Sunday, January 29, 2017

Skewed GOP Map In Wisconsin

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton finished in a near tie statewide, with Trump prevailing by roughly three-quarters of a percentage point. 
Yet Trump led Clinton in 63 of the state’s 99 Assembly districts, according to a review of state election returns. 
And he led her in 23 of the state’s 33 state Senate districts. 
Those numbers reflect the baked-in advantage — and virtual lock — the GOP enjoys in the battle for control of the Legislature, thanks to a one-sided map. [source]

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Delusion Is Great In This One

Delusional [dəˈlo͞oZH(ə)nəl] (adjective)

1) characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

2) based on or having faulty judgment; mistaken.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has been in the news lately. His grandstanding, threats and all-around odd behavior has been increasingly troubling.

Clarke's response to the attention he has received was pure delusion:
In an act of political grandstanding, the political witch hunt continues by democrat politicians and operatives. This is nothing more than an attempt to harass and bully Sheriff Clarke. This is fake news. He remains undeterred and unfazed as he has been dealing with this for more than a decade. These fake news stories from the Sentinel Journal and their dweebs at the editorial board are so transparent that the casual observer can see this for what it really is.

The latest political stunt by County executive Abele is a waste of time. He does not have the authority to investigate the Sheriff’s Office, and the sheriff is making it very clear that personnel responsible to him will not be talked to by anybody from the county executive’s office. County executive Abele knows he does not have the authority, but can’t resist the opportunity to politically grandstand. This is the same little man who spent $263,000 of his personal wealth in an attempt to defeat the sheriff in his last election. Abele failed. Since he has failed, he has continued his political attacks. 
Abele supported Mrs. Bill Clinton for president and Russ Feingold for US Senate. These attacks have everything to do with the sheriff’s support and the role he played in helping Donald Trump become the 45th President of the United States. The election is over. Donald Trump has been sworn in, and it is time for everybody to join Sheriff Clarke in helping make America great again, and to make America safe again.
So, Clarke harasses and bullies a fellow airline passenger and when he's called out for it, he claims he's being bullied and harassed? And, as always, Clarke had to include some Trump talking-points -- "fake news" and "make America great again".

He states that he has been dealing with "fake" news stories for decades and then resorts to name-calling the Journal Sentinel editorial board. What a dignified public servant. Can Clarke name even one thing he has done to improve the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department? Has he made the department greater? Has he made Milwaukee County safer? It seems over the last two years, Clarke has spent the majority of his time advocating for Donald Trump, not so much for Milwaukee County.

Clarke paints this investigation into his behavior and professional conduct as a political retaliation of County Executive Chris Abele's doing. Abele is a Democrat and has supported candidates other than David Clarke, therefore, that's the only story here for Clarke. Somehow, Clarke being called out for being a bullying jerk is really just Abele and Democrats being sour because Trump won? Is any sane person following any of this reasoning?

And, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. What topic or photo opportunity doesn't David Clarke turn into a partisan tirade? David Clarke couldn't be more of a tool if he had a hammer for a head. Clarke is the one making this (along with everything he talks about) political by trying to drag everyone around him into it. And, of course, he's full of all those Trump-esque platitudes. If anyone is making this a political stunt, it's Clarke. That's really all he's ever done.

The Republican party is always looking for a good little soldier to spout outrageous, reprehensible, attention-grabbing invective. Clarke has been more than happy to be that useful idiot.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Triumph Attends Trump’s Inauguration

Despicable Mike

Mike Pence is anti-LGBTQ, has an aversion to women’s rights and was a terrible governor. He used campaign funds to pay his mortgage, he defied the Constitution to turn away refugees, he “dragged his feet” during an HIV outbreak as well as a lead-poisoning crisis. [source]

The Radical Crusade of Mike Pence He's trampled on the rights of women, LGBTQ folks and the poor. Then there's the incompetence. Meet, quite possibly, the next president.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Republican Drug Addiction

White Nationalist Richard Spencer Punched In The Face

Sheriff Wingnut Threatens To Grab Himself By The Throat

"When I hear people say that we need to reach across the aisle and work with people, with the Democrats, you know what I say? The only reason I'll be reaching across the aisle is to grab one of them by the throat," Clarke said to raucous cheers and fist-pumping. [source]
Maybe most of the deplorables outside of Wisconsin are not aware (and even some inside Wisconsin), but Sheriff David Clarke runs for office as a Democrat.

So maybe he's just letting the cat out of the bag here - that he's a complete political opportunist who will do and say anything, buddy up to anyone and lie to his constituents for his own benefit. 

It seems he's trying to set himself up for a position within the Trump administration, so he may not really care about running for County Sheriff anymore. Although, if he does try to run for another term as Milwaukee County Sheriff, he should have to run as a Republican. 

Words mean things. The Trumps, Clarkes and the rest of that basket should have to mean what they say and stand behind the garbage that spills out of their mouths. Enough of their mealy-mouthed bullshit, saying whatever will gain applause from the crowd and fanning the flames of anger and misinformation, while shamelessly changing positions every other day.

Clarke is glad to call himself a Democrat to get elected in Milwaukee County, yet he wants nothing to do with the Democrats? 

So, Mr. Clarke, if you're going to run around spouting conservative bromides, start labeling yourself a Republican. Until then, grab yourself by the throat, squeeze and don't let go until that last breath leaves your hateful and ignorant body. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Beautifully Covered ... By Insurance Or Six Feet Of Dirt

"Of course, we won't know the official numbers until the Congressional Budget Office releases its report which by law it must do for any bill over $5 billion. With one -- this is kind of funny -- exception. Thanks to new rules passed by the Republicans, this law shall not apply to repealing the Affordable Care Act. That's right. The GOP is so confident the repeal will save money, that they don't want to know if that's true. And if Congress can make it illegal for us to know how much it costs to repeal ObamaCare, I think they might have stumbled on the replacement. Just make it illegal for your doctor to tell you your diagnosis. That way -- that way you'll need insurance as far as you know. 'Well, Mr. Johnston, I have your chart right here. Let's see. And I can't legally tell you how you are. Uh, just make the most of your day. And here's a hint, don't worry about the expiration dates on your food. Your milk's going to be fine.' So Republicans -- so Republicans are right to keep news the dark. I know when someone is screwing me, I like to keep the lights off. And that's the word." [source]

Now, Can We All Agree Sheriff David Clarke Is Unfit For Office?

Recently a man named Dan Black had the misfortune to interact with Sheriff David Clarke:
According to Black, he asked the sheriff, who was dressed in Dallas Cowboys apparel, if he was Sheriff Clarke. When Clarke said yes, Black noted in his original viral Facebook post that "he shook his head at him and moved on." Clarke then asked if Black had a problem, to which Black claimed he shook his head no. When the plane landed, however, Black says he was greeted by "about six cops and drug/bomb dogs who questioned me for about fifteen minutes before escorting me out." [source]
So obviously Clarke has a thin skin and has no problem abusing his power (just like his hero Donald Trump).

Black has since filed a harassment claim against Clarke.

Clarke responded,
Next time he or anyone else pulls this stunt on a plane they may get knocked out. The Sheriff said he does not have to wait for some goof to assault him. He reserves the reasonable right to pre-empt a possible assault.
Clarke has also taunted Black in a Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office Facebook post:

Is Clarke, in the Facebook post, threatening to kill Black? WTF?!

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has commented and apologized to Black on behalf of the County:
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele blasted Clarke for posting the meme and making a “juvenile” threat.

“Most cops, most deputies, most law enforcement officers don’t pull stunts like this,” Abele told Fox6. “I’ve already apologized to Dan Black on behalf of the county.”
Looks like Wisconsin has its own Joe Arpaio.

Welcome to the era of Donald Trump. Abuse of power, racism, sexism, crony capitalism, class warfare and nepotism.


For Further Reading:
More Than Just A Wingnut Sheriff
Unfit For Office
Crazy Clown Time
Sheriff Wingnut At It Again
Wingnut Sheriff Encourages More Violence

Republicans & Their Endless Tax Cuts Are Bankrupting Us

Swamp Drained

Barack Obama Inauguration 11:30 am 2009

Donald Trump Inauguration 11:04 am 2017

Obama's Accomplishments

Monday, January 16, 2017

Which States Rely The Most On Federal Aid?

The top recipient of federal aid per capita in FY 2014 was Mississippi, which relied on federal assistance for 40.9 percent of its revenue. Other states heavily reliant on federal assistance include Louisiana (40.1 percent), Tennessee (39.9 percent), Montana (39.1 percent), and Kentucky (38.5 percent).

Journalism Versus Public Relations

Eight Men Own The Same Wealth As The Poorest Half Of The World

8 people have same wealth as world's poorest half
Income inequality is so now lopsided that eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world. 
A top corporate CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh. 
And the world's 10 biggest corporations together have revenue greater than the 180 poorest countries combined. 
These findings by Oxfam, from a report titled An economy for the 99%, was released Sunday as the globe's leaders and the business elite traveled to Davos, Switzerland, for this week's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The conference is partly aimed at eliminating extreme income inequality. 
The study found that the richest eight people on the planet have net wealth of $426 billion — equivalent to what's held by the bottom half of the world's population.
An Economy For The 99%
Yet the global inequality crisis continues unabated: 
• Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. 
• Eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world. 
• Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion to their heirs – a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people. 
• The incomes of the poorest 10% of people increased by less than $3 a year between 1988 and 2011, while the incomes of the richest 1% increased 182 times as much. 
• A FTSE-100 CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 people in working in garment factories in Bangladesh.
• In the US, new research by economist Thomas Piketty shows that over the last 30 years the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300%. 
• In Vietnam, the country‟s richest man earns more in a day than the poorest person earns in 10 years.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Economic Development, Tax Incentives and The Plutocracy It's Creating

Tax incentives have become part of the economic development lexicon. The public sector has become a crucial funding cog in private sector projects. If not for the public injection of funding, the project, supposedly, would not get done. So much for the "free" market.

A quick perusal of news stories of the last few months are littered with tales of incentives creating jobs and growth. Such as the stories about how much sport teams add to the local economy and how much the new Amazon facility in Kenosha will boost their prospects.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in Green Bay Prepares For Playoff Game At Lambeau,
"The estimated impact is $14 million," said Toll, who, maybe only because he was standing with the Packers stadium in the background, bears a surprising resemblance the stadium's namesake. Advance ripples of that economic wave arrived first thing Monday morning, with fans streaming into the Packers Pro Shop and snatching up all the NFC North Division champions baseball hats by noon.
Sadly, the boost felt in Green Bay is a loss for others. Unless the money spent is above and beyond what would have already been spent, there is no growth taking place. If consumers merely traded dinner and a movie for Packer memorabilia and tickets, there is not growth, but merely a realignment of spending.

Another blogger wrote, "Whether or not you like the priorities, pro sports are one of the few things that seem to be booming and sparking the Wisconsin economy in 2017, and we'll see more examples of it today."

Much of this optimism seems prefaced on the Build-It-And-They-Will-Come mantra. Much of this new development will simply displace and devalue older businesses. Again, realigning spending, and in the case of sports (or large, big-box retailers), funneling money to absentee landlords -- persons or businesses that do not live in the city or state from which they are receiving funding and consumer spending.

Gregg Easterbrook, of The Atlantic, detailed How The NFL Fleeces Taxpayers.
Judith Grant Long, a Harvard University professor of urban planning, calculates that league-wide, 70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums has been provided by taxpayers, not NFL owners. Many cities, counties, and states also pay the stadiums’ ongoing costs, by providing power, sewer services, other infrastructure, and stadium improvements. When ongoing costs are added, Long’s research finds, the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tennessee Titans have turned a profit on stadium subsidies alone—receiving more money from the public than they needed to build their facilities. Long’s estimates show that just three NFL franchises—the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and New York Jets—have paid three-quarters or more of their stadium capital costs.

Many NFL teams have also cut sweetheart deals to avoid taxes. The futuristic new field where the Dallas Cowboys play, with its 80,000 seats, go-go dancers on upper decks, and built-in nightclubs, has been appraised at nearly $1 billion. At the basic property-tax rate of Arlington, Texas, where the stadium is located, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would owe at least $6 million a year in property taxes. Instead he receives no property-tax bill, so Tarrant County taxes the property of average people more than it otherwise would.
The situation has become so distorted that the revenues from suites, club seats and national TV deals are more important to most NFL teams than the average seats at stadiums.

The development panacea has trickled into college sports, too. As Eben Novy-Williams describes in College Football’s Top Teams Are Built on Crippling Debt:
Football critics nationwide often point to multimillion-dollar coaches as emblems of excess. They should be more worried about debt, which costs more and lasts longer. A high-priced coach might earn $4 million to $5 million a year. Meanwhile, according to public records, athletic departments at least 13 schools in the country have long-term debt obligations of more than $150 million as of 2014—money usually borrowed to build ever-nicer facilities for the football team. 
For some schools, millions in TV money can support a high level of debt service. That includes the University of Alabama, which plays Clemson for the national championship on Monday. The Crimson Tide owes $225 million over the next 28 years. In the Big Ten, also flush from a rich media deal, the University of Illinois owes more than $260 million. If that revenue stream fails to grow or starts to drop, as it already has for some programs in the top tier of college football, the results could be crippling.
How can these can't-fail projects, guaranteed to bring jobs and growth, lead to such debt? The reality appears to be almost exactly the opposite of what all the boosters are claiming. The beneficiaries of these projects are not workers or the community, in general, but the ownership that gets to avoid costs and pocket the profits.

Much has also been made of the new Amazon development in Kenosha. Again, supposedly, a big win for the community and its workers. First, this ignores the numerous stories of the abusive practices in Amazon warehouses. The company has been investigated by OSHA over its warehouse practices. Second, these warehouse jobs are low-wage and typically temporary positions. The pay is usually 16% lower than average warehouse worker pay. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) found that local brick-and-mortar retailers employ 47 people for every $10 million in sales, Amazon employs just 19 people for every $10 million in sales.

Between 2012 and 2014, Amazon extracted $431 million in tax incentives and other subsidies from local and state governments. ILSR also found that Amazon has eliminated about 149,000 more jobs in retail than it has created in its warehouses.

As Daniel Gross explains, "Paying more, making work more attractive, and offering perks is one tried and tested way of meeting the need for labor when labor markets are tight. Another tack is to design machines, systems, and consumer experiences that reduce or eliminate the need for human labor. Amazon is doing that, too. The New York Times reported in December that Amazon is now experimenting with a retail concept dubbed Amazon Go. It has built an 1,800-square-foot store in one of its office buildings in Seattle that should start operations next year. Open at first only to Amazon employees, it will be stocked with drinks, snacks, and prepared meals. One thing it won’t be filled with is many retail employees. The store will be outfitted with technology — a smartphone app, scanners, sensors — that will enable people essentially to load goods into their bag, then walk out and pay without stopping at a check-out lane." Thus, while Amazon takes these subsidies whilst promising jobs, they are actively pursuing strategies to eliminate their need for workers.

Amazon received $21.8 million in TIF subsidies for the Kenosha facility and $10.3 million in state enterprise zone tax credits. These final subsidy numbers also increased from the originally proposed $17 million TIF subsidy and $7 million in credits.

All of these subsidies have helped Amazon grow from a 2006 market value of $17.5 billion to a 2016 market value of $355.9 billion. 8 other large retailers, over the same period, have seen their combined market value drop $102.4 billion.

This phenomenon ties into recent research on Rising U.S. Business Concentration and The Decline in Labor's Share of Income.
The economists look at firm-level data on the labor share of income to see what’s happening. Using firm-level data on sales and employee compensation, they find a strong correlation between increasing concentration of sales among firms and a lower share of income accruing to workers in the same industry. The five economists argue that competition within these industries is shifting income toward successful, less labor-intensive firms “superstar firms.” 
Note that it’s not a lack of competition resulting in higher price markups that’s causing the decline in the labor share of income in these industries, as some other research has argued. Rather, this new paper emphasizes the role of competition in shifting sales toward firms with a lower share of income going to workers. The analysis of the data by the five authors shows that most of the decline is due to the shift in higher sales toward firms with low labor shares.
Much of this tax incentive, economic development paradigm seems to be funneling money into fewer and fewer, select hands. Whether it be sport or big-box retailers, much of the incentives offered seem to be counterproductive and often fail on delivering the jobs and growth for the communities and their workers.

For Further Reading:
With 6,000 New Warehouses Jobs, What Is Amazon Really Delivering?
4 Ways Amazon's Ruthless Practices Are Crushing Local Economies
A Local Book Publisher Laments Amazon's Impact
Before You Click On Amazon, Here's Why Your Choice Matters
How Amazon's Tightening Grip On The Economy Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs and Threatening Communities
Will Amazon Fool Us Twice?

Weekend Reading

Another Clinton-Trump Divide: High-Output America Vs. Low-Output America
Obama's Economic Record: An Assessment
The New Suburbia: More Urban
Bring This Up When A Conservative Mentions Obama's Doubled The National Debt
Fox News Screws Up Its Latest Lie
Kansas Offers Cautionary Tale For Trump's Tax Ambition
Republicans Call Obamacare A 'Failure.' These 7 Charts Show They Couldn't Be More Wrong
The Real "Takers" In America: The Unproductive, Rent-Extracting Rich
How To Be A Lawyer Without Going To Law School
Mesmerizing Commute Maps Reveal We All Live In Mega-Regions, Not Cities
Management Theory Is Becoming A Compendium Of Dead Ideas

Water Treatment - From Reservoir To Home

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Who Is Mike Pence?

Trumpsters Don't Know ACA & Obamacare Are The Same Thing

Trumpsters On ACA Don't Know Obamacare Is Same Thing?
More than one Trump supporter in the past 24 hours has announced on social media that repealing Obamacare will not affect the Affordable Care Act. 
You can assume these folks are beneficiaries of the latter. Because nobody would ever take away THEIR stuff, they're Trump voters!

Brutal Reality Check Abruptly Terminates Angry Obamacare Facebook Rant

Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments

Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments, Revisited
1. Passed Health Care Reform 
After five presidents over the course of a century failed to create universal health insurance, signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. More than twenty million Americans have gained coverage since the passage of the law, which provides subsidies for Americans to buy coverage, expands Medicaid eligibility, and prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions. The uninsured rate has dropped from 16 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2015. The law also mandates free preventive care, allows young people to stay on their parents’ policies up to age twenty-six, and imposes a ban on annual and lifetime caps on benefits. 
2. Rescued the Economy 
Signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to spur economic growth amid the most severe downturn since the Great Depression. As of October 2016, the economy had added 15.5 million new jobs since early 2010 and set a record with seventy-three straight months of private-sector job growth. The unemployment rate, which hit a sustained peak of about 10 percent in 2009, has dropped to 4.6 percent as of November 2016. 
3. Passed Wall Street Reform 
Signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to re-regulate the financial sector after its practices caused the Great Recession. The law tightens capital requirements on large banks and other financial institutions, allows the government to take them into receivership if they pose a threat to the economy, and limits their ability to trade with customers’ money for their own profit. Dodd-Frank also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on abusive lending and financial services. By the end of fiscal year 2016, the CFPB had handled nearly one million consumer complaints and taken actions that resulted in $11.7 billion in relief for more than twenty-seven million consumers. 
4. Negotiated a Deal to Block A Nuclear Iran 
Led six nations in reaching an agreement with Iran that requires the country to end its nuclear weapons program and submit to a rigorous International Atomic Energy Agency inspections regime in exchange for lifting global sanctions. The deal—which resulted from first toughening sanctions against Iran—also blocked Iran’s pathways to building a bomb, slowing down the development time for a weapon from three months to one year if Iran were to break its commitments. 
5. Secured U.S. Commitment to a Global Agreement on Climate Change 
Provided key leadership to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which produced the 2015 Paris Agreement, a commitment by 197 nations to reduce global carbon emissions and limit the global rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius. 
6. Eliminated Osama bin Laden 
In 2011, ordered the Special Forces raid of the secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which the terrorist leader was killed and a trove of al-Qaeda documents was retained. 
7. Ended U.S. Combat Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan 
After an initial troop surge in Afghanistan, brought home 90 percent of the nearly 180,000 troops who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan when he took office, leaving only a small contingent of forces to assist the Iraqi and Afghani militaries against insurgents and the Taliban. The withdrawal from Iraq created the vacuum that ISIS has filled. But, recently, without redeploying ground troops, the U.S. has helped the Iraqi military in reversing ISIS’s gains. 
8. Turned Around the U.S. Auto Industry 
In 2009, injected $62 billion (on top of the $13.4 billion in loans from the George W. Bush administration) into ailing GM and Chrysler in return for equity stakes and agreements for massive restructuring. By December 2014, the car companies had repaid $70.4 billion of the funds, and the Center for Automotive Research estimated that 2.5 million jobs were saved. 
9. Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ 
Ended the 1990s-era restriction and formalized a new policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time. 
10. Supported Federal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages 
Decided in 2011 that the federal government would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricted federal marriage recognition to opposite-sex couples. In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key portions of the law as unconstitutional, allowing married same-sex couples to finally receive federal protections like Social Security and veteran benefits. 
11. Reversed Bush Torture Policies 
Two days after taking office, signed an executive order banning the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques used by the CIA under President Bush and considered inhumane under the Geneva Conventions. Also released the secret Bush administration legal opinions supporting the use of these techniques. 
12. Established Rules to Limit Carbon Emissions from Power Plants 
Finalized a “Clean Power Plan” in 2015 through new EPA regulations, setting the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. When fully implemented in 2030, the new rules will result in a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to 2005. 
13. Normalized Relations with Cuba 
In 2014, took steps to open diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba, ending the failed Cold War policy of isolation. In March 2016, direct mail flights to Cuba resumed for the first time in fifty years. American tourists may also now freely visit the country. 
14. Put Medicare on Sounder Financial Footing 
Slowed the growth of health care spending through cost-saving measures enacted as part of the ACA, ensuring the solvency of Medicare’s principal trust fund through 2028. 
15. Protected DREAMers from Deportation 
Took executive action in June 2012 to protect undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children (so-called DREAMers) from deportation and allow them to apply for work permits. 
16. Established Net Neutrality 
Directed the Federal Communications Commission to issue a rule classifying internet service providers as a public utility and forcing them to treat all web traffic the same, regardless of source. After years of litigation, a federal court upheld the FCC’s rule, meaning providers can’t favor certain websites or block others. 
17. Protected Two Liberal Seats on the U.S. Supreme Court 
Nominated and obtained confirmation for Sonia Sotomayor (the first Hispanic person and third woman to serve on the Court) in 2009 and Elena Kagan (the fourth woman) in 2010. They replaced David Souter and John Paul Stevens, respectively. 
18. Boosted Fuel Efficiency Standards 
Released new fuel efficiency standards in 2011 that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. 
19. Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program, Expanded Pell Grant Funding 
As part of the 2010 health care reform bill, signed a measure ending the decades-old practice of subsidizing banks to provide college loans. As a result, all students began getting their federal student loans directly from the federal government. More than half of the savings ($36 billion over ten years) is dedicated to expanding Pell Grants to lower-income students. 
20. Improved America’s Image Abroad 
With new policies, diplomacy, and rhetoric, reversed a sharp decline in world opinion toward the U.S. (and the corresponding loss of “soft power”) during the Bush years. Favorable opinion toward the United States rose during Obama’s first term in ten of fifteen countries surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, with an average increase of 26 percent, and have stayed high ever since. 
21. Left His Mark on the Federal Judiciary 
Appointed more than 300 judges to federal district and appeals courts, in line with other two-term presidents, tipping the balance to majority Democrat appointed. A majority of judges on nine of the thirteen appeals courts are now Democratic appointees—compared to just one when Obama took office. Appointed a record number of female (138) and minority (120) judges to the federal bench, as well as eleven openly gay or lesbian judges. 
22. Diversified the Federal Bureaucracy 
Appointed women and people of color to fill more than half of appointments to policy positions requiring Senate confirmation, including seventeen of thirty-one Cabinet positions. 
23. Passed Fair Sentencing Act 
Signed 2010 legislation that reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine possession from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1. Successfully lobbied the United States Sentencing Commission to apply those measures retroactively, which contributed to the largest decrease in the federal prison population in over thirty years. 
24. Revived the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division 
Through then Attorney General Eric Holder, announced a major overhaul of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division in 2009 to bring back federal civil rights enforcement, which had atrophied under President Bush. Among other priorities, the division stepped up its efforts against housing and employment discrimination, strengthened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, and put renewed focus on cracking down on discriminatory policing practices. 
25. Expanded Wilderness and Watershed Protection 
Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, which designates more than two million acres as wilderness, creates thousands of miles of recreational and historic trails, and protects over 1,000 miles of rivers. By designating new national monuments and other measures, permanently protects over 548 million acres, more than any other president. 
26. Gave the FDA the Power to Regulate Tobacco 
Signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009. Nine years in the making and long resisted by the tobacco industry, the law mandates that tobacco manufacturers disclose all ingredients, obtain FDA approval for new products, and expand the size and prominence of cigarette warning labels. It also bans the sale of “light” cigarettes and tobacco sponsorship of entertainment events. 
27. Trimmed and Reoriented Missile Defense 
Cut the Reagan-era “Star Wars” missile defense budget, saving $1.4 billion in 2010, and canceled plans to station antiballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of a sea-based defense plan focused on Iran and North Korea. 
28. Kick-started Clean Energy Investment 
As part of the 2009 stimulus, invested $90 billion in research on smart grids, energy-efficient electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels. Launched a clean energy incubator within the Argonne National Laboratory and encouraged $4 billion in commitments by foundations, institutional investors, and other private-sector stakeholders to boost their investments in clean energy technology. 
29. Reduced the Threat from Nuclear Weapons 
Initiated the biannual Nuclear Security Summit to address the global threat posed by nuclear terrorism and advance a common approach to strengthening nuclear security. As a result, weapons-usable highly enriched uranium has been removed from sixteen countries. Signed and won ratification of a 2011 treaty with Russia to limit each country to 1,550 strategic warheads (down from 2,200) and 700 launchers (down from more than 1,400). The treaty also reestablished a monitory and transparency program that had lapsed in 2009. 
30. Passed Credit Card Reforms 
Signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which prohibits credit card companies from raising rates without advance notification, mandates a grace period on interest rate increases, and strictly limits overdraft and other fees. 
31. Cut Veteran Homelessness by Half 
In 2010, launched the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors, which has led to a 47 percent decline in the number of homeless veterans since 2010 and aims to end youth homelessness by 2020. 
32. Enacted Government Surveillance Reform 
Signed the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which bans the governmental collection of bulk data, creates a special panel to provide technical and legal advice to the court administering the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and provides greater transparency for FISA court opinions. The ACLU noted that the legislation marked the first time since 1978 that Congress has “taken steps to restrict, rather than expand, its government surveillance authority.” 
33. Expanded Overtime Pay 
Updated a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure overtime pay for employees making up to $47,476 a year, thereby expanding overtime protections to 4.2 million workers. The new rules were set to go into effect in December 2016, but were blocked in November by a federal judge in Texas. 
34. Cracked Down on Bad For-Profit Colleges 
Through the Department of Education, issued “gainful employment” regulations in 2011, cutting off commercially focused schools from federal student aid funding if more than 25 percent of former students aren’t paying off their loans or if former students spend more than 12 percent of their average total earnings servicing student loans. In June 2016, regulators voted to shut down the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges, cutting off federal aid to hundreds of for-profits. 
35. Cut the Deficit 
Reduced the federal deficit from 9.8 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3.2 percent in 2016, one benefit of a strengthening economy. 
36. Created the College Scorecard 
Through the Department of Education, developed a comprehensive database in 2015 that allows prospective college students to compare potential schools based on costs, graduation rates, debt, and post-college earnings. 
37. Improved School Nutrition 
Signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, championed by Michelle Obama, mandating a $4.5 billion spending boost and higher nutritional standards for school lunches. New rules double the amount of fruits and vegetables, and require only whole grains, in foods served to students. 
38. Expanded the Definition of Hate Crimes 
Signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, applying existing hate crime laws to crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, or disability, in addition to race, religion, or national origin. 
39. Recognized the Dangers of Carbon Dioxide 
Through 2009 EPA regulations, declared carbon dioxide a pollutant, allowing the agency to regulate its production. 
40. Strengthened Women’s Right to Fair Pay 
Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, giving women who are paid less than men for the same work the right to sue their employers after they find out about the discrimination, even if it happened years ago. Under previous law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the statute of limitations on such suits ran out 180 days after the alleged discrimination occurred, even if the victims never knew about it. 
41. Secured the Removal of Chemical Weapons from Syria 
Forced an agreement by Syrian leader Bashar Assad in 2013 to destroy the country’s stockpile of chemical weapons in accordance with the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention. In 2016, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed the destruction of thousands of tons of mustard gas and other toxic chemicals. (There is evidence, however, that Assad has recently continued to use chlorine gas against rebels and civilians in Aleppo.) 
42. Protected LGBTQ Americans From Employment Discrimination 
Signed an executive order in 2014 prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against their workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 
43. Reduced Discrimination Against Former Prisoners in Federal Hiring 
Signed an executive order to “ban the box” in federal hiring and contracting. Government employers can’t ask about criminal records at the beginning of the application process, giving applicants with a criminal history a fairer shot. 
44. Won Major Victories Against Housing and Mortgage Discrimination 
Through the Justice Department, reached a record $335 million settlement against Countrywide Financial Corporation and a $175 million settlement against Wells Fargo for their practices of charging higher interest and fees to African American and Latino borrowers prior to the financial crisis, in addition to numerous other suits pursued on behalf of borrowers. In 2015, the administration successfully argued before the Supreme Court that victims of housing discrimination suing for bias only need to show “disparate impact,” not an intent to discriminate, to win their case. 
45. Expanded Broadband Coverage 
Obtained approval from the FCC to shift $8 billion in subsidies away from landlines and toward broadband internet access for lower-income rural families. By 2016, 98 percent of Americans had access to fast 4G/LTE broadband. 
46. Expanded Health Coverage for Children 
Signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act in 2009, expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover an additional four million children, paid for by a tax increase on tobacco products. 
47. Improved Food Safety 
Signed the 2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which increased the Food and Drug Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion and expanded its regulatory responsibilities to include increasing the number of food inspections, issuing direct food recalls, and reviewing the safety practices of countries exporting food products to the U.S. 
48. Let the Space Shuttle Die and Killed the Planned Moon Mission 
Allowed the expensive ($1 billion per launch), badly designed, and dangerous shuttle program to make its final launch on July 8, 2011. Cut off funding for the even more bloated and problem-plagued Bush-era Constellation program to build a moon base in favor of support for private-sector low-earth orbit ventures, research on new rocket technologies for long-distance manned flight missions, and unmanned space exploration, including the largest interplanetary rover ever launched, designed to investigate Mars’s potential to support life. 
49. Rebuilt and Fortified the Gulf Coast post-Katrina 
Completed a $14.5 billion system in 2011 to rebuild the levees in New Orleans and protect it from a 100-year storm. 
50. Avoided Scandal 
Became the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to serve two terms with no serious personal or political scandal.

Republican Confirmation Hearing Hypocrisy

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trump Owes $1.8 Billion To More Than 150 Different Institutions

Donald Trump's businesses owe $1.8bn to more than 150 different institutions, new study suggests
Donald Trump’s companies are almost $1.8 billion in debt to more than 150 institutions, a new report has suggested – raising fresh questions about potential conflicts of interests when the Republican takes office in January. 
The new evidence exposes the extent to which the businessman will soon be responsible for regulating many of the institutions he owes sizeable amounts of money to. 
Mr Trump has previously declared $315 million (£254 million) of debt owed to ten different lenders.

My Sentiments Exactly

Lola Kirke Wore a ‘F*ck Paul Ryan’ Pin to the Golden Globes