Tag Archives: Obama

And now some after thoughts

There are some Nevada politicians still clutching Trumpian coat-tails, or pants’ legs, or something as of now.  They might want to ask some questions, some fundamental, some quotidian, some tangential about that posture.  We’ve had a day in which President Obama has spoken of a need to preserve and protect our democratic institutions, and in which his successor has spoken of a felt need to use the Department of Justice to pursue his personal political critics.  It’s time to address the questions.

Do Nevada politicians really want to associate themselves with a president who cannot, or perhaps will not, differentiate between his own sense of security and the security of this nation?  There is a difference.  Our national security is not compromised by the publication of non-classified, albeit controversial, information about how the West Wing functions.  It is a stretch to assume that IF a person divulges information from a meeting then it is presumed the individual in questions would necessarily reveal classified information.  I can think of one instance in which #45 shared information with Russian visitors to the White House that compromised sources and methods; no sources and methods were compromised by the NYT op-ed piece.

President Bush took flack from critics of the Iraq War, from those critical of his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and from others who decried his economic policies and his advocacy of de-regulation.  Never once did he call the press an “enemy of the people.”  President Obama received his share of criticism and complaint concerning everything from wearing a tan suit to the validity of his birth certificate. Never once did he call the press an “enemy of the people.”  Both these men understood the difference between the President and the Presidency, and the difference between being the Head of State and the State itself.

Merely because criticism makes #45 feel insecure doesn’t mean the state is insecure.  Bush understood this. Obama understood this.  Nevada politicians would do well to consider whether or not to wholeheartedly support someone who can’t make this distinction.

Do Nevada politicians truly want to run campaigns anchored in a message of fear and division?  What is gained by suggesting that Nevada citizens of Hispanic origin are less “American” than the citizens of Irish, German, Polish, Basque, or Chinese descent who preceded them?  What is gained by inferring that immigrants from the Philippines are less capable of assimilating into the broad fabric of Nevada life than the immigrant workers in the hospitality industry who came from other countries?  What is better for Nevada in the long run, promoting a path to citizenship and entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrants to this country (and this state), or building walls, both metaphorical and literal to keep them at a distance?

It isn’t necessary to run about wearing a white hood to touch the vile pitch of racism.  All that’s required is to advocate in favor of restricting the economic opportunities, circumscribe the education, and diminish the participation in civic life, for various ethnic or minority groups.  We can constrict them, devalue them, and make advocacy difficult for them.  We can take away their voices by capriciously restraining their voting rights.  We can wall ourselves off from them.  However, in doing so we only succeed in encircling and shrinking ourselves.

If there’s one thing Nevada has it’s miles and miles of beautiful miles and miles. We can see further toward the horizons beyond most other topographical regions in this nation.  Why would we choose to close down our social horizons when after a few moments driving time we can open up our physical ones?   Every time we build a wall we restrict our own field of vision.

Fear usually breeds failure.  Do Nevada politicians want to associate with failed policies? Nothing seems like a larger failure than the Zero Tolerance debacle on our southern border.  416 children to date separated from their parents, some of whom were lawfully seeking asylum in this country.  Too many of these youngsters are under the age of 5.  This is an unconscionable failure.  Unless, of course, one adopts the President’s mindset that immigrants from Mexico and Central America “infest” our country; unless, of course, one thinks of people from Sh*thole Countries as undesirable. And now the Administration wants to detain families indefinitely. Indefinitely. [Vox]

There is only one nation on this planet that pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, and as President Obama noted today, it wasn’t Syria…it was the United States of America.  There is only one nation that gave away dominance in regional trading by backing out of the Transpacific Partnership…it was the United States of America.  China and Japan are only too happy to fill the void.  There is only one western democracy causing friction among NATO allies…the United States of America. There is only one nation threatening trade wars with debilitating tariffs … the United States of America.  There is only one nation taking positions which could seriously damage trade relations with two of its most valuable trading partners… the United States of America.  This isn’t success.

We got vague promises of future vague promises from the North Korean regime.  While we made relations with China more difficult, the Chinese now have less incentive to pressure North Korea to do more.  The North Koreans are continuing their military research apace. This isn’t success.

Polarization begets gridlock, and gridlock impedes progress.  Do Nevada politicians want to take this route?  My way or the highway is NOT a bargaining position.   Implacable positions, taken for political expediency, mean a politician can never follow the dictum: Campaign in poetry, Govern in prose.  I can startle a conservative relative by arguing that single payer health care would promote entrepreneurship and support small businesses by leveling the playing field between the big box retailers and the mom and pop stores.  My conservative relative can widen my eyes by arguing that when work requirements are attached to Medicaid benefits we should be mindful of single adults, who while not physically disabled, are intellectually or developmentally challenged, and adjustments should be made for them.   If hard and fast positions don’t advance conversations; then how can they be an impetus toward progress?

We can, and must, do better.  And, we’ll do better when we function from a foundation predicated on our shared values, not one based upon our private fears.

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Portraits and Love Stories

Eleanor Roosevelt was history to me, Bess Truman was largely absent from view — and intended it to be that way.  I remember Mamie Eisenhower mainly for her bangs and her recipe for fudge.  Jackie Kennedy was memorable to me as a cultured person who could make Americans care about what the White House looked like, and taught us that it wouldn’t hurt us a bit to exercise a little taste.  Pat Nixon was a stand by your man woman, for a man who, try as he might, couldn’t return her devotion.  However, it wasn’t until Betty Ford that I started really paying attention to First Ladies.

Out of what seemed like nowhere there was a First Lady who told us outright she was dealing with breast cancer treatments.  Most male politicians couldn’t seem to get the word “breast” into their public vocabulary.  Betty Ford didn’t waffle or euphemize — she didn’t “have cancer,” she had “breast cancer.” She admitted her tribulations and troubles, and she did it with the support of a loving husband. It’s no accident her portrait by Cuban artist Felix de Cossio shows us the dancer and model, proud and poised.   It was no accident the Fords and the Carters became friends.  Two American families, two love stories, played out on television as they held hands, patted shoulders, gave hugs.

Nancy Reagan, by all accounts, was a tiger in defense of her husband, his smiles in her presence signaled their relationship, one that would be tested by the trauma of his decline and destruction by Alzheimer’s.  Whatever we might think of her politics it’s impossible to question their relationship, right to the tragic end. George and Barbara Bush followed, another family complete with dogs — one of whom wrote a book (?) — and again, politics aside, the White House reflected a strong mutual relationship. The Clinton’s were more tumultuous, mostly a problem on his part than a question of the relationship on hers.  Interestingly, those who sang along to “Stand By Your Man,” changed their tune when it came to a Democratic president.  But — they’re still married, and they both appear just as absorbed by their grandchildren as every other “haul the pictures out of the wallet” grandparents in the country.

George W. Bush’s portrait in the National Gallery shows a relaxed man in a blue double pocket shirt; Laura Bush’s portrait is more formal, including a book in hand, reminding us of her literacy program advocacy.  Even more interesting is their pose at the National Gallery. She’s holding his arm, he’s leaning toward her.   They look a little “stiff,” as though after the photo session is finished they’d very much like to go home and make popcorn.  Amble through the photos of them, notice in how many he has his arm around her, notice in other shots how many times they touch each other’s faces.  Notice in how many photos George W. has his arm around someone — everyone — Michelle Obama included.  Again, ignoring the politics for a moment, the portrait painters and photographers show us a couple that lives, loves, argues, makes up, holds hands and gives hugs.

And now the Obamas have their portraits in the National Gallery,  CSPAN recorded their National Gallery portraits unveiling and it’s worth a look.  Here’s a hint: Watch the video all the way to the end.  There’s a moment after the posing for photographs (with the same sense of awkwardness hinted at during the George and Laura Bush unveilings) when we see the Obamas leave the stage.  Mrs. Obama begins to exit the stage, Mr. Obama pauses a moment, looking at her portrait, just long enough to make it obvious he’s enamored of the portrait subject — it’s a moment, then he quickly strides over to leave with her.  Once more, leaving politics out of it, for eight years we were treated to a love story.

 

 

 

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Early Voting Begins in Nevada, and why it should be expanded

Vote Early And it’s on! Early voting has started in Nevada, and for those not already saturated by campaign information we share the times for voting in at least one of the rural counties (Humboldt):

Monday October 24 through Friday October 28: Early voting can be done at the County Courthouse (Winnemucca) from 8 am to 6:00 pm.  The Clerk’s office will be open from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday October 29, and Early Voting hours are 8 am to 8 pm from Monday October 31 through Friday November 4.

You know you’re a battleground when POTUS shows up.  The Las Vegas Sun covers his speech on behalf of Hillary Clinton and Catherine Cortez Masto.  The billionaire’s fishwrapper of record gains the dubious distinction of being the only major paper to endorse Donald Trump.  Let’s Talk Nevada has Pictures, and interesting information, well worth the click over to their site.   There’s always at least one willing to douse the enthusiasm for early voting – and this year he doesn’t disappoint.

“There is no good reason – for almost every voter – not to wait until Election Day, so you have the maximum information, including something that could break in the final fortnight. A scandal. A revelation about someone’s character. More information.”  [RGJ]

Here’s what’s fundamentally wrong with this analysis.  First, it promotes one of the worst features of American campaign politics – the last minute unanswerable attack.  This, for many election cycles, has been a campaign scheduling trick designed to attack an opponent with a charge which due to the timing is predicated on the notion that the victim of the ploy doesn’t have time to answer. Thus, all the dirty tricks are withheld until the last possible effective moment – like 24 hours before election day.   So, if I were to employ this artifice I’d have a lovely Photo-Shopped graphic of my opponent embracing a wild-eyed maniac beheading a baby while slaughtering puppies and kittens, all presented in a shiny colorful mailer.   There’s no time to adequately debunk this bit of bluster.  Early voting allows a campaign to avoid this destructive, and definitely uninformative, tactic.

Secondly, the argument is dismissive of any effort to relieve the burden on voting registrars, election officials, and county clerks.  There was a time in which all voting could be done in 24 hours without long delays and attendant problems – but that day has long gone in the face of population increases.

In 1980 Clark County, Nevada had approximately 463,067 residents, the 2014 estimates place it at 2,069,450.  Washoe County had 193,623 residents at the time of the 1980 elections; the 2014 estimate is 436,797.  Mineral County is the only statistical area in which there has been a population decrease since 1980, and others like Nye County have experienced significant growth from 9,408 to 45,456 or Lyon County growing from 13,594 to 53,334 during the same period. [NV Demo]  [WRDC pdf]

The counter, of course, is that as populations increase so do the number of polling sites.  Not really.  An EAC study reported that the number of polling sites increased with some regularity until 2000 at which time the precincts  actually decreased.

Table 13a. Number of Precincts Nationwide, 1980–2004
Number of
Election Year Precincts
2004 185,994
2002 189,900
2000 184,850
1998 185,444
1996 180,834
1994 181,497
1992 177,691
1990 177,101
1988 178,034
1986 176,326
1980 167,037

While it might be tempting to engage in some conspiracy theories at this point – and some voter suppression schemes do tend to reduce polling places in minority and lower income neighborhoods – there’s also a plausible explanation incorporating the notion that polling has become far more expensive with the electronic voting machines required.

Therefore, given the populations increases, the increased cost of election equipment, and the costs of staffing precinct polling sites, combined with the pressure to reduce local government budgets, one has to either accept that elections are going to be more expensive (and budget accordingly) or hope that early voting periods allow a local government to spread overtime and equipment budgets over a longer period of time so that additional costs aren’t incurred.

Third, the argument while traditionalist is also condescending to those who don’t have the luxury of waiting in line for three hours to vote.  Nevada includes time and distance into the allowance of time off to vote on a work day:

NRS 293.463  Employees may absent themselves from employment to vote: Procedure; penalty.
     1.  Any registered voter may be absent from his or her place of employment at a time to be designated by the employer for a sufficient time to vote, if it is impracticable for the voter to vote before or after his or her hours of employment. A sufficient time to vote shall be determined as follows:
     (a) If the distance between the place of such voter’s employment and the polling place where such person votes is 2 miles or less, 1 hour.
     (b) If the distance is more than 2 miles but not more than 10 miles, 2 hours.
     (c) If the distance is more than 10 miles, 3 hours.
     2.  Such voter may not, because of such absence, be discharged, disciplined or penalized, nor shall any deduction be made from his or her usual salary or wages by reason of such absence.
     3.  Application for leave of absence to vote shall be made to the employer or person authorized to grant such leave prior to the day of the election.
     4.  Any employer or person authorized to grant the leave of absence provided for in subsection 1, who denies any registered voter any right granted under this section, or who otherwise violates the provisions of this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

If the county can’t spread out the time for voting, then it’s entirely possible a person could be 2 miles from the polling site and have to wait in a two hour line.  And, presumably, the employer could dock paychecks within the reading of the law.

Aside from the practical matter of long lines and tenuous guarantees of permission to take time off to vote, there’s the matter of condescension.  To argue that voting is the ultimate act of civic duty which everyone should embrace no matter the personal cost, is perilously close to the contention that voting is a privilege.  No amount of flag waving, banner hoisting, and parading about, will remove the scent of patronization – those who are really truly patriotic will vote even if it costs them dearly – which is very nice for the boss and those who can take the entire day if they wish, and not so convenient for those who can’t.

Finally, in an election season such as this one – interminable, and more annoying than necessary – early voting gives a citizen a way to say: Whatever someone else may want is fine – just let me get this over with!

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Filed under Vote Suppression, Voting

Numbers of the Day

Barn Door Closing 1,205: The number of corporate entities subject to a request for information regarding a “Resignation of Registered Agent” inquiry as representatives of Mossack-Fonseca.  [LVRJ]  Translation: The number of companies associated with the Panama Papers operations of Mossack-Fonseca.  But, here’s the kicker:

“Corporate filings are administered by the secretary of state’s office, although laws governing their oversight are enacted by the Legislature. Nevada and states such as Delaware and Wyoming have some of the most liberal corporation laws in the nation. They do not require proof of identification when setting up a company, a task that can be accomplished in a few hours by paying only a few hundred dollars.”  [LVRJ]

The Secretary of State announced she’s putting together a “working committee” to review statutes pertaining to business registration – How about requiring some identification? To registered agent requirements, and concerning “the maintenance of related records.”

It’s nice to be “business friendly,” but it would also be nice to know that Nevada isn’t being used by tax evaders, swindlers, hucksters, money launderers, and other frauds as a “friendly place to do business.”

Gee Whiz Graph 1 9: The number of graphs tweeted out by Donald Trump to “prove” the Obama Administration’s a failure.  0: The number which are accurate and not misleading. [Washington Post]

 

 

Curiel 1953: The year Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana.  The judge hearing the Trump University case has come in from some anti-immigrant bashing from Mr. Trump. Interesting because Curiel’s father came to the U.S. in the 1920’s while Mr. Trump’s mother didn’t get here until the ‘30s and didn’t become a citizen until 1942. [TPM]

Starbucks 2: The number of African Americans associated with Seattle University who were racially assaulted in a Starbucks by a man spitting and yelling racial epithets. 0: the number of restaurant patrons who protested against the assault. 1: Restaurant manager who assisted in the filing of a police report. [C&L]

Unemployment BLS

The unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point to 4.7 percent in May, and nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+38,000). Employment increased in health care. Mining continued to lose jobs, and employment in information decreased due to a strike.” [BLS]

Yes, 38,000 is not a major indicator of job creation, but take a look at what was happening during the Recession 2006-2009. 

Blackburn 3: The number of entities (two Planned Parenthood facilities and  StemExpress Inc. who are being investigated by Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s committee for violations of HIPAA requirements.

“These accusations are the latest step in an investigation that has never had any reason to exist. The House panel was formed after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released deceptively edited videos purporting to reveal that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit. Since then, repeated investigations have found no evidence that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong, and members of the Center for Medical Progress have been indicted for their activities.” [NYT]

Enough.

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Filed under abortion, Economy, Nevada, Politics

The Wells’ legacy and Pompous Post Racialism

Ida B Wells 2

Google is honoring Ida B. Wells-Barnett today for her journalism and activism on behalf of African Americans who were being lynched at alarming rates in this country.  She was born a slave in 1862 and lived until 1931.  How ironic that today we’re addressing issues involving the excessive use of force against African Americans by law enforcement authorities.

Among some white conservative elements there appears to be a protracted, if not profound, attempt to assert that there would be no racial problems eighty four years after Mrs. Wells-Barnett’s death if people would just stop talking about IT.  Witness Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly’s recent rant:

“O’Reilly ripped into liberals who he says are “demonizing” America by saying America is “a country dominated by white supremacy… to keep black Americans down.” And this goes “unchallenged by a cowardly media,” as he put it. He got really teed off as he insisted “there is no organized effort to harm black people by white people,” and then declared, “You want a war? You got a war! I’m not going to sit here any longer and take this garbage.” [Mdite]

The most obvious issue with O’Reilly’s rant is that racism doesn’t have to be organized to be pervasive.  The second problem is that we do have some demons which need to be faced down.

We do need to analyze and act upon information which persistently demonstrates that some police officers treat African Americans differently – out of fear? Out of biases? Out of lack of appropriate training?   One question that keeps rising out of the fog of information regarding the shooting of unarmed black suspects is “Did the officer perceive a greater threat because the suspect was African American?”  (Michael Brown) Or, “Did the officer lack sufficient self control to manage an arrest of an African American suspect?” (Walter Scott) Or to deal with a situation involving African Americans (McKinney, TX)?

Are African Americans treated differently, or abused, in police custody. Texas authorities have been called in to investigate the death of Sandra Bland, arrested in Waller County, who police reported had committed suicide in her jail cell. [ChicagoTrib] The family vociferously disputes this possibility.

Again, white supremacy needn’t be as blatant as that of the Council of Conservative Citizens, or the KKK, or any other associated hate group.  We can see it at work in the sentencing of black and white convicts, as described by a study conducted by researchers from Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Pennsylvania University:

“The researchers divided judges into categories based on level of race bias. To make these results concrete, they compare two examples. There are two identically situated defendants, who differ only by race – one black and one white. If they are sentenced by a judge who is among the least affected by racial bias (meaning in one of the best case scenarios), the black defendant is still 30% more likely to end up in prison. If they are sentenced by judge who is among the most affected by racial bias (one of the worst case scenarios), the black defendant is almost twice as likely to end up in prison.” [TP]

ALL other elements being equal, a black defendant is still 30% more likely to be sentenced to prison than a white defendant. Why?  If we take the discussion out of the realm of the institutional and into the general population we find that racism is far from a minor irritant under American skin.  Perhaps it would be instructive to take a closer look at the nature of white complaints.

One of the more illogical is the fallacious argument of “reverse racism,” which is used to cover a range of territory from opposition to affirmative action plans to the justification of person racial prejudice.  In definitional terms, the assertion fails to differentiate between racism (a social construct) and prejudice/bias (a personal trait.)  Additionally, it all too often relies on broad generalizations based on limited personal information or experience.  Contentions that entire population segments are “lazy,” or “criminal,” or otherwise socially unfit require the speaker to ignore all but that data which substantiates his position.  Yes, the unemployment rate for African Americans in this country is 9.5% [BLS]  However, that obviously means that 90.5% of working age African Americans are, in fact, working – hardly proving that they are “lazy” or disinclined to accept employment.

A variation on the “reverse racism” contention is the “they are taking our jobs” assertion.  This can be quickly, and relatively easily debunked:

“Although many are concerned that immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, the most recent economic evidence suggests that, on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans.  Based on a survey of the academic literature, economists do not tend to find that immigrants cause any sizeable decrease in wages and employment of U.S.-born citizens (Card 2005), and instead may raise wages and lower prices in the aggregate (Ottaviano and Peri 2008; Ottaviano and Peri 2010; Cortes 2008).”  [Brookings]

So, if we do have legitimate questions regarding the interactions between members of minority communities and law enforcement institutions, and at least two of the most common racially based complaints are illogical or downright false, why the current interest in “Our Heritage?”  There’s nothing all that new about this, as Salon explained back in 2013:

“The white Southern narrative — at least in the dominant Southern conservative version — is one of defeat after defeat. First the attempt of white Southerners to create a new nation in which they can be the majority was defeated by the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Doomed to be a perpetual minority in a continental American nation-state, white Southerners managed for a century to create their own state-within-a-state, in which they could collectively lord it over the other major group in the region, African-Americans. But Southern apartheid was shattered by the second defeat, the Civil Rights revolution, which like the Civil War and Reconstruction was symbolized by the dispatching of federal troops to the South. The American patriotism of the white Southerner is therefore deeply problematic. Some opt for jingoistic hyper-Americanism (the lady protesteth too much, methinks) while a shrinking but significant minority prefer the Stars and Bars to the Stars and Stripes.”

It’s that shrinking minority which greeted our first African American President in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

csa flags obama trips

Complete with those Stars and Bars.  And in this instance we may be seeing another element in play.  There are those who cannot efficiently handle the difference between criticism and an attack.  No one is actually attacking American culture.  What is happening is that it is no longer socially acceptable to use the N-word, at least in public. It is no longer socially acceptable to slap Mary Jane on the fanny down at the garage.  It is no longer socially acceptable to call the Gonzales family the W-B term.  It’s true, Native American women take offense at the S-word.  Nor, is it socially acceptable to use the F-word as shorthand for members of the LGBT communities.  In short, it is no longer socially acceptable to view members of ethnic and gender minorities from the Olympian heights of assumed white supremacy.

Those people who are uncomfortable with this state of affairs may be longing to “take our country back.”  But, what do they mean by that statement? 

At one end of the spectrum there are the white nationalists, the fringe groups of the malcontents and the downright disturbed who cheered the actions of the Charleston Church shooter. It is harder to categorize the other delineations on that spectrum of opinion.  There are, of course, those who would happily pepper their conversation with the racial epithets which are no longer useful or appropriate, and who would gladly practice discrimination if it’s in their power to do so.  There are those who would like to use their unacceptable vocabulary (and related ideas) but don’t do so in public, and bristle at the thought they would personally be capable of bias or prejudice.  And there are the insensitive or ignorant who simply don’t know that some words and items are offensive and slip up in situations they later regret. (Example: Tom Petty’s apology for using the CSA battle flag on a 1985 album)

A person may well be suffering from “white supremacy” syndrome if he or she is aware that the CSA (KKK) battle flag is offensive, but waves it anyway because it is emblematic of their discomfort and their longing to return to a time when they weren’t aware the LGBT community existed (outside closets), when African Americans “knew their place,” when everyone spoke English (never since the expansion of the US after the Louisiana Purchase, and questionable before then), and when they could talk about tolerance without actually having to practice it.

So, the contention that we’re “post racial” is as inaccurate as it is pompous. It is little more than a thin layer of Kawamata silk which fails to even barely disguise the efforts to cling to their sense of self-worth on the equally fragile social ladder constructed of outmoded ideas, and outdated vocabulary.

Meanwhile, let’s join the celebration of Ida Baker Wells-Barnett and her legacy of journalism and civic activism.  No flags are required.

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GOP Excuses, Excuses, Excuses: How the GOP Fights Tax Cuts for Middle America

GOP Excuses Radio

There’s an old saw, “Those who are good at making excuses usually aren’t much good at anything else,” and the GOP is offering up a vivid example of this truth.

No sooner does the President’s plan to cut taxes for middle class Americans and raise taxes for the top 1% of income earners come out – notice we’re not using the expression “wage or salary earners” – than the GOP cranks up the Whine Machine with all the old excuses.

Hoary Old Excuse Number One: It will hurt small business.  This topic has been covered before, when DB provided some myths, facts, and figures about Small Businesses in the good old U.S. of A.

“Here’s the point at which not all tax breaks are created equally.  Most firms in the U.S. are bringing in less than $500,000 in receipts annually.  Formulas based on the number of employees alone will necessarily benefit those establishments which may hire fewer than 500 persons, BUT which may also be generating receipts well over the common $500,000 threshold for receipts.”

The GOP played this game before, H.R. 9 back in 2012 gave a $46 billion loophole to the 1%, all in the name of “small business.’   Who would be the primary beneficiary of the GOP largess?  Try Hedge Funds and Lobby Shops.  Both have small numbers of employees, thus earning the categorization of “small business” from the Republicans, BUT small hedge funds are those with less than $100 million assets under management, medium sized ones range from $100 million and $999 million, and then there are the big ones – the ones with funds from $1 billion to $5 billion. [BusInsider]  Since when is a firm with $500 million worth of assets under management the same thing as the 76% of American businesses which have annual incomes below $200,000?  Only in Republican mythology would Mom’s Diner be in the same category as Mighty Mountain Megamoney Capital Management.

Hoary Old Excuse Number Two: “You’ll Be Next.”  Fear-mongering is one of the things Republicans do best. If we raise taxes on the incomes of the Top 1%, the “tax and spend” Democrats will come after you next.  Not. So. Fast. Remember the second part of President Obama’s proposal is a tax CUT for those who are among the vast 99% of the American public not basking in the upper reaches of income levels.  How does one explain ‘they’re coming after you’ when YOU (at least those of us in the 99% range) are to be the beneficiaries of a tax CUT?

Hoary Old Excuse Number Three:  Here they go again, “Are you going to actually grow the economy and jobs, are entrepreneurs going to be better off, are small businessmen going to be better off, with more taxes and more government? No!” he (Rep. Chaffetz R-UT) told CNN’s “State of the Union” show.”  [Reuters] This little mish-mash has all the basic GOP  elements tucked into a nice sound bite. The premise is that the economy won’t grow if taxes are increasedWrong. Under good old fashioned garden variety Capitalism, the economy grows as people make transactions in the REAL economy.  They manufacture things, provide services, transport things, sell things, buy things, and generally do so with cash or credit instruments.  The notion that more taxation at upper income levels will decrease investment pre-supposes that (1) all investment is located in or targeted to the REAL economy, and (2) all upper income investors will necessarily invest less in REAL economic prospects at larger taxation levels even though the investments may be high quality.  Both of these ideas are downright silly.

There is a whopping difference between investment in shares of common stock issued by General Widget and Gadget Inc. and investment in Mount St. Helen’s Volcanic Macro Hedge Fund.  One is capitalism, the other is gambling.   If you aren’t sure about this take a gander at what happened to the formerly very real Mount Everest Hedge Fund.  The fund bet the ranch on the Swiss Franc’s dropping – it didn’t.   This brings us to GOP conflation number four.

Hoary Old Excuse Number FourWe are punishing success! Nonsense. We tax income.  If we look at the top 1% there is a range of professions included, but focusing on the source of household income the scene is a bit different:

“We find that executives, managers, supervisors, and financial professionals account for about 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent of income earners in recent years, and can account for 70 percent of the increase in the share of national income going to the top 0.1 percent of the income distribution between 1979 and 2005,” [WaPo, WilliamsEdu pdf]

A person who is a successful carpenter, steelworker, teacher, firefighter, grocery store owner, salon/beauty shop owner, hardware store owner makes his or her income by working.  Those top earners? Securities, business equity, and investments.  At the risk of being a bit crude about it, we now tax the incomes of those who actually manufacture screwdrivers, transport screwdrivers, and sell screwdrivers at a higher rate than we tax those who assemble funds to leverage the hostile takeover of the screwdriver manufacturing company, sell off the assets of the screwdriver company to pay off the incurred debt, and then toddle off to their next financial adventure.   This shouldn’t be about “punishment” perhaps it ought to be about REWARDS – as in, how do we reward WORK. 

Win big in the local casino and you’ll probably have between 25% and 28% kept back for Uncle Sam, [turbo] but gamble in a hedge fund that bets on the British Pound and the capital gains tax is 15%.  Are we rewarding work or speculation?

No one minds rewarding success, but rewarding speculation is another matter entirely.

However, those enthralled with the now thoroughly debunked Trickle Down rationalization for the aggrandizement of the top 0.1% will still cling to their talking points.  It’s high time we stopped listening.

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Filed under Economy, Taxation

Some Context Is Needed

Crime Scene Tape

The Background: It’s nothing less than absolutely tragic that two NYPD officers, Liu and Ramos, were killed while on duty in Brooklyn, NY. [NBC]  The assassination brings back an equally unpleasant memory from last June, when two law officers were eating lunch at a pizza place in Las Vegas, Nevada.  However, playing the “blame game” in the aftermath of this most recent assault on law enforcement officers is counter-productive, and highly questionable.  PBA President Lynch should know better than to blame the protests against the use of lethal or excessive force by some law enforcement officers as the ‘reason’ for the assault.  There is a profound difference between calling for the improvement of police tactics and policies, and advocating violence against officers of the law.

Public officials and protest leaders have condemned the killings in the strongest possible language, the President saying: “

“I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City,” the president said in a statement released just after midnight on Sunday morning. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.” [Politico]

The Mayor added:

“These officers were shot execution-style, (a) particularly despicable act, which goes to the very heart of our society and democracy,” de Blasio said. “When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on everything we hold dear.

“We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil,” the mayor said. “They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency. Therefore, every New Yorker should feel they, too, were attacked. Our entire city was attacked by this heinous individual.” [NYDN]

The Issue: So, why the continuing problems between the police unions and the city government?  In this instance we need to hark back to the tensions between Mayor David Dinkins and the police in 1992.  Dinkins at the time was supporting the creation of a civilian review board, and the response by the police unions was remarkably similar to the police reaction to body cameras today: “He never supports us on anything,” said Officer Tara Fanning of the Midtown South Precinct, echoing the view of many in the crowd.A cop shoots someone with a gun who’s a drug dealer, and he goes and visits the family.” [NYT 1992]   Indeed, it’s not hard to conclude after the issues about both the establishment of a civilian review board and the issues revolving around the adoption of body cameras and re-training, that the police unions will vehemently oppose any and all suggestions that they improve the implementation of their public services. [C&L]

The media: The national media hasn’t served the public well in this instance.  The issues are fundamentally about how the police can best enforce the law without risk to their own safety and the safety of members of the public.  The easy, and rather lazy journalistic approach is to pursue the politics of a dispute between the police unions and the mayor’s office.  “He said, and then He said,” journalism which makes for simple headlines, but obfuscates the larger issues involved.   The union commentary, which equates any criticism of police activities with an “attack on officers,” doesn’t address protracted problems related to Community Policing, nor does it contribute to any positive dialogue and cooperation between the police and the communities they protect.  While ‘conflict’ reportage may sell media, and thus advertising space, cooperation is what will improve the relationship between the community and the police department. There are other coverage issues which merit more attention than they are receiving in the current media environment.

It’s not the protesters in the wake of the Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice killings who are calling for the attacks on police officers.  Protesters have called for prosecutions, investigations, changes in training, screening, and recruitment – but they have not called for any violence.  The right wing reaction has been to declare that any demands for police reform may engender ill-will and hence attacks on officers – See, There, It Happened! even if the assassin in the Brooklyn case was evidently a violent, emotionally and psychologically unstable, man. There are, however, some voices which do advocate violence against officers, and who have made threats they carried out. A few examples:

January 29, 1998: An off-duty police officer is killed, and a nurse seriously injured when one of right wing activist Eric Robert Rudolf’s bombs explodes at a Birmingham, AL women’s health clinic.

December 8, 2003: Abbeville, SC Police Sgt. Danny Wilson and Constable Donnie Ouzts are shot to death by anti-government “patriot” Steven Bixby.

April 4, 2009: Three Pittsburgh, PA police officers (Sciullo, Mayhle, Kelly) are killed and a fourth wounded by Richard Andrew Poplawski, a white supremacist when they answered a call about a domestic disturbance. Poplawski explains he fired extra bullets into the bodies of the officers “just to make sure they were dead.”

April 25, 2009: Two Okaloosa County, FL sheriff’s deputies. Bert Lopez and Warren York, are killed by Joshua Cartwright, an anti-government extremist upset by the election of President Obama, who had previously expressed interest in joining a militia group.

May 20, 2010: West Memphis, AR police officers Paudert and Evans are attacked and killed by ‘sovereign citizens’.  [TDB]

August 16, 2012: Louisiana sheriff’s deputies Nielsen and Triche are ambushed by seven people with ties to the “sovereign citizens” movement.

September 4, 2012: California HP officer Youngstrom is shot and killed by Christopher Lacy, an anti-government individual with a large amount of ‘sovereign citizen’ literature on several computers in his home.

June 8, 2014: Jerad and Amanda Miller assassinate two Las Vegas, NV police officers Soldo and Beck,  who are having lunch.  The killers leave a Gadsden flag on Officer Beck’s body.  Weeks earlier the assassins had been present at the Bundy Ranch.

June 10, 2014: A Forsyth County deputy Daniel Rush was wounded by white supremacist, ‘sovereign citizen’ Dennis Marx who was attempting to ‘lay seige’ to the court house.  [AJC]

September 12, 2014: Eric Frein, military re-enactor ambushes state police barracks in Blooming Grove, PA, kills Officer Byron Dickson, and seriously injures Trooper Alex Douglass. [LeVNews]

November 22, 2014:  Leon County, FL sheriff’s deputy Scott Angulo was ambushed and killed by “anti-government/anti-establishment”  Curtis Wade Holley, who set fire to his home and vowed to kill as many first responders as he could.  [USAT]

The ADL has been keeping track of violent incidents between extremists and police:

“In the past five years alone, from 2009 through 2013, ADL has tracked 43 sep­a­rate vio­lent inci­dents between domes­tic extrem­ists (of all types) and law enforce­ment in the United States. These inci­dents include sit­u­a­tions in which shots are exchanged between police and extrem­ists (shootouts), sit­u­a­tions in which extrem­ists have fired at police but police sub­dued the extrem­ists with­out hav­ing to return fire, and sit­u­a­tions in which offi­cers had to use their firearms to pro­tect them­selves against extremists.

Of these 43 inci­dents, fully 39 of them involved extrem­ists sport­ing some sort of extreme right-wing ide­ol­ogy. White suprema­cists took part in 21 inci­dents, while anti-government extrem­ists were involved in 17 more. An anti-Muslim extrem­ist was involved in one inci­dent (the other four inci­dents included one with a left-wing extrem­ist and three with domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists). In these shoot­ing inci­dents, the extrem­ists shot 30 offi­cers, 14 fatally. Many other offi­cers sus­tained non-gunfire injuries dur­ing some of these encounters.” [ADL] (emphasis added)

Let’s assume that we can all walk and chew gum at the same time.  It is not impossible that reforms can be made in even the most recalcitrant police forces that improve the relations between the department and the communities; and, it’s not impossible that we can – and should – pay greater attention to those who actually DO advocate violence against law enforcement officials.  It was not until April 2010 that the FBI issued guidance to local law enforcement about the sovereign citizen threat.  We simply need to have a adult discussion, enhanced by better informational context, and to stop shouting and start talking.

*SPLC “Terror from the Right”  The Daily Beast, “Sovereign Citizens are America’s Top Cop Killers.” Media Matters, “How Fox News Covers Right Wing Cop Killers.” ADL, “Officers Down: Right Wing Extremists Attacking Police at a Growing Rate.”  Crooks and Liars, “Rudy Guiliani Knows Exactly How to Spark a Police Riot – he’s done it before.”

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