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First, they came for the dogcatchers …

By: Rex Wednesday May 7, 2014 1:01 pm
Banksy-style stencils of rats on a dumpster

Artwork, not a menu

With apologies for in any way reprising those tasteless jokes which reference the alleged paucity of stray dogs in areas abutting budget-priced Chinese restaurants, I offer for the canny investor a convenient metric by which to know in advance that global warming’s grip on the throat of humanity has inexorably tightened beyond repair. A leading indicator, if you will, of the food price apocalypse prophesied in the latest government climate change report.

The amateur anthropologists among us have from time to time turned an amused glance at the culinary habits of rural americans, who not infrequently hunt and dine upon small mammals (some from the class rodentiae,) viz: squirrel, racoon, possum, rabbit, etc.

There are even several festivals at which Southern politicians gather annually to demonstrate their readiness to consume small mammals.

Likewise, rural Americans are willing, even eager, to spend a day catching fish which they promtly and enthusiastically ingest (toxic pollution of the local freshwater habitats notwithstanding). In immigrant communicties near San Francisco Bay, and New York City, it is common to note the consumption of species which have earned from public authorities a warning that they are not fit to eat.

The common element: need.

When you are hungry, and have not the wherewithal to shop at Safeway, you eat what you can catch.

I propose to you that a time will come when “urban foraging” will become so widespread and intense that a particularly ubiquitous (if noxious) urban mammal will be transformed from pest to food source.

When this happens, the expenditures by municipal governments to exterminate this species will be unnecessary, and budgets for the same will shrink, leading to layoffs.

So it will be said, “First they came for the dogcatchers, but I was a ratcatcher, so I did not speak up…and soon they came for me.”


Chris Christie:”You don’t have a noose big enough for my fat neck…”

By: Rex Monday April 7, 2014 10:37 pm

Paul Fishman, US Attorney for New Jersey and therefor man tasked with sorting out the sundry Christie-gate's that have entertained us since the Fort Lee lane closure kerfuffle, was seen shopping at Morty's Big and Tall, in the company of David Wildstein, former caporegime for the man whose mob nickname is "Big Chicken" (h/t Charlie Pierce)


Morty is reported to have provided Fishman with a selection of nooses in 3X, 4X, and a mammoth 5X sizes.


"You don't want to skimp", advised Morty–"this guy gives Taft a run for his money."


The occasion for the shopping trip was to celebrate Wildstein's grant of immunity, for which which he has been periodically trolling ever since Christie made his ill-considered sneer "I was an athlete and class president–I don't know what he (Wildstein) was doing in High School."


Of course, that was before Christie's staff slammed Wildstein as a known pratitioner of devious practices, not to mention a pesky litigant while merely a high school lad.


Wildstein has, by report, kept a dossier on everyone he ever came in contact with–in itself, not necessarily an attractive characteristic, but we will forgive him here.


He can sink the battleship Chris Christie, and all I can say is, "Godspeed, Captain.  You may fire at will."

Mother guilty of felony poverty-loses kids, goes to jail

By: Rex Monday March 31, 2014 5:43 am

Faced with the policy conundrum that is posed by the choice of directing public funds towards free childcare or prison for mom and institutionalization for kids, Arizona makes the predictable and catastrophic choice.

Most of you will have heard the devastatingly sad story of Shanesha Taylor, an unemployed and homeless single mother of two, who miraculously was granted an interview for that job that Bill Clinton decided was the answer to ending "welfare as we knew it."

She left the kids in her Dodge Durango, with catastrophic consequences.  Not to their health, but to their welfare, as a passerby, seeing them, called the cops.  Now the kids are in the hands of the county child protective services, and the mother faces two felony counts.

It is instructive to compare the way the richest country in the world allocates resources for the benefit of its children, with, say France.  It is also worth a moment's reflection on the message sent by this comparison.

In France, government run nurseries provide subsidized care for all children from infancy forward. (3 months old.)  The care is provided by well paid, well trained and dedicated personnel.  They consider this to be an important job.

Childcare in America, by comparison, while wildly more expensive to the parents, is shabby in quality, to the point of putting the cared for children in physical danger.

We do not arrive at this situation by accident, but by design.  By budget decisions taken in cold blood by state and county governments.

“It’s reasonable to turn the lens back on us,” Shahera Hyatt, Project Director for the California Homeless Youth Project, told ThinkProgress. “What did we do to not help her find childcare when she had that appointment?”

Hyatt points to her own state, California, which has cut 110,000 subsidized child care slots, about a quarter of the total spots in the program, since 2008, leaving low-income parents with few feasible options for child care on short notice.

Arizona’s child care situation for its low-income residents is, if anything, worse than California’s. In the past four years, the state has cut 40 percent of its total child care budget, $81 million, which led to an estimated 33,000 children who would otherwise be eligible for subsidized care to go without it. (By the numbers, that’s less than California — but Arizona’s population is about one fifth of the Golden State’s.) Between 2012 and 2013, there was a decrease in the number of children served for every single child care program in the stateexcept for Child Protective Services.

It would be too facile to turn our guns on the Repugnants who run Arizona; California, after all, has a Democratic party legislative super majority and a Democratic (even, forward looking) Governor.

And, of course, it was Democrat Bill Clinton who turned his back on one hundred years of policy directed at having mothers supported so they could raise their children at home rather than seek work.

To put it simply we treat our children like shit, because that is how we see them.

And we, in turn, are pieces of shit for so doing.

Go here if you are not a piece of shit, and want to change this story.

Rahm was right (??!!!) Economic recovery should have come first

By: Rex Wednesday March 26, 2014 8:29 pm

Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.


We on the left who despise Rahm Emmanuel for his corporatist roots, his dismissive attitude towards the grass roots and his cramped and limited vision of political struggle, used to inveigh, inter alia, against his reported advice that health care reform should have been left until the shambles of the Great Recession had been remediated.


From our perch 5 years out, does he not seem prescient?


Obama is daily flogged for the inadequacy of his stimulus efforts, for the economy still running out of steam, blah blah blah.


Meanwhile, all his political capital has been invested in a dumb, jury rigged Rube Goldberg invention that engenders far more political disaster than triumph.


And, it bids fair to continue so to do.


By way of counterfactual, what if the ACA were being introduced today, after a triumphal 2012 election in which the Republicans, (who never won the House in 2010, but in fact saw their minority numbers cut in half because the economy was humming like a motherfucker) were reduced to a southern rump more and more like a modern day Whig party?


With that kind of capital, one might ask, what sort of (real) health care reform might now be on the table?


Oh well, fuck us.

Hey, Prez (you worthless pig)…Stop the rapes!

By: Rex Tuesday March 25, 2014 4:13 pm

Perhaps I misconstrue the words "Commander-in-Chief", but I swear before Jesus that English is my native tongue, and the whole title is only three words long.


As I am sure you all know, the suprisingly hard-charging junior Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, recently hit a stone wall in the Senate, blocking a really rather modest attempt to attack a loathsome set of practices that besets members (mostly female) of the armed forces of the United States.


It seems that, unlike similarly situated militaries in several civilized countries, our chains of command are unable, or unwilling, to protect members of the military from getting raped.


Their allies in the Senate, not all of whom are Repugnants, have defeated via filibuster a remedial bill, the principle thrust of which is to remove the investigation of  complaints of sexual assault from the portfolio of the local unit commander.


I will not attempt to deconstruct what to me is a rather simple set of reasons militating for such a reform.


What I wish to focus on is the odd passivity of the guy in overall command.


Now, I am perhaps naive, perhaps unsophisticated.


Withal, if it were I in charge, I believe I would find a way to exercise that civilian control over the military so as to end, (with a stroke of that pen he likes to brag on,) the power of unit commanders to enable the rape of women (and the occasional man) under their command.


So, I ask, what the fuck is wrong with Obama?

Why Hobby Lobby will probably win, and why it should.

By: Rex Monday March 24, 2014 7:16 pm

Let's call this the Peyoteros revenge, or "unintended consequences bite", shall we.


Now, I am, of course, appalled (as would any right thinking person be) that the societal benefits of co-payment free birth control and insurance coverage for medical advice about the same) should be undercut by a law specifically intended to vindicate the influence of religion in the sphere of secular behaviour.


But let us be clear–the harm flows not from the unforeseen elaboration of the stated primacy of religious beliefs, but from the decision by the state to give religion special status in the first place.


Let us begin by taking off the table the manifestly outrageous extension to a corporation of a religiously based scruple.  This particular oddity is an artifact not of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act  (RFRA) which governs the jurisprudence underlying the Hobby Lobby case but of the decision in Citizens United, extending to corporations the rights which are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.


For sake of clarity, let's assume, arguendo, that instead of a corporate business structure, Hobby Lobby was one of the myriad business owned by an individual, one of the Koch brothers, for example.


Now let us assume that David or Charles Koch were before the court, arguing that his personal religious promptings were outraged at the idea that any business of his might facilitate, even if only in its choice of medical insurance carrier, the use of this or that contraceptive intervention in the intended plans of the Lord for procreation.


Suspend, for a moment your outrage at this preposterous extension of personal privilege to the behaviour of out of sight and out of mind female employees thousands of miles away from the City of New York (and the David Koch Theatre where the eponymous brother may be found pursuing his hobby of fucking ballerinas–not that there's anything wrong with that).


Consider, instead, one of the cases that will inform the judges thinking tomorrow, when Hobby Lobby will be decided.


Evelyn Smith owned two duplexes in Chico, California and sought to avoid renting to unmarried couples. (Significantly, she did not live in either one, and therefor would not have been subject to hearing the sounds attendant upon the ongoing unsanctioned fornication to which she objected.)


The California Supreme Court rejected her RFRA based claim of  exemption from the relevant housing anti-discrimination statutes, mostly on the grounds that if she wished to preserve her religious scruples she could sell the property and invest the money in some way which would not give rise to the possibility of such offense to her faith. The burden of re-deploying her capital was held to be lower than the threshold harm that RFRA was intended to avoid.


The US Supreme court refused review of   the case, to the consternation of a young lawyer in the Clinton White House whose 1996 memo described the California Supreme Court’s reasoning that the anti-discrimination law wasn’t a substantial burden on Smith’s religious beliefs as “quite outrageous,” warning that, “taken seriously, this kind of reasoning could strip RFRA of any real meaning.”


Her name was Elena Kagan.


The RFRA was initially proposed in response to the general consternation amongst the religious (including Ted Kennedy) occasioned by the reversal at the Supreme Court level of a lower court decision that two drug counselors who had used Peyote as part of their unequivocally religiously motivated practices and were then dismissed were eligible for unemployment compensation meaning that their firing was not based upon "good cause".


Thus was born the RFRA, and today we see the revenge of the Peyoteros-a straight line of consequences that flow from the initial evil.


That evil: The conscious decision taken by society to elevate behaviour motivated by religion to a special status not granted other sorts of motivation.

You have your freedom of religion, America. Now choke on it!

One Supreme Court seat turns it all around.

By: Rex Friday March 21, 2014 4:53 pm

Assume, arguendo, that the Dems hold the Senate in 2014.


As now, the House remains, by virtue of crass gerrymander, out of reach of democratic pressure, with no visible hope of redress until the 2020 redistricting, if then.


Must we accept, then, utter and complete stagnation until the congress elected in November 2020 is organized in January 2021?  That is seven more lost years.


Perhaps there is another scenario.


It cannot be lost upon any fair minded observer that the guarantee to each state of "a republican form of government" (Article IV, section 4) is reduced to a mockery when games are played to draw legislative districts designed to favor one party over the other.


Yet, despite the peg of a constitutional mandate upon which to hang an attack on the gerrymander, the Federal Courts have been loath to apply any serious scrutiny to the  practice.


So loath, in fact, that of the two significant decisions touching upon the unfairness which results when the votes of one citizen count for more or less than the votes of another, one is couched in extremely narrow terms, and the other is explicitly declared to be useless as precedent.  In short, the courts have refused to consider the question of equal protection as a standard for the constitutional evaluation of state voting and districting practices.


I refer in the first case to Baker v. Carr (one person, one vote) and in the latter to Bush v. Gore.


I offer for consideration the following scenario.


If one of the current five Republican justices could be replaced by an Obama appointment, a case could be brought and won using as precedents the two cases cited above (notwithstanding the limiting language in Bush v. Gore) ,arguing the mandate of equally protecting the votes of urban and rural individuals, so as to force a wholesale redistricting of the House of Representatives which would vindicate the popular majority of 1.5 million that Democratic candidates received over Republicans in the most recent election. 


Moreover, the myriad games that are currently permitted vis-a-vis the times of operation and location of polling places, the requirements for registration, and the standards for purging voting roles would fall before the nationalization of all elections and the imposition of uniform standards throughout the country.



Guns lawfully owned, must not be registered so as to facilitate the unlawful evasion of lawful confiscation.

By: Rex Friday March 21, 2014 5:20 am

It is commonplace to respond to the fear of gun confiscation, (virtually universally voiced by anti-registration zealots) with a soothing tut-tut, coupled with strenuous oaths forswearing the passage of any law which might reach into the extant stash of any armed citizen in order once and for all to rid society of a manifest source of misery.


One need look no further than Australia to see that it is by no means outside the bounds of imagination that a  people might make a reasoned decision to live unarmed, and in so doing require the surrender of those weapons currently abroad.


We might, after all, amend the Constitution to remove the Second Amendment.  Hard cheese, gun nuts, but there you are.


I find it curious that even as they thump their chests and declare themselves "the law-abiding and responsible gun owners", these same individuals (and their associations) assert, implicitely, their right to disobey a democratically enunciated law (should one issue) that eventually declared the private ownership of firearms forbidden, and furthermore, feel perfectly empowered to assert an interest in facilitating their disobedience to such a law by resisting the salutary (for so many reasons in addition to possible  confiscation) practice of registration.


Consider, after all, that their strident objection to registration is couched in terms that really say this:


If a law were duly passed that required me to sell my gun to the government, I would consider it my right to disobey, and I further assert that in order to make it easier for me to break that law, I will fight any system of registration, notwithstanding all the benefits it might have vis-a-vis crime prevention/solution, because it might make it harder for me to break the law.


But I am a lawful gun owner, you betcha'.