Annals of the Horrible

Thought I’d share some (late) lunch joy by cleaning out a couple of browser tabs I’ve been meaning to share with the Jackaltariat.

First up in the catalogue of awful…

Nothing says more about a society than how it treats its most vulnerable.  Which is why this, from Pennsylvania coal country last month, says all you need to know about a certain kind of Republican* values:

Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the poorest districts in the state as measured by per-pupil spending, is located in a former coal mining community in Northeastern Pennsylvania, known affectionately by locals as “The Valley.”

When officials there noticed that families owed the district around $22,000 in breakfast and lunch debt…

…school council president Joseph Mazur thought that this would be a good next move:

…the now-infamous letter to about 40 families deemed to be the worst offenders in having overdue cafeteria bills — those were children with meal debt of $10 or more.

“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” said the letter signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District. “This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food. If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care.”

That this was about performative cruelty, and not fiscal prudence can be shown with two facts. The $22,ooo in arrears comes to about 1/4 of one percent of the district budget; you gotta know that if this was about keeping the school doors open, proposing a (surely) expensive round of child theft would not be the first move the financial folks would make.

Just to drive the point home, the guy behind the move, school council president Mazur went on to refuse an offer from a guy in Philadelphia who wanted to pay off the whole debt.  Mazur was eventually forced to reverse course.

Next up, an even more grotesque example of cruelty for cruelty’s sake from July.  I believe some commenters pointed out this incident, and I’ve been meaning to vent rage about it ever since, but here it is:

At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple’s youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.

“The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad,” her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. “And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, ‘You said [you want to go] with mom.’ “


I rate that child abuse, and those who did the crime should be in prison, as far as I am concerned. Een if the family separation followed the letter of the law, putting the kid in that position was gratuitous immiseration, and will deliver lasting trauma, doled out, it seems, for the agent’s amusement.


There is a word to describe such behavior and such people:  evil.  This was evil.  I say this as one with more memory of than current participation in organized religion, but it seems to me that those who welcome evil into our republic commit a grievous sin.


Happy lunch!  Open thread.

*Luzerne County, in which the relevant school district operates, went 58-39% for Trump in 2016.


Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Massacre of the Innocentsc. 1565-7

Bow Before Israel

Trump and Bibi get their second humiliation of Congresswoman Tlaib, using her 90+ year-old grandmother as leverage. Fuck those people, and fuck Israel in particular. If they don’t want Congressional oversight, we should just strip their billions of military aid from the budget.

Open Thread: Another Would-Be White Supremacist Foiled

Yes, this is a direly serious topic; apparently the would-be Avenger of Whiteness murdered his stepsister before failing to damage anything at the mosque beyond his own dignity (and the national sense of civic comity).

On the other hand, my first-gen Norwegian-American Spousal Unit has always insisted that modern Norwegians are a notoriously polite & non-violent people because the most violently-inclined members of the gene pool self-exported to other lands during the Viking period…

(I will defend the argument that mocking these would-be ‘race heroes’ is a better disincentive to potential followers than inflating their importance.)

Alright. That’s Enough Respite

Here’s a slightly wonky way into a pragmatic reason why the moral catastrophe that is Republican immigration crimes is bad for America’s bottom line, and not just its moral standing.

Changing U.S. demographics can decrease the productive capacity of the economy through slowing labor force participation and population growth. Holding labor productivity constant, slowing participation and population growth lower potential gross domestic product (GDP) and the natural rate of interest. The natural rate could also be lower because of increased saving; however, Americans are saving less than they did 30 years ago. Most likely, changing U.S. demographics are reducing the U.S. natural rate of interest by decreasing potential output.

That’s from a research note out of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.  As glossed in the press release from the bank, the authors have found that,

Potential output is the amount of goods and services that an economy can produce when it fully employs its available resources.

If potential output declines, Hong and Shell said, the natural rate of interest declines with it.

“An aging population and slowing population growth limit the supply of available workers in an economy,” Hong and Shell wrote. “Therefore, holding labor productivity constant, a decrease in workers—a higher old-age dependency ratio—reduces the output generated by an economy.”

They continued: “A smaller working-age population means fewer people with a lot of disposable income to consume. These factors decrease an economy’s productive capacity and thereby lower the natural rate.”

So, the thinking goes, Americans are living longer and having fewer children … which means more retirees and fewer workers … which means lower potential output … which means a lower natural rate of interest.

That is: fewer folks being born into the existing US population means lower growth going forward.  That means that a growing gap between what the American economy could produce and what it actually can generate.  Given that the growing fraction of Americans who are older and all or mostly out of the workforce is supported by the economic activity of those younger working cohorts, that means harder times to come for those least able to make bank on their own behalf, people who in a civilized society would be able to enjoy a respite after their prime working days are done.

So what’s the connection to immigration?

Simple:  if domestic babies aren’t going to conceive and birth themselves, then the only way to push America’s labor force that can drive the US output towards its full potential is to welcome younger, ambitious and hard working folks who might want to live and work here.

You know:  immigrants.  The people on whom the Trump-led Republican adminstration is committing crimes against humanity.*

So, yeah, ICE and CBP and the concentration camps of the American Gulag are a moral catastrophe, a lasting shame for every American.

They’re also dumb, dumb, dumb just on the level of dollars and sense.

Top 0′ the Sunday to y’all.  This thread is open for bidness.

*An aside: for various reasons I’ve had to look up population figures for London in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.  Through just about all of that period, deaths exceeded births in that hugely unhealthy city, and yet the the metropolis grew substantially.  Without digging deep into my files, here’s a quick example.  In the 1670s, about half a million lived in London. Forty years late, that number was up to 630,000.  Where did that additional 25% come from? Mostly from internal migration, the countryside pouring into the big city.  (And by big, I mean unique.  The next largest English city — Norwich! — had a population of about 25,000, if my memory is serving me) and the numbers went down fast from there.   Not sure why I bring all that up, but heck, fun facts are fun.

Image: Philip Zec, Women of Britain Come into the Factories, 1941

“We Survived Breitbartpocalypse!”

It is/was a tagline, even. Ironically, may not be long for this world. From The Post:

In January 2017, was flying high. Donald Trump, the candidate it had backed during the 2016 campaign, was sworn in as president. Its former executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, was named chief White House strategist, seemingly auguring an era of unparalleled access and influence for the far-right, anti-establishment news and commentary site.

In hindsight, it looks like it was Breitbart’s high-water mark.

The site Bannon once described as “the platform for the alt-right” has steadily tumbled from the commanding heights it occupied just 30 months ago.

Since Trump became president, monthly traffic has virtually collapsed, plummeting nearly 75 percent. Aggressive conservative competitors have zoomed past it. At the same time, it faces a double financial whammy: the loss of its biggest donor and an ad boycott launched by a liberal group that continues to erode its revenue…

[Former Breitbart spokesman Kurt] Bardella thinks the site will make it through another election cycle. But he’s not sure after that. “I think the future for them is very bleak,” he said.

Some complaints about the WaPo piece, which was authored by Paul Farhi: As you can see from the above excerpt, the article does note that the site’s own former chairman turned Trump White House chief strategist turned unwelcome hunk of unFebreezed flab encased in multiple buttoned-down shirts Steve Bannon called it “the platform for the alt-right.”

Farhi also notes that Chardonnay-soaked tampon fart Ann Coulter is a columnist for the site. From that fact, astute readers will instantly intuit that must be a kind of online flophouse for wingnut charity cases who’ve been bounced out of more ongoing concerns for saying the quiet parts a little too loudly. And they’d be correct.

But Jesus, Mr. Farhi, isn’t it past time to start connecting the fucking dots for people? Describing Breitbart’s ethos as “anti-immigration, pro-economic nationalism, skepticism of multiculturalism” is like calling that thing on Trump’s head a “follicular innovation.” It’s an abomination, FFS, and Breitbart was/is a full-on racist hate site that until the election had a “black crime” tag to helpfully point its white supremacist readers to rage boner-inducing content. That’s worth mentioning, in my opinion.

Also, Farhi left out any mention of journalists from more respectable outfits who joined after the election, putting all their chips on ethno-nationalism. Let’s take a short jaunt down memory lane, shall we? From the 1/10/2017 CJR:

Q&A: A scrappy Wall Street Journal reporter on his jump to Breitbart

THE NEWS THAT RESPECTED Wall Street reporter John Carney is leaving his role at The Wall Street Journal to head up a new vertical at the right-wing news site Breitbart raised eyebrows among media types late Monday. As Bloomberg’s Joshua Green first reported, Carney will lead a team of contributors in establishing a business, markets, and economics news site that is informed by what Carney describes as “an optimism about the potential for the American economy.”

I can’t be the only one who wonders how Carney’s decision to head up the “Jews Control the Economy” desk at the Daily Blood & Soil worked out. I assume he’s making the most of Trump coasting on the economy he inherited from President Obama, but does Carney surreptitiously send résumés to online financial advice and economics outfits, hoping to make the jump from mottled fool (Bannon) to Motley Fool?

The article mentions the site’s loss of patronage from wingnut oligarch Rebekah Mercer, and it references Sleeping Giants’ successful campaign to discourage brands from placing ads on the site. Shamefully, WaPo remains an advertiser with Breitbart. Maybe that’s all the explanation we need for the gaping holes in the story.

Still, I find it disturbing that our dailies — even mostly good ones like The Post — won’t at least call the racist, sexist, xenophobic president’s most racist, sexist, xenophobic fringe hangers-on what they are. It doesn’t bode well for getting past this accursed era.

Open thread.