Saturday, April 30, 2011

The United States of Amnesia

Yes, less than 6 years after the worst natural disaster ever to hit the nation, which spread over 90,000 square miles, killed 1,836 people and left another 705 still missing, demolished 275,000 homes and left 182,000 homeless or displaced, and caused $110 billion in damages (much of which is still awaiting repair) he said it:
“I’ve never seen devastation like this,” the president said.
I don't mean to minimize the horrors and devastation the victims of the recent tornadoes have experienced, even if their states (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas) are full of government-hating Randians who wouldn't take a penny from the feds, except, but wait, where's FEMA now?. Still, every one of their heartless governors likes to brag about how much pain he's willing to cause to the disposable people in his state because the deficit is worse than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and every damn one of them has his fucking hand out now.

But for Obama to make such a callow statement, when many of those hit by Katrina have yet to be able to go back to their homes, is just stunning in its cluelessness. We have a still-seeping wound down in New Orleans, yet even as recently as the days of the Japanese earthquake, NPR reporter John Burnett was still making the kind of fact-empty and racially-tinged comparisons (they didn't loot like those thugs in NOLA!) that the media was spewing in 2005.

The faces of the tornadoes are overwhelmingly white, and that makes it okay to take care of them. Even if it's that uppity Muslim in the White House who's giving out the money. They'll take it, and then grind their heels into the poor and demand to know where Obama's report cards are.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Apple Is Just As Shocked As You

This is hooey:
Confirming speculation from some security researchers, Apple said in the statement posted on its Web site that the file in people’s iPhones was not a log of their location but rather “the locations of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone.”

Apple said it used the data, which it called a cache, to calculate a device’s location more quickly than through GPS satellites.

But Apple acknowledged that it had made mistakes, which it attributed to programming errors, in storing the data for a long time, keeping the file unencrypted and storing the data even when users had chosen to turn off location services.
Why do I say this? Because of this:
Apple has been collecting location information since 2008, when notice of that practice began to appear in its End User License Agreements for various Apple devices...Apple still has not offered any comment on the nature of the "partners and licensees" it shares the location data with, or the time period for which it retains the data. By using the phones and devices, users are implicitly giving Apple their consent to collect the data. But, the EULA explains, "users may withdraw this consent at any time by going to the Location Services setting on your iPhone and either turning off the global Location Services setting or turning off the individual location settings of each location-aware application on your iPhone."
And this:
To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.
And this:
Also questionable tables in the database with names *Harvest and *HarvestCounts. would be interesting to know what they are.
Either Apple's programming and R&D departments are full of doofuses stumbling around like clowns in a Gary Larson cartoon, or the company just didn't give a shit. This is not the first time they've been asked to account for themselves, but this may be the first time they smelled blood in the water and realized it might be their own.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meet the New Big Brother, Same As the Old Big Brother

Remember this ad?

Apple has always positioned itself as the hip, right-brain alternative to the boring-ass monoculture of Microsoft, and when it looked as if it might go down for the third time way back when, it was the artists and creative class that saved it. Now it seems to be setting itself up to become not just Nerd Wrangler Extraordinaire, but the repository of all info on every hapless soul who evinces an interest in an iPod Shuffle. Just try to buy one and use it. i-Tunes is the proprietary link to transfer music into it, and to use iTunes requires a commitment of self-disclosure on the level of marriage: not just name, address and e-mail, but phone number, age, gender, and credit card, not to mention at least 3 sign-offs on Apple legal agreements, one of which is 17 pages long.

Since the iPhone took off, we've seen increasingly draconian limits for both users and developers placed on the apps Apple will allow, which also affect iPod and iPad, and some of which seem to be driven more by the Morality Police of Steve Jobs' mind than profit motive.

On top of these issues is the black heart at the center of Apple's supply chain overseas: environmental poisoning, and mistreatment and enslavement of the workers who build our little toys at Foxxconn and elsewhere.

So I recalled the advert above when the latest concerns over Apple's secret tracking of its iPhone owners' whereabouts hit the front pages this week:
The privacy startle, apparently enabled by this summer's iOS 4 release, was discovered by two security researchers, one of whom claims he was an Apple employee for five years. They're equally puzzled and disturbed by the location collection: "By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple have made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements," they explain. All it would take to crack the information out of your iOS device is an easy jailbreak. On your computer, the information can be opened as easily as JPEG using the mapping software that the security experts have made for download—Try it yourself.

The data itself is jarringly accurate (most of the time). And even though it appears to rely on tower triangulation rather than GPS pinpointing (meaning you're probably not safe with location services switched off), the map I was able to generate with mapping software the security duo released visualizes my life since the day I bought my iPhone 4 in July. Everywhere I've been. Bus trips home. Train trips to visit family. Vacations. Places I'd forgotten I'd even gone. Zoom in on that giant blotch over New York, and you can see my travels, block by block. My entire personal and professional life—documented by a phone I didn't know was also a full time location logging device. It's all accessible—where I've been, and when.
This was foretold last year when Apple unleashed its new "privacy" policy:
The new terms, to which Apple users must agree before they are able to download any additional apps or media, allow Apple to collect "precise location data," as well as the "real-time geographic location" of your device, and share it with Apple's "partners and licensees." Apple notes that its location-based services, specifically MobileMe, require this location information in order to work, but is otherwise vague on how the data will be used.
The most interesting part is that it can't really be switched off without wiping memory, and it goes with you as you change and upgrade your devices. And for the conspiracy fan, there's this:
Security expert Kevin Mitnick says he's "Quite shocked and disturbed" by the revelation, noting that the logged data could be of great interest to a variety of entities—prying spouses, private investigators, and, he reckons, the government. He speculates that the existence of the log itself "could have been at the request of the government," as such data "can't be used for advertisements. It seems to me more to be a governmental request." He added, "I like to know what my device is doing." And, that the phone's logging of data was in this case like "carrying around a bug and a tracker at the same time."
The easiest way to control people is to seduce them into loving you first. Apple's doing a fine job of both.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of Course They're Consumers; What Isn't?

Paul Krugman thinks patients are not consumers:
Medical care is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made; yet making those decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge; and often those decisions must also be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping...

The idea that all this can be reduced to money — that doctors are just people selling services to consumers of health care — is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society’s values.
Well, like the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine, that laid the foundations for the takeover of the airwaves by radical conservatives and their sugar daddies, we can lay this one, too, at the feet of St. Ronnie, and you could have seen it coming over 25 years ago:
Direct-to-consumer advertising, or DTC, has been controversial from its inception. Pharmaceutical companies have championed advertising as an effective method for informing consumers of health care choices. Physician groups such as the American Medical Association have opposed the advertisements out of fear of disruption to the physician/patient relationship. From September 1983 to September 1985, at the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmaceutical companies agreed to a voluntary moratorium on advertising. During the moratorium, the FDA sponsored public meetings, invited comment, and conducted research. On September 9, 1985, the FDA withdrew the moratorium, announcing that existing advertising regulations which governed marketing directed toward physicians were also “sufficient to protect consumers.” With no regulations that “pertain[ed] specifically to consumer-directed promotion,” DTC became increasingly popular during the 1990s.

One restraint may have been the requirement that all advertisements include a complete description of risks and side effects. Pharmaceutical companies may have worried that such disclosure, which can take up to a half page of fine print, would detract from the appeal of otherwise “sleek ads on TV or in magazines.”

In August 1997, the FDA removed at least part of that deterrent. The Guidance for Industry Direct-to-Consumer Rx Drug Promotion19 affects only broadcast advertisements on television or radio. Print advertisements must contain a “brief summary” of the drug’s “side effects, contraindications, and effectiveness.” The Guidance authorizes broadcast advertisements to substitute for the “brief summary” an “adequate provision” “by which the majority of a potentially diverse audience can receive the advertised product’s approved labeling.” Thus, the pharmaceutical company may omit the summary of side effects by announcing that interested consumers can obtain package labeling by dialing a toll free telephone number, contacting an Internet site, or visiting a physician’s office. Advertisements for psycho pharmaceuticals began appearing shortly after the FDA published its draft guidance. Mental health professionals have decried the ads as inappropriate because they are directed toward “[p]eople who are seriously mentally ill [and who] often have impaired judgment.” The Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Association has responded with an opposite take on the value of the marketing schemes: “This is the information age, and more information empowers patients to be able to have more meaningful conversations with their doctors about cures and treatments.” To assist in this goal of empowerment, pharmaceutical companies have recently turned to celebrity pitch makers as “the next step to reach out to consumers.”

DTC may have reached its zenith with the formation of a home shopping television network exclusively devoted to selling pharmaceuticals.
The seed of conversion of patient to consumer has been carefully and deliberately planted, and now the debasement of the healthcare debate shows just how well the tree has borne fruit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This Is Because Obama Took Our Guns Away

More casualties of the liberal war on guns:
Officials say three students have been injured after a Houston kindergartner brought a gun to school that accidentally discharged when it fell out of the child's pocket.

Houston Independent School District Assistant Police Chief Robert Mock says the students were injured by fragments after one bullet discharged in the school's cafeteria about 11 a.m. Tuesday.
This tragedy could have no doubt been prevented if only those kids had been allowed to pack heat. All the best districts are doing it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Some Friendly Advice

When we as a nation figure out the silver bullet that ends drug trade violence in this country, then we might have a right to start telling other countries what they should be doing from the safe and comfy white-collar offices of Punditburg, especially when our own consumption and our own gun laws fuel the engine of that violence.
Such slaughter usually goes unnoticed in the U.S. press. Should it come to the attention of our newspapers, it will be written off as part of a cartel war. This is a fiction. Almost all the dead are poor people, not drug-enriched grandees. And though we give Mexico half a billion dollars a year to encourage its army to fight drug merchants, this alleged war has a curious feature: Almost no soldiers ever die. In Juarez, more than 4,200 citizens have been slain in two years. In the same period, with 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers in town, the military has suffered three dead.

The border should not be an issue in American life, but rather our window on the world. All our foolish beliefs are refuted here. Free trade is creating the largest human migration on earth. Our belief that drugs can be successfully outlawed has created the second-most-profitable industry in Mexico and a gulag of U.S. prisons. Our effort to fortify the border has created a wall and a standing army of agents, and it has failed to stop people or kilos from moving to our towns. Our refusal to even seriously consider the notion of overpopulation will eventually destroy large portions of the earth’s ecosystems. And we are equally reluctant to face one nagging fact about Mexico: 40 percent of its federal budget comes from oil sales, and the president of Mexico has said publicly that the oil fields will be exhausted in the next decade. What then?

Someday a history of our border policies will be written. It will require a Marxist—Groucho, not Karl.
Or a David Simon:
BILL MOYERS: But it still is a lie, isn't it?

DAVID SIMON: And it always will be. I don't think we have the stomach to actually evaluate this. And--

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?


BILL MOYERS: We don't have the stomach?

DAVID SIMON: Again, we would have to ask ourselves a lot of hard questions. The people most affected by this are black and brown and poor. It's the abandoned inner cores of our urban areas. And we don't, as we said before, economically, we don't need those people. The American economy doesn't need them. So, as long as they stay in their ghettos, and they only kill each other, we're willing to pay a police presence to keep them out of our America. And to let them fight over scraps, which is what the drug war, effectively, is. I don't think-- since we basically have become a market-based culture and it's what we know, and it's what's led us to this sad denouement, I think we're going to follow market-based logic, right to the bitter end.

BILL MOYERS: Which says?

DAVID SIMON: If you don't need 'em, why extend yourself? Why seriously assess what you're doing to your poorest and most vulnerable citizens? There's no profit to be had in doing anything other than marginalizing them and discarding them.
And if that's how we feel about our own people, what do you think we're going to do for the Mexicans? Besides puke out a toilet-full of cant, I mean.

Friday, April 15, 2011

And Brig. Gen. Beauregard Claghorn Commanded the Attack on Fort Sumter

Since we seem to be in the center of one of the biggest historical revisionism storms in living memory, and since Civil War commemorations are offering plenty of opportunity for gale force winds, it's gratifying to read this from Jamie Malanowski, who has made a study of the era:
Recently I read “Troubled Commemoration,” an account of the Civil War Centennial by Robert J. Cook, and I learned that I had experienced exactly what the centennial organizers envisioned: an event that promoted tourism and commercial enterprise and, oh yeah, taught a little bit of history as well.

I also learned that people besides me also had a good centennial (in 1961). Segregationists, for example, were able to turn the centennial of the war into a celebration of the Confederacy. Flying the Confederate battle flag, they used secession as an origination myth for the never-defeated cause of states’ rights, which was the philosophical underpinning of the racist laws and practices they defended...

...the Emancipation Proclamation (did not) have a particularly great centennial. Political leaders in the south made it clear that this great moral landmark had no business being mixed up with a commemoration of the Civil War. So the proclamation had its own ceremony, one that put it in a Cold War context. It was cast as pivotal moment in the cause of global freedom, as something more meaningful in 1962 to Third World people who were emerging from colonialism and who had to choose between east and west, than to black Americans who were fighting for their civil rights. No African-American speakers were even part of the program until Thurgood Marshall, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, was added at the last minute.
Yes, I have noticed that one of the enduring traits of the American love of freedom has been the exclusionary way it is applied to its own citizens, as the tone deafness of Teabaggery makes so abundantly clear. And not for nothing did Gore Vidal refer to us as The United States of Amnesia. Malanowski brings it home:
The only comfort that comes from reading Cook’s book is the realization that thanks to the struggles of so many of our fellow citizens, we live in a much better country today. But 50 years later, as we enter the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, we must realize that for those of us who care about history and this particular event, work still remains to be done. There remains a basic ignorance about the Civil War, an ignorance that fosters myths and fabrications, and deforms our understanding of ourselves.

For example, when asked about the cause of the war, far too many people will say that there were many reasons. Slavery was one; states rights, tariffs and northern aggression were others. This is sad, because when you read the words spoken by the leaders of the rebellion, when you read their secession ordinances, there is only one reason: slavery — the preservation of slavery, the extension of slavery, the expansion of slavery.

Six hundred thousand Americans did not die for anything as nebulous as states rights or tariffs. They died because slaveholders wanted to preserve their human property and expand their slaveholding empire, and they were willing to demolish the union and bring tragedy to nearly every family in this land in order to protect their right to own human beings.
Bless their hearts.


Via Mark Thoma, David Cay Johnston wonders why decades of having it their own way haven't yet demonstrated to the Right that their economic sacred cow is a sham:
For three decades we have conducted a massive economic experiment, testing a theory known as supply-side economics. The theory goes like this: Lower tax rates will encourage more investment, which in turn will mean more jobs and greater prosperity—so much so that tax revenues will go up, despite lower rates. The late Milton Friedman, the libertarian economist who wanted to shut down public parks because he considered them socialism, promoted this strategy. Ronald Reagan embraced Friedman’s ideas and made them into policy when he was elected president in 1980.

For the past decade, we have doubled down on this theory of supply-side economics with the tax cuts sponsored by President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, which President Obama has agreed to continue for two years.

You would think that whether this grand experiment worked would be settled after three decades. You would think the practitioners of the dismal science of economics would look at their demand curves and the data on incomes and taxes and pronounce a verdict, the way Galileo and Copernicus did when they showed that geocentrism was a fantasy because Earth revolves around the sun (known as heliocentrism). But economics is not like that. It is not like physics with its laws and arithmetic with its absolute values.

Tax policy is something the framers left to politics. And in politics, the facts often matter less than who has the biggest bullhorn.
And as in everything else, it's the rich who have the biggest and the best. And the bull coming out of that horn includes 9 myths that he enumerates and eviscerates in the article (the poor pay higher relative taxes than the rich; some corporate tax breaks destroy jobs) before finishing up with this:
Here is a question to ask yourself: We started down this road with Reagan’s election in 1980 and upped the ante in this century with George W. Bush.

How long does it take to conclude that a policy has failed to fulfill its promises? And as you think of that, keep in mind George Washington. When he fell ill his doctors followed the common wisdom of the era. They cut him and bled him to remove bad blood. As Washington’s condition grew worse, they bled him more. And like the mantra of tax cuts for the rich, they kept applying the same treatment until they killed him.

Luckily we don’t bleed the sick anymore, but we are bleeding our government to death.
The leeches are passing votes in the Capitol. And the doctors who apply them are celebrating their latest bonuses and looking forward to bigger ones in the future.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our Shiny International Face

This is how they see us outside our sacred borders:
The world had better start paying attention to the US government’s inability to govern. The prevailing mood over this has been strangely complacent. Six months of the fiscal year gone and only now a ramshackle budget? Government brought to the brink of shutdown over trifling disagreements?
And on Ryan's Big Idea:
Unfortunately, the Republicans’ plan is no good. In the first place, it offers no basis for compromise with Democrats. The paradox of US politics is that the system, with all its checks and balances, insists on compromise, whereas its practitioners – now more than ever – see compromise as defeat. Every American reveres the constitution; every politician and political activist recoils at the outcome it was designed to provide.
And wrapping it up:
Forget the comic squabble over fiscal 2011. What counts is the long-term fiscal outlook. It is not funny, and the solution to the problem is nowhere in sight.
That about nails it. We are seen as a 10-car pileup, and there's no ambulance on the way, because we cut the funding.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

With Regard to the Parrots of the Beltway....

...I want a moratorium on the use of the word "serious". Seriously.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Kid Who Wrecked Your Bike Blames You For Breaking His Arm When He Did It

On raising the debt limit, from a guy who's been on the public tit for a minute:
“We want to see real structural, cultural-type changes tied to this debt ceiling. We’re not interested in a one-off kind of savings, or anything small,” said Representative Mick Mulvaney, a first-term Republican from South Carolina. “There has got to be game-changing kinds of changes to get us to vote for it.”

He dismissed warnings about default as “just posturing,” and said Democrats should bear the responsibility for passing any measure to increase the borrowing limit.

“It’s their debt,” he said. “Make them do it. That’s my attitude.”
Here's a typical Teabagger hood ornament who either has no problem lying bald-faced because it makes his nihilistic agenda sound better, or is so ignorant of the last 10 years that he missed the ratcheting up of the national debt under his heartthrob Dubya. To its credit and my own amazement, the Times points out that Bush was also responsible for that debt. What, no paragraphs of "some say...others believe..."? It does go on to point out that as the rest of the world's financial markets watch in dismay, our inability to come to an accord on raising the debt ceiling could seriously disrupt the world economy. Professional economy-disruptor Robert Rubin wouldn't like it, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But look out! Here come the usual suspects to the rescue:
So attention is turning to a bipartisan “Gang of Six” in the Senate. The senators, three from each party, have met for 10 months to negotiate a comprehensive plan on taxes, entitlement programs and military spending. They have considered recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission in December.

“It would be nice to have it in a package form by the debt-limit” debate, said Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican of Georgia. But even if the six agree, he added, “hitting everyone else with something this major, it’s going to take some time to be digested. Plus you’ve got to go through the various committees.”
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.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

If Not For That Goddamn Professional Left....

I'm not going to go into it. You can read it here for yourself. This is my weary response:
Good job cutting loose all the thoughtful, genuinely concerned electorate who had faith in Obama and watched that faith betrayed by bullshit excuses over time. Nothing says “Please hear my side of it” like continuous ad hominem rants against those who you want to listen.

And minorities who are continually ignored? How about American Indians? When is the last time I read extended, repeated, and heartfelt posts on Balloon Juice about the wrongs they experience daily?

When he was elected, against all seeming odds, Obama was given a chance to put into practice all the ideals he constantly professed on the campaign trail. And we know he won’t get everything he wanted….but that could be understandable if one could point to even one extended fight he put up for any of those ideals. Instead, he has thrown one after another of those ideals under the bus, (to use a popular trope) and each time has tried to spin it to appear he has fought the good fight, and that the result has been “historic”, if not the outcome he had devoutly to be wished. The poor, the homeless, the forgotten, the people on the edge or in the deep oubliettes Bush created and Obama codified—-do you really expect these teeming masses to step back and say, “It’s OK, Obama gave it his best shot.” No. Because he didn’t, and every day people hurt and die because of his decisions to play the odds instead of fighting for what is right, and what his own campaign promises made clear.

Game is over. He is not the person I thought I was voting for, and that is not my fault.
Enough with the circling of the wagons. This long-game bushwa of relying on not getting what you want immediately for the delayed gratification of getting what you want eventually, is simply not working. If you can't get what you want, and you can't even get what you need, the very least you should do is prevent the opposition from getting either.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Please, Sir--Can I Have Some More?

If the public wants that, the public is a ass.

Sadism as Ideology

Esquire nails the sado-sexual zeitgeist powering up the creeps on Capitol Hill:
And the sadism is running now through the institutions of government. We have made our peace with torture to the extent that support for it now is as much a litmus test for being a Republican as opposition to abortion is. (The Democrats, of course, choose to deplore it without condemning it.) The Supreme Court's majority opinion in the recent Thompson V. Connick decision — delivered, fittingly enough, by Justice Clarence Thomas, the walking Freudian petri dish who once opined that he saw nothing wrong with chaining inmates to a post in the hot sun — pretty much advises a man who was stuck on death row for fourteen years because of egregious prosecutorial misconduct to stop wasting the Supreme Court's time and be grateful his sorry ass wasn't fried a decade ago.

And, in the Congress, there is Congressman Paul Ryan, who is angling right now to make a career out of political sadism...

Paul Ryan is a thoroughgoing fraud. He went through high school and most of college on Social Security survivor benefits after his father's death. He voted for almost all the Bush programs — including both off-the-books wars — that ballooned the deficit he so piously condemns now. And this week, as he rolled out his lunatic conception of a federal budget, Paul Ryan produced the definitive statement of his political philosophy: There are those Americans who deserve to live and those Americans who don't. Period. All of the former are very, very wealthy. All of the latter are poor, or struggling, or old. Paul Ryan believes the true mission of government is to bring as much pain to the parasites as it can because, by doing so, it can liberate the genius of those people who deserve to live. When Paul Ryan dreams of a free nation, it is one in which the seventy-two-year-old spouses of seventy-five-year-old patients are free to go out and shop in a rigged insurance market for the $100,000-plus they're going to need over a lifetime of tending to that patient. If they insisted on feeding themselves, and even risking the odd vacation, over the course of their working lives and they failed to anticipate what might befall them, then the spouse is going to have to starve and the patient is just going to have to sit there in his own filth, until market forces determine that they should die.

Look at him when he talks about dismantling the hard-won protections of the shrinking middle class. He is so positively lubricious about it that his teeth seem to be sweating. Pain (not his) purifies the nation. Pain (not his) makes us free. This is what Paul Ryan dreams of when he dreams of a free people.
Excerpts don't do it justice.

Why is it that the most sensible assessments of our current mess always read like one, long, tortured scream?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

My Emancipation Proclamation

On the heels of Obama's election-mongering kickoff, I found Glenn Greenwald's observation to be right on time:
One thing is for certain: right now, the Democratic Party is absolutely correct in its assessment that kicking its base is good politics. Why is that? Because they know that they have inculcated their base with sufficient levels of fear and hatred of the GOP, so that no matter how often the Party kicks its base, no matter how often Party leaders break their promises and betray their ostensible values, the base will loyally and dutifully support the Party and its leaders (at least in presidential elections; there is a good case that the Democrats got crushed in 2010 in large part because their base was so unenthusiastic).

In light of that fact, ask yourself this: if you were a Democratic Party official, wouldn't you also ignore -- and, when desirable, step on -- the people who you know will support you no matter what you do to them? That's what a rational, calculating, self-interested, unprincipled Democratic politician should do: accommodate those factions which need accommodating (because their support is in question), while ignoring or scorning the ones whose support is not in question, either because they will never vote for them (the hard-core right) or will dutifully canvass, raise money, and vote for them no matter what (the Democratic base). Anyone who pledges unconditional, absolute fealty to a politician -- especially 18 months before an election -- is guaranteeing their own irrelevance.
And I'd say all the efforts of my husband and his political friends and connections during the last election were thrown into perfect irrelevance after deed was done and the oath was taken. Despite the fact that Obama's networks continue to ply us with never-ending e-mails, the connection has been broken. Time and again we have watched him betray his own promises and ostensible ideals, and time and again we have watched him throw in the towel before the fight even began. And when we dared to complain, we were called names and made the butt of his mouthpieces' jokes, and it was made known to us in no uncertain terms that we were to sit down and shut up until he decided it was time for us to elect him again. In the meantime, he continued to sell us out to his Treasury cadre and cave to the bellowing brutes of the John Birch Society and the Chick Publications yokels of Christian Reconstructionism. The choice as I see it now rests on how we want our deaths served up to us: fairly quickly with no bullshit, as the New Social Darwinist Party intends, or in the piecemeal death-of-a-thousand fashion that has become Obama's trademark way of giving the Right everything it asks for. And don't tell me how he's done some good things. Even George Bush signed into being the largest national protected area that ever existed in the United States. But does it really matter to the children of Iraq who lost their eyes and arms?

I have no interest in being played for a sucker anymore. All through my adult life I've had a history of voting for people I believe in, and I'll be damned if I am going to stop now. Obama can kiss my ass, and get his rich buddies on Wall Street to knock on doors for him.

The Right-Wing Solution to Breeding Strays: Build Your Own Death Panel!

Robert Pear has an amusing angle on the Paul Ryan/Radical Right jihad on sick people in the New York Times:
"But while saving large sums for the federal government, the proposals on Medicaid and Medicare could shift some costs to beneficiaries and to the states."
"COULD"? Is that some kind of attempt to fudge the obvious? The plan is quite clear, and has been ever since Ryan rolled out his loathsome "roadmap": cut spending by taking away the safety net and thus reducing people's ability to access heath care. Throw them a tiny, inadequate bone guaranteed to shrink as their hunger grows, and direct them to the free market to waste what little they get on high deductibles and high co-pays. The fact that they will get less health care, and by extension become sicker and sicker, is offset in callous right-wing minds by the Holy Grail of reduction in health care spending.

There is nothing innovative or admirable about this kind of thinking. Of course you reduce government spending by cutting off money to sick people and people who are trying not to be sick. We could also save money by cutting off the funding to arm our military while telling them to buy their own weapons in the free market. We could save money by cutting off payments to Congress while telling them to buy their own offices and perks. But how many people would join the military or run for office? The real thinking behind this kind of proposal was revealed last year by Republican South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer when he said that feeding the poor just allows them to keep breeding. To these extremists, the needy or potential needy are nothing but stray, breeding animals, and their solutions are the equivalent of the shelter killing room.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Simon Legree Was Really Just Lending His Productive Genius to the World

Here is the future for labor in this country if the union-bashers and the radical right-wing extremists get their way.

The Triumph of the 1%

I guess this (via Yglesias) makes it official:


The Democratic party is now as snuggled up to business and corporate interests as the Republicans. And note how the drop in business PAC money to Repugs in the last 2 election cycles equates to the increases to Dems. And as the article demonstrates further down, the contributions given by labor--that bugaboo of our kleptocracy and the Pavlovian bell of the lumpenbourgeoisie--have been miniscule compared to the flood of cash from the Chamber of Commerce, its dons, and its minions. At this point, business knows it really doesn't matter who gets in anymore, because their kept pols will be taking care of them regardless.

As Joseph Stiglitz knows, it's nothing more than the 1% taking care of itself.

I believe that our Darwin-hating electorate would find all this eminently satisfying (survival of the fittest and all that) if they only had the brains to grasp it. But they don't have to...their betters are doing it for them. When they wake up one day with their entire extended families crammed into one rented apartment because the house went into foreclosure and Grandma has no safety net, and doing self-surgery in the bathroom because they can't afford the glorious free market health system, and going to work with bronchitis because they can't afford to take a day off from the blessedly union-free Wal-Mart where they ended up having to work, the reactionary Right will find new scapegoats for them to blame, scapegoats whose powerlessness and irrelevance will ensure that no serious challenge will ever be mounted to the real criminals behind their woes.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Unbearable Cruelty of Republican Toadying

I long ago stopped trying to chronicle the many outrages against humanity committed in the last year by the ideological extremists of the Republican party, aided and abetted by the corporatist/conservative wing of the Democratic party. But one odor wafts higher than every other stink being emitted by the ALEC-seeded legislation now being flung like shit from the monkey houses of states' capitols right now: the war on working people:
The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill in March that would establish the deepest and most far-reaching cuts in unemployment benefits in the nation. Like the law signed in Michigan on Monday, the measure would reduce the number of weeks the unemployed could collect benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 20.

But the House proposal in Florida — in a high-unemployment state that already has some of the lowest benefits — takes it one step further by tying benefits to the unemployment rate. If the rate falls, so do the number of weeks of benefits. If the rate dips below 5 percent, the jobless would collect only 12 weeks of benefits, the lowest level.

This has workers worried in Florida, where the unemployment rate, while continuing to inch down, is 11.5 percent, considerably higher than the nation’s rate of 8.9 percent. Michigan’s rate is 10.4 percent...

The House version, which would take effect Aug. 1 if signed into law and affect people who apply after that date, would also make it easier for businesses to fire employees, who would then not be eligible for unemployment benefits..
This, in a state with 11.5% unemployment. I won't even go into the heart-breaking vignettes the story outlines for the age 60+ Floridians living this nightmare; you can read them for yourself. The clown behind this brainstorm claims creating jobs is the most important goal (this is the usual doublespeak parroted by these ALECheads just before they turn the screws on the working classes), and to do that, "business" needs help from the state. Help like throwing everyone off the dole and into the street, so that now-desperate people who line up by the hundreds for a shot at a couple dozen jobs will become even more desperate.

Make no mistake; this is not about creating jobs, this is about wage repression. Business has made record-level profit and sat on record excess money and capital during this ghastly period, while avoiding hiring by squeezing the last drops of productivity out of its skeleton crews of employees. Every excuse business has given for why it hasn't been hiring has been exposed for the lie it is. As those reasons have been eliminated, one after another, by a servile Congress and administration, hiring remains anemic.

Contrary to the propaganda vomiting out of the US Chamber of Commerce, business is NOT about creating jobs. Business is about making profit for those at the top, and payroll is an inconvenient barrier to this goal. If business could entirely eliminate all payroll, all employees, and carry on entirely with machinery instead, it would do so in a heartbeat. In the interim, what business wants is the elimination of its taxes, the elimination of all labor, safety, financial and environmental regulations, and the elimination of its workers' rights and safety nets. Helpless workers are the next best thing to serfs, and in this regressing-to-feudal culture, serfs are blessedly cheap, interchangeable, and disposable to the puppet-masters who pull the strings of the kept politician.