GOP Senate Walked Out of DC for a Reason: Voter Foreclosure, 2020 Edition [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks!  Updates at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

Come on, media. You’re still screwing up coverage of BOTH the pandemic economy and the general election.

The bothsides-ism the media clings to so desperately as a norm does not work when one party consistently makes bad choices, or no choices with the same effect as bad choices. There is no bothsides when one side acts in bad faith.

Think about it: making no choice is a choice. Taking no action is a choice. The outcome from no-choice/no-action can be very bad; making no decision to rescue a drowning person yields the victim’s death.

In the case of the stimulus and aid bill, it’s NOT the Democrats in Congress who are the impediment. Stop portraying that way.

Start digging into the why behind the White House and the GOP senators resistance to the economic aid in the bill — money which would be plowed back into the economy and ultimately into their donors’ pockets as profits.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a bead on one reason: a portion of the investor class wants real estate values to crash so they can sweep in and buy distressed properties.

… The Wall Street Journal recently reported that investors are “preparing for what they believe could be a once-in-a generation opportunity to buy distressed real-estate assets at bargain prices.” This profiteering is far from “once-in-a-generation” though: It’s straight out of private equity’s playbook during the 2008 financial crisis. We all know what happened then: Homeowners targeted by predatory mortgages lost their homes to foreclosure, and private equity swept in to buy those homes at depressed prices. Communities of color were hit fastest and hardest. Just a handful of years after Black homeownership hit its highest point, the devastating waves of foreclosures wiped out nearly all of the growth in Black homeownership since the Fair Housing Act repealed Jim Crow redlining in 1968. …

“Once-in-a generation opportunity”? Meaning an even more dramatic plummet of property values compared to the 2008 crash a dozen years ago?

We can see the crash coming with an impending 30-40 million Americans on the verge of eviction but neither the White House nor the GOP senate feel a sense of urgency. This is NOT bothsides but one, and one which is and has been comfortable with vulture capitalism.

One side led by a man who claimed to be a billionaire based in no small part on his real estate development business.

This no-choice/no-action is intended to both evict roughly 12% of Americans from their homes, forcing their relocation or homelessness, while a small segment of the investor class reaps benefits.

The rest of the investor class which relies on stability in order for consumption to remain constant or increase won’t benefit. Their values will drop off as they did in 2008 during the crash.

Why are the White House and the GOP senate proceeding as if it doesn’t matter if they come to an agreement on the aid and economic stimulus package?

We’ve seen this before, though; the difference was that the crash hadn’t yet been fully set in motion as it is this time with the pandemic.

~ ~ ~

In 2008 with an evenly split Senate, the 110th Congress faffed around from June to early September, happy with irrationally high oil price which were hurting consumers badly while paying inadequate attention to investment banking and credit markets. Congress threw crappy legislation at the problem of subprime mortgages while the financial sector floundered.

When consumers had to choose between paying for gasoline to get to work or paying their crappy adjustable rate mortgage, they paid for the former rather than the latter hoping to catch up on the latter at a later date. But for many consumers there wasn’t a later date — they were foreclosed upon and evicted.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 passed in late July 2008 did far too little, far too late, and for the wrong end of the economic food chain.

Congress should have learned from this experience. Some of the GOP senators were in office when the 2008 crash happened. They know better.

In September 2008 as the crash loomed days away, a GOP county party chairman in Michigan admitted to a reporter that the GOP was going to use a list of foreclosed homes and addresses to “make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.

The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee sued the GOP; the Republican National Committee, Michigan Republican Party, and Macomb County Republican Party settled, acknowledging the existence of an illegal scheme by the Republicans to use mortgage foreclosure lists to deny foreclosure victims their right to vote.

At the time the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division told Congress it would monitor for the use of foreclosure records to contest voters’ ballots though it wouldn’t dispatch DOJ personnel to the polls.

But everything is different under the Trump administration. The GOP may try to use foreclosure records this election because they may be able to get away with it after setting a foreclosure crisis in motion.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is helmed by a Trump appointee; can we be certain they will see the use of foreclosure records the way the Civil Rights Division did in 2008?

A Trump appointee may be the U.S. attorney for each state most at risk — they may be more loyal to Trump and the GOP than to the law.

A Trump appointee may be the judge overseeing any case brought to them about voter foreclosure.

And the GOP is desperate, more so than it was in 2008 because both the White House and the Senate are now at risk if a blue wave sweeps them as a rejection of Trump and his policies.

They’re planning ahead for something, because the GOP has amassed a $20 million legal fund for the election. For what do they need such a big legal fee kitty?

It’s right there in their selection of no-choice/no-action toward economic aid and stimulus.

The entire GOP, from Trump on through the GOP congressional caucus, want to foreclose on Americans’ homes and then their votes.

~ ~ ~

If the media was to stop bothsides-ing their reporting, was to stop treating the GOP’s bad faith as if it were legitimate, the GOP might reverse its position.

Might — don’t hold your breath, though.

For some Americans it’s already too late. They are already behind on rent or mortgage payments, and/or their household isn’t getting enough to eat. Innocent children are suffering for this. Their parents feel compelled to send them to schools which can’t handle COVID-19 conditions because it may mean a meal for their kids they might not get at home.

But the GOP continues to walk away from doing what it takes to ensure American families get the care they need, let alone that the public is able to safely ride out the time between now and an effective vaccine while socially distanced and masked.

The GOP senate caucus has chosen since May to load up their bill with funding for military equipment the public can’t eat or use to pay their mortgage, and let protections against evictions expire without replacement.

The reason is evident in the results, and the media needs to do a better job of holding the one party accountable for them.

Why isn’t there protection against evictions?

Because the GOP — from White House to the Senate — wants evictions and foreclosures.

Why isn’t there financial aid for Americans who have lost their jobs, are behind on their rent, need food?

Because the GOP wants these particular Americans to suffer enough that they are disenfranchised.

Why doesn’t the GOP save the person from drowning?

In the absence of acting to reach for their hand and pull them from the water, we can only assume it’s because the GOP wants the flailing victim dead.

The media needs to stop bothsides journalism and get the GOP on the record. Ask them why they are clinging to funding military spending instead of financial and food aid, why the GOP isn’t preventing evictions and foreclosures with a moratorium.

Ask the GOP whether they are going to attempt to foreclose on voters to save Trump’s ass this November.

.

UPDATE-1 — 08-AUG-2020 12:25 P.M. EDT —

Three lies in three minutes. The lie about COVID-19 was bad enough on a day when over 1200 Americans died of the disease. The other two lies though…the GOP senate hadn’t budged yesterday. These two issues, both unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium, can’t be resolved with an executive order which he doesn’t even claim he’ll try to use.

 

Call it what it is: gaslighting the American public.

I don’t know why his Bedminster course members are willing to pay hundreds of thousands for memberships so they can be gaslighted in person, but rich people do all kinds of stupid shit.

.

This is an open thread.

Ceci N’est Pas La Violence: The Treachery of Chad Wolf

I’ve had this image stuck in my head since the non-lawyer, movie-villainesque Secretary of Homeland Security complained about violence in Portland, Oregon.

In a now-deleted tweet, acting DHS Secretary Wolf posted this with three other photos in which he is looking at graffiti deposited on the federal courthouse’s exterior walls.

Violence, he calls it.

His nonsensical labeling called to mind a surrealist work with which you are likely familiar:

Image: La Traihison des Images (The Treachery of Images) by Rene Magritte, c. 1929, owned by Los Angeles County Museum of Art, via Wikipedia. Displayed here under Fair Use.

Just as this is not a pipe, what Wolf displays in his photos is not violence even if he calls it that. This palimpsest of paint is not “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”[1]

It’s graffiti expressing outrage against state violence, a protest not unlike that in December 16, 1773, when protesters demonstrated against the state by tossing tea into Boston Harbor.

Tossing the tea wasn’t violence. It was a protest expressing rejection of oppressive state policies which denied colonists both representation and fair competition in the marketplace.

The graffiti in Portland protests and rejects systematic abuses by police — the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against persons of color which has resulted in higher rates of injury, death, excessive prosecution, and constant low level fear of police.

Wolf has been pushing this ‘graffiti is violence’ argument for days now. You’d think someone with a bachelor’s degree in history would have learned that graffiti is historically anything but violence.

Photo: Ancient Pompeii graffito caricature of a politician, by Zebulon via Wikipedia (CC0)

What destroyed Pompeii wasn’t the graffiti on its walls.

He’s also gone on a right-wing media tour, shifting his language to equate vandalism with terrorism. What horse shit. It wasn’t burning boxes and spray paint which took down the World Trade Center, giving rise the department he now leads.


Wolf has linked protests and vandalism — the latter can’t be blamed solely on protesters in the absence of any investigative effort to determine if agents provocateur were involved — with “violent anarchism,” using that label 72 times in a list of grievances against anti-racism protesters. Again, more bullshit.

It’s amazing how few federal employees and Portland police have been injured amid all this violence Wolf claims has occurred; it’s equally amazing how the streets of Portland continue to function under the pressure of all these anarchists.


Gosh, just look at the devastation — people walking about pandemic-emptied streets unimpeded, minding their own business. Unmarked security forces conducting undocumented warrantless arrests are the answer to this kind of outrageous calm, aren’t they?

Chad Wolf is an idiot who’s damaged what little remained of Homeland Security’s legitimacy. Even employees within DHS have expressed concerns about their mission under Wolf’s questionable leadership.

Wolf certainly isn’t ensuring the security of this country by actively targeting American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, sending out personnel untrained in crowd control and riot response to deal with amorphous groups’ peaceful protests, armed to the teeth and ready to toss pepper spray and non-lethal loads at the drop of a hat, fomenting violence.


It’s so patently obvious Wolf’s minions have no intention of deescalating tensions and aren’t there to protect federal property but instead to mete out punishment even on passive dissenters. Indeed,Wolf is the source of violence.

This Navy veteran who reminded Wolf’s minions of their oaths put them on notice. Any of these federal employees who are not upholding their oaths by executing unlawful orders and violating civil rights should be investigated and prosecuted. They have personal agency and should be pushing back at Wolf for failing his own oath of office.

Meanwhile, the real work of Homeland Security is given short shrift in order to unlawfully surveil Americans using protests as a pretext to treat citizens like hostile foreign adversaries. This is yet another distortion of words and meaning, shifting the identity of our country’s enemies from intrusive foreign agents and terroristic white supremacists to citizens who have legitimate protests against a system which is killing Americans with impunity.

Seriously, though: is Chad Wolf going to start spying on moms, invading their Facebook groups, Instagram cooking posts, and bookclub blogs to suss their plans this evening?

Is he going to start calling mothers ‘enemies of the people’?

When moms in yoga pants and bike helmets are under attack for protecting peaceful protesters, Wolf needs to stop the word games and ask himself just who the real enemy is, and whose side he’s really on.

As one sign held by a mom read, “Step Off, Chad.”

It’s time for Wolf to go.

 

[1] Definition from The World Health Organization’s World report on violence and health 

Three Things: Numbers, Hearings and Racist Code

There’s always more than three things to address but here’s three we should look at more closely.

~ 3 ~
This is what we’re up against.

823 Americans have died of COVID-19 since yesterday. In contrast, South Korea, which learned of its first case of COVID-19 the same day the U.S. learned of its own, has only lost 281 of its citizens.

We lost not one American to an attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and yet an immediate program was developed and implemented to detect future shoe bombing attempts, requiring air travelers to take off their damned shoes and go through multiple screenings.

But Trump can’t be arsed to shut up and let the professionals handle stopping an ongoing daily stream of deaths from COVID-19.

This administration is killing Americans. Trump’s not even hiding the fact he’s willing to ignore deaths to manipulate numbers by insisting testing for the virus should be suppressed. He has the temerity to brag about his performance which has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 120,000 Americans.

Yesterday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called to testify before the committee:

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (statement at 27:39)

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes o Health (at 33:40)

Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (at 38:25)

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (at 43:54)

 

Some of the GOP’s efforts are useless, wasteful filibustering — like Rep. Bob Latta’s (OH-5) question about how the human body makes antibodies. This is something he should have been briefed on let alone read on his own long before this hearing. He should have read this basic biology question MONTHS AGO when the pandemic began. So was his question about how the vaccine would be distributed WHEN WE’RE 6-18 MONTHS OUT AT BEST from having a viable, effective, safe vaccine through Phase III trials.

Rep. Diana DeGette asked Fauci about vaccine development (at about 1:28:00); I think he was extremely optimistic saying he thought there would be one by early 2021. But the question wasn’t as specific as it should have been; there are clinical trials in progress for a couple of candidates, but it’s not clear what phase they are in.

Reported last week by StatNews:

There are more than 100 projects around the world centered on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. As of May 11, eight candidate vaccines were being tested in clinical trials in people.

An official at the National Institutes of Health said in mid-May that large-scale testing could begin in July with a vaccine potentially available by January.

Other experts say the more likely timeline is summer or fall of 2021.

The other factor beyond the capabilities of the vaccines and developers which will predict the time to public distribution is Congress and the White House.

If we still have that malicious narcissist in the Oval Office without a veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, nationwide roll-out of a vaccine by the U.S. government may not happen even if an efficacious vaccine is found.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 don’t care…

Just like Trump.

~ 2 ~
The Mary Sue presented a nice overview of what happened in Tulsa this past weekend.

In short, Team Trump fucked themselves hard.

What happened this weekend was supposed to be a point where Trump turned the narrative back in his favor and moved the attention away from the activists and change that have controlled the news cycle for months. But what really happened was instead of taking the attention away from the K-Pop teens for his failures, those things all combined to add one more line to an endless line of failures that we can only hope will keep going until November.

It wasn’t just a loss of narrative and momentum but the complete trashing of campaign data harvesting.

We don’t know exactly what the data accumulated by Trump’s re-election campaign looks like after receiving ~800,000 registrations for the Tulsa rally. Some were valid, some were valid but no-shows, some were legitimate addresses of people who had zero intention of attending — likely sent by TikTok accounts.

And a mess of them must have been K-pop fans who are still feeling their oats after they DDoS’d police video monitoring during anti-racism protests as well as spamming right-wing hashtags.

Parscale’s operation better have had a good backup before the Tulsa registrations began, though I have suspicions somebody’s ass wasn’t well covered.

I mean, who is foolish enough to brag about more than 1,000,000 registrations like that, without a hint of skepticism about the data’s integrity?

Somebody prone to hubris, that’s who.

And somebody else isn’t going to pay Team Trump for data gleaned through Tulsa.

~ 1 ~
The ACLU filed suit this morning against the Detroit Police Department for its wrongful arrest of Robert Williams based on racist facial recognition technology.

The Washington Post published an op-ed by Williams explaining what happened to him and why facial recognition software should be banned.

The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”

The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding. …

It’s not just the software at fault, though. DPD made absolutely no attempt to confirm Williams’ identity against images they had before they took him into custody, processed him, and detained him overnight in holding.

They literally can’t be bothered or they are racist as hell in a minority majority city.

The ACLU is calling for a ban on facial recognition in Detroit, Williams being a perfect example of how flawed and racist the technology is as well as an assault on innocent citizens’ privacy.

 

Boston’s city council banned facial recognition technology this morning, setting an example for Detroit.

What’s your municipality doing about facial recognition technology?

Are you blowing off this issue because you’re white and you couldn’t possibly be misidentified?

Sure.

~ 0 ~
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization at the Justice Department is still under way as hit Publish. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, here are four Twitter threads covering the hearing.

Marcy https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1275821690170335237

Jennifer Taub https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1275825424405323776

Courthouse News https://twitter.com/ByTimRyan/status/1275821746923417603

CNN https://twitter.com/jeremyherb/status/1275820657289428994

This is an open thread.

The Why of “Defund the Police” [UPDATE]

[Update at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Apart from the purely economic rationale that a function which has so repeatedly failed should not continue to be funded, there are ample reasons why policing as we know it in this country needs to be deconstructed and replaced — in shorthand, defund the police.

Last night on HBO, John Oliver did an amazing job of discussing the problems with policing in America. It’s so good I can’t add anything. It’s a primer from which we should start.

Yet Oliver’s work was tremendous not just because it examined the history of this country’s failure to reform policing, but because the end of his program gave a black voice a platform long overdue (31:56).

I want to reverse what he did by insisting you listen to author Kimberley Jones first, her entire comment and not just the excerpt Oliver shared. This is a powerful statement you should not miss:

And then watch John Oliver’s program last night. In this order you can see that everything about policing in America has been constructed on lies.

You’ll hear and read puzzlement about calls to defund the police.

What does it mean? asked because their privilege has never forced them to look carefully at how fucked up policing is in the U.S. (note carefully the person and context surrounding them when they ask).

What do they want instead? as if “they” are a separate group, disclosing the bias at the root of the problem.

Why can’t we just fix it? again, privilege blinds those who ask to how fatally flawed policing has been from the start. Some who have internalized this country’s systemic oppression will also ask this same question.

The wealth of this country was built on economic theft, and American policing has been constructed to preserve this massive looting of hundreds of years of black lives.

What Kimberley Jones doesn’t point out is that the looting didn’t stop with black lives. The ground Americans stand on was stolen from yet more brown people who were eradicated, and then farmed and developed by stolen people under whips and chains and at gun point. The theft continues apace under a legal system which ensures the gap of wealth remains uncrossable, that power likewise remains solely in the hands of those with wealth.

There is no fixing a police system designed to protect capital created from ongoing crime.

 

Defund the police, by which it means see with clear eyes the original sin of placing preservation of property rights over human rights, the original sin of treating some humans as less worthy than others.

Defund the police, by which it means to re-prioritize our spending with those same clear, open eyes with an aim to realize reasonable distributive justice, developing and preserving human lives.

 

UPDATE — 09-JUN-2020 11:15 AM ET —

Because there’s a lot of complaining about the unofficial slogan, “Defund the Police,” I think these couple of tweets are worth consideration.

Quit complaining. Focus: we need to change how we ensure public safety. What are you doing about it?

Start attending your local county/city/town/village council meetings. Research your local law enforcement entity’s performance. Are municipalities measuring complaints against law enforcement along with use of force? What has your locality done to ensure there is adequate access to mental health care, addiction, housing, and domestic crisis intervention, all of which affect the number of calls to police?

You can also do other research right now before you attend a local meeting.

Citizens Police Data Project – https://www.CPDP.co

CPDP takes records of police interactions with the public – records that would otherwise be buried in internal databases – and opens them up to make the data useful to the public, creating a permanent record for every CPD police officer. Examine this as a model for tracking your local law enforcement’s performance.

Mapping Police Violence – https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/nationaltrends

A research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide to quantify the impact of police violence in communities. Check your state against others for trends in death by cops.

Police Use of Force Project – http://useofforceproject.org/

This Campaign ZERO project investigates the ways in which police use of force policies help to enable police violence in our communities. Read their report examining 100 communities.

Police Union Contract Project – https://www.checkthepolice.org/

This Campaign ZERO project reviewed police union contracts and police bill of rights legislation to examine how they make it more difficult to hold police accountable. Read their summary report of 81 cities in 15 states.

The Open Policing Project – https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/

This project at Stanford University aims to help researchers, journalists, and policymakers investigate and improve interactions between police and the public by collecting and analysing data from police traffic stops across the country. Read their findings.

Policing Project – https://www.policingproject.org/

This NYU School of Law project works to ensure accountability and democratic participation on the front end, before police violence requires ineffective back-end accountability. Read their work to date.

National Police Accountability Project – https://www.nlg-npap.org/

A National Lawyers Guild project dedicated to holding law enforcement accountable for misconduct. If you’re a lawyer, check for one of their online webinars.

 

This is NOT an open thread. Please stick to this topic in this thread.

Three Things: A for “Antifa”, B for Brutality, C for Commit (Murder)

Messy title, sorry — couldn’t think of something snappy and I’m even struggling with a lead in. Let’s just get to it.

~ 3 ~

A/B switch: “Antifa”

A little article about a tiny town caught my eye this weekend. Some racist gits in a rural area of Washington state played cat-and-mouse with a multi-racial family trying to camp in the area while driving a bus-turned-camper.

Local racists harassed them, accusing them of being members of “Antifa” — the made-up bugbear conjured from anti-fascist philosophy by Trump’s brain trust, hereinafter referred to with appropriate scare quotes. Even the local paper reports “Antifa” exists as an organization when there isn’t one.

What struck me as odd is how intensely a local gun shop owner and at least a dozen local residents believe there is an effort by “Antifa” to bus in their anarchist members to make trouble.

Right…busloads into a town with an estimated population of 6,600.

How did this notion about bogeyman “Antifa” become so quickly and deeply embedded in a remote area of the U.S.? Especially where the possibility of any anarchists making a big splash let alone filling a bus is utterly ridiculous.

It’s not just this one small town, either. It’s much of the Pacific Northwest and beyond — so many people looking like doofuses, claiming victory over non-existent anarchist hordes.

This mythology has even eaten the already-compromised brains of candidates like this one:

She’s threatening people with an automatic weapon in a campaign ad and then complains because Facebook took down her advertisement. Greene is simply unfit to hold office if she can’t understand threats of violence are simple violations of Terms of Service.

Now it’s true that figureheads in the GOP have been willing to push the vaporous entity “Antifa” using their bully pulpit — like Sen. Ted Cruz droning on last summer about a non-binding Senate resolution, S.Res. 279, submitted by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) declaring “Antifa” a terrorist organization while pointing to a Pacific Northwest group which may or may not have truly existed and whose domain address has been defunct for three years.

But most right-wing voters don’t run around saying, “But Ted Cruz said…” about any topic. If they did he might have had a chance at winning the primary in 2016, but he’s just a placeholder.

Same for Bill Cassidy — he’s just another empty suit in a GOP seat.

Some organized effort has been put into building and consolidating pro-fascist sentiment among people willing to arm themselves, take to the streets, and cut down trees in the woods, and openly harass persons of color.

Here’s my theory: “Antifa” isn’t just a bogeyman. It’s a test, like an A/B switch. The folks who adopt this concept so deeply they are willing to take action outside the norm can also be persuaded to take other action.

QAnon likely serves a similar purpose, providing a centralized mythology for persons identified as too weak to reason out of a wet paper bag but willing to invest some degree of effort for their new “faith” system.

What can’t be seen apart from idiots like this gun shop owner and his compadres is how this uptake is being tested online. This small town gun shop owner didn’t pull the idea of bus-packing “Antifa” terrorists out of thin air; he must have gotten through broadcast media and social media, of which only social media would allow a two-way push-pull of content.

Who or what is at the other end of whatever pushed this “Antifa”-on-buses meme to this tiny town in northwestern Washington? Is it just Facebook content and Fox, or is something more in play?

Is it like the Russian influence operations which were able to convince people to organize Trump rallies via Facebook in 2016?

Or is it something more simple — a convenient distraction from the continuing mass death event we know as COVID-19?

~ 2 ~

B for Brutality

Greg Doucette has been collecting and curating cases of police brutality and abuse from across the country since protests began after George Floyd’s murder-by-racist-cop.

As of this afternoon Doucette has collected at least 384 independent cases, nearly all captured on camera.

This many cases over the last week’s time suggests there are not merely a few bad apples, but that the entire barrel has now gone rotten.

Brutality is normalized from top to bottom of law enforcement, deeply embedded into policing.

These persons employed by our tax dollars are not protecting anyone. It’s not clear who they are serving apart from property owners; they are not serving the greater public interest.

Most telling: in cities where curfews were not enforced or were lifted, there was no violence.

The police have been the source of violence — many of nearly 400 cases itemized so far provide ample evidence of this fact.

It’s time to look for better models to serve the public’s needs. We are paying too much for services which do not work. We need to do more than reform policing. It should be torn down, plowed into the ground, and something better built from scratch.

Look at the City of Los Angeles’ projected budget allocation:

New York City’s budget is similarly distributed with a massive skew toward policing.

What this currently pays for is abusive police who assault the public, escalate tensions, after failing to make a good faith effort to de-escalate and mediate community conflict.

The money is there; priorities need to change. Tax dollars need to be spent more effectively on the root causes which have driven the need for policing — more money for mental health resources, community housing for the homeless, therapy for drug addiction, child care, after-school programs, and crisis intervention instead of militarized policing which moves to violence far too eagerly, too often.

It’s time to abolish police as we’ve known them and build something better, healthier for our society.

If you’re balking at this idea, ask yourself why.

~ 1 ~

C for Committing Murder — mass murder by COVID-19

Given the large number of rallies across all 50 states protesting police brutality and racism, it’s reasonable to expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The police bear a substantive portion of responsibility for anticipated cases arising from the protests due to poor policing practices including imposition and enforcement of curfews. Like the nearly 400 documented cases of brutality and abuse, police kettling of protesters into tight clusters breaking social distancing appeared organized and systematic.

Like repeated use of bridge closures to limit protesters’ movement even when being herded away from protest sites toward home at the end of the day.

New York City was particularly bad; it not only shut down bridges, forcing protesters into narrow streams, but it shut down subway stations for several days, sometimes at NYPD’s orders. Protesters bunched up at the subway finding themselves without transportation, hemmed in by police. Lack of alternate public transportation did not help matters.

The situation was further aggravated by police seizure of bikes for stupid (read: no) reasons.

Kettling wasn’t confined to New York City. There are many tweets documenting cases in larger cities like Seattle and Chicago.

An additional risk factor for protesters is their exposure to chemical irritants like pepper spray and tear gas. This Twitter thread explains the risks irritants pose.

Stress caused by police abuses may make protesters more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

Which may have been the point: abusive police encouraged to use bad police practices may have been engaged in passive-aggressive large scale murder by exposure to biological agents.

We can only hope that the increased use of masks by protesters discouraged coronavirus transmission and reduced injuries caused by chemical irritants.

Yes, chemical irritants, Bill Barr, you lying sluggard with zero background in science. Let an expert in chemistry tell you.

Barr poses a threat to the health and welfare of the American public and needs to be impeached. Even if the GOP Senate will slack off and fail to remove him, the Dem-led House should impeach Barr for his abuse of office and his lying to the public so that Congressional records tell the future Barr’s bullshit was and is unacceptable from an attorney general.

~ 0 ~

And then the white nationalists embedded throughout police forces across the country, for which I haven’t enough energy remaining though it’s urgently in need of attention.

Like Salem, Oregon:

And Las Vegas:

There’s more of them. Trump’s Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr have failed to do anything effective to root them out, though a GOP-led Congress throughout Obama’s administration and beyond has also played a role in suppressing oversight of white nationalist threats infiltrating law enforcement.

It looks less like neglect and more like deliberate abuse.

 

This is an open thread.

Long Overdue Policies that Look Obvious in the Age of Pandemic

I’m not usually a fan of George Packer. But I keep coming back to this column, We Are Living in a Failed State. The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken, which is something I might have written. It argued that this pandemic, to which the US responded like a corrupt poor country, was actually the third crisis of this century, and our responses to the previous two — 9/11 and the Iraq War, and the Wall Street crisis — simply brought this country to the place where Trump could loot it.

Like a wanton boy throwing matches in a parched field, Trump began to immolate what was left of national civic life. He never even pretended to be president of the whole country, but pitted us against one another along lines of race, sex, religion, citizenship, education, region, and—every day of his presidency—political party. His main tool of governance was to lie. A third of the country locked itself in a hall of mirrors that it believed to be reality; a third drove itself mad with the effort to hold on to the idea of knowable truth; and a third gave up even trying.

Trump acquired a federal government crippled by years of right-wing ideological assault, politicization by both parties, and steady defunding. He set about finishing off the job and destroying the professional civil service. He drove out some of the most talented and experienced career officials, left essential positions unfilled, and installed loyalists as commissars over the cowed survivors, with one purpose: to serve his own interests. His major legislative accomplishment, one of the largest tax cuts in history, sent hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. The beneficiaries flocked to patronize his resorts and line his reelection pockets. If lying was his means for using power, corruption was his end.

Packer ends with a call for renewed solidarity.

But he might as well also call for a fix to all the failures of the past twenty years. Right now, mind you, Trump is failing, miserably, in part because he believes maximizing the opportunities for looting by his friends is all the policy he needs.

But the sheer scale of the crisis makes policies that long made sense for the United States more urgent and far easier to justify. I plan to keep a running list of those policies.

Medicare for All

No one has figured out how all the people put out of work by the shut-downs will pay for COVID-related health care. Trump has persisted in a plan to kill Obamacare, and some badly affected states never even expanded Medicaid.

Early reports suggested that Trump’s administration has claimed it is willing to pay hospital bill, so long as they pay those bills directly (thereby avoiding establishing a policy, I guess). But with so many people out of work and with hospitals reeling from the shut-down, the far better solution is to make Medicare available to all.

Universal Basic Income

The US government has been backing credit for big industry and tried, but failed, to provide free money for small businesses to keep their employees on staff. Instead, 26 million Americans have applied for unemployment, a sixth of all workers (and a third of all workers in MI, KY, and RI). Meanwhile, the Administration botched even a one-time $1,200 payment.

The government could better ensure that markets don’t crash entirely–and keep states from buckling as they try to serve all these unemployed people–if they simply gave a UBI to all people, as Spain has decided it will do. By keeping it, the US might be able to address the underlying inequality problems that have led to such a disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color.

Decarceration

Closed spaces, generally, amount for a huge percentage of COVID cases and (in the case of nursing homes) deaths. ACLU just rolled out a paper that argues the models for COVID (which were originally based off other societies’ social patterns, including their prison system) underestimate the total number of deaths because they don’t account for the spread in our prisons.

COVID will remain lethal for long enough that states and the federal government will need to achieve some level of decarceration to prevent the prisons from becoming a source of spread to the wider community (as they have become in the localities with harder hit prisons).

In this case, even before COVID hit, there was bipartisan support to wean ourselves from overincarceration. Prisons will become less lucrative in conservative communities, especially as some states begin to end prison gerrymandering (which gives rural communities representation for prisoners who can’t vote, just like slavery did).

So now is the time to end incarceration for minor crimes, and improve the humanity of incarceration for those who need to be jailed.

Deindustrialization of the Food System

We’ll be lucky if we avoid famine conditions. That’s partly because our food system has the same institutional/retail split our toilet paper supply chain does, meaning the market for half of the food out there disappeared when restaurants and other institutional buyers shut down. That’s partly because bottlenecks in our food supply chain — most notably, thus far, meatpacking plants, but there will be others — have further undermined the market for our plentiful food production. And that’s partly because Trump’s farmer support, thus far, has emphasized direct payments that are effectively a continuation of his earlier bribery of farmers whose markets his trade war screwed, rather than purchasing up surpluses to provide to food banks.

Trump hasn’t shown an ability to get any other needed supplies where they’re needed; it’s unlikely he’ll do better with food.

Meanwhile, food supplies that bypass these commodity markets remain. We need to make this food supply chain more resilient and one way of doing so is to bypass the industrial bottlenecks.

Broadband as a Utility

When schools shut down, it suddenly became acutely visible how many Americans — both rural and urban — don’t have broadband. While some areas have gerry-rigged solutions (like driving wifi-enabled busses to poorer neighborhoods) to get some kids online and learning, that’s not possible everywhere. And even for adults, it takes broadband access to be able to social distance.

Trump is already talking about using infrastructure investments to get America working again. Extending basic broadband as a utility should be part of that.

Update: Arne Duncan describes what needs to happen for existing efforts to expand broadband access to be really effective.

Industrial Policy

Two months after we first identified shortages in necessary medical supply, we’ve barely managed to switch production to those necessary objects, even as entire factories were otherwise shut down. We’ve got shortages of not just testing kits, but the underlying supplies. We’ve got drug shortages too (and had them, even before the President started pitching miracle cures).

It’s long past time to admit that we do have an industrial policy — but right now, it’s focused on building the troubled F-35, not ensuring that the United States has the ability to build the things we need domestically, even if we interact openly with the rest of the world. This story uses the failed lithium battery investments Obama made, largely in Michigan, to talk about how we came to be unable to supply our own medical equipment.

We have an industrial policy. We just need to be willing to match that policy to our society’s real needs, not exporting warmongering.

Three Things: Erasing, Erased, Erasure

[NB: check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

There are so many more than three different items under this theme, I could write a book about this. But in the interest of time and resources, I’ll opt for simplicity.

You are being erased if you haven’t been already.

~ 3 ~

Writer and former business consultant Anand Giridharadas shared an excerpt yesterday from a financial adviser’s newsletter to clients.

Transcript:

[…] I just got a great leak that I want to share with you from someone’s financial adviser. You may have a financial adviser. This is a financial adviser trying to advise people what would happen to America if Elizabeth Warren was elected president. And by the way I think a lot of this would apply to Bernie Sanders if he was elected president as well. I think there’s a similarity. And so what would a Warren presidency do to markets. I just want to read some of this to you because it really is hilarious obviously in a way that these boring people did not intend.

And um, so they say, “We have been getting increasing inquiries to address the potential market of her policies as she has gained a lot of momentum over the last couple of weeks.”

And um, it says, “To be clear we do not get involved in political opinions.” To be clear. “So we did a surface level dive on her platform,” they say, “and our intention is to understand the market implications,” they say, and I quote, “Many of these policies are designed specifically to reduce corporate profits and earnings, and instead use those funds to benefit number one workers, number two the environment, number three those with lower incomes, and number four,” oh gosh,”women and minorities. It is important to understand that Warren’s policy goal is to reduce the retained earnings of businesses across multiple sectors and to benefit other parties as mentioned above. As such it is very reasonable statement that if Warren were elected and those policies were enacted it would likely be negative for the stock market because stock prices are an expectation of future earnings.” And so on and so forth.

“The policies would hurt corporate earnings universally,” it says, “although they would likely improve quality of life for many demographics at the expense of corporate profits. Whether that trade-off is positive or negative is not our place to say.” People, stocks, which is better? We don’t know. “We are simply focused on facts. Again, we do not get involved in political opinions,” it said. So now they break it down in case this is not obvious enough, good for people, bad for, for uh, stocks, in case that’s not obvious enough they break it down by policies. Let’s just go through that, shall we? Is that okay? You got time? I got time. I’m in a hoodie.

“Number one ban fracking. Warren wants to ban fracking for oil and gas based on environmental concerns.” Now they do a nice thing where they do who’s this negative for, who’s this positive for, super helpful. “Negative for energy companies and indices, positive for the price of oil/gasoline, supply would be reduced.” Uh, that’s interesting.

“Policy number two eliminate private prisons. Warren wants to end federal contracts to private prisons and withhold funding to make state and local governments do the same. Materially negative for private prison stocks,” ooh, that would be rough for them, yeah.

“Reinstate Glass-Steagall. Warren wants to reinstate the law that separated commercial banking and investment banking. Negative for the major investment banks — JPM, MS, BAC, GS, et cetera, as they would likely have to spin off retail banking operations.

Policy number four, increase taxes on the wealthy. Warren is advocating an ultra-millionaire tax on the 75,000 richest families in the U.S. along with other tax increases aimed at high earners. This could reduce disposable income. Negative for consumer discretionary retail sectors and lingerie stocks. She wants to double the national minimum wage,” they say, “from $7.25 to $15.00. Negative for the entire stock market, the entire stock market,” well, then maybe some more people would be able to buy stocks. “And small business margins. This would significantly compress corporate margins across industries and would result in a reduction of expected earnings for the S&P 500. Those negative effects would be some partially offset,” it goes on, “by more disposable income from minimum wage earners.

“Number six, Warren supports the Family Act, which would create paid national family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks. Negative for small businesses. For large corporations, not much of an impact.” Uh, you know, there we go.

“Number seven agribusiness, breaking up agribusiness.” In fact maybe even break up the word agribusiness into two separate words, agri and business. “Most of the country’s and world’s meat and agriculture production is concentrated in a few major companies. Warren wants to break up these vertically integrated agriculture and food companies. Negative for the agriculture sector, companies in the ag stocks as well as pesticide producers.” And so on and so on.

“The bottom line from a market standpoint is that these policies will be negative for stocks with some being downright negative for the broad markets. How negative would they be for stocks? No one knows exactly.” But this is where it gets interesting. “Again, this doesn’t mean these policies don’t have winners. These are policies designed to reduce retained corporate earnings in favor of other things Warren and her supporters deem more important. So voters will decide if they want to support that type of trade-off. Everyone has their hierarchy of what’s important.”

This is where it gets, we’re getting into Kant here, this is philosophy here in a financial advisor’s report. You gotta pay extra to get to this paragraph. “Everyone has their hierarchy of what’s important, and Warren is an unapologetic populist, who if in power would enact policies designed to reduce corporate earnings to benefit other stakeholders,” parentheses, “workers, the environment, et cetera.” So, I think like all people and the planet are (air quotes) other stakeholders.

“Regardless of your opinion of that strategy it is important to understand that investment accounts would likely be negatively affected under these policies, and if they become reality, we need to take steps to mitigate that damage. As we move closer to the election we’ll obviously be keeping close watch on the implications of the Democratic primary giving you market intelligence on what the headlines mean for stocks going forward.”

They also want to reiterate that this is not political.

It boggles the mind to think that workers, the environment, women and minorities are just sucking drains on the audience for which this opinion piece was written.

We’re roughly 75% of citizens and the entire natural physical world but we’re just an inconvenience drawing down on corporate profits.

We’re not 75% of human beings who’ve been driven over roughshod, had our labor stolen from us for compensation less than subsistence, and the steadily destroyed environment which all of us share and in which we live.

How easily we are erased from consideration by the plutarchy.

One upside: now we know with certainty the financial industry views Warren as both a serious contender for the Democratic nomination and a threat.

Downside: we know, too, that in spite of their B-school education the financial industry is still as dumb as a box of rocks, likely to trash the entire economy and the planet, because they can’t see outside of the rut they’ve been in forever, where only white men have capital and make economies. They are incapable of seeing the untapped promise for stock market growth and saving our planet, locked within more than two decades of stagnant wages, monopsonic job markets, and millennia of toxic colonization.

Note how health care wasn’t at all mentioned; the financial sector is incapable of seeing the benefits to the broader markets if businesses were freed of the burden of health insurance shopping and premium payments.

~ 2 ~

In 1986 I worked for a small machining business. My boss was a bigoted lecher, I’ll be frank. It wasn’t unexpected when he told me if I got pregnant while I worked for him he’d fire me. Fortunately having kids wasn’t yet in the cards for me and I could afford to ignore his misogyny though I couldn’t afford to quit.

In 1988 I applied for a job with a business that did custom manufacturing. I was offered the job but turned it down because their health insurance didn’t cover women’s reproductive care or maternity coverage and they didn’t expect to offer it any time soon, especially since I’d be only one of two women on staff. I took a job with a Fortune 100 company instead; their plan had women’s reproductive care and maternity coverage.

In 1989 my supervisor at that same employer told my older female co-worker he had a limited amount of money to offer his department staff of 10, two of which were male. “I have to give the boys raises because they have families to support.” Never mind that this older woman had teenagers at home, or that the rest of us junior female staff members assisted these two male staffers, or that we might have wanted families we couldn’t yet afford.

In 1993 I got pregnant the month the company fired my supervisor’s equally misogynist boss. I swear the egg waited to drop until I had a new female department head. She was understanding and considerate even though she’d never had any kids of her own.

In 1997 after three years in a new department, I became pregnant with my second child. My boss was itchy and weird throughout my pregnancy, increasingly so over time. You’d think a lawyer would know better than to ask every week during my seventh and eighth month when I was due and was I going to go on leave soon. I had to go to HR to ask for an intervention; I left a week before my scheduled delivery.

It’s not just my own experience; my sister ran into friction from her Fortune 500 employer while she was pregnant. Thankfully she had support from both HR and her union — just not the men she worked with. I can’t tell you how many female friends have likewise been harassed at work for being pregnant.

Don’t get me started about simple systemic problems. Ever tried to sit in one of these for several hours while eight months pregnant?

Academic Chair-Desk

When Elizabeth Warren said she was fired when her pregnancy became visible, I believed her. I am furious with news media outlets for entertaining the idea this was ever not true, or that this isn’t a continuing problem today.

[Let’s not forget the outlet which propelled the attack on Warren was the same one which was tasked with the original Trump dossier — Washington Free Beacon. Are they using material from a Warren dossier?

Let’s not forget, too, that outlets like CBS which continued to poke at Warren have had a wretched history of treating women poorly — or has everyone already forgotten Les Moonves and his nasty habits, including blackballing Janet Jackson for a wardrobe malfunction?]

Think back upon your education and work experience; how many times during K-12 education do you recall seeing a pregnant teacher? I never did any time between 1965 and 1978, and more than 85% of the teachers I saw were female, most of childbearing age. I don’t recall seeing a pregnant instructor during college at all.

How many times did you see a pregnant woman in the workplace? I didn’t until I was in my 30s and having kids myself.

And now my daughter has to put up with crap regarding reproductive health coverage, more than 30 years after I had to turn down a job for not having it as part of their benefits. Why has this not changed for the better? Why is it worse because our government  has now butted into the mix to make it worse rather than ensuring we all get the health care we need regardless of gender?

Why is the essential human fact that women need reproductive care or maternity coverage still something we must fight for against the plutocratic patriarchy which wants to deny it and erase us?

~ 1 ~

There’s a theory that stingy millennials are to blame for the sluggish economy, said financial news network CNBC, parroting investment firm Raymond James.

Are you fucking kidding me?

When 40% of Americans can’t muster $400 cash for an emergency, it’s not stinginess that they aren’t stimulating the economy.

When the reason so many Americans are strapped is because of debt, it’s not stinginess.

When 45 million American students and parents hold educational debt amounting to  ~$1.5 trillion — more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans — it’s not stinginess.

When minimum wage workers across the entire country can’t afford rent on 2-bedroom apartment, it’s not stinginess.

When 25% of Americans ages 18-64 report having problems paying medical bills, it’s not stinginess.

Somehow the financial sector including media dedicated to covering it have erased all the other reasons why millennials — Americans born between 1981-1996 (23-38 years old) — might not be able to fully participate in stimulating the economy.

Conveniently, the several hundred uber wealthy families represented at the far right of the interactive graphic in the tweet below don’t worry at all about erasure.


They own the erasers.

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread.

Biden’s Opposition to Medicare for All: It’s All About the Billionaires, Baby

[Editor’s Note – this is a guest post by a friend of ours here at the Emptywheel Blog, Bob Lord. Bob is a longtime tax and finance attorney with some very salient thoughts on why the centrist Democrats are pushing back so hard on Medicare For All. One other note, we here at Emptywheel have purposefully not engaged on behalf of any particular candidate in the primary process, but the issues in play are fair game.]

By Robert J. Lord

Joe Biden has lots of reasons why he opposes the Medicare for All plan favored by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The cost runs too high, the former vice-president tells us. People will have to give up their private health insurance. People will lose the right to choose their health insurance provider.

The list goes on, but do these reasons reflect Biden’s actual worries? Surely, he’s seen the studies that show Medicare for All would drive costs down, not up, as removing health insurance company profits and administrative costs from American health care totally changes the system’s accounting dynamics. Yes, an expanded Medicare would require administrative expenses, but nowhere close to the expenses that our current system requires.

Biden also knows Americans would welcome the chance to swap their private health insurance for Medicare. Don’t believe me? Speak to someone between the ages of 60 and 64 who’s relatively healthy. Ten to one she has her fingers crossed hoping to make it to age 65 without a major health challenge, so she can qualify for Medicare and never have to confront the insufficiency of her wonderful private insurance plan.

And very few Americans, we must keep in mind, choose their health insurance provider. Most of us get insurance through our employers. Employers choose the least expensive plan for all employees collectively, without regard to the needs and desires of individuals.

Given that Joe Biden’s stated reasons for opposing Medicare for All don’t pass the smell test, what could be the real reason for his opposition?

Could Biden simply be beholden to the health insurance industry and Big Pharma? Perhaps, but I suspect that something larger — the overall wealth of our wealthy — may be at play. After all, it’s not like health insurers and pharmaceutical companies are going to have his back come general election time.

Consider the difference between how Joe Biden, on the one hand, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, on the other, view the billionaires and centimillionaires who make up America’s super rich. Sanders believes the greed of America’s billionaire class threatens the social fabric of our country and has proposed a significant increase in the federal estate tax on grand fortunes. Warren has proposed a 2 percent annual wealth tax on all fortunes in excess of $50 million.

Biden’s differences with Warren and Sanders go deep. He has assured his rich donors — at big-dollar fundraising events — that their lifestyles will not change if he’s elected. Biden, whose donor list includes at least 13 ten-digit fortunes, has made it clear that he doesn’t think billionaires bear any more responsibility for America’s woes than any of the rest of us.

Just this week, he voiced his opposition to policies that would make it harder to become a billionaire.

But why would billionaires and centimillionaires particularly care whether we have Medicare for All versus the Obamacare-with-a-public-option plan Biden favors?

To answer that question, consider the fundamental difference between Obamacare and Medicare for All: who pays. Under Obamacare, individuals pay for their health care, through the insurance premiums they pay and their out-of-pocket expenses for the charges their insurance policies don’t cover. The government subsidizes insurance for lower income Americans through Medicaid, but the bulk of health insurance costs are paid by individuals or their employers.

The public option, Biden’s proposed fix to Obamacare, won’t change any of this. Even if every American healthcare consumer chose the public option, putting the private health insurance industry out of business in the process, individuals still would be responsible for their own health care costs.

Medicare works differently. Under Medicare, the government insures healthcare costs directly. Individuals don’t pay premiums or co-pays. Instead, tax dollars fund the cost of the program.

All this means that the transition from Obamacare to Medicare for All would transfer the burden of health care costs from health care consumers, who share in costs based on how sick or healthy they happen to be, to taxpayers, who would share in costs based on their respective incomes and tax rates.

The great majority of Americans live their lives as both health care consumers and taxpayers. Under Medicare for All, they would see an elimination of both insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs. They would also see a tax increase, but ordinary Americans would save substantially more in health care costs than they’d pay in increased taxes.

But those billionaires and centimillionaires on Joe Biden’s donor list? Their tax increases would dwarf any savings they see in personal healthcare expense. Some could see seven figure tax increases.

Viewed through the billionaire lens, Biden’s loud opposition to Medicare for All makes distinct political sense. He needs billionaires to fund his White House aspirations, which still drive him three decades out from his first presidential run in 1988. He’s not only convinced himself that his billionaire supporters pose no threat to our social fabric, he even seems to believe that any health care reform that puts the squeeze on billionaire fortunes does pose a threat.

All in all, a classic case of why ambition often blinds us. In a 2018 speech, just a sentence or two after saying the billionaires he’s courting aren’t a problem, Biden lamented that the income gap in America is yawning.

What Biden’s ambition won’t let him see: Billionaires don’t exist in isolation. We have approximately 700 billionaires today in the United States. We have a larger number of half-billionaires and a still larger deep-pocket cohort of centimillionaires. And so on. Which leaves our top 1 percent controlling close to half the country’s wealth and the country with an income gap that Biden openly recognizes is “yawning” and, obviously, a problem.

In other words, those billionaires Biden’s won’t let himself see as a worry really are inseparable from the yawning income gap that he knows is a problem.

Sanders and Warren, by comparison, are clear-eyed. They can see that when the gap is so yawning that treatable or preventable injuries and illnesses are killing Americans who can’t afford healthcare and bankrupting millions of others, the only answer is that society — through taxation — must assume the cost of healthcare. Other countries, like Canada, recognized this reality decades ago.

And when America’s billionaires, with Joe Biden as one of their many mouthpieces, stand in the way of that process because they don’t want their taxes to increase, their greed tears at the fabric of American society.

Joe Biden can’t see that. His two leading rivals sure do.

[Robert J. Lord, a tax lawyer and former Congressional candidate, is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Bob previously served as an adjunct faculty member at the Arizona State University School of Law. Bob’s work focuses on the relationship of tax law to inequality. He contributes to both the Inequality.org website and to OtherWords, the Institute’s national syndicated editorial service. Bob also is a staff member at Blog For Arizona, the leading political blog in Arizona.]

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Chickens on ICE Raid: The Odd Luck of Peco and Koch Foods [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. Caveat: This post contains speculative content. Updates at the bottom of this post. / ~Rayne]

I have to run an errand, can’t take the time to follow this line of inquiry further. But something about ICE raids conducted in Mississippi today set off my hinky meter.

Why Mississippi, which long-time community member earlofhuntington describes as “so reliably Republican”? Why wouldn’t ICE conduct raids in blue states as they’ve intended to twice this year in order to rattle the Latinx and other brown-skinned voters?

Why wouldn’t they conduct a raid closer to the Mexican border since the Trump administration and its state media organ Fox News have drummed up a manufactured ‘invasion’ crisis?

Why pick established businesses in a deep red state only days after mass shootings of Latinx Americans in El Paso?

This raid was planned, though, they don’t just sweep in. The two businesses, Peco Foods Inc. and Koch Foods Inc. were on somebody’s radar, earmarked in advance.

But why these two over any other businesses — say, golf courses competing with Trump org courses which likely hire undocumented personnel the way Trump’s courses did?

Would golf courses be too obvious and yield too few results? Would such raids piss off the same class of customers who frequent Trump’s courses?

There’s some other reason not obvious to the public.

Perhaps the companies are owned and operated by people who don’t fit Trump and Trump’s minions political ideology? But this is where I have to leave it to run an errand.

I’ll leave you with this (already posted in comments and on Twitter):

And with this:

What do you think? I haven’t had time to look at the other five companies raided today, including PH Food Inc., MP Food Inc., and Pearl River Foods Inc.

Does this also suggest Mississippi is at risk politically if the administration had to pick “so reliably Republican” a state, in spite of a 130-year-old state law preventing black Mississippians from holding elected statewide office if they don’t win 55% of the vote?

UPDATE — 11:10 PM EDT —

Add in unionization of workers as another factor in selection of businesses to raid:

And while some folks note unhappily the workers have been detained and owners/management haven’t been arrested, I’m not certain that won’t yet happen. Somebody might be very happy to see a Democratic donor (or two) behind bars before the 2020 general election primaries begin.

UPDATE — 11:15 PM EDT —

Yeah, Mississippi is undergoing a political tectonic shift; statewide races may be in play.

This is an open thread. Bring all the stray cats and dogs here.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

The Mysterious Rapid Reverse Veep with a Press Backflip

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to travel to New Hampshire yesterday. That didn’t happen.

Nearly 24 hours later this still smells really fishy.

Pence was scheduled to speak at 1:20 p.m. EDT at an addiction treatment center about the opioid crisis. Prepared remarks sounded less like an attack on the Sackler family, responsible for manufacturing opioids in the U.S., and more like an excuse for the crimes against humanity perpetrated along the Mexican border (because so many families with babies must surely be carrying fentanyl into the country).

Details are sketchy about when and how Pence’s trip was canceled. There were reports that Air Force 2 was already in the air and called back mid-flight; some of these reports were based on feedback from Pence’s aide Randy Gentry:

White House spokesman Judd Deere told AP that “Something came up and the VP needed to be in D.C.,” “there is no cause for alarm.”

Two more anonymous White House officials told AP that the matter was not national security-related or related to a health issue.

Whatever happened caught the Veep’s staff by surprise based on their flip-flopping messages:

What could have happened at the White House to cancel Pence’s speech on such short notice — the room in which he was to speak was already packed, waiting his arrival — and subsequent confusing press handling?

Some reports noted that Putin had a cancellation of his own nearly simultaneously with Pence, causing a lot of idle speculation and possibly some disinformation.

A fire aboard a Russian research submarine killed 14 aboard the vessel. But the timing of the actual fire and Pence’s reversal don’t sync. The fire was on July 1 and Putin offered remarks about the fatal event yesterday according to the U.S. Naval Institute news outlet.

Yet others attributed the problem to a local problem in New Hampshire after reports of gunfire at Pease Air National Guard Base, located a circuitous 50 miles northeast from where Pence was to speak and 50 miles east of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport where Pence was scheduled to arrive before his engagement at Granite Recovery Center.

None of this adds up and all stinks of manufactured fog. We’ll have to hope the press remembers to follow up with Pence’s chief of staff in a couple weeks.

There was one other key event yesterday that did not affect Pence directly but could easily have triggered a malignant narcissist’s meltdown.

Sometime after 11:00 a.m. yesterday news outlets reported the House Ways and Means Committee had filed suit against the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to obtain Trump’s tax returns.

Complaint via ABC News on Scribd

I imagine somebody in the Oval Office is squirming about Congress crossing the red line.

Another tetchy subject may be the Second Circuit’s order yesterday unsealing the summary judgment record in the Jeffrey Epstein case; additional sealed materials are now subject to a particularized review for release to public.

Is somebody worried their name will come up in the unsealing process?

What other events might have created enough havoc in the White House that forced Pence to reverse his trip and his staff to perform communications contortions with the reason to be known “in a few weeks”?

This is an open thread.

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