It’s not all polarization

Republicans are obstructing pretty much every executive branch appointment they can.  Why?  Because Obama wants to appoint a bunch of wild-eyed liberals?  Polarization?  No.  Just because they can.  And they are not particularly interested in the proper functioning of government.  Love this bit from Drum:

The point of filibustering everything and everyone has never been just to prevent a few objectionable candidates from being confirmed. It’s been to tie up Senate floor time and disrupt even the routine functioning of a federal government that’s under Democratic control. Even with filibuster reform they can still do that, so why should they stop now? A broken government is nothing but good news for Republicans.

Bernstein says in another post today that he’s tired of hearing about political polarization. It’s not really anything new, after all. That’s true enough, and this is a good example. It’s not a case of polarization, it’s just a straightforward case of assholery. There’s no principle or ideology behind this, they’re merely causing dysfunction for the sake of causing dysfunction. Welcome to the modern GOP.

The Palin channel

I must admit, I almost never pay attention when I hear “Sarah Palin.”  My brain automatically knows that what follows is just absurdity.  Thus, I was only vaguely aware that Palin was starting her own internet channel.  But I did quite enjoy Ian Crouch’s take on it.  Good stuff.

This is the real purpose of the Sarah Palin Channel, which is simply a new, digital act in an ongoing passion play, with Katie Couric in the role of Pontius Pilate and Palin in the self-appointed role of martyr on the cross, paying for the sins of everyone who’s ever pretended to read more newspapers than they actually do.

It’s good to be a conservative Republican until your rural hospital closes

I read a front-section story in the N&O yesterday about a small-town NC politician who walked all the way to DC to protest losing his town’s hospital.  I either didn’t read closely enough or it wasn’t in there, but apparently he’s also quite the conservative Republican.  He earned himself a column from Dana Milbank, though:

A week after Gibbs’s death [a 48 year-old heart attack victim who survived about an hour but the closest hospital was more than an hour away], O’Neal began a 15-day, 273-mile walk to Washington to draw attention to the outrage in Belhaven, which he blames on the combination of an “immoral” hospital operator and the failure of Republican leaders in his state to accept the new Medicaid funding the hospital needed to stay afloat…

What makes the mayor’s journey all the more compelling is he’s a white Southerner and a Republican officeholder who has conservative views on abortion, taxes, guns — “you name it,” he told me. But ideology and party loyalty have limits. “I’m a pretty conservative guy, but this is a matter of people dying,” he said.

Republicans nationwide have abandoned any consideration of offering an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, figuring that their complaints about President Obama’s selective implementation of the law, and lingering unease about the legislation itself, will be enough to motivate conservative voters in November. But as O’Neal points out, this political calculation has a moral flaw.

“If the  governor and the legislature don’t want to accept Medicaid expansion, they need to come up with another program to assure that rural hospitals don’t close,” the 45-year-old mayor said. Otherwise, he continued, “they’re allowing people to die to prove a point. That is wrong, and I’m not going to be a party to that.”

O’Neal is no fan of Obamacare, but during his journey, he sent a letter to Obama asking for a meeting. “I am a conservative Republican and I understand some of the suspicions political leaders in my party have,” he wrote. “But those concerns do not trump the need to maintain health services in struggling communities. Rural citizens dying should not be soldiers of the South’s defiance to the new health care law.”

Cognitive dissonance much?  Give me  a break.  You know what you call propping up economically unsustainable hospitals in rural areas just so people don’t die?  Socialism!!  Oh, it’s great to be a conservative Republican when it’s all those “other” people getting welfare, food stamps, etc.,  but when your white, rural community loses its economically un-viable hospital, well, damnit, the government better fix it!  Also, you know what you call the Medicaid expansion?  Obamacare.  And lastly, it’s not fair at all to single out NC Republicans for refusing the Medicaid expansion.  Republicans have similarly placed ideology above human life and health in 23 other states as well.  Can’t have those damn free-loaders getting medical care other than showing up near death in the ER, can we?

Fracking Radicals!

A pro-fracking ad in Colorado.  Oh my.

Shameful!

Puppy mills are just plain evil.  They exploit and abuse dogs for profit.  They simply should not exist.  Yes, you should be able to raise dogs and sell them, but certainly not abuse them in the process.  And when you consider the number of times puppy mills end up being raided and closed down and dozens of dogs put into the system they create serious externalities.  Thus, it only makes sense that they be properly regulated.  Even the Republicans in the NC House see this.  The NC Senate?  Not so much.  From WRAL:

— A proposal to regulate large commercial dog breeders appears to be dead for the year, doomed once again by opposition from state Senate leaders.

The House passed legislation in 2013 that would require large breeding operations, or “puppy mills,” to meet basic standards of animal welfare, sanitation and humane treatment. The Senate refused to take up the proposal.

Large commercial breeders that sell puppies to the public are not regulated by the state. There are no inspections or licensing requirements.

For years, poll numbers have consistently shown that North Carolina voters favor state regulation of dog breeding operations. But the American Kennel Club, hunting groups and agricultural interests have worked diligently against the idea. They argue that requiring kennel inspections violates breeders’ property rights and say setting standards for companion animals could trigger similar requirements for livestock breeding operations.

This opposition is just stupid.  And shame, shame on the supposed dog lovers at the AKC.  As for the agricultural interests, the bill is about dogs!  Yes, the mis-treatment of pigs and other livestock in NC is deplorable, but that’s not what this bill is about.  It’s not some small step from regulating dog breeding to regulating hog farms.  It would be nice if it was, but clearly not in the actual world we live in.  And so frustrating that people pretend otherwise.

And you know what is really shameful about this whole sorry thing, the admitted reason that the Senate leaders will not allow a vote on the legislation:

Advocates for regulation calling Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office say they’re being told “the puppy mill language was pulled due to unethical behavior on the part of its supporters.”

The reference to “unethical behavior” stems from an incident in January when regulation supporters met with Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, a veterinarian who opposes the House legislation.

Rabon’s comments in that meeting were laced with obscenities, calling House leaders a profane term and accusing McCrory and his wife of improperly lobbying for the 2013 bill. He also told them the legislation wouldn’t be considered in 2014.

The supporters recorded the meeting and released it to the media, embarrassing Rabon and Senate leaders.

The woman who recorded the meeting said the audio recorder was in plain sight at all times, but Senate leaders accused her and others of “secretly” recording the meeting and attempting to “extort” lawmakers by releasing it.

Got that?  A horrible person (and I happily stand behind that characterization based on this information) was publicly shown to be horrible and the Senate leadership cannot abide by it.  The solution is to make dogs suffer.  That’ll show those animal lovers!  Record us acting like complete jerks and the dogs get hurt!  This is just so breathtakingly immature and stupid.  And these are the people running my state!  Ugh.

Map of the day

Love this map from the Economist of Europe before and after WWI.  If you go to the link , it’s actually a really cool single map with a slider, but here it is in pure before and after.

ec2

ec1

Mars needs women and the US needs immigrants

Okay, I cannot actually speak to the former, but the latter is definitely true.  Nice piece in TNR taking a look at how important immigration is the demographic/economic health of the US (and by the way, so annoying that TNR bothers with blog posts, but then let’s you see all you want if you just follow the twitter links).

The policy implications of immigration are complex, as any expert will tell you. But there’s one reason to think that Hewitt and Will are onto something. It’s a demographic fact that gets surprisingly little attentionthe fact that, if not for immigrants and their children, the U.S. child population would be shrinking

There are more than 17 million children with at least one immigrant parent in the U.S. They represent over a quarter of the 70 million people under 18 years old. Their proportion will grow over time, as the number of children born to non-immigrant parents declinesin both relative and absolute terms.

Changes in US child population

This matters, because today’s young people make up tomorrow’s productive workforce, generating economic activity and supporting retirees. We already face a declining young-to-old population ratio, putting huge strain on Social Security and other safety net programs. The children of immigrants will provide a crucial and growing buffer against this demographic shift.

Rather than embrace this fact, though, our current immigration system isactually quite harmful to children, often separating them from their parents and harming, rather than nourishing, their development.

Now, obviously, we would strongly prefer people to immigrate legally rather than illegally, but it is desperately clear that major reform is needed to our immigration laws.  Yet one political party (I won’t tell you which one) is being entirely obstructive in the matter.  It is complex, but in the end, the US economy and therefore almost all of us, benefit from immigration and therefore a sensible immigration policy.

Religiosity, race, and PID

Nice look at religiosity, race/ethnicity, and PID from Gallup.  First, I think it is kind of interesting that although we know that the very religious are clearly Republican and the non-religious are a very Democratic groups, the moderately religious (hey, that’s me!) also lean Democratic on balance:

Political Party Affiliation, by Religiousness, Monthly Trend, February 2008-June 2014

 

What I thought was particularly interseting, though, is when they break this down by race.  There is no effect on religiosity for Black Americans.  For other minority groups, in contrast, the whole chart is essentially shifted in a Democratic direction, but more religious still means more Republican (relatively speaking):

religiousness among black americans

Political Party Affiliation, by Religiousness, Race and Ethnicity

Also, notable when you take out the minorities and look at whites only the moderately religious whites are a very Republican group.  It’s also interesting that the impact of religion on whites is huge (a full 57 point swing!) as compared to the impact of religion on Hispanics (15 point swing) and Asian-Americans (21 point swing).  I almost feel like there’s some Political Science research to be done here.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Very nice Vox animated short explaining the political uniqueness of North Korea.  Some really interesting historical perspective I was totally unaware of.

2) Eminent health care expert Victor Fuchs on why the US spends so much more on health care than other nations.

3) New York Times on why Americans are not so great at math.

4) It’s really just pathetic and amusing to see conservatives try and explain politics with regards to race by pretending that today’s Democratic party is of a piece with the virulently racist Democratic Party of the pre-Civil Rights era South.  Nice takedown from Jamelle Bouie.

5) Speaking of race, I’m feeling pretty confident these pre-school boys would not have been suspended so much if they were white (and so is their mom).

6) Say what you will about Texas justice (and I’ll say a lot), but give them credit for doing a lot more than many other states to remedy their history of gross injustice.  Here’s an interesting case of a man who was exonerated via DNA and didn’t even know about it until after the fact (he had already finished his prison sentence).

7) Nice essay from national security reporter extraordinaire, Tom Ricks, on why he has found himself moving leftward in recent years.

8) Really interesting analysis of “kidspeak.”  Let’s just say “like” means so much more than you may realize.

9) I talked to the NYT reporter who wrote this story for a good 30 minutes, but not even a single quote.  That said, it was a really interesting conversation and hopefully it will lead to some NYT quotes in the future.  Oh, and it’s a good story on NC politics.

10) This is wild.  Apparently we harvest the blood of horseshoe crabs to create a basic and widely-used test for the presence of bacteria.

11) Really enjoyed this Amy Davidson comment on Republicans and immigration policy:

It is one thing for Republicans to decide that they will not be the party of immigration reform, but it is another to decide that they will be the anti-immigration party. If they do, they will define themselves in opposition to America’s future and, incidentally, to its past—one built by newcomers like the gold prospector from Canada who, in 1876, sailed on a ship around South America and staked a claim that became the town of Oracle. In the short term, there may be benefits, in the form of an energized base, but enjoying them requires a distinct lack of shame. If Adam Kwasman was abashed by his Y.M.C.A. mixup, many of his allies don’t think that chasing down a busload of kids was a mistake at all. No children had been brought to Oracle since then, and that was enough for some to call the episode a victory. For the Republican Party as a whole, it might be better described as a dangerous temptation.

12) There does seem to be a place for “broken windows” policing.  But it seems clear that place is not always and everywhere.  Circumstances matter– who would’ve guessed.  Nice NYT editorial:

Mr. Bratton is a pioneer of broken windows policing and Mr. de Blasio is a stout defender. The tactic was embraced in the crime-plagued New York of 20 years ago. But while violence has ebbed, siege-based tactics have not. The Times reported on Friday that the Police Department made 394,539 arrests last year, near historical highs.

The mayor and the commissioner should acknowledge the heavy price paid for heavy enforcement. Broken windows and its variants — “zero-tolerance,” “quality-of-life,” “stop-and-frisk” practices — have pointlessly burdened thousands of young people, most of them black and Hispanic, with criminal records. These policies have filled courts to bursting with first-time, minor offenders whose cases are often thrown out, though not before their lives are severely disrupted and their reputations blemished. They have caused thousands to lose their jobs, to be suspended from school, to be barred from housing or the military. They have ensnared immigrants who end up, through a federal fingerprinting program, being deported and losing everything.

13) And lastly, the NYT is beginning a series on how we need to end our prohibition on marijuana.  Let me reiterate– I’ve never smoked dope, never will, and will strongly discourage my kids, but our current policy is an utter failure on so many levels and needs to be changed.  Here’s the first of the NYT series on state-by-state policy.

Why Putin won’t suffer any serious consequences

Because Europe is just too dependent on Russian gas and oil.  Here’s a map/infographic from Vox:

Europe_gas

And Slate’s Daniel Gross on the issue:

But a look inside the trade numbers reveals that Europe’s ability and willingness to punish Russia economically is severely compromised. Simply put, Russia is Europe’s gas station. If you refuse to patronize the gas station, you’ll certainly inflict some pain on the owner. But then you wouldn’t be able to get to work or drive to the mall or get your kids to school…

In fact, the trade between Europe and Russia largely consists of fuels. In 2013, the EU imported 166.3 billion euros of fuels from Russia, accounting for about 80 percent of Russia’s total exports to the EU. In 2011, Netherlands—which has the most reason to be angry at Russia—imported virtually all the petroleum it used, and about one-third of that oil came from Russia. The Netherlands also runs the largest trade deficit with Russia of any EU country.

And I love this conclusion:

Taking serious steps to reduce purchases of Russian energy would require European leaders to show both moral courage and an overt willingness to inflict financial pain on large and well-connected companies. But both of these things are in short supply—just like natural gas and oil.

Again, just amazing what your country can get away with if you have enough gas and oil.  Pretty depressing.

Quick hits (part I)

Another double quick hits weekend!  Here goes…

1) Arthur Brooks (whom I am generally not a fan of) has a nice NYT column on happiness.  Nice pithy headline: love people, not pleasure.

2) RFK Jr is a rabid anti-vaccine advocate.  That’s good for viruses; bad for humans.

3) I loved my summer break from school (and hey, still do) and I love my kids’ summer break.  But I do get why maybe it is not such a good thing.

4) Want less polarization in DC?  Give the political parties more money.  Seriously.

5) How reading on-line is different from reading on paper.  I so much prefer the “real” version and will always choose it when given the choice.

6) TNR’s Danny Vinik on Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan.

7) Jeffrey Toobin on redistricting in Florida.

8) Maybe there’s more to it (surely there is) than that everybody needs seven hours of sleep.

9) Oh man, I love the trolley problem in ethics.  Shame to think it might not actually be all that helpful.

10) So, the New Yorker has completely opened up their on-line archives for the next few months.  That’s free access to so many amazing articles.  Here’s a nice compilation of recommended ones.   And another from Slate.

Surprise: lower tax rates lead to lower tax revenues

Surprise, surprise.  After that substantial tax cuts (overwhelmingly benefiting NC”s wealthiest citizens) the super-charged economic growth the Republicans predicted has not materialized (yes, unemployment has improved, just like it has done pretty much everywhere).  The result, NC is coming in well-short in projected revenues (hey, I could have projected this).  Who will pay the price?  Teachers, those wanting a better education for their kids, the elderly and disabled, etc.  But hey, richer North Carolinians can now trade in their Lexus for a Mercedes.  Hooray!  From WRAL:

— New figures from legislative analysts confirm the 2013 cut to individual income tax rates is costing the state far more than originally projected.

Last year, Republican leaders authored a plan to cut income taxes from a three-tiered marginal system of 6 percent, 7 percent and 7.75 percent to a flat rate of 5.8 percent for 2014 tax year.

According to a memo Thursday from legislative analyst Brian Slivka and chief economist Barry Boardman, the updated cost of the tax cut is $690 million for the current tax year.

That’s $205 million, or 43 percent, higher than the original projection of  $475 million.

The cost for the 2015 tax year is also projected to be $200 million higher than original estimates – $890 million rather than $690 million…

Republican leaders said last summer that lowering taxes would cause the economy to grow, helping more people find work and bringing in more revenue. They expressed confidence that the cost to the state would be actually be lower than initial projections.

But in the memo, Boardman and Slivka explain that North Carolina wages have not grown as quickly as projected last year.

And how’s this for some cogent economic context:

It’s not yet clear what effect, if any, the revision will have on the current budget negotiations.

However, to put the revision in context, the cost of a 7 percent average teacher pay increase, according to the House’s latest offer, is about $265 million.

The cost of a 6 percent average teacher raise, according to an earlier House offer, is about $178 million, while the cost of funding all current teaching assistants for 2015 is about $450 million.

The cost of the Senate’s earlier proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, including cutting Medicaid eligibility for thousands of blind, disabled, and elderly patients, is about $228 million.

But, gee, who could have predicted this?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe anybody who has actually paid any attention to evidence on tax rates and economic policy in recent years.  Of course, now the Republicans get want they really want– lower taxes for rich people and the ability to throw up their hands and say there just isn’t enough money for teachers, the poor, elderly, disabled, etc.  And this surely can’t be good for higher education, either.

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