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The Annual Cultural War

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It’s that time of year yet again. Thanksgiving is over. Black Friday is over. November is over. We come to the happiest time of the year for the Fox family. They get to add up all of their cultural battles that they’ve invented inside their heads and combine them into one singular focus. It’s war on Christmas time. I know all of you have been looking forward to it.

If we take a step back we realize the hilarity of it all. If we take more steps back we realize there has been a war on Christmas for multiple generations and the wrong people are winning. Heck, I usually try not to be pessimistic in such times, but some might claim we lost a long time ago.

One of my wife’s relatives threw up a meme around Thanksgiving that said it as succinctly as I could think of. The meme said, “Only in America do we have something called Black Friday where we trample over people for stuff when just one day earlier we were talking about how thankful for the stuff we had.” Maybe I got a word wrong here or there, but that was the general sentiment.

I suppose this began innocently enough. We decorated around the house and maybe put up a few lights. Then, the competitive side kicked in. We began hiring contractors whose job it was to dangle twenty feet in the air off our roof and hang lights, decorations, and life size images of Santa Claus and reindeer. Maybe they climbed some trees to hang some of the new fangled icicle looking things.

Lost in all this exchange are the three messages of Christmas and more generic form of happy holidays. There is the pure religious significance of the day itself. It’s Jesus’ birthday. At least it is the day we choose to acknowledge as his birthday. There are all the feelings and actions that get attached to that. It’s a new beginning that goes along with the theme of a new year and a new beginning.

That brings us to the second message of the season. The term Happy Holidays is an inclusive message that generalizes the time to include other faith traditions. It also more generalizes the meaning. This is where we get the spirit of giving as the meaning of the season. Naturally, corporations love this because it means we buy stuff and religious purists hate it because while it is a positive message, it isn’t exactly the point. However, as far as messages go it is fairly benign.

Naturally, the third message is the pure unadulterated commercialism of the season. I suppose the irony is that many of the Fox talking heads and loud mouth politicians have skipped past unadulterated and just gone to adultery. That’s just an aside though as kids grow up thinking this time of year is a bonanza where they get stuff.

This line of thinking became immortalized when South Park’s Eric Cartman sang “Oh Holy Night.” He mangled the words and sang, “Jesus was born and so I get presents. Thank you Jesus for being born.” The creators have called Cartman the junk in everyone’s soul. Sadly, when the show first aired he seemed to be an extreme example of amoral behavior and character. Now, he seems much more normal. Of course, Fox doesn’t go to war with that. They would have go to war against themselves.

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Only in America do we have something called Black Friday where we trample over people for stuff when just one day earlier we were talking about how thankful for the stuff we had.
Central Pennsyltucky
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Recap: November 30, 2021

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noun: prat; plural noun: prats
1. an incompetent, stupid, or foolish person; an idiot.
2. a person's buttocks.

This clown. 

This ridiculous, obnoxious, contemptable, capering buffoon. 

This is the face of the Republican Party today. 

This ass, right here. 

No ideas, only obstruction. 

No leadership, instead only bluster, bombast, and threats. 

Arrogantly self-righteous. Violently xenophobic. Confidently uneducated. Inordinately proud of their own miserable ignorance. Wrapped in the flag of dogmatic nationalism, mindless patriotism, and self-righteous piety. Waving a gun and their Bible -- without respect or understanding for either.  

This is what the Republican Party has become: Lauren Boebert. 

By now I'm sure you've heard about Boebert's bigoted "joke."

Boebert was in Colorado, and told her audience that she was getting into an elevator at the Capitol when she saw a Capitol Police Officer running toward the doors "with a look of fear."

Oh no! What could it be! Why was the officer afraid for Lauren Boebert? Why?!

In the story, Boebert responds to the officer's panic for her wellbeing by saying, "I looked to my left and there she is: Ilhan Omar!"

Ilhan Omar! 

A Muslim! 

Beobert dropped the punchline: "And I said, 'well, she does not have a backpack, we should be okay!'"

The audience laughed, of course. 

Hardee har har. 

Omar, who as a child refugee escaped civil war, terrorism, and genocide in Somalia, who came to America specifically because her family believed in the promise of this country, freedom, justice, civil rights, peace, equality, safety, all those things that Republicans like Lauren Boebert claim they revere, the black Muslim woman is a suicide bomber! She can't be trusted! 

She's not really an American. 

Ha ha! See? 

Isn't that hilarious? 

Because vile jokes based on racist stereotypes are goddamn funny, right? 

Well, they are to Republicans anyway. Q.E.D.

Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Bobo "apologized" for her "joke."

But, of course, the apology was bullshit, a trap. 

Boebert only wanted to get Omar on the phone so she could spew more hate. And when Omar hung up rather than listen to it, Republicans declared victory and bemoaned Omar's "intolerance." 

This is what bullies do. 

This is what the Republican Party has become. 

They attack and harass and terrorize those they defines as "weak," and when they're caught and called out, they declare themselves to be the real victim. 

That's what the Republican Party has become: A rabble of dimwitted goons, bullies, thugs, who perpetually play the victim and pander to the lowest, most base elements of our society. 

It's not just Boebert. 

It's Steve King's comment today. 

It's Marjorie Taylor Geene. 

It's Donald Trump.

It's Kevin McCarthy. 

It's the craven cowardice of an ideology based on hate, fear, and cheap laughs. 

And until the GOP takes responsibility for their own shitty behavior, until Republican leaders (so called leaders anyway) step up and hold members of their own party accountable for their unacceptable hate, until they expel these vile racist dimwitted pandering thugs from their caucus, then those like Lauren Boebert are the face of the Republican Party. 

Lincoln would have beaten these miserable goons with a hickory axe handle. 

Which is why those who think like Lauren Boebert murdered him. 

Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We, of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
- Abraham Lincoln

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6 hours ago
Central Pennsyltucky
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Words kill. It's going to happen

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Rep. Lauren Boebert showing her political muscle.

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Somebody is going to die.  That’s what is going to come of all the racist verbiage coming from the likes of Republicans Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar.  There is someone out there who cleans his guns on the dining room table and stores his ammunition on top of the refrigerator who is going to pick up his AR-15 or Glock and put a bullet in a Democratic congresswoman. 

Yes, a man with a gun is going to shoot a female Democratic politician.  It’s already happened.  Democratic Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner, a deranged conspiracy theorist who had expressed his dislike for government and was a follower of an online message board called “Above Top Secret” which espoused conspiracy theories that the 9/11 attacks were a government set-up, and the American government was really a captive of the so-called “New World Order.”  Loughner shot Giffords through the head, wounded 18 other people at an outdoor event held by the Arizona congresswoman, and killed six others.

They’re out there.  In a country with some 400 million privately-owned firearms, they are heavily armed and they are susceptible to the kind of rhetoric and “jokes” being thrown around on far-right websites and by members of congress belonging to the Republican Party.  When a member of congress like Lauren Boebert makes a “joke” implying that Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is a Muslim terrorist, there are people sitting in their living rooms reading conservative websites like Newsmax or watching Fox News on TV who take them seriously.  When another Republican member of congress like Paul Gosar tweets a “joke” anime video depicting him using a sword to slash the head off Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden, there are people on Twitter who don’t get the joke.  They think it’s a good idea.

A district office of Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell in Michigan was vandalized yesterday.  The front window was broken, and memorabilia belonging to Dingell were taken off the wall and smashed.  Dingell had gotten into a shouting match with Greene in September when the Georgia congresswoman disrupted an event Dingell was hosting on the Capitol steps after the House had passed a bill that would guarantee women the right to an abortion.  Greene yelled over Dingell’s attempts to address the press, shouting that abortion was “killing a baby” and “the border is wide open down there,” in an apparent reference to border crossings by undocumented immigrants seeking asylum.

Earlier today, Representative Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, got into a Twitter exchange after Mace criticized Boebert’s recent Islamophobic comments.  Greene called Mace a “RINO,” a Republican-in-name-only, to which Mace replied, “What I’m not is a religious bigot (or racist). You might want to try that over there in your little ‘league’.”  While hardly a liberal, Mace supported censuring Trump rather than impeaching him and recently voted with Democrats to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of congress for refusing a subpoena issued by the January 6 Select Committee.

Did you notice anything about the verbal and visual attacks mentioned above?  How about the fact that they have been against female members of congress, all but one of them Democrats.  Boebert regularly refers to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who are Muslim and appear wearing hijabs as the “jihad caucus.”  The word “jihad” is usually taken to mean a war or struggle carried out by Muslims against the enemies of Islam.  There are people in this country who believe that all Muslims want a “war” with America.  To connect that idea with Democratic members of congress is to put their lives in danger.

Democrats censured Gosar for his tweet of the violent anime video, but only two Republicans voted to censure the member of their party.  The refusal of Republican leaders in the Congress to deal with the disgusting racist and Islamophobic language being thrown around by members of their caucus has the effect of endorsing their behavior.  Everybody out there watching Fox and reading right-wing crap on the internet gets the message.  It’s okay to attack Democrats.  They’re not like us.  They’re not loyal Americans.  It’s all on the table and anything goes.    

This is serious business.  One political party has declared war on the other political party.  They’re fighting it for the time being with voter suppression laws and racist lies and ugly, violent words and images, and these tactics are being endorsed and directed from the highest levels of the Republican Party, including he-who-shall-go-unmentioned from Mar a Lago.  But this has gone beyond politics.  A war of words has already become violent with bricks thrown through congressional office windows and racist cartoons depicting violence. 

What’s next?  Somebody’s going to get shot.  It can happen.  Just ask Gabby Giffords.

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1 day ago
Central Pennsyltucky
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Chevron deference at stake in fight over payments for hospital drugs

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Over at SCOTUSblog, I’ve written a case preview for American Hospital Association v. Becerra, which is being argued tomorrow. The case is not only important for what it could mean for administrative law. It’s important in its own right because billions of dollars in hospital payments are at stake.

The case centers on part of a 2003 law that gives Medicare two options for how to pay for [certain expensive outpatient] drugs. Under the first option, Medicare would survey hospitals about what it cost them to acquire the drugs. Medicare would then draw on the survey data and reimburse hospitals for their “average acquisition costs,” subject to variations for different types of hospitals. It’s a rough-cut way to make hospitals whole without requiring them to submit receipts for every drug purchase.

But Medicare immediately encountered a problem: It just wasn’t practical to survey hospitals about their acquisition costs. Fortunately, the law anticipated that possibility and gave Medicare a second option. In the absence of survey data, Medicare could pay the “average price” for the drug, “as calculated and adjusted by the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] as necessary for purposes of this [option].”

This approach turned out to be costly. A drug’s “average price” is fixed elsewhere in the Medicare statute, typically at 106% of the drug’s sale price. As a policy matter, this “average sales price plus 6%” approach is hard to defend. Because 6% of a large number is bigger than 6% of a small number, hospitals have an incentive to dispense more expensive drugs, even when there are cheaper and equally effective therapies.

Other developments soon made the payment policy look even more dubious. Back in 1992, Congress created something called the 340B program to support health-care providers that serve poor and disadvantaged communities. Eligible providers get steep discounts on the drugs that they purchase — anywhere between 20% and 50% of the normal price.

Initially, few hospitals qualified for the 340B program. Today, more than two-thirds of nonprofit hospitals participate. (For-profits are excluded from the program.) For years, Medicare kept paying those 340B hospitals 106% of the average sales price of their outpatient drugs. The upshot was that hospitals were buying highly discounted drugs and then charging the federal government full price. That heightened the incentive to prescribe very expensive medications — which is partly why Medicare spending on outpatient drugs has ballooned, growing an average of 8.1% per year from 2006 through 2017.

I’ll also be recapping the oral argument and discussing the outcome when the case is resolved. Read the whole thing here!


The post Chevron deference at stake in fight over payments for hospital drugs first appeared on The Incidental Economist.
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The upshot was that hospitals were buying highly discounted drugs and then charging the federal government full price.
Central Pennsyltucky
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Under Four Years of Trump’s Rule, the Richest Workers Got a Lot Richer

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Stunning New Data on Radical Republican Policies Show the $1 Million-Plus Club Taking 82% of All Pay Increases 

Donald Trump’s presidency and the Covid pandemic combined to make 2020 a remarkably enriching year for the highest-paid workers in America. Meanwhile, the numbers for the bottom 99.9% are, in a word, awful.

Just one in 900 workers makes $1 million or more, a new Social Security report on wages shows. My annual analysis of this data shows that this thin and rich group made 14% more money in 2020 than in 2019.

On average, the pretax pay of the $1 million-and-up workers increased by $305,600. That’s after adjusting for inflation.

The share of all pay going to $1 million-and-up workers grew by a fourth during Trump’s four years.


The other 99.9% of American workers got an average raise of just $76 each. But even that overstates how badly most  workers did. That’s because most of this minuscule pay increase went to the 1/10th of workers making $100,000 to $1 million. The bottom 88%, those making less than $100,000, got next to nothing.

The standard measure for worker pay is the median. It illustrates the typical pay situation because at the median, half of workers make more while half make less. Median pay in 2020 rose by a mere $26.

What a Surprise!

Put another way, for each $1 of increased pay going to the typical worker, each worker in the two-comma club collected $11,750.

Suppose $26 is the height of the heel of a shoe worn by a man standing on Fifth Avenue outside Trump Tower. The heel is 1 inch. The height for the highest-paid workers’ pay would soar 315 feet above that 58-story highrise, for a total of 908 feet. That’s a lot of heels. Plus one.

Trump has a policy: One for you, thousands for the rich; another for you, thousands more for the rich…

And don’t forget, Trump’s 2017 tax law gave the most highly paid workers a roughly 4% federal income-tax cut. Also, those workers tend to be the Americans with significant stock portfolios and Trump gave corporations a 40% tax-rate cut. So, they got a two-fer.

Crumbs for the Rest

You didn’t get anything like either of those income-tax cuts. You got crumbs in tax savings plus the burden of $2 trillion in federal debt to pay for the Trump/Radical Republican tax cuts.

Indeed, if you live in the states with most of the high-paying jobs – California, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and the like – Trump and congressional Republicans increased federal incomes for millions of people. That’s because Trump and the Radical Republicans took away your deductions for state and local income and property taxes and mortgage interest. The number of Americans who itemize deductions, including charitable gifts, fell by three-fourths after Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and the companies they own became law.

More pay going to workers at the top is a long-term trend that began long before Trump. What’s significant in the newest data is how much that trend accelerated during the Trump years.

In 2016, just 143 workers made $50 million or more. That number jumped 50% in Trump’s first year as president and stayed at that level in 2018 and 2019. But in 2020, Trump’s last year as president, the number of workers paid $50 million and up soared to 358, 1.5 times as much as under Barack Obama.

Monthly gross paychecks for those 358 highest-paid workers averaged close to $8 million each. A worker at the median pay would have to labor for more than 225 years to get paid what these workers made in a month.

More for the Top

Even more significant, the share of all pay going to $1 million-and-up workers grew by a fourth during Trump’s four years.

Their collective pay rose to 5.2% of all worker compensation, up from 4.2% of total compensation in 2016 under Obama. That means most workers got a thinner slice of the American wage pie under Trump, the opposite of MAGA pledges to improve most incomes and just as I predicted back in 2015 and 2016.

The median worker in 2020 made just $34,612, or less than $3,000 a month before taxes. During Trump’s four years, inflation-adjusted median income rose by 5%.

By far the biggest increase in median pay in this century occurred in 2014 under Obama when Social Security data show an increase of 3.44% over 2013.

The average pay for all workers was $53,383.18, or less than $4,500 per month.

More than two-thirds of workers made less than the average. The average is higher than the median because all those very highly paid workers skew the average upward.

One more awful fact: The number of Americans with any work fell in 2020 by more than 1 percentage point. In 2020, more than 1.7 million fewer people found any paid work than in 2019. That’s the first time this has happened in all of Trump’s life.

While Trump at his inaugural promised that every act he took would be for the benefit of the “forgotten men and women” of America, it was all just another con.

His actions, again and again, favored the highly paid, the already rich and, not least of all, the Trump-Kushner family.

The post Under Four Years of Trump’s Rule, the Richest Workers Got a Lot Richer appeared first on

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7 days ago
Central Pennsyltucky
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How Domestic Violence is a Threat to Economic Development

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By Rasmane Ouedraogo and David Stenzel

Stopping violence against women is not only a moral imperative, new evidence shows that it can help the economy.

It’s being called the “shadow pandemic”—an increase in physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women is taking place amid the lockdowns and societal turmoil caused by the global health crisis.

The evidence is only growing. In Nigeria, the number of reported cases of gender-violence linked to lockdowns increased by more than 130 percent. In Croatia, reported rapes increased by 228 percent during the first five months of 2020 compared to 2019.

The economic costs of domestic violence are higher during downturns and could make recovery more challenging.

For many women around the world, no place is more unsafe than their own homes. As the world recognizes International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, it has become clear that the pandemic has made this violence worse.

Abuse of any form is fundamentally wrong and a violation of basic human rights. New IMF staff research shows how violence against women and girls is a major threat to economic development in a region where domestic violence is widespread—sub-Saharan Africa.

The results of our study suggest that an increase in violence against women by 1 percentage point is associated with a 9 percent lower level of economic activity (proxied by nighttime lights).

A drain on society

Violence against women and girls has a multi-dimensional effect on the overall health of an economy both in the short-term and long-term.

In the short term, women from abusive homes are likely to work fewer hours and be less productive when they do work. In the long run, high levels of domestic violence can decrease the number of women in the workforce, minimize women’s acquisition of skills and education, and result in less public investment overall as more public resources are channeled to health and judicial services.

Previous studies have found domestic violence costs a given economy between 1 and 2 percent of GDP. However, these studies use simple accounting mechanisms and often don’t account for potential reverse causality.

Our research takes a new approach, matching deep survey data of women in the region with satellite imagery and employs appropriate technical methods to address endogeneity issues.

We look at data from the US Agency for International Development’s Demographic and Health Survey collected from the 1980s to the present. The surveys ask women specific questions about mistreatment.

The data come from 18 sub-Saharan African countries, covering more than 224 districts and more than 440,000 women representative of around 75 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s female population.

The surveys found that more than 30 percent of women in the region had experienced some form of domestic abuse.

To measure the impact on economic development at a district level, we compare the survey data with satellite data on nighttime lights provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Nightlight satellite data can be a powerful tool for measuring economic activity when the most used measure for economic activity—gross domestic product—is not available at the sub-national level.

We found that higher levels of violence against women and girls are associated with lower economic activity, driven mainly by a significant drop in female employment. The physical, psychological, and emotional violence that women experience makes it more difficult for them to achieve or maintain a job.

Based on this connection, if sub-Saharan African countries in the sample were to reduce the level of gender-based violence closer to the world average of 23 percent of women experiencing abuse, it could result in long-term GDP gains of around 30 percent.

The pandemic’s toll

An economic downturn, such as the one caused by the pandemic, can contribute to an uptick in domestic violence. This exacerbates the economic costs of domestic violence compared to normal times.

Our research also found other evidence for the negative impact of domestic violence on economic activity. Domestic violence is more detrimental to countries without protective laws against domestic violence and countries rich in natural resources where extractive industries are more likely to crowd out more women-centered jobs and lead to less economic power among females.

We also found that the economic costs of violence against women is lower in countries like South Africa, where there is a lower gender gap in education between partners and where women have more decision-making power than in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Stopping violence against women is an indisputable moral imperative, but our research shows that it’s economically important too. The economic costs of domestic violence are higher during downturns and could make recovery more challenging.

Countries should take efforts now to strengthen laws and protections against domestic violence. Strong laws are critical to deter violence against women, protect victims of domestic violence, and promote women’s participation in the workforce.

Improving education opportunities for girls is an important step in the longer term. Reducing the gender education gap gives women more economic freedom and less ability to be influenced and controlled by men.

In efforts to build back better from the pandemic, policies to support women and combat gender-based violence are more important than ever.

Related links:
Engendering the Recovery: Budgeting with Women in Mind
The COVID-19 Gender Gap
Voting on Gender Parity
Ending Harassment Helps #TheEconomyToo


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7 days ago
For many women around the world, no place is more unsafe than their own homes.
Central Pennsyltucky
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