Git Along, Little Wingnuts

U.S. Congressman Steven Horsford (D-Nevada) sent this letter to the Clark County Sheriff, home of our old buddy Cliven:

April 27, 2014

Sheriff Douglas C. Gillespie
Clark County Sheriff’s Department
400 S. Martin L. BLVD
Las Vegas, NV 89106

Dear Sheriff Gillespie,

I am writing to bring your attention to the ongoing situation in northeastern Clark County which has caused many of my constituents to fear for their safety.

Residents of Bunkerville and the surrounding area have expressed concern over the continual presence of multiple out-of-state, armed militia groups that have remained in the community since the BLM halted its actions to impound the cattle of Cliven Bundy earlier this month.

My constituents have expressed concern that members of these armed militia groups:

1. Have set up checkpoints where residents are required to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass;
2. Have established a persistent presence along federal highways and state and county roads; and
3. Have established an armed presence in or around community areas including local churches, school, and other community locations.

We must respect individual constitutional liberties, but the residents of and visitors to Clark County should not be expected to live under the persistent watch of an armed militia. Their continual presence has made residents feel unsafe and maligned a quiet community’s peaceful reputation.

Residents have expressed their desire to see these groups leave their community. I appreciate the responsiveness and accessibility you and your office have provided during this difficult time for those directly impacted by the situation. I urge you to investigate these reports and to work with local leaders to ensure that their concerns are addressed in a manner that allows the community to move forward without incident.


Steven Horsford
Member of Congress

First: Don’t any of these bozos have jobs?

Second: As John Cole said, patriotism looks a lot like domestic terrorism these days.

Adam Weinstein reports for Gawker:

Even though mainstream America was never with him, and the rightward fringes of mainstream America abandoned him after his 48-hour-virus of racial frankness, Bundy is still attended by untold numbers of camouflaged and heavily armed dudes dedicated to continuing “his fight with the government over his refusal to pay fees for his cattle to graze on federal land,” the Las Vegas Sun reports.

Weirdly, these jack-booted lugs don’t make Bundy’s neighbors grateful for their liberty.

I get the impression that the sheriff is not in a big rush to confront the militia. Has anyone talked to the governor about sending in National Guard? If these thugs were stopping me and asking for ID, I’d call the bleeping Guard myself.

Update: Wonkette is a must read on this.

Way to Go, Wingnuts

Over the past several hours in Wingnut World there was much excitement over the claim that Donald Sterling was a Democrat. That made Sterling the Democrat Cliven Bundy, see. This was based on the shocking revelation that many years ago Sterling had contributed a minor amount of money to Bill Bradley and Gray Davis. Michael Tomasky wrote,

My Twitter feed yesterday was full of clucking conservatives challenging me to write about the Donald Sterling situation, or daring me to, or wagering that I would maintain a hypocritical silence in the face of this clear “proof” that Democrats are just as racist as Republicans.

But now it’s been confirmed that Sterling is a registered Republican. Oh, that must sting. And as Tomasky wrote, it shows that right-wingers are not interested in confronting racism.

Way to Go, Georgia

Just a few days after the Georgia governer signed the “guns everywhere” bill into law — basically, just about anybody will be able to carry a gun just about everywhere in Georgia, starting in July — parents pulled their children out of a Little League game because some gun nut was waving a gun around.

According to witnesses who spoke with WSB-TV, the man wandered around the Forsythe County park last Tuesday night showing his gun to strangers, telling them “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Anyone who was just walking by – you had parents and children coming in for the game – and he’s just standing here, walking around [saying] ‘You want to see my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said parent Karen Rabb.

Rabb said that the man’s intimidating behavior panicked parents causing them to hustle children who were there to play baseball to safety after the man refused to leave.

“It got to the point where we took the kids and brought them into the dugout and the parents lined up in front of the dugout,” Rabb said.

Police report they received 22 calls to 911 reporting the man.

It turns out the guy had a permit, so the cops couldn’t arrest him. He was right — there was nothing anybody could do about him.

Forsythe Sheriff Duane Piper said that he didn’t believe the parents and children were in any danger

He didn’t believe the children were in any danger. But how can you tell a whackjob who doesn’t intend to shoot from one who does? Whackjobs don’t come with warning lights. Legally, the cops can’t do anything until after the shooter starts shooting and kills a few people.

Parent Paris Horton, whose son was playing on the baseball diamond at the time of the incident, questioned the man’s motives.

“Why would anyone be walking around a public park, with a lot of children and parents and people here playing baseball, and he’s walking around with a gun?” said Horton. “I don’t think the parents would have been nervous had he just had the gun in his holster and was just watching the game.”

Why do jerks do anythng? Because they’re jerks, that’s why. He was enjoying the power. He was enjoying frightening people. This won’t be the last time this happens.

Get used to it, Georgia. Maybe you should keep your kids in bullet-proof vests, just in case the next whackjob takes it a bit further.

The NRA is setting us up for a reign of terror by armed assholes.

The Evil Rich

In some states, the poor have been avoiding “Obamacare” because of the political stigma:

Health professionals, state officials, social workers, insurance agents and others trying to make the law work for uninsured Americans say the partisan divisions and attack ads have depressed participation in some places. They say the law has been stigmatized for many who could benefit from it, especially in conservative states like West Virginia that have the poorest, most medically underserved populations but where President Obama and his signature initiative are hugely unpopular.

These are also states with the most competitive Senate and House midterm election campaigns, so the right-wing super PACs have poured millions into advertisements demonizing the ACA and the Democrats who support it. As a result, the poor have been convinced that Obamacare is evil on steroids.

Other problems stymied the introduction of the law, notably the initially dysfunctional federal website. But the political polarization “complicates our efforts to enroll people and to educate people about the Affordable Care Act, there’s no question,” said Perry Bryant, head of the advocacy group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, based in Charleston, the capital.

“Literally, people thought there would be chips embedded in their bodies if they signed up for Obamacare,” Mr. Bryant said.

Far to the east, at a branch of the Shenandoah Valley Medical System in Martinsburg, Sara R. Koontz, a social worker, said she had heard people express fears about chip implants as well as “death panels” as she sought to enroll uninsured residents. Some told her that they would rather pay a penalty than sign up for insurance, she said, and even people who did enroll paused in their excitement to ask, “Wait — this isn’t that Obamacare, is it?”

The wealthy people spending money to discourage people from getting health insurance get great health care, I’m sure.

Things to Not Read

Most mornings, first thing, I sit down with a cup of coffee and cruise the Web to see what’s going on. And sometimes I see links to things you couldn’t pay me to read. Recent examples are Megan McCardle on why tax hikes on the wealthy won’t help the middle class and George Will on why President Obama is “adolescent.” I’m sure most of you know as well as I what McCardle and Will are likely to say and also know that whatever it is will make as much sense as chocolate on tuna.

Some might say I’m too partisan. I’d say that I’ve already wasted too many hours of my life that I’ll never get back giving Will and McCardle a fair hearing in my head. They had their chance to impress me. They blew it.

Today many are writing about the new book by French economist Thomas Piketty. Paul Krugman wrote that it’s causing the 1 percent and their political support troops to panic.

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

More than anything else, Krugman writes, Piketty destroys the right-wing myth that the wealth of the wealthy was earned. In fact, the 1 percent is mostly an oligarchy of inherited wealth. Obviously, noticing this is unacceptable to the oligarchy.

So what am I not reading? David Brooks. David Brooks’s column is about Piketty. Brooks essentially functions as an envoy from the oligarchy to the upper middle class. He exists to reassure college-educated professionals who read the New York Times or watch the PBS News Hour that the oligarchy is on their side, or at least they should be on the oligarchy’s side. And he’s actually really good at that role; I have met otherwise intelligent people who admire Brooks’s columns and can’t see they are being played.

I refuse to read what Brooks says about Piketty. Steve M did read it, and you can read what he says about it. See also Doug J.

Ross Douthat has a blog post up about Piketty, and I’m not reading it, either, unless someone else reads it first and tells me it’s not utterly stupid. Economics isn’t really Douthat’s issue, though. He mostly exists to complain about people having unauthorized sex. Is he writing that poor people wouldn’t be so poor if they stopped having unauthorized sex? If someone else wants to read it, here’s a link. Let me know.

Sometimes It’s All About the Stupid

Today we’re getting the fallout from Clive Bundy’s remarks on race. Possibly aware he put a foot wrong — even Sean Hannity called his remarks “beyond repugnant” — Bundy has clarified what he said by denying he is a racist. Of course not. Here is the “clarification.”

I’m wondering if they’re better off under a government subsidy and their young women are having the abortions and their young men are in jail and their older women and children are sitting out on the cement porch without nothing to do.

I’m wondering: Are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were when they were slaves and they was able to their family structure together and the chickens and the garden and the people have something to do?

So in my mind, are they better off being slaves in that sense or better off being slaves to the United States government in the sense of the subsidy? I’m wondering. The statement was right. I am wondering.

So of course he’s a racist, but he’s too ignorant to see it.

Bundy strikes me as a fellow who has been king of his own domain all his life by circumstance of birth. The 160-acre ranch he calls his property was purchased by his parents in 1948, and the title is held by family trusts, not Bundy personally. To recall a Republican rallying cry from the last presidential election, Cliven didn’t build that.

All available documentation says that the Bundy family didn’t begin to graze cattle on public land until 1954. Bundy’s vague claim that he is entitled to use the land because his family has been using it going way back is, um, hogwash.

He and his supporters pay lip service to the Constitution while denying the U.S. government exists. He says he supports the state constitution, but the state constitution explicitly says that Nevada makes no claims to the federal land within its borders. Basically, both state and federal law and constitutions say that Bundy is breaking the law. He doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.

I’ve found little in the way of biography of Mr. Bundy, so I have no idea how far he got with his education, for example, or if he has some other accomplishments such as a talent for making creative bird houses out of old milk bottles. But it’s entirely possible he has no personal accomplishments or skills whatsoever beyond what he needed to know to run the cattle ranch that he inherited. We can safely assume from his remarks that his intellectual depth doesn’t go much beyond considering what he wants for supper, and that he is less self-aware than your standard toaster.

Sometimes, people are just stupid. Not noble, not patriotic, not principled. Just stupid.

By now any rightie with a measurable IQ probably has realized that getting into bed with Bundy was a mistake, and they’d like to slip quietly away and pretend it never happened. However, there are enough of them as clueless as Bundy who won’t let go of his “cause,” I’m sure. Because, sometimes, people are just stupid.

News Stories That Will Not Surprise You in the Least

Item One: Cliven Bundy is a racist a**hole.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

If there were a Nobel Prize for abject and utterly un-self-aware cluelessness, I think Bundy’s remarks on “government subsidy” above would have sewed it up. And that soft shuffling sound you hear is from retreating Republican politicians who suddenly realize they may not want to be associated with Bundy, after all.

Item Two: Conservatives think Latina women lack the gravitas to be serious Supreme Court justices.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s impassioned defense of race-conscious admissions policies Tuesday hit a nerve with conservatives and inflamed an already bitter ideological chasm over race in the Obama era.

The National Review published an editorial trashing the Obama-appointed justice’s blistering dissent as “Orwellian” and “legally illiterate” after the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action.

“Her opinion is legally illiterate and logically indefensible, and the still-young career of this self-described ‘wise Latina’ on the Supreme Court already offers a case study in the moral and legal corrosion that inevitably results from elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law,” wrote the editors of the influential magazine. “Justice Sotomayor has revealed herself as a naked and bare-knuckled political activist with barely even a pretense of attending to the law, and the years she has left to subvert the law will be a generation-long reminder of the violence the Obama administration has done to our constitutional order.”

Appearing on Fox News, Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard said the first Latina justice’s lengthy opinion was driven by “emotion.”

“This was a decision written by somebody who was writing about emotion,” he said, as quoted by the Daily Caller. “It was President Obama’s ’empathy standard’ — that’s what he was looking for when he nominated her, that’s what I think he got.”

Listen, dudes, next time just call her a silly chickita and tell her to shut up and fetch you a cold Corona and some nachos. Everybody knows it’s what you really want to say, so you might as well say it.

Item Three: Red state governors refused Medicaid funds because they’re spiteful and stupid.

By now it’s pretty clear that the states refusing to expand health coverage under Medicaid aren’t really worried about the expense. They’re motivated entirely by ideological stubbornness — “for no other reason than political spite,” as President Obama said last week.

New figures, in fact, show that the cost to the states of expanding Medicaid is less than previously thought. In February, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the expansion would cost the states $70 billion through 2024. This morning, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noticed a figure in the April update to the C.B.O. report that said the state costs have dropped by a third, to $46 billion. (The price tag is so low over a ten-year period because the federal government will pick up 95 percent of the total amount.)

The real costs to the states will be even less, though, because if they expand Medicaid, they will no longer have to pay for much of the emergency care of uninsured people that now takes place at hospitals and clinics. Estimates of this savings, according to the CBPP, range from $26 billion to $101 billion through 2019.

The 19 states that have flatly refused to expand the program are ignoring these facts. (The issue is under debate in another five reluctant states.) Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, one of the loudest in the “hell, no” chorus of anti-Medicaid Republican governors, claims the state cannot afford even the small fraction of the cost it would have to bear. But the expansion would actually save the state as much as $78 million this year in uninsured costs and $134 million next year, according to the state’s own budgetary analysis. Expanding Medicaid would also add about 15,000 new health care jobs in Louisiana.

Mary Landrieu is talking to Louisianians about the “Jindal gap.” Democrats, take note.

The Mood of the People

A New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows four Senate races in the South doing surprisingly well. Even better, Bill “Always Wrong” Kristol has declared the poll to be bogus. Heh.

Dylan Scott writes,

A poll released Wednesday offers yet another data point showing the politics of Obamacare aren’t as set in stone as the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Embracing Obamacare isn’t necessarily a political loser, and obstructing it isn’t necessarily a winner.

The New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed four Southern states that will help determine control of the Senate this fall. It earned headlines for finding the Democrats in better shape in the Senate races than most would have expected.

But it also assessed the popularity of four governors who have taken vastly different approaches to Obamacare — and the findings are a direct contradiction of the narrative that the law is a loser, plain and simple, especially in states like these.

The poll showed Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who expanded Medicaid under the law, are hugely popular. Their approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than their disapproval ratings; Beebe holds 68 percent approval, and Beshear is at 56 percent.

But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) are at best treading water with their constituents after they declined to expand the program to cover low-income residents. McCrory is middling, with 43 percent approval and 44 percent disapproval, while Jindal is 14 percent underwater at 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval.

True to form, righties are claiming the poll is skewed. The Times says it isn’t.

This has to have the GOP worried, though, because they’ve believed all they had to do to secure a midterm sweep was to bash Obamacare, and the new poll shows that isn’t working all that well. Of course, there are other factors impacting these numbers beside health care law. But there will always be other factors, and the poll suggests that running against the ACA is not the magic bullet Republicans thought it was.

Why We’re Screwed, Part DCCCLXXII

Confirming what a lot of us have been saying for at least a couple of decades, see The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades….

… Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago….

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

What they’re doing is looking at median rather than average income, which is what they should have been doing for years. Also, too:

“The crisis had no effect on our lives,” Jonas Frojelin, 37, a Swedish firefighter, said, referring to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. He lives with his wife, Malin, a nurse, in a seaside town a half-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

They each have five weeks of vacation and comprehensive health benefits. They benefited from almost three years of paid leave, between them, after their children, now 3 and 6 years old, were born. Today, the children attend a subsidized child-care center that costs about 3 percent of the Frojelins’ income.

Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period — a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

The article stresses over and over that this didn’t just happen; it’s been creeping up on us for more than 30 years. (And who was President 30 years ago? Wait …. let me guess …). It seems the final year of American preeminence was 2000. (And who was President right after that …. don’t tell me…. it’s on the tip of my tongue …) But what was the reaction on the Right? You got it .. . it’s Obama’s fault. The famously stupid Jim Hoft is running a headline saying “Another Obama Milestone… US Middle Class No Longer Most Affluent in the World” — I’m not linking to the creep — and his brain damaged readers are writing things like

Since Obama has basically wiped out the middle class of America, do you think the democRATs have any chance to keep the Senate in 2014 or the presidency in 2016???
America would be ignorant to vote for democrats again after all that they have done to the middle class and our military.

And it’s because of dimwits like that who vote that we’re screwed.

I don’t know how many times I’ve told some wingnut that as far as I could see, the U.S. middle class does not enjoy a more affluent lifestyle than people of other industrialized nations, and they refused to listen.

Coming on the heels of another study that said the U.S. is officially an oligarchy now, people really should be waking up. But they won’t. Progressives will be saying see? We were right, and the righties will just hide behind some rationalization, like blaming Obama, or trying to claim that if you look at house prices the differences are no big deal.

You can check out the reasons given for economic decline in the article, none of which will surprise you, and none of which originated with President Obama.