Friday, November 11, 2011

A Plea

You give them a few weeks to grow.

They give them a chance at a forever home.



It's a good deal all round. Please consider fostering for your local shelter.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Political CSI: Exhuming the Truth is a Never-Ending Forensic Job

Charts charts charts! Check these out, is from Business Insider(be sure to click through the link at the bottom):



And lest that not make the point clear enough, here's Mike Konczal at Rortybomb emphasizing the point that, no it wasn't the government forcing business to help the poor, the blacks, the Latinos, the dirty fucking hippies, the unwed mothers, or the non-college degreed that drove our economy into the toilet:
For fun, we should mention that the conservative think tanks spent the 2000s saying the exact opposite of what they are saying now, and the opposite of what Bloomberg said above. They argued that the CRA and the GSEs were getting in the way of getting risky subprime mortgages to risky subprime borrowers.

My personal favorite is Cato’s Should CRA Stand for “Community Redundancy Act?”, (2000, here’s a writeup by James Kwak), arguing a position amplified in Cato’s 2003 Handbook for Congress Financial Deregulation Chapter: “by increasing the costs to banks of doing business in distressed communities, the CRA makes banks likely to deny credit to marginal borrowers that would qualify for credit if costs were not so high.” Replace “marginal” with Bloomberg’s “on the cusp” and you get the idea.

Bill Black went through what AEI said about the GSEs during the 2000s here and it is the same thing – it was blocking subprime from being made. Peter Wallison, 2004: “In recent years, study after study has shown that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are failing to do even as much as banks and S&Ls in providing financing for affordable housing, including minority and low income housing.”
That's right...the right-wing WANTED that poor people market! I've read a lot of essays arguing that Bloomberg is just ignorant and buying into the Koch/Scaife/Murdoch snake oil. I don't believe that for a heartbeat. No one as smart and educated as Bloomberg got where he was by buying other people's bullshit. He knows which story makes his ass smell fresher, and that story is the one saying his class didn't do anything wrong, except to try to help the government help poor people.

When's the last time the wealthy of this country made a point of going out and trying to help the government help poor people? Name five.

I rest my case.

Friday, October 28, 2011

There's Always Free Cheddar in a Mousetrap

Ah, hell, I give up.



It's amazing how many people post videos of dying mice. We don't have to wait for Hell. We've already made it, right here.

More of That Liberal Agenda

In the cosmos of Planet Sulzberger, being anti-torture and anti-genocide equals "liberal values":
Since the skirmish, which resulted in more than 100 arrests, several liberal groups — including Amnesty International — have condemned the use of tear gas as well as the actions of Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, who said the measures were justified because protesters threw rocks.
Yes, this is where we have landed--in a place where fighting to free people who've been jailed and persecuted for criticizing their murderous govenments is the equivalent of voting for Elizabeth Warren. #OWS has been painted as a liberal movement, so anyone or anything that appears to defend it is by extension also "liberal". This is a perfect exemplar of the knee-jerking modern journo, who works like mad to find a way to wedge every damn article in the universe into boxes labelled "left" or "right".

Taking this thinking to its logical conclusion necessarily requires us to assign mass murder, thought suppression, and torture to conservatism. Because no self-respecting conservative is going to find fault with whaling tear gas grenades and concussion grenades and rubber bullets at unarmed citizens exercising their right to peaceable assembly. At least I have yet to locate one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Step Closer to Small Gubmint

I was reading this nonsense in the NYTimes this morning:
A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder...

The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.

The amendment has been endorsed by candidates for governor from both major parties, and it appears likely to pass, said W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Legal challenges would surely follow, but even if the amendment is ultimately declared unconstitutional, it could disrupt vital care, critics say, and force years of costly court battles.
That'll be good for the GDP. And it will have to be, because all those rubes are going to have to figure out where they're getting the money to pay for all the extra police and law enforcement actions it's going to take to monitor all those monthly cycles. If a woman has a drink and then a particularly heavy period, are they going to go into her garbage after the sanitary pads for forensic evidence of a homicidal miscarriage? It was only last February these small government types were rattling the same sword. It seemed so far away back then:

Personhood, Personhood, Riding Through The Glen

Blastocyst Totally Looks Like Cookie Monster
see more Celeb Look-A-Likes

Of course, the difference is that no one is trying to pass legislation stipulating that Cookie Monster is a person.

Happy Diwali Quick...

...before liberals declare war on it! Oops, too late:



Monday, October 24, 2011

Turkeys and Some Mistletoe

Nothing else makes the Christmas season as magical as the Yuletide carols of campaign advertising and the candidates dressed up like Eskimos throwing mudballs in the snow:
Nevada today moved its caucus date back a month to Feb. 4, ending a cross-country power struggle with New Hampshire and paving the way for the Granite State to schedule its traditional first-in-the-nation primary in early January.

Nevada Republicans had originally scheduled their caucus for Jan. 14, infuriating New Hampshire officials, who said the date would throw the election calendar into chaos and force them to hold their primary in early December.
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'Tis the Season

As usual, the right wing's information on the origins of Halloween is as fact-based as the right wing's information on climate change.

BOO!

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Depths Sounded in the Ocean of American Brutishness

The Joe Arpaio School of Economic Sadism is deeply influential across the southern states, and here's one more proof:
Thousands of other inmates in the Texas prison system have been eating fewer meals since April after officials stopped serving lunch on the weekends in some prisons as a way to cut food-service costs. About 23,000 inmates in 36 prisons are eating two meals a day on Saturdays and Sundays instead of three. A meal the system calls brunch is usually served between 5 and 7 a.m., followed by dinner between 4 and 6:30 p.m.

The meal reductions are part of an effort to trim $2.8 million in food-related expenses from the 2011 fiscal year budget of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the state prison agency...

Prison administrators said that the cuts were made in response to the state’s multibillion-dollar budget shortfall in 2011, and that the weekend lunches were eliminated in consultation with the agency’s health officials and dietitians...

Ohio and Arizona serve two meals per day on the weekends to reduce food-service costs. Georgia serves two meals per day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, though inmates on work details receive a third meal.
Bravo, then. We'll have no bleeding hearts whining about taking away the privileges of bad guys, like food and sanitation and mobility. We'll have more of this guy, this Democrat:
State Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee whose outrage over last meals on death row led to the end of the practice last month, said the reductions were not a major concern to him. “If they don’t like the menu,” he said, “don’t come there in the first place.”
You know what else we could do to save the taxpayers money? Shoot people between the eyes as soon as a court finds them guilty. Then we wouldn't even have to feed them! And we could charge their relatives for the bullet, the removal, and the dumping fee. If they don't like it, well, they shouldn't be related to shoplifters in the first place!

Even Cattle Can Have A Change of Heart on the Ramp to the Killing Floor

Lewis Lapham on America's cultivated fear of the future:
The collapse of the World Trade Center in the fall of September 2001 destroyed the last trace elements of the American future conceived as a nostalgic rerun of the way things were in the good old days when John Wayne was securing the nation’s frontiers and Franklin D. Roosevelt was watching over its soul. The loss of the utopian romance that had once supported both the ambition of the state and the strength of the economy was terrible to behold. So terrible that it has been replaced by an apparition—Gorgon-headed and dragon-winged—that reduces its beholders to paralyzed stone. Much of the effect I attribute to the Bush administration’s war on terror, which was lost on the day it was declared. Lost because, to wage the war, the Bush administration was obliged to manufacture, distribute, and magnify the reflection of its own ignorance and fear. Nobody’s cell phone to be left untapped, a jihadist in every rose garden.

In the years since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the palsied dysfunction has become more pronounced. The foreign wars haven’t been going according to plan; the domestic financial markets have suffered calamitous reversals of fortune; the sum of the national debt goes nowhere but up. The public parks bloom with the installations of surveillance cameras; the inspections at the airports maintain the national quota of patriotic dread, introduce the frequent flyer to the game of playing dead.

Among the country’s stupefied elites, the bad news induces the wish to make time stand still, to punish the presumption of a future that presents itself as a bill collector. As self-pitying as Shakespeare’s melancholy king, they sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of money. Without it the future doesn’t bear contemplating, doesn’t include their presence in it and therefore doesn’t exist. How then can the banks be expected to lend money, the government to build hospitals and schools, the rich to pay taxes for comforts not their own? The suggestion is outrageous, an intolerable effrontery, out of line with the all-American revelation that the name of the game is selfishness. The surplus of resentment affords the excuses to do nothing and bids up the market in transcendence. Politicians in Congress stand around like trees in a petrified forest, or, if allied with the zeal of the Tea Party, console themselves with notions of biblical vengeance, the wrecking of any such thing as a common good a consummation devoutly to be wished. Secure in the knowledge that only the wicked shall perish, they press forward to the Day of Judgment when the host of the damned—variously identified over the course of the centuries as false priests, proud barons, profiteering capitalists, vile communists, and godless democrats—shall fall into the hands of an angry god and gnaw their tongues in anguish.

The last-named beneficiary accounts for the media’s preoccupation with what some of our less well-informed critics still insist on deploring as “the bad news.” They miss the point. The bad news is the carnival-barking spiel that sells the good news, which are the advertisements. First, at the top of the network hour, the admonitory row of corpses being loaded into ambulances in Brooklyn or cleared from the streets of Islamabad; second, an inferno of fires burning in California, of bombs exploding in Libya; third, a muster of criminals, political, financial, and sexual, shuffling offstage in chains. The fear of a deadly tomorrow having thus been firmly established, the camera makes its happy return to the always-smiling anchorwoman, and so, with a gracious waving of her snow-white hand, to the previews of salvation sponsored by Jet Blue, Pfizer, and Mercedes-Benz. The lesson is as plain as a medieval morality play. Obey the law, pay your taxes, speak politely to the police officer, and you go to the Virgin Islands on the American Express card. Disobey the law, neglect your mortgage payments, speak rudely to the police, and you go to Kings County Hospital in a body bag...

Always careless about keeping appointments, the barbarians at the gate tend to show up fifty years sooner than anybody expects or six months after the emperor has fled. They depend for their victories on the fear and trembling enthroned within the walls of the city, and it doesn’t make much difference whether they come armed with slingshots and spears or with subprime loans and credit-default swaps. The waiting around for their arrival is the bait and switch alluded to both by the poet C. P. Cavafy and by the Stoic philosopher Seneca, who asks “whether anything can be more idiotic” than the directing of one’s purposes “with an eye to a distant future.” The doing so suspends the will to think, saps the courage to act...

The future is a work in progress, something made instead of something lost or bought or found. We have little else with which to make it except time-past revised and reconstituted in the present—as close at hand as the next sentence on a new page, no further away than around the corner or across the street.
That knowledge that the future is ours to create has been as carefully bred out of us by our politicians and media as viciousness has been bred out of cattle by husbandmen of centuries past. Maybe the real reason behind the #OWS revolt is that there is still a spark of that old innate wisdom left in us.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Southern Cross Is Bending--No Matter How Geological The Time Frame, It Is Bending

Eugene Debs died today, away back in 1926. As The Daily Bleed said:
1926 -- US: Good Ol'Days? Labor activist, anti-militarist & socialist Eugene Debs dies. His "radical" reforms included an eight-hour workday, pensions, workman's compensation, sick leave, social security — commonplace today. Ran for president from his jail cell. [Seems to us it's the elected ones should be ensconced in the hoosegow.]

"We [propose] to destroy the capitalist & save the man. We want a system in which the worker shall get what he produces & the capitalist shall produce what he gets."
— speech, December 10, 1905
Here are some of the recipients (partial list) of the Eugene V. Debs Award Program:
1965 John L. Lewis
1968 Walter Reuther
1972 Dorothy Day
1974 Arthur Schlesinger
1978 Jesse Jackson
1979 Pete Seeger
1981 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
1982 Coretta Scott King
1983 Studs Terkel
1987 Edward Asner
1991 John Sayles
1992 Ralph Nader
1994 Richard Trumka
1995 Jim Hightower
1998 Howard Zinn
2002 Julian Bond
2003 Molly Ivins
2005 Thomas Frank
2007 Barbara Ehrenreich
From his Statement to the Court, on his conviction of violating the Sedition Act for opposing WWI:
I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison.

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men...

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence...

Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.

I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. The people are awakening. In due time they will and must come to their own.

When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another Fine Mess

This is why the loss of the Fairness Doctrine was no joke. That Reagan-engineered surgical strike single-handedly gave us the Murdoch media empire, Fox News, and the capture of U.S. broadcasting by hate radio, none of which could exist in their current virulent incarnations today if they were required to ensure diversity of opinion on the air. There are a lot of walk-backs that need to be made to rescue the country from its headlong plunge into feudalism, and I know its not popular among liberals, but restoring the Fairness Doctrine could be the most powerful blow of all.

How to Help Occupy Philadelphia

Yesterday we bought a ton of food, cleaning aids, and hygiene products for the folks at Occupy Philadelphia and dropped them off after the march. The Plaza looked really good. Looks like they recovered well from the onslaught of homeless that unexpectedly put added strain on the encampment. Of course, instead of stepping up and taking care of the homeless that descended on City Hall, the city was happy to let the protesters deal with it, which is just business as usual from a city that can give millions in subsidies and tax breaks to businesses but can't open new shelters or maintain properly the ones they have.

Their Facebook page has suggestions for donations that can be brought directly to the northwest side of Dilworth Plaza, City Hall, if the goods are toiletries, camping-type supplies, or ready-to-eat. Food that has to be prepared and kitchen supplies should be taken to the Friends Center on the Cherry Street side. You'll see a gate, and can enter with your goods through there, then up the ramp and to the right.

They are also calling for volunteers to work in the kitchen and at the Plaza when and where people can. And of course, if you can get there and set up a tent for yourself, even if only for a day or two for the solidarity of it, they will welcome you.

But what will happen when the long-planned renovations to the Plaza begin in November? The Christkindlmarkt was set up there in past seasons, but because of the construction this year it will be in Love Park instead. Where will the protesters go then?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Dog-Torturer-in-Chief

Even when all my friends were sweating the Second Coming of Rick Perry and positive he was going to be the next President, I felt certain he wasn't our problem. Nor do I fear that Old Extra Pepperoni is going to be on the radar come fall. My biggest concern from day one was Romney, and it continues to be. The feudal lords of the Colonies have had their fun with the Bircherite fringe, and have gotten their money's worth out of them and the reliable plants in the Supreme Court, but now it's time to hunker down and pull out the serious weaponry, because all that extremist talk is fine when you're dog-whistling to the booboisie, but now you have to appeal to a whole broad array of people, and a lot of them don't even look like you. After winning the primary, Romney can hang a louie and start behaving like a grown man again, and besides, he's one of the Landlords of America--the Chamber of Commerce knows he's as good as any FIRE sector CEO they could plant.

So I hope to see a lot of people reminding the public next year that this is a guy who could do this to a dog:
The incident: dog excrement found on the roof and windows of the Romney station wagon. How it got there: Romney strapped a dog carrier — with the family dog Seamus, an Irish Setter, in it — to the roof of the family station wagon for a twelve hour drive from Boston to Ontario, which the family apparently completed, despite Seamus's rather visceral protest.
Remeber? Now, if a man could do that to the family dog--a happy creature that one may safely assume he knows well and purports to love--what do you think he may be capable of once elected President, with regard to the minions under his gaze? Here's a clue:
Romney, of course, has expressed support for the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques when it comes to terrorists; his campaign refused to comment about the treatment of his dog.
He then went on to tell CNN how much old Seamus liked "fresh air". And yes, this is a person who expressed shame at having helped saved the lives of the poor and sick with statewide health insurance coverage. I think Charles Koch has his man.

Friday, October 14, 2011

THIS is What's the Matter With Kansas

Even Scientific American is paying attention to #OWS. In a recent article subtitled "The surprising psychology of the Occupy Wall Street protests", we read that the phenomenon the rest of us know as "crabs in a barrel" has been identified by Princeton researchers as the "last place aversion" paradox. In other words, if you're near the bottom, you don't want to see someone poorer than you get a break if it means they will catch up to you economically. They explain:
Our recent research suggests that, far from being surprised that many working-class individuals would oppose (income) redistribution, we might actually expect their opposition to rise during times of turmoil – despite the fact that redistribution appears to be in their economic interest. Our work suggests that people exhibit a fundamental loathing for being near or in last place – what we call “last place aversion.” This fear can lead people near the bottom of the income distribution to oppose redistribution because it might allow people at the very bottom to catch up with them or even leapfrog past them.
Bolding is mine. That's the key takeaway: that the sense of security and self-worth of the people close to the bottom is so fragile that having no one left to look down on is the ultimate insufferable indignity. This really isn't new news. It was always the chief motivater of poor Southern whites who persecuted blacks during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Taken to its ultimate deadly conclusion, it distracts the downtrodden from their true enemies--those who keep them on an economic knife edge--and makes them accessories to campaigns of genocide.

The authors end with this:
We’ve also found evidence of last place aversion in laboratory experiments. In one, we created an artificial income distribution by endowing individuals with different sums of money and showing them their “rank”– with each rank separated by $1. We then gave them an additional $2, which they had to give to either the person directly below or directly above them in the distribution. In this income distribution, of course, giving $2 to the person below you means he will jump ahead of you in rank. In our experiments, most people still give to the person below them – after all, the alternative is to give $2 to a person who already has more money than you. People in second-to-last place, however, who would fall to last place when giving the money to the person below them, are the least likely to do so: so strong is their desire to avoid last place that they choose to give the money to a wealthier person (the person above them) nearly half the time. If Americans behave like people in our experiments, then it could be challenging to unite those in the bottom of the income distribution to support redistribution.
Again, the bolding is mine. It really brings into focus the habit amongst the American working class of giving passes to the wealthy while seeking to stick it to the poor, doesn't it?

You can read the study by the authors here.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Remember That It Was The Little Guys That Prevailed

Belong to one of the big banks that are about to (yet again) squeeze you for accessing and using your own money? The best part is that some, like HSBC and TD Bank, are not only planning to charge you a fee to use one of their own ATMs, they are also going to charge you for using a competitor's ATM, which means, of course, you will be charged twice: once by the competitor for using a "foreign" ATM, and once by your own dear bank for philandering around. Depending on the charges, that could result in more than $5.00 a shot just to pull out a yuppie food stamp. Did I mention that it was your own money?

Well, believe it or not there are other banks. There are even other banks that give you excellent customer service, look out for your interests, don't gouge you just because they can, and make it cheaper and easier to buy cars and houses. They are community banks and credit unions. And as the customer of the latter for 16 years, I can tell you that I love and cherish my bank over diamonds and rubies. You can get out from under these crooks.

You can find information on credit unions and how to locate one near you here.

You can find info on a new concept in banking called BankSimple here.

And the Move Your Money Project can help you find small community banks and credit unions, along with lots of good advice.

You don't have to suck this up and take it. Fuck them. Small banking is the wave of the future. And once these dinosaurs fall under their own weight, we'll need the solid support and reliability of the little mammals still standing afterwards.

Emile Zola Wept

Isn't this nice? This is behavior worthy of the Ancien Régime...



...that is, before Marie Antoinette had her final coif under the blade.

Christ, these people really do think their money makes them better. A decade of TV worship at the altar of the Bougie God during the Reagan regime, and the broadening demonization of the poor, got these clowns hot for it.

Keep it up, fools. I'm sure there must be a few folks amongst the sans-culottes down below who can knit.

Via scarce at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Lizard-Brained Satisfaction of Name-Calling

Yves Smith responds to Melissa Harris-Perry's lazy-ass slur of racism on disillusioned white liberals:
So the Democratic party (and remember, our two party system makes the Democrats the home by default for the left) pretends to be a safe haven for all sorts of out groups: women, gays, Hispanics (on their way to being the dominant group but not there yet), blacks, the poor. But this is stands in stark contradiction to its policies of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. So its desperate need to maintain its increasingly phony “be nice to the rainbow coalition” branding places a huge premium on appearances. It thus uses identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals. It can motive various groups on narrow, specific issues, opening the way for the moneyed faction to get what it wants.

It took most people far too long to get that Obama was a phony because the presumption that a black man would be sympathetic to the fate of the downtrodden is a deeply embedded but never voiced prejudice (and this bias is exploited successfully by the right in depicting Obama as a socialist). Other elements of traditional Democratic associations played into the Obama positioning: his Administration is chock full of technocratic Harvard wonks, and the last time an Administration was so dominated by technocrats was under Kennedy, the last Democratic Administration to have a strongly positive (indeed romanticized) image. (Yes, the Clintons also liked fancy resume types, but they also placed a very high premium on loyalty, and with the result that long-standing supporters often wound up in surprisingly senior roles).

These traditional iconic symbols of liberalism – secular urban elitism, blackness, technocratic skill, micro-issue identity based political organizing groups – have been fully subverted in the service of banking interests. Obama is the ultimate, but not the only, piece of evidence that these symbols are now used simply to con the Democratic base out of their support and money. The task of moving forward will require rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class. It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.
Good God, our entire political infrastructure is crumbling into a sea of self-hate. The Republican party has been taken over by the Pod People, and the Dems are eating each other alive. I don't see how we can continue on through the new century as a cohesive nation and still maintain this utterly dysfunctional Balkanization. At this rate I don't see how the Democratic party can avoid imploding into a score of navel-gazing boutique cults with a complete lack of vision beyond their own narrow interests.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

And A Merry Old Soul Was He

He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and he called for his Thorazine tea. Now this is what I call a horserace:
(Reuters) - Former pizza executive Herman Cain surprised rival Rick Perry with an upset victory on Saturday in a Republican presidential straw poll in Florida, dealing a disappointing loss to the Texas governor two days after a shaky debate performance.
All right, then! Let the race to the Seclusion Room begin! Pull up a seat and pass the popcorn, folks. It's on!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

King of Pain

I haven't yet read Obama's Big Idea, but if what I read here is true, we may as well kiss the 2012 election good-bye:
...require new beneficiaries to pay higher deductibles (for) Medicare coverage of doctors’ services and other outpatient care...The deductible, now $162 a year, is...increase(d)...further by $25 in 2017, 2019 and 2021...

...increase Medicare premiums by about 30 percent for new beneficiaries who buy generous private insurance to help fill gaps in Medicare...the White House said this protection “gives individuals less incentive to consider the costs of health care and thus raises Medicare costs”...

...raise $20 billion over 10 years by charging higher premiums to higher-income beneficiaries and by freezing the income thresholds so more people would have to pay the surcharge (up to 25% of all beneficiaries)...

...certain new beneficiaries to pay co-payments for home health care, which is now exempt from such charges. The co-payment would be $100 per episode, defined as a series of five or more home health visits not preceded by a stay in a hospital or a skilled nursing home...

...Revise the formula for calculating Medicaid payments to states, saving $15 billion over 10 years. Restrict states’ ability to finance their share of costs by imposing taxes on care providers...

...Cut $3.5 billion over 10 years from a prevention and public health fund created by the new health care law.
I particularly like the "rob Peter to pay Paul" aspect of that last one. Why worry about the opposition dismantling the ACA when you can simply do it yourself?

And I just love the concept of slamming old people with higher premiums just because they were able to cobble together enough cash to buy some Medigap to fend off potential bankruptcy---because otherwise they have "less incentive" to keep their spending costs low. Just buying the damned supplemental insurance isn't evidence enough that they want to keep their costs down. They need to lose a fucking leg! Goddammit, in this New World of Pain, the last thing you want to do is reward the sickest members of your society (who are already on fixed incomes that you want to ratchet down even more with your fucked-up chained CPI) with affordable coverage for their sicknesses. Slackers!

And I realize that the prospect of paying a $237 deductible may not seem like much to someone currently earning $60, $70, or $80k a year--but once you're on a fixed income and earning $12-$14k, that's going to look a lot more like a choice between buying groceries or an examination of that sore spot inside your mouth, and a lot less like a drop in the bucket. The size of buckets, after all, being relative.

Obama’s budget director says the new plan will impose “a lot of pain,” (in this new S&M culture we call America that's the mot du jour délicieux.) That's certain to be true for the people who have already been writhing in agony. And it's going to be true for a lot more who are teetering on the precipice. But the wealthy who have been doing all the squealing? Not so much. They have plenty of insurance, so whatever happens to Medicare (and certainly to Medicaid!) isn't going to matter one whit to them. And really, since that's where the campaign money is coming from, isn't that all for the best anyway?

In a world where "justice" has disappeared from the daily language, maybe it does sound fair to "share the sacrifice equally" between suburbanites with multiple SUVs parked at million dollar McMansions, and widows living hand to mouth in little apartments in working-class ghettos. Maybe the entire definition of "justice" is now passe.

I can't wait to see how he plans to "help" Social Security.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meaty Discourse

Once, even against all evidence, I could have accepted the idea that David Brooks was a human being who lived a relatively ordinary life in the gated enclaves of AwSchucksJustARegularMiddleClassJoeMakingSixFiguresville, Virginia. After all, he showed up regularly on The News Hour for good-natured jowl-punching with Droopy Dog doppleganger Mark Shields,, and surely he must have had to leave his habitat to do that. He must have had the opportunity to at least observe other members of his culture from the depths of his brougham-landaulet during the trip. And even though he could predictably come up with this sort of thing at the drop of an Alka-Seltzer:
"On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu—steak au jus, ‘slippery beef pot pie,’ or whatever—I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee’s. I’d scan the menu and realize that I’d been beaten once again. I went through great vats of chipped beef and ‘seafood delight’ trying to drop $20. I waded through enough surf-and-turfs and enough creamed corn to last a lifetime. I could not do it."
I could still picture him at a computer terminal, torn between finishing his latest Times lament and watching cats play the piano.

Well, I've stood by this belief against all odds, but there comes a time when one simply has to face facts. Brooks' inability to find a restaurant in which to spend more than $20 is not the result of spending too much time watching piano cat. Even a sheltered Cheetos-eating basement-dweller could find a way to do that. No, I'm sorry to say, the only real explanation is that Brooks is a tissue experiment grown on a meat scaffold who dictates his "columns" based on nothing more than the freshman philosophy problems fed to him daily by William Bennett and the perfluorocarbonated head of Leo Strauss. And here is your proof:
"The key to wisdom in these circumstances is to make the distinction between discrete good and systemic good. When you are in the grip of a big, complex mess, you have the power to do discrete good but probably not systemic good.

When you are the president in a financial crisis, you have the power to pave roads and hire teachers. That will reduce the suffering of real people who would otherwise be jobless. You have the power to streamline regulations and reduce tax burdens. That will induce a bit more hiring and activity. These are real contributions.

But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.

Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t."
Yes, you have sinned by letting the big banks and billionaires destroy your 401(k)--you know, the only kind of pension the Wall Street boys would let you have after they got done with you back in the '80s--and by losing your home in the floods, and your livestock in the wildfires, and your loved ones in the tornadoes, and your job in the layoffs, you fiddle-playing grasshopper! Now you can just shut up about needing a hand from the gubmint, because you're not a patient; you're a zillion zillion decisions! Now go suck it up under a bridge somewhere, and just be glad we're not Greece.

That's just meat talking.
Play it off, Keyboard Cat.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Same Old Shinola

Ah, shit. Give it a rest, already. Every goddamn day is Find A Leftist To Punch Day at Balloon Juice lately. Even when Firedog Lake has failed to provide some suitable outrage, they can find a way to manufacture one, and the commenters pride themselves on who can behave like the biggest asshole. I'm sure all of this will be vindicated when Obama destroys the opposition with the power of his understatement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Kickstart from the Divine

The week in Apocalyptica: first an earthquake, and now a hurricane.

In the wake of Irene, it was interesting to see this (shorter Eric Cantor: "Now let's hold disaster victims hostage.") Interesting because, while the hurricane was howling, and when I wasn't keeping an eye on the basement flooding and worrying about trees coming down, I was watching the destruction unfold up and down the coast and thinking "Jobs! GDP!! Economic stimulus!!!" As Mother Nature has devastated the country this year with fires, droughts, heat waves, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes, I've wondered if She's been sending us a message (no, not the climate change message, although, duh, that, too), that contra Michele Bachmann, we really DO need government, because the free market isn't going to rescue us from the 2nd floor of a burning building or pull our asses out of a swollen river. And while She's at it, maybe She's also thinking, "If those asshats in Washington won't get it together to create work for their people, I'll just have to do it for them."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Ghost of Foxconns Yet to Come

Do you think this means Steve Jobs is dying?
CUPERTINO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apple's Board of Directors today announced that Steve Jobs has resigned as Chief Executive Officer, and the Board has named Tim Cook, previously Apple's Chief Operating Officer, as the company's new CEO. Jobs has been elected Chairman of the Board and Cook will join the Board, effective immediately.
Chairman of the Board? Hah! Interchangeable as Lego blocks. If he is checking out, I hope it grows him a conscience before it's too late. Turkey dinners for all the suicidal widget-makers in Taiwan!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday, August 07, 2011

To the Lessons of the Past Unlearned

From an August 7, 2005 post, in memory of what should have never been:

The Lesser Evil

"The first casualty, when war comes, is truth."
---Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917

Hiroshima My father fought in the Pacific Theatre of World War II as an Army sergeant in the Philippines, and then beyond. He was not far from Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped, and right after the peace treaty was signed, he was stationed in Japan itself for a brief period. He never spoke about it, never volunteered information, but if pressed he would tell me some thing fairly innocuous, like how a Zero suddenly appeared above their camp and sent everyone flying for cover, including the driver of a jeep, whose sudden abandonment of the vehicle sent it careening over him. Thereafter he always carried a scar on his shin from where the tires ran over his leg, and the scar, like the jungle rot in his feet that never quite went away, or his revulsion toward seafood, which had come from a steady diet of fish heads and rice, remained a constant reminder of where he'd been and what he'd done. But when he and his friends got together, or the other veterans in my family, none of them ever exchanged war stories. None of them could even be coaxed into talking about it.

He had been back from the war for almost 8 years by the time I came along. I was still a very young child when I first remember poring over the old photos he brought back, of himself and his friends posing in front of some monument with a nameless Japanese woman who smiled pleasantly for the camera. I remember thinking, even as a child, how unlikely that smile seemed. I remember running my hands over the hilt of the samurai sword he brought back as a souvenir, fascinated by that tangible link to an impossibly alien place, and how, despite all entreaties, he refused to tell me how he'd come by it. He once showed me the helmet he wore in the jungle, with the bullet hole through the gap above the webbing that had held the helmet away from his head, and I thought more than once on how close he had been to never coming home.

destroy-brute The popular take on those days, the post-war 50's and the early 60's, is that they were ones of halcyon innocence and peace, and endless prosperity and opportunity, and in many ways, for many people, they were. But they were also days of incredible paranoia, of enemies under every rock, and if it wasn't the Communists it was the fallout in the icicles dangling from your house, or the Conelrad alerts and Civil Defense drills. My uncle, a classic sailor with fascinating tattoos on his muscular forearms, had by then become a career Navy man, and went from World War II to Korea hardly missing a beat, while Joe McCarthy was hard at work creating the seige mentality that would enable our governments to justify sending us to war for decades to come. By then the phrase used so hopefully during the First World War, that "war to end all wars", was beginning to look a little threadbare. Still, after being fed a steady diet of nationalist propaganda, cover-ups, and re-written history, we were psyched to shrug our collective shoulders with a sigh, accept that this was just the way it would have to be, and ready to embark on the brave new world of industrial slaughter those in power had in mind for us.

Never have a nation's demurs against war rung so blatantly false or for so long. Even now we delude ourselves into thinking that we are never aggressive, never looking for a fight, always being pushed into situations where war is our only option and therefore justified. woman_bomb Here we are, always just minding our own business, and along comes some pushy country just spoiling for a fight. The fact that for the last 60 years those pushy countries have happened to be small, powerless, backward, irrelevant, or all four, has somehow failed to make an impression on a people whose national myth includes standing up for the underdog and playing the part of the hero. That was the story we told ourselves in World War II, and that is the story we continue to tell throughout the subsequent years of evidence to the contrary.
It was in 1975 that in "Home to Roost", her speech on the state of the union immediately after Watergate, Hannah Arendt lamented the desperate lengths to which we went to make ourselves feel good after the humiliation of Vietnam:

"What comes home to roost now is this long education in imagery (i.e., the retreat from uncomfortable truths and quest for lies from which to create positive images), which seems no less habit-forming than drugs. Nothing in my opinion told us more about this addiction than the public reaction, on the street as well as in Congress, to our 'victory' in Cambodia, in the opinion of many 'just what the doctor ordered' (Sulzberger) to heal the wounds of the Vietnam defeat. Indeed, 'Twas a famous victory!' as James Reston aptly quoted in the New York Times, and let us hope that this was finally the nadir of the erosion of self-confidence when victory over one of the tiniest and most helpless countries could cheer the inhabitants of what only a few decades ago really was the 'mightiest power on earth."
Mushroom%20_Cloud So the anniversary of the use of the atomic bomb against human beings is being noted this weekend, and as it inevitably will, the discussion has arisen as to whether it was justified. The usual arguments are made for it: that a million servicemen's lives were saved, that Japan would have never surrendered otherwise, that an example had to be made to ensure their will was broken and they never became a threat again, that Truman warned them and they wouldn't listen. That something good came out of it after all. That like the war itself, it was a moral action justified in the cause of eradicating evil. That it was a lesser evil chosen for a greater good.

My head, much like Hiroshima, wants to explode.

There are plenty of sites on the internet and at the library where you can immerse yourself in the facts and fantasies that surrounded the event, and although I believe the bombings were the greatest atrocities my nation ever committed (and I do not believe they saved my father's life), I'm more interested in the idea of a "moral" war. Chris Hedges, in his wonderful book, Losing Moses on the Freeway, calls on his many years as a war reporter, and interview with a Vietnam vet who went on to become a Bishop in the Episcopal church, to answer those who posit the existence of a moral war. After recounting incidents from the war in which the bishop committed acts he would have never thought himself capable, Hedges says this:

"Bishop Packard discovered in the war the capacity we all have for evil. He discovered the darkness that allows us, when the restraints are cut, to commit acts of brutality against the weak and the defenseless, including children. He discovered the ghoulish delight soldiers can take in killing"
And to answer the suggestion that war can be moral, he says this:

amp5 "Wars come wrapped in patriotic slogans, call for self-sacrifice and glory. They come wrapped in the claims of divine providence... It is what is right and just. War is always waged...to make the nation and the world a better place, to cleanse evil...
But up close war is a soulless void. War quickly descends to raw barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death. It is a state where human decency and tenderness are crushed, where those who make war work overtime to destroy love, where all human beings become objects to use or kill. The noise, the stench, the fear, the eviscerated bodies and bloated corpses, the crying wounded spin us into another universe. In this moral void, blessed by institutions at home, the hypocrisy of our social conventions are laid bare. We call for strict adherence to some commandments and laud the purposeful violation of others. Hypocrisy rules. War, for all its horror, has the power to strip away the trivial and the banal, the empty chatter and foolish obsessions. It lets us see."
War is evil. It is the industrial slaughter of human beings we do not know, and when our weapons hit their marks, we can't possibly know whether one of them lays low a deserving victim or not. We cannot help but kill non-combatants, many of whom are children, old people, pregnant women, mothers, fathers, sisters, people who were loved as much as we ourselves are loved, and whose claim to the right to life is as strong and legitimate as any of our own. When we engage in it, for whatever reason, we do evil, and commit sin. bushg1 Yet, with few exceptions, you seldom hear the institutionalized religions speak out against government when war is waged. How often did you hear the voices of the churches of the land raised in protest and condemnation as Bush pushed the country inexorably toward Iraq? How often do your hear churches, so eager to shut off communion for politicians in favor of choice, threaten the same for those who support and fight the war? The most self-righteous and judgmental of them actually praise it as a just retribution, and support those who engineered and maintain it. Their religion is actually a civic one, and as Hedges states:

"These institutions have little or nothing to say in wartime because the god they worship is often a false god, one that promises victory to those who obey the law and believe in the manifest destiny of the nation. The god of war takes over the pulpits and airwaves. Religious leaders line up to bless the enterprise of war."
When religion and the state become one, they enable one another, and the combined force of their authority can push a nation into committing any conceivable horror.

Robert Jay Lifton told Hedges:

mars
""Ordinary men can all too readily be socialized to atrocity. These killing projects are never described as such. They are put in terms of the necessity of improving the world, of political and spiritual renewal. You cannot kill large numbers of people without a claim to virtue. Our own campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed this way, as if once we destroy all terrorists we destroy evil."
This is the lesson of Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, and Bagram: when we choose torture because we are "forced to by desperate circumstances", when we drop a nuclear bomb because we must "eliminate the danger posed by Japan for all time", we bargain with demons. The bargain says: "We know we do evil but it's a lesser evil, and we hope we won't have to do this again, but if we do, we hope you forget that we promised you our soul". Hannah Arendt said this about lesser evils:

"Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they choose evil... Acceptance of lesser evils is consciously used in conditioning the government officials and the population at large to the acceptance of evil as such."
We have already chosen far too much of the lesser evil, and have been doing so for decades. How much more can we choose before it becomes indistinguishable from the very evil we thought we were running away from?


Friday, July 29, 2011

I Don't Know What Ethics Are, But If You Got 'Em, They Must Belong To Somebody Else

I couldn't figure out whether to post this as a metaphor for what the House is actually trying to do to the country, or as an incitement to actually...burning down the House. Either one seems appropriate:



And while we're on the subject of Sucking Up The Painful But Necessary Compromise, let's see what example Matt Yglesias is using to buoy our spirits:
Adam Serwer reminds us that “During the so-called ‘age of liberal consensus,’ the massive engine of the federal government was devoted to creating an American middle class, but that was only possible because of the Faustian bargain made between southern segregationists and liberals to ensure that black people were cut off from the opportunities being created.”

Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America is a fantastic book on this.

This is something I think about when I ponder the ethics and pragmatics of political compromise. The conventional progressive view sees FDR has a model of strong leadership and the New Deal as a signature achievement. But it’s clear that these achievements were only possible thanks to massive concessions to the white supremacist elements of FDR’s political coalition. Was that the right thing to do or wasn’t it? Something interesting is that it was during the Roosevelt era that African-Americans in started voting Democratic in large numbers. So even though the Democratic civil rights agenda of the era was puny and the welfare state was deliberately exclusionary of black interests, it at least seems to be the case that all things considered, black voters deemed the New Deal agenda to be in their interests. Of course the ideal scenario would be to say that there would have been some way to enact all the famous programs of the era without concessions to white supremacists. But I don’t see any credible account of how that could have been done. So great leadership, or appalling sellout? Most likely both. Most likely, political leadership just demands a level of cognitive dissonance and self-justification that normal people can’t muster.
I have Katznelson's book, and it is not a paean to compromise. It is an contextual exploration of how black Americans, despite nearly 50 years of Civil Rights actions, and 30 years of progressive programs instituted before then, have remained so mired in poverty and so destitute of wealth compared to their white counterparts. The story of the struggle of black families in America post-slavery is riven with obstacles, setbacks, broken promises, and deliberate subversion by a hate-filled Confederacy cohort dependent on free labor. It's the story of how Roosevelt held his nose and allowed the Dixiecracker caucus to maintain hegemony over the lives of southern blacks by excluding their main sources of income from coverage by Social Security, thus bereaving slavery's grandchildren, who had already been betrayed by the Union after Reconstruction, of a desperately-needed assist out of incomprehensible impoverishment. It's about how the crafting of the G.I. Bill allowed local southern administrators the discretion to deny black veterans the benefits that pulled millions of white vets into the middle class. It's about why blacks are still struggling against the odds, while whites rest on the modest nest eggs and safety nets of a wealth gained over nearly a hundred years. It is NOT about how plucky Roosevelt got the best deal he could and, despite the repulsiveness of the original horse trade, everything worked out for the best. As Katznelson stated in his book, the achievements of Roosevelt and Truman were shaped by the pivotal role southern Democrats were able to play as guardians of racial segregation. It didn't work out for the best for a large and important minority of our citizens. The repercussions of the rot of the deal are effects they, and the rest of us, still live with today.

And as an aside, Yglesias' observation that blacks started voting as Democrats during the New Deal had as much to do with how the Dems (on the northern and national level) were evolving from a party of southern rebellion and slavery into a party of social welfare and inclusion, as it did with their admiration for Roosevelt. If Katznelson's book carries any message it's this: such deals with the devil carry consequences not only for those directly harmed, but for all of us, and those consequences may reverberate down the years for many lifetimes.

So it is with the sad little health care Act. So it will be with Obama's economic choices. You can say in his defense that Obama has far greater obstacles in his path than Roosevelt did (you can say it, but it's not true). But even if it were so, Obama has neither the leadership nor the vision of a Roosevelt. Without those, he has no more chance of besting the enemies of the nation than a rat trapped in a maze. And unfortunately, he's trapped us in there with him.

We're on a road to nowhere, baby.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Digging In The Dirt

An arresting image from Scientific American's photo essay on the nascent New York 2nd Avenue subway build:


Ever since seeing this scene from Fellini's Roma, I've been enamored of tunnel boring machines (click full screen--the image isn't great and it's very dark):



Meanwhile, In Switzerland, they still know how to do a public works project up right:



Do Something

The movement to preserve livable environment and the life forms that depend on it is old. Even in the mid- to late-1800s, private groups realized that land was finite. They were given support at the turn of that century by the Theodore Roosevelt Administration, and our nation parks system and species preservation were born. By the late 60s and early 70s, it seemed that we had a real chance to make meaningful change, to halt the damage done by the Industrial Revolution and the developmental ramp-up of the post-WW I years, to curb and neutralize the toxic effluvia in our land, to salvage the remaining wild areas, and to seek a green and sustainable future for ourselves and our kids. In a muscular act of Congressional will that would be considerable inconceivable in today's poisonous political arena, we passed the Wilderness Act (1965); the Clean Air Act (1967); National Trails Act (1968); the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968); and the National Environmental Policy Act (1969). In 1970 a Republican president submitted a plan for an Environmental Protection Agency to successful Congressional vote, and the EPA was born. There quickly followed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (1972), Endangered Species Act (1973), Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (1976), Clean Water Act (1977), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (1980) which established the Superfund. It would take too long to continue to list the many more that were passed. But it will hardly take the blink of an eye for the current crop of science-hating, life-hating reactionary Know-Nothings, in their blinding ignorance, to undo it all. This is, after all, an implacable group of lightbulb libertarians dedicated to anarchy, not the public health.

So thanks to Elliott at Firedoglake for turning me on to this heartbreaking video on the beauty of our Mother Earth, and our suicidal headlong destruction of the only lifeboat in the sea. As the info paragraph under the video says, the cut was put together by Vivek Chauhan, a young film maker, together with naturalists working with the Sanctuary Asia network.



Wave goodbye to the polar bears. Maybe we can eventually pull ourselves back from the brink, but really...after we murder everything else, would it really be the kind of place you'd still want to live in?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Comments

All right. I've enable comments again. We'll find out how much Blogger has improved spam capture, if at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk

To break the tension I would like to have put up the video of Rupert Murdoch being attacked by a cream pie today, but the incident wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped. A flying shoe would have been better.

Gang of Sucks

Jesus H. Christ. We are so screwed. These mindless ideologues are going to destroy us. I'm watching my retirement fly off to Wall Street on tattered wings.

And all just so O'Hoover can get his "grand bargain", a big goose to his ego, and a vote that would have gone through anyway. This is what I wrote about the Gang of Six back in April:
That Gang of Six consists of mouth-frothing right-wing extremists Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, and Mike Crapo, and Republican-lite Dems Mark Warner and Kent Conrad. Dick Durbin always gets stuck in there somewhere because his genuinely moderate record gets spun as somehow liberal. But there is not one real liberal in there, not one progressive, and there never is in these circus sideshows. Regardless, I suppose everyone thinks this kind of equivocating worked out so well for health care reform that we'll be stuck with these posturing preludes to bad law for the foreseeable future. After all, the lasting peace of the filibuster solution has been so gratifying, hasn't it?

This is what passes for "getting things done" now. And after Obama's recent display of pride in avoiding the shutdown by giving the hostage-takers even more than they originally demanded and taking even more away from the ones on the bottom, (it's historic!) I suppose there's no sense in hoping he will do anything to keep the upcoming clusterfuck from devolving into further debasement and fiscal ruin.
Name everything we could possibly do to make things worse and hurt more of the wrong people, and like Ragu Spaghetti Sauce, "it's in there". It'll be delicious.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is The Head Dead Yet?

Give us dirty laundry:
News America was led by Paul V. Carlucci, who, according to Forbes, used to show the sales staff the scene in “The Untouchables” in which Al Capone beats a man to death with a baseball bat. Mr. Emmel testified that Mr. Carlucci was clear about the guiding corporate philosophy.

According to Mr. Emmel’s testimony, Mr. Carlucci said that if there were employees uncomfortable with the company’s philosophy — “bed-wetting liberals in particular was the description he used” Mr. Emmel testified — then he could arrange to have those employees “outplaced from the company.”

Clearly, given the size of the payouts, along with the evidence and testimony in the lawsuits, the News Corporation must have known it had another rogue on its hands, one who needed to be dealt with. After all, Mr. Carlucci, who became chairman and chief executive of News America in 1997, had overseen a division that had drawn the scrutiny of government investigators and set off lawsuits that chipped away at the bottom line.

And while Mr. Murdoch might reasonably maintain that he did not have knowledge of the culture of permission created by Mr. Hinton and Ms. Brooks, by now he has 655 million reasons to know that Mr. Carlucci colored outside the lines.

So what became of him? Mr. Carlucci, as it happens, became the publisher of The New York Post in 2005 and continues to serve as head of News America, which doesn’t exactly square with Mr. Murdoch’s recently stated desire to “absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public.”
You know the guys in the newsroom have a running bet.

Looks Like A Tree, Smells Like A Tree, Tastes Like A Tree, Must Be A Horse

If you give a way to afford medical care to people without money, they will use it, fewer will die, and they'll have more money for other necessities. Gee whiz.

They've been debating this nonsense ad nauseum for weeks. In fact, they needed a "study" to figure it out. And the vultures who want to pull this life jacket off the needy and sell it for chump change to their ventriloquists in the insurance industry are still denying what anyone with an ounce of sense could suss out. If that doesn't exemplify the degraded state of empathy and critical thinking in this benighted and crumbling empire, nothing can.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Try To Remember

God bless the internet...and thanks to Digby for linking to Tiny Revolution's disinterment of an old Time Magazine article referencing the Obama plan of 2009:
When Obama unveils his annual budget in late February or March, Summers promises that the President "is going to describe the kinds of approaches he wants to take to the entitlement problems that have been ignored for a long time." Some options might include delaying retirement, stretching benefits and lifting the cap on taxable earnings...

On that front, Republicans could come to Obama's rescue. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has told Obama in person that his party favors entitlement reform and would work for passage if both parties shared the risk.
So sweet. So cozy. This is who Obama is. And if you're looking for him to save you, or the New Deal, you can put that shit on ice for the duration. Meet the new boss, baby; same as the old boss. And you can tell yourself "at least he's not evil" from now until doomsday, but you don't have to be evil to do irreparable damage. You only need to be callow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Can't Johnny (& Barry & Mitchy & Eric & Pauly) Count?

Is it the result of starving our schools for years? Is it because they don't teach science anymore? Is it because subjectivity has been elevated to the sacramental and has slipped, wolf-like, into the sheep herd of public reason in America?

Because how else do you explain this, from Obama's morning presser:
The "shared sacrifice" and "balanced approach" means taking down domestic spending to levels we haven't seen since Eisenhower...
Here's the thing: if you want to reduce domestic spending to the level of the Eisenhower era, remember what the rich paid in taxes during that time, which was 91%, and 25% on capital gains. And remember, that high level of taxation supported and grew (grew!) a nation of a much smaller a population (less than 179 million then compared to more than 308 million in 2010), with many fewer needs and a shorter lifespan; fewer cars, and houses, and schools, and less need for infrastructure. And remember how much newer our sewers were, and our water treatment plants, and bridges, and dams, and roads, and prisons, and gaslines, and waterlines, and electrical lines, and how much further away from failing they were then.

We had money pouring in, and a lot less to spend it on, but somehow these geniuses think we can dial back spending by more than half a century AND stifle revenue, even though we're not even taking in as much total direct revenue now as we were when Dubya took office, and income taxes are producing half of what they did then. These magical thinkers really believe that if we give up our 2008 Honda Accord for an old '53 Hudson our grandfather used to own way back when, we can conjure up the Frank Capra-corn lifestyle none of us had in 1950 and all live in a Lassie episode forever. Things cost money! Things now cost more than they did 10 years ago, let alone when Ike was President. It's beyond ridiculous to insist that we can go backward in time and take our checkbooks with us. But this is exactly what these morons have been pretending we can do, and if it means those suffering or living on a knife edge now are going to have to tighten their belts, well, hell, why not? It's not as if any of these dimwits pushing this ceremonial economic magic will ever have to bear the brunt of their own stupidity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Emperor has No Clothes Because He's Covered In Something Else

Watching the horror unfold that is the debt ceiling negotiations is like waking up and finding yourself covered in excrement. You're immersed in it; you can't escape the smell; you know it resulted from something totally beyond your control; you're overwhelmed with shame; you can't stop retching from disgust; it feels like the nightmare will never end; and your only respite, the shower, hasn't worked for days because the landlord doesn't want to spend the money to replace the plumbing.

But I'm sure this could all be fixed if we fired some park rangers and closed some public schools.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Power of Positively Not Thinking

Fuck the All Star game. And fuck Arizona. And fuck all the players that thought they just couldn't make it through their mundane forgettable athletic careers without playing there. Seriously...your job employs multiple Latinos and other non-Anglo players, and yet you think you're playing above it all in racist, fascist Maricopa County?

Get a clue.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Because You're Just Too Dumb To Know What's Best For You

Well, here it is at last--the Big Double-Cross by the Double-Crosser-in-Chief:
Mr. Obama, who is to meet at the White House with the bipartisan leadership of Congress in an effort to work out an agreement to raise the federal debt limit, wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much over the next decade, Democratic officials briefed on the negotiations said Wednesday.
Because this mundane, yearly procedure to raise the debt limit, a procedure that has been done regularly for decades under both parties without controversy, has now been seized upon by the New John Birch Society as the latest tool to enable them to enact their lifelong goal--the elimination of government and the elevation of the wealthy in its place--and that's not good enough for Obama. No, Obama has to prove he's also the Hysteric-in-Chief, and he can out-lemming the most self-destructive of the opposition as he leads the whole country off the cliff.

Hah, what am I saying? What opposition? Obama's real opposition are the millions of liberals who got him elected and to whom even now he holds out his hand, pretending he needs the little guys to stick with him and get him re-elected. His true base works on Wall Street, and his real political allies visit him in secret, plotting how best to appease their masters and consolidate the destruction of the middle class.
The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.
Forget it, Grandma. Forget it, poor kids. Forget it, single moms and sick people and people without pensions and imminent retirees and minimum wage workers. The New John Birch Society must have its brave new world, and you're just in the way. If you only understood that Obama is selling you down the river for your own good, you'd know what a monumental opportunity this is, what a grand bargain it is, how this is really exactly what you voted for back in 2008, even though you didn't realize it at the time. And after all, he's only one man, and really the Presidency isn't all that powerful, just a figurehead of a position, actually, and he's the grown-up in the room and you're just a spoiled crankypants who doesn't understand how politics works and you never will so STFU and send in your money and pull the "D" lever in 2012 and good luck with the cat food. You never wanted to retire anyway.

Thank you, Herbert Fucking Ohoover.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald reminded me of this righteous rant by George Carlin, may he rest in peace, and I wanted to have it on my post, too. Because he nails it, brother: "They call it The American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it".



All that hope we had, all that change we thought was gonna come (ah, I can still hear them playing Sam Cooke), it was a dream, all right. And we were asleep when we bought it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Independence Day--For Some

From the Harper's blog and the inimitable Mr. Fish, the only person I'm aware of who's more cynical than I am:

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things:
freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.

Mark Twain

Happy 4th of July.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

DSK Skates

I only have this to say about the DSK case and the recent turn of events:

Here is the DA's letter to the defense, outlining the areas in which the accuser admitted she made false statements.

Nowhere in the letter does it state that the accuser retracted her allegations about the rape itself. Nowhere does it state that evidence has come to light proving that Strauss-Kahn was innocent, or that the accuser was not raped. The areas retracted by the woman relate to previous issues connected to her attempts to get into the country, remain here, and maintain her residence. The retraction related to what she did immediately after the alleged rape--wait in a hidden area of the hallway, or continue on to clean other rooms--does not really make it impossible or even unlikely that she had been raped. Yes, those retractions of statements under oath are harmful to her credibility. Credibility is crucial in a case of he-said, she-said. But there are other credibility issues, too, related to Strauss-Kahn's prior predatory behavior toward women, and there is the forensic evidence of rape relied upon by the DA after the woman was admitted to the hospital for examination.

In any case, it looks as though a man with a history of assaulting women will go free, possibly because he is innocent, or possibly because he had the juice to pull in fixers, or possibly because the truth is somewhere in the middle. One thing I know: at no point did his defense raise the issue that he had been the innocent victim of a seduction. Because even the French can't be stupid enough to believe that one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Sleeping Giant Stirs

Surprise! Workers in Connecticut decided they'd had enough of being double-crossed and used as political pawns:
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and union leaders announced Friday that Connecticut’s state workers had rejected a deal meant to produce $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years, blowing a hole in the state’s budget and raising the likelihood of widespread layoffs.

The rejection was a startling slap to both the union leadership and to Mr. Malloy, who was elected in November with enthusiastic labor support.
What was going through union minds when they gave this tentative deal the heave-ho? Well, the fact that Hartford has proven its own word worthless in the past may have influenced them:
The opposition centered on suspicions about the health care provisions in the package, workers’ frustration over past concessions and the belief among some members that they could get a better package if they rejected this one...

Michele Higgins, 63, a supervisor in the audit division of the State Labor Department office in Bridgeport, noted that two years ago workers agreed to furloughs and paying more for health insurance. “I don’t think that it’s a bad agreement, but a contract has no meaning anymore, because I think the state will be back in two years looking for more,” she said.
Nailed it. Breaking union contracts by whipping up an "emergency" or a "bankruptcy" has become very faddish these days. Yet these workers' "friends" in the legislature just can't understand why anyone would give up a such a dream package:
“The failure to ratify by state employees does more harm to them and the cause of labor than anything their enemies could possibly achieve,” Senator Williams wrote. “It’s unbelievable that they don’t understand that."
What they understand is that whenever a moment in history arrives that calls for someone to give something up, the powerful always have something pressing to tend to elswhere that day. Senator Williams is using the language of the man with nothing at stake, the general at the back of the lines, the lawmaker waxing eloquent over the war he loves as the troops wave farewell to their limbs and their lives. What sacrifices were demanded of Senator Williams, or Governor Molloy, or any of the blathering pundits who declared this such a "harmonious resolution"? What will they be giving up anytime soon?

That's what I thought.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Look For The Cage You Can't See It It's Everywhere

The Rude Pundit sees the connection between our reality TV culture of humiliation-as-entertainment, and the siccing of the desperate working class on itself:
The Rude Pundit thought about Brian Jackson and his never-popping hot water bottle while he read about the latest attacks on working people by state legislatures and governors. See, it's not that New Jersey is seeking to raise state workers' contributions on health care and pensions. It's that the bill that made its way through committee stops collective bargaining on health care. It's the ongoing battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, in Massachusetts, in Ohio, in Illinois, in places Democratic and, especially, Republican, under the notion that this is somehow the way that everyone sacrifices for the good of some broad, undefinable "economy." Meanwhile, wages have stagnated as union membership has fallen. Somehow, surely, this is just the fault of greedy union workers. It always has been the workers' fault for demanding fairness, according to management. Why should these greedy bastards get decent health care when you can't find a job?

And this is how we get back to Brian Jackson. There's a political calculation being made here, as there so often is. They are pitting unemployed and non-union workers against the unionized state employees, who often have enviable job security in an insecure job market, by making those unionized government workers the target. It doesn't matter that the benefits gotten through collective bargaining make up for the shit wages. Boo to that; raise your arms in an X to get it swept away. Hope for failure and embarrassment. Turn on each other and give power and profit to the people behind the curtain, again and again.
Bravo.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flogging the Dead Horseshit

The New York Times has a real pisscutter of a propaganda piece up on how the evil public unions are destroying America. A handy little paper written by long-time public pension haters Robert Novy-Marx and Joshua D. Rauh accompanies the thing. For whipping up panic, you'd have to go a fur piece to find a better example than this boatload of bilge, and for propaganda on behalf of the haves, it's absolutely pitch perfect.

First, let me give you a quick math lesson: I am a supervisory employee with the state. When I retire, in my 60s, with 20 years of service, I will earn the princely sum of about $25,000 a year from my public pension, assuming I still have it after Corbett gets done. Many people I know earn less than me, and will get less when they retire. Even I earn more than the average public employee in my state, so comparing some anomalous local fire chief or some highly-paid but rare regional director to a cashier at Barnes and Noble is like comparing a highly-paid private-sector Vice President to me.

Now imagine that you and your husband have a savings account, and every pay, you both contribute to it. You put in a bit more than he does. But for the last 10 years, unknown to you, you continued to contribute while he refused to do so. He even pulled money out. Since he used this money to pay your bills, you didn't notice that the cost of living was going up beyond what you were earning, and you didn't think to wonder why you could still afford to live on your combined incomes. One day you check the account and--quelle surprise!--there's less than half of what you had in it 10 years ago, and your retirement is just a couple years away. You can't continue to live on what you earn because neither or you has had a raise in 10 years, and your only choice now is to keep working and eat up the rest of your savings. Well, that savings is the pension fund. Your pay checks are the taxes we pay for the services we expect from the government. The raise you didn't get is the tax hike that should have occurred to fund government services, the cost of which were going up just like the cost of everything else. And that rat of a husband stealing your retirement from under your nose is the elected official who bought voter approval by stealing from the public pensions instead of raising taxes as he should have.

My comment on the story linked to above and left at the Times, follows:
Nice hatchet job. Let's cherry-pick the stats on the people getting the best pensions in the private sector instead of the public sector and compare them: payouts from shareholders and taxpayer subsidies and consumers that amount to billions of dollars over the lifetime of a single former CEO hardly compare. But you would object that using such a CEO as an example for the whole private sector, Wal-Mart greeters included, badly skews the argument against pensions for the private sector? Well, no more so than this article does to the public sector.

Further, where is the close examination of the fact that these pensions were deliberately unpaid or underpaid by these governments for years, even during good times, while the employees themselves continued to pay, and increase their contributions, into the fund? Where is the discussion of the cutbacks experienced by public employees in their contracts for the last 10 years even while private business payroll grew, which permanently hurt public employees' pension amounts? Where is the mention of the fact that as the cost of all other things grew, governments and taxpayers chose to cut or failed to fund the infrastructures needed to continue to provide services, and then woke up one day wondering why it was going to cost so much to make up the difference?

This kind of biased prole-baiting is exactly the reason the richest country in the world poor mouths every time a bridge needs fixed or a child needs medical care. And the fact that the real money continues to flow from the poorest to the richest never gets a mention, and if it does someone inevitably squeals "class war!!" That way, the working-class can be diverted from calling the ones responsible for this mess to account, and keep pretending they have more in common with Donald Trump than the clerical worker at a government office making $32K after 30 years on the job.