency’s website, there’s evidence that $1 in mitigation spending saves $4 in later damages.”  [Newsweek]

There are two points to highlight in this paragraph.  First, the budget cuts are made to grants for disaster mitigation efforts, without saying why the grants are “ineffective,” and we should note that any program can be declared “ineffective” if the standards aren’t reasonable. Secondly, as in the case of food stamps, there’s an upfront economic benefit — for every $1 spent on mitigation we save $4 in subsequent damage costs.   Once more we have a grand example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Nor are the Republicans keeping their promises not to mess with Social Security and Medicare.

“Not only would it (the FY 2018 budget) cut Medicaid by $1 trillion, it would also cut Medicare by more than $470 billion in order to pay for hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America. Further, the Republican tax plan this budget calls for would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which will likely pave the way for savage cuts to Social  Security.”  [SenDem]

Oh, and by the way… let’s sabotage the NAFTA talks, scrap the only treaty containing Iran’s arms aspirations (and tick off all the other European allies who signed on), send a signal to North Korea that our word’s not worth paper on which it’s written, let the health insurance market destabilize into chaos, and withdraw from UNESCO.

And here we sit, not a shining beacon on a hill, but a flickering flame bent to whatever winds happen to be blowing through the head of MMM in the White House.  Not only are programs and services in peril within our own state, but the nation and the world are facing similar dangers emanating from an unraveling White House.

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Filed under Economy, FEMA, Health Care, health insurance, Nevada, Nevada budget, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Social Security, tax revenue, Taxation

While We’re Ducking and Dodging

While we’re ducking, dodging, and otherwise attempting to avoid damage from the GOP, they’re still busy with legislation to make our lives just a bit more difficult.  Cases in point:

The House leadership has delayed, but hasn’t promised to discard, a bill, HR 367, to allow the general sale of silencers — which the proponents tell us will mitigate hearing loss for gun owners.  Pro Tip: A nice pair of headset style ear protectors will set you back about $30.00 (if the foamies will do you can buy’em for about 12 cents each in a bucket of 200) as opposed to spending $1300.00 on a suppressor for your AK/AR-some number or another.

The GOP tax cut legislation, which somehow is being titled “reform,” is a walloping giveaway to the top income earners in the U.S.  Not sure about this? See the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, that tells us those in the bottom 20% will see 1.3% of the tax benefits while the top 1% will enjoy 67.4%. Bringing this closer to home, the top 1% of income earners (which amounts to about 0.4% of our population) will get a 70.7% share of the tax cuts. For all that chatter about the Middle Class, the plan doesn’t really help middle class Nevadans:

“The middle fifth of households in Nevada, people who are literally the state’s “middle-class” would not fare as well. Despite being 20 percent of the population, this group would receive just 4.6 percent of the tax cuts that go to Nevada under the framework. In 2018 this group is projected to earn between $38,900 and $60,600. The framework would cut their taxes by an average of $380, which would increase their income by an average of 0.8 percent.”

Just to put this in context, a family in Nevada’s middle income range would see a tax cut of about $380…meanwhile back at the home mortgage, if that family is in Reno where the average home loan is about $187,000, the monthly payments are about $855 per month.  Congratulations Middle Class Nevadans, you may receive an annual prize of 44% of one month’s mortgage payment.  Color me unimpressed.

The GOP passed its version of the FY 2018 budget on a 219-206 vote.  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen were in Las Vegas attending to their constituents in the wake of the massacre at the music concert.   The AARP was quick to notice that the Republican plan calls for $473 BILLION to be cut from Medicare over the next 10 years.   Expect a cap on the Medicaid program funding; it wouldn’t be too far off to estimate cuts of about $1 TRILLION in that category.   Beware when Republicans speak of “entitlement reform,” that simply means cutting Social Security benefits and Medicare.  When they say “welfare reform,” they often mean cutting Food Stamps, Housing Assistance, and Medicaid.   Representative Amodei might want to explain why he supports cutting Medicare by $473 billion over the next decade?

Those in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District can reach Representative Mark Amodei at 202-225-6155 (Washington DC) 775-686-5760 (Reno), or 775-777-7705 (Elko);  the office addresses are — 332 Cannon Building, Washington, DC 20515; 5310 Kietzke Lane #103, Reno, NV 89511; 905 Railroad Street, Ste 104D, Elko, NV 89801.

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, Federal budget, Health Care, health insurance, housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Nevada, Nevada economy, nevada health, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans, Taxation

Deflection, Distraction, and Destruction: Trump & the GOP

“…this is exactly what Trump does when he’s in trouble. He finds an enemy and punches as hard as he can.”  [WaPo]

Now, why is he in trouble? And,  what will happen today in Reno at the American Legion convention?  Additionally, who will be standing with the President at the closed to the public event?  The Nevada Independent, which if you’ve not already bookmarked you should, reports: (1) Adam Laxalt, Tea Party Darling will gleefully meet the President and has wrangled radical right wing VP Pence to his Basque food-fest; (2) Dean Heller, maybe not so much but then he won’t say — so what is new about the Heller rope-a-dope strategy? (3) Mark Amodei (R-NV2) showed up Tuesday and may have skedaddled? “A spokeswoman for Amodei did not respond to a follow up question as to whether or not the congressman would meet with Trump while the president is in Reno.” (4) Governor Sandoval appears to be adopting the Republican Gubernatorial Avoidance Strategy — meet him at the airport and then scamper off out of sight thereafter.  If the crowd is thinning, then why the Great Counter Punch?

What makes the President go into full attack mode?  What sends him off on tangents about white supremacy, statues of CSA ‘heroes,’ and “the Media?”  There’s a pattern, the deflection and distraction flare as the investigation of his connections to the Russians progress.

Why did he fire former FBI Director James Comey? Why was he upset with A.G. Jeff Sessions?  Why did he hammer Sen. Mitch McConnell? — Why the “profane shouting match?

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

What happened prior to August 9, 2017 that’s increased the need for deflection and distraction?

On August 1, 2017 PBS reported that the President dictated the message delivered by his son concerning the meeting at Trump Tower during the campaign with a small host of Russians who were very interested in “adoptions” (read: getting rid of the Magnitsky Act sanctions.)  The President’s assertions that the investigation is fake news and a witch hunt cracks a bit when it’s known that HE was aware of the trouble his son was in for taking and arranging that meeting.  On August 3, 2017 the President grudgingly signed the new Russian sanctions bill dictated by Congress. No fanfare, no ceremony, and two explanations or signing statements.  That was the same day the Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke out in support of the Grand Jury, and Mr. Mueller’s continuing investigation of all matters related to Russian interference, and thereafter was rewarded by a “tweet storm” of abuse from the President, reported on August 7th.  The Special Counsel investigators raided the home of former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort on August 9.  They were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, and since they didn’t merely ask Manafort’s legal team for them we can safely assume Mr. Manafort was (a) not as cooperative as his press comments made him out to be, and (b) in possession of things he might very well want to destroy before they landed in Mr. Mueller’s hands.

Events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 and 13, 2017 intervened to capture public attention as Neo-Nazis and white supremacists took center stage, and as the President waffled about who might have been “responsible.”  Presidential commentary about “history” and “heritage” as if they are synonymous deflected and distracted from the continuing Russia probe.

Fast forward to August 22, 2017 on which it is revealed that the “Trump Dossier” re-emerges into the public consciousness.  Spokespersons for the President have tagged the dossier as “unsubstantiated,” “debunked,” or “unproven” as a general matter, without noting that individual contentions within the document are still under investigation.  The president of the company underwriting the dossier has now spent an entire working day with the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.    Interestingly enough, the President chose to spend a significant amount of his time during a campaign rally in Phoenix on August 22nd railing about “fake news” and the “unfair media.”

Those dismissing the dossier as “debunked” may be a bit premature.  The origin of the dossier investigation lies within the “never Trump” wing of the GOP, and after Trump secured the GOP nomination the Clinton Campaign was interested in the contents.  For a “debunked” piece of investigation it’s certainly had an impact, and the FBI now has information from the author about his sources, again as of August 22nd.  If some of the allegations in the Steele Dossier can be sourced, investigated, and substantiated, then the generalized “debunking” portion of the President’s defense can start to crack.  And, we wonder why he spent an inordinate amount of time denouncing the media on the evening of August 22, 2017?  Deflection and Distraction?

Perhaps now this paragraph concerning the cracks reported by the New York Times in the McConnell/Trump relationship makes more sense:

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

Why would the President become “more animated” about Senator McConnell’s purported failure to “protect” him?  Does the President demand Senator McConnell “protect” the President from the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

Protect him from What?  Destruction?  The gamble for Republicans — from reluctant Senator Heller to enthusiastic Adam Laxalt — is whether to hitch their political futures to the distraction/deflection tactics of the current administration or cut loose and hope he doesn’t lead them to destruction.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans

This Doesn’t Look Good: Activities Associated with Phoenix Trump Rally

The Arizona Republic has the following advice for rally goers in Phoenix this evening:

“PRO-TRUMP GATHERINGS: 

ANTI-TRUMP DEMONSTRATIONS: 

At least there’s a 5:2 ratio of American vs. Trumpian rallies.  The bad news is that there are those who feel compelled to “protect” rally goers from “harassment,” and Arizona’s lax gun laws make this a volatile situation for law enforcement personnel assigned to protect everyone.

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Filed under Politics, Republicans

The Projection of All Their Fears: Justice and the Commonwealth

Few things illustrate the issues for all those “economically anxious” Trump supporters quite as well as the chain e-mail forwarded by the President’s lawyer: “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”  To repeat the obvious — yes you can.  You can differentiate between slave owners who created an imperfect Constitution (containing safeguards for slave owners) but who had the intelligence and foresight to establish a framework for freedom which could be perfected — to create a “more perfect union,” — and the slave owners who rebelled against this perfectable union and led an insurrection that sought to enshrine slavery from sea to sea.   The hoary old, and utterly illogical, silly syllogism that if you object to Lee you must then object to Washington requires the believer to reduce everything to whether or not a person practiced chattel slavery — and to ignore all other elements.  The repetition of this canard says more about those who adopt it than it says about any 18th or 19th century slave owner.

It says they are afraid, very afraid of losing their “culture.”  If a person’s “culture” includes the veneration of icons of rebellion, white supremacy, and chattel slavery as a part of one’s “heritage,” then it’s time to rethink that “culture and heritage.” This exercise can be extremely difficult for some “fragile whites.”   One of the most fragile appears to be Virginia Senate Candidate Republican Corey Stewart who commented: “The left isn’t doing this to redecorate some parks. They are going after the Founders next, to undermine the Founding Documents.”   Fragile white people live on a perpetually slippery slope.

To question a person’s racial biases is to “attack,” an attack must be nefarious, the nefarious attack must be from some equally objectionable direction, even if this requires attributing motives which are not in evidence.  Thus Stewart can maintain that questioning his support for white supremacists is an assault from some universal cabal composed of opponents of The Founders and their Founding Documents.  Perhaps those who feel assaulted might want to consider that predicating one’s sense of self on the basis of the coloration of a layer of skin, skin so thin it can be cut with a piece of paper, is a very fragile thing indeed.

That fragility creates its own environment of fear — the fear that a white person might have to compete for a job with a person of color, without giving the paler person an automatic edge.  The fear that a white person may not automatically assume an advantage in commerce, education, and in the judicial system.  The following paragraph summarizes this sentiment:

“They see all of this talk about Black Lives Matter and the importance of diversity, including through policies like affirmative action. They see recent moves to tear down Confederate monuments in the South. And they themselves have likely been accused of racism at some point in their lives, making them defensive and angry.” [Vox]

Skin coloration is an extremely thin basis for self esteem; frustration and anger are an even more fragile basis for a successful political ideology — leading as they do to short term gains with practically guaranteed long term losses.   This perspective is unjust, and as St. Augustine advised: “Where there is no justice there is no commonwealth.”

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, racism, Republicans