Saturday Open Thread

Happy Saturday Everyone. We hope you’re enjoying your weekend with family and friends.

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48 Responses to Saturday Open Thread

  1. rikyrah says:

    Why did the WSJ use years-old data to attack Social Security disability?

    At first glance, an op-ed in Monday’s Wall Street Journal makes a devastating case against Social Security’s disability system. On closer inspection, the case isn’t so clear.

    “A system designed to serve society’s vulnerable has morphed into a benefit bonanza that costs taxpayers billions of dollars more than it should,” write the authors, Mark J. Warshawsky, a visiting scholar at the Mercatus Center of Virginia’s George Mason University and former member of the Social Security Advisory Board, and Ross A. Marchand, a George Mason grad student.

    Their focus is on appeals granted by the program’s administrative law judges, who have the power to reverse denials of disability benefits. Their chief concern is that too many judges are approving too many appeals


    Followers of disability politics will see this op-ed as the latest in a lengthening stream of attacks on Social Security disability, which is facing a near-term funding crisis that Congress is loath to address. Warshawsky and Marchand mention the disability program’s looming fiscal shortfall, which could force cuts in disability payments of about 20% as early as 2016. “Congress would be wise to begin much needed reform,” they say, and they suggest starting with these overgenerous judges.

    So it’s proper to give their data and conclusions a close look. Warshawsky declined to answer my questions about the piece on the record, but referred me to a lengthier treatment he published in Bloomberg’s Pension & Benefits Daily in 2012.

    First question: Why did Warshawsky and Marchand use case figures from 2008? It can’t be because those are the latest figures available–decision data for individual judges is available at least through the end of 2014. Social Security’s own inspector general’s office compiled the data through fiscal 2013 for a report issued last July. What the office found is that the average approval rate has been coming down for years–reaching 56% in fiscal 2013.

  2. rikyrah says:

    The death of the ‘Millionaire Next Door’ dream

    The idea that the average guy can become rich via hard work and rigorously virtuous thrift is one of the compelling myths of the American experience.

    But for the most part, myth it is. Two recent events are both driving it forward and exposing its basic phoniness. The first is the death last week of Thomas J. Stanley, coauthor of the bestselling book “The Millionaire Next Door,” in a car accident. The other is the death of one Ronald Read, a Vermont retiree who appeared to be one of Stanley’s emblematic secret blue-collar millionaires — after a lifetime of low-wage menial work and frugal living, he was discovered to have amassed a fortune worth about $8 million.

    Let’s take them in turn.

    Stanley’s 1996 book, co-written with William D. Danko, defined the “prototypical” American millionaire not as an ostentatious Gatsby or Trump but as the proprietor of a “dull-normal” small business — “welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors.” His (mostly) or her median income was $131,000, and median net worth $1.6 million.

    “We wear inexpensive suits and drive American made cars,” the book said in the voice of its putative heroes. “Only a minority of us drive the current-model-year automobile.”

    But as Helaine Olen points out in the most clear-eyed valedictory to the late Stanley, his book “was already describing a vanishing world when it was published.” Fewer young people starting their careers today have had even the middle-class upbringing or family resources of so many of Stanley’s quiet millionaires.

  3. rikyrah says:

    of course they will


    Will Congress play politics by killing healthcare for 2 million children?

    Michael Hiltzik


    In the fetid swamp that is America’s healthcare coverage system, there has been one consistent ray of light: medical coverage for children.

    Credit for that belongs to the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which was established in 1997 as an add-on to Medicaid with special rules and funding. Since its enactment, the uninsured rate for children under 18 has been cut in half, from 14% in 1997 to 7% in 2012. (See graphic.)

    Now that progress is under threat. CHIP funding is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30. Congressional action is required to extend it. If your guess is that the Republican Congressional majority is plotting to cut the program back–if it extends funding at all–you guessed right.

    Governors and their CHIP administrators are starting to panic, because the real deadline for Congressional action comes much sooner than Sept. 30. That’s because many states are crafting their budgets now for the coming fiscal year, and without assurances that CHIP funding will continue, the programs will have to be cut back or eliminated.

    According to Jesse Cross-Call of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 20 states must enact budgets for fiscal 2016 by May 1; in Virginia, the budget deadline has already passed. As the budget deadlines approach, Cross-Call observes, CHIP officials will have to make contingency plans for “moving enrollees out of state CHIP programs if federal funding runs out” or ending contracts with health plans providing CHIP coverage.

    his isn’t a partisan issue, or shouldn’t be. Govs. Steve Beshear, D-Ky., and Bill Haslam, R-Tenn., chairs of the Health and Human Services Committee of the National Governors Assn., warned Congressional leaders last month that without prompt action, “more than two million children could lose access to the services they need to thrive and lead healthy, productive lives.”

    Democrats have a straightforward solution: continue CHIP funding for another four years, as measures introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Gene Greene, D-Texas, would do. President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal would do the same.

    Republicans are balking. A draft proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., would put millions of children at “very serious risk” of becoming uninsured, according to Joan Alker of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

    Here are some of the ways the Hatch-Upton plan unwinds the achievements of the last 18 years in child health.

  4. rikyrah says:

    Here’s what a real Democratic presidential primary might look like

    By Greg Sargent March 13
    The other day, I noted that it might be time to start hoping for a real Democratic presidential primary. Not solely because Hillary Clinton’s handling of the email mess shows she might benefit from being challenged, but also because there are real differences among Democrats that would benefit from an airing.

    Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who has been talking about challenging Hillary Clinton from the left, has given an interview to Salon’s Joan Walsh that provides a preliminary glimpse into what such an intra-Dem debate might look like.

    O’Malley seems to throw his lot in with what is widely being called the “Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.” The divide on economic policy between the Warren-ites and the more moderate Democrats tends to be exaggerated — there’s probably more consensus on these matters among Democrats than there has been in many years — but there are real differences, and they matter.

    For instance, O’Malley comes out for expanding Social Security (Obama has flirted with cutting it), arguing: “Right now we’re facing a looming retirement crisis in our country. People who used to have personal savings, or pensions, don’t have them. More and more people are going to be relying solely on Social Security.” Some high profile Democrats, such as Warren, have endorsed this idea, which would be funded by lifting the cap so higher earners pay more into the system, while re-indexing for inflation to boost benefits. This goal is shared by some Dem constituencies, such as organized labor and activist groups. To my knowledge Clinton has not said whether she favors this.

    O’Malley also declares his support for reinstating Glass-Steagall, i.e., separations between commercial and investment banks. This goal has also been championed by Warren, on the grounds that it could minimize the risks to the financial system posed by Wall Street “high stakes gambling.” O’Malley mocks fellow Democrats for “supporting Dodd Frank lite,” suggesting that they are mostly doing so because “we have monied interests tying Congress in knots,” an apparent effort to speak to Democratic voters who believe their party is too beholden to Wall Street.

    The original Glass-Steagall, of course, was repealed under a president also named Clinton, which is one of the reasons many claim Hillary Clinton is “too cozy with Wall Street.” I’m a bit skeptical of that claim, but there are plainly differences among core Democratic constituencies over how far to go in regulating Wall Street, and a debate on this topic would be helpful and clarifying for Democratic voters.

    O’Malley also brings up a topic we rarely hear about these days: Raising the income threshold for workers to qualify for overtime pay. The Obama administration will soon announce a rules change raising the threshold, and some liberal economists expect him to set it lower than he might. This is not a small matter: Going big on overtime pay might be the single most dramatic thing a Democratic president might do unilaterally to help the middle class — and if a Dem is elected in 2016, he or she will face a GOP House. O’Malley also talks about the need to boost the collective bargaining power of workers, which would be key to any serious effort to combat inequality. Clinton, too, is reportedly thinking along these lines, but still, debate on these topics would be great for the Democratic audience.

  5. rikyrah says:

    The Putin is Missing Clock


  6. rikyrah says:

    Trita Parsi ✔ @tparsi
    Exclusive: Netanyahu tried to block intel briefing for US senators on #Iran, Senators strongly objected @PeterBeinart
    6:59 PM – 14 Mar 2015

  7. rikyrah says:

    Cocky McSwagsalot @MoreAndAgain
    I will never be over white people who think being called racist is worse than racism.
    10:20 AM – 13 Mar 2015

  8. rikyrah says:

    water is wet news


    HURSDAY, MAR 12, 2015 10:29 AM CDT

    How racist frat boys get away with it: Big money and the real Sigma Alpha Epsilon scandal

    Wealthy donors don’t take kindly to disciplining their own. Oklahoma’s president has his work cut out for him


    The University of Oklahoma has been in the spotlight in the days since a video showing members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity gleefully reciting racist chants was released to the public. School officials have already closed the fraternity chapter and expelled two students involved in the incident. They’ve also been clear that there may be more sanctions to come. University president David Boren called the students in the video “disgraceful” and said that the institution would become “an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue.”

    Boren will have his work cut out for him. While the school is currently united in denouncing the fraternity chapter, Boren may lose that support if he has more sweeping reforms in store for the university’s Greek system. As we’ve seen at other schools, colleges are often more concerned about the prospect of angry donors than they are about racism, sexual violence and abusive hazing on campus. That warped set of priorities is part of the reason that problems often linked with fraternity culture — including racist and sexist theme parties, sexual assault, violent initiation rituals and dangerous binge drinking — continue to fester in broad daylight. Because taking on fraternities generally means taking on a school’s wealthiest donors, too.

  9. rikyrah says:

    From TOD:

    EricFive’s on point commentary about cops in Ferguson

    No one knows who shot those cops, all we have is speculation and attempts to deflect blame from the epidemic of cops killing unarmed Black males. The “tension” between cops and minority communities is a decades old problem (police as occupying force instead of public servants). The recent spike in police killings of unarmed Black males is a symptom of the larger issue of White racial anxiety which is reaching dangerous levels. The cop in Atlanta who murdered the unarmed, naked veteran who had mental problems should open up a lot of eyes to what is going on, i.e., Black lives don’t matter to these folks. Being Black is becoming a capital offense in this country. How the response to an obviously mental ill naked man is to use deadly force (not a baton, not a taser, not calling for backup) tells me that they are looking for an excuse to murder Black people (more restrain is shown toward a fucking alligator walking through a golf course than a Black man walking down the street). By the “logic” displayed by the Atlanta cop, the proper police response to a Black man threatening to jump from a rooftop would be to call in the snipers to shoot the man. There will never be any semblance of “equality” in this country until a Black life is deemed by society to be of equal value to a White life. This has never been the case in this country and it most certainly is not the case today.

    All of this racial shit stems from the mental gymnastics that the institution of slavery required of a White society that had/has an almost pathological need to see itself as “good people” no matter what horrible shit they did. You cannot enslave folks you view as your equals. You cannot enslave a race of people you view as human and still see yourself as “good person”. Instead, to maintain a positive self image, the slaveholder has to convince both himself (and the slave) that the slave is “inferior” and DESERVES the horrible treatment he/she is forced to endure. That the slave is not HUMAN. This inability to see Black people as fellow human beings, the inability to understand the grief of a Black parent mourning for a child needlessly killed by the police is the same strain of racist/White supremacy that allowed for the enslavement of Black people in the “land of the free”.

  10. rikyrah says:

    Ebony Delays Issue in Dispute Over Rates

    Send by email
    Friday, March 13, 2015
    Company Maintains Advertisers Shortchange Black Media

    Desirée Rogers says of the delayed issue, “Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions.” (Credit:

    Company Maintains Advertisers Shortchange Black Media

    The March issue of Ebony magazine was never published because the parent Johnson Publishing Co. was in a dispute with advertisers over rates, CEO Desireé Rogers told Journal-isms on Friday.

    The dispute has been settled to Johnson’s satisfaction, and a combined March-April issue is planned, Rogers said by telephone.

    “One hundred percent of the clients have agreed to the new rates,” the CEO said. The publication now has “the same market rates as any other magazine. It would be great if you could get the support of other black media” to challenge lower rates advertisers pay to African American-oriented media, she added.

    Rogers would not provide figures on the difference in rates.

    Neither readers nor magazine distribution companies were notified that the March issue would be combined with the edition for April. “Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions,” Rogers said of the failure to publish a March issue, adding that she hoped customers would understand. A customer service company notifies those who inquire, she said.

    There was also no separate January issue. The December and January issues were combined, Rogers said. “We have been doing that for years,” she noted by email. Unlike in previous years, however, the December issue was dated simply “December 2014.”

    Negotiations to increase the rates began in the fourth quarter of 2014, Rogers said. Many advertisers’ contracts expired in early 2015, and Johnson wanted the new contracts at the higher rates. “You need a certain amount of advertising for an issue,” she said, explaining the absence of a March Ebony.

    Notice of the substitution of a combined March-April issue comes three weeks after Mitzi Miller, editor-in-chief of Ebony, announced Feb. 20 that she was leaving Johnson Publishing “to pursue new ventures that include creating stories for television and film.”

    The March-April issue, Rogers said, was produced with two women dividing the role of editor-in-chief: Kyra Kyles, who was editorial director of, and Kierna Mayo, Ebony’s vice president, digital content.

    The February issue. “We’ll be very careful in terms of who we select” as new editor-in-chief, Rogers said.
    “The whole team is working jointly on the May issue,” Rogers said. “We are working under a plan developed by the existing team for 30 to 60 days. . . . We’ll be very careful in terms of who we select” as new editor-in-chief, and it will be someone who is knowledgeable about both print and digital, she said.

    Wendy L. Wilson, Ebony’s managing editor, has moved from the company’s Chicago base to New York but will retain the job, Rogers said. Moving was Wilson’s decision, and “We are making this work,” Rogers said. “It’s always good to have happy employees.”

    Asked about a previous statement that Ebony planned to attract more male readers after recent editors skewed the publication toward women, Rogers said the upcoming issue will demonstrate that intention.

    Johnson Publishing Co. is weathering other challenges, Lynne Marek wrote Feb. 7 for Crain’s Chicago Business:

    “The company’s recent decision to sell its historic photo collection is the latest example of downsizing, following the cancellation of Jet magazine’s print version, the sale of Johnson’s 11-story Michigan Avenue headquarters and the paring of its workforce by a third since 2007. Now it’s trying to sublet one of two floors it rented at its new digs, after giving up a third earlier.

    “Johnson Publishing Chairman Linda Johnson Rice and CEO Desiree Rogers say they’re positioning the 73-year-old publisher for growth, but even a 2011 cash infusion from JPMorgan Chase hasn’t prevented reductions. Rogers won’t comment on the private company’s financial results, but she acknowledges that print advertising revenue for its remaining title, Ebony, fell 8 percent last year over 2013, or only 3 percent if digital is included. She has cut costs and outsourced to buoy the bottom line. . . .”

    “A lot of these decisions that are being made are decisions to right-size the company,” says Rogers, who took the CEO post in 2010 after leaving her job as White House social secretary. . . .”

    Rogers said Friday that there were no new developments on the proposed sale of the photo archive.

    Ebony is the most widely circulated magazine targeting African Americans. In the latest figures available, the Alliance of Audited Media put Ebony’s circulation at 1,260,564 in June 2014 and Essence magazine’s at 1,062,717 in December. No December figure was listed for Ebony.

  11. rikyrah says:

    George Mason SAE Accepted Black Pledge Because He Was “White Sounding,” Former Member Says

    A former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member at George Mason University told BuzzFeed News that in 2011 the brothers denied acceptance to at least nine minority students – taking in one who “sounded like he knew English.” And another pledge said a “secret” whites-only sect existed at the California State University, Northridge in the 1980s.

    Originally posted on March 14, 2015, at 7:01 p.m.Updated on March 14, 2015, at 8:27 p.m.

    A former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member at George Mason University in Virginia told BuzzFeed News that he witnessed some of the chapter’s brothers racially profile potential pledges during the 2011 bidding process for acceptance into the fraternity.

    Austin Nicol, who left the mostly-white fraternity in 2011, said that while there wasn’t overt racism at the George Mason chapter, the members heavily scrutinized the race of the people they accepted.

    Allegations of racism at several nationwide chapters of fraternity, founded in the antebellum South, have recently come to light at Louisiana Tech and University of Texas at Austin. The allegations came after some members at the University of Oklahoma were caught singing a chant filled with racial slurs on video last week, leading to the expulsion of two students and the chapter’s forced closure

  12. majiir says:

    I owe you all an apology. The other day I made a mistake when I posted that Ferguson’s mayor was leaving the job. I got him confused with Shaw whom the Ferguson City Council booted. Please accept my heartfelt apology.

  13. rikyrah says:

    “You and you alone turned the United States from an ally into an enemy,” Shabtai Shavit, a former chief of the Mossad spy agency, said in a blistering statement addressed to Mr. Netanyahu at a news conference with several other former security chiefs and retired commanders in Tel Aviv this week.

  14. rikyrah says: @TheInfoNG
    Nigerian Troops uncover Boko Haram’s bomb making factory in Yobe (See Photos)
    4:58 PM – 14 Mar 2015

  15. eliihass says:

    Someone please ask Sheriff David Clarke how much his soul is worth. Does the man suffer from the same mental disorder as the Dave Chappelle character the blind white supremacist Clayton Bigsby, which convinces him that he’s white. For a few measly dollars and fake badges, and a false sense of importance and acceptance by his white masters, this rat sells his face and mouth as a black man in America, to the highest bidder, to aid and provide cover and justification for white racists in their continuing destruction of black lives. Sickening.

  16. Ametia says:



  17. rikyrah says:

    I still remember seeing this over at Luvvie’s for the first time and going GODDAMN!

  18. Making some homemade chicken noodle soup. I haven’t been feeling so good the past 2 days. Hope this makes me feel better.

  19. Ametia says:

    War with Iran is probably our best option
    By Joshua Muravchik March 13 at 8:27 PM

    Joshua Muravchik is a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

    9:55 AM CDT

    People are upset that WaPo printed this opinion. In fact they’ve done the country a huge favor. Now we KNOW what Republicans want. They want a war. Just like they did with Iraq. This isn’t about wanting a “meaningful debate” – that’s hogwash. They want a war. I would be willing to bet that every senator who signed that letter wants to see a war at the end of the day. Is that what America wants? The answer is hell, no. That’s why those senators sent the letter – because botching-up negotiations is easier than selling another war to the American people. They want to do their very best to create a situation in which we’ll feel like we had “no choice.”

  20. rikyrah says:

    billboard ✔ @billboard
    The “Blurred Lines” Verdict: How it started, why it backfired on Robin Thicke and why songwriters should be nervous:

  21. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

    Off to swim and run errands.

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