Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The News Journal editorial page: insulating Governor Markell by making him into an adjective

At some point I recall seeing--either at kilroy's or delawareliberal--a comment that it was telling when the Veasey report about campaign finance was finally published in the WNJ front page there was no mention of it on the editorial page.

Today it made the editorial page (picture Jack Markell picking up the phone and saying, "Guys?  What gives?  I need some cover here.")

It is embarrassing.  It would have been better to keep silent.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gee, apparently Obamacare not working out for the middle class nationwide--who knew?

I can remember a lot of my liberal friends telling me that the conservatives were wrong in trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and that they should instead allow Obamacare to go into effect and--if it was as bad as they said it was going to be--collapse of its own weight.  The smug self-assurance behind that suggestion was that once Obamacare became a going concern (as they were so sure it would, right from the gate), it would become the new third rail of American politics.

More people would have insurance.  Insurance costs would go down.  Quality of treatment would go up.  If you liked your policy, you could keep it.  And everyone would get a unicorn.

Only if you consider a unicorn's horn to be ... the shaft:

More than half the counties in 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange lack even a bronze plan that’s affordable – by the government’s own definition – for 40-year-old couples who make just a little too much for financial assistance, a USA Today analysis shows. 
Many of these counties are in rural, less populous areas that already had limited choices and pricey plans, but many others are heavily populated, such as Bergen County, N.J., and Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties. 
More than a third don’t offer an affordable plan in the four tiers of coverage known as bronze, silver, gold or platinum for people buying individual plans who are 50 or older and ineligible for subsidies. 
Those making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit – $47,780 for an individual or $61,496 for a couple – are ineligible for subsidies to buy insurance.
I actually like the truth of this comment:
“The ACA was not designed to reduce costs or, the law’s name notwithstanding, to make health insurance coverage affordable for the vast majority of Americans,” said health care consultant Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official. 
“The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured, but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace.” 
The only way that the ACA actually makes sense is if it was intentionally designed to be this awful so that Americans could be convinced that the only reasonable step was to move toward single-payer healthcare.  I doubt that only because I look back at the people who gave us this mess and I don't think they're that smart.

The problem now is that you can't repeal Obamacare any more.  It is like trying to take back the bullet once you've sent it downrange.  The problem is that now you have to take a situation that President Obama and his Congressional allies made worse, and find some way to fix it in the most polarized government we've had in decades.

Good night and good luck.

The amazing, technicolor, wondrous teflon Delaware Democratic Party and Governor

Apparently the rule in Delaware is that if you are a Democratic governor it is fair game for a special prosecutor to point out that your campaign violated the law in accepting "pay to play" donations, or for the Attorney General to point out that your administration violated the law in convening a secret charter school working group, or for the Sierra Club, Common Cause, and other members of the public to point out that you are running several agencies (DNREC and DPH come to mind) with "secret" AG opinions, or for the Associate Secretary Education to admit that after four years of Race to the Top the government is not quite sure how much Federal money it has spent (but that it still wants a fifth year to spend the rest).

Yep, you can point out all of this in Delaware, but there is one thing you can't do ...

You can't hold anybody in the Democratic Party (most especially the Governor) accountable for any of this.

Special Prosecutor Veasey declines to bring charges.  Attorney General Biden says it was illegal, but he's not going to do anything about it.  So it goes.


Well, part of it is because corruption, cronyism, and corporatism is the order of the day in today's Delaware Democratic Party.

Part of it is because almost all the moderates left the Delaware GOP (which is so devoid of ideas that its current state website lacks both a platform and a legislative agenda).

Thus part of it is the current registration gap of about 130,000 more Ds than Rs in the state.

But part of it is simply because we put up with it.

Delaware has always been about "who you know" rather than "what you know," about "the Delaware Way" rather than "the rule of law."

People have become fatalistic because--deep down--they know that the Republicans don't want to get into office to change any of that; they want to get into office because they aren't collecting their own "fair share" of pay-to-play corruption.

It's past time to hold Democrats accountable, from our Congressional delegation, to our Governor, to our Attorney General, to our Commissioner of Insurance Companies, to our State Treasurer, to our Secretary of Education.

But there's one thing you shouldn't hold:  your breath.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The balkanization of Delaware and WNJ accuracy

This really should be two separate posts, but what the hell it's December 26.

First, the idea of creating "right to work zones" in Delaware makes about as much sense as the proposed legislation to allow each community to set its own firearms laws.

Delaware is far too small to be balkanized, and the ridiculous implications that would follow from either proposal are too numerous to mention, so I will content myself with one each:

1) If we enact "right to work zones," what happens to an already unionized company performing a contracted construction job in that zone, or an already unionized company that has multiple sites within the state, but only one of which falls into the zone?  You don't have to be either a fan or opponent of unions to realize that the variety of unworkable situations that could come out of such legislation are legion.

2) If we enact community-based gun laws, guess what?  You could inadvertently be engaging in illegal activity by simply traveling from Dover to Milford, or up Kirkwood Highway from Newark to Wilmington.  For example, suppose two different communities enact different laws on carrying a handgun in your vehicle.  One (ala South Carolina) says any handgun not in the trunk must be in plain sight (on the seat), while the other (ala North Carolina) says any handgun not in the trunk must be in the glove compartment or a locked container.  As I found out many years ago when I lived on the border between these two states, the implications from such legislation are both bizarre and unfortunate.

Now, to the News Journal and accuracy.  In the story regarding the "right to work zones" there is this sentence:
Current Delaware law does not allow workers in union workplaces to opt out of joining a union or paying dues.
Actually, this is not correct--not even really close.  Delaware is not a "right to work" state, but a sometimes frustrating hybrid, and the realities cannot be accurately summarized in such a sentence.

For example, the statewide teachers' union--DSEA--is an "agency shop."  As a new teacher (or even an old one) you DO NOT have to join DSEA.  But even if you elect not to join, you still have to pay an "agency fee" to cover costs of DSEA being prepared to represent you in a labor or disciplinary dispute. You CAN opt out of all the money DSEA spends on political campaigns, although in so doing you also lose the ability to vote for officers and vote on contracts.  (And, yes, I know that a new teacher without tenure would be suicidally stupid NOT to join DSEA and thereby piss off all the senior teachers in the building, but we are talking about what the law provides here.)

For another example, if the union contract with the employer is so written, union membership and dues-paying may be voluntary.  At DSU the American Association of University Professors is our union, but membership is not mandatory--we have to earn it (currently we have about an 85% buy-in).  We still represent unit members who do not pay dues if they get into trouble, but again they don't get to vote on officers or have input into contract negotiations or vote on the new contract without joining.  Still, there is absolutely no stigma attached to not joining, and I'm pretty proud of the fact that over my six years there as president we raised the membership percentage from 65% to the aforementioned 85% and held it there.

Point being:  one of the reasons that people read the newspaper is supposed to be for accuracy involved in the reporting.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

At this point, this is news?

Somebody (a local attorney) is accused by someone (her son) of sexual abuse.

But the case is sealed and the WNJ will not print either name.

Boy, I'm glad we have such fearless journalism to keep us informed about what might be occurring between parties who cannot be named.

Shorter:  why (exactly) print such a non-story at all?

Monday, December 23, 2013

So the issue is much larger than David Grimaldi, or Dennis Williams, or Pete Schwartzkopf, but then again, it isn't

Nancy Willing is, perhaps justifiably, unhappy with me over the post below this one--When Delaware passes HB 88, Who is going to take away David Grimaldi's guns.  David is a friend of Nancy's, and she feels that he has a side to these stories that isn't being credited, and--moreover--she tells me that David doesn't actually own any firearms.  On that last I wouldn't know.

And for accuracy's sake, here are links to some of Nancy's own posts telling Grimaldi's side of the story:  here, here, and here.

But I think that in her anger with me, Nancy misses the point of the post.

Gun control legislation in Delaware is supported by a lot of people with what I am sure are great intentions, but the devil is always in the details, and in two details in specific.

The first is that HB 88--while possibly defensible line-by-line as written--is part of a concerted attempt on the part of a sizable political minority in Delaware and elsewhere to categorize simply the act of gun ownership as prima facie evidence of mental instability.  Yes, this is a slippery slope argument, but you can actually see the mud from here.  When, for example, Salon purports to accurately summarize research on how simply possessing a weapon creates aggression, but slides by all the parts of the science that the author doesn't like, I'm starting to feel my feet lose traction.

But that wasn't the point of the post that Nancy feels smeared David Grimaldi.

That is the second detail:  that these new laws are specifically designed to exempt or at least cushion the elites against their impact.

When Mayor Dennis Williams tells everybody that he walks around with a concealed weapon because he's worried about old enemies, nobody wonders if he's paranoid, and his primary defender is Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.

And, speaking of Schwartzkopf, notice how the Speaker (and former State Trooper) insured that current and retired law enforcement officers would be exempted from the requirement for "universal" background checks, even though those individuals as a group have far higher than average chances of suffering from alcoholism, depression, PTSD, and other forms of mental illness as well as of committing domestic abuse.

So when I saw El Somnambulo's end-of-year write-up on David Grimaldi, I thought, yep, here's another guy in the leadership elite widely perceived (rightly or wrongly) as having anger management issues in a big way.  Had Grimaldi been a conservative nobody from Kent or Sussex who ended up in similar reporting, it is even money that somebody would have used him as a poster child for why really angry, aggressive people need to be kept away from guns.

That's the point, Nancy:  we make these laws and find ways to exempt our self-proclaimed elites from having to follow them.  Who's more likely in the event of hearing about his relative sanity to be able to bring to bear powerful attorneys and sympathetic mental health professionals to defend his right to keep his property?

Hint:  it won't be a blue-collar worker at the Delaware City refinery, or a truck driver making deliveries to a poultry plant, but it will be somebody like Williams, Schwartzkopf, and--yes--Grimaldi, who is not only likely to have the resources to fight the case through successfully, but is also very likely to know the judge or the prosecutors personally.

That's the point.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

UPDATED: When Delaware passes HB 88, who's going to take away David Grimaldi's guns?

An important note:  Nancy Willing argues vehemently that this post smears Mr. Grimaldi, and that he certainly has his own side to these lurid stories, as she argues herehere, and here, among other places.  Moreover, Nancy tells me (I wouldn't know) that Mr. Grimaldi doesn't even own a gun.  That said, I think she misses the overall point of the post in her anger that I chose her friend to use to make that point.  And, I've made the point more clearly above.  But if you get the linkage to Minority Report and the reference to a Pre-Crimes Unit, then you'll get the point.  If not, read the post above for a more explicit explanation.

The whole point of the resurrected HB 88 is to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally unstable and potentially violent, right?

So I'm just wondering if, in the brave new world where the Delaware State Police, New Castle County Police, and Wilmington Police each establish their Pre-Crimes Unit ala the world of Minority Report, who gets the job of going to David Grimaldi's house to take away his guns?
David Grimaldi, need I say more? Guy never does anything wrong, trouble just seems to follow him. Mindin’ his own business at Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities, when this Arcaro guy picks a fight with him.  Apparently over the ‘N’ word or something. County cops show up b/c Grimaldi calls them. City gets left out. We’re told by the County that this is not unusual, at least when it involves Grimaldi. Turns out that Grimaldi had been ‘accosted’ at least one previous time while minding his business. And then there was that little incident at the Hockessin PAL. Oh, almost forgot, Grimaldi demanded that an 84-year-old volunteer be ousted from her volunteer position at Rockwood b/c she wouldn’t let him and his ‘escort’ to visit the upstairs quarters unattended. Never mind that nobody was permitted to do this, Grimaldi is a somebody. According to Grimaldi, the 84-year-old volunteer is a nobody. Enquiring minds want to know…is Grimaldi’s escort a somebody, or related to asomebody? A bigwig in County government perhaps? Dave? Tom? Somebody? Nancy, any insight into this?
The answer is pretty simple:  nobody will.  Because David Grimaldi is somebody in Delaware, and the laws in Delaware rarely actually apply to anyone who is somebody.

The continuing Markell shell game on public education and Delaware's budget

You have to wonder if today's article in the WNJ about the fact that the Markell administration despairs of finding more money to pay teachers is not intended as a subtle reminder to DSEA President and DOE employee Frederika Jenner not to stray too far off the education reform reservation.

After all, it was only yesterday that Jenner published an op-ed in the News Journal criticizing teacher performance appraisal systems, one of the lynch-pins of Governor Markell's education reform, and today we're told that ...
... budget projections released this week confirm what many expected – it’s unlikely the state can afford any major boosts to teacher pay.
In other words:  mess with me, Jenner, and your teacher raises sleep with the fishes.

(Not that Jenner and senior DSEA leadership ever mess with the Markell administration, even rhetorically, very often.  For the most part the state teacher's union not only takes education "reform" lying down by signing off on everything the Governor wants, but also continues to pump thousands--even hundreds of thousands--into the campaign treasuries of politicians who cash the checks and then blithely vote against the union's interests.)

The other irony here is that in its unending quest to consider teachers the only possible variable that can move education forward, the Markell administration repeatedly proposes spending "targeted" money on raising the pay of some teachers (rather than others) in the persistently vain hope that this will miraculously cure the achievement disparities among Delaware students:

Markell and his aides have said they’re working out a detailed plan, but they’ve talked about a few broad proposals. They include possible raises, especially for teachers in critical subject areas – like math and science – and at schools with high populations of at-risk students. 
Markell has also said he wants to create “alternate career paths” so rock-star teachers can move up the career ladder without leaving the classroom to become a principal or administrator.
So let me get this straight:  while creating a slush fund for charter schools (not to mention a transportation funding loophole for them as well), the Markell administration's answer to high-poverty schools is to pay the teachers there more?

The answer is not to invest in more programs for those students?

The answer is not to invest in more teachers so that class sizes drop?

The answer is not to provide students with laptops to take home?


The answer is that if we pay teachers more to teach poor students, and saddle them with a draconian performance appraisal system, poor kids (along with kids who don't speak English real well and kids with special needs) will suddenly start to read, write, and cipher better on high-stakes standardized tests, and all will be well with Delaware.

(And, by the way, before you accept the Markell administration assertion that we are severely limited by budget constraints, remember to ask about how many millions we are pouring into bail-outs for casinos, corporate welfare, and the maintenance of the Delaware Information Analysis Center among other pieces of outright pork.  There's plenty of money in Delaware's budget if they'd actually allow adults to figure out how to allocate it.)

When will we admit that the problem with Obamacare is not the "roll-out"?

The difficulties with the healthcare exchanges makes an easy target, but the reality is that the main problem with Obamacare is structural, not technical.

Even the New York Times gets it:

An analysis by The New York Times shows the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income. 
Experts consider health insurance unaffordable once it exceeds 10 percent of annual income. By that measure, a 50-year-old making $50,000 a year, or just above the qualifying limit for assistance, would find the cheapest available plan to be unaffordable in more than 170 counties around the country, ranging from Anchorage to Jackson, Miss. 
A 60-year-old living in Polk County, in northwestern Wisconsin, and earning $50,000 a year, for example, would have to spend more than 19 percent of his income, or $9,801 annually, to buy one of the cheapest plans available there. A person earning $45,000 would qualify for subsidies and would pay about 5 percent of his income, or $2,228, for an inexpensive plan.
This reality is hitting home for people who had naively trusted politically based assertions that the Affordable Care Act would improve their health insurance situation:
David Oscar, an insurance broker in New Jersey, another high-cost state, said many of his clients had been disappointed to learn that the premiums were much more expensive than they had expected.
“They’re frustrated,” he said. “Everybody was thinking that Obamacare was going to come in with more affordable rates. Well, they’re not more affordable.” 
And upon which group are the majority of these frustrations centered?
The Chapmans acknowledge that they are better off than many people, but they represent a little-understood reality of the Affordable Care Act. While the act clearly benefits those at the low end of the income scale — and rich people can continue to afford even the most generous plans — people like the Chapmans are caught in the uncomfortable middle: not poor enough for help, but not rich enough to be indifferent to cost. 
In other words, the ACA is structured to send middle-class insurance rates UP, and a lot of Obamacare advocates are suddenly quite open and unrepentant about that fact, pretty much as if they'd expected it:
Ninety percent of the country’s uninsured population have incomes that fall below that level, according to one recent analysis. As a result, the subsidies “are well targeted for people who are uninsured or underinsured,” said Sara R. Collins, an executive with the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that finances health policy research. “That is really where the firepower of the law is focused.”---snip--Some experts dismissed the varying effects of the income cutoff, saying the law’s main elements benefit most of those who could not previously buy insurance. 
“I think that job one was to make sure that the people who clearly have the greatest difficulty affording premiums receive the greatest help,” said Ron Pollack, the founding executive director of Families USA, a consumer advocacy group that favored the law. 
To avoid creating such steep cliffs, federal officials would have had to spend more money on the subsidies, said Larry Levitt, an executive with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group that is closely following the health care law. Subsidies would have been higher, and could have been more gradually phased out, he said. The design “was largely driven by budgetary decisions,” Mr. Levitt said.
Got that?  Keeping health insurance affordable for the middle class was never actually a priority say experts from the Commonwealth Fund, Families USA, and Kaiser Family Foundation.

Put most simply:  forcing the middle class to pay more for health care (while claiming stridently that costs would go down) is not a bug but a feature of Obamacare.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Guns and cheerleaders: how science gets manipulated for political agendas

Apparently, science tells us, men become incapable of rational thought and prone to aggression and violence whenever a firearm or a woman is in their immediate vicinity.

Or does science actually tell us anything of the sort?

This week Salon published a post on the inherent dangers of US citizens engaging in legal "open carry" of firearms.  This is all based, we are told, on solid science that concludes that people carrying weapons will be more likely to react impulsively and violently to situations they encounter: 

The Darwin Awards never cease to entertain

This is the third-place winner for 2013, and my personal favorite:

After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter. Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. 
The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by Paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt.
Read the top ten here.  But not if you're drinking anything or standing under the ass of a constipated elephant (hint:  that elephant tip comes from this year's winner).

Surprise! The people who want to spy on us don't think much of us, either.

Michael B. Mukasey, Steven G. Bradbury and David B. Rivkin Jr.--all Dubya-era stalwarts--have a new op-ed out about how the government should be allowed to collect data on us, pretty much without regard to constitutional limits, in order to "protect" us.

While they make a variety of technical/legal arguments, the real truth of their argument is that the American people are dolts and sheep.

The article is peppered with phrases like the following:

"the caterwaul of those seeking to dismantle vital U.S. counterterrorism capabilities." 
"the metadata program intrudes on consumers’ infatuation with their smartphones ..." 
"Most Americans willingly accept less privacy in exchange for the conveniences the Internet makes possible."
In other words, anybody who disagrees with them is simply a feeble-minded person willing to put America at risk over information that the government has an absolute right to have:
Americans know that many government agencies collect business records and information for lawful purposes and that this often includes personal data. What distinguishes the NSA is the importance of its national security mission and the extensive congressional and judicial oversight.
In fact, Mr. Mukasey et al, most Americans are finally coming to realize the extent to which you and others have betrayed your trust, that your ilk has consistently lied to Congress, the FISA courts, and the American people, and that you cannot be trusted with the brief to protect us while also respecting civil liberties.

The simple fact is that you don't have the ethical right, the Constitutional authority, or the public trust necessary to turn the NSA or any other government agency into the thought police.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Carper and Coons make dead-of-night vote on NDAA

It's funny.  We can have long, protracted partisan arguments on the debt ceiling, and posturing by everyone, but when it comes to one of the largest and most suspect budget items Congress supervises--the NDAA and our $604 billion military budget--it gets done (literally) in the dark of night without debate or news coverage.

And, of course, Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted yet again for an NDAA that continues the policy of allowing indefinite detention of US citizens.

There was a time when civil rights and civil liberties mattered in this country.

I can even remember it; I just can't make my kids believe it happened.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Doing some gratis copy-editing for the WNJ

In a story today about Delaware Rodel Secretary of Education Mark Murphy joining the Jeb Bush (R-Daddy was President) education reform group, a suitably anonymous WNJ article says the following:
Murphy is the only sitting school chief in the organization appointed by a Democratic governor, according to the list.
Obviously this was a mere slip of the keyboard, so--as cassandra over at Delawareliberal would say--I fixed it for them:
Murphy is the only sitting school chief in the organization appointed by a Republican governor who favors marriage equality, according to the list. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yesterday the US Constitution, today diplomatic immunity

At what point after we start behaving toward foreign diplomats like we are a banana republic, following the shredding of our former US Constitution, do we get to start referring to the US as a "failed state"?

Our Federal government: reducing the civil rights of citizens one amendment at a time

Yesterday I showed you how the Supreme Court has virtually eliminated your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.

This is just the latest in a series of steps to completely erode the due process protections of citizens from the State.

For example, in April 2011, the US DOE mandated that all public schools and institutions of higher education lower their standards of proof to find someone guilty of sexual misconduct:

OCR also uses a preponderance of the evidence standard when it resolves complaints against recipients. For instance, OCR’s Case Processing Manual requires that a noncompliance determination be supported by the preponderance of the evidence when resolving allegations of discrimination under all the statutes enforced by OCR, including Title IX.27 OCR also uses a preponderance of the evidence standard in its fund termination administrative hearings.28 Thus, in order for a school’s grievance procedures to be consistent with Title IX standards, the school must use a preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred). The “clear and convincing” standard (i.e., it is highly probable or reasonably certain that the sexual harassment or violence occurred), currently used by some schools, is a higher standard of proof.
Ironically (or not!), the OCR here is the Office of Civil Rights, which has now threatened every school and university in America with the loss of all Title IX funds if they do not give in to a reduction in the defendant's rights.

Then, of course, there is Michael Hayden of the NSA, who has consistently attempted to redefine the protections of the Fourth Amendment:
It was shocking to see the interview on MSNBC a few years ago with the former director of NSA, Michael V. Hayden, and hear him redefine the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When asked whether NSA had violated the Fourth Amendment, Hayden said it had not. Hayden said "probable cause" was not the Fourth Amendment's standard for violating a citizen's privacy -- it was based on "reasonable suspicion."
So here is the scorecard:

1.  The government does not have to extend to you the right to remain silent.

2.  When it comes to alleged sexual misconduct the government does not even have to prove that it is "reasonably certain" that such behavior occurred to sanction you.

3.  The government has reduced the standard necessary to violate your person and your property from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion."

The Constitution was good while it lasted.

Monday, December 16, 2013

US Supreme Court: What 5th Amendment?

Wave bye-bye, it's gone.

What else did you expect in a police state?

Miranda rights (1966-2013) RIP.

Paul Ryan defends screwing over military veterans

Here's Paul Ryan commenting on the largest military budget on the planet, and how it needs to be secured on the backs of those who served in the military by recouping $6 billion from their retirement pay COLAs:
"We give them a slightly smaller adjustment for inflation because they're still in their working years and in most cases earning another paycheck,” Ryan said. "Our goal here is to make sure that no other country comes close to matching the U.S. military, and the stress on the budget in the future brings that whole entire notion into question. We still have a Pentagon budget that is not where it needs to be."
 Now let's get this straight, Paul.  The United States traditionally does almost 50% of all the military spending done on the entire planet.  As you can see by the chart below, the only element that even approaches our scale of military spending is our NATO allies--and if we are concerned with protecting ourselves from Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, etc., then we all might as well start stocking up on the cyanide pills.
What's even worse is that those peripatetic old men at the Pentagon not only agreed with this, but suggested that Ryan and his cohorts look to cutting military benefits: 
"The defense community asked us to look at compensation and their entitlement spending within the Pentagon. We knew we couldn't put back into the Pentagon's budget as much as we'd like to, and these reforms help them with their budget," said Ryan. "The savings stays with the Department of Defense and that comes on top of the money we're giving back through the sequester."
The savings "can go to anything," said Ryan. "It can go to readiness, it can go to troops, it can go to brigades, buying equipment."
It is typical of the current military and Congressional leadership to count the retirement benefits of military personnel as "entitlement spending."

Thanks, Paul Ryan, for proving once again that government promises aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Democratic hypocrisy on the minimum wage increases

Now Representative Helen Keeley has joined Byron Short in a public call to increase the minimum wage by a dollar.  It is particularly instructive to look at this Democrat's argument:
Our constituents have long supported an increase in the minimum wage. They have seen the prices of groceries, gas and utilities climb while their wages stay the same. They work hard to provide for themselves and their families. Any increase in their wages is going to be spent locally on food, clothes and other necessities.
The only problem, here, Helen, is that exactly the same could be said about State employees (including teachers), for whom Delaware Democrats have been remarkably unresponsive about provide wage increases for many years.

Apparently, for Helen, one of the perks of state employment is that they get to shop in special grocery stories, purchase gas at special pumps, and buy their electricity from special co-ops where the prices never go up?  She doesn't, apparently, notice the state workers whose full-time salaries are low enough to qualify them for food assistance and Medicaid.

You see, the first difference here, is that raising the minimum wage is simply passing a requirement for other people to pay out the money.  If the Democrats who control both the Executive and Legislative branches of the government actually dealt with state workers pay they'd have to figure out where to get the money themselves.  That's hypocrisy number one.

Hypocrisy number two is that the Delaware Democratic Party platform does not call for a raise in the minimum wage, but rather calls for a law requiring a "living wage":
Enacting a livable wage,
Strangely enough, no Democrat in the General Assembly has ever--at least to my knowledge--introduced legislation requiring employers to pay a living wage.  Gee, why not?  It is in the Democratic Party platform, isn't it?  If they're not ever going to even attempt it, why would they try to tell voters that they value it?

By the way, according to MIT, the living wage in New Castle County for a family with one adult and two children is $26.47/hour.  The poverty wage for that same family is $8.80/hour--BELOW the new minimum wage that Democrats are now patting themselves on the back for having the courage to propose.

So let's count up the hypocrisies of the Delaware Democratic Party once again:

1.  Minimum wage increase for private sector employees while no raises for State employees.

2.  No effort (not even a mention) of the party platform calling for a living wage.

3.  The minimum wage raise they are proposing would still leave everyone depending on it in poverty.

And, my favorite, the fact that the minimum wage does not cover living expenses and has not kept pace with inflation, is something that Democrats really don't want to touch, because it would get us into discussing the fiscal policies they have been supporting for decades.

To wit:

Remember:  today's Delaware Democratic Party is all about rhetoric and promises, not delivery.

WNJ editorial board: telling the truth every so often, even if only by accident

Today's example:
The ACA has caused millions of people to lose their “inadequate” coverage in favor of a more costly, and, for now, unavailable coverage.

Not surprisingly, WNJ minimizes Fisker losses

So here's the lead from today's story:
It’s been apparent for a while now that the state of Delaware will recover little of the roughly $20 million in economic incentives it awarded Fisker Automotive.
That's bad, right?  $20 million down the tubes ...

Of course, the entire story fails to note that the damage is much worse than that:  another $7.4 million in uncollected State taxes, $700K+ in Red Clay property taxes, and $330K in New Castle County taxes, for a conservative total of $28.5 million gone down the tubes ...

And, as usual, the house organ for the Delaware Democratic Party closes with this:

Despite the tough spot for the state, government officials say they’re not giving up. 
“Our paramount interest is in working with whoever ends up owning the facility to try to put Delawareans back to work there,” said Mike Barlow, chief of staff for Markell.
Not giving up on what, exactly?  Throwing away millions in state tax money?

I love the "tough spot" meme--makes it sound like courageous state officials who have been thrown into this predicament through no fault of their own.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Resisting the American police state: where we should find common ground



Campaign for Liberty.




If you are not part of the mainstream of the two-party system (or, in Delaware, part of the Republicanized Democratic Party), then you need to start thinking about common ground with your brothers and sisters, and it should begin here.

Mother Jones, reprising Radley Balko, considers the rise of the American police state.

Time to stop this before America fails the Ben Franklin test:  "A republic, sir, if you can keep it."

David Brooks: what the hell, let's just make the President into a dictator

Some wonderful snippets from a less-on* argument:
It’s a good idea to be tolerant of executive branch power grabs and to give agencies flexibility. ---This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout. ---Executive branch officials are more sheltered from the interest groups than Congressional officials.---Executive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation. 
Yeah, with more power after 9/11, imagine what Dubya could have done with the Patriot Act, or how many wedding-party-goers the Obama administration could murder without fear of negative reaction.

*Less-on:  the state of idiocy in which you'd have to be twice as smart to be a moron.

Delaware elites posturing in public while I get fries with that

This is actually the problem with corporatist government and centralized planning by elites who will never miss a meal in their entire lives.

The News Journal (which at least acknowledged its conflict of interest in both sponsoring and writing a puff piece on the same event) "reports" on Wednesdy's "job forum" at UD.

Here's the real takeaway from the event, the list of panelists:

Governor Jack Markell
His record:  thousands of jobs lost on his watch; millions wasted in bad loans/lost tax revenues to Fisker, Bloom, Bluewater; tens of millions spent on corporate welfare; no raises ever proposed for State employees; government via illegal task forces and secret AG opinions; gutting of Coastal Zone Act for fun and profit; don't even get me started on his education "reform"
State Board of Education Chair Teri Gray
Her record as a Markell appointee:  well, basically, there isn't one, because the current State Board of Education has no real power, no real education policy-making authority, and when it does vote, it votes exactly like the Secretary of Education tells it to
Nicholas Marsini, PNC Delaware regional president
His reason for being on the panel:  PNC co-sponsored the event; large banks and financial organizations actually own the State of Delaware and the Delaware Democratic Party; what banks want in Delaware from the government they get, because they paid for it.
Robert Atkins, President of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
His credentials:  another "President" of yet another "Foundation" that exists (you guessed it) off corporate and government funding to make recommendations that are, you know, palatable to corporations and the government.
Robert Schwartz, Harvard Graduate School of Education
His institution, Harvard, recently said that 85% of its applicants (of whom it only accept 15%) are fully qualified to go to Harvard, and where the median grade for all classes is an A-, certainly has the foundation for discussing real-world kinds of educational issues.
Now let's think about who wasn't sitting at the table:
1.  No actual representative of a real Delaware-owned business with employment needs.
2.  No actual representative of Delaware public or higher education (to include Del Tech, the main purveyor of vocational training in the State.)
3.  No representative whatever from a labor union or trade organization.
4.  Nobody whose business depends on hiring low-wage, unskilled, or semi-skilled workers.
5.  No students, no graduates, no workers, no unemployed workers.
6.  Nobody who could actually tell you jack about the process of being laid off and retrained in Delaware.
7.  Nobody from the General Assembly who would actually have to craft any laws or policies to change things.
8.  Nobody from any state or urban area or even foreign country who actually has a workable plan in place to deal with these problems.
9.  No actual economist.

I could go on, but you get the point.  What we have here is the usual corporatist elite mentally masturbating in public about what would serve its interests best, in an atmosphere completely devoid of ANY actual expertise about the subject at hand.

And this (even allowing for both its co-sponsorhip and Democratic Party house organ status) is supposed to be news?

Hello, veterans. Thanks for your service. Now lie down for your lobotomy.

You just can't make this up:

“The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal. Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals.” 
“The VA’s practice, described in depth here for the first time, sometimes brought veterans relief from their inner demons. Often, however, the surgery left them little more than overgrown children, unable to care for themselves. Many suffered seizures, amnesia and loss of motor skills. Some died from the operation itself.”
This, of course, fits right in with what I reminded Ezra Klein of in 2009 when he derided those who thought the government capable of awfulness:
The US government's culpability in the Tuskegee Syphillis Experiment.
The US Army's LSD experiments and the US military's intentional exposure of troops to radiation during atomic testing.
The US government's role in the involuntary sterilization of thousands of Native American women in the 1970s.
The US government's conscious decision in the late 1800s to kill off all the buffalo herds in North America to force Native Americans onto reservations because they would starve if they did not go.
The US government's role in overthrowing the legally elected government of Guatemala and the assassination of Chilean President Salvadore Allende.
The US government's continuing war on drugs which now has our country having a larger percentage of the population incarcerated than communist China.
The US government's clandestine programs to help former SS officers and other war criminals from Nazi Germany to enter this country illegally, assume new identities, and avoid prosecution for war crimes.
The US government's illegal expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos.
The US government's direct military support of regimes that tortured and killed their peaceful political opposition in places like pre-revolutionary Iran, Honduras, and South Vietnam.
The US government has repeatedly, throughout American history beginning in 1798, attempted to curb freedom of the press and even freedom of speech at pretty much the drop of a hat. 

Hillary Clinton: running for the Republican nomination in 2016

Remember:  Democrats are pretty much Republicans who favor marriage equality.

Be still my beating heart: Obamacare bites the hands of New York intelligensia

This would be funny, except that it should have been predictable:
Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.
Weep for me with this attorney:
“I couldn’t sleep because of it,” said Barbara Meinwald, a solo practitioner lawyer in Manhattan. 
Ms. Meinwald, 61, has been paying $10,000 a year for her insurance through the New York City Bar.  A broker told her that a new temporary plan with fewer doctors would cost $5,000 more, after factoring in the cost of her medications.
Of course dear Barbara couldn't be expected to go through the insurance exchanges like the common folk:
Ms. Meinwald also looked on the state’s health insurance exchange. But she said she found that those plans did not have a good choice of doctors, and that it was hard to even find out who the doctors were, and which hospitals were covered. “It’s like you’re blindfolded and you’re told that you have to buy something,” she said.
And how many far-sighted geniuses believed that this sweeping systemic change would not affect them?

The people affected include not just writers, artists, doctors and the like, but also independent tradespeople, like home builders or carpenters, who work on their own. 
Some have received notices already; others, whose plans have not yet expired, will soon receive letters in the mail. It is unclear exactly how many New Yorkers are affected; according to state health officials, as many as 400,000 independent practitioners get health insurance through job-related group plans...

These were pretty much all people who agreed several years ago with Nancy Pelosi that we'd just have to pass the damn thing to find out what was in it.  Unfortunately, after the Democrats passed it, apparently none of New York's writers, artists, doctors, lawyers, homebuilders, or contractors could be bothered to take the time to discover that hidden deeply somewhere in there was the message from the Obama administration:  "You're screwed, buddy, and I'm not up for election again."

You think I'm kidding?  Back to dear Barbara:
It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

Delaware's Democratic Senators have their own health insurance subsidized

You gotta love it.

US Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons make a base salary of $174,000/year before all the perks of office are considered.  Perks include the ability to wrack up another $26,100 in speaking fees per year and a Personal Allowance Component to the Members Representative Allowance that provides for them to use $944,000 (at our expense) to pay for up the nine staffers, who may themselves individually make up to $168,000/year.  Hillary Clinton often says it takes a village to raise a child; when you elected Carper and Coons you also paid for a village to cater to their every need.

But you knew that, right?

What you didn't know is that Tom Carper and Chris Coons now purchase their insurance through the DC ACA marketplace (which, apparently, is functional only because it would not do to have the marketplace serving the US Congress not work), and that you are subsidizing 75% of their premiums.

That's right--among the people who need and receive a government subsidy for health insurance premiums under Obamacare are the poor, the struggling middle class, and United States Senators.

And their staff members.

That's what today's Democratic Party stands for:  taking care of the insurance needs of career politicians who make far more money than most of us will ever see, so that they can vote to reduce the Cost of Living Allowances for veterans, end unemployment insurance benefits, and support the killing of people going to weddings in Yemen.

Here's a thought:  how about a rule that says until at least 50% of the target population in your own state has managed to achieve health insurance via the marketplace, your application remains inactive, and you--Tom and Chris--get to pay your own damn medical bills.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Corporatist Democrats are upset they don't have their own tea party, so they're inventing one

Apparently not learning zip from the experience of the GOP dealing (or not dealing) with its own spawn, corporatist Democrats (specifically including Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons) seem intent on creating a Moderate/Progressive(Populist) division in their own ranks so they can go back to losing elections again:

A think tank with ties to Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware is under fire from some Democrats for a recent op-ed that describes entitlement policies pushed by “left-wing populists” as “disastrous” for the party. 
The Dec. 3 Wall Street Journal op-ed by the Democratic centrist group Third Way assails economic populism and targets a plan by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to expand Social Security benefits for all seniors as “exhibit A of this populist political and economic fantasy.”
But let's recall, however, that the elite leadership cadre of the Delaware's Democratic Party suffers no progressives or populists among its ranks.  You either have to be a corporatist (Markell, Carper, Coons, Carney) or corrupt (Stewart, Flowers, Jones-Potter) to be a statewide leader in today's Democratic Party.

There are some very good people trying to carry the Progressive banner in the General Assembly (Paul Baumbach, Bryan Townsend, John Kowalko), but the reality is that they're pretty much tokens in the corporate-financed statewide Democratic Party machine.

That's why you have to keep remembering that the definition of a Democrat in Delaware is a Republican who favors marriage equality.

(And if you want to know where all those Mike Castle Republicans went, you now have your answer:  they infiltrated the Democratic Party.  Don't believe me?  Then riddle me this:  exactly how many votes has John Carney made in nearly two full terms in the House wherein Mike Castle would have voted differently?  You don't need enough fingers to go to the other hand.  The same, ironically, could be said about Tom Carper and Bill Roth.)

Attention political activists: Facebook is a direct line to Big Brother

Right, left, libertarian, occupier, green, progressive, anarchist ... whatever.

If you plan an event--especially a protest--you are not only inviting Officer Friendly, but you may well find yourself cut off from all digital communication with the rest of the world.

Think I'm kidding.

Read this.  All of it.

More proof that either the universe or the Delaware Democratic Party is a simulation

Take a gander at the beginning of the email Congressman John Carney (D-Bank of America) sent out today regarding the health insurance marketplace:
I’m writing to share a few thoughts about the Affordable Care Act, and to let you know about some resources you may find helpful.  
It goes without saying that the enrollment period for the healthcare marketplace has been frustrating and challenging. I’m glad that President Obama is taking these problems seriously -- there’s no excuse for them. My focus has been on working with state officials to help Delawareans sign up for affordable healthcare coverage.  
With that goal in mind, I wanted to make sure you knew about several upcoming opportunities to get help signing up for healthcare coverage and accessing financial assistance to better afford it. 
I guess all the simulated "thoughts" are in the second paragraph.  There appear to be four:

1.  The marketplace has thus far been "frustrating and challenging."  This is simulation-speak for "fatally flawed and completely ineffective."

2.  "I'm glad that President Obama is taking these problems seriously."  As opposed to taking a selfie at Nelson Mandella's funeral, explaining why his White House has the worst press access of the last fifty years (including the Nixon administration during Watergate), or ... wait for it ... actually holding somebody accountable by firing their ass.

3.  "There's no excuse for them."  But there aren't any consequences, either, are there, John?  Nobody got fired.  Nobody got pinpointed as the person who didn't do his or her job.  This only happens in a simulation universe.

4.  Carney has been "working with state officials to help Delawareans sign up for affordable healthcare coverage."  Hell, given that 431 people is all that have even possibly made it through to maybe get coverage in nearly three months, I'd expect to find John there personally guiding every single one of them through the maze.  Or at least doing photo-ops with Rita Landgraf or Karen Weldin Stewart.  It's a real shame that simulaton-Congressman Carney doesn't tell us any fact at all about what those herculean efforts have been.  Mostly because those efforts amounted to having a staffer cut and paste the menus that appear below Carney's boiler-plate excuse for a letter.

This performance--linked with yesterday's completely hedged sort-of endorsement of the budget deal--explains two things.

First, that John Carney is really a Republican who (finally) supported marriage equality.

And second, John Carney is EXACTLY the kind of Democrat Republican that the simulated Delaware Democratic Party keeps electing.

Good news! If the universe is a computer simulation ...

... as some physicists suspect, and are now attempting to prove ...

Then Governor Markell's administration, Congressman Carney's votes, Treasurer Flowers' pancakes, Commissioner Stewart's love of insurance company profits, Secretary Murphy's repeated condemnations of teachers, and all the rest of the elements of "good government" we've gotten thanks to the one-party rule of Delaware Democrats can all be written off as bad code.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What you get with today's Delaware Democratic Party: John Carney on the budget

Despite the temptation, I did not cut any of Congressman Carney's in-depth analysis of the current budget deal that, in the best spirit of the Delaware Democratic Party, cuts COLAs for military retirees, make everybody's airplane rides more expensive, and ends unemployment benefits for millions.  Hell, it almost reads like the Democratic Platform, huh?

Here it is [admittedly I couldn't resist highlighting a few segments]:

“The best that can be said about the Murray-Ryan budget agreement is that it’s better than nothing. And for the first time in a long time, Congress is doing its job. Each chamber voted on a budget. We held a conference committee. We worked out our disagreements. And we took a vote on a compromise bill. 
“This agreement brings us back to a rational way of dealing with government spending. But it reduces the deficit only slightly, and gets rid of a small part of the harmful sequestration cuts. The danger will come if we let this agreement make us complacent. We still have a lot of work to do to achieve a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes both smart spending cuts and new revenue. Our country faces a host of fiscal challenges, from Medicare and Medicaid to domestic and defense spending to our complicated tax code. 
“I hope that this agreement is just the beginning of a constructive series of serious discussions, reasonable solutions, and fair compromises on both sides of the aisle.”
Remember:  the new definition of a Delaware Democrat in Congress is a Republican who (finally) supports marriage equality.

For those of my Libertarians friends who may wonder what's going on here, it's simple.

In Delaware we have a one-party state because the Democrats have successfully sold people a bill of goods about certain programs, policies, and principles they hold dear.  So Delaware responded by electing all Democrats to Congress, all Democrats to the Executive Branch (who does the Auditor work for, anyway?), and Democratic majorities to both houses of the General Assembly.

Essentially, in Delaware, Democrats ARE the government.  So I don't have to agree with their agenda to point out that--if actions are more important than words--they don't agree with their own agenda, either.

Yes, Paul Krugman actually said this.

"Fiat money is backed by men with guns; Bitcoin is not. So why should this thing have any value?"


Byron Short and the politics of the minimum wage

The recent epiphany of Rep. Byron Short (D-Highland Woods) that the minimum wage increase he kept bottled up in committee last year should now be passed has very little to do with economics or even social justice issues, and everything to do with the fact that 2014 is an election year.

The politics of this are so transparent that it is not amazing that even the News Journal ferreted them out.

OK, let's try this again.

The politics of this are so transparent that even the Democratic Party house organ News Journal had trouble concealing them.

First, Rep. Short admits that raising the minimum wage has two major consequences:  (a) it can help stall out an economic recovery and (b) that it will put "pressure" on businesses to raise not just the minimum wage, but the wages of the next several upward tiers of workers.

Then Rep. Short argues that Delaware's recovery has now become robust enough to stand the strain of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour, and even--possibly--to index future increases to the CPI.

Ironically, this amounts to an argument that Delaware business owners couldn't afford to have the minimum wage raised last year due to economic conditions (regardless of the hardship that low wage might have had on the people holding those jobs), but that a two-month change in the unemployment rate means that they can now and forever do so, regardless of future economic conditions.


Here's why this has to do with the politics of 2014 being an election year rather than any real moral considerations:

1.  Actual progressives are going to tell you that even at $8.25/hour the minimum wage is not even close to a "living wage"--"This is not a living wage."--Ezra Temko.  They would argue that to make a real difference in the lives of people like Chandra Crippen, a 36-year-old single mother of two living in Wilmington you'd have to double the existing minimum.  Indeed, MIT's "Living Wage Calculator" argues that a "Poverty Wage" for one adult with two children is $8.80 per hour (still above the proposed new minimum) and that Ms. Crippen needs to make $26.47/hour or just over $55K/year to be making a "living wage" in New Castle County.  So the proposed increase won't even bring fast food workers and their peers up to poverty line wages, and won't bring the next couple of tiers of workers even to 50% of a "living wage."  More importantly, EVERYBODY involved in this legislative agenda knows that.

2.  But, we're told, it will do some good and no harm, so why not pass it?  It is here that you get into the cosmetics of the situation.  2014 is a problematic year for the Delaware Democratic Party.  As Celia Cohen has pointed out, it is likely that Congressman Carney, Senator Carper, and Senator Coons will face either no opposition or only token opposition for re-election.  The only statewide races of interest (and I am using the term "interest" in it broadest possible terms, possibly even stretching it out of any meaning whatsoever) are State Auditor and the potential primary for the State Treasurer.  That's actually not necessarily good news for down-ticket Democrats.  Quoth jason330:
Conventional wisdom suggests that it would help the Republicans on the bottom of the ticket. No big races at the top would make it a very low turnout mid-term election.
Interestingly enough, when I delved into this a little further, jason followed with this:
The model you have to look at is a very low turnout election ... My sense is that the GOP has far fewer registered voters, but it may have more zealots. 
While I don't necessarily subscribe to this theory in total, I think it resonates with what the Democratic Party leadership is thinking right now.  And, for the Dems, one-party dominance is becoming an increasingly troubling issue because the "mainstream" of the Delaware Democratic Party today is both corporatist (Carper, Carney, Markell) and/or corrupt (Stewart, Flowers), while the self-styled progressives are on the outside looking in, and the even more fervent environmentalists are starting to desert to the Greens in significant numbers.

Along comes a token increase in the minimum wage which gives those mainstream Dems the chance to beat up on the GOP and pull their farther-Left brethren and sisteren back into the fold without having to ever address any REAL issues ....

3.  The minimum wage is really this year's marriage equality for the Delaware Democratic Party.  Don't get me wrong here:  I was a strong advocate for marriage equality myself, but what it meant to the Dems last year was an excuse to hold victory celebrations and paper over the fact that they dodged all of the hard choices on taxes and the budget.  Catholic theology disdains the evangelical Protestant idea that only faith and not works are necessary to get into Heaven, sometimes characterizing it as "cheap grace."  Make no mistake, a showpiece and essentially meaningless raise in the minimum wage is all about "cheap liberalism" and not at all about economics or social justice.

Do we need to count (again!) the issues that the Delaware Democratic Party continues to ignore or pretend it is powerless to change while nonetheless holding the Governor's Mansion and both houses of the General Assembly?  Issues like corporate welfare, casino subsidies, no raises for State employees, public education that is in an increasing state of shambles, crime and poverty in Wilmington ...

(My favorite piece of selective outrage has been our liberal friends excoriating Republican governors across the nation for not developing their own insurance marketplaces and instead shunting the burden to the Feds, while they live in a Blue state wherein the Democratic Governor with national aspirations did exactly what they are condemning the GOP for.  But I digress...)

Now back to Representative Byron Short (and Andria Bennett, and a few others).  The reality is that Mr. Short has realized that it is not the economic or social benefit that causes him to suddenly champion a meaningless increase in the minimum wage, but the obvious political benefits of showing that (a) he has the power as one of the new "big heads" in the General Assembly to make or break a key piece of legislation, and that (b) this will put Senator Cathy Cloutier (R) in a tough spot eventually for a position that he so obviously covets.