Friday, April 04, 2014

News that's not breaking

Between the Supreme Court's decision on McCutcheon and the shootings at Ford Hood, a lot of other important developments got drowned out this week.   If you want to read something about those two things, there's plenty elsewhere; you can click away now.  We'll catch up on some lesser news here today.

-- The new CEO of Mozilla was forced out by public protests over his support of the anti-gay marriage initiative in California.  This is another example of the rapid evolution of tolerance in American society, and the haste with which it has happened.  This, and the same evolution of attitudes about marijuana legalization -- not just decriminalization, mind you -- are among the very few things that give me great hope about progressivism in this country.

-- Nate Silver seems to be hearing the critics of his hire of a climate change skeptic for FiveThirtyEight.  But his response is also tepid; he's going to air "both sides" of the issue.  He's already apologizing for the man, and that apology does not include the flawed data that underlie the opinions the man was employed to write.

Silver has growing problems with his "data-driven" analysis model of news outside of polling data.  This summarizes the dilemma.

It's not that Nate revealed himself to be a climate change denier; he accepts that human-caused climate change is real, and that it represents a challenge and potential threat. But he falls victim to a fallacy that has become all too common among those who view the issue through the prism of economics rather than science. Nate conflates problems of prediction in the realm of human behavior -- where there are no fundamental governing 'laws' and any "predictions" are potentially laden with subjective and untestable assumptions -- with problems such as climate change, which are governed by laws of physics, like the greenhouse effect, that are true whether or not you choose to believe them.

In short... Nate Silver has never been so wrong about so much.  An extremely rare, unforced error on his part.  Stick to the polls, Nate.  Or them and baseball.

-- I wonder what new whine the conservatives will be drinking now that Obamacare has served over seven million?  I mean besides "the numbers are skewed".

(Go back to last Sunday's Funnies for the above to have the greatest meaning.)

If Democrats all across the nation do not run on the success of Obamacare -- and the failure of certain states and their governors not to expand Medicaid -- then the chances to overcome their historical disadvantages in midterm elections will be reduced to nil.

This is the issue all Democrats should proudly own.  This is the issue they can win on.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Yeah, kind of in a bad mood today

Because this.

Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits on campaign donations, offers a novel twist in the conservative contemplation of what Nazis have to do with the way the rich are viewed in America. In January, Tom Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, worried about a progressive Kristallnacht; Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot, said, of economic populism, “If you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.” Roberts, to his credit, avoided claiming the mantle of Hitler’s victims for wealthy campaign donors. He suggests, though, that the rich are, likewise, outcasts: “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” he writes:
If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades—despite the profound offense such spectacles cause—it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.
So pick your analogy: when thinking about people who want to donate large sums of money to candidates, should we compare their position to that of the despised and defeated, like the Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, in the nineteen-seventies, or of scorned dissidents, like flag-burners, trying to get their voice heard with their lonely donations? 

And this.

The opinion was classic Roberts: professing to make a minor adjustment to the status quo, but carrying the seeds of potential destruction for core legal principles settled for decades. To some, it evoked his decision last year overturning the core of the Voting Rights Act — a ruling that also claimed to toss back to Congress an issue lawmakers have little desire to revisit.

Critics saw the chief justice’s arguments about the leaky nature of current campaign finance rules as cynical and disingenuous, effectively punching yet another gaping hole in the law by citing loopholes his court helped to create or enlarge.

“It’s like the definition of chutzpah: the guy who kills his parents and asks for mercy from the court because he’s an orphan,” said Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, which favors tighter campaign finance regulation. “Look at what the court has done since 2007 after Roberts came on board, one case after another gradually striking down the laws that are in place and then claiming that, therefore, more has to be done. It’s nonsensical.”

And this.

All of which means, in effect, that the more money flowing through the system the better. Those who, from lack of money, are muted or excluded from the process are simply losers in a fair democratic system.

And also this.

ExxonMobil has 25.2 billion barrels worth of oil and gas in its current reserves, it's going to extract and sell all of it, and isn't expecting any meddling climate regulations to get in the way.

That's the main takeaway of a report the company released this week to its investors, examining the risk that greenhouse gas emissions rules in the US and worldwide might pose to its fossil fuel assets. Exxon made headlines a couple weeks back when it promised to issue the report after facing pressure from shareholders led by Arjuna Capital, a sustainable wealth management firm.


Exxon's report suggests that its planners don't believe serious carbon limits will be on the books anytime soon, leaving the company free to burn through its reserves of oil and gas. That's a disconcerting vision to come just on the heels of Sunday's new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which predicted a nightmarish future if greenhouse gas emissions aren't slowed soon.

"The reserves are going to be able to turn into money, because they're assuming there isn't going to be a policy change," said Natural Resources Defense Council Director of Climate Programs David Hawkins. "They're definitely saying that no matter how bad it gets, the world's addiction to fossil fuels will be so overwhelming that the governments of the world will just suck it up and let people suffer."

And last, this.

It's hard out there for the 1 percent.

Okay, that's not true at all. But they think it is. If you talk to people on Wall Street, most of them—even, in my experience, the ones shopping for Lamborghinis—will tell you that they're "middle class." Their lament, the lament of the HENRY (short for "high-earner, not rich yet"), goes something like this. You try living on $350,000 a year when you have to pay taxes, the mortgage on the house in a tony zip code, the nanny who knows how to cook ethnic cuisine, the private school tuition from pre-K on, the appropriately exclusive vacation, and max out your retirement and college savings accounts. There just isn't that much cash left over each month once you've spent it all!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Abbott bases education policy on theories of white nationalist

You could not write a better script for the epic disaster that is Greg Abbott's gubernatorial campaign if your name was Wendy Davis.

In his pre-Kindergarten education plan released this week, Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott cites the work of a man who believes that women and minorities are intellectually inferior to white men.

Abbott's plan explains how he'd reform pre-K through third grade in the state. Instead of expanding access to state-funded programs, as his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis has proposed, the attorney general proposes offering additional funds to only those programs that meet a certain standard of achievement.
In the second paragraph of his introduction, Abbott cites Charles Murray, a conservative social scientist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

"Family background has the most decisive effect on student achievement, contributing to a large performance gap between children from economically disadvantaged families and those from middle class homes," Abbott writes, citing Murray's book Real Education in the footnote. (Abbott's plan misspells the book's title as "Read Education.")

I thought it was bad enough when Abbott said that spending money on pre-K was a waste.  This is quite obviously a much more serious problem.

In 2005, when economist and then-Harvard President Larry Summers said that women are underrepresented in science programs at elite universities because of their "innate" intellectual differences from men, Murray expanded on Summers' point.

"No woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world's great philosophical traditions," he wrote. "Women have produced a smaller number of important visual artists, and none that is clearly in the first rank. No female composer is even close to the first rank. Social restrictions undoubtedly damped down women’s contributions in all of the arts, but the pattern of accomplishment that did break through is strikingly consistent with what we know about the respective strengths of male and female cognitive repertoires."

What GOP war on women?  LMAO.  Can you believe Abbott is going to be in San Antonio today promoting Murray's bigoted drivel?

Murray is a very problematic source of inspiration for an education plan. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as "one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor."

"In Murray’s world, wealth and social power naturally accrue towards a 'cognitive elite' made up of high-IQ individuals (who are overwhelmingly white, male, and from well-to-do families), while those on the lower end of the eponymous bell curve form an 'underclass' whose misfortunes stem from their low intelligence," the Southern Poverty Law Center, which describes Murray as a "white nationalist," writes.

I didn't think anything could top palling around with Ted Nugent, child predator, for bad decisions.  This is is still in second place but it's closing fast.

None of this is really breaking news, though.  As mentioned previously, Republicans just aren't trying to conceal their racism, misogyny, and hatred of the disadvantaged any longer.

Murray's 2008 book that Abbott cites, Real Education, argues that students with lower IQ's are not as educable as smarter children and should be siphoned off to vocational programs instead of sent to college. He estimates that only 10 to 20 percent of young adults are capable of doing college-level work.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recently cited Murray in his controversial and racially-charged assertion that poverty is caused by lazy, "inner city" men. 

I don't have any better idea than anybody else about what might motivate the prototypical Democratic voter to drag themselves to the polls this November, but if they are paying attention and manage to do so, this race -- and others down the ballot -- would simply be no contest (and not the kind of sweep the GOP usually enjoys in off-presidential cycles, either).  When I said that Greg Abbott needed to make a few mistakes in order for Davis to win... well, he's certainly holding up his end of the bargain. 

Christy Hoppe at Trailblazers has more on this week's unfolding nightmare for Abbott.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The stench of Republican elitism

Wafting in again from the east (not Pasadena; the Right).

-- "Pre-K is a waste".  Greg Abbott actually went to the 'third-world country' of South Texas to tell all Texas children that they just don't matter.

Forget for a moment that even a child too young for kindergarten already knows what Republicans think about them; I did not think it was possible for a man in a wheelchair to stick his foot in his mouth so many times, and so easily (although the premise makes sense if you think about it).  Once again, Wendy Davis seized on his gaffe.

“The hypocrisy is astonishing. It’s completely dishonest for Greg Abbott to be talking about early education at the same time he’s defending deep cuts to Texas pre-k in the courtroom.” ... “Despite the pleas of students, teachers, parents and school boards across the state, Greg Abbott is using his office to undermine Texas’ effort to prepare its students for the jobs of a 21st century economy.”

The cost over two years for Abbott's education proposal is $118 million.  Meanwhile, Davis has proposed an expansion of pre-K classes to all eligible children at a cost of $750 million.  (And I for one hope that cost includes breakfast and lunch.  Because if it doesn't, it should.)

It's hard to be astonished these days by Republican hypocrisy, but Greg Abbott can still pull it off. 

-- The Sheldon primary, the first one on the GOP 2016 calendar, was held this past weekend.

The whole lurid and very Vegas scene was a reminder of the capricious nature of a presidential nominating process where an eccentric old man in an inherently shady business has the power to make a candidate instantly formidable without making much of a dent in his fortune. And for all the talk about Adelson “maturing” (a pretty funny term for someone his age) and learning a lesson from his 2012 flyer on Newt Gingrich, you have to figure he’s tempted to flaunt this power again. How many more times will he have that opportunity? 

Even Sheldon wasn't all that impressed with the command performances.

Adelson — who is not known as a morning person and also was nursing a cold — skipped Saturday morning speeches from (Wisconsin Governor Scott) Walker and former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. He entered the hall midway through (Chris) Christie’s address, walking with the help of a bodyguard to a reserved seat in the front row as Christie talked about his governing style.

It's much like that debate that David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick had scheduled for the River Oaks Men's Club that turned into a one-man show a couple of weeks ago.  The plutocrats aren't even trying to disguise their disdain for the plebes, nor their intentions.

They don't give a fuck about anybody who isn't rich, white, and male, and they no longer give a fuck about whether it's obvious.  And that includes them not giving a fuck about you, Tea Party, because two out of three ain't good enough.

Can the Republican Party base catch Jeb Bush fever? They may have no choice. According to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, GOP donors panicked over Gov. Chris Christie’s implosion are going all out to draft the long-ago Florida governor to run for president in 2016.

Jeb Bush is certainly tanned and rested, if not ready: He left the governor’s office in 2006, and has done little since then besides work for disgraced and defunct Lehman Brothers and write a book that reversed his once progressive stance on immigration reform. Rucker and Costa quote a former Mitt Romney bundler saying the “vast majority” of Romney’s top 100 donors would like to see a Bush run.

“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said Brian Ballard, a member of the Romney 2012 and McCain 2008 national finance committees. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.” (my emphasis)

So to summarize: Bush hasn’t run for office in 14 years; his wife, Columba, is known to be unenthusiastic about a presidential run; his own mother doesn’t think he should do it; and in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 50 percent of registered voters say they “definitely would not” vote for him -- but the wise men of the party want to draft him anyway. This should all work out fine.

Jeb made time for Sheldon Adelson in Vegas over the weekend, but Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and even Bobby Jindal were all noticeably uninvited.  How does that make you feel about now, TeaBags?

Put on your tri-corn hats, cast your lead balls and load up your muskets, Patriots; there's a revolution you need to start fighting.