January 14, 2017

The inside-the-Beltway interregnum kabuki theater

Yes, good Democrats are in a tizzy over the Senate's concurrent resolution gutting Obamacare.

But, just what IS a "concurrent resolution"? Glad you asked, as Wiki has the answer:
A concurrent resolution is a resolution (a legislative measure) adopted by both houses of a bicameral legislature that lacks the force of law (is non-binding) and does not require the approval of the chief executive (president). Concurrent resolutions are typically adopted to regulate the internal affairs of the legislature that adopted them, or for other purposes
See, that was simple enough, especially the part where I added the emphasis.

The deal is, per the "interregnum" of the title, between Jan. 3 and Jan. 19, since the Twenty-Second Amendment, though it moved the presidential inauguration back from March 4 to Jan. 20, did NOT move it back to Jan. 3, in a presidential change of administration like the current one, we have a 16-day gap.

Congress can pass all sorts of concurrent resolutions knowing that the heavy lifting comes later. Or it can pass nutbar regular bills knowing Obama will veto them.

Beyond that, as I've said before, "Obamacare" of today is NOT what Congress passed, and two-thirds of the changes since then are due to executive order by Dear Leader himself. A Forbes blogger has the details. It IS a conservative Forbes blogger; I reject her claim that all of the executive orders were "illegal." And, to put an earlier, similar claim in perspective, here's Politifact. And even the Old Gray Lady said just a couple of months ago it has problems. And, among the things that Obama delayed was implementation of the so-called "Cadillac tax," which means that if you're a CEO with gold-plated company health insurance, Obama threw you another bone.

This is one of the reasons I most get mad at professional liberals, and their chattering subservient scribes like Charles Pierce, linked at the top. 

I don't know which of the multiple split brains of Donald Trump will rise to the fore on this issue after Jan. 20. Let's at least wait a day or two, let the House vote, then let's hear what Trump has to say. Let's hear more of what he has to say after Jan. 20.

But, trying to find the middle ground on his mercurial word leaves me to think he'll keep at least some protections on getting insurance with pre-existing conditions and on letting kids stay on their parents' insurance to age 26. He may also seriously, contra not only many Republicans but the Cory Booker neolib Dems of the Beltway world, push and push successfully for pharmaceutical pricing control. At the same time, I do expect that he's also serious about wanting to block-grant Medicaid.

Oh, and yes, Dear Leader could have gotten single-payer passed. He could have told Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, each individually:

"Do you want to be the one vote — the one Democratic vote — that actually blocks health care reform?"


But, he didn't — in part, IMO, due to his Preznit Kumbaya nature documented so well by Jeff St. Clair. And this, along with the two just-mentioned jackwagons, is why I'm not a Democrat. Yet another way in which Dear Leader kept his mellifluous voice lodged in his throat.

January 13, 2017

#BigPharma and #neoliberal bullshit from Cory Booker



We start with the photo pasted above.

We then go to the pull quote from Booker at left.

Booker, already positioning himself to try to be the second black neoliberal president in 2020, is trying to do that in part, it seems, by proffering a kinder, gentler, Obamacare. (I see what I and my one thousand twinkles of special snowflakes did there.)

The comment comes after Booker voted against a Bernie Sanders-pushed Senate amendment to create a federal revenue pool to control prescription costs, specifically through Canadian drug importation.

Now, note what I have circled in red on the back side of a Flonase bottle; "Made in Canada."

Now, prescription versions of drugs don't, at least in pill form, list a country of origin, and it's been a long, long time, since I bought prescription Flonase. But, the OTC version of Flonase is the exact same formulation and strength as the prescription version.

So, either GlaxoSmithKline is poisoning Americans with a potentially unsafe product just because it no longer needs a prescription, or Canadian drugs magically get safer without a prescription, or else it's stuffing Cory Booker's political wallet full of Flonase-green dinero.

Of course, this is nothing new. Four years ago, already, Booker was hobnobbing with The Donald, even to the degree of benefiting from an Ivanka Trump fundraiser.

That said, per Yasha Levine, on a lot of social issues, Booker isn't even really a neoliberal.

Of course, per his own Tweets, he's really just a heartless bastard.
Of course, let's not shame only Booker. Thirteen other Senate Dems opposed the amendment, too.

And shock me that neolib opinion rag Washington Monthly is massaging Booker's hurt butt.

January 12, 2017

Sen. MBNA Joe Biden gets his Presidential Medal of Freedom



Did you tear up when Vice President Joe Biden teared up? I didn't.

Let's not forget that Sen. MBNA has a history of neoliberal screwing of the middle class, as old blog posts of mine and other things will make clear, along with the two-party party line on Israel and more.

The biggest? Voting for the euphemistically named Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in 2005. And that AFTER pushing a similar bill that failed in 2001. Since his boss, the man who put the medal on him, pushed Obamacare in part in answer to medical-driven bankruptcies, I know that JoePa knew well back then that this was a primary cause of bankruptcies.

As Sen MBNA, representing Delaware corporation credit card companies and predatory card offers, he knew that was another big cause of bankruptcy. But yet, per Salon, linked above, he was a "primary cheerleader" for this:
In light of what occurred in its wake, this law is easily one of the most disgraceful aspects of the Bush and Biden legacies. The harm it did to middle-class Americans, especially during the crushing events of the recession four years later, is immeasurable. The bill made it nearly impossible for average families to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, also known as “clean slate” bankruptcies intended to discharge nearly all debts, a matter of a few years before they’d need it the most. The bill instituted an all new means test to determine whether debtors with insurmountable financial hardships earned enough income to pay back all or part of their unsecured debts, specifically credit debt. If they earned too much, a clean slate bankruptcy became impossible, and they’d be forced to file Chapter 13, which would force debtors to pay back their debt over a five-year timeline, thus legalizing neo-indentured-servitude to creditors.
Yep, that's courtesy of Sen. Joe Biden.

He voted for the 1983 Social Security "reform" bill that did NOT index the proportion of income subject to FICA taxes. That, in turn, continues to provide ammo to Pete Peterson, the Koch Brothers, etc., about the alleged pending "bankruptcy" of Social Security.

A decade later, in 1993, he voted in favor of NAFTA. (He hasn't supported every free trade deal since then, but, that opened the gates.)

He did vote against an early version of Gramm-Leach-Bliley in 1999, the bill that repealed Glass-Steagall, but that was largely a procedural vote. He voted for the final version.

Yes, he said he regrets that. But, this video is just a month old, and arguably, is legacy-polishing:



And, even with that, he did not apologize for the bankruptcy bill. Maybe because it was even more egregious, or else it was even more blatantly a reward for home-state businesses. But, he didn't apologize for it; he didn't even remember it as part of a list of bad bills.

It's kind of like the financial crisis, where the banksters wrote up come-up crap for mortgages, and then blamed the people who signed up for them as irresponsible.

Early in his vice presidency, he gaffed about giving Israel a green light to bomb Iran. Imagine Dem reaction if Reagan, let alone Trump, had said similar.

He of course voted for the Iraq War, and before that, in 1998, supported PNAC's push to overthrow Saddam Hussein. As Veep, he essentially persuaded Obama to "split the difference" on troops for a mini-surge in Afghanistan.

So, don't tear up for Biden getting that medal. Tear up about him getting it.

Is Joe Biden a decent person? Overall, that's likely so. And, yes, he was in front of Obama on gay rights issues — not that that was hard to do. Yes, he is a "son of Scranton," albeit one who at some point seems to have lost connection to Scranton's history.

And, no, this is not "too soon" or anything like that. That idea is as absurd as Dear Leader's "look forward, not backward."

Now, if Dear Leader will free Leonard Peltier, we might be cooking. Wake me up if he does. Or Chelsea Manning.

January 11, 2017

#GoldenShowers, drizzly drips, #Hillbots and sexed-up reports (re-updated)

First, the second part of the header is a pun on Grizzly Steppe, in case you didn't get it. That would be the basically fact-free Grizzly Steppe, already dissected by me. The third part? Read below.

Second, that said, it IS interesting, or "interesting," and fun, that a man who spent much of the previous eight years peddling "birther" rumors about Barack Obama is now getting hoist by the fake news petard.

Because that's what this, as reported by BuzzFeed, is.

That said, Ben Smith over there has already said there's a lot of iffiness.

Beyond what he's admitted, there's the fact that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen denies ever having been to Prague. He could be lying, but, if he is, the CIA would bust his chops on it. Maybe not in public, but it would do so.

Meanwhile, per what I've already seen on Twitter, Hillbots are buzzing (I see what I did there) right past that particular factual problem, as well as the broader factual problems Smith admits.

(What, Hillbots? Are you expecting a supplemental report? An editor's errata? "Sorry, dear American stooges: The Cohen meeting was actually in Bucharest.)

Third, the fact that David Corn alluded to this in October for Mother Jones doesn't make it any more true. Corn is a "my Democrats right or wrong" flak.

Fourth, per friend Brains' post and my Corn observation, aren't Dems supposed to be the party that wants to keep the gummint out of people's bedrooms? Survey says yes, which shows that this is part of more posturing within the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the two-party duopoly.

Fifth, if this is true, and Ed Snowden isn't totally in the pay and/or control of Putin, can't he hack the security cams of the Moscow Ritz Carlton? (And, if not in the total pay of Putin, and not a traitor at the time he left US employ, I most certainly do NOT believe Snowden actually is, still, today, a total free agent. You're wrong, Glenn Greenwald. I'll stand with the likes of Mark Ames on this one.)

Sixth, and, most important, assuming it's not true, the old Latin cui bono comes to mind.

Answer: The CIA.

We know this info came from abroad.

Could have been easy for the CIA to ask MI6 to "sex up" (remember that from the Iraq War?) some random bullshit.

But why?

Maybe by mid-October, the spooks thought a Trump win was more likely than not. They thought he was a loose cannon, and thought he could be controlled.

Alternative B: The above, but hoping the election would and could still be swung by something like this.

However, the main alternative presumes Trump has enough shame to be blackmailable. That, is most certainly not true. Alternative B assumed the likes of Corn would push full public disclosure.

On the first alternative, the spooks thought Trump needed to be controlled, as well as could be controlled, in my take.

Again, though, this isn't the way.

Per Juan Cole, control of The Donald's pursestrings and dinero is the only way to control him. So, maybe the Russian Mob has some manipulation angles on Trump's finances, per Cole's links.

And, on the blackmail angle, Cole rightly says, "see J. Edgar Hoover."

Related: Wouldn't surprise me if Boris Johnson was the cutout for this.

Seventh and more seriously: It's not Boris, but we apparently now know who it is. It's a former British intell agent now into the private-sector national security biz. Great, a British natsec egg, like CrowdStrike.

As for the reliability of this toilet paper, as long as we're on the Golden Showers theme? From the end of the piece:
Andrew Wordsworth, co-founder of London-based investigations firm Raedas, who often works on Russian issues, said the memos in the Trump dossier were “not convincing at all.” 
“It’s just way too good,” he said. “If the head of the CIA were to declare he got information of this quality, you wouldn’t believe it.” 
Mr. Wordsworth said it wouldn’t make sense for Russian intelligence officials to be exposing state secrets to a former MI-6 officer, because “Russians believe once you are an agent, you’re an agent forever.”

Right-o, especially that last paragraph. I'm sure that the CIA believes the same of "former" Russian agents.

Update: Steele has now very publicly gone on the lam. The idea that he's afraid for his life is as laughable as the original report. Putin has laughed off all of this as nonsense. Yes, Steele has connections to the assassinated Alexander Litvinenko, but that was long ago, and known by Putin long ago, who's not dumb enough to assassinate a British national in the UK anyway.

That article is from the Daily Mail, which, apparently, when it's not engaged in salaciousness, doesn't have editors and writers that can pare and organize a wandering 1,500-word story into a coherent 1,000.

The opening bell and Day One for the #txlege

1. Supposedly, at the first convenient break time, Speaker of the House Joe Straus found himself alone in a men's room with Lite Guv Danny Goeb and said, under his breath, "Maybe we DO need a bathroom bill!"

I have vowed to call him Danny Goeb for the entire session of the Lege. See friend Brains for a roundup of crappy nicknames!

2. Dawnna Dukes found out that "privilege" has an expiration date if you're a Democrat.

3. Greg Abbott reportedly got some foreign countries screwed up again.

4. Straus elected without opposition for the first time. What, did former fetus Jonathan Stickland crawl back into his womb? Maybe he was afraid somebody would force him to be buried along with other fetal tissue.

6. Glenn Hegar told the 181 zoo animals, plus Goeb and Gov. Strangeabbott, they had less money to spend than 2 years ago. Actually, no he didn't, contra narratives. With various federal money that Texas gets, it has MORE to spend than 2 years ago, total. Even factoring the $5 billion the previous Lege set aside as dedicated to transportation, the current Lege STILL has $5 billion more than it actually budgeted two years ago.

That's about 2.5 percent more, or 1.2 percent per annum for each of the two years of the biennium. That's less than inflation rate multiplied by population growth, yes, but, this isn't a catastrophe. And, IIRC, the transportation amendment was supposed to have some loopholes and flexibility as part of it, too.

Moral? Don't believe the lies the Texas GOP is already spouting about what needs to be cut next. Whether Hegar is coordinating any messaging with the Danny Goeb wing of the party or not, I don't know, but you and I will get more messages in the days about "we have to cut X" because "Hegar said we have no money.

7. Texas Democrats pretended they would have power to do something.

8. The Big 12 Conference made some noises about that bathroom bill. I'm sure Kansas City would love to host the return of the Big 12 football championship.

January 10, 2017

What is it like to be a chicken ... owned by Tyson?

The header before the ellipsis points, for those not getting it, is riffing on Nagel's famous essay "What is it Like to Be a Bat?"

The riff, and even more the portion after the ellipsis, is based on living in an area of the United States where chicken farming is a major employer and even more, is chicken processing, namely, by Tyson.

Seeing a flatbed semi loaded with chicken coops, all carrying a fluffy white bird headed to his or her demise, and the highway-speed wind effects ruffling feathers (yes, literally) more than enough to expose naked chicken flesh prompted me to start writing.

First, re Nagel. Yes, bats fly by echolocation. But, it doesn't work over long areas, so, "blind as a (hypersonic) bat" is more true than not, perhaps. Per Dan Dennett, the idea that this makes their "whatness" harder to discuss or picture than other animals of similar intelligence probably isn't true. That's even if we accept at least a "soft" version of qualia. (And, it's also Dennett finding an acorn in the forest.)

That said, and Tyson ownership aside, it's surely likely that it's easier to picture what it's like to be a bat than to be a chicken. Wild chickens probably aren't as smart as bats, and domestic ones are dumb — though perhaps not as dumb as domestic turkeys.

Chickens are less social than bats, or humans, too. And ... animal rights issues aside for now, surely have a lesser emotional palette.

Plus, given that the expression of both intellect and emotions occurs in reaction to environmental stimuli, that domestic chicken living on a 40,000-bird Tyson farm, most all of his or her life spent in a cage about the size of a kitchen trash can.

That is, per existentialism, "existing" and not "living."

It's even worse.

Humans who have been close to chicken farms know what the ammonia-like smell of chickenshit is like. Most humans probably assume that birds in general, with beaks not noses, may not have much of a sense of smell.

Well, new research shows that's wrong for birds in general and chickens in particular.

I don't care how many vent fans there are in a modern breeding house (without which, in hot Southern summers, the birds would die in 15 minutes). That shit has to smell shitty to a chicken, I would think.

 It's like being incarcerated. No, scratch that.

It IS being incarcerated. And, while a chicken isn't a human, it's closer, evolutionarily and culturally both, to a human than it is to, stay, a sea star. So, to some degree, it might be easier for humans — at least those who have spent time in jail — to understand what it's like to be a Tyson chicken than a bat.

Don't tell me that a Tyson chicken doesn't have its fair share, or far more than its fair share, of anxiety and other mental health issues. Don't tell me that, at some base level of instinct, it's not yearning for freedom.

At the same time, don't overread and over-project. That chicken has never experienced freedom, and doesn't fully know what it's like. For that matter, neither does a free-range chicken know freedom. It's free — and still highly protected until slaughter — on a carefully selected range.

On the other hand, contra the Michael Pollans of the world, artisanal Smithfield hog hams and true (not fake PR) free-range chickens aren't the answer, unless we all (1 percent as well as 99 percent, Michael) simply eat a LOT less meat.

We need to do that anyway, for other reasons, of course.

And, if we want anything above just grams of meat per day, and we want to reduce agricultural stress on our planet, we need to start rooting for Dutch scientists to make test-tube meat a success — a commercial and ecological success — as soon as possible.

The answer until then is ameliorating animal conditions on factory farms, even more for hogs and cows, likely more intelligent than chickens.

January 09, 2017

TX Progressives gear up for inauguration and #txlege

The Office of Texas Progressive Alliance Ethics remains intact as we bring you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looked ahead to the upcoming Houston elections for 2017.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos understands that if pain and suffering have to be inflicted on the American people, the cruelest party for the job is the Texas Republican Party.  Yes they are coming after Social Security. Worse the hatchet man is a Texas Republican.

With Jan. 20 just two weeks away, Socratic Gadfly takes an initial snapshot look at President Obama's legacy from the left. Updated Presidential rankings to follow.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme remembers the greedy corporate interests fighting the white nationalists in the 2000s. The white nationalists won that one.  We're at it again with today's Texas Legislature.

The latest -- and hopefully the last -- on "русские сделали это" was posted by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value was out on the streets of Houston calling for kindness, respect and not giving up. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

John Wright makes five queer predictions for LGBT Texans in 2017.

Paradise in Hell wants the holes in the Texas Freedom of Information Act to be patched.

The Bloggess submits an application to become a vampire.

The TSTA Blog explains how the state abuses school property taxpayers.

It's Not Hou It's Me gives you a hand with your New Year's resolutions with a guide to working out in Houston.