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Times Square

[ 69 ] August 22, 2015 |

One doesn’t generally expect to side with Andrew Cuomo against Bill de Blasio. But de Blasio’s apparent openness to his police commissioner’s terrible idea to tear up the Times Square plazas and turn them back into car sewers deserves serious pushback and Cuomo is right to give it. Kimmelman:

It’s hard to grasp his calculus. One of Mr. de Blasio’s big initiatives, Vision Zero, aims to improve pedestrian safety. Ripping up the pedestrian plazas in Times Square, restoring cars and forcing millions of people to dodge traffic again, runs headlong into his own policy.

As an exasperated Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance, put it on Thursday: “Sure, let’s tear up Broadway — we can’t govern, manage or police our public spaces.”

“That’s not a solution,” he added. “It’s a surrender.”

The Times Square plazas were devised by the former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan. Not for the first time, Mr. de Blasio is creating a peevish impression that, even now, he is running against his predecessor when he needs to be running the city. After the plazas opened in 2009, pedestrian injuries dropped 35 percent, and injuries to drivers and passengers in cars fell 63 percent, according to city records. Skeptics forecast calamity for retailers and commercial real estate. Business boomed. Surveys reported leaps in satisfaction by residents, workers and tourists.

Sometimes public spaces can be messy, and difficult to govern. I don’t have any particularly strong views about how the costumed panhandlers and their ilk should be addressed, or even how much of a ‘problem’ they actually are. But I do know that responding to this kind of challenge by giving up and turning public spaces into deadly car sewers isn’t a progressive position, and de Blasio shouldn’t be entertaining it.

The War on Social Security

[ 36 ] August 22, 2015 |


…is, as Helaine Olen observes, also a war on women:

Social Security is rightly viewed as a program that provides economic security for all Americans in their old age. But who is most likely to benefit from it? From the time an American can first claim eligibility at age 62, the majority of those receiving a Social Security check in retirement are female—56 percent to start off, to be specific. But because women outlive men, that discrepancy grows only larger with time. By age 85, about two-thirds of the recipients are women.

Moreover, women—who earn less than men and take more pauses from the workforce (due in part to their assumption of caretaking duties for everyone from children to elderly relatives)—are more dependent on Social Security for their economic well-being in their final years than their male peers are. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 30 percent of women 65 or older rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. Men? Only 23 percent are so reliant. And women’s checks are smaller, too. The average retired female worker receives more than $300 less a month from Social Security than a male one.

Viewed all together, this leaves women more likely to suffer from any cutbacks in Social Security, even the most innocent-sounding ones. Take a look at calls to change the formula to determine annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security payments, a position supported by, for example, Ted Cruz.

This is one of the many reasons to oppose radical efforts by Republicans to end Social Security,* and it’s also one of many reasons to oppose the Chained CPI proposals floated by Obama. Politically, Democrats need to position themselves as the party of strengthening and expanding Social Security, period. It’s good policy and good politics.

*George W. Bush did not just run on privatizing Social Security in his 2004 campaign but in his 2000 one, exhibit ZZZ showing why people who insist that there was no way of knowing how conservative he was ex ante just didn’t know what they were talking about.

Train a Comin’

[ 23 ] August 22, 2015 |

This is the kind of thing that’ll make you rethink your position on the Air Force:

French President François Hollande planned Saturday to meet three Americans who foiled a suspected terrorist attack on a packed high-speed train running from Amsterdam to Paris.

A gunman opened fire Friday on the high-speed train — a route packed with officials, busi­ness­peo­ple and diplomats — before being tackled and tied up by three men, according to family members and French officials, who said their quick work had foiled a major tragedy…

One of the Americans, Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone, was stabbed and remained in the hospital Saturday, said the parents of his two friends. The Pentagon did not provide his name but said that his wounds were not life-threatening. A dual French-American citizen was wounded by a stray gunshot, Cazeneuve said.

One of the others was a member of the Oregon National Guard. The initial reports indicated that the men on the train were Marines, based, I dunno, on the default assumption that only Marines would do this kind of thing?

In any case, genuine heroism. The gunman might have killed dozens of people if these guys hadn’t been heads up.

Trump and Wallace

[ 79 ] August 22, 2015 |


Who do you think Donald Trump reminds Alabama voters of?

“Donald Trump is telling the truth and people don’t always like that,” said Donald Kidd, a 73-year-old retired pipe welder from Mobile. “He is like George Wallace, he told the truth. It is the same thing.”

That’s really what we are dealing with here–the early 21st century version of George Wallace. Trump has about the same chance of entering the White House as Wallace too but both also represent the phenomena of race resentment and fear of non-whites.

Strange Hellos

[ 0 ] August 21, 2015 |

A Friday evening link to one of my very favorite songs of 2015.

Friday Links: UNINTIMIDATED Edition

[ 81 ] August 21, 2015 |

Suing the EPA over the Gulf Dead Zone

[ 5 ] August 21, 2015 |


Good on the Gulf Restoration Network for suing the Environmental Protection Agency for not doing its job to regulate the fertilizers and other chemicals that have created the huge biological dead zone where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone knows this is a major problem but the power of agribusiness provides a lot of incentive for the government to not crack down. This is much like how greens had to sue the U.S. Forest Service for not protecting northern spotted owl habitat under the Endangered Species Act because the agency was operating as a tool of the timber industry. If the government isn’t actually going to protect the environment, lawsuits have proven a good way for environmentalists to make change. It’s not quite as clear of a case here as it was with the spotted owl, but it’s probably the only way to actually get the government to take the problem seriously.

It’s not an easy problem for sure. But while I really respect Obama’s executive orders on coal and climate change as a good start, it would be nice if he took these agricultural issues a bit more seriously than he has through his entire administration.

Children and Immigration in the 19th Century

[ 32 ] August 21, 2015 |


Above: the ancestors of today’s anti-immigrant Republicans.

As this nation is going through one of its occasional freakouts about immigrants, it’s worth looking at how the nation has dealt with immigrants in the past. Specifically, how did the nation start dealing with American born children of people it wanted to deport? Hidetaka Hirota:

Upon the inspection, the Collector of Customs at the port of New York found that Nellie was “in destitute circumstances.” He then decided to detain Nellie and her children at an immigrant hospital on Ward’s Island on the East River as paupers who would be sent back to Scotland under the federal Immigration Act of 1882.

Nellie Wilkie could have been a simple addition to the list of excluded foreigners, but her American-born child made her case complicated. While denying Nellie and her children admission for the moment, the customs officer was not entirely certain if he could prohibit a native-born American citizen from landing in the United States and send the child to a foreign country. Nellie was an alien pauper who could lawfully be returned to Scotland, but could a citizen of the United States be banished with the immigrant mother? Realizing that the matter belonged to higher authority, the customs officer requested instructions from the Department of the Treasury, which was then charged with supervising issues of immigration to the United States.

In response, the Treasury Department reached a remarkable decision for Nellie Wilkie. In the first place, a native-born citizen could not be sent out of the country. If Nellie had to go back, her exclusion could be done only by “separating it [the citizen child] from its guardian by nature.” But it was not “the intention of Congress to sever the sacred ties existing between parent and child, or forcibly banish and expatriate a native-born child for the reason that its parent is a pauper.” Accordingly, the Treasury Department instructed the customs collector to admit Nellie and her children.

The case of Nellie Wilkie was not a one-time exception. A year later, the Treasury Department opposed the possible deportation of two Irish immigrant women on the grounds that they had native-born children who were “American citizens, under the natural guardianship of their mothers.” Considerations of the deportability of immigrant mothers, the department decided, “cannot affect the rights of their children since born on American soil and under the jurisdiction and protection of the United States.”

This and so many other cases also make me want to shake all the people today of Irish and Italian and Polish descent who are so worried about non-white immigrants and supporting Donald Trump. What about when your great-grandmother was the anchor baby?

The Wages of Trump

[ 200 ] August 21, 2015 |


Donald Trump is so ridiculous and so destroying Republican chances to win in 2016, I’m almost convinced he’s some sort of Democratic plant produced by the most brilliant political strategists ever, people even Richard Nixon would bow to in their superiority for screwing over the other side. So it’s almost funny, right?

No, because the wages of Trump are real and they are felt in the bodies of those Trump inspires people to hate.

Police in Boston say that one of two brothers who allegedly beat a homeless Hispanic man cited Trump’s message on immigration as a motivation for their attack. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” Scott Leader, 38, told officers, according to a police report cited by The Boston Globe.

Leader and his brother, Steve, were arrested and charged with multiple assault charges after police said they urinated on and then assaulted a 58-year-old homeless man they found sleeping outside a T-station as they walked home from a Red Sox game. They allegedly beat him with a metal pole, breaking his nose and causing other injuries. According to the Globe, Scott Leader told police it was OK to assault the man because he was Hispanic and homeless. Both men, who have extensive criminal records, pleaded not guilty and said the homeless man started the confrontation.

We can expect to see more of this anti-immigrant violence from random people. But since terrorism is never caused by conservative whites, it’s not a systemic issue in the media.

Let Them Eat States’ Rights!

[ 19 ] August 21, 2015 |

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Scott Walker has an EXCITING NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN featuring such diverse elements as effectively destroying state regulations, removing most federal regulations, and withdrawing much of the subsidies that would otherwise go to the non-wealthy. The question among Republicans is whether his plan is acceptable or outright communism:

Walker’s politics are not about small government. After all, he thinks that abortion should be illegal even when necessary to save a woman’s life, and he just approved a $250 million gift of taxpayer money to hedge fund billionaires to build a basketball stadium. Rather, his politics are about assisting the rich and powerful at the expense of the poorer and less powerful.

His health care plan is no exception. Like the ACA, Walker’s plan would offer tax credits to allow people to purchase insurance. But Walker’s tax credits would be distributed on the basis of age, not income. The result, as Jeffrey Young and Jon Cohn demonstrate, would be a disaster for the non-affluent, as insurance would become unaffordable for many people at any age. And in addition, Walker also advocates savage cuts to Medicaid. The callousness Walker showed in refusing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin is reflected in his health care plans.

So Walker’s plan would be an utter disaster if implemented. But it’s not just about Walker. Amazingly, some conservative candidates and pundits attacked Walker’s plan from the right. A spokesman for also-ran candidate Bobby Jindal accused Walker of collaborating with Bernie Sanders to create a plan that would make health care far less accessible to the non-rich.

Essentially, Republicans look at the state of health care circa 2009 — in which more than 16 percent of Americans were uninsured, and in which insurance companies could abuse consumers in a number of ways — and argue that even fewer Americans should have insurance and the quality of the insurance should be much worse. This is one of the many reasons that the contemporary Republican Party is simply unfit to govern at the national level.

At this point, rather than go to the trouble of writing up a whole series of planks, the 2016 Republican economic platform should just consist of a restaurant receipt from a dinner for 6 lobbyists at the Capital Grille with “get a six figure job, parasite” written in the “tip” section.

When Diversity Disappears

[ 23 ] August 21, 2015 |

I noticed something recently–conspicuous diversity becomes inconspicuous quickly. Here’s what I mean:

  • When I watch MSNBC I’ll note (approvingly) that a panel is is comprised only of people of color.
  • When I watch “At Midnight” I’ll often note (approvingly) that a panel is comprised of only women.
  • When I watch science shows on Discovery or History Channel, I’ve noticed that the producers have obviously tried to scout out women scientists and scientists of color. (I think that’s awesome and has only improved these shows.)

But the thing is, I noticed these things for about 60 seconds. Then the mental note was gone and I found I was just watching a panel of people discuss the news, or talk about the solar system, or crack jokes.

When Janet Mock appeared “The Daily Show,” at first I recall thinking “Wow, a trans woman.” But two minutes into the interview, she ceased to be a trans woman and simply became a person. This is not to say I want to disappear that fact that she is trans. I just want to note that when women, people of color and LBGT people are given the same visibility and  voice that straight white men enjoy they cease to be symbols of diversity-they simply become people, the norm.

This phenomenon destroys the idea that straight white men are the default. And this is a gateway phenomenon. Because when women, POC and our LGBT brothers and sisters are allowed a place on the stage, it will only be a matter of time before they afforded the same authority and gravitas we tend to grant only the current default. It means that women, POC and LGBT people will be accepted as funny, as smart, as experts.

This is why people fight so ferociously against what they perceive as forced diversity. Because when diversity becomes the norm, it ceases to be notable. And when that happens it will mean a staggering loss of privilege for straight, white men.

Random Fluffy Questions for You + Artists in the Mist

[ 55 ] August 21, 2015 |

I have a couple of good posts I’m going to write when I’m done doing the drudgery of keeping my home and exercising to mitigate my love affair with food. In the meantime, I have three fun Friday morning questions for you:

1.) What are you favorite songs to work out to? What gets you pumped.? Seriously, tell me. I need to throw together a good playlist.

2.) What are you favorite vegetarian dishes? Here’s the catch: It must be beanless. (Hubby won’t eat beans. I know, I know…)

3.) Do we have any artists in our midst? I know I’ve asked this before, but I plan on asking roughly every six months, just because people come and go and take up new hobbies along the way.


If you haven’t please check out Chris Bertram’s lovely photography at Crooked Timber. I’ve been admiring it from afar for months now.

Here is my latest.



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