Poverty and Racism have a dual impact on upward mobility


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❝ The defining feature of the American Dream is upward mobility – the aspiration that all children have a chance at economic success, no matter their background. However, our research shows that children’s chances of earning more than their parents have been declining. 90% of children born in 1940 grew up to earn more than their parents. Today, only half of all children earn more than their parents did.

The American Dream maintains its mythic status even as it declines steadily. Political charlatans, self-described as conservative more often than not seem to have offered the best lies. The liberal flavor [in my lifetime] can be moved by the courage of citizens to grow backbone. Sometimes.

Where Does It Stop?

>❝ “So it has gone from Russia collusion, to a St. Petersburg troll farm, to Stormy Daniels, to Michael Cohen, and now, Sean Hannity?” Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft asked rhetorically, reeling from a whirlwind day that began with Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, walking into federal court, and ended with the revelation that Cohen claimed Hannity as a client. “Where does it stop and what the hell does this have to do with the Russia collusion?”

>❝ Indeed, anger and stupefaction were the primary emotions on the far right Monday as the media raced to keep apace with a cascade of twists and turns in the Stormy-gate circus…The news had prompted a near-instantaneous meltdown on Twitter as media pundits and commentators speculated about what sinister deal Cohen might have negotiated on Hannity’s behalf…Indeed, while CNN and MSNBC seized on the news with rapturous zeal, the right-wing mediaverse was spectacularly silent on the Cohen-Hannity question…

Eddie Scarry, the media reporter for the conservative Washington Examiner, suspected that Trumpworld was more worried about potential skeletons in Cohen’s closet than they were letting on…Hannity, he added, was only a plot point in the vast right-wing narrative, if a totally bonkers one: “Yeah, of course that’s the logical next step in this insanity.”

Looking past the smell of Trump’s life, the corruption and national degradation he’s created in Washington, I would neither call this insanity nor logic. Crime and opportunism always benefit from cooperative ignorance. In this case, on the part of a significant minority of eligible voters.

Ken Starr makes irony look easy


My hands are clean…

❝ On CNN’s “New Day” Friday morning, former independent counsel Ken Starr raised questions about whether current special counsel Bob Mueller might be over-stepping the bounds of his mandate in investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

❝ Here’s the key part:

“I think the gravamen of the original complaint was, was there collusion, to the extent you’re moving beyond collusion with Russian operatives or Russian interests or the Russian government itself, and into that which doesn’t seem to have a direct tie to Russia, then these questions are in fact raised. It becomes a litigable question that people are going to sidewalk about and disagree about it. I don’t think it’s clear one way or the other, but i do think it is a certainly a serious matter.”

❝ First of all, Ken Starr is the most prominent — and controversial — independent counsel ever. If you asked a person on the street to name an independent counsel not named Bob Mueller, Ken Starr would be the only one anyone would come up with…

Second, Starr is the reason that all presidents — Trump included — are extremely leery of independent or special prosecutors. He is the definitional example of an investigation starting small and growing huge.

❝ Remember that Starr took over the Whitewater investigation, an examination into an Arkansas land deal gone bad, in 1994. By the time Starr released the eponymous report of his findings on Sept. 11, 1998, his investigation had turned its focus to Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair with a White House intern. It took four years and cost roughly $40 million.

While Starr succeeded in initiating Clinton’s impeachment, he also knew [or should have] it wasn’t going to succeed. But, he managed to waste even more taxpayer dollar$ on his crusade against the Clintons. Fact-based legal decisions sometimes seem as rare as Trump keeping promises.

Trump’s Likely Pick for USDA Chief Scientist Ain’t A Scientist, Of Course

❝ The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

❝ Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television.

Being a conservative Christian mouthpiece for Agribusiness and reactionary corporate interests in general is good enough for our so-called president. Evidence-based scientific findings mean nothing to Trump, the chumps who voted for him, the political party which rolls over and sticks all four feet into the air when challenged to support pretty much anything on any issuie which would aid the lives of Americans who work for a living.

Republican War on the Environment marches on — Michigan just banned banning plastic bags


The queen of a Republican fundraising festival

❝ A new law in Michigan will prohibit local governments from banning, regulating or imposing fees on the use of plastic bags and other containers. You read that correctly: It’s not a ban on plastic bags — it’s a ban on banning plastic bags…

The new public act prohibits local ordinances from “regulating the use, disposition, or sale of, prohibiting or restricting, or imposing any fee, charge, or tax on certain containers,” including plastic bags, as well as cups, bottles and other forms of packaging. This means individual cities and municipalities are not allowed to ban plastic bags or charge customers a fee for using them.

❝ Bans and restrictions on the use of plastic bags are widespread in other parts of the country and around the world. The rationale is simple: Plastic bags are infamous non-biodegradable sources of pollution — although they will eventually break down into tiny pieces, scientists believe this process can take hundreds of years, or even up to a millennium, in landfills…

❝ Bangladesh was the first country in the world to ban certain types of thin plastic bags in 2002, after they were found to have choked the nation’s drainage systems during a series of devastating floods. China instituted a similar ban in 2008, and also prohibits businesses from giving out thicker plastic bags to customers for free. Other nations, including South Africa and Italy, have also enacted similar restrictions.

San Francisco became the first U.S. municipality to institute a plastic bag ban. And in 2014, California became the first state. Many other municipalities around the country have bans or fees in place, including Austin, Seattle and Chicago…

❝ On the other hand, Michigan is not the only state to have implemented a ban on bans. Idaho, Arizona and Missouri all have enacted similar laws. In these cases, proponents of the laws have defended them as a way of protecting businesses from having to comply with additional regulations.

Today’s Republican mind considers any facet of economic life beyond profit margins to be trivial. Perhaps, suspect and subversive.

Backlash in Kansas sends at least 11 Tea Party clodhoppers looking for honest work


“Doing OK in cooking and sewing classes?”

A top Senate leader and at least 10 other conservative Kansas legislators have lost their seats as moderate Republicans made GOP primary races a referendum on education funding and the state’s persistent budget woes.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce was among the lawmakers ousted amid a backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies.

The voting occurred against the backdrop not only of the state’s fiscal woes but ongoing legal and political disputes over funding for public schools. The state Supreme Court could rule by the end of the year on whether the Legislature is shorting schools on their state aid by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since the GOP-dominated Legislature slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy. That’s created concerns among educators about future spending on schools, even as many Republicans see the $4 billion-plus a year the state now spends as generous…

“He seemed to care more about what the Brownback administration wanted rather than what the people he represented wanted,” said Mary Dondlinger, an 80-year-old retired Hutchinson teacher and Republican who voted for Berger.

Five other conservative senators lost in races that spanned the state. So did five conservative House members, all of them from affluent Kansas City-area suburbs in Johnson County, the state’s most populous, where voters have cherished good public schools for decades

Cross your fingers and keep at it, folks. This just may foretell the next best news we may get from the big election in November. I’m more and more confident about Trump failing in his Tea Party Putsch; but, I really hope a batch of Americans wake-up to the threat to everything from education to science to the rule of civil law from populist poopchutes.

Might be nice to have a return to essential debates over differences in approach to progress – instead of how many angels fit atop pinhead reactionaries and their ignoranus fears.

Modern-day debtor prisons in El Paso challenged in federal court


Levi Lanephoto/Lorne Matalon

El Paso has a policy on its books that allows the city to jail people who cannot pay their traffic fines. Now a lawsuit filed in federal court is challenging that policy, saying it violates citizens’ constitutional right of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Levi Lane was stopped by El Paso coppers driving home from the night shift at a dog food factory. He let them search his car. Nothing wrong.

…The story changed immediately when the officers ran Lane’s license. “They found out that I had, like,13 traffic warrants,” he recounted. That translated to approximately $3,400 in unpaid fines…

“From there on out, story over,” he said. “My registration was expired and I didn’t have any insurance. And I couldn’t update my registration because of the lack of insurance prior to that.” Lane had decided decided to roll the dice — and drive to his overnight work shift — because buses in El Paso don’t operate around the clock. He lived across town and needed the work…

…Lane was brought into court later that morning. He pleaded guilty to his previous offenses. He could’ve gone home then and there if he could pay a portion of the outstanding fines. He couldn’t.

And here’s the issue: both federal and state law say you can’t jail someone for non-payment unless you first have a hearing to see if that person is really unable to pay. If they can’t, the Supreme Court, Texas law, and the Justice Department all say alternatives like a payment plan, reduced fines or community service must be considered. Lane never had that hearing…

Citing Lane’s case, a state-funded legal aid program has launched a federal lawsuit against the City of El Paso…”The basis of the case is that the City of El Paso has an unconstitutional debt collection process,” said Brian Jacobi, an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. He is part of the team representing Levi Lane in this case.

Jacobi showed me a city memo dated 2006 which states that people with outstanding tickets who are caught must pay one quarter of their debt-right away. “They’re told, pay 25 percent, maybe qualify for a payment plan. Can’t do that? Pay in full. Can’t do that? Go to jail…

This not an abstract legal debate limited to El Paso. Since September, similar lawsuits have been filed in Washington state, Mississippi and Louisiana.

RTFA for details on this case and others. No shortage of municipalities where conservative beancounters come up with ideas befitting a novel by Charles Dickens – instead of a United States of America governed by constitutional law that decided centuries ago that laws and judicial systems can’t be used to punish people for their poverty.