Our Rightist Jacobin Congress

hilton

Earlier this week, people who believe that even the working poor deserve a raise from time to time marched throughout the US in support of a $15/hour minimum wage. #FightFor15 was the largest demonstration by low-wage workers in US history, involving about 60,000 individual demonstrators calling for the federal minimum wage to be raised from an anemic $7.25. Marchers took to the streets in Buffalo, where the minimum wage is $8.75, or about $350 per week gross.

The United States talks a lot about equal rights and freedom, but you can judge a country by how it treats its poorest or most vulnerable. These aren’t lazy dole-consumers, but people who are out there in a tough economy trying to make ends meet.

Some facts: the minimum wage only affects 3.3 million American workers, or 4.3% of the total hourly workforce. This is down from 4.7% in 2012 and 13.7% in 1979. While the minimum wage workforce used to be mostly made up of students with summer jobs, the average minumum wage worker is 35 years old; 88% of them are at least 20 years old, and half of them are older than 30. Although the minimum wage may not have been created to support a family, given how much labor has been lost to third-world hellholes since the minimum wage was first implemented in 1938, it’s no surprise that unskilled workers find themselves doing menial work for minimal money.

Congress has refused to raise the federal minimum wage since 2009.

What Congress did instead this week was vote to abolish estate taxes. These represent a transfer tax of gross estates valued at over $5 million for individuals and over $10 million for couples. There are, of course, myriad ways for the ultrawealthy to avoid estate taxes through clever accounting, trusts, and transfers, but make no mistake – the only people affected are multimillionaires and billionaires. Were President Obama to miraculously sign such a bill, it would leave a $269 billion budget deficits – how would our right-wing jacobins pay for their next several wars?

You can’t even make a “trickle down” argument by repealing the estate tax – this is simply a giveaway to the superwealthy to whom the American right wing owes its holy fealty, while completely ignoring the plight of the working poor. This doesn’t even help the 1% – it helps the 0.2%. Only about 5,400 Americans are affected by it per year. Repeal of the estate tax would shift the burden of making up the difference onto the middle class and working poor. There is no benefit that this congress will not offer those who need no government assistance, and no impairment they will not impose upon average middle-class Americans.

Get a job, you bums! they cry, and when they get a job and can’t afford rent, they demand “get a better job!”

Our depraved aristocrats in their domed volcano lair in Washington have waged war (their favorite thing) against the poor and middle class for decades. Someday, they’ll overplay their hand and there will be a dramatic swing back towards social justice and help for our most vulnerable Americans. It never astonishes me how in just 40 years, the Woodstock generation went from love & peace to Bill O’Reilly yelling about open season on white male Christians.

This country can and should do better.

Net Neutrality: Achievement Unlocked

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to keep the internet free and open. Classifying broadband internet service – including mobile broadband – as a Title II public utility, the FCC banned ISPs from trying to control what you – the consumer – get to see while using the internet. Some ISPs had already extorted additional fees from content providers like Netflix, threatening to throttle data streams unless they basically paid a ransom. That’s illegal now.

Now, the company from whom you buy your broadband service can’t speed up or throttle content you want to access, for any reason.

This is especially important for home broadband, which remains monopolistic in most areas of the country. Even here in WNY, unless you live in one of the small handful of places that have FiOS, you’re stuck with Time Warner. Do you want Time Warner to have the ability to dictate what you do and don’t get to access? Do you want Time Warner to slow Netflix down so it becomes unwatchable, while speeding up the stream of some competitor that paid TWC off?

People who seemingly don’t know any better have denounced this move as “Obamacare for the internet” and tried to frame net neutrality as excessive government regulation. This is, of course, utter nonsense. As this piece in Engadget notes, the loudest voices against this rule are from Republicans, libertarians, and big telecoms. The libertarians hate everything, but the connection between the Republicans and the big telecoms isn’t accidental, and GOP opposition to net neutrality has been well remunerated.

The telecoms opposed net neutrality because it forever closes off an additional potential source of revenue through holding content hostage in exchange for paid ransoms. It’s estimated, however, that Time Warner enjoys a 97% profit margin on broadband service. The guaranteed open internet guarantees that content providers can continue to innovate and provide incredible and competitive creative content.

From this Engadget article,

“It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during today’s open commission meeting. “That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to telecom-backed critics thusly:

“This is no more a plan to regulate the internet than the first amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression, and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

As a contributor to a content provider on the internet, I am grateful that the FCC has taken this step to ensure that the people who control that series of tubes we call the broadband internet can’t dictate to us what we can and cannot see.

Chris Collins Sides with Big Telecom on Net Neutrality

content

Net neutrality is shorthand for the notion that all web traffic should be treated equally. The reason why net neutrality is important can be boiled down to a simple example.

Without rules enforcing net neutrality, your internet service provider can deliberately slow down certain content while speeding up other content, and hold internet traffic hostage.

This isn’t a hypothetical example – not only is it actually happening, but at least one content provider, (Netflix), has been forced to bribe an internet service provider, (Comcast), to allow its traffic to be delivered to consumers unmolested.

Without net neutrality being somehow codified, ISPs will have the right to hold all sorts of content hostage in this way. Imagine if the company that delivers electricity to your home could extort money from the generating company you chose, or if Verizon could extort more money from the long distance carrier with which you’ve contracted.

That’s why the FCC is moving to reclassify the internet as a public utility. This ISP extortion harms consumers and competition. ISPs must not have the legal right to dictate your content to you, particularly content that you pay for separately.

ISPs are, naturally, going to sue to keep the right to extort money, remain uncompetitive, interfere with contracts that you – as a consumer – have executed, and dictate what you can and can’t watch. Even more predictable is that Republican corporatist anti-consumer shills like Chris Collins (NY-27) have sided with big telecoms over consumers; protecting Goliath from David.

Last week, Collins issued a press release,

“Plans to reclassify the Internet under Title II pose a direct threat to Internet freedom,” he said. “The FCC’s actions threaten the innovative culture that makes the Internet one of the world’s greatest technologies. Additionally, these actions will add further uncertainty to the net neutrality debate.

“Here in Congress, under chairmen Thune and Walden, we have proposed draft legislation that would achieve the goal of protecting Internet consumers through the bright-line rules that net neutrality proponents are calling for in a way that limits burdensome regulations from crushing innovation.”

Consumer protection is “burdensome regulation” because it prevents big telecoms from throttling content that you pay them to access. It “crushes” innovative ways for telecoms to extort money from consumers and from content providers.

The reason why Collins and his Republican colleagues can’t be trusted to protect net neutrality is that until very recently they didn’t support it, even conceptually.

[Republican John] Thune’s [Senate Commmerce Committee] includes Sen. Ted Cruz, who in November called net neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet.” Now, Cruz “looks forward to having a vigorous discussion on how we can best ensure the Internet remains a forum for freedom and innovation” as the FCC eyes stricter regulations, according to a Cruz spokesman.

We’re meant to believe that the very people who derided net neutrality as “Obamacare for the Internet” are suddenly totally concerned about implementing net neutrality legislation? To call this disingenuous would be an understatement. The Republicans are spooked because reclassifying the internet as a public utility would forever codify these consumer protections and the authority would rest with the FCC rather than the political whims of the corporatist congress.

Collins’ own constituents are begging him to reject net neutrality, because Obama.

Collins told Roll Call how he had a sign in his office in the Rath Building that read, “In God we trust – all others bring data”. But what if the data isn’t favored by Time Warner and can’t reach its intended recipient? Until recently, Collins objected to any sort of net neutrality rules. Even now, while purporting to promote a Republican alternative to the FCC’s plan, he rejects the notions behind net neutrality as anti-competitive, harsh regulations.

When it comes to you accessing the internet data you pay your ISP to provide – whether it be Netflix or political content – Chris Collins sides with the ISPs’ right to limit and regulate what you can and can’t access.

That’s just bad policy and dumb government. Chris Collins sides with big telecom over you, the consumer.

The Obola Outbreak

In the last two weeks – coinciding with the results of the recent midterm elections – Republicans throughout the United States have been succumbing to an apparently communicable disease for which no cure or vaccine exist. It has reached epidemic proportions.

The virus, known formally as “Obama Derangement Syndrome”, or “Obola” started out with small outbreaks in the darkest corners of the right wing online and radio media. The incubation period seems to have been equal in time to the duration within which the Republicans did not hold majorities in both houses of Congress – now that they’ve taken a simple Senate majority, Obola has spread like wildfire.

No quarantine or travel ban is possible to halt the spread of this outbreak.

One of the symptoms of Obola is “impeachment”. Sufferers lurch uncontrollably from microphone to microphone, threatening the President with impeachment.  Impeachment was once an exceedingly rare phenomenon, but has now become a political tactic for out-of-power Republicans to criminalize the Democratic Party. Justification for impeachment used to be, “high crimes and misdemeanors”, as the Constitution requires. Obola sufferers, like the victims of Clintonitis before them, re-interpret impeachment to put the President on trial for, “things I don’t like”.

How do you know if you suffer from Obola?

1. You think the attack on Benghazi was caused by, or failed to be prevented by, President Obama.

The attack on the Benghazi consular compound by terrorists was a tragedy that killed 4 Americans, but President Obama didn’t cause it, and neither did clumsy explanations on Sunday shows. Answers given on “Meet the Press” are not under oath, are not testimony, and are not undertaken in a courtroom setting. No high crime nor misdemeanor occurred.

2. You’re a Birther. 

If you think that Obama has a Social Security number issued in Connecticut in the 1940s; if you think that Obama became an Indonesian citizen; if you think that Obama was born in Kenya; if you think that Obama is, for any reason, not a “natural born citizen” as defined by contemporary law; if you think that the Birtherist movement was somehow an important civic conversation, then you suffer from this disease and should see your doctor immediately.

3. You Oppose Net Neutrality

In just the last two weeks, this:

and this:

Both of these characters are well-known Obola victims, but these idiotic and ignorant statements reveal an acute worsening of the disease. “Net Neutrality” is simply a policy whereby internet service providers will be prohibited from favoring some internet traffic over others. For instance, with net neutrality, it would be illegal for Time Warner Cable to favor streaming video from Hulu over Netflix. It is not “Obamacare for the Internet” or “for the wealthy and powerful”.  It’s simply a consumer protection initiative to make sure that you get to use the internet for which you pay for whatever purpose you want, without interference from your ISP. But because President Obama has come out strongly in favor of net neutrality, Obola sufferers are reacting quite predictably and typically – if Obama is for it, they must be against it.

4. Immigration Hysterics

President Obama is poised to sign an executive order effectively legalizing the residency and work status of millions of undocumented immigrants.  This is always controversial, but in this particular instance, (from the New York Times):

Asserting his authority as president to enforce the nation’s laws with discretion, Mr. Obama intends to order changes that will significantly refocus the activities of the government’s 12,000 immigration agents. One key piece of the order, officials said, will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.

If you talk the “family values” talk, you should walk the “family values” walk. If you are in favor of deporting the immediate family of natural born and legal American citizens and residents, then you’re not for “family values”. If you’re upset that people arrived here improperly, there are certainly penalties less punitive than deportation.

That part of Mr. Obama’s plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research organization in Washington. But the White House is also considering a stricter policy that would limit the benefits to people who have lived in the country for at least 10 years, or about 2.5 million people.

Extending protections to more undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and to their parents, could affect an additional one million or more if they are included in the final plan that the president announces.

Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history.

Leave the low-risk people who have skills and aren’t criminals alone, and re-focus limited federal resources on preventing more undocumented immigrants from illegally crossing the border.

A new enforcement memorandum, which will direct the actions of Border Patrol agents and judges at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and other federal law enforcement and judicial agencies, will make clear that deportations should still proceed for convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers, officials said.

The affected beneficiaries will have had to establish that they are longstanding, law-abiding members of their communities.

Officials said one of the primary considerations for the president has been to take actions that can withstand the legal challenges that they expect will come quickly from Republicans. A senior administration official said lawyers had been working for months to make sure the president’s proposal would be “legally unassailable” when he presented it.

Most of the major elements of the president’s plan are based on longstanding legal precedents that give the executive branch the right to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in how it enforces the laws. That was the basis of a 2012 decision to protect from deportation the so-called Dreamers, who came to the United States as young children. The new announcement will be based on a similar legal theory, officials said.

The reaction from Obola victims has been swift and predictable: IMPEACH! (Ross Douthat in the NY Times, Mark Levin, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and others. But this sort of prosecutorial discretion is well within the powers of the Presidency, as set forth in this letter, and given the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which effectively allows the executive to prioritize who gets deported and who doesn’t. DACA came out in 2012, and no legal challenge has been successful. The Administration’s executive actions on immigration, in part a response to Congressional inaction, appears to be perfectly within Presidential authority.

Way back in 1986, Republicans and President Ronald Reagan introduced and signed, respectively, a law that granted amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants who met certain requirements. More than anything else, requiring our immigration law enforcement agencies to hunt down and deport law-abiding, long-term undocumented immigrants is a waste of resources.

Now, Republicans can’t get out of their own way as they pander to, or are driven by, the extreme right wing of their party, so immigration reform has not taken place. Part of this is due to an acute symptom of Obola – making sure Obama cannot succeed, country be damned.

Make no mistake: impeachment is not a winning strategy, and is not an expression of strength.

5. “Obama is a Dictator”; “Rules By Fiat”

If you utter or believe either of the above, then you’re in the deepest throes of Obola and you should seek immediate treatment. President Obama’s use of Executive Orders has been one of the most modest in recent history.

By any metric, President Obama’s use of Executive Orders has been less than that of his recent predecessors.

If you or someone you love is suffering from acute Obola, please seek professional help immediately.

National Review: Collins Has A Problem with Blacks

I almost feel badly for Chris Collins. Almost. 

My Congressman did a good thing this week, slamming proposed FDA rules against aging cheese on wood boards. It wasn’t the regulatory overreach that Collins made it out to be, but it was a horribly stupid interpretation of existing regulations. 

The FDA opined that wood planks weren’t especially cleanable, but wood has natural antibacterial properties and has been used in cheesemaking for thousands of years without a problem. The FDA backed down from any ban on wood

But sheesh, talk about burying the lede. 

Collins has done a lot to become attractive to the tea party set since his time in Washington, but everything about him reeks of corporate country club elite Republican, and that’s now finding him under fire from the right, for the first time. 

No one criticizes him in western New York because of his deep pockets. Washington’s National Review Online bloggers have no such issue. What has he done? He pissed off
an ultra right-wing SuperPAC. 

Heritage Action blasted Congressman Chris Collins, who represents New York’s 27th District, for apparently engaging in textbook cronyism. Collins, a millionaire many times over, is circulating a letter in Congress in support of re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank, from which one of his businesses, Audubon Machinery Corporation, has benefited in the past. Collins is a co-founder of and serves on the board of directors for Audubon.

A Heritage Action spokesman told The Hill, “Here’s Rep. Collins leading the charge of an entity that he’s personallybenefited from. That’s the definition of Washington working for itself.”

Collins responded, “This shows how out of touch Heritage is with how jobs are created in this country. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re a think tank. They’re not out in the real world.”

That’s rich. Collins accusing someone else of being out of touch with the “real world”. Which “real world?” To Collins, it’s the “real world” of well-connected multimillionaires getting sweet deals through federally subsidized banks. Corporate welfare. There is nothing stopping Collins or his companies from financing international deals through private banks. 

Whatever. It’s a Washington thing that has very little impact on you or me. This, however, is a blockbuster

I was briefly employed by Collins in 2013 but was terminated after three months and did not leave on good terms with the congressman. My impression was that Collins had a steep congressional learning curve. His staff had to coach him to talk less about himself to constituents, and at one point he asked about “a black” being on a Congressional committee after being told that the committee included several minority leaders.

If true, this is a remarkable insight into Collins’ complete and utter lack of character. No amount of Boy Scout talk (an organization that didn’t eliminate racial discrimination until 1974) can make up for a racial animus or discriminatory character. What difference, in 2014, does it make whether there are Black people on Congressional committees? 

Remember – this isn’t some moonbat liberal making this accusation, this is an ultra-right wing former staffer. She was terminated rather quickly, so maybe there are some hard feelings/sour grapes, but it’s an explosive charge to make so casually. 

Collins also made a conscious effort not to ruffle any conservative feathers, and he does not have a seat on  the House Financial Services Committee. 

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has called the Export-Import Bank “the face of cronyism.”

Most conservative Republicans do not support re-authorizing the bank. Collins, who almost always votes straight down the Republican line, is one of the few exceptions. A spokesman for the Congressman told The Hill that Audubon has not recently received a direct loan from the bank. Collins regularly touts smaller government, which makes it hard to understand why he would choose to make theEx-Im Bank his one major battle.

I actually support reauthorization of the Ex-Im bank. Not only does it disproportionately help smaller businesses enter the international market in cases where they’re unable to get decent international credit rates, but also because the tea party is out to kill it, which must mean it serves some public good. The tea party exists for one purpose: to destroy America and all she stands for; to create some sort of bizarre hybrid libertarian Christian jihadist confederation where everyone is armed and dangerous. So, yay Ex-Im Bank. 

But Collins’ alleged problem with Black Congressmen being members of committees is something that needs to be addressed and explained. 

2nd Amendment and Kathy Weppner

According to the silly lady, the founders of our country supposedly included the 2nd Amendment so that our servicemen and women could keep their arms and use them to commit treason and insurrection. 

I’m pretty sure the intended purpose of the 2nd Amendment was the exact opposite of that. But here’s a chillingly awful video that Tea Party Kathy released on her husband’s YouTube account. My favorite is when she stuffs the pistol in her pants. 

UPDATE: As you can see, Weppner removed this video. I looked at her other accounts – Friends of Kathy Weppner and Weppner for Congress, and it doesn’t appear there, either. Most of her videos appear on an account labeled “Dr. Weppner”

Weppner has already made herself famous by scrubbing just about any trace of her pre-2014 existence from the internet. Now, the scrubbing takes place in real time. 

Kathy Weppner: Solving All the Problems

Below is a speech that was given by an ostensibly serious candidate for Congress. She jolts between a plethora of issues, and puffs herself as having a “really good reputation” and that she’s “reading everything”. Her selling point is that Buffalo needs a “loud” and “strong” voice in Washington. 

She also hits Congressman Higgins for not being in Buffalo enough. (What?!) 

Brian Higgins’ power is not here in Buffalo. He should be here listening to us; no town hall meetings on any issues, he doesn’t want to hear from us. And then he goes there and comes back as fast as possible, and then doesn’t listen to us at all. He should be staying in Washington and getting things done for us. That’s where his power is. And that is what I’ll do. 

I quite literally don’t get the logic. She complains that Higgins isn’t here enough, and in literally the next sentence complains that he should stay in Washington. 

Of course, Higgins holds “Congress on your Corner” events all the time, and has a district office and even a phone number and email address for anyone who wants to voice their opinion

Maybe he’s not listening to shrill tea party types because their ideas are shit. 

Check out this read, as Kathy Weppner records a campaign message, but posts it to her husband’s YouTube account, and omits the federally mandated campaign disclaimer. Watch as she starts out by honoring our fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, but then uses their sacrifice for electioneering purposes. 

 That’s ok, I guess. 

On Memorial Day, she was literally campaigning on the graves of the fallen. 

Kathy Weppner’s Common Core Piece

Maybe we need Common Core, y’know? Perhaps this blog post by silly radio lady Kathy Weppner is the best argument yet for stronger national ELA standards. Because seriously, reading this vomit of all-caps, conspiracy theories, re-hashed Facebook memes, and lies will make your head spin. 

Correcting Weppner

//www.scribd.com/embeds/225689567/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true

Girls, Can We Talk?(!)

This is not, evidently, a joke or parody.  This is supposed to be a real thing.

Now, set aside for a moment the risible condescension of the “girls, can we talk” opening, it’s clear that Weppner doesn’t comprehend what the “war on women” is about.

The “war on women” has been coined as shorthand for policies and proposals that specifically target issues relating solely to females.  These can include restrictions on reproductive rights and choices, lax enforcement of workplace anti-discrimination regulations and statutes, outrageous slut shaming of feminists who advocate for women’s rights, and still-prevalent positions held mostly be men that, for instance, women who are beaten or raped must have contributed to their own victimhood; that they brought it on themselves or “deserved” it.

It’s perfectly reasonable for people to argue about how to deal with these sorts of things from different political and moral perspectives, but it’s not reasonable to simply deny that the problems themselves exist. It’s not reasonable to suggest that it’s ok that women are treated like inferiors in the labor market, for instance.

But instead of praising the women who have worked tirelessly for decades to improve the lot of all, Weppner denigrates their fight for equality as the real “victimhood”. Was Susan B. Anthony displaying weakness when she demanded equal rights and suffrage? Were the suffragettes just playing as weakling whiners when they demanded the vote? How about the women who, in the mid-19th century, gained the right to be treated as more than mere chattel under the law?

I do like that this lecture is being delivered from an all-American kitchen with a dollar-store flag in the background. Because patriot.

Kathy Weppner, an allegedly serious person supposedly running for federal elected office, can get on the YouTubes and allege that, when women fight for equality and liberty, they’re really waging war on men.  But I’ve got a transvaginal ultrasound right here that says Weppner’s wrong .

When Kathy Told Rush She Was Going Galt

Courtesy of @KathyWeppner4NY, Here is the audio of Kathy Weppner’s (R-Galt’s Gulch) pledge to His Rushness that she and her husband are going to earn less before Obummer’s cadre’s take it all.

http://telly.com/embed.php?guid=1IH4DKR&autoplay=0

Is anyone going to follow up with her on this? Has Dr. Weppner, in fact, cut back his hours so as to protect his income from Barry’s commissars? Also, when can we expect to see her audio and text archives come back online? Is there something she’s hiding?

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