A baseball fan schools a Congressman.

Image from newscastic.com

Today, in the wake of his team’s elimination from the National League Divisional Series, an Atlanta Braves fan took his US Congressman (Republican, naturally) to task for the government shutdown. Read the rest of this entry »

Quote of the day

“This mess was created by the Republicans for one purpose, and they lost. People in my district are calling in for Obamacare — affordable health care — in large numbers. These guys have lost, and they can’t figure out how to admit it… So we sit here until they figure out they fuckin’ lost.”

— Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), quoted by Slate, on when the government shutdown will end

Starbucks and guns.

Image from nastyjackbuzz.blogspot.com

(Disclaimer: I don’t smoke. The following is a hypothetical, fueled by a discussion at Democratic Underground.)

If I were to enter a Starbucks, order a coffee, sit down, and light up a cigarette… I would certainly be asked to leave.

This week Starbucks announced a very sensible policy where they request that their patrons not bring guns into their stores, even in states where open carry is allowed. The fact that it is a request, not an outright ban, adds to its sensibility. CEO Howard Schultz posted a letter on the corporate website that says, in part:

For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas — even in states where “open carry” is permitted — unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.

I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request — and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on.

Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.

Second-hand smoke is an irritant to others with documented long-term accumulated risk. I don’t care to be around it myself. The immediate effect it may have on other people at the moment of contact, however, is admittedly small. And yet I would certainly be asked to leave if I lit up inside a Starbucks store.

Second-hand smoke does not begin to approach the very real capability to kill everyone in the store in a few seconds. Hell, if I really worked at it and started a fire with my cigarette, it still would not pose the level of threat presented by someone with a firearm.

A person may or may not have a legal right to carry a firearm in some public places, but no one has any Constitutional right to carry a firearm on someone else’s private property without prior consent. Private property rights are absolute. Gun rights are not. If I don’t want your gun in my house, you can’t bring your gun into my house. If I don’t want your gun in my place of business, you can’t bring your gun into my place of business.

Usually, someone carrying a gun up to the counter at a store is a sign that a robbery is in progress. Somehow, the gun fanatics don’t seem to understand how that upsets people. A good decision by Starbucks.

Says it all.


Straight talk about Social Security and the weighted/chained CPI.


Image from shaayecanaan. Used with permission.

A follow up to this post from the other day.

Sign the petition.

It’s rare for me to criticize President Obama.

I believe he is one of the best Presidents of my lifetime. But he famously said he wants us to “hold his feet to the fire” when we think he is wrong. And boy, is he wrong on this one.

Democrats invented Social Security. Democrats have defended it against Republican attacks for more than 80 years. Democrats should not be the ones to bring it down.

Obama’s new budget will propose a new inflation formula that would reduce cost-of-living payments for Social Security benefits. The idea, known as  “chained CPI,” has infuriated  Democrats and advocacy groups, and they have already mobilized in opposition.

Currently, Social Security calculates benefit amounts by using the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation by looking at the increase or decrease of the costs of consumer goods. It’s a pretty standard measure. Obama’s budget, however, wants instead to use a “chained” Consumer Price Index, which tweaks this measurement in a unique way. The logic goes like this: when the price of beef goes up, shoppers buy chicken instead. A “true” calculation of the cost of living, the logic continues, should account for the fact that real shoppers are buying cheaper items and basing their calculation on that instead.

Logical? Maybe, except that most seniors and Social Security recipients spend their benefit dollars on things that THERE ARE NO CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES FOR. Health care and prescriptions, for example.

From former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:

Social Security is not driving the deficit, therefore it should not be part of reforms aimed at cutting the deficit. The chained CPI, deceptively portrayed as a reasonable cost of living adjustment, is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors.

There are several sensible reforms to Social Security that should be considered to help make it sustainable, including lifting the ceiling on income subject to Social Security from $113,700 to $200,000 or more, as well as instituting a 1% raise in the payroll tax rate, a rate that hasn’t changed in over 20 years.

Both of these reforms would go a long way toward protecting the long-term health of Social Security, but neither should not be conflated with efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Even Saint Ronnie Reagan agreed. You could cut Social Security all you want. You could even end Social Security altogether. And it wouldn’t reduce the budget deficit by a single penny.  Social Security is a completely self-funded, self-contained program – and it’s sitting on a surplus of over $2.6 trillion.

That’s why I signed a petition to President Barack Obama, which says:

“Mr. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors–it’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president. If you want to reform Social Security, make the wealthy pay their fair share by lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.”

Sign this petition. This budget is patently ridiculous, and what’s worse it hurts the most vulnerable among us.


Everyone who reads this: write five letters/notes/whatnot this week

Image from esquire.com

and mail them via the USPS.

Pass this along to everyone you know.

Image from vintageusa.com

Image from vintageusa.com

It’s a call to action.

Save The Post Office.