Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration category.

The Bad News About the Good News

Obama Administration

Paul Krugman is almost giddy about new Medicare numbers.

Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.

$1,000 less per beneficiary than projected just four years ago?Wow.

You’ll remember a few years ago the entire Right was marching around chanting that Medicare and Social Security were about to go broke (still one of my favorite posts). It was never true about Social Security but there was real concern about Medicare. But last I heard Medicare’s sell-by date had been pushed way into the future. There is no looming Medicare worry.

First, our supposed fiscal crisis has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely. The federal government is still running deficits, but they’re way down. …

… Second, the slowdown in Medicare helps refute one common explanation of the health-cost slowdown: that it’s mainly the product of a depressed economy, and that spending will surge again once the economy recovers. That could explain low private spending, but Medicare is a government program, and shouldn’t be affected by the recession. In other words, the good news on health costs is for real.

Krugman goes on to say that a lot of these savings are the result of Obamacare, and this shows us that providing health care for all Americans — as other industrialized nations somehow manage to do for their citizens — is not an impossible dream that will drive the country into fiscal ruin.

This takes me to the bad news — about the only people who are going to hear about this are us progressives. Not only will most Americans continue to be unaware of it; the Right will continue to push the idea that the only way to save Medicare is to cut it, or privatize it, or raise the eligibility age to 90, or whatever. And at the same time they’ll tell voters that Obama cut money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Because that’s how we roll.


Dumb and Wealthy

Obama Administration

Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve argued, I’m told, that America’s wealthy upper class naturally accrues money but it is smarter, thereby proving any idiot can write a book. But how is it, then, that so many wealthy people are so stupid?

Case in point: Chicago Cubs owner and CEO Thomas Ricketts. Earlier this week a heavy rain interrupted a game, and the ground crew at Wrigley Field were unable to cover the field with a tarp, and the game was called. The reason the crew failed is that there weren’t nearly enough of them present to do the job. And the reason for that is that Cubs management decided to save money by limiting the number of hours the grounds crew could work so that the Cubs didn’t have to pay for health insurance or be penalized.

Cheap,” said one of three high-ranking officials from other organizations the Sun-Times contacted Thursday – all of whom fall below the Cubs on Forbes’ annual revenues list.

Speaking to the industry standard for grounds crew staffing, all three officials said the video of Tuesday’s incident showed an apparently “undermanned” crew (of 15 pulling the tarp on the night’s first unsuccessful try).

“Embarrassing,” said one, “and they got caught.”

Also, too:

A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.

I guess one could argue you’ve got to be pretty smart to make the Cubbies the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, but they also came in last in the National League Central Division in 2013. In fact, the Cubbies were the only National League Central Division team that had a losing record at home in 2013. They were third from the bottom in the entire National League in 2013. It looks like they’re third from the bottom of the National League standings right now. Obviously, management keeps profits up by under-investing in the product.

Yeah, I know, it’s the Cubbies; they take pride in being losers. I don’t know why Chicago puts up with this, though. Eric Loomis:

The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around. Would another deserved 100 years help or make the franchise and its fans even more annoying, if that’s possible?

OK, so maybe it’s not Chicago Cubs management that’s dumb.


The Fake Eye Socket Injury and Other Ferguson News

Obama Administration

Charles Johnson has been doing a better job than I have of keeping up with what’s going on in Ferguson. Among other things, he documents that an X-ray image being passed off as showing Officer Wilson’s eye socket injury was pulled off the website of the American Association of Pediatric OphthalmologyAlso, too:

In the video taken by an eyewitness immediately after the shooting, officer Darren Wilson is seen walking calmly around the body with no signs of discomfort or injury, even though by this time he would have been in very serious pain.

Also, no ambulance was called for Wilson, and no first aid was administered by other officers, which seems odd if he had indeed suffered this type of serious injury — or any injury at all.

So unless more evidence is forthcoming, the eye socket injury is bullshit. There is also a totally fabricated rumor that Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who was present at the shooting, recanted his testimony. No, he did not.

And much of this nonsense is being generated by Jim Hoft, officially the Dumbest Man on the Internet.

I also learned at Johnson’s place is that one of the outside groups showing up in Ferguson to stir up trouble are the same bunch of anarchist bozos who tried to initiate violence at OWS demonstrations awhile back.


Shifting Excuses in Ferguson

Obama Administration

Fox News is running a story saying that Darren Wilson, the policeman said to have shot Michael Brown, was seriously injured by Brown during their encounter. He “suffered severe facial injuries, including an orbital (eye socket) fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun, a source close to the department’s top brass told,” the story says.

Just this morning the story was that Brown was approaching Wilson in a threatening manner, and Wilson fired when Brown was six or seven feet away. This is starting to remind me of the Zimmerman defense; every few hours some unnamed source dribbled out a  new version of what happened, or new details to make Zimmerman look better and Trayvon Martin look worse. And it worked for Zimmerman.

All kinds of things could have happened in Ferguson. Whatever the facts are, I hope there is an honest investigation, and I sincerely hope Officer Wilson gets a chance to present his version of events to the public, if not to a court. But this business of dribbling out details from unnamed sources to support the side of authorities is too obviously intended to cover everyone’s ass.

The article from this morning said the officer’s case could turn on whether he had reason to believe that Brown –  six or seven feet away when he was shot — was moving toward him in a threatening manner. Gee, it’s a shame law enforcement doesn’t have any way to incapacitate threatening but unarmed people except to shoot them multiple times and kill them. (/sarcasm)

Charles Johnson points out that among all the conflicting reports, there is testimony from both police and eyewitnesses that the first shot was fired as Wilson and another man were running away. Then it seems Brown turned around and walked back toward Wilson, either with his hands raised or in a threatening manner depending on who you ask. One of he several shots that penetrated Michael Brown entered at the top of his skull, news stories have said. Was he already falling? And somehow moments before the shooting Brown beat Officer Wilson nearly unconscious. Right.


Lawnorder Ain’t What It Was

Obama Administration

To most folks these days “Law and Order” was a television series featuring Sam Waterston as the irascible Jack McCoy and Jerry Orbach as the scruffy but lovable Detective Lennie Briscoe, plus a lot of other great actors and their characters. The spinoffs never quite came up to the level of the original, IMO.

But before that “lawnorder” was a common buzzword, particularly during the Nixon Administration, that excused police brutality toward racial minorities and “hippies.”  Crime was a great wedge issue for conservatives for a few decades, because liberals — with their confounded ideas about civil rights and fair trials — were seen to be “soft on crime.” And make no mistake, the word “crime” was very racially tinged in the minds of white Americans. Popular entertainment reflected the desire to throw out the rule books at meet the threat of thuggish criminals with more thuggishness. You could find this expressed in everything from Dick Tracy comic strips to Dirty Harry movies. Charles Bronson also became known for acting out common vigilante fantasies on the big screen. And even as recently as the 1990s many New Yorkers talked about “Giuliani time”as if it were a good thing.

Today the Washington Post is running an opinion piece titled I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. And boy howdy, the comments are ripping this guy to shreds. Thousands of comments. Granted, the article itself is not as provocative as the headline. But I sincerely think that if it were, say, 1970, most of the comments would be “Yes, of course. Thank you, officer.”

Things didn’t change over night, but between 1970 and now, something has changed. Whether it’s us or the cops, I’m not sure. Maybe because there was no Internet in 1970, and most of us never heard of police dumping paralyzed people out of wheelchairs (seriously; google “police dump man out of wheelchair”; it’s a regular genre).

Hard core conservatives still make excuses for police brutality even as they wave their flags for “liberty.” So not everyone is keeping up. In Ferguson, the “authorities” are playing their usual game of selectively dribbling out information to make the shooting of Michael Brown appear justified. But it seems to me there is not so much widespread acceptance of the official narrative as would have been true even two decades ago.


True Colors

Obama Administration

The American Right loves to portray itself as being all about freedom. Liberals, on the other hand, hate freedom, according to the Right. Seriously, google “liberals hate freedom” sometime. You will find gems such as Five Ways Liberals Try to Control You.

Liberalism is an ideology that believes in control, not freedom. That’s why liberals love the federal government so much while they detest states’ rights. It allows them to bend hundreds of millions of people to their will with one imperial edict. It’s also why liberal judges don’t believe in the Constitution like conservative justices do.

Here, apparently, is the catch:

Sticking to one set of rules means people have freedom to do what they want as long as they adhere to the basic rules our society was formed around.

I infer that conservatives are the ones who get to decide which are “the basic rules our society was formed around,” which are the rules we all must follow, because freedom.  My favorite of the five ways liberals try to control you is #2, “Liberals want to control your major life decisions.”  Like, maybe, when to have children and whom to marry? Oh, wait…

Also awhile back, the Koch Boys released a study titled “Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom,” and in this study the blue states were persistently less free than the red ones.  If that doesn’t jibe with how you understand things, it’s either because the Koch boys define “freedom” in a way that lines up with their own interests (lower taxes, less regulation) and bleep you, or you hate freedom. I’ll let you work that out.

In other words, American righties are indeed stalwart defenders of liberty as they define it. Andrew Leonard pointed out that the three least free states, according to the Koch boys, are California, New York, and New Jersey.

The millions who cluster on the coasts delight in their thriving arts communities and smorgasbord of dining options and the sheer intellectual stimulation that accrues from the helter-skelter activity of a big city. Many of us have agreed to an implicit trade-off: We’ll put up with the impositions of big government because we are getting something essential out of the deal. Freedom is not a zero sum game. And you know, some of us might not even think that paying high taxes to support a robust safety net for those less fortunate is the worst thing that ever happened. We might even pride ourselves on it.

I grew up in rural Missouri and now I live just north of the Bronx, and in all ways that count (to me) there is more freedom here. People are less rigidly conformist here. You can wear mismatched shoes and a cone on our head without starting a riot, for example. If you are an artist of any sort you are freer to express yourself, even in outrageous ways, here. The coastal cities have long been more tolerant of homosexuality and less likely to restrict reproductive choices. There’s much more of a live and let live attitude. Yes, you put up with more crowds and bizarre parking restrictions, as well as higher living expenses, including taxes. As Leonard said, it’s a trade off.

I bring this up because I just read about a panel of Fox News “experts” who supported the police overreach in Ferguson, Missouri. This is showing their true colors. “Liberty” to the Right is defined by the values of authority figures. We are to receive as much liberty as our leaders think is good for us (and them).

And imagine the apoplexy had militarized cops gone after the Cliven Bundy militia.

As I wrote earlier this week, there are many on the Right who do seem to realize the militarization of the police force is a bad idea. Yet these same people refuse to see the racial issue. And while there are reports of gun rights groups calling for an end to the militarization of police, they don’t seem to be supporting it very loudly.

In short, the Right is just fine with Freedom as long as Freedom is defined by Authority, including Authority with military gear. They support the right to carry assault weapons to shop at Home Depot  but are not so sympathetic to unarmed black men being killed by cops or some neighborhood watch play-pretend sheriff.

True colors, I say.


No Ideological Battle?

Obama Administration

By this time next year the presidential primary campaigns are going to be getting serious. A lot can happen in a year. Candidates with early media buzz often fall apart. I refuse to predict anything now. Still, it’s getting a little late for someone we don’t already know to get traction and become a serious contender.

So who are we stuck with? The GOP, according to this article, has Paul, Cruz, Christie, Perry, Walker, Rubio, and Jeb Bush in the first tier, but each of these guys has some kind of big oozing liability going on. Governors Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence and John Kasich are possibilities if the first tier falls apart. Jindal is his own liability, although I haven’t spent much time looking at Pence and Kasich. There’s even some buzz about Mitt Romney running again. Good luck getting a personality transplant, dude.

But the Democratic possibilities depress me. I don’t want Hillary Clinton. I rarely hear from anyone who does.Yet I keep hearing she is popular! But with who, I wonder?

This article talks about five potential challengers to Clinton. And who are they?

We all love Liz Warren. The entire progressive Left would take a bullet for Warren. But she says she’s not running.

I have mixed feelings about Joe Biden. I like him, but I don’t have a strong sense of what sort of President he might be.

I keep hearing great things through the grapevine about Martin O’Malley, but if he wants it he’s got to start making a bigger splash.

I love Bernie Sanders, but he’s not really a Dem, and of all the possibilities I think he’d be the weakest general election candidate, I’m afraid.

Russ Feingold? Really? The article says he’s not been on anyone radar of late. There’s a reason for that. He’s flaked out on us once too often.

Martin “Booman” Longman brings up Al Gore. Out of politics for too long, I say. Martin says O’Malley hasn’t caught fire with the grassroots, but I think that’s because they don’t know who he is.  If we assume Liz Warren really isn’t running, then of this entire field he’s in the best position to offer himself as the I’m Not Hillary candidate. But he’s got to make more noise.

Are we really going to just sit down and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton? Martin writes,

Is the left even in the mood to have an ideological battle in 2016? Perhaps there is some appetite for it, but I haven’t seen it reflected in our elected leaders. The Republicans are acting so badly that the left has united in response and reaction.

Personally, I’d be up for an ideological battle, but I am not going to lie to you and say that I see many people by my side.

But, dammit, we should be having an ideological battle. Now is the time progressives ought to be pushing the the Democrats as far left as they can be pushed. Hillary Clinton does not reflect many of our values. Why aren’t we fighting about this? I honesty don’t understand.


The Derp Also Rises

Obama Administration

There is more unrest and turmoil in Ferguson today after the pathologically clueless Police Chief Thomas Jackson yesterday released a video that allegedly shows the deceased teenager, Michael Brown, stealing cigars from a convenience store, implying that this somehow justified or excused the teenager’s death. Several have pointed out that there was no way the officer who shot Michael Brown would have known he was a shoplifting suspect, assuming that he was.

This guy Jackson seriously needs to get completely out of the law enforcement business. Even if the video shows this — the snip of the video I saw didn’t — Police Chief Terminal Derp Jackson could have not released it to the public just yet while the situation in Ferguson is still fragile. Waiting a few days would have been nice. He could have shared it with investigators, and eventually to juries, fine. But releasing it to the public at this time was absolutely unnecessary and served no purpose other than to piss people off. And the Justice Department had asked Chief Derp to not release it.

My impression from some news stories is that there are gangs of looters who are a separate crew from the actual protesters, and some news stories have photos of young men identified as protesters who are guarding businesses to protect them from looters.


Rick Perry Indicted

Obama Administration

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been indicted on abuse of power charges. Heh.

For the sake of fairness let us acknowledge that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being investigated for doing something similar to what Perry is accused of doing, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Cuomo is guilty. If Cuomo is indicted, I bet it won’t happen until after the September primary, where he faces a more progressive challenger. But that’s another post.

For background [on the Perry indictment], see Think Progress and a somewhat more cautious analysis from Texas Monthly.


A Rare Moment of Almost Agreement

Obama Administration

I’m pleasantly surprised that so much of the Right appears to agree that the police in Ferguson were out of control. There was a time that anything cops did in a black neighborhood got an automatic seal of approval, so that’s something.

There also appears to be a broad consensus that it’s a really bad idea to give military surplus equipment to police departments. I learned from TPM that this practice began in 1992, so there’s no point blaming the current crew in Washington about it. But we can demand that it end.

Even though there is broad agreement that militarizing cops is a bad idea, there is still a lot of denial about the root causes of police violence in Ferguson and elsewhere. Rand Paul primarily blames Big Government, for example. (To his credit, Paul does make one mention of “racial disparities in our criminal justice system.”) But it wasn’t Big Government that gave some Ferguson cop the notion that it’s okay to shoot and kill an unarmed black man who, according to eyewitnesses, had raised his hands.

And do remember that the bullets that killed Michael Brown were fired from a standard police revolver, not some military assault weapon. Steve M reminds us of recent and notorious incidents of police brutality in which cops used just their hands.

I’m not going to say it’s all cops or all police departments. But there does seem to be a widespread pattern of racism and, shall we say, poor impulse control in many of our nation’s police departments. And that will still be true if we take away their military equipment.

According to some on the Right, however, we are not to speak of race or engage in dialog about problems based in racism at all, because doing that is just shameless pandering and politicizing. Power Tool Paul Mirengoff says,

[Rand] Paul uses the occasion of the Brown tragedy to say that “given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.” But Paul makes no attempt to show that the disparities in question — presumably pertaining to conviction rates — are the result of “government targeting,” as opposed to disparities in the commission of crimes. Blacks may feel targeted, but U.S. Senators shouldn’t lend credibility to that feeling by disparaging our justice system unless they provide meaningful analysis to back it up.

The fact that we’ve seen several recent incidents of white police harming and killing black men who were not committing crimes seems to have escaped Mirengoff’s notice. Or else he think the actions of “bad cops” don’t count as “government targeting.” But police are agents of government, and in too many police department there’s a pattern of police engaging in racial “targeting” behavior and not being held accountable for it. So in my book, government ultimately is responsible.

And that means we are ultimately responsible.

Yesterday Governor Nixon finally acted and turned command of the police over to the head of the state highway patrol, Captain Ronald Johnson, a native of Ferguson. By all accounts Ferguson is now less militarized and more peaceful.

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