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Hokay, I’m done with Coke

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 8.22.25 AMNYTimes has an article on the “accidentally” leaked documents of the 501(c)(4) that contributes to the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA).  This advocacy group is called Republican Governors’ Public Policy Committee.  The Democrats have one too but it’s called something like The Center for Innovative Policy.  I guess they solicit all kinds of policy, not just Democratic ones. (that explains a lot)

Anyway, the members of this advocacy group contribute up to $250,000 in order to attend swank soirees and bend the ear of the Republican Governors in attendance.  Access “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”  And I used to think that these were equal opportunity corporate schmoozers.

So, you might be wondering who is in this shadowy group that is supporting the attack on women’s reproductive rights and cutting social safety net programs to the bone.  The usual suspects are here.  But there are also a couple of surprises:

The most elite group, known as the Statesmen, whose members donated $250,000, included Aetna; Coca-Cola; Exxon Mobil; Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of the highly political Koch Industries; Microsoft; Pfizer; UnitedHealth Group; and Walmart. The $100,000 Cabinet level included Aflac, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Novartis, Shell Oil, Verizon Communications and Walgreen.

Exxon, the Koch brothers and Pfizer don’t surprise me.  But Coca-Cola and Microsoft?  Really??

You mean every time I drink a diet Coke or buy another annoying Word license, I am contributing the the erosion of women’s rights or depriving some kid of food stamps?

Um, that’s disgusting.

I might not be able to get around Microsoft but I can definitely cut Coke out of my life.  Boycotts might be ineffective but this is a personal choice and I’m not consciously contributing to my own demise.

 

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Stupid, heartless people

Read Paul Krugman’s piece on the death of food stamps in the Farm Bill, after 40 years of success.

Now, I understand that some people think this is a dandy idea.  Split the Farm Bill up so that all the committed tax dollars go to industrialized farms and address the SNAP program separately, where there will be no such security for families with children.

But all I see is an opportunity for Republican voters, who have been deceived to believe that the country is suffering a scarcity of food stuffs that they have to pay for, to get another opportunity to shame and humiliate people.  Apparently, needing food is a reason to strip the dignity from your fellow citizens.

Yeah, that’s really nice.  I believe this is how bullying works.  Pick on someone for something they can’t help and then physically and mentally punish them for it.  That ought to make the Republican base feel smug and good about themselves.

Pathetic.

***************************

Need more DryLock.  Merde.

Friday Fast: American school kids are out for the summer. Who feeds them?

This about control.

Certain conservative and otherwise intelligent voters are resentful that someone might be leeching off of them.  They all know someone who won’t pull his weight and that person becomes the template for how they see all poor people. For some reason, it never occurs to them that it might be the assholes on Wall Street who got massive bailouts and bonuses and a blank check in perpetuity to our Treasury department even after they blew up the world’s economy who are the biggest leeches of our tax dollars.  THOSE are the people whose behavior we should be trying to control and who are selfishly hoarding more money, goods and stuff they didn’t earn.  But we don’t hear the Republicans going after them.

No, it’s much easier to pick on people below you who can’t defend themselves.  Sauron’s Mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck continue to feed a steady diet of resentment to Americans who are lucky enough to still have jobs and haven’t felt the full impact of the Little Depression- yet.

Let’s examine what they bought with those food stamps.  Let’s take whatever joy there is left in their world, the last bits of food security, and rip that away too because it feels really good when we accuse the parents of hungry children of being lazy, stupid losers.

Some voters need to graduate from fourth grade.

The rest of us can give up our lunch today and donate our lunch money to organizations that help feed Americans who are currently suffering from food insecurity.  That is especially important for growing school children.  Schools out for summer and if they aren’t getting a free or subsidized lunch, many of them are going hungry.

I don’t need Michelle Obama to lecture me on childhood obesity when so many kids can’t get enough to eat.  And having the Republicans selfishly and cruelly deprive these kids of food stamps is beyond evil.

Here’s the link to Feeding America.

Here’s the link to NoKidHungry.

Here’s the trailer for A Place at the Table:

How do Republican voters sleep at night??

House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps

Taking the food out of the mouths of children is immoral and evil.  You know this.  There are some things that you should never, never do.  You shouldn’t kill anyone, you shouldn’t steal from anyone, and you should never send a child to bed hungry, no matter what you think of their parents.  In this country, we pay farmers to not grow crops in order to support prices.  We have an abundance of food.  We eat too much.  It is disgusting that Republicans would deny food to anyone.

These representatives are YOUR fruit.  YOU voted for them.

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BTW, I donate $25/month to Feeding America.  I don’t have a lot of money for charities so I had to pick one that had the most impact for good.   It’s not a lot of money but I never forget that there are families out there who can’t afford good, nourishing food, even with food stamps.  Consider making a donation.

Here’s the link.

Friday Fast tomorrow.  Give up your lunch money for someone who needs it to feed their kids.

 

Thursday Morning News: Reading the entrails

Brittany is still not over The Clintons

Hey, all you Glee fans, did you catch this gem on Tuesday night?

Artie: I thought I was over someone, but I still think I have feelings for them.

Brittany: The Clintons?

Yeah, you and half of the country.

So, sports fans, are you ready to dive right in?

Let’s start with the latest cave from the Obama administration.  The NYTimes reports today that Obama will allow insurance companies to charge more for families with sick children. like parents of juvenile cancer patients or chronic asthmatics don’t have enough to worry about:

The Obama administration, aiming to encouragehealth insurance companies to offer child-only policies, said Wednesday that they could charge higher premiums for coverage of children with serious medical problems, if state law allowed it.

Earlier this year, major insurers, faced with an unprofitable business, stopped issuing new child-only policies. They said that the Obama administration’s interpretation of the new health care law would allow families to buy such coverage at the last minute, when children became ill and were headed to the hospital…

“Unfortunately,” Ms. Sebelius said, “some insurers have decided to stop writing new business in the child-only insurance market, reneging on a previous commitment made in a March letter to ‘make pre-existing condition exclusions a thing of the past.’ ”

The White House has been tussling with insurers for months, trying to get them to provide coverage for children with cancerautism, heart defects and other conditions.

In a letter Wednesday to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Ms. Sebelius said the decision of some insurers to stop issuing child-only policies was “extremely disappointing.”

Yes, I have found that sternly worded letters are always effective at achieving what is, apparently, voluntary compliance with the law.  “I’m terribly disappointed.  No beets for you.”  Hmmm, let’s see, the Democrats have slashed food stamps during a recession and now they’re allowing insurance companies to suck the last penny from between the cushions of parents’ worn out couches.  I’m beginning to think they don’t like kids.  Well, it’s not like they vote or anything…

Next up, Obama apologizes for being a Democrat, er, as defined by Republicans? Peter Daou found this revealing insight into Obama’s brain in a review of a NYTimes magazine article:

[President Obama] reflects on what he called the “tactical lessons” of his first two years: He let himself look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend Democrat,” realized too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” [see reference to Hudson Tunnel project below] and perhaps should have “let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts” in the stimulus. He said he and his team took “a perverse pride” in focusing on policy while ignoring the need to sell it to the country and that he realizes now that “you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”

I’ll wait a minute for you to recover the jaw you just dropped.  That last sentence is really funny.  It’s almost like he was projecting or something.  Read Daou’s post.  There’s more where that came from.  Maybe Obama doesn’t understand how the game is played.  Or he *does* understand how the game is played and you are really not going to like the next two years as he takes the country down and tries to pin it on the Republicans.

Speaking of Republicans, some of you may be wondering what it’s like living under the regime of Chris Christie in NJ.  I am happy to report that property taxes are still as high as ever and he has made no attempt to reform the state funding system.  But wait!  There’s more.  Christie has been going gangbusters trying to bring the densest state in the union, in more ways than one, to heel.  He’s been having a blast taking on the teacher’s unions and slashing and burning through school district expenditures.  Take online books, for example.  My district could afford them last year.  This year, Brook’s slender frame is being permanently warped from schlepping 80 lbs of books back and forth to school each day.  We have already had one catastrophic book bag failure and the sucker didn’t even make it through September.  Here’s a sampling of our Governor’s education “policy”:

Students have less, parents pay more as new school year begins in N.J.

Ex-education chief Schundler openly blames Gov. Christie for Race to the Top loss

N.J. school funding scores high marks, but does not account for Christie’s $820M budget cuts

Gov. Christie reveals plans to limit N.J. superintendents’ salaries, base pay on merit

The last item is clearly  Christie pandering to the spoiled Republican suburbanites who sit on their fat asses all day, leave at 3:00pm in the afternoon and don’t do 1/10th the amount of work that I witnessed superintendents doing when I was a school board member.  Running a school district is like running a company with hundreds of employees.  It’s a tough, demanding job but some Republicans I know cannot imagine why we pay our superintendents $150K/year.  Our own superintendent quit this year and we have an interim superintendent.  In all likelihood, the good citizens of —–villeburg thought that the guy should eke out a living on 100K/year or less. In New Jersey??  That will get you a decent but unspectacular condo and a second hand car here.  Would YOU want to run a large company but live like a worker in communist East Germany?  Seriously.  $100K isn’t even the average salary in my township.  But leave it to the short sighted burghers here to turn their anger on the schools instead of the property tax inequities.  Thank God we have all the school buses we can eat.  We wouldn’t want to charge for courtesy bussing.  New Jerseyans have their priorities all screwed up.  But the budget cuts have an unexpected benefit.  Whenever you ask why the school district doesn’t do X when we had X last year, the person behind the desk smiles sweetly and says, “The budget didn’t pass.  This is what people wanted.”  Ergo…

Then there’s the tunnel under the Hudson that Christie wants to cancel.  The tunnel project is a no-brainer so we can safely assume that Christie has no brain.  Commuting to and from NYC from Jersey is time consuming and expensive.  The tunnel would have made it a less arduous ordeal.  But Republicans are not into infrastructure.  That’s long term thinking.  They don’t do long term.  So, the commuting ordeal will continue until the state thoroughly hates Republicans with a passion.  It may be happening sooner than they expected.

And finally, here is the Podcast of the Day:  Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed Sean Wilentz from Princeton, just down the road a spell.  Wilentz talks about how Glenn Beck is channeling the John Birch society.  I’m not sure he completely nails the current national problem though.  He thinks the roots of Democratic failure is in the 60’s.  I think it faced its steepest decline in 2008 when the Democrats jettisoned the working class for snobby Obama and his droogs.  Some of the working class, in anger and confusion, allied themselves with the Becks and Tea Partiers.  Well, if the Democrats have the “We don’t need no stinkin’ working class” attitude, they shouldn’t be surprised at the consequences.  We don’t like Beck either but we aren’t calling the working class bitter, guntotin’, holy rollers.  They’re simply acquiring power in a way that will cause distaste for the genteel Democrats.  Or as Wilentz puts it, in GlennBeckistan, it will be a “dog eat dog world, mitigated by religious charity”.  Doesn’t that sound delightful?

Don’t you miss the Clintons?

Ok, Conflucians, I’m off!  There’s a hot Swedish colleague giving a seminar this morning and I don’t want to miss it.

 

 

A new “ketchup is a vegetable” moment

I don’t know what to make of this comment from David Obey about the Obama administration’s suggestion that funding for Obama’s Race to the Top educational initiatives be taken from food stamp funds:

The secretary of education [Arne Duncan] is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted .… [W]hen we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal. So as far as I’m concerned, the secretary of education should have been happy as hell. He should have taken that deal and smiled like a Cheshire cat. He’s got more walking around money than every other cabinet secretary put together.

We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps. Now they were careful not to make an official budget request, because they didn’t want to take the political heat for it, but that was the first trial balloon they sent down here. …Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.

Hmmm.  I don’t know where the White House is shopping but here in NJ peaches are still retailing for $1.99/lb.  Yep.  It seems that when gas prices spiked a couple of years ago at $4.00/gal, grocery stores raised prices accordingly and now we have a “new normal”.  It’s not nearly as bad as it is in Maui where my older daughter lives where a couple of bags of groceries can easily cost $100 but it’s still pretty bad.  I marvel at the cost of a single dinner.

Around here, the layoffs are thick and furious.  One minute, you’re making enough to pay your mortgage and property taxes, the next, you’re facing foreclosure as soon as the severance bennies run out.  One of the obvious solutions is to not live in NJ.  Or New York, where unemployment benefits peak at something like $450/week.  Now, that might seem generous if you live in Alabama but that money won’t even pay the rent around here for a single month.  Imagine if you have hungry kids?

There’s no shame in accepting food stamps.  Unemployed people paid for them throughout their working careers.  When it’s time to collect, they need to be able to pay the going rate for food in their area.  That’s an insurance policy against malnutrition.  And no Race to the Top scheme is going to work in a state where children are too hungry to think.

And while the House Education and Labor Committees just approved a bill that would help improve our school lunch program, advocates say the measly sums appropriated for it will not be enough unless a convincing case can be made on the House floor during debate:

“From our view [the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act] is really the best child nutrition bill that we’ve ever had. It includes stronger nutrition standards and grants for farm-to-school programs,” says Gordon Jenkins, program manager at Slow Food USA. “The amount of funding however, is very modest at the $.06 addition to the current $2.68, which leaves only about $1 for ingredients. It won’t be enough to make a significant change. That can be modified on the floor if Congress hears it’s important enough.”

For those too young to remember, Ronald Reagan’s administration tried something similar in the early 80’s during another severe recession.  It tried to sut money from the school lunch program and reclassify ketchup as a vegetable.  That didn’t go over too well with the public, even among those who thought there was a cadillac driving welfare queen behind every application for a free lunch.  You do not skimp when it comes to the nutritional needs of children.  That kind of callous indifference will definitely get you pilloried by the public, which may be Obey’s intent.  We can read a lot of political subtext into this little ditty.

In the meantime, food insecurity is a big problem in this Great Recession.  If you have the means, remember that there are a lot of unlucky duckies who still can’t find work and feed their kids.  You can help by donating to Feeding America.