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Category: General

Purge the Voters of Color!

[ 83 ] October 29, 2014 |

Why, it’s almost enough to make me think that Republican vote suppression has nothing to do with “fraud”:

But this doesn’t explain the Republican-led push to end or limit same-day registration (condemned by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a “trick”) and early and weekend voting, procedures used most by minorities, black Americans in particular. Nor does it explain an incredible effort just uncovered by Al Jazeera America that could shift the direction of the midterm elections.

According to a six-month-long investigation conducted by Greg Palast for Al Jazeera, “voting officials in 27 states, almost all of them Republicans, have launched what is threatening to become a massive purge of black, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters. Already, tens of thousands have been removed from voter rolls in battleground states, and the numbers are set to climb.”

Specifically, officials have a master list of 6.9 million suspected “potential double voters.” And in Virginia, Georgia, and Washington the lists are “heavily over-weighted with names such as Jackson, Garcia, Patel, and Kim,” all common to Democratic-leaning minority groups.

The process for checking those names, a computer program called Crosscheck—touted by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a vocal supporter for voter identification—is incredibly inaccurate. “The actual lists,” notes Al Jazeera America, “show that not only are middle names mismatched, and suffix discrepancies ignored, even conflicting birthdates are disregarded. Moreover, Crosscheck deliberately ignores any Social Security mismatches, in the few instances when the numbers are even collected.”

Given the tight races in Georgia and other battleground states, even a small number of false positives could turn the tide of an election, giving a strong advantage to Republican candidates for statewide and congressional offices.

Well, it worked for them in 2000, so why stop?

Supporting the NRA now literally entails endorsing kitten and puppy murder

[ 66 ] October 29, 2014 |

I’m not saying — I’m just saying.

I’ll be damned if this doesn’t make me want to call for someone’s head on a stick.

The Worst Band In America

[ 225 ] October 29, 2014 |

No band in America makes people with decent taste want to punch themselves in the face like Florida Georgia Line, the Nickelback of country music.

Exhibit A:

Ebola causes you to leak fluids from your body’s orifices and bleed internally until your body starts to slowly shut down. Then you die from a combination of low blood-pressure and organ failure. If you have the misfortune of being an American who catches this vile disease, the media will ruthlessly invade your privacy and reveal every minute detail of your life to the public. This is a horrid fate for anyone unfortunate enough to catch this terrible malady.

And I would gladly endure it all so long as I never again have to suffer the experience of sitting seven rows back from the stage while Florida-Georgia Line and Jason Aldean gleefully danced on the grave of one of the most purely American forms of art to the tune of cheers from 9,999 very intoxicated people.

Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line looks like country music’s take on Scott Stapp, with his flowing hair and affinity for bare skin and crosses. While on stage he and Brian Kelley and the rest of the band all sported one of their own band’s T-shirts. Yes, they’re an entire band of “that guys.” Hubbard also handled most of the band’s singing duties, including occasionally dropping into a rap-like cadence while Kelley stood around playfully strumming an acoustic guitar that’s nowhere to be heard in the mix. Congrats bro-country, you have your Limp Bizkit.

Florida-Georgia Bizkit’s performance came to a giant apex of overtly stitched denim, explosions and smoke when the band launched into their current hit song “Dirt.” This is not said lightly, but “Dirt” might be the single worst song to be a No. 1 hit in the history of country music, though we’re about 5 years away from Axl Rose going country in a cash grab. Accept it, America: We’re getting a pedal-steel version of “Patience” and the country audience is gonna eat it up.

“Dirt” contains lyrics like “We all came from it” and “Build your corn field, whiskey bonfires on it” and for the love of everything I swear it’s like the people who love these songs don’t realize that none of them are actually farmers. It took everything in me to not turn to the dad sporting Puma branded golf gear and point out that driving a truck does not autocratically make one the Marlboro Man. Oh, and the band played “Dirt” twice just in case you were wondering how hard they were pushing the single.

Exhibit B:

Congratulations Justin Moore and Outlaws Like Me, you’re officially off the hot seat. Because right here, right now, I am unilaterally declaring that Florida Georgia Line’s new album Anything Goes is the worst album ever released in the history of country music. Ever. Including Florida Georgia Line’s first album Here’s To The Good Times, including anything else you can muster from the mainstream, including a 4-track recording made by a head trauma victim in a walk-in closet with a Casiotone keyboard and an out-of-tune banjo. Anything Goes can slay all comers when it comes to its heretofore unattainable degree of peerless suckitude.

In a word, this album is bullshit. Never before has such a refined collection of strident clichés been concentrated in one insidious mass. Never before have the lyrics to an album evidenced such narrowcasted pseudo-mindless incoherent drivel. Never before have such disparate and diseased influences been married so haphazardly in a profound vacuum of taste, and never have all of these atrocities been platooned together to be proffered to the public without someone, anyone with any bit of conscience and in a position of power putting a stop to this poisoning of the listening public.

Shiny objects and fire also seem to excite and distract Florida Georgia Line and fill them with a profound sense of wonder, and so soliloquies to these things also show up occasionally, as does the word “good.” They really like that word.

“Got on my smell good.
Got a bottle of feel good.
Shined up my wheels good.
You’re looking real good.”

That verse pretty much sums up this entire album. And no, these are not lyrics to the song that is actually titled “Good Good.”

Florida Georgia Line is serving the same role for music critics as Guy Fieri does for food critics: as the prime example of why we can’t have nice things. Of course, the people who like Florida Georgia Line and Fieri, who I basically assume are the exact same people, don’t care. They are happy to spend $25 on a terrible burger covered with Guy’s Fiery Awesome Sauce and then drink 13 Michelob Ultras while listening to the worst music this nation has ever produced, a genre about trucks and rural life and being tough for a bunch of people who live in Round Rock or Cobb County who wouldn’t know corn from wheat or a bulldozer from a combine.

And is it my role to be a snob and look down on these people? Yes. Yes it is.

And the Winner Is…

[ 39 ] October 29, 2014 |

Thanks to everyone who participated in my “Actually Ethics” meme contest. I loved all your entries, but ultimately someone had to win the contest, and someone did: Sly. I don’t know why, this just made me giggle:

 

Thanks for playing, Sly. I’m proud to put this in my twitter timeline.

A Disgrace Even By Roberts Court Standards

[ 48 ] October 29, 2014 |

The effects of John Roberts re-writing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion are felt in Mississippi:

Even the law’s vaunted Medicaid expansion, meant to assist those too poor to qualify for subsidized private insurance, was no help after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out. Bryant made it clear Mississippi would not participate, leaving 138,000 low-income residents, the majority of whom are black, with no insurance options at all. And while the politics of Obamacare became increasingly toxic, the state’s already financially strapped rural hospitals faced a new crisis from the law’s failure to take hold: They had been banking on newly insured patients to replace the federal support for hospitals serving the uninsured, which was set to taper off as people gained coverage. Now, instead of more people getting more care in Mississippi, in many cases, they would get less.

“We work hard at being last,” said Roy Mitchell, the beleaguered executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, when we met in Jackson. “Even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked.”

This reflects an infliction of pain and suffering and death than was eminently avoidable. If you’ll forgive me for reiterating, it’s nearly impossible to overstate how terrible this decision was. It would be one thing if this denial of access of medical care to millions of people was enforcing some explicit constitutional provision, but it wasn’t. If this judicially invented limitation at least protected some meaningful individual liberty interest it might be a little more understandable, but it doesn’t. At best, the lives of millions of people have been made worse — with consequences up to and including death — in order to prioritize inferential states’ “rights” over human rights.

But here’s the kicker: Sebelius does not even provide any significant protection for state autonomy. Congress remains free to create a Medicaid program that requires everyone up to 138% of the federal poverty line to be covered and makes all Medicaid funding contingent on meeting these conditions.  It simply would have to structure it by formally repealing the previous Medicaid and replacing it with “Medicaid II: The Quest For Ron Paul’s GOLD,” thus evading the Supreme Court’s newly minted requirement that existing funding can sometimes be made contingent on accepting new conditions and sometimes can’t and we’ll let you know ex post facto whether this completely arbitrary line has been crossed. Congress can pursue identical means with identical ends; the ACA’s constitutional Medicaid expansion is not different in any substantive way whatsoever from the hypothetical constitutional Medicaid II. The state interest being protected here doesn’t even rise to the level of being trivial.

The fact that so much misery was created for so little should permanently shame the justices who voted for it. It’s judicial review at its least defensible.

Racism in the Restaurant Industry

[ 16 ] October 29, 2014 |

This probably won’t surprise you, but Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, the labor organization fighting for labor rights in the restaurant industry, has released a report showing the vast racial disparities between whites and African-Americans in the restaurants of several cities:

The study from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, based in New York, concluded that workers of color in New Orleans who have the same qualifications as white workers receive “living wage opportunities” 62 percent as often as white workers.

It found 61 percent of minority servers and bartenders earn less than twice the poverty level, while 48 percent of white workers fall to the same level. A quarter of black workers in the industry and 23 percent of Hispanic workers are unemployed while only 3 percent of white workers are left out of jobs, the study said.

The group used federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data to count a total of 57,000 restaurant workers in New Orleans, Metairie and Kenner and conclude that six of the 10 lowest paid occupations in the metropolitan area are restaurant jobs.

In addition to compiling labor and Census data, the study included sending equally qualified white and black testers to apply for jobs in 90 “fine-dining” establishments in New Orleans. Researchers also interviewed workers and employers and visited restaurants to observe “visible occupational segregation.”

My wife, who has deep connections in the Mexican migrant community in her home area, attests to this very issue in restaurants there. She notes to me repeatedly that servers and cooks are chosen primarily by color, where the whitest Mexicans are out front and dark Mexicans are in the back. This is just one of many areas where race and work intersect to make the lives of darker skinned people in this nation harder.

Underperformers

[ 25 ] October 29, 2014 |

As it happens, Frank Bruni’s tenure as an op-ed columnist  (not to mention his tenure as a reporter) is an excellent rebuttal to the assertion that once you eliminate tenure you will then eliminate mediocrity.

How Many Products That You Buy Drive Human Rights Abuses? Many.

[ 24 ] October 29, 2014 |

This Vox piece on 5 products you buy that drive human rights abuses is good enough. I talk about the shrimp industry at some length in my forthcoming capital mobility book. If you are buying frozen shrimp, just assume you are either supporting slave labor or something way too close to it. The apparel industry is of course notorious for its exploitation, as is chocolate production.

But the larger point that the author doesn’t make is that most of the products you buy engage in outright exploitation because the system of capital mobility allows corporations to exploit workers and destroy ecosystems around the globe with impunity and the outsourcing and subcontracting system further makes protects corporations from accountability. So sure, these are horrible industries but if we want to do anything about them we have to think systemically about the system of modern global capitalism that creates these horrors. And the article doesn’t really do that.

Non-citizens voting

[ 39 ] October 28, 2014 |

A good post here from John Ahlquist and Scott Gehlbach, and another from Michael Tesler here, responding to a rather sensational, oversold post from David Earnest and Jesse Richman, which was greeted with much enthusiasm by those who’ll take their justification for voter suppression wherever they happen to find it. The Earnest/Richman post was frustrating in its eagerness to over-extrapolate from some really small numbers to get a splashy headline. I haven’t read the paper (gated) they were discussing; but there’s reason to hope it might be better with the data than the blog post suggests. Earnest has done good work before; I’ve learned a great deal from his earlier work on patterns and practices of enfranchizing non-citizens, which are considerably more common than most people realize (mostly, but not exclusively, in local elections). 

Walking While Female

[ 202 ] October 28, 2014 |

But, clearly, she should be grateful to know how many creepy strangers find her sexually attractive!

Amanda Hess has more.

A World of Dams

[ 20 ] October 28, 2014 |

Grand_Coulee_Dam_construction

Plumer has a good rundown of the complexity of dam building around the world
. The world’s rapidly growing demand for energy means that every way we can turn the natural world into power is going to be considered. Given how many of those methods of energy production also transform the climate in horrible ways, hydropower seems smart. But hydropower also has its own major problems. It forces sometimes hundreds of thousands to move from their homes. It drastically transforms aquatic ecosystems, imperiling fish and other species. It may well create unintended consequences that undermine its clean energy reputation. Building dams also reflects power differentials in society as a whole. Thus you have a nation like Chile seeking to dam rivers over the desires of the people who occupy the land, i.e., the Mapuche. So dam building becomes another round in the 500+ year history of colonialism and racism against indigenous peoples in the Americas.

And mostly, we don’t really know what we are doing when we build dams. In the U.S., this led to a lot of bad dams that provided little power but had significant negative consequences for people and ecosystems. That’s almost certainly happening around the world today.

As with all energy questions, there are no easy answers. But hydroelectric is not a panacea either and should be expanded with the kind of caution one would want to see with gigantic projects that will reshape entire parts of the world. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

He. Didn’t. Even. Try.

[ 128 ] October 28, 2014 |

If only Obama had given one more speech, the Democratic caucus in the Senate would have totally supported a Swedish-style single payer health care system:

One of the most interesting examples of the reform effort are the “copper plans” being proposed in the Expanded Consumer Choice Act, which is being pushed by seven moderate Senate Democrats: Mark Begich, Mark Warner, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kaine, Mary Landrieu, Angus King, and Joe Manchin.

The bill has been around for a few months, but it’s gained more attention in recent weeks because Begich — one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2014 election — is using it as proof that he really does want to fix Obamacare, rather than just protect it. If he wins his election, it could become a model for Democrats trying to run on Obamacare going forward. It might even end up being part of a Republican reform package.

Copper plans cover 50 percent of expected health costs (or, as the health wonks put it, they have an “actuarial value” of 50 percent). That means premiums are cheaper than the platinum, gold, bronze or silver plans — the consulting group Avalere Health estimates that copper plan premiums would be 18 percent lower than bronze plan premiums.

But if you get sick, the deductibles and co-pays are much higher. Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says that the deductibles would have to be in the range of $9,000 — which would make them higher than the $6,350 out-of-pocket maximum that the law currently allows.

In other words, a significant percentage of the Democratic caucus is looking to fix the ACA by making it a lot worse for poor people.

When someone tells me how Obama was supposed to get votes 53-60 for a better health care bill–in a Democratic caucus that was worse in 2009 than in 2014, let me know.

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