Senate Republicans Get Even Republican-ier With Votes Against Family Leave and for More War

"I'm so Republican I voted against Americans on multiple occasions today!"

“I’m so Republican I voted against Americans on multiple occasions today!”

So right now the Senate is in the middle of budget amendment voting, which is a super-strange marathon of stultifying C-SPAN boredom and wacko political theater. But the thing about these amendment votes that they help define the political aims of senators. They tell us who these politicians are.

The good news is that our own Senator Patty Murray proposed a paid family leave amendment. David Weigel at Bloomberg says:

Titled the Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Legislation to Allow Americans to Earn Paid Sick Time, Murray’s amendment would devote funds “relating to efforts to improve workplace benefits and reduce health care costs, which may include measures to allow Americans to earn paid sick time to address their own health needs and the health needs of their families, and to promote equal employment opportunities.”

Sounds totally reasonable, doesn’t it? And in fact, the amendment enjoyed a solid base of support, from every Democrat and a kinda-astonishing 16 Republicans. The only people to vote against it were hardline Republicans from red states and every Republican in the Senate who’s considering a run for president: Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul.

I guess the vote from Senator Paul kind of makes sense, because he’s known for his hardline libertarian values: cut government spending, promote small government, that sort of thing. Except according to Alexander Bolton at The Hill, Paul proposed an amendment that would add $76 billion to the already-staggering proposed military budget of $620 billion. In fact, Bolton says, “Paul wants to increase defense spending over the next two years by $190 billion.”

Rand Paul: World’s Worst Libertarian™? Or just a craven politician desperate for those blood-thirsty Republican primary votes? Are any of Ron Paul’s ReLOVEutionaries still fooled by Rand Paul? Do they think he’s playing at being a hawk?

I guess Paul believes he can claim he’s still for small government because his amendment guts a bunch of small government programs to pay for the biggest government program of them all. As Bolton writes, “Paul would offset the cost of the funding increase by cutting foreign aid, science and technology funding, natural resources and environment funding and education, training, employment and social services funding.”

Science and technology are frequent Republican targets, but that foreign aid cut is the most baffling of them all. Paul believes that cutting aid to our allies and increasing money for defense demonstrates a meaningful understanding of foreign policy. The sad thing is, he’s probably won some new fans and allies with his irresponsible voting today.

Open Thread 3/25

- Despite all its faults, I still dig the Bell Street Park. (PS, even if you don’t care about Bell Street Park specifically, go say hi to Erica)

– Oh man, how come my place of work doesn’t have a bike shop?

If Birth Control Induces Abortions, Then So Does Voting for Ted Cruz

– I for one am so so very sad that spending a shit ton of money opposing a minimum wage increase means you can’t be elected in one of the most lefty cities in the country.

– The things that go into making clothing for Americans makes me want to go around naked all day.

Here is the appropriate reaction to #BlackBrunch visiting your brunch location: Listen. Then, continue your brunch, or whatever.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottleThe Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight. Please join us for the start of spring and, with an announcement by Sen. Ted Cruz, the start of what will likely be the most entertaining presidential election season ever.

We meet every Tuesday evening at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings happening this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities chapter also meets. On Wednesday, the Bellingham, Burien, and Spokane chapters meet. The Woodinville and Kentchapters meet on Thursday.

There are 189 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

The Economic Case for Immigration

At my new job, I’ve been reading a lot about economics. Along with a bunch of articles and white papers, I’m working my way through Beinhocker’s (very readable) The Origin9781422121030 of Wealth, and after that I’ll finally tackle Piketty’s Capital, which I have only up ’til now experienced through the lens that is Charles Mudede’s genius.

Learning about economics, it turns out, is great fun. Most of the modern texts are entertaining as hell, the concepts are fairly easy to grasp, and economics influences and is influenced by everything on the planet, so it gives you a new framework with which to perceive the world.

Maybe the most surprising fact about this deep dive is that the stuff I’m learning delivers a positive message. Unlike the vicious world presented by Ayn Rand and her legions of acolytes, the economics I’ve been reading about is inclusive: if businesses pay their workers more money, for example, the workers will spend more money, thus growing the economy for everyone. If you don’t just focus your growth on a tiny portion of the economy—like, oh, the 1 percent, for example—the money circulates outward and upward and downward. If everyone does better, it’s better for everyone. See? Positive!

Today, the New York Times published a piece by Adam Davidson titled “Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant.” It looks at immigration from an economic perspective, and it’s packed with good news: Davidson writes, “the economic benefits of immigration may be the most ­settled fact in economics.” But what about the conservative notion that immigrants are taking our jobs?

The chief logical mistake we make is something called the Lump of Labor Fallacy: the erroneous notion that there is only so much work to be done and that no one can get a job without taking one from someone else.

What’s the problem with this fallacy? Well, it’s, uh, false:

Immigrants don’t just increase the supply of labor, though; they simultaneously increase demand for it, using the wages they earn to rent apartments, eat food, get haircuts, buy cellphones. That means there are more jobs building apartments, selling food, giving haircuts and dispatching the trucks that move those phones.

The more people in the workforce, the bigger the workforce needs to be. So not only is the Republican fear-mongering against immigrants racist and hateful—it’s economically unsound, too. Go read the whole story.

Ted Cruz Is Running for President of the Teabaggers

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Ted Cruz has announced his bid to become the Rick Santorum of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. As 538’s Harry Enten wrote this morning, Cruz is not a serious presidential candidate. He doesn’t have access to money, his platform is way too conservative for the American public, and he has a serious lying problem.

Us do what American voters no want us do!Just watch the speech he gave to announce his candidacy at the top of this post. Cruz framed his announcement like a Bizarro World version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” in which he proposed his vision for America: no gay marriage, no Affordable Care Act, a foreign policy so aggressive that it would leave the entire Middle East a charred cinder within two weeks of his inauguration. He’s a Teabagger Homunculus, a staggering wad of conservative rage. Only two groups of people take Cruz seriously: the shrinking elderly army of right-wing ragebabies who made up the Tea Party, and the media.

So we’ll see a lot of Cruz for the next year or so, because he and his followers say crazy stuff and the media loves to report crazy stuff, but he’ll be gone by spring of 2016. He’ll probably beat Santorum. He might even do well in the small pockets of the country that reward apocalyptic rhetoric, like Iowa and South Carolina. But he’ll soon disappear from the stage, leaving an uncountable array of think pieces in his wake.

On some level, Cruz has to understand he’s unelectable. So why is he running? It’s not as though Santorum or Gingrich managed to parlay their once-a-frontrunner statuses into positions of leadership in the party. Perhaps Cruz plans on running for governor of Texas someday? Does he think his position as King of the Teabaggers is at risk, somehow? The scariest option is that Cruz is a True Believer, someone who entertains the frightening prospect that the majority of America is just as xenophobic and hateful as him. It isn’t, of course, but what does it say about us that this man is an actual United States Senator? Maybe Ted Cruz’ nightmare fantasy world isn’t as far from reality as we’d like to believe.

The Truth No Match for Local Lies on “Death Tax”

Good on Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat for expressing outrage over the way our conservative media transforms right-wing lies into conventional wisdom, “Local facts no match for national fiction on $15 minimum-wage issue“:

Now that the conservative media’s bogus story about the minimum wage killing off Seattle restaurants has been thoroughly debunked, it’s tempting to say the truth won out. That this time, anyway, facts trumped misinformation.

I don’t think so.

But too bad he didn’t express similar outrage when it was his own paper doubling-down on its own thoroughly debunked “death tax” lies—lies that, absent the outrage from respectable journalists like Westneat, are now being read unchallenged into the congressional record.

To be clear, it was great to see Bethany truth needle the $15 lies in the pages of the Seattle Times. But when it comes to fabricating facts to fit their policy agenda, the paper’s editorial board remains as deserving of ridicule and outrage as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. So until it retracts its bogus McBride “family farm” editorial, the paper as an institution really has no moral authority to lambast the national conservative media for playing the same game it plays locally.

HA Bible Study: Matthew 5:34-37

Matthew 5:34-37
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Fucking discuss, goddammit.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

WaPo: Remembering the LAST government shutdown.

Harry Reid thanks (self-certified ophthalmologist) Sen. Rand Paul for eye injury advice.

Thom: The Good, The Bad, and the Very Very Lethiferously Ugly.

David Pakman: TX Senate approves concealed campus carry gun bill.

Chris Hayes: Seattle revolts against Big Oil Arctic Drilling by Shell.

Sam Seder: This is the Republican base and the GOP presidential hopefuls who created them:

Maddow: Oregon’s top women makes voting EASIER.

Mental Floss: 51 astounding facts about animals.

PsychoSuperMom: Religious freedom (Doesn’t mean the freedom to discriminate).

Sam Seder: Alabama is desperately trying to retard it’s own progress.

Jon: Netanyahu is stealing our election strategies.

David Pakman: Snoop Dog asks fans to divest from gun industry.

Vsauce: The science of awkwardness.

Maher goes after college fraternities.

Republicans Take Another Hostage:

Thom: Climate scientists are fighting back against the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda campaign.

White House: West Wing Week.

Jon: FAUX News and its Benghazi “Rage-gasm”.

Obama fact-checks his critics:

The NRA plan to push guns on campus.

Mental Floss: Why do mosquitoes prefer biting some people to others?

David Pakman: Obama mentions mandatory voting…Republicans’ heads explode.

Peloci is concerned that it isn’t about email.

Sam Seder: FAUX News pundit stuns colleagues by not being a moron.

Thom: How ALEC’s actions are harming our planet.

Maddow: Hillary admits she wants Americans in “camps” (and other crazy things).

Schock and Aaaaaaaawwwwwwww:

Michelle Obama’s message to her younger self.

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about psychology.

Farron Cousins: Inside the secret campaign to destroy workers’ rights.

Thom: The brutal winter that wasn’t.

Sam Seder: As the climate crisis worsens, Republicans want CIA to stop studying it’s threat to security.

Mark Fiore: Shoot-em-up Charlie loves cop killers.

Maddow: Chemical lobbyist exposed as author of new bill to regulate industry:

Race in America:

Chris Hayes: Tesla wins fight to sell cars directly in New Jersey.

Thom and Pap: Email gate…Jeb Bush busted using private email for security issues.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

Dave Reichert Sucks Up to Blethens, Reads Shameful “Death Tax” Lie into Congressional Record

Rep. Dave Reichert, shilling for the top 0.15 percent!

Rep. Dave Reichert, shilling for the top 0.15 percent!

US Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA8) is widely rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2016. And what better way to prepare for a campaign than to suck up to Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen by repeating his editorial board’s shameless anti-estate tax lies?

In my home state there are numerous examples of the harmful impact of the death tax. In Seattle, permanent relief from the death tax is critical for family-owned businesses like the Seattle Times Company, which is a fourth and fifth-generation family business. And, in my own District, in Issaquah, Washington, last year, a family had to make the difficult choice to sell their farm which had been family run for over 120 years. That is a devastating decision to have to make, and they are not alone in making it.

That was from Reichert’s opening remarks at a March 18 congressional hearing on “The Burden of the Estate Tax on Family Businesses and Farms,” and it is of course a total fucking lie. As I painstakingly documented last August, there is absolutely no way the McBride family was forced to sell the family farm in order to pay either the state or federal estate tax, because 1) Ralph McBride’s property was too small to be subject to either the state or federal estate tax, 2) working farms are entirely exempt from Washington’s estate tax, and 3) the McBride property was not a working farm!

The story is simply not true. In fact, there is zero evidence of a family ever being forced to sell the farm in order to pay off the estate tax, anywhere ever. And yet there goes Reichert, faithfully reading this bullshit into the congressional record.

And this is what makes the Seattle Times’ shameful anti-estate tax lies so pernicious: they have knowingly provided the anecdotal foundation upon which future anti-estate tax lies will be built, all in the service of exacerbating our crisis of grotesque wealth inequality by a repealing a tax that 99.85 percent of estates will never pay.

Civil Liberties Roundup

Recently, the Obama Administration announced that it was applying sanctions against high-ranking Venezuelan officials. Few people deny that Venezuela’s government has committed human rights violations, as I’ve documented some of them in these roundups, but the main outrage over this move comes because of the hyperbole and the hypocrisy that went along with this move:

But the main object of South American ire may be the language leading off Obama’s order. It describes the situation in Venezuela as constituting an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

The U.S. government hasn’t typically described Venezuela as a major security threat. The 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, released last month by the director of national intelligence, devotes two paragraphs to Venezuela, neither of which describe the country as a threat to the United States.

But a senior U.S. administration official told reporters last week that the use of “national security” language is standard when issuing an executive order to impose sanctions. “Most of the sanctions programs that we have, from Iran to Syria, Burma, across the board, rely on these same types of national emergency declarations,” the official said.

Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the human rights nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America, explained that under U.S. law, the executive has to declare a national emergency that threatens national security in order to freeze a foreigner’s assets by executive order.

“It has to look like a big, special thing, if you’re going to do it,” Isacson told The Huffington Post. “That’s why it has that stupid language at the beginning. I think the sanctions themselves are pretty legitimate. The United States has the right to decide who gets to do business and own property here in our country, and we should be limiting the number of human rights abusers who get to do that.”

Isacson also suggested that more people were worthy of sanctions. “Just look at New York and all the condos that are owned by Russian oligarchs,” he said. He noted as well the prevalence of human rights abuses in Mexico and Colombia, countries with which the United States enjoys good diplomatic relations.

So why is Venezuela being singled out here? Why are we so willing to damage relations with the region over a country whose record on human rights isn’t any worse than many other countries we remain strongly allied with?

I think part of the answer comes from a phenomenon that’s really well explained in Lawrence Lessig’s recent book “Republic, Lost”. One of the central insights of that book is about understanding the true nature of corruption in this country. It’s not simply a matter of the wealthy writing big checks in order to get what they want out of our lawmakers and other leaders. It’s about a system that relies on campaign funding and essentially forces lawmakers and others running for office to focus their attention and their efforts on the interests of those who can reciprocate.

The end result is that politicians end up in a bubble where they only hear and understand the issues and concerns of those wealthy enough to gain access to the bubble. This is not a phenomenon limited to either party. Democrats can become as captive to their wealthy interests as Republicans.

But the unique thing about Venezuela is that, unlike many other rights-abusing nations in the world, the victims of Maduro’s left-wing regime are often businessmen. Within the bubble of wealthy interests that politicians reside, this becomes seen as a more serious threat than when a regime targets activists or minorities or the press. In this context, the wealthy view themselves and their interests as the interests of the nation – and politicians follow suit. In reality, Venezuela is no more of a threat to U.S. interests than Saudi Arabia, Israel, or Egypt, but gets treated as if it’s far more threatening.

More stories from the past two weeks…
[Read more…]

Sure! Where Do We Store The Waste?

Senator Sharon Brown has a brand-new idea for power generation. Nuclear something something!

In an era when carbon emissions are becoming a major concern and clean energy is a popular cause, Washington is poised to become a center for the development of one of the greenest technologies around. Clean, safe, abundant, all it needs is a bit of encouragement from the state and a willingness to understand that today’s nuclear power is like nothing before.

First off, I’m glad to see some Republican is acknowledging that carbon emissions are a problem. We may disagree on many things, but at least we can agree that humans are causing global warming. Oh? What? She voted with all but one of her GOP colleagues that we aren’t sure if humans cause global warming.

Also, unless you have some uranium lying around, you’re going to have to mine it. And that isn’t exactly a zero emissions proposition.

Yes, nuclear power. We’ve come a long way since the days of tie-dyed T-shirts and no-nukes concerts and the reactor technology of the 1960s and ‘70s. The new generation of reactor design is safer, simpler and potentially cheaper than anything we have seen to date. Export potential is enormous, to a Third World now electrifying with coal. Washington is uniquely suited to become a center for the development, design and export of this small modular nuclear-reactor technology, and we have a small window of opportunity to establish leadership and make this industry our own.

Export potential? I feel like that’s something to explore a bit. But no. Instead we have more discussion of the fashion sense of the 1960’s than of how that would happen.

Anyway, you could get me on board with one minor amendment. I propose we store the waste in her district. Since it’s so clean or whatever, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. Or maybe just ask the Feds to deal with it and everything will be fine.

I have sponsored a series of bills in the Legislature this year that demonstrate our interest in this most promising industry. Senate Bill 5113 would require the state Department of Commerce to coordinate and advance the siting and manufacturing of small modular reactors. SB 5093 would establish a nuclear-education program in our high schools. SB 5091 would declare nuclear power a form of alternative energy that qualifies under the state‘s voluntary Green Power program. For those concerned about storage of spent nuclear fuel, we have passed a memorial asking the federal government to develop a nuclear-waste repository, once and for all. These measures all cleared the Senate — some with broad bipartisan support.

Oh cool. The Federal Government through Democratic and Republican governments, for decades and decades hasn’t been able to come up with a good solution. But now we’re asking them to develop a repository and so that’s that solved. PS, can the repository be in Richland?

Small modular nuclear reactors are quite a bit different from the big-reactor designs of the ‘70s. Instead of using a single built-in-place reactor core, they utilize a series of interchangeable and replaceable small reactors. A dozen together might be half the size of one of the big reactors of old. These small reactors use a more modern design with fewer moving parts, reducing risk of failure. And when one reactor goes offline for regular maintenance or repair, other modular reactors at the same facility can take its place and keep up the flow of power.

OK, great. We haven’t exactly solved the waste issue yet.

There are many exciting technologies being proposed. Planning is under way for a first-of-its-kind modular reactor in Idaho that will begin serving the Utah power market within a decade — most likely at the Idaho National Laboratory, with support from Washington’s Energy Northwest. Technology isn’t the holdup — federal and state permitting procedures must be developed, and there is ramp-up time involved in developing facilities capable of producing the required components.

Look, we’ve literally asked the Federal government to do something about nuclear waste, so now we have to hurry.

Now imagine if those manufacturing facilities were located here. Imagine if the next reactor were located at Hanford – Washington’s own nuclear industrial site, adjacent to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the talent base in the Tri-Cities. It could power Hanford’s new glassification plant, where legacy high-level defense waste will be converted to solid-glass form – and that by itself could spare us the need to consume 45,000 gallons of diesel fuel every day.

Hanford: Where nuclear waste was never a problem.

On a national level the states of Oregon, Idaho and Utah are becoming players. Nowhere in that conversation is our state, yet we have the intellectual capital and the resources. It is easy to see the possibilities. Successful companies plan for how to get from point A to point B — Washington should do the same for energy. Nuclear power is poised for a resurgence for economic and environmental reasons, and the question is whether we will seize the opportunity or let it slip away for lack of vision. It is better to lead, instead of looking back 10 years from now saying “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”

Couldawouldashoulda had all that nuclear waste of our very own.

Open Thread (Some Joke)

- I say let bikes and motorcycles run reds all the time.

– The first step of Seattle’s minimum wage hike is going into effect.

Six things to know about Shell’s plan to base its Arctic fleet at the Port of Seattle

In the real world moms carry their newborns around with them. It’s as natural as it gets. And it was charming.

– You guys, stop what you’re doing. They found Cervantes’ tomb! This is not a drill.

– Am I the only person here excited about Overthinking It’s Eurovision coverage? I am? Cool.