05/07/2015 archive

So you want a Parliamentary System?

We’re still waiting for the final results but certain trends are clear.  Voters are rejecting the Tories (Conservatives) and their austerity policies in droves and it’s highly unlikely that they will gain more than 35% of the popular vote.  Now the tricky bit is that voters are also rejecting Labour and their neo-Liberal austerity programme (Yes, we are slightly less evil) and they also look like they will have less than 35%.  The Liberal Democrats are going to take a pasting from their slavish, Quisling-like coalition with the Tories and will hardly be a party at all.  The Scottish National Party, despite their failure to achieve independence in last year’s referendum is probably going to win every single Scots seat (there are about 49) because of their populist economic platform (far to the left of Labor).  The neo-Facist, anti-immigrant UK Independence Party will take some seats where people don’t think the Tories are conservative enough.

Because of the physical layout of the Constituencies (which is what those silly British call Districts), and you could call it gerrymandering except that most of the divisions are hundreds and hundreds of years old, it is a distinct possibility that Labour could win the popular vote and end up with less seats in Parliament.

How this differs from Florida in 2000 is that there are minor parties and no Electoral College.  What happens when the main parties don’t have a flat majority is that they do deals with the minor parties until they have a coalition with a majority and then they go to the Queen and say ta-da, we have a government.

Except it’s not even that simple.

You see, the Queen has some discretion in who she chooses to form a government.  She selects a (putative) Prime Minister and his party writes what is called The Queen’s Speech which lays out the broad agenda for the next 5 years (presuming there’s not a crisis in confidence and a new election).  Parliament then votes to approve, or disapprove The Queen’s speech.  Disapproval usually results in shameful (in the sense that the leadership of the party feels shame for putting forth a proposal that does not have majority support) resignation(s) and a change in government as the leader of the largest party in opposition is invited to form a government.

The inside skivvy is that if the election is as close as it appears to be David Cameron, the leader of the Tories, will proclaim victory and squat in Downing Street until he’s escorted out by the Bobbies.  He will draft a Queen’s Speech and submit it.

It is already being bandied about that instead of reading the speech herself the Queen will simply submit a written copy to be read by someone else as was customary until modern times.  Not exactly a vote of confidence.

So regardless of today’s results there will be two or three weeks of fierce political maneuvering in Britain.

Save some popcorn for me.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: Transgender Today

A generation ago, transgender Americans were widely regarded as deviants, unfit for dignified workplaces, a disgrace for families. Those who confided in relatives were, by and large, pitied and shunned. For most, transitioning on the job was tantamount to career suicide. Medical procedures to align a person’s body with that person’s gender identity – an internal sense of being male, female or something else – were a fringe specialty, available only to a few who paid out of pocket.

Coming out meant going through life as a pariah.

Being transgender today remains unreasonably and unnecessarily hard. But it is far from hopeless. More Americans who have wrestled with gender identity are transitioning openly, propelling a civil rights movement that has struggled even as gays and lesbians have reached irreversible momentum in their fight for equality. Those coming out now are doing so with trepidation, realizing that while pockets of tolerance are expanding, discriminatory policies and hostile, uninformed attitudes remain widespread.

They deserve to come out in a nation where stories of compassion and support vastly outnumber those that end with a suicide note. The tide is shifting, but far too slowly, while lives, careers and dreams hang in the balance.

David Cay Johnston: A small victory in the war over pensions

Religious exemptions to pension guarantees have led to theft, but workers at one New Jersey hospital fought back

Former employees of a defunct New Jersey hospital gathered at a modest banquet hall last week to celebrate their victory over one of the most pernicious forms of wage theft in America. Applause and cheers for the nurses and lawyers who saved the workers’ pensions filled the evening, as did dire warnings for millions of other workers.

The rare victory of Hospital Center at Orange workers in saving their pensions matters because hundreds of thousands of employees at hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and even a religious publishing house have been quietly cheated out of their retirement benefits. Many of those cheated are not even aware yet that wages they deferred until old age will never be paid, barring government action.

This is a multi-billion dollar crime that Congress can remedy. So far, though, Congress has not even held hearings. The lack of interest on Capitol Hill is surprising since these massive thefts were enabled by a favorite whipping boy – the Internal Revenue Service.

Amy Goodman: The American Dream: Living to 18

“What do you hope to accomplish with this protest,” I asked a 13-year-old girl marching in Staten Island, N.Y., last August, protesting the police killing of Eric Garner.

“To live until I’m 18,” the young teen, named Aniya, replied. Could that possibly be the American dream today?

Aniya went on: “You want to get older. You want to experience life. You don’t want to die in a matter of seconds because of cops.” It’s that sentiment that has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.

Most recently, a week of protest in Baltimore was largely quelled when a remarkable prosecutor announced that six police officers would be charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Marilyn Mosby, the 35-year-old state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore, is the youngest lead prosecutor in any major U.S. city. Just 100 days into office, she made national headlines on Friday, May 1, with the stunning announcement that the officers would face various charges, from assault to second-degree murder. [..]

With determination like this, demanding accountability for all, maybe Aniya will get her wish: to celebrate her 18th birthday, and many, many more.

Dave Johnson: Enormous, Humongous March Trade Deficit Creating Jobs Elsewhere

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday (pdf) that the March goods and services trade deficit was $51.4 billion. This was an increase of $15.5 billion, or 43.1 percent, from the revised figure of $35.9 billion in February.

March exports were $187.8 billion, up $1.6 billion from February. March imports were $239.2 billion, up $17.1 billion from February.

The monthly U.S. goods deficit with China increased in March to $37.8 billion, up from $27.3 billion in February. This is the highest monthly deficit with China on record.

The U.S. goods deficit with Japan increased in March to $6.3 billion, up from $4.3 billion in February. [..]

t’s time to change our trade policies so they work for We the People not just a few already-wealthy people. We should demand balance. Trade partners should agree to actually “trade” with us, not just sell to us. We should also balance the interests of working people, the environment and other stakeholders with the interests of businesses in our trade negotiations. We should set a priority of lifting wages and prosperity on all sides of trade borders, instead of a priority of lifting only the world’s 1 percent.

Democracy and transparency can work for all of us. All of us do better when all of us do better.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel: How to Solve the E.R. Problem

Back in 2009, a big selling point of health care reform was the idea that expanding insurance coverage would increase Americans’ access to preventive and primary care and decrease the unnecessary use of emergency rooms, saving billions. President Obama said it this way: “One of the areas where we can potentially see some saving is a lot of those patients are being seen in the emergency room anyway, and if we are increasing prevention, if we are increasing wellness programs, we’re reducing the amount of emergency room care.”

There is one big problem with this logic: data. A new survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that 75 percent of emergency room doctors reported increases in patient volume since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. [..]

In Seattle, an unusual partnership seems to have found a solution. Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, a nonprofit that provides health care and insurance, and SEIU Healthcare NW Health Benefits Trust, which delivers health benefits to thousands of home health care workers, have reduced emergency room use among a subset of the trust’s membership by 27 percent over four years. [..]

The partnership realized that providing insurance was not enough. Instead it adopted a four-pronged strategy.

The Breakfast Club (Nothing Could Be Finer)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The Lusitania sunk in World War I; Nazi Germany signs surrender in World War II; Vietnam’s Battle of Dien Bien Phu; Composer Peter Illych Tchaikovsky born; Glenn Miller records ‘Chattanooga Choo-Choo.’

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.

Robert Louis Stevenson

On This Day In History May 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 7 is the 127th day of the year (128th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 238 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1824, the world premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna, Austria. The performance is conducted by Michael Umlauf under the deaf composer’s supervision. It was Beethoven’s first appearance on stage in 12 years. Over the years the symphony has been performed for both political and non-political from the eve of Hitler’s birthday, to the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Ode to Joy was used as the anthem by Kosovo when it declared it’s independence in 2008.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?)

You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.


Tonightly- Can Carly Fiorina beat Hillary?  I dunno.  Does Amy Schumer look like Marylin Monroe?  Remember- Marylin was a size 8 and Amy is size 6.  Or is the United States ready for a failed CEO with no government experience and who has never won an election.  Perhaps they all merge into a blonde blur as you masturbate while drinking yourself to sleep with your glasses off.

Susie Essman, Nicolle Wallace, and Holly Walker will be the panel.


Your Clown Car

This week’s guests-

Ernest Moniz is the U.S. Secretary of Energy and a Nuclear Physicist.  There are many interesting things he could talk about such as the Universe being a two dimensional field of Space/Time mediated to appear by our perception 3 dimensional.  In short, a hologram.  I prefer 26 dimensional bosonic string theory on the basis that more is better.

What I can almost guarantee he will not be talking about is the recent leaks from the contaminated water tanks at Fukushima.

Interesting factoid- He was the designated survivor during Obama’s 2014 SOTU.

The real news below.