poverty

Not a Comedy Sketch (Spamtastic)

File photo by Lucy Pemoni/AP Photo.

“A spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, said people are stealing Spam because it’s easy to sell. ‘It’s quick cash for quick drug money,’ Carvalho said.”

Associated Press

There really is nothing more we could possibly add at this time; some circumstances should speak for themselves.   

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Image note: Detail of file photo by Lucy Pemoni/AP Photo.

Associated Press. “Honolulu store owners say thieves are targeting cans of Spam”. 21 October 2017.

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Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α

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One of Those Bad Ideas (Minnesota Seven Mix)

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

And then there is Minnesota, specifically the Seventh Congressional District―a rural swath in the west of the state currently represented in Congress by Rep. Collin Peterson (DFL)―and its GOP. Or, as Ed Mazza explains:

The head of the Republican party in Minnesota is apologizing after one of the GOP’s district branches tweeted about a “negro problem.”

MN #DFL now propose a "special session" to deal with their self-created "#Negroproblem". (Minnesota 7th Congressional District GOP, via Twitter, 22 November 2015)The tweet, sent out by the state’s 7th Congressional District GOP on Sunday, was a response to the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party’s call to make joblessness and poverty in the black community part of a proposed legislative special session, the Star Tribune reported.

“MN #DFL now propose a ‘special session’ to deal with their self-created ‘#negroproblem,'” the tweet said.

Now, come on. Really? Look, you might be a Republican but at what point does this sound like a good idea? Alright, alright, alright. That’s not fair, is it? Try it this way: At what point did this fail to seem like a bad idea?

This is the question the Republican Party in Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District must answer: Why are you in politics?

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Mazza, Ed. “Minnesota GOP Apologizes For ‘Negro Problem’ Tweet”. The Huffington Post. 24 November 2015.

Oklahoma Virtue

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

Oklahoma. Republicans. Of course they did:

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us "Please Do Not Feed the Animals." Their stated reason for the policy is because "The animals will grow dependent on handouts and not learn to take care of themselves." Thus ends today's lesson in irony #OKGOP. (Oklahoma Republican Party, via Facebook, 13 July 2015)The Oklahoma Republican Party is under fire after a controversial Facebook post.

In the post, the Oklahoma GOP compared providing food stamp benefits for Americans in need to feeding animals at national parks.

“The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people,” the Oklahoma Republican Party said on Facebook. “Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because ‘The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.’ Thus ends today’s lesson in irony #OKGOP.”

(Franklin)

The KFOR report notes the predictable negative reaction, including the obvious question about comparing people to wild animals, an invocation of the words of Jesus Christ, and an identifying conservative denouncing the “counterproductive” “disgrace” and “awful taste” of the post.

Which leaves only the other obvious question: What the hell is wrong with the Oklahoma GOP?

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Image notes: Top ― Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890. RightImage of Facebook post by Oklahoma Republican Party, 13 July 2015.

Franklin, Dallas. “Oklahoma Republican Party under fire after controversial Facebook post”. 14 July 2015.

Francis the Red?

Pope Francis is presented with a gift of crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.  Apart from the carved hammer and sickle, Morales gave Francis another politically loaded gift, a copy of "The Book of the Sea," which is about the loss of Bolivia's access to the sea during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1979-83.  Morales said things ahve changed with this pope and the Bolivian people are greeting Francis as somone who is "helping in the liberation of our people." (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Sometimes, the unsaid really is that important.

This is something worth considering:

Pope Francis avoided altitude sickness in La Paz, Bolivia, but he may have woken Thursday with a ringing headache anyway.

The day before Bolivian president Evo Morales gave Francis a large garish cross carved into the shape of a hammer and sickle – the symbol of Communist unity between workers and farmers.

That’s a bit bang-on-the-nose for his holiness, who has been branded a Marxist by Rush Limbaugh, and dogged by claims that he is a radical with dreams of toppling the global economy.

To be fair, a communist is typically defined as a member of the party, which denies the existence of God. That’s not Francis. But the pope is indeed a bit of a radical with dreams of a fairer global economy. In a much-anticipated papal letter released by the Vatican last month, he warned “every living person on this planet” about the reckless pursuit of infinite growth and boundless, buyable pleasures.

(Dokoupil)

Every once in a while, conspiracy theories arise among conservative Christians having to do with Catholics, communists, and other groups, such as Wiccans, as one iteration had it, trying to redefine morality and destroy Christianity in the New World Order.

The question of whether or not Pope Francis is a “card-carrying member” of the Communist Party is pretty much a distraction. In truth, a Christian’s command to seek from each according to ability and give to each according to need predates Karl Marx (1875), Louis Blanc (1851) or Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (1755).

He diagnosed it as “the deification of the market,” and argued that if we hope to flourish, we need “a bold cultural revolution” in the way we live and work. But by Thursday morning, Francis was busy pushing back on the c-word.

“When I talk about this, some people think the pope is a communist,” he told a gathering of peasants and workers, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t realize that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel.”

One wonders about politics, and whether the straightforward Biblical truth would simply make too many Christians’ souls explode in confusion.

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.

(Acts 4.32-35 (RSV))

Critics who worry that Pope Francis is communist are missing the point.

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Image note: Pope Francis is presented with a gift of crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Apart from the carved hammer and sickle, Morales gave Francis another politically loaded gift, a copy of “The Book of the Sea,” which is about the loss of Bolivia’s access to the sea during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1979-83. Morales said things ahve changed with this pope and the Bolivian people are greeting Francis as somone who is “helping in the liberation of our people.” (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Dokoupil, Tony. “Is the pope a communist?”. msnbc. 9 July 2015.

Weigle, Luther, et al. The Bible: Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971.

A Kansas Education

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

This is a grim joke, I admit: Closing schools early in order to underwrite tax breaks for the wealthy is an exercise in building character.

I have a daughter; it is unclear if “character building” has any significance to her generation beyond a Calvin & Hobbes punch line.

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)Controversial Republican economist Arthur Laffer was recently asked about his handiwork in Kansas. It was Laffer who crafted Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) radical – and radically unsuccessful – economic experiment, which has failed to deliver on its promises and which has ruined Kansas’ finances.

“Kansas,” Laffer said two weeks ago, “is doing fine.”

“Fine” is a subjective word, though when a state finds that some of its schools don’t have enough money to keep the doors open, it’s safe to say everything isn’t “fine.”

Six school districts in Kansas will close early this year, following budget cuts signed in March by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Two school districts, Concordia Unified School District and Twin Valley Unified School District, announced earlier this month that they would end the year early because they lacked the funds to keep the schools open. This week, four more districts confirmed they would also shorten their calendars, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

One superintendent told the Topeka Capital-Journal he doesn’t want to permanently change the school calendar, but at least for this year, budget concerns made it necessary to wrap up early.

(Benen)

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A Low Rumbling Noise Out of New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month [Feb. 2015]. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit Jim Young/Reuters)

It is not exactly what we might call vacation, but sometimes we find ourselves somewhere else, doing other things, and the result is a cheap, quick-hit, read-this blog post.

You know, kind of like this. Read this bit from Steve Benen:

If the GOP candidate is comparing himself to the American norm, Christie is in rarefied economic air. Unless his income fell dramatically last year from 2013, it’s both factually and politically wrong for him to say he’s “not wealthy.”

In a speech on entitlements this week, the New Jersey Republican said, “Let’s ask ourselves an honest question: do we really believe that the wealthiest Americans need to take from younger, hardworking Americans to receive what, for most of them, is a modest monthly Social Security check?” He added, “I propose a modest means test that only affects those with non-Social Security income of over $80,000 per year, and phases out Social Security payments entirely for those that have $200,000 a year of other income.”

In other words, Christie this week defined “the wealthiest Americans” as those who earn far less per year than he does.

The Chris Christie Show would seem to be counting down to liftoff, and one can only wonder at the advisability of doing so with such odds of a deeply-reverberating crash. We must remember that the Clown Car is mostly an entertainment spectacle, so try to keep all this early disgrace in perspective. After all, even Herman Cain had his moment atop the polls during the 2011-12 primary season. Maybe these failed political campaigns should try a PR stunt―a dollar a vote, given to charity after they drop out. At least then it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time and money.

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Benen, Steve. “Despite 1% status, Christie says he’s ‘not wealthy'”. msnbc. 16 April 2015.

Relativity (polo-tics mix)

Detail of 'Tom the Dancing Bug' by Ruben Bolling, 12 March 2015, via Daily KosNonetheless, it’s probably still a good question. You know how it goes.

(Detail of Tom the Dancing Bug, by Ruben Bolling, 12 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.)

The Funky Fishscale Fog

Detail of 'La Pêche Miraculeuse', ca. 1610, by Peter Paul Rubens.

The fictional Jebediah Springfield famously explained, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” In the modern day, wise men like Bill Maher question the vapidity of the word “spirit”. Either way, a transfusion seems out of the question:

So, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is blocking health care benefits for low-income families in order to help them “live the American dream” and Gov. Pence is curtailing food aid in order “ennoble” people.

How very gracious of them.

In theory, the “give someone a fish” adage sounds quite nice, and in a booming economy with low unemployment and broad job opportunities, we can have a credible conversation about work requirements and the safety net.

But Pence, like Walker, runs the risk of sounding horribly out of touch – their argument is predicated on the assumption that the economy is in great shape, and everyone who wants a job can easily get one. I suspect most of the American mainstream would offer a different assessment of economic conditions.

(Benen)

We might also note that while once upon a time perhaps it was possible to teach a man to fish, such that he could do the work properly and earn a living, in a day. In modern times, though, that isn’t quite so easy. That is to say, we can certainly test the thesis, but probably need not: Go out on the street and give a job to the first unemployed person you find.

The objections and complications are easily predictable.

Who says that person is qualified, for instance? Maybe she was a waitress before the restaurant closed to make room for the McDonald’s in the Walmart, or he was a janitor who cleaned the school restrooms before being laid off for budget cuts. In either case, though, you need a “people person” with strong reading, speaking, and interpersonal skills, and maybe, just maybe you can teach that person to solicit telephone survey responses and appropriately record the data in a day.

Or maybe not. Either way, that person is going to need to eat at some point during the day.

And, you know, in most markets you’re probably going to be paying that employee less than they need to continue living in order to do the work.

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Three Percent

One … last … lede:

The number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report that blames the nation’s high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the impacts of pervasive domestic violence.

(Crary and Leff)

Now, just stop and think for a moment.

Remember when you were a kid, and would look at the nutrition information on the cereal box, and there were all of those asterisks that meant “less than two percent of USRDA”? Well, do the freakin’ math. One in thirty is over three percent. This isn’t an asterisk.

These are the United States of America.

Congratulations.

Good night; sleep well.

Presuming, of course, that you have a place to sleep.

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Crary, David and Lisa Leff. “Number Of Homeless Children In America Surges To All-Time High: Report”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.