Monday Numbers: Taking care of the 1%

Chris Fitzsimon lays bare the highway robbery:

5—number of days since the White House and Republican Congressional leadership released the outline of their major tax reform proposal (“GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1%, uneven benefits for the middle class, report says, Washington Post, September 29. 2017)

30—percentage of taxpayers with annual incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 who would see a tax increase under the plan (Ibid)

80—percentage of tax benefits in the Republican tax reform plan that would go to the top one percent of taxpayers (“A Preliminary Analysis of the Unified Framework, Tax Policy Center, September 29, 2017)

It's quite possible Trump actually believes this will be a net benefit for the middle class, but that's only because he has no idea what the criteria is for that category. He probably thinks the middle class are people who can afford a $200,000 membership fee at Mar-A-Lago, but can't afford more than 5-7 maids and gardeners for their own home. And once again, I find it hard to grasp why people would trust a man who has borrowed a lot more money than he's paid back, and managed to turn filing bankruptcy into an art form. The writing's on the wall with this issue:

Monday News: Beyond horrific

50 DEAD, 200 WOUNDED IN LAS VEGAS MASS SHOOTING: A Nevada sheriff says the death toll has climbed to 50 in the attack on a Las Vegas concert Sunday, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo says more than 200 people were wounded at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Strip. Authorities have identified the suspected gunman as Las Vegas resident Stephen Paddock. Lombardo says officers confronted Paddock on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino across the street from the concert. Paddock is dead. The sheriff says they believe this was a "lone wolf" attack but said they are looking for a roommate of the dead suspect as a person of interest.
http://www.wral.com/the-latest-concert-attendees-say-gunfire-came-from-hotel/16988029/

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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RICHARD BURR'S OBSTINANCE MAY HELP FARR BUT DOESN'T FURTHER JUSTICE: Burr blocked two very qualified African-American judicial candidates for years. But when Trump was elected, he heartedly backed a lawyer who has defended the most racially segregated legislative and congressional districts in the nation. What does all this say about Sen. Burr’s motivations? What conclusions should we reach? He’s a career politician – 22 years in Congress -- whose profile is so below the radar that last month a quarter of the state’s voters were unable to say if he’s doing a good job or not. During the 2016 campaign Burr announced it would be his last – supposedly signaling that lame-duck status would grant him independence from partisan rigidity and the big-money right-wingers. He’s led us to expect better. But his positions on the Graham-Cassidy health bill and this critical judicial appointment don’t measure up to his own expectation.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-burr-s-obstinance-may-help-farr-but-doesn-t-further-justice/16976385/

Fight for $15? We may be about to lose $7.25 per hour

Supreme Court could make filing wage-theft claims much more difficult:

On Monday, the day that kicks off the Supreme Court’s new term, the justices will hear arguments in three consolidated cases with far-reaching implications for wage-earners. The cases—Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, and National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.—are all about whether employers have the right to compel workers go through onerous individual arbitration proceedings in order to bring labor law claims. If the justices answer that question in the affirmative, then the affected workers will—as a practical matter—find it nearly impossible to win back pay in cases involving wage law violations.

This feels eerily similar to what has been going on in the healthcare debate. While many Democrats have been pushing adamantly for Universal healthcare or Medicare for all, fantastic ideas that have little chance of being implemented, Republicans have been scheming to repeal the ACA and deeply slash funding for Medicaid. Truthfully, we've been lucky as hell the GOP has failed to do these things (so far). By the same token, while we've been arguing over whether a moderate increase in the minimum wage (actually, $11 per hour is like a 45% increase) is a "lame" effort, and any Democrat that doesn't shoot for at least $15 per hour is a corporate stooge (or something), Republicans have been helping companies pay workers like $3-$4 per hour. And now the Gorsuch-tainted Supremes are about to give those companies a free hand in stealing from their own workers:

Saturday News: "Fixing" something that isn't broken

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COURTS COMMISSION PUSHES BACK AT BURR'S JUDICIAL GERRYMANDERING BILL: Judges who work in the court system and see the tangle of child custody cases, divorces, low-level crimes and complicated murder cases issued a common refrain on Friday as a 30-member Courts Commission reviewed a plan to overhaul election districts for judges and district attorneys across North Carolina. “If it ain’t broke, please don’t come and try and fix us,” Susan Dotson-Smith, a district court judge in Buncombe County, said. The Courts Commission was established by state law in the 1960s to evaluate proposed changes to the court system and advise the General Assembly on such issues. Comprised of members from all branches of government as well as from the public, the commission serves largely as an adviser to the lawmakers and has no independent authority of its own.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article176230021.html

Grand Theft Auto: Private contractors "misplace" hundreds of seized vehicles

Rep. David Lewis got a lot more 'splainin' to do, Lucy:

Private contractors responsible for towing, storing and auctioning off cars seized from impaired drivers and people accused of fleeing police cannot account for 234 vehicles, valued at nearly $634,000, according to a state audit report released this week.

Under a state program, vehicles operated by drivers who were arrested for repeat driving-while-impaired offenses or speeding to elude arrest were to be seized, maintained, stored, and sold by two contractors.

You know, aside from the apparent corruption and pay-to-play politics exposed here, I have a big problem with the seizure of private property associated with *all* criminal activity, but especially something as mundane as traffic offenses, even those as disgusting as drinking and driving. The criminal justice system is punitive and costly enough as it is, and government taking private property just seems excessive, and probably unconstitutional. But that's just me. Here's the pay-to-play part:

US DOJ argues LGBT employees can be fired for having sex when off work

Republicans sticking their noses into bedrooms, again:

Why does President Donald Trump care about what gay people do in the bedroom? The question came up this week, when a lawyer for Trump's Department of Justice argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect LGBTQ Americans from being fired because of their sexual orientation—a complete reversal of the government's position on such matters under previous presidents.

The agency inserted itself, even though the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had already sided with Zarda, arguing that LGBTQ employees are protected by Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights law.

Bolding mine, because that is a critical aspect of this issue. The DOJ should be defending the rights of citizens treated unfairly, or prosecuting those who violate Statutes designed to protect those citizens. But instead, the DOJ is acting like a private defense lawyer for a company who engaged in workplace discrimination. Exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. And even worse, this is not just an isolated incident, it's part of a pattern of legal assaults on LGBT rights:

Friday News: Comrade Trump

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RUSSIAN MEDIA OUTLET RT SPENT HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS ON TWEETS DURING ELECTION: The disclosures are the first in what Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has said appears to be the “tip of the iceberg” in Russia’s use of social media to carry out a broad cyber offensive aimed at helping Donald Trump win the White House. U.S. intelligence agencies said in a declassified report in January that Russia Today and Sputnik, another Russian broadcast outlet tied to the Kremlin, were central players in a propaganda attack aimed at damaging Trump’s heavily favored Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the race. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees and a Justice Department Special Counsel are conducting parallel investigations into the extent of the Russian operation and whether Trump’s presidential campaign may have collaborated with it.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article175979796.html

Senate race in Alabama epitome of good vs. evil

But it's also (very likely) a lost cause for Democrats:

Democrats have not seriously contested an Alabama Senate race since 1996, but they think they have a credible candidate in Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four girls. Several progressive groups think they have a clearer shot at winning the general election in December than they would have if Sen. Luther Strange, the establishment candidate who lost resoundingly to Moore on Tuesday, had won.

Just to give you an idea of how steep this hill is to climb: The last Democratic Senator from Alabama is Richard Shelby, and that boll weevil flipped to Republican to keep his ass in office some 23 years ago. What's my point? When this effort does fail, before all the progressive purists start bashing the DSCC and the DNC (and probably when they get around to it Hillary for some reason), they need to take a step back and understand that some Red states are just impossible to crack:

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