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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Sunday, July 28
Yeah, something like that ...!

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Today in History

1619   The House of Burgesses convenes for the first time at Jamestown, Va.
1787   The French parliament refuses to approve a more equitable land tax.
1799   The French garrison at Mantua, Italy, surrenders to the Austrians.
1864   In an effort to penetrate the Confederate lines around Petersburg, Va. Union troops explode a mine underneath the Confederate trenches but fail to break through. The ensuing action is known as the Battle of the Crater.
1919   Federal troops are called out to put down Chicago race riots.
1938   George Eastman demonstrates his color motion picture process.
1940   A bombing lull ends the first phase of the Battle of Britain.
1960   Over 60,000 Buddhists march in protest against the Diem government in South Vietnam.
1965   President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare Bill into law.
1967   General William Westmoreland claims that he is winning the war in Vietnam, but needs more men.
1975   Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa disappears, last seen coming out of a restaurant in Bloomingfield Hills, Michigan.
1988    King Hussein dissolves Jordan's Parliament, surrenders Jordan's claims to the West Bank to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
1990   Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent forces George Steinbrenner to resign as principal parter of the New York Yankees.
2003   The last of the uniquely shaped "old style" Volkswagen Beetles rolls off the assembly line in Mexico.
2012   Blackout in India as power grid failure leaves 300 million+ without power.

Non Sequitur


NC Governor Admits He ‘Does Not Know Enough’ About The Voter Suppression Bill He’s About To Sign

Lunatic Fringe
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (r) said Friday he would sign a bill passed by the North Carolina legislature that would become the most suppressive voting law in the nation. But when asked to speak about a provision in the bill that would prohibit 17-year-olds from registering in advance of their 18th birthday, McCrory admitted he “did not know enough” and had not read that portion of the bill. The bill, passed just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and paved the way for new suppressive state laws, imposes a laundry list of new restrictions on access to the ballot, including eliminating same-day registration, cutting early voting, easing campaign contribution limits, and expanding the mechanisms for alleging voter fraud. In remarks saying he would sign the bill, McCrory focused on his support for the bill’s voter ID requirement — a particularly suppressive and discriminatory policy that McCrory has long supported. But when asked by an Associated Press reporter about another provision in the bill to limit new voter registration opportunities, McCrory said, “I don’t know enough. I’m sorry. I haven’t read that portion of the bill.”
McCrory also dodged questions about two other elements of the bill that restrict early voting and end same-day registration, choosing instead to tout new campaign contribution limits, and pointing to an amendment — added by Democrats — that would expand early voting hours to make up for the limited early voting days.
When a reporter repeated the original question, McCrory said same-day registration concerns him because of the “possibility for abuse.” He added: “There’s plenty of opportunity for voter registration — online, off-line, through many methods. I thought that was a fair system before, and I think it’s a fair system now.” The Associated Press pointed out that North Carolina has no online voter registration, although voters can download a form online and print it out
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision that effectively disables federal oversight of states with a history of voting discrimination, states have raced to pass new restrictive voting laws. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said he would challenge a voter ID law in Texas under another provision of the VRA not affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Holder hinted he would pursue similar actions against other states with restrictive laws, saying, “This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights [after the Supreme Court's ruling]. … But it will not be our last.”

Did you know ...

Did You Know ...
About a planet orbiting a nearby star is earthly blue

And speaking of blue, maybe #uniteblue isn't so blue after all...

That a growing number of states report lower than expected health care premiums

Faux News Continues To Push The Lie That Only Wingnuts Were Targeted By The IRS

Lunatic Fringe
Faux News Sunday, with the help of repugican Sen. Mike Lee, continued to push the widely disproved lie that only conservatives were targeted by the IRS.

First Wallace tried to revive the scandal during his interview with Treasury Sec. Jack Lew:

WALLACE: So, if this is supposedly behind us. It’s been more two months since he directed you lead the investigation, explain to me how it was that conservative groups were targeted by the IRS.
LEW: Now, look, first of all, Chris, what we found out as we went through to find the facts is that there was equal opportunity and bad judgment. It was conservative groups. It was progressive groups.
WALLACE: At equal numbers or not — grossly disproportionate wingnut groups over progressive?
LEW: There aren’t equal number of groups. The bad judgment was equal opportunity.
WALLACE: But not the number of groups.
LEW: No, but it was –
WALLACE: It was over a hundred compared to a dozen.
LEW: You have to look at how many cases of each there were.

Wallace then brought in tea party boy toy Sen. Mike Lee to baselessly speculate that the White House was involved:

WALLACE: I want to get your reaction to several things that Secretary Lew said. First, on the IRS targeting of conservative groups, he said, quote, “The problem has been addressed and there is no evidence of any involvement of political appointees.”
Your reaction?
LEE: Well, I think you need to ask some of the people who were affected by this, how they feel about it, whether or not this is, in fact, behind us.
I don’t think this has been investigated to the extent that we know everything there is to know, nor do I think we should give up. Look, we know how this works. We know that when you put this much discretion, and this much discretionary power in the hands of the few, eventually, it may well be abused for partisan political purposes. That happened here and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.
WALLACE: And he was somewhat evasive on the question of whether or not anybody in the IRS has directly spoken to William Wilkins, the chief counsel of the IRS. Is that a hole in the investigation on whether this problem has been addressed?
LEE: Yes. And this is one of the reasons why his answer itself supplied some of the answer to your question, which is the fact that he was being that evasive, means he either doesn’t know or perhaps got something to hide. Either way, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that. We’ve got to find out who knew what and when they knew it because this is a big problem. There’s a big deficit of trust with this administration, particularly when it comes to the IRS, an agency that was given too much power and that’s about to get more powerful.

Notice how Lee and Wallace skipped over Sec. Lew’s point that progressive groups were also targeted? The graphic on the screen when Lee was on said, “IRS Scandal Wingnut Groups Targeted,” which made it seem like only wingnut groups were targeted. New documents released by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) prove that not only were progressive and Occupy groups targeted, but that the IRS intentionally didn’t disclose the targeting of the left to Congress. Rep. Darrell Issa (r-CA) continues to refuses to release the full transcripts of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee IRS investigation because they prove him wrong.
Rep. Cummings has also released other documents which prove that President Obama was not involved in the IRS scandal. Facts and documents mean nothing to Sen. Mike Lee. He doesn’t need evidence to know that the Sec. Lew was being “evasive,” which means that he was obviously lying.
The only lies being told here were coming straight from Faux News. Their beloved scandal that was going turn Barack Obama into Richard Nixon has fizzled out of existence.

Faux News is out of touch with reality, and they are spreading their hallucinogenic propaganda to millions of Americans each day.

Faux News Anchor Dumbfounded That A Scholar, Who Is Muslim, Had The Audacity To Write A Book About Jesus

Lunatic Fringe 
On Friday, Faux News invited renowned religious scholar and prolific author Reza Aslan onto the air, ostensibly to discuss his latest book on christianity, ‘Zealot: The Life and Times of jesus of Nazareth.’
But instead, host Lauren Green launched into an islamophobic attack on Aslan’s credentials and expressed incredulity that he, a self-professed muslim, would be able to write about christianity in a fair and honest way.
Throughout the nearly 10 minute interview, Green inaccurately sought to portray Aslan as a religiously-motivated agitator with a hidden agenda out to discredit the very religion that he himself once practiced:
GREEN: This is an interesting book. Now I want to clarify, you’re a muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of christianity?
ASLAN: Well to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees — including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of christianity for two decades — who also just happens to be a muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some muslim writing about jesus, I am an expert with a Ph.D in the history of religions…
GREEN: But it still begs the question why would you be interested in the founder of christianity?
ASLAN: Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.
Undeterred, Green continued by reading aloud from an equally islamophobic FauxNews.com column by John Dickerson in which he dismissed Aslan’s academic pedigree, referring to him simply as “an educated Muslim” with an “opinion” about jesus.
Watch it:
Green would pivot back to Aslan’s religion at least seven more times during the interview, simply refusing to accept that a muslim could also be an impartial scholar of Western religion.
As Aslan pointed out towards the end of his interview, many scholarly works have been written about islam by christian academics. Those authors, he noted, are rarely if ever asked to defend their credentials or explain why they chose to cover a religion apart from their own, certainly not on Faux News, which regularly provides a platform to hate-mongers like Pamela Geller and Frank Gaffney and passes them off as experts on islam.

The repugican Plan to Violate the First Amendment by Establishing Religion

Lunatic Fringe
Tim Huelskamp, our favorite batshit crazy repugican Representative from Kansas, is sponsoring an amendment (the Federal Marriage Amendment) to the Constitution that would define marriage as one man and one woman. The American Family Association, home to such crazies as Bryan Fischer, is all for it. Undeterred by studies showing millennials leaving organized religion, that “young adults perceive evangelical christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Huelskamp had promised such an amendment and he delivered on June 30 of this year. The last such attempt to force a religion down Americans’ throats failed in July 2006.
Just as a refresher, this is the wording of the proposed amendment:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Huffington Post reported at the time that its sponsors included a bunch of people who have, apparently, never read the Bible:
Its cosponsors include repugican Reps. Joe Barton (Texas), Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), John Fleming (La.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Ralph Hall (Texas), Andy Harris (Md.), Randy Hultgren (Ill.), Sam Johnson (Texas), Walter Jones (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), James Lankford (Okla.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Steven Palazzo (Miss.), Stevan Pearce (N.M.), Robert Pittenger (N.C.), Joe Pitts (Pa.), David Schweikert (Ariz.), Bill Shuster (Pa.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Steve Stockman (Texas), Tim Walberg (Mich.), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) and Frank Wolf (Va.)
(Someone, please send them each a copy – probably best to highlight the relevant passages for them. We’ll get to those in a moment).
The AFA’s president, Tim Wildmon, says, “We have a reached a frightening impasse, I fear the day just years from now when marriage has absolutely no definition at all.”
Funny thing that. Marriage has no definition in the Law of Moses Republicans love to point to as the basis for the Constitution. It is hardly surprising then – this is their own logic now – that if the Bible lacks such a definition the Constitution should lack one as well.
Just the other day, Ted Cruz told CBN that,
“On marriage there is no issue in which we need to be more on our knees because the momentum is with the opponents of traditional marriage. We’re facing an assault on marriage.
He wants to pray to stop Marriage Equality. This, apparently, is his platform as would-be president of the United States. You can see right off that he has a lot to offer America. Not.
Wildmon worries obsessively that marriage will be so watered down it will become “meaningless.” Eventually, he says, “marriage won’t be anything but a freewill agreement between any two people, or more than two people.”
Guess what? That’s all marriage was for most of human history. Not a religious institution at all but a social convention to recognize alliances between families.
In other words, it is these christian extremists who are trying to make marriage something it is not. This traditional marriage paradigm is an aberration – an anomaly.
Yet we find people like Bob Unruh and Joseph Farah of World Net Daily insisting that for all of history – all 6,000 years of it – marriage has been between one man and one woman:
So why is one ‘lifestyle’ affirmed by the popular culture, the political class and the judiciary and the other is ignored – even to the point of jailing those who dare to practice it? This is not a rhetorical question. I really want an answer from someone who believes the right, just, moral course of action is to redefine marriage as an institution between any two people, regardless of their sex. It’s a question that deserves an answer as we march, without thought, into a brave new world of sexual revolution, casting aside 6,000 years of human tradition inspired by God’s law and an institution that has formed the cornerstone of civilization.
The trouble for Unruh and Farah is that the world isn’t 6,000 years old and human tradition goes back for as long as humans have been on the planet – about 250,000 years for homo sapiens. People were getting married long before the bible says there were even people. And you can bet your bottom dollar they weren’t engaged only in “traditional” marriage.
And they are not defending their right to be married according to their biblical 6,000-year paradigm; they are demanding that the rest of us, christian and non-christian alike, abide with their religion-based bigotry.
In other words, they want to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution by making laws establishing religion.
Which shows you where their loyalties lie.
It is amusing to watch religious extremists like Wildmon and Huelskamp and Farah scramble to make marriage something that exists between one man and one woman. They cite biblical precedents but the Bible does not actually define marriage in that way. In fact, the Law of Moses allows for the marriage of one man to many women. Some folks don’t like that, but not liking a fact doesn’t make it untrue.
The bible literally abounds with examples of polygamy practiced by its jewish heroes, kings, and patriarchs and the Law of Moses in fact recognized and regulated it. For example, we find in Exodus 21:10 – you know, the part where god gives the jews their laws – the very same laws Huelskamp and others pretend they are giving to us,
If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.
And in Leviticus – again, a listing of the laws, we find (18:18),
And you shall not take a woman as a rival to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.
In other words, there is nothing wrong with marrying another woman while already married. Just not the sister of your wife.
On the other hand, god’s law demands that a man marry his deceased brother’s wife – even if he already has a wife of his own (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).
And most telling of all, Deuteronomy 21:15-17:
If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn.
In other words, it isn’t a problem that the guy has two wives and sons by multiple wives; the problem is in how he treats his offspring.
Jesus, it might be observed, never condemned polygamy. It was being practiced while he was alive. He could have mentioned it; would have if he didn’t approve, presumably. But he didn’t.
If you thought these people were batshit crazy before, you were wrong. The Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling really put them around the bend. They are more determined than ever to shove their faux-reality down the throats of their fellow citizens. Their battle cry seems to be “Reality be damned! This is what god wants even if god never actually said he wants this!”
They have no written evidence of course, since the bible (meaning god) says something very different. But it’s what they say god wants, which isn’t the same thing at all, is it?
The amendment will never be passed. It isn’t even popular in Kansas. The American people don’t want it. The repugicans know that. Huelskamp himself has said he recognizes that. There is no good explanation for wasting our time and our tax dollars on this nonsense when there are serious problems to be solved. The repugican cabal did not get the message in 2008 and they did not get it in 2012. There is no good reason to suspect they will finally get it in 2016.
Instead, they think if they get “hipper worship bands” in cult rites the young people will come back and if they get handsome guys and gals with great smiles to deliver their message of hate we will vote for them. Lacking the means of enrolling them all in a 12-step program, there isn’t much we can do to help them. We can only help ourselves by sending them repeated messages that their message is not wanted.

Wingnut catholics and Religio-wingnuts Unite for Revamped Culture War

Lunatic Fringe 
AbortionTruckFINALOver the past few decades, there have been numerous attempts by both religio-wingnut leaders and repugican cabal officials to woo catholic officials and catholic voters. These days, while the repugican cabal is still paying attention to winning catholic votes, the religio-wingnuts are spending more time focusing on forging alliances with high-powered catholic cult officials.
In a new essay, veteran journalist Frederick Clarkson maintains that, "Evangelicals and Roman catholics have found common ground — and the motivation to set aside centuries of sectarian conflict — by focusing on these issues while claiming that their 'religious liberty' is about to be crushed. The movement is mobilizing its resources, forging new alliances, and girding itself to engage its enemies. It is also giving fair warning about its intentions. It may lose the long-term war, but whatever happens, one thing is certain: It won't go down without a fight."
This time, common ground is being forged through a little known document issued in November 2009, called The Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Conscience. The New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein described it as "an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of wingnut catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the shrub junta."
According to AlterNet's Peter Montgomery, the Declaration signed by several Roman catholic bishops and "such religious-right heavy-hitters as Focus on the Family['s] ... James Dobson and Prison Fellowship Ministries leader [the late] Chuck Colson, compares pro-choice advocates to eugenicists (and implicitly to Nazis) and equates same-sex marriage with polygamy and a gateway to legalized incest. Its authors promise to defy any law that does not comport with their religious beliefs."
Clarkson, Senior Fellow at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank located in Somerville, MA., told me in an email that 50 catholic Bishops were "fully a third of the original signers."
A well-traveled road
Wingut christian evangelicals and wingnut catholic leaders had been down this road before. In 1995, Pat Robertson's christian cabal, under the direction of executive director Ralph Reed, was riding high as the most important and influential Religio-wungnuht group in the country. Reed wasn't satisfied sitting on his laurels. Always thinking of ways to increase the cabal's political power, he came up with a diversification plan: go after minority and jewish voters, and, perhaps more significantly, convince catholics they had a place in the religio-wingnut's big tent.
To create a coalition of wingnut catholics and evangelical protestants the cabal launched what it called the catholic alliance, an organization it hoped would become a haven for catholics alienated by the liberal orthodoxy within the catholic establishment. Hot button issues of abortion and euthanasia would trump longtime catholic concerns over economic justice and opposition to the death penalty. The catholic Bishops opposed the christian cabal's co-optation of the word catholic and The catholic alliance never became the powerhouse Robertson and Reed had hoped.
The shrub's first campaign for the presidency vigorously targeted the catholic vote. The thinking was that "compassionate conservatism," as represented by his faith-based initiative, would pry catholic voters away from the Democrats.
These efforts have led to The Manhattan Declaration.
The Manhattan Declaration and the building a new catholic-evangelical alliance
"The integrated three part Manhattan Declaration agenda of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty is already one of the driving ideological elements of our time," Clarkson told me. He pointed out in his piece that the Declaration invokes Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous Letters from a Birmingham Jail, in that it calls for "resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage."
Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and prominent Roman catholic neoconservative, originated the Declaration. George is a leading figure in such wingnut groups as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Witherspoon Institute, the American Principles Project, and America Principles Action. Evidently, according to Clarkson, George "recruited the late evangelical leader Charles Colson and Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George as co-authors, and he later helped recruit the document's original 150 signatories." Signatories included "top catholic prelates and evangelical leaders, notably Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Dolan of New York, and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of evangelicals."
Although Manhattan Declaration organizers had hoped to attract one million signatories when it was issued, Clarkson noted that thus far more than 540,000 "people have joined the original signers, primarily via the website devoted to the Declaration, generating a massive email list that may prove useful to the religio-wingnuts."
The Declaration's first section concludes by stating "that its purpose is to both unify and mobilize the religio-wingnuts," Clarkson wrote: "We are christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence."
While it can be safely said that most Election 2012 voters were unaware of The Manhattan Declaration, it nevertheless played a role in the election. According to Clarkson, "in a homily titled 'godless Secularism Assaults Life and Liberty,' Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the United States Council of catholic Bishops (USCC), described the profound relationship between the three issues of the Declaration. Lori claimed that godless secularism is what led to the legalization of abortion—and that this, in turn, is a source of wider threats to religious liberty."
During the presidential election, Cardinal Dolan -- often seen as the prelate with a smile and a sense of humor – and several of his Declaration-signing colleagues penned an "Open Letter" stating that marriage and religious liberty "stand or fall together." Clarkson reported that they advocated for "laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country."
"By a single stroke," the Open Letter stated, "every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage."
The christian and catholic wingnuts claim their religious liberty is under attack
One of the enduring memes coming out of the christian and catholic wingnuts these days is that their "religious liberty" is under attack. Everywhere you look they claim their rights are threatened. Same-sex marriage advances at the peril of their "religious liberty." Striking down of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, is an affront to their "religious liberty." Pharmacists refusing to fill certain prescriptions, bakers declining to bake wedding cakes for same-sex marriage couples, county clerks claiming their religious beliefs forbid them to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, all fall under the conservative right's "religious liberty" banner. And, according to the religio-wingnutt/wingnut catholic coalition, Obamacare is a major blow to "religious liberty."
Clarkson pointed out that "The question of the rights of individuals to discriminate, based on rights of conscience," is being played out in a number of places across the country. After same-sex marriage became legal in Maine, Maryland and Washington, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal enterprise known formerly as the Alliance Defense Fund, "issued legal memos ... claim[ing] that ... municipal and county clerks responsible for issuing marriage licenses, are not required to do so if it violates their religious beliefs, and may delegate the responsibility to a subordinates."
Hobby Lobby, the privately held arts and crafts supply business founded and owned by David Green, one of the world's richest men, has challenged part of the "law that requires employers to provide coverage for the morning-after pill and similar drugs," the Associated Press reported. According to Clarkson, the Green family hopes "to extend their personal religious views to the corporation, and thus gain an exemption from the law." After initially being rebuffed, Hobby Lobby recently received a favorable ruling United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which "declared, among other things, that the company can be considered the equivalent of a religious person with rights of conscience under federal law, and thus exempt from the contraception provision of the ACA."
Clarkson maintains that "The aggressive, overt political engagement of the catholic Bishops is an historic shift in American politics and religion. That they would find such fundamental common cause with the likes of Tony Perkins and James Dobson is unprecedented and will have a lasting impact on American public life. "
These "religious liberty" battles are the latest in an ongoing culture war that most Americans appear to have tired of a long time ago. Nevertheless, as Clarkson pointed out, with wingnut catholic leaders joining "the religio-wingnuts [in] increasingly see[ing] the federal government as tyrannical and oppressive, and ... experimenting with a more militant style of resistance," there is no end in sight.

Krugman: ‘Better-informed people on the Right seem, finally to be facing up to a horrible truth’

News of a somewhat positive sort
by Egberto Willies
Paul Krugman
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a great analysis in his piece “repugican Health Care Panic”. Before going into the most prescient statement in his piece it is essential to quote his interpretation of what the law does. Inasmuch as it has been explained in many forms, Krugman’s one paragraph puts it more succinctly than most.
Although you’d never know it from all the fulminations, with prominent repugicans routinely comparing Obamacare to slavery, the Affordable Care Act is based on three simple ideas. First, all Americans should have access to affordable insurance, even if they have pre-existing medical problems. Second, people should be induced or required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, so that the risk pool remains reasonably favorable. Third, to prevent the insurance “mandate” from being too onerous, there should be subsidies to hold premiums down as a share of income. [source]
So what ‘horrible truth’ is it that better informed people on the Right seem to finally be facing up to? They are panicking as they noticed that
Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.  [source]
For those that have followed the real news and widely available information, that should not have been hard. After-all, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has been working successfully and effectively in Massachusetts for several years now (Obamacare was modeled on many parts of Massachusetts healthcare).
Additionally, the information about the success of health insurance exchanges in states that care more about the health of their citizens than ideological politics, are coming in. The pricing from these health insurance exchanges, contrary to the myriad of lies and misinformation from repugicans have been much lower than expected.
Because of the manner in which Obamacare was implemented, much of it was stealthy inasmuch as it did much for most. As such it was easy to demonize.
For those who already have insurance, the fact that it cannot be rescinded or the fact that it no longer have caps which could actually cause one’s bankruptcy, though a huge benefit is rather stealthy. The fact that disease screenings must be covered at no additional cost on policies is likely seen only a few times a decade even though the cost savings and lifesaving potential is huge. The fact that pre-natal care must be covered at no additional cost ensures that America will no longer have one of the worst maternal death rates and worst infant death rate in the industrialized world. The fact that those with pre-existing conditions will be able to now purchase insurance at rates equivalent to everyone else is stealthy except for those it affect.
Full implementation of Obamacare begins in 2014 with health insurance exchanges open in October 2013. The truth will be out not by hot air but by reality. It is important that the news media, the blogosphere, and every other medium is ready to call out the lies and hold those attempting to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the well-being of American citizens accountable.

South African man faces deportation from New Zealand due to obesity

Now that's just Wrong
A medically obese South African man has been told he is too fat for New Zealand, despite losing 30 kilograms since he moved to Christchurch six years ago. Albert Buitenhuis and his wife, Marthie, are now facing deportation after their work visas were declined because of his 130kg weight. Immigration authorities cited the demands his obesity could place on New Zealand health services. However, he weighed 160kg when he first arrived in the country and his wife says he has committed no crime except "being a foodie".
The couple moved to Christchurch from South Africa in 2007 and got work at a local restaurant - Albert as a chef and Marthie as a waitress. Their annual work visas had been renewed ever since with "very little problem", Marthie Buitenhuis said. "We applied for [them] year after year and there were no issues. They never mentioned Albert's weight or his health once and he was a lot heavier then." Then, on May 1, the couple received the news that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) had declined their work visas because medical assessors deemed Albert no longer "had an acceptable standard of health".

The couple were forced to stop working immediately. They are staying with his sister in Auckland while they fight to stay in the country. "The irony is that at the moment he weighs less than he [did] when we first arrived in New Zealand and also less than in his first medical, which was accepted by INZ," Marthie Buitenhuis said. An INZ spokesman said Buitenhuis was rejected because his obesity put him at "significant risk" of complications including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, some cancers, premature joint disease, impaired glucose tolerance and an enlarged fatty liver.
He also had a long standing issue with a knee joint, which could cost up to $20,000 to replace. "It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize costs and demands on New Zealand's health services," he said. Buitenhuis was the principal applicant on the work visa and so his wife is also no longer eligible for a work visa as a secondary applicant. The couple have made an appeal to Associate Minister of Immigration Nikki Kaye and INZ who said no action would be taken until she made a decision.

Some say industry arrogance fueled fracking anger

It's Only The Environment After All
And that 'some' are the industry spinners and apologists trying to divert attention FILE- In this Aug. 22, 2006, file photo, then-Shell Oil Co. president John Hofmeister addresses a conference to discuss the protection of and potential threats to national and global critical infrastructures in Washington. In a recent interview with AP, Hofmeister says oil and gas companies often do a terrible job at communicating. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) 
The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.
But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
"It's a big issue for the industry. I have called for greater transparency. That is the only way to have an honest conversation with the public," said John Hofmeister, a former Shell Oil Co. president and author of "Why We Hate Oil Companies."
As an example, Hofmeister said, some industry leaders have suggested that the fracking boom has never caused water pollution. But while the vast majority of wells don't cause problems, "everybody knows that some wells go bad," Hofmeister said.
Over the last five years, advances in technology have led to a surge of drilling in states such as Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arkansas and North Dakota. Previously inaccessible deposits of shale oil and gas have been unlocked by fracking, a process in which large amounts of water and sand along with chemicals are injected deep underground to break apart the rock.
One of the biggest promoters of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Pennsylvania says that while fracking opponents have exaggerated some risks, the industry hasn't always handled key issues well, either.
Terry Engelder, a Penn State geologist, cited the highly publicized case in Dimock, Pa., where 18 families began complaining in 2009 that nearby drilling had polluted their water supply with methane gas and toxic chemicals.
State environmental regulators ultimately agreed, imposing large fines on Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Co, and temporarily banning the company from drilling in a 9-square-mile area around the town. Cabot paid the fines but denied responsibility for the contamination.
Engelder said at least some of the industry's missteps have been unintentional and come from inexperience.
In Dimock, the land had so many layers of rock and the drilling boom was so new that both the industry and regulators struggled to understand and explain the problems with the water wells, Engelder said.
Cabot spokesman George Stark said that in retrospect, the company realized that the geology around Dimock was "highly unusual" and that pre-drilling tests for methane would have helped determine which wells had natural contamination of methane.
In 2010, Cabot began holding summer picnics in the Dimock area to answer questions about the industry, drilling and local geology, Stark said. More than 8,000 people attended last week's event, up from about 2,000 the first year, he said.
While many issues were at play, Engelder said, experts came to believe that the well construction techniques used in the early years of Pennsylvania's drilling boom "were just inadequate to the task" of protecting groundwater in that area. Regulations for well cement jobs were later strengthened considerably, but by that time, anger and negative publicity had started building, and the damage was done.
Engelder and Hofmeister say that to the industry's credit, the drilling boom has brought many benefits. Many communities haven't had major problems and welcome the jobs and the royalty payments that can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for a single landowner.
But Engelder said the industry can't just focus on positives.
"There never will be a risk-free gas industry in Pennsylvania, just like there never will be risk-free driving a car," he said.
Engelder said he believes the industry should work more closely with opponents and give them detailed explanations of the geology, the risks and the benefits of drilling. "I would do whatever it took to try and engage these people over a period of time," he said.
But some industry critics are skeptical.
"You can't change the spots on a leopard," said Jim Switzer, a Dimock resident who says drilling ruined his water. "They would spend a billion dollars to say they weren't responsible for something rather than spend a couple million dollars of taking care of who they screwed."
Another drilling critic who battled Colorado's Encana Oil & Gas for 10 years over its work around his property said he was angered not only by noise and pollution but also by industry attitudes.
"Those people moved into our valley like a conquering army," said Thomas Thompson, who complained that the heavy equipment that accompanied drilling in Rifle, Colo., created endless dust storms that caused health problems for him and his wife.
Thompson said he's never said the U.S. shouldn't develop natural gas resources, just that it should be done responsibly. After years of asking government agencies and the industry to address the problems, Thompson and his wife relocated to Texas and settled a lawsuit over his claims.
The company said Thompson essentially "did not like having oil and gas activity on his property."
"We realize that this is sometimes the case, particularly if an individual doesn't have mineral rights and receives no economic benefit from our presence and activity," Encana spokesman Doug Hock said in an email. "Generally, we're able to reach some sort of accommodation. In other cases, such as this one, it's not possible."
Despite the anger from some critics, Hofmeister thinks many in the industry are "rather unemotional" about the opposition.
"It's a big world," Hofmeister said. "The industry will move on to where it will be successful."
It's Not Like We Don't Have Another One

Why Do Protesters Against Egregious Environmental and Financial Misconduct Get Arrested, But Not Corporate Perpetrators?

Now that's just Wrong
police8 26It's sadly what we've come to expect: advocates for saving the planet -- and present and future lives with it -- and those who protest financial crimes and improprieties get arrested, charged, and often serve jail time, but those responsible among the corporate and financial elite go free.
In this case, the headline on mlive.com (as in Michigan) that came to our attention reads, "Four protesters arrested at Enbridge pipeline construction site charged with felony." 
Enbridge is a massive intertnational oil and gas pipeline company (based in Canada) that, as noted in a study by the Polaris Institute, fesses up to large scale environmental damage:
Thousands of litres of dangerous fluids are released from the company ’s pipelines and holding tanks into the environment each year.
According to Enbridge’s own data, between 1999 and 2010 , across all of the company’s operations there were 804 spills that released 161,475 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment.
This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker the Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988.
Enbridge's most infamous spill in the US occurred along a pristine stretch of the Kalamazoo River in July of 2020. InsideClimateNews.com won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the first major tar sands oil spill in America:
It was near Marshall [Michigan] that an aging oil pipeline burst on July 25, 2010 and spilled more than one million gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history, and its effects can still be seen today in the river and in the lives of the people who live near it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates as much as 180,000 gallons of oil still lie on the river bottom and some of it is moving toward a Superfund site....
The Kalamazoo accident was the first major pipeline spill involving diluted bitumen, or dilbit, the same type of oil that will be carried by the Keystone XL pipeline if the Obama administration approves the project.
Bitumen is a tar-like substance that must be diluted with liquid chemicals before it can flow through pipelines. When the Michigan pipeline split open, the chemicals slowly evaporated and the bitumen began sinking to the river bottom.
From accusations of abuse of eminent domain, to toxic leakages, to facilitating excessive carbon production, to even charges of tacit condoning of paramilitary executions of opponents of pipeline work in Colombia, Enbridge is a big target for protestors when looking at corporations that, it appears, triumphantly bulldoze environmental interests and human rights out of their way.
As michlive.com reported about a July 22nd act of civil disobedience:
Four people arrested Monday at the site of a pipeline protest northwest of Stockbridge [Michigan] have been charged with a felony.
Vickie Rose Hamlin, 59, of Michigan City; Lisa Michelle Leggio, 35, of Holland; Barbara Ellen Carter, 22, of Detroit; and William Michael Lawrence, 22, of East Lansing are charged with resisting or obstructing police, a felony, and trespassing, a misdemeanor, according to a statement from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office.
There were 20 to 30 demonstrators gathered early Monday, July 22, at the site of an Enbridge gas pipeline construction project in the area of Grimes Road and Dexter Trail roads, the sheriff’s office reported.
The individuals are part of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands and were working to halt the efforts of Enbridge, which is replacing and increasing the capacity of its crude oil and petroleum pipeline through 10 Michigan counties.
“Enbridge itself has consistently demonstrated that their sole priority is their own bottom line, not the health and safety of the people of Michigan, our ecosystem and even their own workers,” the group said in a statement.
There's a much larger story here beyond the courage of the advocates to prevent climate change and prevent a global fossil fuel pipeline company from expanding its bitumen (tar sands oil) transport capacity in the US.
What becomes apparent from the nationwide law enforcement suppression of the Occupy Movement to the arrest of protesters against sub-prime home foreclosures to the arrest of anti-Tar Sands pipeline advocates for the earth and our lives...what becomes apparent is that those who resist the rapacious profit-machine of the consumer society and monetization of the value of life are the ones who are shackled as law breakers, threats to the social order, people to be stigmatized as targets of police (and intelligence surveillance) action.
Meanwhile, those who exploit our economy and planet  -- as if they were driving a speed boat three sheets to the wind through endangered coral reefs, tossing their champagne bottles overboard to become flotsam on a polluted sea -- are not, with rare exception, held accountable.

Michigan attorney general backs pensioners in Detroit bankruptcy

It's The Economy Stupid
The word 'Bankruptcy' is seen painted on the side of a vacant building by street artists as a statement on the financial affairs of the city on Grand River Avenue in Detroit, Michigan July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook 
by Susan Kelly

Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette, a repugican, said on Saturday he would defend retirees who risk losing public pensions because of Detroit's bankruptcy, putting him at odds with the city's emergency manager appointed by fellow repugican Governor Rick Snyder.
Schuette, an elected official, said the Michigan state constitution is "crystal clear" in stating that pension plans are a contractual obligation that may not be diminished or impaired.
"Retirees may face a potential financial crisis not of their own making, possibly a result of pension fund mismanagement," Schuette said in a statement.
The attorney general said he would file in federal bankruptcy court on Monday on behalf of the pensioners affected by the biggest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.
A U.S. bankruptcy court judge on Wednesday dealt a blow to Detroit's public employee unions and pension funds opposed to the filing by suspending legal challenges in Michigan state courts while he reviews the city's petition for protection from creditors.
The city's unions and pension funds had hoped to keep the fight in state court, where they felt Michigan's constitutional protections of retiree benefits would prevail against any efforts by state-appointed Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to scale them back.
Judge Steven Rhodes ordered three lawsuits filed by city workers, retirees and pension funds halted and said that applied also to suits against Orr as well as Michigan's governor and treasurer.
In a June 14 proposal to creditors, Orr called for "significant cuts in accrued, vested pension amounts for both active and currently retired persons."
A spokesman for Orr said on Saturday the bankruptcy court would have the final say on the pension issue.
"The emergency manager plans to establish the city's eligibility to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection and then move as swiftly as possible to propose a plan of adjustment that will help create a strong and viable Detroit and will enable the city to provide essential public services to its 700,000 residents," Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said in an emailed statement.
Detroit, a former manufacturing powerhouse and cradle of the U.S. automotive industry, filed for bankruptcy protection on July 18.
The city has struggled for decades with companies moving or closing, rampant crime, shrinking population and political corruption. The city's revenue failed to keep pace with spending, leading to years of budget deficits and a dependence on borrowing to stay afloat.
Detroit has more than $18 billion of debt and unfunded liabilities. That includes $5.7 billion in liabilities for healthcare and other retiree benefits and a $3.5 billion pension liability.
Schuette said he would continue to represent governor Snyder and state agencies in legal proceedings related to the bankruptcy, even though he is taking a different view on the pension issue.
In an emailed statement, Snyder's press secretary Sara Wurfel said the governor's office expects that Schuette will "vigorously defend" its efforts as well.
"Our response is that this is an important issue, and we appreciate and support efforts to get clarity and help determine the best path moving forward that respects and is fair to pensioners and all parties," Wurfel said

Bank forecloses on wrong house, changes locks, steals tons of stuff, won't compensate owner in full

It's The Economy Stupid
On Popehat, Ken details the astounding story of Katie Barnett, whose home was burglarized by agents of the First National Bank of Wellston, Ohio, who mistook her house for one that they were foreclosing upon. The bank broke into her house, changed the locks, and got rid of many of Barnett's possessions.
The local police refuse to get involved, and the bank's CEO, Anthony S. Thorne, is refusing to reimburse her in full for her possessions, which were stolen and destroyed by his company. Thorne says that because Barnett can't produce receipts for all of her goods (because who does that?) (and also, even if she had, they'd have been in her burglarized house), and because her recollection of her stuff doesn't match the "inventory" of the bungling bank employees who stole everything she owned, he will not pay her full compensation.

Katie Barnett has asked First National Bank of Wellston to pay her for the possessions it sole and disposed of. First National Bank of Wellston, through its CEO Anthony S. Thorne, claims that it isn't paying because Katie's reimbursement list doesn't match the records that its employees kept of what they took and disposed of. Those would be the same employees who tried to find a house using GPS, failed, burglarized the wrong house, and disposed of Katie's possessions, in case you were wondering. Mr. Thorne and First National Bank nonetheless regards them as very reliable record-keepers.
Mr. Thorne is also demanding receipts for Katie's things, and has told her the bank "isn't paying retail." Katie, like many people, doesn't keep receipts for everything, not anticipating that a bank will burglarize her house. Moreover, to the extent she does keep receipts, she keeps them in her house, because once again, she fails to anticipate that a bank will break into the house, take her receipts, throw them away, and then demand that she produce them. Katie also failed to anticipate that someone could burglarize your house and, when called upon to pay you so you can replace your things, sneer that replacements from a second-hand store are good enough for you.
The McArthur, Ohio police refuse to get involved. Would they get involved if Katie burglarized a house? Yes they would. Would they get involved if Katie ran off with someone's stuff and refused to repay? Yes they would. Will they get involved when a bank — a reliable crony of government — burglarizes a house and drags its feet on repaying the victim? No they will not.
Want To Burglarize A House With Impunity, Then Nickle-And-Dime The Restitution? It Helps To Be A Bank.

Signs of declining economic security

It's The Economy Stupid
Unemployment in America: 4 in 5 face near-poverty, no work
Unemployment, jobless_20111103104011_JPG
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.
As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused — on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.
Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor."
"I think it's going to get worse," said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend but it doesn't generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.
"If you do try to go apply for a job, they're not hiring people, and they're not paying that much to even go to work," she said. Children, she said, have "nothing better to do than to get on drugs."
While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.
The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.
Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.
"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty. He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama's election, while struggling whites do not.
"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.
Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.
Buchanan County, in southwest Virginia, is among the nation's most destitute based on median income, with poverty hovering at 24 percent. The county is mostly white, as are 99 percent of its poor.
More than 90 percent of Buchanan County's inhabitants are working-class whites who lack a college degree. Higher education long has been seen there as nonessential to land a job because well-paying mining and related jobs were once in plentiful supply. These days many residents get by on odd jobs and government checks.
Salyers' daughter, Renee Adams, 28, who grew up in the region, has two children. A jobless single mother, she relies on her live-in boyfriend's disability checks to get by. Salyers says it was tough raising her own children as it is for her daughter now, and doesn't even try to speculate what awaits her grandchildren, ages 4 and 5.
Smoking a cigarette in front of the produce stand, Adams later expresses a wish that employers will look past her conviction a few years ago for distributing prescription painkillers, so she can get a job and have money to "buy the kids everything they need."
"It's pretty hard," she said. "Once the bills are paid, we might have $10 to our name."
Census figures provide an official measure of poverty, but they're only a temporary snapshot that doesn't capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.
In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person's lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.
The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.
Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79 percent, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.
By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.
By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.
"Poverty is no longer an issue of 'them', it's an issue of 'us'," says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."
The numbers come from Rank's analysis being published by the Oxford University Press. They are supplemented with interviews and figures provided to the AP by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.
Among the findings:
—For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.
—Since 2000, the poverty rate among working-class whites has grown faster than among working-class nonwhites, rising 3 percentage points to 11 percent as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers. Still, poverty among working-class nonwhites remains higher, at 23 percent.
—The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teenage pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, compared with 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.
The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children went from 38 percent to 39 percent.
—Race disparities in health and education have narrowed generally since the 1960s. While residential segregation remains high, a typical black person now lives in a nonmajority black neighborhood for the first time. Previous studies have shown that wealth is a greater predictor of standardized test scores than race; the test-score gap between rich and low-income students is now nearly double the gap between blacks and whites.
Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, a biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.
The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class. Forty-nine percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of nonwhites who consider themselves working class, even though the economic plight of minorities tends to be worse.
Although they are a shrinking group, working-class whites — defined as those lacking a college degree — remain the biggest demographic bloc of the working-age population. In 2012, Election Day exit polls conducted for the AP and the television networks showed working-class whites made up 36 percent of the electorate, even with a notable drop in white voter turnout.
Last November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since repugican Ronald Reagan's 1984 landslide victory over Walter Mondale.
Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential "decisive swing voter group" if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections. "In 2016 repugican cabal messaging will be far more focused on expressing concern for 'the middle class' and 'average Americans,'" Andrew Levison and Ruy Teixeira wrote recently in The New Republic.
"They don't trust big government, but it doesn't mean they want no government," says repugican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. His research found that many of them would support anti-poverty programs if focused broadly on job training and infrastructure investment. This past week, Obama pledged anew to help manufacturers bring jobs back to America and to create jobs in the energy sectors of wind, solar and natural gas.
"They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them," Goeas said.
 This photo taken Friday July 12, 2013, shows the Salyers' produce stand in Council, Va. Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and a vanishing American Dream. Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.” (AP Photo/Debra McCown)

What Happened to Economic Mobility in America?

It's The Economy Stupid
The plight of two American families in Milwaukee explains the other half of the winner-take-all economy
Over the last 20 years, two middle class American families -- the Stanleys and the Neumanns -- have done all the right things. Milwaukee natives, they worked hard, learned news skills,  and tried to show their children that strivers would be rewarded.
But their lives -- as captured in an extraordinary Frontline documentary -- are an American calamity. Followed by filmmakers for two decades, they move from dead-end job to dead-end job, one of the couples' divorces, and most of their children spiral downward economically, not up.
The Stanleys and the Neumanns are a microcosm of the middle class that President Barack Obama -- and House Republicans -- will spar over for the remainder of Obama's presidency. And they are part of a global trend. Across industrialized nations, income inequality is growing and people like the Stanleys and Neumanns are the losers.
"Mobility is a two-edged sword," said Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa who has studied income inequality across countries. "And you're looking at the other edge of the sword."
At the very top, life is getting sweeter. As my colleague Chrystia Freeland noted last month, the global "winner-take-all economy" is intensifying.
A June study found that the number of people worldwide with more than $1 million to invest soared to a record 12 million in 2012, a 9.2 percent increase over the previous year. The number of ultra rich -- the 111,000 people with investable assets of at least $30 million -- surged 11 percent.
The Stanleys and the Neumanns, meanwhile, are falling behind. Whatever your politics, please watch this film. These two families, one black and one white, put a human face on the polarized debate about what is happening to the American middle class.
Conservative viewers may feel that the two couples made mistakes -- failing to go to college, for example, or not moving out of a dying industrial town like Milwaukee. Liberal viewers may see them as victims of a globalized economy that rewards the few spectacularly and relegates the many to low-paying jobs.
Whatever the cause, their spiral is startling.
When filmmakers Bill Moyers, Kathleen Hughes and Tom Casciato, first visited them in 1991, the family's wages from union factory work comfortably supported them. In the early 1990s, however, as Milwaukee factories moved overseas, both of the Stanleys, and Tony Neumann, the Neumann patriarch, lost their jobs. They took lower-paying work and, to makes ends meet, Tony Neumann's wife, Terry, also had to enter the workforce.
Throughout the 2000s, the couples struggled on. Claude Stanley, the Stanley patriarch, waterproofed basements, started his own home inspection business and became a minister. By 2012, an illness has saddled him with enormous medical bills and his business had failed. At 59,  he was a city forestry department worker making $26,000 a year trimming trees and collecting garbage. His wife Jackie became a realtor, but never gained a foothold in a declining housing market. Only one of their five children finished college, paying tuition with credit cards.
After his layoff, Tony Neumann took a low-paying overnight factory job, and rarely saw his wife and three children. His wife Terry worked as a security guard, forklift operator and home healthcare attendant. By 2012, the couple, high school sweethearts, had divorced and lost their home through foreclosure.
The children in both families fared even worse. Those who attended at least some college had steady work. Those who did not had low-paying jobs or no work at all.
Many also had failed relationships. As of 2012, one Neumann son was a high school dropout who had fathered two children with two different women. The other was unemployed and had fathered three children with two different women. Defying stereotypes, the Stanleys, who are black, proved to be a more stable family than the Neumanns.
In one of the film's most wrenching scenes, Terry Neumann visits the house she lost to foreclosure, where she had expected to live out her American dream. The family that bought it at auction for $38,000 looks on as she tours the home, wondering what went wrong.
"The way the economy is going, no, I don't think anybody is going to be financially secure, truthfully," she tells Moyers near the end of the film. "And we'll just work until we collapse and keel over and die."
Recent studies have found that economic mobility is stagnating in the United States. Where one grows up and who one's parents are increasingly determine a child's economic future. And a smaller percentage of Americans escape poverty than their peers in other wealthy nations, including Canada, Germany, Japan, France and Australia.
On Wednesday, President Obama again vowed to change all that. In the first of what administration officials say will be a series of speeches about the middle class, Obama repeated a laundry list of economic proposals that are stalled in Congress. House Republicans, meanwhile, vowed to do everything in their power to block Obama and slash government spending.
Americans, understandably, are tuning out the noise. Washington's deadlock is likely to continue. Yet the problem is real and global.
Corak, the Canadian researcher, said workers like the Neumanns and Stanleys who lack college degrees or specialized skills are struggling across many industrialized nations. Shifting manufacturing jobs overseas to developing nations as well as sweeping technological change has led to stagnant middle class wages.
But a recent study he authored found that the dynamic played out differently in different nations. In Canada, more equal public education and healthcare systems, as well as the lack of a large housing bubble, helped mitigate the impact of globalization. In the United States, meanwhile, families more often struggled on their own.
Corak said the polarization of the U.S. inequality debate puzzled him. Yes, an individual's actions mattered, such as the Neumann's divorce. But global economic trends beyond each family's control affected them as well, as did the quality of public education and healthcare.
"You can still accept that families are very, very important," he said, "without rejecting the economic issues."
On balance, Obama's proposals will do more to aid struggling middle class families than those of far-right House repugicans. White House officials vow that this Obama drive to aid the middle class will be different.
For the sake of the Neumanns and Stanleys -- and millions of families like them -- hopefully they're right.

McDonalds Tells Workers to Toil 70 Hours a Week, Use Ripoff Payroll Cards as Part of "Financial Literacy"

It's The Economy Stupid
Mcdonalds sign
The poor have to endure not just the indignity of struggling to survive, but also from having to listen to pious lectures on how they really can proper on their meager incomes.
The McDonalds/Visa/”Wealth Watchers” version of this “let them eat cake” comes in the form of a website that drives home the message that if low wage workers like McDonalds employees just mustered up enough budget discipline, they can achieve “financial freedom”. The use of math, one imagines, is intended to make the advice seem objective rather than cynical and self serving. ThinkProgress, which pounced on this spreadsheet, pointed out how unattainable this sanitized, prettily-formatted elite fantasy is.
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Now it’s not hard to notice that these lovely patronizers anticipate, in a super duper high unemployment economy, that the industrious budget-preparer will have TWO jobs. And how much time might that entail?
Wellie, the spreadsheet starts from after-tax dollars. Using current employee FICA payments of 6.2% and the 2012 Federal tax tables, and assuming this is a single worker who takes the personal exemption and standard deduction and pays no state income tax, this worker gets roughly $28,950 in pre-tax income. ThinkProgress tells us that McDonalds pay “averages” $8.25. I’m not sure where they got that, since other reports (Glassdoor) show McDonalds’ jobs postings paying well under $8, and a Bloomberg story recounted how a 20 veteran was still getting only minimum wage in Chicago…which is $8.25. So we’ll used $8.25 even though this looks like creative accounting from McDonalds’ PR department.
We’ll assume our laborer making $28,950 in gross pay works 50 weeks a year. Divided by $8.25, that’s 70.2 hours a week, or more than 10 hours every day.
Now you can clearly see how the expense side is equally unrealistic. Remember, it’s politically important to show that even low income workers can save, so notice how “savings” is the first “expense”. Notice also that is shows $20 a month in health “insurance”. Funny, McDonalds’ own health plan, which is meager (don’t get seriously ill, the maximum payment in a year is $10,000) and only some of its full time workers are eligible, costs $14 a week. $14 x 4.5 weeks a month = $63. So McDonalds can’t even make its own bare bones program work in this fairy tale budget. But those poor folks get their bread and circuses in the form of $100 for phone and cable. Needless to say, $600 a month won’t get you far in the rent category in a lot of major cities either. And how are you going to be able to hold down those two jobs if you live out far enough to have cheap rent but you have to spend a lot of time commuting?
Now let’s look at what is left. That $25 a day is supposed to cover food, gas, clothes, shoes, laundry, cleaning and personal care products, medication (OTC and prescription co-pays, which will be large given how cheap the medical plan is), dental treatments (no way does a $20 a month plan include dental), entertainment, and any travel to see family or friends.
Now the site tells you how to meet these goals:
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So someone who is exhausted and time stressed is exhorted to use public transportation (they probably have to but presenting necessity as a virtue is patronizing).
And if they are working two jobs, how likely is it that they can maintain enough in the way of personal relationship to find someone to carpool with, even before we get to the odds of having schedules mesh? And of course, the low income person is supposed to be able to cook and plan.
The piece de resistance, however, is that this site pushes payroll cards:
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Even though McDonalds was embarrassed by ThinkProgress into acknowledging that its employees who own homes might need to pay for heat, it’s apparently not backing down on the use of payroll cards that are being examined by Federal and state prosecutors for possible violations of minimum wage and consumer protection laws. A Consumer Reports study from 2012 looked at a large sample of these cards and found that workers were likely to incur $10 to $30 in monthly charges, with $15 to $25 typical.
In other words, low income workers must strenuously avoid doing everything Big Money and Big Food and Big Retail are trying to get you to do through multibillion public relations and marketing campaigns, and use as many of the public services that these same firms are in the process of destroying.
But with all this, the claim is that “You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it.” See what nice well scrubbed healthy looking people are promoting this-budget-your-way-to-virtue theology:
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And look how easy renting an apartment is, according to link that takes you to Visa (well except for the creepy and aggressive hawking of credit reports):
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It might help if we leave the Orwellian “Wealth Watchers” version of a McDonalds worker’s financial prospects and look at the reality.

From Bloomberg last December:
Tyree Johnson scrubs himself with a bar of soap in a McDonald’s (MCD) bathroom and puts on fresh deodorant. He stashes his toiletries in a Kenneth Cole bag, a gift from his mother who works the counter at Macy’s, and hops on an El train. His destination: another McDonald’s…
He needs the makeshift baths because hygiene and appearance are part of his annual compensation reviews. Even with frequent scrubbings, he said before a recent shift, it’s hard to remove the essence of the greasy food he works around…
Johnson, 44, needs the two paychecks to pay rent for his apartment at a single-room occupancy hotel on the city’s north side. While he’s worked at McDonald’s stores for two decades, he still doesn’t get 40 hours a week and makes $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois…
Johnson begins most days the same way: picking cigarette butts out of the shower drain of a shared bathroom, using a tissue so he doesn’t touch them. While there’s a “No Smoking” sign posted inside the hotel where he lives, that doesn’t stop the other occupants who share the showers, sinks and toilets.
His rent at the hotel in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood is $320 a month. Johnson usually can’t cover it all at once, so he’s allowed to pay $160 every two weeks, or even $80 a week, for his first-floor room. He’s late on November rent and owes about $100 — some of it a late-payment fee, he said. Since falling behind, he’s put off buying a Dell laptop for $99 that he found online.
“Forget about that computer,” Johnson said. For now, he’ll keep going to a local Apple store when he wants to update his Facebook page in his efforts to find someone nice to date and to stay in touch with his father.
A pay stub of Johnson’s shows that he earned $8,518.80 through Sept. 9 this year at the store that gives him most of his hours. He was able to work only 52 hours during the two- week pay period ending that date because the restaurant was being remodeled, he said. A statement of earnings from his other McDonald’s job shows that he worked fewer than 12 hours over two weeks, earning $95.45 before taxes.
And his early efforts to better himself didn’t help. Johnson took out a student loan in 1987 right after high school to take a six month course and get a computer certification. He was able to finish paying off the loan only a couple of months ago.
So the message of the well-off to the struggling is work long hours at grossly underpaid jobs, when those “long hours” can’t even be cobbled together in this crappy economy, and then work really hard the rest of the time to stretch your meager earnings as far as humanely possible. This is just a prettied-up version of Dickensian sweatshops. The working conditions and hours are somewhat less grinding and we now have more varied forms of cheap entertainment, but the underlying premise is similar: the elites prefer a savage, mercenary version of capitalism to the less ruthless one that labor was able to win out of its protracted, hard-fought battles. The resulting coarsening of social relationships and a waste of human potential are costs the top brass seem only too happy to incur.