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Welfare queens

Go, Alan!

Representative-elect Alan Grayson (D-FL) said Monday that he will put mega-retailer Walmart squarely in his sights during the next Congress for the company’s liberal use of public assistance programs to supplement their workers’ wages.


Speaking to Current TV host Cenk Uygur on Monday’s episode of “The Young Turks,” Grayson called Walmart “the largest recipient of public aid in the country,” saying their low wages force workers to take food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid just to get by.


“The taxpayer pays for the earned income credit,” he said. “The taxpayer pays for Medicaid. The taxpayer pays for unemployment insurance when they cut hours down. And the taxpayer pays for other forms of public assistance like food stamps. I think the taxpayer is getting fed up of paying these things when, in fact, Walmart could give every employee its got, even the CEO, a 30 percent raise and still be profitable.”

Rope-a-dope

Since Ezra Klein is the person the White House taps when they want to get out a message, this could be encouraging news. We’re all sick of watching Obama give away the store, so this is new. The problem is, Ezra also says Obama is playing rope-a-dope to make the Republicans propose the very cuts he’s already willing to give them — and they may be the cuts that shred our safety net:

Republican aides are circulating their summary of the White House’s opening bid on the fiscal cliff. They’re circulating it because they believe it fleshes out Speaker John Boehner’s complaint that “the White House has to get serious.” Above all, they’re circulating it because the president isn’t offering them anything in his opening bid.


Suzy posted the full summary here. It calls for $1.6 trillion in taxes and only $400 billion in new entitlement spending cuts (though note that it assumes the roughly trillion dollars in discretionary spending cuts passed in the Budget Control Act and the trillion dollars in savings from ending the wars, such that the total spending cuts, at least in the White House’s view, are nearer to $2.4 trillion). It also includes about $200 billion in stimulus, including the extension or replacement of the payroll tax cut, and a proposal to encourage homeowners to refinance. Oh, and it lifts the debt ceiling.


“How did it take them three weeks (and two days) to offer nothing but President Obama’s budget?” A GOP leadership aide asked me rhetorically.


We’re seeing two things here. One is that the negotiations aren’t going well. When one side begins leaking the other side’s proposals, that’s typically a bad sign. The other is that Republicans are frustrated at the new Obama they’re facing: The Obama who refuses to negotiate with himself.


That’s what you’re really seeing in this “proposal.” Previously, Obama’s pattern had been to offer plans that roughly tracked where he thought the compromise should end up. The White House’s belief was that by being solicitous in their policy proposals, they would win goodwill on the other side, and even if they didn’t, the media would side with them, realizing they’d sought compromise and been rebuffed. They don’t believe that anymore.


Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you concede.

And then a hero comes along

Particularly with regard to their treatment of Occupy protesters, I haven’t had a lot of good things to say about the NYPD around here. But this story reminds us that human beings are complex, and that many a decent human impulse comes from unexpected sources:

On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counterterrorism post when he encountered an older, barefooted homeless man. The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots, and knelt to help the man put them on.


The act of kindness would have gone unnoticed and mostly forgotten, had it not been for a tourist from Arizona.


Her snapshot — taken with her cellphone on Nov. 14 and posted to the New York Police Department’s official Facebook page late Tuesday — has made Officer DePrimo an overnight Internet hero.


By Wednesday evening, the post had been viewed 1.6 million times, and had attracted nearly 275,000 “likes” and more than 16,000 comments — a runaway hit for a Police Department that waded warily onto the social media platform this summer with mostly canned photos of gun seizures, award ceremonies and the police commissioner.


Among all of those posts, the blurry image of Officer DePrimo kneeling to help the shoeless man as he sat on 42nd Street stood out. “This is definitely the most viral,” said Barbara Chen, a spokeswoman for the department who helps manage its Facebook page.


Thousands of people commented on Facebook and Reddit, which linked to the post on Wednesday. Most of them praised Officer DePrimo, yet some suspected that the photograph had been staged. Many debated whether the officer’s actions were representative of police officers in general, or were just unusually exceptional.


“I still have a grudge against law enforcement everywhere,” wrote one commenter on the police Facebook page. “But my respects to that fine officer.”


Officer DePrimo, 25, who joined the department in 2010 and lives with his parents on Long Island, was shocked at the attention. He was not warned before the photo went online; the department had not learned which officer was in the picture until hours later.


The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, readily recalled the encounter. “It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” he said in an interview. “I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” They started talking; he found out the man’s shoe size: 12.


As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue on his heels, Officer DePrimo went into a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 p.m. “We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, 28, a manager working at the store that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”


Mr. Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring down the regular $100 price of the all-weather boots to a little more than $75. The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”


The photo was taken by Jennifer Foster, a civilian communications director for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona. She said the moment resonated for personal reasons: She remembered as a young girl seeing her father, a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix police force, buy food for a homeless man.


“He squatted down, just like this officer,” she said.


After returning from vacation, she described the picture in an e-mail to the New York Police Department, thinking of it as a sort of a compliment card. She never expected the picture to end up online — “I’m not on Facebook,” she said — but a department official e-mailed her and asked if she would send along the photo so it could be posted.

Kafkaesque

Bradley Manning speaks in court, his psychiatrist testifies that people in charge totally ignored his recommendations, and marine commander testifies that Manning was kept at Quantico three times longer than he should have been.

By the way, you will probably not read that in an American publication.

Union drive

Fast food workers walk off the job in New York City in push for union representation. Go, team!

The latest example

Of our collapsing infrastructure? A South Jersey railroad bridge collapsed this morning and four tanker cars are leaking vinyl chloride into Mantua Creek — which dumps directly into the Delaware River, which supplies our drinking water.

Shite City

It seems absolutely freakin’ crazy that only one month after a superstorm flattens the infrastructure of the East Coast, the Obama administration and Congress are having Very Serious Talks about cutting $4 trillion in spending. This infrastructure crisis is fueled by the climate change crisis we’re ignoring. That’s in addition to the zombie banks, the mortgage crisis and the fact that we have far too many unemployed people with no jobs on the horizon and very little help from the people who are supposed to represent them.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie is asking for $36.8 billion for Sandy recovery, and because he did not drop his recovery duties and enthusiastically don a cheerleader costume and wave pom-poms for the Republican candidate, the Republican House will most likely find a way to make him sweat over getting that funding. This is what passes for a democratic republic these days. These people are crazy. But their craziness is encouraged by the “bipartisan” deficit fever from both parties, led by the White House.

I mean, we have shit pouring into the waters off New York and New Jersey. Outright sewage being pumped directly into the waters off New York City, the urban center of the world. What, are we officially a rural Third World nation now? When did the Hudson and Passaic rivers turn into the Ganges?

And while all this is falling apart, President Obama is by most accounts more obsessed with the idea of striking a Grand Bargain as his legacy — an extraordinarily short-sighted goal that seems more likely to leave a legacy of being the president who let the country fall apart on his watch. It’s going to take more than a few hugs for storm victims to fix this, Mr. President. Bad politics and piss-poor policy!

EAST ROCKAWAY, N.Y. — The water flowing out of the Bay Park sewage plant here in Nassau County is a greenish-gray soup of partially treated human waste, a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy.


In the month since the storm, hundreds of millions of gallons of raw and partly raw sewage from Bay Park and other crippled treatment plants have flowed into waterways in New York and New Jersey, exposing flaws in the region’s wastewater infrastructure that could take several years and billions of dollars to fix. In New York State alone, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has estimated that about $1.1 billion will be needed to repair treatment plants. But officials acknowledge that they will have to do far more.


Motors and electrical equipment must be raised above newly established flood levels, and circuitry must be made waterproof. Dams and levees may have to be built at some treatment plants to keep the rising waters at bay, experts say.


Failure to do so, according to experts, could leave large swaths of the population vulnerable to public health and environmental hazards in future storms.


“You’re looking at significant expenditures of money to make the plants more secure,” said John Cameron, an engineer who specializes in wastewater-treatment facilities and is the chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council. “There is no Band-Aid for this,” he added. “This is the new normal.”

Not so mighty Mississippi

The drought may shut down the river to barge traffic.

Darkness, Darkness

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