Friday, May 30, 2014

Focus on the Record, Not the Man




Charlie Pierce can't get the words out fast enough:

Eric Shinseki resigned today as a result of the unfolding scandal within the Department of Veterans Affairs. This event became inevitable the moment that Shinseki sat down before the Veterans Affairs Committee of the United States Senate. It became clear almost immediately that Shinseki didn't have two votes in that room; Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal who, despite Shinseki's departure, shows no sign of getting this teeth out of this story any time soon, made it quite plain that he wasn't buying anything Shinseki was selling. And thus ends the honorable career of a soldier who was correct about the lies behind the greatest policy disaster of our times, about the essential criminality of the people who launched the invasion of Iraq, but whose primary failures as an administrator were his inability to oversee the people in his department who were directly trying to cope with the flood of casualties that resulted from all of those soldiers that most of official Washington told Eric Shinseki they would never need to create a democratic paradise in Iraq. Irony is the rail on which Shinseki now has been ridden out of town.

Charlie can't help himself--he remembers the neglect of the Vietnam generation. And, neglected they were. But how does that square with what you see above? The VA has tried to modernize itself and deal with the issues that it faces. The VA is a hundred times more available and interactive than ever. And yet, we know for certain that there will always be an institutional distrust and many will fall through the cracks. Shinseki failed to be the Secretary we needed when this transformation was carried out. It's too little too late.

Yes, Shinseki was correct about the need to deploy adequate numbers of troops to stabilize Iraq. But, guess what? Even he was wrong by a factor of more than ten. In order to "stabilize" Iraq after the end of the war, over 2 million fully equipped American soldiers wouldn't have been enough. (Iraq - 26 million people, 1 soldier for every ten civilians, etc = 2.6 million troops for stabilization force).

There is no question--Shinseki was a weak and ineffective leader. We are not quite two years removed from this debacle:

An investigation into two Veterans Affairs Department conferences have led to employees being put on administrative leave and a top official’s resignation as auditors found waste and mismanagement. The VA paid roughly $6.1 million for two conferences in 2011, but the planning was marred by leadership failures and ethical lapses, the department’s inspector general reported Oct. 1.


The investigation has led to the resignation of John Sepulveda, VA’s assistant secretary for human resources and administration (HR&A). He stepped down a day before the release of the report, which criticizes the department’s questionable spending at two Florida conferences.


The IG found that Sepulveda failed to provide proper guidance to senior executives in his organization related to the conferences. Further, his statement was contrary to his memo to the VA’s chief of staff, in which he wrote his office was controlling costs. According to several people, Sepulveda also had seen a video in whcih an actor parodied a famous scene from the movie "Patton," starring George C. Scott as Gen. George S. Patton. The video cost nearly $50,000 to make, and Sepulveda denies having seen it.


“His hands-off approach contributed to a lack of communications between HR&A senior executives resulting in confusion and a dysfunctional execution of roles and responsibilities,” the IG wrote in the report. Largely, “senior leadership accepted little responsibility for fiscal stewardship.”

When you have an inspector general who tells you that "senior leadership accepted little responsibility for fiscal stewardship," you know you have a problem. But did Shinseki carry out a VA-wide audit and go looking for more examples? Did he go beyond allowing an official to resign (he should have fired the person outright) and ensure that these practices weren't being carried out everywhere? No, because we now know that bonuses for administrators were still being paid out well into this calendar year. Despite overwhelming evidence that there was a culture of greed, incompetence, and poor fiscal stewardship, Shinseki left the people in place who ended up bringing him down.

Shinseki is also the man who, in June of 2001, decreed that everyone in the Army would wear a black beret on their head, eliminating the common sense use of the soft cap. This was one of the most selfish and stupid acts carried out by someone trying to change the Army uniform. A beret does not instill pride. A black beret on a soldier's head in a motor pool is the stupidest Goddamned thing imaginable.

Stop thinking that because Shinseki got one thing sort of right he was a saint. He failed to properly lead and administer the Department of Veteran's Affairs. He failed on the information technology front, allowing contractors to waste millions on systems that failed to deliver. He presided over a period of extreme stress in the VA but he also failed to ensure that there were people in place to honestly deal with and report back on that stress. Every single administrator that got a monetary bonus on his watch for running hospitals into the ground while Veterans died is his responsibility. He should have ensured that nobody got a bonus for hiding bad numbers. His lame attempt to carry out an audit of these facilities was too little way too late.

The man's record before taking off the uniform is irrelevant. His tenure wearing a blue suit was a disaster. Neither political party really cares about Veterans anyway. When this blows over, more will die and a grateful nation will refuse to raise taxes to care for the people dying on the waiting lists that are going to be a little more public but left to languish in the hands of whoever can finagle their way into another cushy job doing nothing on the VA's dime.

And That's Not the End of It





“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan..."


Shinseki is gone:

In the end, even Eric Shinseki knew he had to go, President Barack Obama said Friday in announcing the resignation of his only Veterans Affairs secretary over a growing scandal involving sometimes deadly waits for care at VA hospitals.


Obama went before reporters shortly after meeting with Shinseki at the White House and said the retired Army general told him that "the VA needs new leadership" to address the widespread problems chronicled in new reports this week, adding that Shinseki "does not want to be a distraction" to fixing the situation.


"That was Ric's judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans, and I agree. We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem," Obama said.

When the boss has to leave under a black cloud, it sends a clear message to the underlings--you're next. The reason why it makes sense for Shinseki to leave is because the greedy, incompetent administrators below him need to be washed out of the VA like the fleas and lice they are, clinging to their bonuses and their schemes to profit personally while failing America's burgeoning corps of Veterans.

That's why I called for him to quit or be fired--there's no other way to remove the terrible, terrible management below Shinseki's level at VA. Someone new, someone tough, and someone with a clear mandate to remove incompetence and fraud from the ranks has to be empowered to do so. Shinseki was not that man anymore.

I would think that many of those engaged in malfeasance would have the decency to retire or quit in the weeks ahead. Many of them won't. They will cling to their lifestyle and continue to do nothing to take care of Veterans. They will continue to ride out the clock. They should not collect any more bonuses, however, and every administrator paid a bonus over the last ten years who presided over a hospital with secret wait lists and things of that nature should be prosecuted for fraud. Their bonuses should be paid back and their retirement benefits should be irretrievably revoked.

The Department of Veteran's Affairs is about benefits, after all. I don't think anyone who screwed Veterans and got paid should be able to retire on a comfortable pension and with full health care. I think that they should be cast out into the real world where so many dying and sick and Veterans have lived since coming back from Vietnam and wherever else. They have had no safety net. They have seen the promises made to them turn into a blizzard of paperwork, crushed under the heels of people who don't care about them while making three figure salaries, getting eight weeks off a year, and being paid ridiculously inflated personal performance bonuses.

To them I would say, welcome to the reality you were charged with improving. Screw you. You're on your own.

This does not end with Shinseki. This ends when the frauds and the thieves who cost this man his job are scrambling to find someone to take care of them while they cope with the aftermath of their personal pity party. This ends when a former bigwig administrator from the Phoenix VA Hospital has to use Coinstar to pay for meds at a discount grocery store in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hammering Away at Legacies




Dick Cheney's legacy took another beating at the hands of the people who have been trying to clean up the mess created by his old boss. This is why he has lashed out and called the President of the United States weak:

"Some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action or leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required," Obama added. "Tough talk draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans."


President Obama's abandonment of neoconservatism and nation-building means fewer contracts for the companies that saw huge profits under Bush-Cheney. Those people are angrily telling Cheney to say something and use what influence he has because they own the souls of neoconservatives and are demanding repayment for their loyalty. An entire way of life is about to come crashing down and the rush to diversify portfolios and invest in providing solar panels to drowned polar bear researchers has people climbing over one another, trying to get beachfront property in Ohio and bid on the contract to provide security for the next drone base in West Africa.





We finally have a President who only wants to start a handful of moderate-sized wars. We no longer have a President who wants to start larger wars that will break the military. It's a slight change, but it's a big enough change to frighten people used to wider profit margins.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Shine That Turd




Someone has to try and prove that the evening news is still relevant. Sadly, it is not.

The vast majority of the viewers for these newscasts are AARP-eligible, although that's true for news in general. Right now Williams and Sawyer are battling for first place in the ratings category that both networks covet most, the 25- to 54-year-old demographic. ABC, long accustomed to second place behind NBC at 6:30 p.m., has won for four of the past six weeks.

The AARP crowd is the Fox News demographic, and it is often cited to show that "millions" are watching Fox News. Really? Then why are they running ads for people who have little if any disposable income?




When you are desperately trying to remind people that something is still relevant, you've already lost the game. In the 1980s, over 40 million people would regularly tune in and the advertising revenue was through the roof. The nightly news anchors were stars. The ones we have now are the also-rans and the leftovers. I mean, Scott Pelley? Really? How many Americans know instinctively who Pelley is and what job he holds and would give a damn if he walked off the set and told his bosses to shove it up their asses? You want to compare Pelley to Rather and Cronkite? Go ahead.





The audience has aged and shrunk to the point where there's no point for many advertisers to even contemplate running anything during this time slot.



In television, don't talk about numbers unless you know where the people who actually have money are and what they're watching.





Good God, son. Scott Pelley is the top of the food chain at CBS News? Seriously?

Too Incompetent For Words



Oh, my:


The White House accidentally revealed the name of the CIA's top intelligence official in Afghanistan to some 6,000 journalists.

The person was included on a list of people attending a military briefing for President Barack Obama during his surprise visit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on Sunday.


It's common for such lists to be given to the media, but names of intelligence officials are rarely provided. In this case, the individual's name was listed next to the title, "Chief of Station."


Simply firing the person responsible would not solve the problem. This would indicate, at least to me, a fundamental inability to separate classified from unclassified material. Whoever transferred the information from one place to the other did so without understanding the need to segregate or separate the information needed to do their job. They took a shortcut of some kind, copying a list and then pasting it somewhere and then, without thinking about the implications. Someone within the Obama Administration has no idea what they're doing, in other words, and their work habits are sloppy.





All the spies know everyone else anyway, so this is not the end of the world. It's just sheer incompetence. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Joe Scarborough, Meet Ted Yoho




Dumbassery abounds:




Speaking at a town hall meeting earlier this month, Florida Republican congressman Ted Yoho promised that he would support possible birther legislation floated by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), telling the audience that after learning about a potential birther bill from Stockman while attending a Tea Party meeting, he called the congressman and agreed to back it.


Yoho also seemed to embrace the right-wing claim that Obamacare is “racist” because it taxes tanning beds, explaining that if he goes tanning then he will be “disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.”


I had a little fun with [John] Boehner and told him about the sun tanning tax. He goes, ‘I didn’t know it was in there,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it’s a ten percent tax.’ He goes, ‘Well, that’s not that big of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a racist tax.’ He goes, ‘You know what, it is.’ I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark skin people, and I asked this to him, I said, ‘Have you ever been to a tanning booth?’ and he goes, ‘No, no need.’ So therefore it’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin. As crazy as that sounds, that’s what the left does right. By God, if it works for them, it’ll work for us [inaudible].

Seriously. The Brass Balls on these people...

J. D. Gordon is a Jackass of the Highest Order




What is this bullshit?

Here’s another secret the White House doesn’t want you to know about the VA. Al Qaeda detainees get better medical treatment than our veterans.


Say what?


Yes, it’s true. I know because I served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005-2009 and visited Guantanamo Bay Naval Base over 30 times during those years.


Despite the fact that Al Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 terror attacks, killing 3,000 people in America, the admitted co-conspirators and their roughly 150 fellow jihadists at Gitmo have approximately 100 doctors, nurses and health care personnel assigned to them.


Doctors and medical personnel are at their beck and call. Got a cold, a fever, a toothache, a tumor, chest or back pain, mental health issues, PTSD? No problem, come right on in. Military doctors are waiting to see you.

Guess who gave Gordon his job--the Bush Administration. Guess who was treating prisoners at Guantanamo Bay "better" than all the Veterans created by the insane foreign policy choices of the Bush Administration? Why, one and the same--the Bush Administration. They're the ones who set policy and filled the place with the innocent and the guilty alike. Did you forget who tortured many of those men being treated "better" than our Veterans? The Bush Administration tortured them, repeatedly, and how many of them died? How many of them ended up in black sites and then transferred into Guantanamo Bay, desperately needing basic medical care?

I mean, Jeebus. The brass balls on these people must click-click-click well into the night while they're spitballing and trying to come up with this stuff.

Guess who has tried, repeatedly, to close Guantanamo Bay? The Obama Administration. Guess whose Congress has blocked every attempt to shut it down? Oh, that would be the Republican one, which has had the gall to stick it to Veterans for years. Guess who has been trying to treat millions of Veterans while the Republican-controlled Congress shuts down the government and refuses to pass adequate funding bills? The Obama Administration, of course.

You don't get to break the American military and ruin several countries and then come back a half a decade later and hope people forgot everything you damaged, broke, and mismanaged because of your incompetence and stupidity. The mere fact that Gordon writes for Fox News speaks volumes to the impossibility of giving anyone who worked for the Bush Administration a decent job in the real world.

I'll say this for our Kenyan-born black Mooslim Prezuhdent--at least he figured out that killing them with drones in their beds was better than sending them to Gitmo in a diaper.

This is the perfect example of jackassery--any Bush Administration official who criticizes how we are caring for Veterans should shut the hell up and pray that the amnesia of the American people continues well into the future.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Paul Ryan Was Against Community Organizers Before He Was For Them




In case anyone is wondering, Paul Ryan still wants to run for President:

On Tuesday, he waded into the conversation with veteran civil rights leader Robert Woodson Sr. by his side and explained that he “wanted to get out of the ivory tower, out of committee hearing rooms, and go out around the country and learn. Not talk, not lecture, but to learn.” The goal was not to make him a better politician but a better policy-maker. He wants to attack the root causes of poverty rather than simply ameliorate root symptoms.

Ron Christie is one of the most dishonest shills in America. His identification of Robert Woodson leaves out the fact that he is also a community organizer.

Yes, a community organizer. Paul Ryan's epiphany should come with a trigger warning for people who hate community organizers.

Barely one year ago, he hated them with a passion:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Tuesday that a "data hub" being compiled for Obamacare presents a danger to Americans.


"This thing gives me a tingle down my spine. It's just chilling," the Janesville Republican told conservative Milwaukee talk show host Charlie Sykes on WTMJ-AM (620).


"It's the biggest database ever collected on us, meaning people, the citizens of this country," Ryan claimed.Ryan said the data hub will merge databases from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies.


The hub will be used to determine eligibility for Obamacare subsidies, he said.


In a National Review column posted Monday, Ryan is quoted as saying "community organizers" working to implement Obamacare will have access to the data hub.


“Giving community organizers access to the Federal Data Hub is bad policy and potentially a danger to civil liberties,” he said. “But it’s one of the most underreported stories I’ve seen. If people only knew about this Data Hub program, it would touch off a huge public outcry.”

Now that's a flip flop. And it's funny how a history of being one kind of jackass and then pretending he never held an opinion in his life can come back to haunt him.

Monday, May 19, 2014

John Fund is a Serial Liar




Have you had enough insanity already for one week? Well, get ready for more.

John Fund has decided to weigh in on the Veteran's Administration scandal, and he uses this opportunity to rail against single-payer health care as opposed to the stupidity of actually creating many more Veterans than can be taken care of or treated. He wants you to know that single payer is the devil and ignore the fact that the VA has struggled because of the inability of Congress to fund the government and that is has been cut by repeated Republican Party efforts to stop providing benefits to the American people.

I mean, full stop--these are the people who shut down the government. That's what they care about--destroying the infrastructure that would normally provide health care to Veterans. Their ideology trumps giving the VA the resources it needs. And now a resource-starved VA has been exposed as a den of bonus-giving thieves, which probably justifies the Republicans but, really--what we have needed for years is more oversight and accountability. Kind of hard to have that when we're holding our eighth round of hearings about Benghazi.

These are the people who have denied funding bills and improvements in the VA health care system. These are the people who have no problems starting wars and creating millions of Veterans and then abandoning them while wearing an American flag lapel pin.

John Fund is doing a cartwheel here. The VA has a problem, and that problem is entirely because we havea single payer health care system in America. What kind of nonsense is that? Well, it's the kind peddled by serial liars in order to keep people from getting access to health care.

You see, the problems with the VA are apparent to everyone--there are too many Veterans and the people who are charged with taking care of them are incompetent. The VA's problems have nothing to do with single payer health insurance because the VA is a benefit, not an option. It has to be provided to Veterans. Thus, it has to be rationed because we're not charging Veterans for their health care costs.

Eric Shinseki's incompetence is why he should be fired. He's a good man who has had a difficult job. But the problems with the VA's information architecture and the ballsy bonuses paid to far too many inept and corrupt administrators means that the system has to be flushed of flunkies and useless people. The hallways of the VA are actually full of them--I have seen them myself. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself. Oh, wait. You can't unless you have a special visitor pass and access to the facility. But, if you can get one, go see haplessness in action.

The intellectually honest argument is thus--there are too many Veterans and we need a more efficient system of taking care of them. The John Fund argument--driven by decades of stupidity and lies--is this:

The veterans’ hospital scandals now in the news in the United States show just how bad things can get when the pressure of patient demand and waiting lists affects bureaucratic behavior. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died at a Phoenix veterans’ facility because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators there and at other hospitals apparently covered it up by establishing secret waiting lists and falsifying reports.

No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.

Never mind how funny it is for a conservative who bemoans government spending to launch a rant about rationing health care, what Fund really has a problem with is the distant history of Barack Obama:

This is the record of many single-payer health-care systems, and both Obama and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, have said that establishing a single-payer system is their long-term goal. In 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, toldan AFL-CIO conference: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care program. . . . But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.” Similarly, Majority Leader Reid told a PBS interview show in Nevada, in October 2013: “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.” When he was asked by a panelist whether he meant that ultimately the country would need a health-care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely yes.”

There you have it--when he was the State Senator from Illinois, he was already scheming to destroy the Veteran's health care system. Except, of course, when he was opposing the Iraq War.

I mean, come on. WTF? If you don't want to have to pay all that money to take care of Veterans, stop starting wars and creating millions of them. If you're John Fund and if you supported the War in Iraq, you don't get to bemoan the costs of the VA because, as Colin Powell says, you went into Pottery Barn and shit the bed, son.

Fund has long been an unethical serial liar:

MSNBC
SHOW: HARDBALL 21:00
January 31, 2003 Friday


MATTHEWS: John Fund, do you know what turned him [Colin Powell] around from a man who is perceived by the public to be dovish to a man who is the hard line fellow, very much like his fellow Cabinet members, Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?


JOHN FUND, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Complete frustration Chris. He basically decided that Saddam Hussein was never going to come clean, that the process was completely flawed.


You know the same people who believe that global warming is absolutely proven and they’re not going to listen to anything else are the same people who will accept absolutely no evidence that Saddam Hussein is hiding something and including weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell basically finally threw up his hands and said we have to act because the alternative is to let Saddam Hussein win the game, set and match, and the world cannot be blackmailed that way. ‘

How can anybody read anything by this man and not wonder how it is that he still has any presence at all in the media, conservative or otherwise? How is it that he did not slink away in shame and go peddle apples on skid row after 2006?




John Fund. Wrong about everything and not afraid to lie about it some more.

Take the Money and Run




I think it would be fair to say that an accountability moment and a firm reality check has arrived for everyone who said that Obamacare is the devil that will soshalism this country into the hands of the Kraken.

When given the option to stand behind their principles and continue destroying the lives of people who need the health care provisions of the PPACA, Republicans governors are taking the money that's on the table and they're lying about it. Mike Pence of Indiana is lying when he denies folding in the face of a Medicare benefit that the people of Indiana desperately need. He should go into each and every election from now on wearing an Obama sticker on his nose so that people remember how he gave in to the commies and allowed the Hoosiers to horn in on those Federal dollars.

We heard this time and again--Obamacare will destroy America. That was absolute bullshit, of course. And you would think that future elections would hinge on that but they won't. Without a viable, working media to hold them accountable, the Mike Pences of the GOP will be claiming Obamacare was Romneycare all along and they'll claim it as their own.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How Do You Sue Porsche?




How did this end up being a lawsuit?

The court documents filed by Kristine Rodas describe the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that her husband was driving as a an "ultra-high-performance-super-sports car for the road," that goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 205 miles per hour.


The complaint argues that such a high-powered sports car should have a higher standard of crash protection, and that a mechanical malfunction forced Rodas to veer off the road.
Geragos also hired investigators to evaluate wreckage at the scene, who determined that Rodas was driving 55 mph before the vehicle went out of control. This contradicts the Los Angeles County coroner's report that car was speeding at more than 100 mph, and the investigations by the Los Angeles County Sherriff's Office and California Highway Patrol that focused on speed.


Porsche pointed to the discrepancy.


"As you know, the crash was subject of a very detailed investigation by the authorities, both the California Highway Patrol and the L.A. County Sheriff's Office," said Bernd Harling, Head of Public Relations for Porsche Cars North America. "The reports showed that driving at a high speed in a negligent manner caused the crash. Both concluded that there was no mechanical defect of the vehicle involved."


Bernd Harling must have gotten on the phone to Germany and said the equivalent of "get a load of this..."





Do you know how Mr. Walker and Mr. Rodas could have ended up not being killed? By not getting into a car and driving too fast. I mean, how hard is it to apply some common sense? How is it that there are lawyers even arguing about this--the car was widely known to be a "performance" car. Simply getting into that vehicle is a risk in and of itself.





These two men got into that car and it crashed. Attorney Mark Geragos found someone who said that the car was going 55 miles an hour--which is bullshit but what do you expect from a celebrity attorney who remembers that, in the 1970s, everyone drove 55 for like a minute and then went back to driving faster than that--and now there's a lawsuit.





There is no personal accountability in this case. A tragic accident that was the result of getting into the wrong kind of car and driving in the wrong area at high speeds killed these men. Turning a burned out car inside and out looking for a loose washer and finding "experts" to say whatever they are paid to say isn't going to accomplish anything.

Pinch Steps on a Rake



There's a reason why this story matters, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the fact that this is a media story or that these are wealthy, privileged media people who are whining and carrying on in public. This story matters because of how women are treated in the workplace when they ask for equal pay.

I mean, full stop.

This story resonates with the experiences of millions of American women. Jill Abramson found out she wasn't getting paid what her male colleagues and predecessors were getting paid. This went back years. Years of this kind of behavior, which is awful. And when she asserted her rights, they fired her. In violation of every common sense workplace ethic, they pulled the trigger on getting rid of her when they should have addressed the issue and made it right and apologized.

Which is going to be cheaper in the long run?

This whole thing about trying to cover up the fact that they fired her because she brought in a lawyer to talk about her compensation package is the legal nightmare behind the scenes--that's the inside baseball stuff that stood out to legal-minded folks. That's what set people on fire. That's what really drove home the idea that this could be applied to factory workers, retail workers, IT professionals, nurses--you name it. Forget the wealth and privilege of these media personalities--it could be a story unfolding in a company anywhere in America. Women just don't get paid what they're worth. We see it time and again.

And it's wrong. It's fundamentally the wrong thing to do to people.

What stood out to me was that you could write this story in a lot of places where women aren't paid as much as men for the same work--for work that is often better. There was a collective reaction to this story because so many women have experienced exactly what Abramson experienced--that sickening feeling of not being treated right because of only one thing--their gender.

In each and every part of America's work life, that has to stop. It should have stopped long ago. We passed Lily Ledbetter--legislation that addressed these issues--and it still goes on. We see stories about wage theft, and it made me think about what would solve something like this.

Pay women the same as men or lose your business. Steal wages from your employees and you lose your business. I'm not talking about shutting it down--I mean, you lose your property.

Your property is guaranteed to be protected by the law of the land and the infrastructure You Didn't Build that helped you create and run your business. If you don't pay people what they are worth and if you steal the wages of their work, you forfeit your right to enjoy the business you are in. You collect what you put into that business (minus what you cheated someone out of or stole) and you walk away with nothing else. You lose your business. It goes into public trust or receivership and is sold so that nobody loses their job. Whoever buys that business  has to keep everyone employed and has to pay them what is owed to them.

Try that and see if that brings pay up to an equal level and see if that stops wage theft.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Demonizing Jill Abramson




Jill Abramson had the audacity to ask to be treated equally at The New York Times.

It is 2014. Women are still being paid much, much less than men for equal work in far too many jobs and careers. Abramson was at the pinnacle of the American (world?) media establishment and she was still begging to be treated as an equal.

Instead, we're treated to the usual "bitchy, bossy woman" commentary that will render this story a footnote in the days ahead. By this weekend, will we have an actual conversation about workplace equality or will we assume that the wealthy and privileged Abramson will simply have to find work somewhere else?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stop Trying to Make Voter Fraud a Thing




There is no such thing as voter fraud:

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), one of the nation’s most enthusiastic voter suppressors, released a report on Thursday outlining the results a two-year investigation into possible voter fraud, conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at his request. But while Schultz has frequently scared Iowa voters with allegations of thousands of possible non-citizens voting in the state and living people showing up at the polls to cast ballots in the name of dead voters, the investigation revealed found an infinitesimal number of illegal votes cast and zero cases of impersonation at the polls.


Since his election in 2010, Schultz has been a staunch advocate for a strict voter ID law in Iowa, though his efforts to require one have stalled in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate. Last year he told supporters that in order to get conservative policies on “abortion, gay marriage, a whole lot of social issues that we care deeply about,” they must “start caring about voter ID and election integrity as well.” Without voter ID, he told them, “you’ll never be able to make a difference in any other issue you care about. Never. Because they will cheat! They’ll cheat.”


It is the obligation of the media to explain why the Republican Party is obsessed with voter fraud. As a primer, let me explain why they don't want people to vote:





When a lot of people vote, they don't vote for Republicans.





This is especially true for anyone who is not old and white and watches Fox News, although, as we have seen, if they are a veteran or if they have a foreign-looking name, there's a good chance someone is going to make an ass of themselves challenging their right to vote.





Is the pursuit of voter fraud simple vote suppression? Absolutely. And it is as racist as hell. You'd think that the media would have a way to tell that story or a moral obligation to try. I'll bet if you tied up voter suppression and put it on a plane that disappeared one day, there'd be more attention paid to it. If it was a blonde, white female that had gone missing, you'd know more about it. Maybe--just maybe--voter suppression needs to have its ass kicked by its own sister-in-law. Then, and only then, will we see some exposure for this issue.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bears Are Environmentalists




They are not giving up their oil:

A worker at an oil sands plant in Canada was attacked and killed by a bear Wednesday.
The attack took place at a Suncor Energy base plant, 200 miles north of Edmonton.


"We are shocked by this very unusual incident and there are no words to express the tragedy of this situation," said Mark Little, a Suncor executive vice president.


Between 1900 and 2009, 63 people were killed in 59 incidents in Canada and the United States, according to a 2011 Journal of Wildlife Management report. The study concludes that as human populations and developments rise, so have bear attacks.


The bear in the Wednesday attack was put down.

While it is rare for people to die from a bear attack, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the environmental impact of absolutely destroying the land in order to extract fossil fuels is going to be thwarted at times by the inconvenient reality that there are bears trying to live where the oil is.

The bears are no different than the people who had to be displaced and the real tragedy is that there will be no introspection and no debate over whether it's a good idea to build the Keystone Pipeline or continue to wreck everything. The only thing that matters is cheap gas and looking the other way.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Greed and Incompetence Killed Those Kids




I was wrong about what caused the South Korean Sewol ferry to sink:

The South Korean ferry disaster that killed more than 260 people last month was caused in part by excessive cargo and a failure to tie that cargo down properly, the joint police and prosecuting team investigating the disaster said Tuesday. 


It marked the first time South Korean investigators said what they believe led to the April 16 sinking of the ferry Sewol, which was carrying 467 passengers and crew -- including more than 300 high school students on a field trip -- when it capsized.


Through experience, I can tell you that the problem on the southern tip of South Korea is that there are numerous incidents where North Korean infiltration ships have run afoul of the coastline and of the commercial shipping that travels through that area. If the ferry was not so incompetently managed--as is evident from that hapless fool of an underwear-clad captain getting off the ship before several hundred teenagers drowned--and so greedily overloaded, then a North Korean infiltration ship scenario would have been more plausible.





The general consensus in South Korea is that this was their 9/11. That may be the case. But, really, it's something that happens again and again--incompetence and greed are to blame, not a terrorist or the dark hand of a sinister conspiracy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

No Courage Needed Whatsoever




Steven Mufson rains on the hagiography parade:

Here’s the Kennedy Library’s version of what happened:


“He had promised Americans no new taxes during the presidential campaign two years earlier and he was voted into office with that promise. But, he had also promised to serve his country, and he decided that was the promise he would keep…. America’s gain was President Bush’s loss, and his decision to put country above party and political prospects makes him an example of a modern profile in courage that is all too rare.”


I was covering economic policy for The Washington Post from 1990 through 1993, and things were not that simple. First, making the pledge was a political maneuver that Bush must have known was not sustainable given the mounting federal deficits in the 1980s.


Second, he held out for a long time to avoid breaking the pledge; the deadlock with House Democrats forced the government to briefly shut down. He did not lead the way to a tax deal; he made Democrats push hard for it and let his budget director figure out how to package it.


Third, after signing the budget deal, Bush tried to distance himself from it. Even before the formal signing ceremony, he said at a press conference that he "had to gag and digest" parts of the deal. Later he was pressed by some of his political advisers to renounce the deal when he was campaigning for reelection in 1992. On March 3, 1992, Bush declared in a public appearance and interviews that the 1990 deal was a mistake. "If I had it to do over, I wouldn't do what I did then, for a lot of reasons, including political reasons," he said.


Mufson correctly places this "courage" in the proper context--there was none. This is absolutely critical when making an assessment of American history--without the context provided above, the Kennedy honor becomes the thing that historians will cite again and again because the reality of what happened will fade into memory. What was a reluctant, lazy, dishonest bit of political posturing becomes an anecdote repeated throughout texts for years to come.





There was no courage, there wasn't anything especially honorable about it, and, oh by the way, the President whitewashed his own foreign policy record by pardoning everyone but himself when he left the Presidency, effectively disinfecting both his own and the Reagan Administration of some of the era's worst affronts to the Constitution. If ignoring the will of Congress isn't an abuse of Executive Power, then what the hell is?





Each and every time a Republican screams about the Obama Administration, patiently remind them of a thing called the Iran-Contra scandal, Ollie North, and how the pardons came floating down from Bush's desk to save all the criminals from being indicted and tried for crimes against the Constitution. So far, we don't know of any efforts on the part of the Obama Administration to trade arms for hostages--maybe they're sending tanks to the Taliban to get that jackass malingerer and deserter Bowe Bergdahl back--who knows.





I can't wait to hear how shrill Mufson is being. Leave the poor old man and his nutty socks alone...