Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GOP Letting It All Crumble Because They Like Bombs Better Than Bridges

The opposite of what we
should be doing right now.
Government spending is down, deficits have been halved, and the public sector is smaller since Obama took office. Of course, this is the opposite of what a Progressive government would be doing with so many people out of work and so much infrastructure crumbling.

Democrats, especially progressive ones, but even the President (a moderate Democrat), have been pushing for more infrastructure spending. Republicans will not pass any. They won't even pass minimal funding for an Infrastructure Bank, which used to be a Bipartisan idea, supported by Former Senator Hutchison of Texas, for one.

Now they seem intent on letting our infrastructure, which makes us more productive, pays for itself, and helps keep American companies here, crumble.

If terrorists were killing as many Americans as our crumbling infrastructure, I wonder how much Republicans would be willing to borrow and spend to invade and occupy a country that had nothing to do with it?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Planet Was Really Hot Last Month and Damn Do I Miss Intrade


November was record warm.
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2013 was record highest for the 134-year period of record, at 0.78°C (1.40°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (55.2°F).
The November monthly GISS temperature anomaly was 0.77 above the 1951-1980 base period used by Intrade, where I was buying the monthly GISS temperature anomaly to be more than 0.75 C for 25 cents a share (binary market, pays off $10).

If I bet the same amount of money 39 months in a row and lost, then a win in the 40th would cover all my losses. I started betting at Intrade in Dec 2011. So, now it is 24 months and I would have had a win. At that rate, one is almost doubling one's money, with a guarantee of higher rates of return if one understands that temperatures are rising.

Considering the enthusiasm of the deniers over their (unskewed) "pause" and the amount of time it had been since an anomaly over .75, I could have been paying even less than 25 cents per share for the over 0.75 market.

Too bad the American Civics Exchange contest (which I won the $1000 second prize in last month) won't be doing climate markets... But if you want to join and make political and economic predictions, go play! Use my user name "supak" when you sign up; I think I still have a few thousand in bonus play money to collect for signing people up.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Never Been Confirmed by the Facts: Piling on the Trickle Downers

From the Economic Populist
Guess who said this:
Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. 
This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system. 
Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

Nope, not me. Not Paul Krugman. Not Jared Bernstein. Not Dean Baker.

It's Pope Francis.

Now, if the Pope can see through the right wing bullshit and say something publicly against it, I think he might want to start riding around in that bullet proof Popemobile.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Donald Rumsfeld Said Bin Laden's Mountain Lair was Serious Business

The fictoid of Bin Laden's mountain fortress
Paul Waldman has a great piece that will defibrillate your memory of the kind of BS that was coming out of the Bush-Cheney administration after they got caught with their pants down--after W himself had told the CIA agent that gave him the PDB on August 6, 2001 entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

Here's a paragraph and the footnote from Paul:
The answer, in case you've forgotten, is that [Cheney] and so many other Bush administration officials were basically enacting a fantasy in which the enemy—"the terrorists"—were not actually a bunch of semi-literate religious fanatics who got incredibly lucky one time with an extraordinarily low-tech attack, but were actually evil geniuses, had unlimited resources at their disposal, and could execute complex, highly technical schemes with multiple interlocking parts that enabled them to do things like get close enough to the Vice President to deliver him a fatal electric shock. And of course, we can't close Guantanamo and house the prisoners now there in supermax prisons in the United States, from which no inmate has ever escaped, because they're terrorists, and who knows what super-powers they might have developed in the fantastically well-equipped lab in their hollowed-out-mountain lair? 1 
1 I joke, but do you remember Bin Laden's mountain fortress? It was quite a remarkable feat of engineering—check out this conversation between Tim Russert and Donald Rumsfeld, going over all its amazing details. "A ventilation system!" marveled Russert. "The entrances large enough to drive trucks and even tanks!" Even computer systems and telephone systems. It's a very sophisticated operation!" "Oh, you bet," responded the Secretary of Defense. "This is serious business. And there's not one of those. There are many of them." You may also remember that the mountain fortress never existed. It was all made up.
It's amazing alright. Go read the story of how this particular piece of bullshit made it out of Rumsfeld's mouth,  from Edward J Epstein, and how, perhaps even more horrifying, the press ate it up.

Monday, October 21, 2013

From a Conversation on Political Philosophy: The Conservative Infatuation with The Violence of Empire and Inequality

I highly recommend this conversation between Corey Robin and Daniel Larison. Maybe now I'll get off my lazy ass and order Robin's book, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin . Maybe it will stir up distant memories from philosophy classes that will make me better understand the underpinnings of today's conservatives. After reading Robin's blogging for years, I'm certain I'll learn something.

I took a few notes while reading the riveting conversation, when I wasn't busy looking up topics like pan-Slavism, which I had forgotten about. Mostly I was interested in Larison's apparent embarrassment in regards to the right's infatuation with violence.
Daniel Larison: "...there is no disputing that most conservatives in most Western countries in the past two centuries have supported their governments’ foreign wars. I am still not persuaded that this is because there is a conservative infatuation with violence. There are several other factors that may help account for it: deference to authority"
If authority is violent, and you defer to it, is this not an infatuation w/ violence? Is deferring to violence not support for it? If they're not infatuated with the violence (and I think they are, based on how many times I heard "nuke all Muslims" during debates about Iraq), then they are infatuated with the perpetrators of violence. So infatuated, in fact, that rather than think through the conservative implications of imperialism, they not only defer to the violent authority, but they use violence against those who oppose it.

I was physically attacked many times by people who got angry that they couldn't argue with me about the war. I was attacked a few times by people who attempted to make a coherent argument for the Iraq war, but found themselves floundering to the point that they had to resort to throwing a punch. I argued with conservatives and some neo-liberals, some of them in my own family, and was eventually told that either I should support my president in a time of war, or I was a traitor. This seems more like "the distorting effects of nationalism" Larison lists as another possible explanation for the tendency for violence on the right, but if someone allows nationalism to distort their view to such an extent as to accuse someone of treason (punishable by death), doesn't this expose an infatuation with violence that is tempered only by a desire not to get one's hands bloody?

To this day, I hear people try to defend the Iraq war (mostly lame arguments involving the "everyone thought they had WMD" BS, which isn't really a defense but a spreading of blame). Is this infatuation with defending the violent Bush administration not itself an infatuation with violence? If not directly, then indirectly through continued support for those who committed it?
Corey Robin: "the primary audience for violence on the right is the perpetrator and/or his/her allies. In other words, the right sees violence as primarily a source of rejuvenation among a ruling class that has gone soft. "
Is this not the best explanation for the support of GW Bush's $6 trillion dollar war? And even if you don't think the "deference to authority" is, in itself, violence, then isn't the right's continued defense of the Iraq war a result of the primary audience for violence on the right being the allies of the perpetrator? Isn't the right's continued defense of Iraq an attempt to milk every last ounce of rejuvenation from the violence in order to toughen up the right that has, supposedly, gone soft?

It reminds me of the Lee Atwater quote about the southern strategy (the audio of which was recently released). He says that you start of saying "nigger, nigger" in order to get votes for the GOP in the south, and then that starts to backfire, so you start talking about bussing, taxes, more "abstract" things that still, essentially, say "nigger, nigger!" In this case, it's hippie punching. Right wingers still want to punch hippies, and many of them still do, but that kind of lashing out tends to backfire, makes you look bad. So, now you're talking about opposing a violent, power crazed President who's lying us into a war, you must be a traitor who would be toast in any other country, so you should surrender to the power of the authority that knows what's good for you. It's certainly more abstract than a right cross to the nose, but the infatuation with violence has merely gone from actually throwing the punch oneself, to wishing that the powerful authority to which one defers would put you to death for your non-Patriotic use of the 1st Amendment. Just because your hands don't have blood on them doesn't mean you're not violent. It just means you don't like the mess, so you defer to an authority--a kind of outsourcing of the violence.

I often think of how, when he was running for office, GW Bush used the phrase "compassionate conservatism." Is the continued defense of the Bush administration, with a gaping lack of reference to compassion, and a continued reliance on the idea of spreading democracy at the barrel of a gun, not the  toughening up of a philosophy that many on the right saw as "too soft." Is not the current fervor to stop people from getting affordable insurance, or to cut food stamps, or to cut minorities off from the voting booth, or to blame the 47% who are moochers for all our problems, aren't these all methods to "toughen up" the right? Aren't these all just more abstract ways of punching hippies?
Larison: "If we assume that concentrating wealth and increasing economic inequality were goals of the right, I suppose I would have to agree that there has been success of a sort. But I don’t consider either of those things to be desirable or consistent with conservative assumptions."
If economic inequality were not goals of the right, then what is trickle down economics? Are we to believe that conservatives actually believed that if we cut taxes on the rich that would lead to more economic equality? And since Larison admitted earlier that a large part of conservatism is deference to authority, then isn't having more wealth in the hands of the supposedly deserving meritocracy an outcome the right would desire?

Anyway, great conversation. Very educational. Go read the whole thing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wingnuts Say Obama Has Exploded US Debt Which Is, Unfortunately, Wrong

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis
based on CBO estimates.
The more I listen to elected Republicans, who, thank goodness, just won't stop talking, the more I realize that they're bullshitters. They must know basic facts like the size of US deficits and debt. They must know that the deficit is falling. They must know that the current debt cannot, in any honest economic sense of the word, be blamed on President Obama. But they don't care. They have an impression they want to make, so they don't care what's true and what's not. They just say whatever they have to say in order to convey the impression they want to make, which is, of course, that Democrats are big borrowers and spenders, and they are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Of course, anyone with even a loose grasp of facts knows why this is bullshit. But, apparently, some people still need help with the facts. So, occasionally, I set people straight. It's especially fun to set wingnuts straight, although it gets old when you point out how wrong they are, and they just disappear, only to come back some other day with more bullshit that shows that they just ignored the actual facts.

Today, I see that Bloomberg has a poll that illustrates this break with reality that Tea Party Republicans have suffered, and continue to suffer, because they believe the BS from the people they elected. They allow the impression being made by the bullshitters to take root in their walled off minds, and they pick and choose the information they need to feed that impression until it festers into a boil that sorely needs to be lanced. If only they weren't so afraid of needles.
Two-thirds of regular Republicans believe the federal budget deficit has grown this year and 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans agree. Both are wrong; the budget deficit is projected to fall this year from $1.1 trillion to $642 billion.
That's just this year. Go back a ways, and their delusion gets even stronger. For example, tell them Obama has cut the deficit in half since he took office from GW Bush, and they often become apoplectic, if they don't just leave and avoid the subject. They'll wail about how Obama sent the deficit soaring to such heights that even he could keep it up.

So, the real kicker is when you show them what the money is for. Like any good bullshitter, they'll say I'm a weak, pathetic libtard for blaming Bush. When the truth is, for centuries in this country, those described as weak and pathetic were the ones who knowingly chose to believe fantasy over reality. I'm looking at you, Confederate States of America.

The chart at the top of this post lists the sources of the current deficits that are adding to our debt. It is a stark reminder of the fact that any Republican who claims they are the party of limited government is bullshitting you and will probably ask for a campaign contribution right after doing so. The entire GOP has become a country club of con artists, and their base is the mark.

Source: ZFacts
The chart at the right is the one that should be shoved in the face of any bullshitting wingnut who dares to suggest that Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility. And note that anyone capable of putting chart A and chart B together will realize that the debt spike under Obama is really legacy spending from that codpiece wearing hero of the Mission Accomplished wingnuts, GW Bush, from his wars (the Iraq war will eventually cost over $6 trillion), his tax cuts (which we were told would create millions of jobs and resulted in the worst job creation record on record), TARP (started by Bush and finished by Obama, but only necessary because of Bush), recovery measures from the Little Bush Depression (like the stimulus, which was one-third tax cuts, something Republicans refuse to believe), and the reduced revenues due to the Little Bush Depression.

One last fact to keep in mind on this last graph: When calculating debt as a percent of GDP, it's important to remember that GW Bush's final GDP, in 4Q2008, was negative 9%. When GDP spikes down like that, and emergency spending goes up (job losses were at 800,000 per month when Obama took office and  in the three months before the stimulus passed, the economy cut loose 2.2m workers), the debt as a percent of GDP will, of course, go up. To blame that on Obama is the ultimate in bullshit.

"Private fixed investment as a percentage of potential GDP.
When it gets back to historical norms, the free lunch
on infrastructure investment will be over."
Neil Irwin, Washington Post
What this whole argument misses is that cutting the deficit right now is the worst thing to do. We should be be doing what the Congressional Progressive Caucus's People's Budget would do: borrow more at currently low interest rates, buy cheap materials, and put unemployed people back to work fixing our crumbling infrastructure, which would more than pay for itself. This won't happen, of course, as long as the GOP controls the House. But if they keep spewing their bullshit, and enough people learn the truth, maybe we can extend the half life of their polling plunge, take advantage of the hidden weakness of gerrymandering, and then keep the bullshitters talking long enough to replace them with some people who want to put this country back to work.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Scalia Is the Right Wing's Version of the West Wing's Justice Roy Ashland

Fictional Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roy Ashland
In season five of The West Wing, the great Irish actor Milo O'Shea played aging Supreme Court Justice Roy Ashland, whose mental deterioration had the White House worried when he wrote an opinion in trochiac tetrometer. I'd have loved to see the reaction in the west wing to Justice Antonin Scalia's interview in New York Magazine today.
"...power tends to corrupt."
Lack of self-awareness can be a sign denial (in his case, projection), or some worse problem, like anosognosia.
"If Congress can get its act together, it can roll over the president. That’s what the framers thought. They said you have to enlist your jealousy against the legislature in a ¬democracy—that will be the source of tyranny."
I don't disagree, but I wonder if he thinks the logic applies to his branch enlisting its jealousy against the legislature? When he says one thing, then does another, the hypocrisy appears to be politically motivated, and he just sounds like the Bullshitter he is. But perhaps his logical inconsistencies and lack of self awareness have really been flare ups from an undiagnosed condition?

Here he is on the Defense of Marriage Act, in his dissent in US v Windsor:
"We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation."
This is precisely the opposite of his opinion (joining Roberts) in Shelby County, Alabama v Holder, where he joined in striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which had been reauthorized by a near-unanimous Congress.

Of course, Jennifer Senior doesn't follow up with any questions about this glaring inconsistency in the long interview. Damn liberal media being so mean to him and all... can't be too tough or conservatives won't agree to interviews (looking at you, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, et al)...

This guy is such a stouthearted originalist that "cruel and unusual" punishment does not include flogging, so of course being put in jail for butt sex is fine.
"...if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional. A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional. I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says—Whack! [Pounds his fist.]—STUPID BUT ¬CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT ¬CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! ¬STUPID BUT ¬CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one."
Someone please ask Justin A. Frank to write Scalia on the Couch next. I'd like to know more about the proximity of his affinity for flogging and his pounding of his fist to mimic the stamping motion.

Just how stout is this stouthearted originalist?
What about sex discrimination? Do you think the Fourteenth Amendment covers it? 
Of course it covers it! No, you can’t treat women differently, give them higher criminal sentences. Of course not.
He tries to weasel a little as to why he's given a different answer on that before. Fact is, the people who passed the 14th didn't have women in mind. The Supremes themselves determined that the 14th did not apply to women in Minor v. Happersett (more accurately, that decision claimed voting was not a constitutional right). It took the 19th Amendment to overturn that "originalist" decision. Go read the whole article to watch him contort himself into defending unequal treatment of women as NOT discrimination, like prohibiting women from combat. I'd have loved to hear him expand on that list, but alas, onward we must go, because Liberal Media!
"You can’t go to a movie—or watch a television show for that matter—without hearing the constant use of the F-word—including, you know, ladies using it."
We all know what this gesture means
here in the US, Antonin.
Scalia thinks ladies saying fuck is more coarsening to society than his words on the Voting Rights Act:
And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.
My Italian wife says "Fuck you, Tony."

Here's Justice Scalia's contribution to a less coarse society:
The one thing I did think, as he said those somewhat welcoming things to gay men and women, is, Huh, this really does show how much our world has changed. I was wondering what kind of personal exposure you might have had to this sea change. 
I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.
Have any of them come out to you?
No. No. Not that I know of.
Has your personal attitude softened some?
Toward what?
Homosexuality. 
I don’t think I’ve softened. I don’t know what you mean by softened.
If you talk to your grandchildren, they have different opinions from you about this, right?
I don’t know about my grandchildren. I know about my children. I don’t think they and I differ very much. But I’m not a hater of homosexuals at all.
Evasive much? But note that Scalia's son also doesn't exactly hate homosexuals, he just denies they exist.

Maybe Scalia and his son do differ, and Scalia believes homosexuals exist. His comment ("I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual") seems to suggest that he thinks they exist. So there's a big difference with his son.

The obvious point is that when Scalia says he doesn't hate homosexuals, it seems to not fit with his desire to declare sodomy laws constitutional (Lawrence v. Texas). It does not fit with his desire to allow states to deny gay couples marriage rights. But even if we don't look at his record, we can just see what he's said about homosexuals.

He joked about sodomy laws being like laws about flag pole sitting. He suggested that laws banning homosexual sex were like laws against murder. He suggested they were like laws banning child porn, incest, and bestiality. But he doesn't hate you, gay people, so relax. It's not like he thinks you're the work of the devil.

Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
No.
It’s because he’s smart.
Smart like a homosexual fox. I wonder what Scalia would think of the proposition that the Devil is so smart he actually wrote the Bible? Maybe Satan has just gotten lazy and prefers to watch cable.
I watched one episode of—what is it? Duck Dynasty?
What?
I don’t watch it regularly, but I’m a hunter. I use duck calls …
We know.
"It did not involve a lawsuit against Dick Cheney as a private individual," Scalia said in response to a question from the audience of about 600 people. "This was a government issue. It's acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That's all I'm going to say for now. Quack, quack."
Later he says his statement refusing to recuse himself from Cheney's case was his most "heroic" opinion. Gotta get in a shout out to his partner in crime. Maybe Scalia would feel differently about hunting, and his old hunting partner, had Scalia gone on a different hunting trip with Cheney.

Scalia's tell that he has a good hand. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
Of course, it's next to impossible to interview what might be the biggest bullshitter in the country without accidentally exposing some bullshit.
Here’s another thing I find unexpected about you: that you play poker. Do not take this the wrong way, but you strike me as the kind of person who would be a horrible poker player.
Shame on you! I’m a damn good poker player.
But aren’t you the kind of guy who always puts all of his cards on the table? I feel like you would be the worst bluffer ever.
You can talk to the people in my poker set.

Do you have a tell?
What?
A tell.
What’s a tell?
What’s a tell? Are you joking? 
No.
Scalia with a bad hand. Getty Images, via.
Hey, Antonin, how do I get in your poker set? I regret that I couldn't have played you before you learned what a "tell" is, but I'm thinking even knowing about such a thing won't stop you from having one.

And, isn't gambling in DC, Virginia, and Maryland illegal? Can a Supreme Court justice be indicted? If he's convicted, can we replace him? Or do we have to watch him deteriorate in prison, while he decides cases from his cell?
But how will you know when it’s time to go? It doesn’t seem like you have anything to worry about at the moment, but it’s interesting to hear you even flick at that.
Oh, I’ll know when I’m not hitting on all eight cylinders.
Are you sure? All these people in ¬public life—athletes in particular—never have a clue.
No, I’ll know.
Hopefully, he'll read this interview. But, even if he was aware that he's losing it, he most likely won't resign if there's a Democrat in the White House. I'm sure he figures even if he is losing it, he'd still be a better justice than his replacement.

My proof for this? Just witness the level of narcissism already on display here in his praise for his heroic lone dissent in Morrison v. Olson, which declared the Independent Counsel Act constitutional.
I care about the reasoning. And the reasoning in Morrison, I thought, was devastating—devastating of the majority. If you ask me which of my opinions will have the most impact in the future, it probably won’t be that dissent; it’ll be some majority opinion. But it’ll have impact in the future not because it’s so beautifully reasoned and so well written. It’ll have impact in the future because it’s authoritative. That’s all that matters, unfortunately.

Respect My Authoritah!

Hopefully the literary scholars will team up with the lawyers and watch for any signs of trochiac tetrometer in Scalia's opinions from now on.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Grain of Salt to Go with a Post from a Blogger I Admire

Ratio of government spending to potential GDP, via K-Thug
John Robb's a good guy. USAF Special Forces pilot, war expert, organic gardener... Writes a great blog on asymmetrical warfare called Global Guerrillas. Also writes a terrific blog on how to make yourself more resilient, Resilient Communities. I love that blog because, for environmental reasons, being resilient is a great idea. Also saves you money.

But his big reason for being resilient is that he thinks the nation state is hollowing and out, and he apparently doesn't believe that democracy can work out the huge problems we face. While I sometimes think he might be right, simply because Republicans seem determined to ruin everything if they can't get their way, I really wish he'd get his facts straight. Repeating right wing BS talking points to convince his readers that the government is going to fail might convince some of his right wing readers to plant a garden or install some solar panels, worthwhile goals indeed, but the lack of substance to his claims tends to just make him sound like another crackpot prepper (complete with the BS on the LifeLine, or Obamaphone, program!).

And since he's apparently decided not to post my comments correcting his mistakes, and I really believe he deserves this free service, I'll do it here...

"a government shutdown is nothing new. This is the 18th shutdown in the last 37 years."

Not really. As K-Drum points out today in his series of reminders you should read on this subject:
Prior to 1980, everything kept on running pretty normally during budget impasses. True shutdowns didn't happen until after a series of Justice Department rulings at the tail end of the Carter administration. Since then, there have been a handful of shutdowns prompted by garden variety disagreements over funding levels for defense and domestic programs, but they've been so brief as to be barely noticeable. The only exception was the long shutdown of 1995, prompted by Newt Gingrich's demands. 
So when you hear someone saying that there have been loads of government shutdowns in the past and this one is really nothing new, it just isn't true. In practice, there's only been one serious shutdown in recent history, and like this one, it was the product of Republican ultimatums.
"100% at the mercy of the 535 folks sitting in Washington posturing their next political move."

Jack Sheldon was the Bill who became a Law.
Actually, we're at the mercy of about 30 - 60 Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives who apparently never saw the Jack Sheldon School House Rock where he explains how a bill becomes law. You know, Democracy! What you flew jets to protect! That you blame both sides without understanding the dynamic that is causing this doesn't really help your case.

"This time, it’s not because of your safety, but just so the egos in Washington can watch out for your best interest."

What does this even mean? The egos in Washington that are causing this are a handful of Republicans that the Speaker of the House is too chicken to stand up to. All the Democrats in the House of Representatives would/will vote for a clean CR to keep the government going. And how was the last shutdown about safety? I thought it was about Newt Gingrich throwing a temper tantrum...

"The federal government stands for FAILURE."

Tell that to the millions of seniors and disabled people who aren't starving or freezing to death thanks to Social Security, SNAP, etc. It's still a shining city on a hill to those folks...

"Aside from its spending of over 9% of the total economy, the federal government is also deep in bed in key sectors, including; agriculture via Farm Bills, food and drugs via FDA and Food Stamps, banking and finance via the 6 agencies for oversight, rental real estate via Section 8 housing, cell phones via the LifeLine program and almost a dozen major undeclared wars since World War II."

Do you have a source for your numbers? Federal spending as a percent of GDP isn't really that far outside recent historic norms, considering the fact that we just had the biggest recession since the great depression (aka, The Little Bush Depression), and spending is designed to go up during bad times. In fact, federal spending as a percent of potential GDP is actually dropping now.

Feeding America
But I'm more interested in the details. While I agree that subsidies to highly profitable corporations are not helpful and a form of market rigging by the elites who like to redistribute wealth and income upward, you are lumping a lot of things together here that are actually quite different, and some of which are quite necessary if we'd like to live in a civil society where grandma doesn't have to eat cat food and keep her house 40 degrees in the winter. Cause, you know, Grandma can't exactly build an attached greenhouse or some solar panels. For instance, "76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person." It's a very efficient program with very little waste that does a lot of good.

The FDA may be in the pockets of big pharma, (the bigger problem with drugs is that overly extended patents on drugs rip us off for about $300 billion a year), but when run by Democrats, they tend to take public safety a little more seriously than when run by Republicans who are just tools for the elites. Same with banking oversight. Republicans put foxes in charge of hen houses, and let Wall Street run wild enough to create the Little Bush Depression, while your Sr. Senator for Massachusetts is out there fighting everyday to make them more accountable. Doesn't seem fair to lump her in with the market riggers who caused the meltdown.

The "Obamaphone" program you mentioned is a favorite of wingnuts, which makes me wonder exactly where you're getting your information... The FCC recently enacted measures to save $2 billion over three years. In 2011, the program cost $1.6 billion (CEPR's handy budget calculator tells me this was 0.0452% of total spending in 2011--the horror!). And just today we found out that the strapping young bucks ripping off this government program include the wireless service providers. Odd that we don't blame these businesses for our future collapse as much as we do the "government."

And while you're well aware that I'm all for resilience, especially for environmental reasons, this kind of disingenuousness isn't helping:

"It would be easy to name billions, or trillions, of dollars of fraud and waste that goes into each and every one of these agencies and programs. Including the trillions of dollars of promises made into the future that they can’t mathematically keep (it may even be hard for them to print money fast enough to meet the demand)."

Actually, the amount of fraud and waste in our social insurance and welfare programs is surprisingly low. Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, AFDC, Section 8, all run very efficiently, and have very low rates of fraud. The idea that they are riddled with fraud is generally perpetuated by bullshitting conservatives and libertarians who care more about making a certain impression than they do about facts.

Further, our "unfunded" mandates are also overblown by the right wing blowhards. Social Security is fine for decades, at which point the relatively small shortfall could easily be made up for by lifting the cap on earnings subject to the tax, lowering payments, or increasing the tax slightly.

Via the Washington Post
The rapid rise of health care costs have slowed down, at least partially because of Obamacare. Maybe this is why the market rigging GOP is trying to stop it? Because it will fight the rapid cost increases in health care sector that are THE single issue driving our long term debt, but which also put money in the pockets of their contributors? We pay twice as much per person for health care that the rest of the civilized world. If we paid even close to what they pay, we'd have surpluses as far as we could see, even at current low historical tax revenues and high defense spending.

So, yeah. I love your work, man, but when you venture off into this stuff, it's like you're just regurgitating the BS scare tactics from Fox News. Read some Dean Baker and find out the actual facts about these things. You'll be doing your readers an even bigger favor if you use facts to make your case, instead of the right-wing detritus you're scooping up off the side of the road.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fake Climate Science Skeptic Finally Willing to Put Money Where His Mouth Is

Pat Michaels is one of George Monbiot's
Top 10 climate change deniers.
Back in January, the CATO Institute's resident climate science fake skeptic Pat "Often Wrong" Michaels wrote in the Moonie Times: "...it’s a pretty good bet that we are going to go nearly a quarter of a century without warming."

Being a life-long gambler who discovered and then lost the best bets ever--politics and climate at Intrade--I contacted him and asked, "How much?"

After much back and forth, I discovered that what he actually meant was that there would be no statistically significant warming from 1997 to 2021. OK, fine. Still a better bet than the don't pass line. So, we agreed to bet $250 on this:
Dr. Michaels is betting on no statistically significant warming (at the 95% confidence level) in the HadCRUTx data for the 25 year period starting in 1997. Scott is betting on at least that much warming.
Pat and I had the bet settled months ago, or so I thought, but I had said it was contingent on posting the bet in a public forum like a blog. Pat disappeared for a while, apparently having forgotten that little bit, so I sent him a reminder that was ignored. Finally, I called him out in the comment section of this Dr. Roy Spencer post, and he responded aggressively, calling me a liar.

Of course, he's wrong about that too. He did back out of the bet, and had refused to answer me until I called him out in a public blog full of his fellow deniers.

But whatever. Now we have our little bet. If he wins, I send $250 to Organization for Autism Research. If I win, he sends $250 to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.

Dr. Roy Spencer, official climatologist of
The Rush Limbaugh Show, whose UAH data
shows 0.138C/decade of warming since 1979.
Photo from Source Watch.
In all the flurry of finally getting Dr. Michaels to bet, I have managed to rustle up an offer from Dr. Roy Spencer (official climatologist for the Rush Limbaugh show) for another bet. Here's his first bid on this bet:
I’m also in discussions with Scott over betting on a trend that would be 1 standard deviation below the average model warming, which would be +0.162 deg. C/decade for 1997-2021, compared to the 90-model average of +0.226 deg. C/decade. 
I'm just a gambler looking for good bets, and I happen to have a pretty good understanding of the science. I'm going over the numbers and looking for advice before proceeding with the proposed bet from Roy.

What a shame we still don't have a new Intrade. I could be challenging a bunch of dittoheads to go put their money where their fat mouths are, and it wouldn't be for charity.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Mexico State Senator Willfully Ignorant of Native American "Two Spirits" People

From the PBS film Two Spirits.
If I'm quiet here, it's because I'm busy trying to keep wingnuts talking. Today's edition features New Mexico State Senator William Sharer bullshitting about the history of gay marriage, native Americans, and Alexander the Great.

Senator Sharer says, "Nowhere in Native American tradition has marriage been anything but the joining of men and women."

For those of us who care about learning things, here's something I learned recently, from Dr. Brian J. Gilley, author of Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country :
“Prior to European contact, sexuality was not a determining factor in someone’s identity,” he said. “It was the role in the community. Gender was tied to that role. Who you had sex with was not a concern. The Europeans come, Native American societies are thrust in rapid change, and some societies incorporate European ideals quickly.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Haven't We Seen More Doghouse Riley Tributes?

Sam Wang's Meta-Margin, Princeton Election Consortium
Scott Clevenger over at World O' Crap dug up some awesome quotes from the late Doghouse Riley.
Jesus, think what these people would be like without the humanizing effect of Christianity.
Since I'm a fan of poker who discovered the far superior form of gambling known as prediction markets, this one really stuck out:
“Postive expectation” is a measure of a bet’s ratio to the total pot multiplied by the odds of winning. So if you’re facing a $10 raise for a $20 pot, and your expectation of winning is even, you’d make the bet because you win $20 half the time and lose only $10 the other half. Of course, for every positive expectation there’s an equal and opposite negative expectation, and that doesn’t count your ability to estimate the chances of winning, or the rake, but then I’ve never yet met a(n amateur) gambler who didn’t tell you how much in won in Vegas while leaving out what he spent to get it. It’s the triumph of hope over mathematics, which is why schools hold bake sales and bookies don’t.
I'm really going to miss that guy.

That's a whole lot of Positive Expectation right there.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

David Brooks Channels Mike Rowe While Dean Baker Takes the Dirty Job of Cleaning Up Their Pile of Crap

David Brooks goes all Mike Rowe with the BS about skills shortages in the US labor market:
It [weak job growth] probably has to do with a skills shortage, that as technology increases, skills have got to keep up and skills are just not keeping up...
It's a dirty job, but Dean Baker slaps Brooks upside the head with some basic economic facts:
If this claim were true it would mean that there are substantial segments of the labor market where we are seeing labor shortages. That would mean that workers in some occupations would be seeing rapidly rising wages. We should also see industries or occupations where the length of the average workweek is increasing rapidly. Employers would be trying to get the workers they have to put in more hours, since they can't find additional workers. In these industries/occupations we should also see a high ratio of job openings to unemployed workers. There are no major areas of the labor market where we see this evidence of labor shortages. In other words, Brooks is just making this up out of thin air.
Mike Rowe said he'd probably vote for Romney. This tells me that the Ford spokesman is likely a corporate shill. So it shouldn't be surprising to find out that his supposed "skills gap" is really a bunch of corporate bitching that they can't find people to do these jobs because they won't raise pay enough to actually attract the qualified applicants.

On Real Time, Rowe gave the example of a Caterpillar heavy equipment company in Las Vegas (probably Cashman, which doesn't post wages on it's job listings). He claims those jobs start at 40K a year, for operating heavy machinery. He says in a few short years you can make $120,000 a year. He's full of shit.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median wage for heavy equipment operators in the United States is $41,870, an hourly wage of $20.13 per hour, as of May 2012. The average nationwide for those who operate bulldozers, backhoes, cranes and road grading machinery is slightly higher than the median, at $46,270 per year, or $22.24 per hour.
So, here's the problem. He's spewing the right wing "skills gap" BS because this is how Republicans blame "lazy" and "uneducated" kids who don't want the dirty jobs, instead of the large corporations that refuse to follow the laws of supply and demand when it comes to labor.

Private fixed investment as a percentage of potential GDP. Via Wonkblog
And these people claim to be capitalists who believe in free markets... Free markets mean supply and demand rules apply. If you need more of a supply of skilled labor, and you're not getting them, then you need to pay more for it. Since, as Mr. Baker showed, there is no rise in wages for these kinds of jobs, and there is no increase in hours worked by those already employed in these jobs, then there is no shortage.

It's an elaborate Bullshit Mountain ( Jon Stewart) constructed by our market-rigging financial elites designed to distract us from the real problems, which are lack of demand due to the housing bubble and Little Bush Depression, and lack of investment in infrastructure which would more than pay for itself by making us safer, more productive, and more competitive.

Borrowing costs are very low right now. Labor costs are low. Materials costs are low. Equipment is sitting idle. The markets are screaming at us to invest in infrastructure. What part of "buy low" don't these supposed capitalists get?


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Doghouse Riley, Bane of Punditasters, Dead at 59

True wit is nature to advantage dressed
What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed.
--Alexander Pope
Bats Left/Throws Right, Doghouse Riley's blog, has seen it's last post from the master of lambasting the "Punditasters." It was a quick joke on the Royal Baby. His penultimate post, however, was, quite fittingly, a ripping of one of his favorite targets, former Indiana Governor and once top pisser in the trickle down economy (Bush's budget director), Mitch Daniels. It begins:
“I don’t read Reason magazine.”
-Mitch “Cut and Paste” Daniels
NO, that’s not Reason’s ad campaign for this fall...
Great stuff, as usual. But now that Douglas Case has passed from this world, I'd like to pass on a real sweet taste of what he did best. Via Thers from Whiskey Fire, I find that Scott at World O' Crap, has a penchant for one of my favorite Rileyisms: Punditaster. Here's Riley in 2009 slipping Andrew Sullivan's head onto a pike:
...I've got less use for Andrew Sullivan, Punditaster, than I do for Andrew Sullivan, pudgy Melina-Mercouri-glasses-wearing fashion icon, so whatever it was that sent me there did not prepare me for his Above The Title credit: ANDREW SULLIVAN• OF NO PARTY OR CLIQUE. It's a veritable masterpiece of breathtakingly casual deceit, and I stop short of calling it a work of true genius only because I regularly inspect food labels and, frankly, Sully's got nothing on, just to pick one example among thousands, Prego™ Heart-Smart© Mushroom Sauce and its 410 mg of sodium in one 1/2 cup serving. Really, it was like clicking over to Mark Sanford's homepage and seeing "I BELIEVE IN FOLLOWING YOUR HEART" just under his name, in some ill-considered cursive font for good measure. Hey, Grizzly Adams, Jr.: you, sir, were the posterboy for political party membership that transcended rationality for almost two decades, which leaves alone your ongoing membership in a Church which insists you're going to Hell. Whatever honor accrues for having scurried off that first ship the moment you noticed she'd run aground while following your charts, it does not include getting to pretend you weren't ever on board in the first place. But thanks for adding that CLIQUE bit; one sometimes forgets that The Atlantic and "Sherman Adams Junior High Eighth Grade Dance Decoration Committee" are near synonyms these days.
He was right up there with Charlie Pierce and Hunter Thompson. So, hey, Charlie, do me a favor and watch your cholesterol, OK?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The State of Nebraska Tortured This Woman

Danielle Deaver. The lawmakers of Nebraska who voted
for their post-20-week abortion ban should be arrested
for torturing this woman.
This story has really been eating at me since I heard it via Steve Benen. The 20 week abortion ban in Nebraska forced this woman to live through 10 excruciating days, only to give birth to a baby she then had to watch die in agony.
Nebraska’s new abortion law forced Danielle Deaver to live through ten excruciating days, waiting to give birth to a baby that she and her doctors knew would die minutes later, fighting for breath that would not come.
This is torture, plain and simple. The Nebraska lawmakers who passed this ban tortured this woman. They should be arrested, tried, convicted, and put in prison for assault and torture. They should be forced to pay the medical bills, and the funeral costs. They should all be sued for pain and suffering in civil court to boot.

And then they should have to face an electorate that replaces them with reasonable people who understand that such agonizing decisions about life and death are not theirs to make.

But they won't. Because the Teabangelical mother fuckers that make up the majority of voters in Nebraska are perfectly fine with torturing women and forcing them to watch their babies die horrific deaths.

And people wonder why I'm so damn angry at Republicans.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nate Silver Should Start the New Intrade

So many great buying opportunities.
Kevin Drum is skeptical that Nate Silver has anything to add on weather and economics.
But weather, economics, and education? I'm skeptical that you can just parachute into those fields and add a lot of value. They're far more complex, are already heavily populated with sophisticated statistical modeling, and generally require some serious subject matter expertise in addition to raw number-crunching skill.
I don't know what he wants to do on education, but weather and econ sound interesting. It sounds a lot like the Intrade markets I did so well in: climate, politics, and economics. What I want to see is Nate and some rich friends of his create a new Intrade, by taking advantage of the new state laws in NV and NJ for online gambling, which the DoJ said they weren't going to challenge.
This week, New Jersey became the third state, after Delaware and Nevada, to pass an online gambling bill. This came thanks to a complete reversal in policy at the U.S. Department of Justice. For years the agency had said online gambling was illegal—a violation of the Wire Act of 1961 that bans betting across state lines—and had prosecuted the owners of online gaming sites. Then late last year it told states wanting to start online lotteries that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting and not to other games. Industry observers were shocked. “The Justice Department came out 180 degrees opposite of where it was before,” says David Stewart, a lawyer specializing in gambling law at Ropes & Gray. “I’ve never seen that.”
So, I guess I should thank Eric Holder for the eventual return of my denier's tax revenues.

Monday, July 22, 2013

James Baldwin Explains 400 Years of US History in One Minute

Via Corey Robin, one of the most amazing 60 seconds you'll ever hear in regards to the state of racism in America:



Are we really that surprised that all these years later, James Baldwin would still be the victim of racism? An Associated Press poll released last year showed that 69% of Republicans and 32% of Democrats are racist toward blacks. But just try putting that little fact in some smug right wing faces and watch them run away.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Direct Action in the Face of Entrenched Interests Would Not Have Succeeded Without the Power of the State to Enforce Our Constitutional Rights

Non-violent protests were succeeding at stopping this,
according to Sheldon Richman. Photo via WETA.
"For left-libertarians, southern lunch-counter racism was better battled through peaceful sit-ins than with legislation in Washington, which merely ratified what direct action had been accomplishing without help from the white elite."--Sheldon Richman
What, exactly, had direct action been accomplishing without help from the white elite? Protesters had pissed off the "white elite" in the south, which responded with murder, torture, dogs, fire hoses, and even more Jim Crow.

Does anyone sincerely doubt that had we not passed the Civil Rights Act, left libertarians would still be organizing "peaceful sit-ins" to stop Jim Crow? Do any "left" libertarians honestly think that the supporters of Jim Crow, who perverted Democracy to use the power of their state to discriminate, would still be doing that if we hadn't passed the Voting Rights Act?

Keep in mind that half of Mississippi Republicans still support laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

After all, what were all the protests for? What were the Freedom riders after? What was the March on Selma about? Trying to convince racists to just stop being racists on their own? Or to finally force the federal government to live up to the guarantees of the 14th and 15th amendments for all people? The Montgomery Bus Boycott didn't force Montgomery to desegregate its buses, a federal court order did. That court order was considered the success that launched Reverend King as a leader of the movement.

Perhaps the best example of this we-don't-need-the-state-to-get-the-right results Philosophy pops up when Libertarians suggest we shouldn't have fought the Civil War. The suggestion is that slavery was doomed to fail if we just waited a while, or that we could have just purchased the slaves from the south (Ron Paul).

As Ta-Nehisi Coates often points out, the Civil War is not tragic. It was but one, large battle in a centuries-long war on black people, which was tragic. To suggest that we could have simply purchased the slaves from a group of traitors who succeeded from the Union because their new government's "foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man" is to completely, and tragically, misread history.

The only way to get people with that kind of Philosophy to change is through force.

This is what the protesters accomplished without federal
intervention. Photo credit
Same is true of Jim Crow. The force of the federal government was necessary to end the state force of Jim Crow. Sit-ins weren't changing the minds of the racists, who fought back with the force--which they claimed they had the right to though the same "state's rights" and "local control" that libertarians claim they want.

Would the Little Rock Nine ever have made it to school without federal force? Do left libertarians really want to argue that something short of Kennedy ordering the Interstate Commerce Commission to order new desegregation orders would have caused people like Mississippi Governor Ross "The Negro is different because God made him different to punish him" Barnett to stop segregation? Was the March on Washington an attempt to persuade southern racists to stop their racism, or an appeal to the power of the federal government to force them to stop?

No amount of non-violent sit-ins were going to change the minds of the KKK, the White Citizens' Councils, and the Dixiecrats. Only the force of the Federal Government could ever free the people there from the oppression of "state's rights" and "local control." And since the rights of those people are, supposedly, paramount for left libertarians, then they must, realistically, join forces with the progressive left in order to bring the power of the state down on those who were violating the natural rights of their fellow citizens. And by "join forces with" I mean vote for the Progressives, who actually had the power to make the changes necessary to protect the constitutional rights of the minority citizens who were being discriminated against.

Mr. Richman concludes:

"Carson believes ordinary citizens are coming to “distrust the bureaucratic organizations that control their communities and working lives, and want more control over the decisions that affect them. They are open to the possibility of decentralist, bottom-up alternatives to the present system.” Let’s hope he’s right."

As an environmentalist progressive free market Democrat, I sympathize with the decentralized approach for local control of food and power production. But citizens who distrusted bureaucratic organizations that control their communities were the heart of Jim Crow. Supporters of Jim Crow wanted more control over the decisions that affect them. They found decentralist, bottom up alternatives to system that had been imposed on them through the force of war and reconstruction. While my friends in the left libertarian movement might have been happy to wait a few more decades, or centuries, for local racist attitudes and laws to change, I'm never happy to wait to uphold the rights of citizens guaranteed by the US constitution.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

If Corporations Are People When Will We Be Arresting Adair Grain, Inc?

Crime scene in West, TX, LM Otero/AP, via the CSM
The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards went into effect in the US in June of 2007. These regulations require any chemical facility that stores over a certain amount of dangerous material to report to the Department of Homeland Security. The chemical industry fought the regulations, and managed to get them relaxed for certain compounds, like urea. Ammonium nitrate did not get a pass.

So, when Adair Grain, Inc, of West, TX, failed to report that they had "been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security," they were violating the law. Donald R. Adair (President of Adair Grain) Wanda Adair (Vice President), and Tedd Uptmore Jr. (General Manager) broke the law by not reporting the fact that they were storing more than 400 lbs of ammonium nitrate. In fact,  according to the Reuters story, they had 240 tons of the stuff on hand last year.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."
Reuters contacted Bryan Haywood, a hazardous chemical expert.
"That's just a god awful amount of ammonium nitrate," said Bryan Haywood, the owner of a hazardous chemical consulting firm in Milford, Ohio. "If they were doing that, I would hope they would have gotten outside help." 
In response to a request from Reuters, Haywood, who has been a safety engineer for 17 years, reviewed West Fertilizer's Tier II sheets from the last six years. He said he found several items that should have triggered the attention of local emergency planning authorities - most notably the sudden appearance of a large amount of ammonium nitrate in 2012. 
"As a former HAZMAT coordinator, that would have been a red flag for me," said Haywood, referring to hazardous materials.
Crime scene in West, TX, via KABC
Violation of federal law is a felony. The Felony Murder rule makes any death that occurs during the commission of a felony a murder.
To "qualify" for felony murder, the underlying felony must present a foreseeable danger to life, and the link between the felony and the death must not be too remote.
Storing 240 tons of a highly explosive material in the middle of a town of 2000 people certainly presents a foreseeable danger to life, and the link between not reporting the storage of more than 400 lbs of the stuff and the deaths of the people who died in the explosion is certainly not too remote.

I'm not a lawyer, but considering the fact that this occurred in the Great Law and Order State of Texas, where people are railroaded on trumped up murder charges all the time in the name of Justice, I find it odd that the Governor hasn't sent the Rangers to arrest the Adairs and Mr. Uptmore. But since it's a felony, who needs Ranger Rick? The FBI could march into West, Texas right now and arrest these people for their role in the killing of at least 14 people.

The reckless endangerment of the residents near this plant certainly qualifies as manslaughter, and the violation of federal chemical storage safety rules suggests it's felony murder. And yet the owners of this plant sit in their presumably nice homes, releasing statements of heart break:
"We are presenting all employees for interviews and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible," Adair said. "We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community."
Crime scene in West, TX, by Mike Stone/Reuters/Landov, via NPR
Too little, too late.

Texas is one of the 24 states that actually allows the execution of people convicted of felony murder. I'm against the death penalty, but it would seem that in a state where the driver of a car that transported a murderer can be executed, the state might want to go after folks whose 240 tons of high explosives in the middle of a town exploded after they had not informed the DHS, as required by law.

This is the state of corporate responsibility in the US today. A couple of idiot kids set off some pressure cooker bombs that kill and maim hundreds, and we have US Senators calling for them to be treated as enemy combatants and tried in military courts. But a corporation can willfully and blatantly flaunt federal law, leading to the flattening of a small town, killing and maiming hundreds, and the owners and operators of that corporation walk free and lament the heart break of such a tragedy, knowing that they will likely just have to pay a fine, and maybe get sued.

It's enough to make you think that if you want to commit felony murder in this country, you should incorporate first.

Monday, April 08, 2013

While Thatcher Mauled Britain

Robyn Hitchcock's I Wanna Go Backwards 
Robyn Hitchcock's Box Set I Want to Go Backwards If you're not familiar with Robyn Hitchcock, today's death of Margaret Thatcher is a good reason to get familiar. Hitchcock's album While Thatcher Mauled Britain, included in the remastered box set I Wanna Go Backwards, is a haunting collection of typically Hitchcockian weirdness--banging his brilliant head against the hard reality of Thatcherian despair:
Hitchcock explains that these records were inspired by the despairing state of Britain at the time they were written and recorded. Aside from elucidating the frequent appearance of colonial themes (see Eye opener "Cynthia Mask" and I Often Dream of Trains' "This Could Be the Day"), this also speaks to the oddly intrusive quality of the darker elements in Hitchcock's work. While these albums take place largely in the plane of the imagination, the integrity of this world is always being undermined by an invisible dialogue with an increasingly sad and decrepit reality.
Like her wrecking crew partner Reagan in the US, Thatcher installed a junta of elite supply-siders who spent the next three decades systematically redistributing wealth and income upwards. Their policies live on, continuing to rob the middle class of wage increases associated with productivity, which had been the norm up until the Reagan/Thatcher era.

When I listen to these albums, I get a sense of the era that's eerily more human than my philosophical, economic, or political thoughts are capable of giving me. The disjointed, schizophrenic, chilling tones and effects, combined with hypnotic lyrics that jolt the neurons into contemplation, paint a picture of the time of the Great Mauling that no history book or obituary ever could.