Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Katie Porter is Not Here to Suffer Any Fools


If Representative Katie Porter unearths some incompetence, malfeasance, or debauchery as a result of performing oversight on the Biden Administration, too damned bad:

Democrats loved watching Orange County Rep. Katie Porter skewer Trump administration appointees and corporate executives in congressional hearings.

But it felt different when Porter’s progressive passion and impatience for convention turned to them.

Just as she wielded a whiteboard and sharp questioning to expose the flaws and outdated thinking she saw in Postal Service management or the nation’s COVID-19 testing system, Porter recently took aim at House Democrats’ rules and traditions for what is usually a behind-the-scenes competition to determine which lawmakers sit on which coveted committees.

It was a calculated high-stakes gamble that resulted in Porter not returning this year to sit on the Financial Services Committee, one of the House’s most sought-after panels and one for which the former bankruptcy and consumer law professor was highly suited.

Porter has very little seniority but she more than makes up for it in personal achievements and outright expertise. I think it is a mistake to sideline her when she should be an incredibly valuable ally for anyone who believes in competent governance.

President Joe Biden is not going to bat .1000 every single day. He's trusting a lot of people to do the right thing and do their jobs. If they don't do what they're supposed to do, then the normal course of events is to get rid of them. That's how you lead, that's how you run things, and that's how good governance happens. You have to be tough and you have to give a shit.

Miss Katie Porter gives a shit.

Here's the thing that separates us from the wolves, or Republicans: if Porter does her job and if it exposes someone's inability to do their job, I am all for that person being fired or removed. I want the government to work and so does Porter. We just lived through four years of unhinged disregard for doing the right thing. When a Democrat acts like a jackass, get rid of them and get someone in there who can do the job.

What we don't need is blind partisan support for croneyism and graft. Porter is the cure for all that. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Amazon is the Ruin of All of Us


Here's a great read for you:

Alec MacGillis is a responsible, serious journalist who writes for ProPublica and wins awards for his in-depth reporting on economics and society. But his new book is a horror story.

The terror hits again and again in “Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America,” a grounded and expansive examination of the American economic divide. Whether he’s introducing an office supply entrepreneur in Texas, the leader of a Seattle gospel group or a retired Baltimore steelworker going back to work, the reader — me, you — will feel that drop in the stomach, the dread of what we know is coming. Here they are, people with dreams and families and flaws and aspirations, and something bad is going to happen to them.

That bad thing is Amazon.

This is much more than a story of retail. It’s about real estate. It’s about lobbying, data centers and the CIA. It’s about revolving doors in Washington, D.C., and cardboard folders in Ohio. It’s about a social fabric disintegrating while corporations duck paying taxes. It’s about a stunning transfer of wealth into Amazon’s coffers, all before the COVID-19 pandemic began and the company reaped even more.

“Fulfillment” is an indictment in fact but not in tone. I’ve been meaner to Amazon in these short paragraphs than MacGillis is in his entire book. There’s probably a reason the publishers left the word “Amazon” out of the title: This book is neither a hagiography nor a targeted attack. Instead, like the HBO series “The Wire,” it reveals the way economic, political and social systems affect individual stories. MacGillis wants readers to see how the systems Amazon both exploited and created affect so much of our economy, building the case brick by brick. In almost every instance, he finds a way in through a personal story or two. It takes a skillful journalist to weave data and anecdotes together so effectively.

Amazon is not a company so much as it is a virus that has run wild in the body of a dying host. The reason why it exists is because we fell out of practice when it comes to keeping American corporations from assembling too much power and capital in one place. You can say the same of Google, Apple, and Facebook but most people refuse to believe that the unchecked capitalism that we checked in the early 20th Century has returned with a vengeance to harm our society.

Any book that explains that is worth its weight in gold.

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Biden Agenda for Women


Elections matter:

President Joe Biden is set to mark International Women's Day Monday by signing two executive orders creating a Gender Policy Council and reviewing Trump-era changes to Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, according to administration officials.

The first order establishes the White House Gender Policy Council to work with other policy councils to advance gender equality in domestic and foreign policy development, combat systemic bias and discrimination, including sexual harassment, and focus on increasing female participation in the labor force and decreasing wage and wealth gaps, the officials said.

The council will also focus on transgender rights and supporting care workers, predominantly women of color.

Officials pointed out the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women the hardest, with 2.5 million leaving the workforce in 2020 compared to 1.8 million men who did the same. The U.S. Department of Labor's February jobs report released Friday found Black and Hispanic women showed the greatest declines in labor force participation.

This is an open reminder that the GOP is going to try and stop each and every initiative that expands the rights of every American. If you want to see an inclusive, expansive agenda going forward, look to what President Biden is actually doing. This won't get anywhere near the amount of coverage it deserves, but a push to ensure that women are treated equally in the workplace and in university athletics could resonate for generations. We have to support these moves and we have to keep voting for Democrats or the Republicans will stop all of this from going forward.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Robert Brockman Forgot to Get a Pardon From Trump


Robert Brockman is a billionaire charged with tax fraud. He's also a prolific donor to the Republican Party. In and of itself, this would not be news except for the fact that he could have gotten away with it if he'd been pardoned:

The billionaire accused of running the biggest tax fraud scheme in U.S. history was a prolific donor to Republican groups and causes. The leaders of those organizations have kept quiet on the federal charges against him.

Robert Brockman, the former CEO of Ohio-based software company Reynolds & Reynolds, was charged in October for running a $2 billion tax fraud scheme.

Department of Justice officials said at the time that the businessman had hidden capital gains income for over 20 years through various offshore entities in Bermuda and Nevis and secret bank accounts. Brockman has pleaded not guilty to the alleged crimes.

Brockman’s most recent contributions to Republican committees came in 2017, ahead of the Congressional midterm elections the following year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Representatives of the organizations that are still active did not respond when asked whether they plan to refund or give the total amount of contributions away to charity in the wake of the allegations. The 2017 contributions had yet to be reported in the media.

In 2017, Brockman donated over $80,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political campaign organization for House Republicans. Republicans went on to lose the House to Democrats, with Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., becoming speaker.

What's interesting is that Brockman stopped giving money to Republicans. If he'd given Trump a million dollars, let's say, in the summer of 2020, he probably would have been able to secure a pardon this past January. He could have then skated on Federal tax evasion charges. However, knowing how pervasive this problem is, the State of Ohio probably has a tax evasion case ready to go against him (unless they've been paid off in advance).

Brockman's defense team is also trying to claim he has a mental incapacity and cannot be tried. Fine, put the people who worked for him on trial and offer them immunity if they'll kindly explain what the hell happened.

This is a culture of corruption. How did he get away with it for that long? No one in the Obama Administration caught him. No one in the Justice Department under at least three presidents caught him. They're just now figuring out this guy was a crook?

Something is seriously broken in how we regulate and tax the rich in this country.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Officer Derek Chauvin Was More That Just a Bad Apple


Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department was a walking liability and a threat to public safety long before he encountered George Floyd last summer.

In November 2013, Minneapolis police pulled over LaSean Braddock shortly after midnight as he drove home from a double shift as a mental health worker at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Braddock, 48, said he had grown somewhat accustomed to being stopped by police because his identity had been stolen and he was sometimes mistaken for the man who had been using his name. He carried paperwork with him from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as proof, he said, so the stops were usually brief: He would show the paperwork to officers; they'd review it and let him go. But the officer at his driver's side window that day stuffed the documents in his pocket without looking at them, Braddock said.

When he hesitated to get out of the car, the officer aggressively hit the driver's side window with a flashlight, Braddock said. Two officers then tried to pull him from the car before he got out on his own. 

 "Then they tried to slam me on the ground, but I was about 240 pounds," Braddock said, adding that although he still was unsure why he was stopped, he complied to avoid injury. " Then they jumped on my head and my neck and my back. I was lying flat on the ground."

More than six years later, Braddock saw one of those officers again as he watched a harrowing video of George Floyd's final moments. Derek Chauvin, Braddock said, was one of the officers who had treated him roughly. A police report from that night confirms that Chauvin was one of the arresting officers.

This speaks to the depravity of Chauvin as a person. He was a battering ram of a cop, ready to use force without provocation. How many other cases of police brutality are there? I wouldn't trust the Minneapolis Police Department to have a firm handle on those statistics in relation to Chauvin and the other officers who were present when Chauvin murdered Floyd at the intersection of 38th and Chicago in South Minneapolis. What else are we missing here?

There has to be a significant restructuring and reorganization of the police force in virtually all of our major cities. The people hired to be cops have to rise above the possibility that they might be a "bad apple" in the bunch. They have to be screened out and removed when their conduct is revealed.

That means dealing with the fact that some police unions aren't actually there to protect the rights of cops in relation to the benefits and pay provided by their municipal employers. They're there to make sure bad cops aren't held accountable. They're right wing advocacy groups, in other words, and opposed to reform. 

I'm all for raising the pay and raising the standards for who gets to be a cop. It should be a difficult process to get to be a cop, one that involves identifying anyone who might be a psychopath. It should pay well and offer some level of prestige. And I also want to see mental health workers integrated into police activity and public safety initiatives. I want those people to be paid more than they are so they can be held to a higher standard.

And if you have to raise taxes to do it, raise the fucking taxes. Do it now.


Monday, March 1, 2021

Goya Needs a New CEO

Hey, man - read the room:

The CEO of Goya Foods said Donald Trump is the "actual" US president nearly six weeks after President Joe Biden's inauguration.

Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue spread conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, per CNN.

"My biggest honor today is gonna be that — I think we're gonna be on the same stage — as, in my opinion, the real, the legitimate, and the still actual president of the United States, Donald J. Trump," Unanue said on the conference stage in Orlando, Florida. 

Trump lost the election to Biden after losing both the popular vote and the electoral college. Elections experts and international observers found no evidence of election fraud.

Anyone who leads a corporation that depends on people actually buying a product being sold knows that a boycott can effectively cripple a brand. The Goya brand has been knocked down so badly that it is a wonder that Unanue still has a job.

I don't know why he would double down and ask people to hate the Goya brand even more than they already do. It must be something that tests well with whoever they're still trying to reach. The vast majority of the people who still support Trump are broke and wouldn't buy Goya products to save their lives. 

If there is someone advising this man, it is clear that nothing has been getting through to him. He should have made it clear where the company stands in relation to the end of the Trump Regime. Instead, he just invited more people to reject his products. Not smart.