I was on the radio today during my drive home from work. I spoke to Leslie Marshall. I always enjoy an opportunity to do that. Spoke to Tom Hartman once too. I mentioned in an earlier post that AM radio is filled with crazy talk, but to hear people with what I consider to be a more thoughtful approach to news and politics is a real treat. It is hardly ever the case. I am glad I called in when I did too because after about fifteen minutes the station went to fuzz. Michael Savage and Rush are clear as a bell all day long, even when driving through a forest!
Listening to the Leslie Marshall show today, Marshall asked her listeners: “Do we need boots on the ground to fight against ISIS?” “How do we form a coalition?” “Will we be in Iraq for one hundred years?” “Why is defeating ISIS taking so long?”
To defeat ISIS you first need to understand the problem. Dropping bombs is what got us here. It’s not the solution. I told Ms. Marshall that there was only two ways to defeat ISIS: 1. Understand that hate cannot be blown up or 2. Bring back the only person who was ever able to keep that part of the world in check. You know who I mean.
When I was hung up I felt relieved to have gotten that out over the airwaves and into the vastness of space for all eternity. I also felt let down that when I finally could tune in a liberal station the topic seemed as mindless as the crap I hear on the right.
Amadou Diallo, Timothy Thomas, Kimoni Gray, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Russel, Patrick Dorismond, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Sean Bell, Orlando Barlow, Aaron Campbell, Victor Steen, Steven Eugene Washington, Wendell Allen, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, Travares McGill, Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Armand Bennett, Ezell Ford, Jeremy Lake, John Crawford, and Michael Brown. All unarmed African American males shot by in most cases police, security or “wannabe” cop. This list only scratches the surface of the shooting of young, black, African American males by police. We have been down this road before.
This week, we will continue on with our discussion on the five young, unarmed African American males shot in August of 2014 alone. While the shooting of Michael Brown outraged much of America, galvanizing protest in the streets of Ferguson, this is not a new phenomenon. Our last show, featured the cases of Armand Bennet, Ezell Ford and Jeremy Lake. We will focus on the shootings of John Crawford (shot while at Walmart) and Michael Brown.
Yesterday, everyone was sharing Stephen Henderson’s column that made the very unsurprising point that a) the state’s tax burden was shifted from business to people, specifically people who can least afford to shoulder it, which led to b) no measurable positive impact on the growth of the state’s economy.
People pay more.
Businesses pay less.
And the jobs picture is still clouded by slow growth and unemployment.
Four years into Gov. Rick Snyder’s first term in office, that’s the net effect of the signature tax reforms he pushed through the Legislature in 2011.
Snyder’s plans relied heavily on the premise that lower taxes for businesses would create a stellar turnaround, ending the depression that gripped the state when he took office. And many of his changes made good policy sense.
They made sense only in a theoretical sense if you didn’t jibing them with how we understand a market-based economy to work and didn’t look back on 30 years of this theory being put to practical effect in shaping how tax and spending policy works at the federal level. Back before it became the “in thing” that everyone knew was going to work aaaaaaany second now, George H.W. Bush called it something very different.
The problem is that the idea that you spur growth by cutting taxes for the top earners is still taken on such faith in our media and political elite circles that Rick Haglund’s column yesterday about why we should look at a graduated income tax was greeted with a sigh of relief (as in, “Finally, someone said it!”) in some corners and ignored in others. I mean, the last time we talked about a graduated income tax in this state was just last decade, during the 2007 budget showdown. Someone brought up a graduated income tax as an alternative to a hike in the flat rate, and Mike Bishop said it would prompt all of our rich people to flee for Florida because … Goin’ Galt. Nobody bothered to ask him whether he was basing that on hard data of some kind or just because the idea of a graduated income tax bored him, and it was dropped until Haglund’s column yesterday (the Michigan League for Public Policy trots it out every so often, but that’s a lobby for poor people so no one pays any attention to them).
How entrenched is this idea? We’re about to send Bishop to Congress.
The first step to reversing this is to stop pretending that there is anything interesting to an idea that further cuts taxes for the wealthy while hiking taxes on the working poor. There is nothing interesting to that idea. For instance, the belief that business taxes had to be eliminating on a wide swath of businesses because the owners paid income tax at the end of the year and we needed “tax fairness” is hilariously awful. If you own a storefront that gets broken in to, the police still show up and they draw tax-funded paychecks. The idea that paying for police and fire protection aren’t legitimate business expenses is silly. But, that’s what we got.
Anyway, we have 30 years of experience on whether there was going to be an actual payoff to our benevolent overlord’s tax shift. It was at the federal level, and there the data shows that, no, cutting taxes for the wealthy doesn’t stimulate economic growth all that much.
One of the many ill effects of polarized government is the absence of new thinking about our most pressing problems.
Several years ago state Senator Michael Ellis proposed adding “poverty” to the list of “special education” needs that the state compensated school districts for.
His argument was two-pronged. The schools are being asked to deal with a social problem for which they have no training or expertise. The schools in districts that serve a population that is disproportionately composed of low-to-non-income residents are not performing well.
He saw a connection. He did not necessarily think that the education system should be reshaped to deal with this massive, unsolved social problem, but that since they couldn’t avoid its effects on what the education is intended to do they should get more than free lunches to do what they might be able to do.
This proposal went nowhere.
Representative Paul Ryan has put forward a broader proposal to deal with the cancer of poverty, which, not unlike what then-President Lyndon Johnson authored 50 years ago, is getting a skeptical reception as well.
Meanwhile, over in the ivory tower occupied by the academics, the irrepressible professor Karn Bogenschneider has introduced us to ideas about early brain development that are being tested and proved. These, too, are poverty connected. Dealing with this problem/opportunity is also expensive and complicated.
The subject is difficult. All the ideas proposed have to or had to deal with the political realities: they cost a lot of immediate money; the payoff is years in the future; it’s another government handout which will be scammed by the inevitable dole parasites.
All of them have the virtue of raising our sights by asking in effect, “What kind of a country do we want this to be?” which is the real question.
None of them are part of any campaign by any candidate of any party that I know of who is seeking office in November.
I put Paul Ryan in a different category. He will be elected in his gerrymandered district this November. His ideas are for something he might want to be elected to in November of 2016.
The fact that the only people I know who are thinking seriously about the far-reaching effects of immutable poverty are Republicans and academics raises the specter of “consider the source” dismissal.
The Dems don’t like anything Paul or Mike like, because they are Dems and Paul and Mike are not.
The real Republicans (their categorization) don’t like anything an academic proposes, because all academics are soft-hearted and soft-headed overt or covert Dems.
So the curse of poverty just lies there and metastasizes and the country is the worse for our lack of attention, effort, and imagination to curing the incurable.
Last Wednesday Rolling Stone printed a great expose by Tim Dickinson shedding some light on the toxic (literally) empire of the conservative Koch Brothers. Here’s just a bit of the expose, which is very much worth reading in its entirety.
The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today’s GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year’s midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers’ fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America’s second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company’s stock response to inquiries from reporters: “We are privately held and don’t disclose this information.”
But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company’s troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions – augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.
Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch’s pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.
The volume of Koch Industries’ toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch’s climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
The Capital Times often runs a feature in its print edition called WisPolitics Stock Report. The article, written by WisPolitics staff, rates the fortunes of various politicians or political groups with an up arrow for rising or a down arrow for falling.
A recent edition of the report awarded an up arrow to former Senator Neal Kedzie, who recently resigned his office mid-term. He received the “rising” review because he landed a lucrative new job. He will replace Tom Howells, who has retired after many years lobbying for the Wisconsin trucking industry.
Kedzie’s move from legislator to lobbyist is nothing new in the revolving door of Wisconsin politics. Assuming he’ll soon be a registered lobbyist as was Howells, his abrupt shift from a legislator making laws to a lobbyist trying to influence what laws are made points to a deep flaw in Wisconsin’s ethical standards.
Wisconsin law should require a significant cooling-off period between legislating and lobbying. While Kedzie is a Republican, my criticism is by no means partisan or personal. I served with Neal and like him and the same switcheroo has been pulled by both Democrats and Republicans.
I’ve always felt it is unseemly to see legislators voting one day on important legislation and then coming back to the Capitol soon thereafter as highly paid, special-interest lobbyists. Most state officials are already prohibited by law from lobbying their agency for one year. Unfortunately, legislators exempted themselves from that common sense rule. It is time to close the loophole and subject legislators, at a minimum, to the same standard that applies to other state employees.
When I was in the Legislature, I repeatedly introduced legislation to Wisconsin lawmakers from lobbying for special interests after leaving office. I had support from a number of legislators, most notably former Republican Representative Steve Freese and current Democratic Senator Julie Lassa.
But the bill never went anywhere. In a rare show of bipartisan unity, most legislators wanted nothing to do with this reform. It seems like the one thing a majority of Democrats and Republicans could agree on was keeping the loophole open for legislators to lobby for special interests and cash in on their days in the Capitol. When legislators know they can count on receiving cushy jobs from the same corporations and groups they are supposed to oversee, people start to wonder whose interests they really represent.
Many states ban this revolving-door practice of legislators becoming lobbyists shortly after they leave public office. Even Congress, not generally known as a hotbed of ethical conduct, has a federal ethics law that prohibits former U.S. representatives and senators from lobbying their erstwhile colleagues for two years after leaving office.
It’s not so long ago that Wisconsin was considered the model of clean government. It’s hard to believe that the U.S. Congress is tougher on politicians’ ethics than is the Wisconsin Legislature. Wisconsin has fallen far from its once proud reputation as a state with clean, open and ethical government. That reputation was a strong asset for the state and it has for all practical purposes been lost. There are a great many reforms needed for Wisconsin to regain that progressive legacy. Closing the revolving door between lawmakers and special interests would be a good place to start.
Over at The Atlantic, Michael Wolraich has an excellent article outlining how Wisconsin progressives like “Fighting Bob” La Follette were the original Tea Party challenging the political status quo.
If “Fighting Bob” were alive today, he’d be howling in the Capitol. A hundred years before the Tea Parties, Senator Bob La Follette of Wisconsin was the original Republican insurgent. In the early 1900s, he led a grassroots revolt against the GOP establishment and pioneered the ferocious tactics that the Tea Parties use today—long-shot primary challenges, sensational filibusters, uncompromising ideology, and populist rhetoric. But there was a crucial difference between La Follette and today’s right-wing insurgents: “Fighting Bob” was a founding father of the progressive movement.
A century ago, the country struggled with challenges similar to our own—economic inequality, financial instability, low wages, and environmental devastation. The two major political parties, both corrupt and dominated by corporations, crushed reformers’ efforts to remedy the nation’s problems. Even President Theodore Roosevelt was powerless to push serious reform bills through Congress.
Unlike Roosevelt, La Follette did not believe that reform was possible under the prevailing political order. He insisted that the system must become more democratic and the parties be made accountable to the people. His political insurgency began as a forlorn and hopeless campaign, scorned by the party establishment, mocked by the press, and dismissed by Roosevelt. A decade later, it brought the once-dominant Republican Party to its knees and initiated the greatest period of political change in American history.
Over the past few weeks the national news media has been talking non-stop about how Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, was ousted by an unknown primary contender. The main talking point of the post primary results is that Cantor “phoned it in.” He spent all of his time traveling the country rallying the GOP base for other candidates, and neglected to spend any time in his own home district. At one point Cantor was booed off the stage during a campaign speech.
How does this relate to New Hampshire politics?
There is an eerie similarity to Cantor and former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s campaign for the US Senate seat from New Hampshire.
Scott Brown has been driving his truck all across New Hampshire in an attempt to convince Granite Staters that he is one of us. Telling people that by spending time in New Hampshire as kid or weekends at his vacation home makes him a real Granite Stater.
True Granite Staters are just not buying it.
If Brown were a real Granite Stater, he would understand that we are less about grandstanding and photo ops, and more about substance. We want candidates who talk about their positions and are willing to stand up for their beliefs.
Brown is snubbing the people of New Hampshire by refusing to participate in local debates. Brown skipped a debate in Bedford in April, and now he is “booked up” an unable or unwilling to participate in the Merrimack Business Association’s debate tomorrow.
David McCray, chairman of the Merrimack Business Association and a former Merrimack town councilor, was less than impressed at the way that the Brown campaign treated him and his initiation to debate.
“McCray is angry at the way his business group was treated by the Brown campaign. An invitation to the June 18 Merrimack event went out to the candidates by registered mail on April 23,” McCray told the Union Leader. “In early May, McCray learned that Brown would not be attending, not from Brown’s campaign but from a Union Leader reporter. Offer rescinded.”
The irony is that McCray was a supporter of Scott Brown when he ran against Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.
“We went to Stoneham on the day of the Massachusetts election when he ran against Elizabeth Warren and held Scott Brown signs, standing out in the cold for eight hours,” McCray told the Sentinel Enterprise. “He knew that. And yet he didn’t even have the common courtesy to respond to our invitation to a debate in 16 days. That bothered me.”
“So, Scott Brown, you used a media outlet as a cover to screw over a forum in which you’d be a sitting duck in being directly compared to your competition. Sure, you’ve accepted the big TV event debate – but that’s not how campaigning works here in NH.”
This is not the first time that Brown has ducked constituent questions.
“I’ve supported a minimum wage increase before. It’s something that I think needs to be periodically reviewed, but it’s really important to make sure that everyone’s at the table, especially people who are hiring and growing,” Brown told the Concord Monitor.
Avoiding actually answering questions from real Granite Staters is quickly becoming a trend for Scott Brown.
What is Brown afraid of? Is he afraid to tell the people where he stands because he thinks it will hurt him with the ultra-conservatives who tend to vote in the primary? Or is he afraid that it will hurt him in a general election, if he actually gets through the primary.
Granite Staters take pride in being informed about whom they are voting for, and Brown thinks he can get away with B.S. answers and newspaper quotes instead of participating in local politics. It is bad enough that he did not work his way up through the ranks in New Hampshire like many of the other candidates.
The Union Leader asked McCray why he thinks Brown is ignoring the Merrimack debate and the voters of Merrimack?
“He’s playing it as if he has already won,” said McCray.
I am sure that is exactly what Eric Cantor thought too.
WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has joined Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) as the lead Democrat in introducing the Human Trafficking Detection Act, H.R. 5116, along with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC).
This bill would require Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents responsible for monitoring travelers across U.S. borders and through airports receive training to identify potential victims of human trafficking and report these cases to local law enforcement officials. The bill will also require the DHS to annually report to Congress the number of potential human trafficking cases reported by its federal agents.
“Human trafficking is an atrocious crime that is often committed right under our noses. It is our responsibility in Congress to do whatever we can to stop illegal smuggling of innocent people, often children, through the United States,” said Rep. Sanchez. “This bill will give Homeland Security officials the training they need to identify trafficking victims and save lives.”
Up to 17,500 people are trafficked through the United States each year—half of which are children, according to the State Department. But currently, only some DHS officials receive training to detect human trafficking, which often times merely consists of viewing an online slideshow. DHS doesn’t currently keep records of the number of human trafficking cases reported or confirmed, which the Human Trafficking Detection act would require.
The U.S. federal government currently spends billions of dollars annually on human trafficking prevention and treatment. This simple solution could significantly impact the success of those efforts without increasing federal spending.
As a rule, I like primaries in theory but hate them in practice. It’s not the work of democracy, mind you. It’s the annoying way they become an overbearing millstone around everyone’s neck. It starts awful and gets worse and at the end of it everyone involved feels nothing but regret and loathing. That includes people who follow the damn things and write about them (that would be me).
Four years ago, for instance, there was this guy named Michael Trebesh running for the state Senate against our current lieutenant governor, Brian Calley. He filled my God damned mailbox with campaign mailings, sometimes two arrived in one day. I wrote a column about it, and he responded by writen a letter to the editor accusing me of trying to violate his Constitutional right to send out junk mail. And kept mailing shit to me. So, I wrote another column about it, and was advised by a guy now serving as a city commissioner to tell the Post Office that his mailings were pornographic in nature so they’d stop delivering them. Trebesh responded by building an entire campaign mailing about how I was influencing the race somehow (me and Phil Power, because the Michigan Truth Squad said that he was lying somewhere in the voluminous number of horrible things he said about Calley … like saying that he wasn’t really pro-Life while Calley was in an Ann Arbor hospital awaiting emergency heart surgery on his infant daughter). He also mentioned a different column I wrote in which I referred to a giant statue of Jesus in southern Ohio as an eyesore on the occasion of it being struck by lightning and torched (I believe I referred to the incident as part of God’s war on roadside drek).
I’ve had flashbacks the last month as the amount of junk mail from Paul Mitchell, candidate for the Republican nomination here in the 4th Congressional District, piles up*. The mail carrier and I have a running joke, where he hands it to me and says something like, “Someone really wants you to buy his shampoo.” I respond by telling him that I’m sorry for the wear and tear on his knees.
This was supposed to be a quiet primary, where Dave Camp’s annointed successor, state Sen. John Moolenaar, was given a promotion to Congress. Instead, as noted, it’s become irritating.
The attacks have stepped up the battle for a solidly Republican U.S. House seat that will be all but decided in the Aug. 5 primary. The two top candidates, who have low-key, nice-guy images, may slug it out mostly through ads and proxies.
And, mailings. Please, for the love of God, make it stop.
*–Actually, things have been a bit quiet since I posted about this last week. Hopefully, someone on his campaign noticed and got me off their mailing list.