Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Massachusetts Yankee in King Crazy's Court

A NYT story on the ground game in Iowa offers this bit of fun regarding Mitt Romney's delicate mission trying to appeal to the crazy without looking like he's in bed with it.

Every candidate for the Republican nomination has campaigned at Pizza Ranch, a beloved restaurant chain in Iowa with strong ties to the Christian right.
Every candidate except Mr. Romney. His campaign prides itself on a vigilance and meticulousness bordering on the obsessive. So before Mr. Romney appears at a campaign stop or accepts an endorsement, his staff conducts sometimes painstaking vetting to avoid potentially embarrassing disclosures. 
A founder of Pizza Ranch, it turned out, spent time in prison on charges of sexually abusing male employees. “There is not a lot of room for mistakes,” said David Kochel, Mr. Romney’s top strategist in Iowa.

Of course, enough of the batshit crazy Rethuglican voters will realize that they need someone who is careful not to look like he's catering to the people he's catering to, and Romney will wind up the nominee. The big question at this particular moment is whether enough of those batshitters will get him out of Iowa with decent showing.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ron Paul, Mr. Inconsistency

In this ABC story, Ron Paul Takes Swipes at GOP Rivals, Says Michele Bachmann ‘Hates Muslims’, Paul throws out this, in reference to getting rid of federal drug laws:
"Paul added that the federal government should “protect the right to do with our own body what we want.”"
Right. Exactly what Leno's young audience wanted to hear. But, square that with his statement that abortion is "the most important issue of our age." He says abortion is violent murder. But then he says he'd leave the issue up to the individual states.
Paul said the Supreme Court of the United States should have never heard Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion, and said that social issues -- including abortion, school prayer and marriage -- should be handled by the states and not by the federal courts.
So, Mr. Consistency thinks the Federal government should  “protect the right to do with our own body what we want” unless you're in a state that agrees with him that abortion is murder, in which case women will be strapped down or thrown in a cage and forced to have a baby they don't want. Unless, of course, they can afford a trip to a state that doesn't want to force women to have babies they don't want, which is fine with Paul, because rich people will be free to do just about anything they want in his libertarian utopia where being rich gives you more rights than being poor does. And, supposedly, abortion wouldn't be murder in California or New York if those states said it wasn't. Or something.

The main reason so many young people love Dr. Paul is because they think he would legalize drugs. This is not Dr. Paul's position. He clearly states that he only wants the Federal government out of the regulation of our own bodies business. But he's perfectly fine with states taking away your right to do with your own body what you want. His statement, then, that the federal government should protect a right (to do with our own body what we want), is completely disingenuous because he has clearly said before that the states have every right to dictate what we can do with our own bodies.
Consider the Lawrence case decided by the Supreme Court in June. The Court determined that Texas had no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because gay sodomy is somehow protected under the 14th amendment "right to privacy". Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states' rights – rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards.
The Lawrence case was a clear case of the Federal Government, in this case the Judicial branch, protecting "the right to do with our own body what we want." This is precisely what Dr. Paul said the federal government should protect. And yet, Dr. Paul says that there is "no right to privacy" found anywhere in the constitution. So, where, exactly, is Dr. Paul's "right to do with our own body what we want"? Is this just some right he made up? Or is it in the constitution somewhere and he's just not telling us where? Or is he just full of shit, like every other Republican on earth?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Big Fib Newton

Three will get you seven (roughly) at Intrade right now if Newton Leroy Gingrich becomes the Republican nominee for President. Looks like a good bet. He's up to a 55% chance in Iowa ($5.50 gets you 4.50). Also a good bet, but one never knows with a caucus, as Ron Paul has a great ground game going in Iowa (where his claim that not forcing women to give birth is the biggest problem facing America can actually get some traction). But looking ahead to South Carolina (Newton at 60% at Intrade) and Florida (42% chance), both states where Newton Leroy is polling well, it's beginning to look like it's Newt's to lose.

Ever since Obama got elected, I've hoped that the crowd that the GOP would throw at the nomination would damage the GOP brand beyond recognition. I never expected to have a Bachman/Trump/Perry/Cain/Gingrich fail parade like this. Especially not one with 14,000 Obama commercials GOP debates. And now to have a serial adulterer/liar/fat cat/giant ego/elitist/racist/grifter as the actual nominee seems like a gift from the Gods (he says, clutching the coke bottle and looking to the skies).

I've been convinced for quite a while now that the media's incessant talk about Obama's supposed vulnerability was just ratings baiting. The weakness of the GOP field is a testament to what they see as a formidable opponent Obama is. But that weakness is also a testament to the fact that the GOP is quickly becoming a rump party. The vicious cycle that eats itself as the party attains rump status has begun now that the loons are falling for Newton's Big Fib (that he can beat Obama), and the damage to their brand increases with every word out of the former Speaker's mouth.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Business Saturday

The Nectar Hills Farm Store in Cherry Valley, NY

If you've recovered from being pepper sprayed, shot, stampeded, trampled, corralled, gouged, or head-butted at the hands of cops or fellow shoppers, we suggest you take a little time to patronize a small business today--Small Business Saturday.

Despite the crap you hear from Republicans about uncertainty and too many regulations being the reason businesses aren't doing too well in this post-George-Bush world, small business owners are overwhelmingly saying that it is lack of customers that is hurting their businesses.

So get out there and buy something from a small business. And try to make it a regular thing, would you? Small businesses will not succeed without customers, and Wal Mart and China could spare a few.

If you're up here in Central New York, our little village of Cherry Valley is full of small businesses that could use some help, like the Nectar Hills Farm StoreGoldpetals Natural Body Care products, or the Rose and Kettle restaurant.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Job and How Much?

To this:

Gingrich said his message to the Occupy Wall Street protest movement is: “Go get a job right after you take a bath.”

I say Newt's living in the past with his hippie punching.

What job and how much?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Can Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Get Along?

My old buddy Mort Mather is a great organic gardener and we usually almost always agree on politics, but in his recent post he wonders whether the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement could get along and agree on a few things. I doubt it.
Example: A constitutional amendment putting some limits on congress is a possibility that both TP and OWS people could support.
I'm afraid Mort would have to be a lot more specific on what limits to put on congress. Later in the post, he suggests that term limits might be one such point of agreement. I doubt that because many liberals, like me, don't like term limits. If I managed to get someone I like in congress, who I think does a good job, then why in the hell would I agree to some Teabagger demand that that person be automatically disqualified after a certain amount of time. If I had Sherrod Brown as my Senator, or Bernie Sanders, or Al Franken, why would I want to give that up? Well, I wouldn't.

Mort also suggests that we take Warren Buffet's advice on the budget, and "... pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election." Well, if I was a teabagger with Ron Paul as my representative, why would I want to replace him because a bunch of other freewheeleers were spending money like drunken sailors (cough, George Bush). But my big problem with this one is that as a progressive, I would actually like to see a bigger budget deficit right now.

The federal government can currently borrow money at negative interest rates. Rich people are practically begging the government to take their money and invest it in infrastructure and people. It would actually be cheaper to do it now, borrowing at negative interest, than to do it later with tax dollars. Thousands of construction workers are out of work, and materials for infrastructure are really cheap right now. And yet, because the right wing has dominated economic and monetary policy debates since Reagan, we are all talking about reducing the deficit. Despite the fact that conservatives cannot show us one example of austerity pulling a nation out of a recession, that's where we are.

I'm reading The End of Loser Liberalism by Dean Baker right now. It's an eye opening experience to learn that because of the way Fed directors are appointed, the central bank is essentially run by a bunch of bankers who want to protect rich people's money. They do this by ignoring their dual mandate to keep inflation and unemployment low. They only care about inflation. Right now we have 2% inflation and 9% unemployment, and the Fed is fiddling around with little quantitative easing programs that won't make much difference, despite the howling lies from the right that they're going to create runaway inflation. If inflation expectations of bond traders was high, they wouldn't be buying bonds at extremely low interest rates. If inflation was 9% and unemployment was at 2%, the fed would be slamming on the breaks by raising rates. So why aren't they pushing on the gas now?

Baker mentions plenty of other things liberals could demand that would help us out, but none of his ideas are anything the Tea Party would be interested in. For example, the Treasury Department could take steps to lower the value of the dollar.  A weaker dollar would make our products cheaper overseas and would lead to the creation of millions of good manufacturing jobs here in America. But a lower dollar would make imports more expensive and rich people hate that idea because they'd have to pay more for their imported cars and European vacations. And Tea Party types would see the price of cheap crap from China go up at the Wal Mart.

Well, because they're run by bankers who have convinced people like the Tea Party (mostly well-off white people) that inflation, not unemployment, is their enemy. And now, thanks to people like Dean Baker, the left is starting to learn that these bankers are not interested in helping the vast majority of Americans who's incomes stopped going up with their productivity, starting when Ronald Reagan won the Presidency.

Ultimately, the reason the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement won't work together is that they agree on basically nothing. The Tea Party is mostly an astroturfed group of well-off white people who are extremely religious, want to force women to have their rapists babies, don't believe in global warming or evolution, and who think corporations suffer from the weight of too many restrictive regulations (like not polluting the air and water). They want to eliminate the EPA, and the Education Department, and the Department of Energy. In short, they're just Republicans too embarrassed after 8 years of George Bush to admit that they're Republicans.  The Occupy Movement wants government to work for the people and not corporations.

Hell, even on the subject of getting money out of politics, the two sides couldn't be further apart. The Tea Party is run by the junction of corporate money and politics, while the Occupy Movement is all about ending that junction. So, sorry Mort. While, as usual, your heart's in the right place, I won't hold my breath for any kind of agreement between the Teabaggers and the Occupiers. But I will give you one small, shining ray of hope. Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul have a bill to audit the Fed. While Paul would like to get rid of the Fed altogether, and Sanders would rather see it follow the dual mandate and help the unemployed, they at least both agree that we should be looking into what they've been doing in secret. And that, at least, is a start.

Friday, November 04, 2011

More BS That Distracts Us From the Slow-motion Global Disaster Happening Right in Front of Us

My old friend Blaise sent me a link to a site of dubious origins, which usually means he wants me to debunk it. This time (I won't link but it's easy to find) it's "NASA Upgrades Solar Storm Warning - Learn How to Prepare."

My first problem with this is that the first mention of the "Award winning astrophysicist Alexia Demetria" there is no link or mention of what award. Then, his name is spelled "Alexei Dmitriev" near the bottom.  That spelling brings up an IMDB result: Short films...

The next closest thing I can find for that last spelling is a hockey player.

I find a lot of other results on that search that are parrots of the site you sent me. Nothing points me to an award winning astrophysicist with a name anything like that.

Snopes has nothing. So, I searched NASA, since all the sites talking about this either claim that NASA has put out a warning, or that NASA is hiding this (that dichotomy alone tells me something's up), and whadya know, nothing at all from NASA. So, either the guys saying NASA is hiding this are right, or, it's all bunk. Also, note that they want you to download the survival guide, which probably has all kinds of good stuff to purchase, like gold and freeze-dried food, a kind of Glenn Beck vision of the future.

What I do find interesting, though, is that if you go to NASA's home page, you'll find that the first item in their slide show right now is this: NASA Airborne Mission Maps Remote, Deteriorating Glaciers.

A slow-motion disaster of global proportions happening right before our eyes while Republicans want to force women to have their rapists' babies and eliminate the EPA.

I agree that we should all learn to prepare for a world with major problems and governments less likely to be able to do anything about it. I read Global Guerrillas, by John Robb.

He talks a lot about Resilient communities, which are the way to go on general principal anyway (more environmentally correct). He recently turned me onto this cool project, the Global Village Construction Set, to which we donated $8.

That kind of thing will be very important in the future.

The older I get the more I realize that one thing is extremely true: a few assholes really screw it up for the rest of us.

Whenever I hear anyone saying how it's a shame that we're so polarized, and that it's both sides fault, like Tom Brokaw's been going around saying while promoting his new book, I just want to point out to them that it's not both side's fault. One side is screwing it up for all of us. Most of our problems come from Republicans and rich people wanting to get richer. The FED could be flooding the country with money, allowing more inflation to get unemployment down, but rich people hate inflation. The Treasury Department could take action to lower the value of the dollar in the world, but rich people hate a cheap dollar because it makes their imported cars and European vacations more expensive. But a lower dollar would boost exports and put Americans to work in good jobs. The president has been trying to get a jobs bill passed that even conservative economists say would help, but Republicans would rather trash the economy and keep Americans out of work than hand the president a victory that might lead to his re-election.

Then I hear Very Serious People say we should stop fighting with each other and get along, be less partisan, and I wish I could be there to say to them: we have some very real differences in this country. For example, a very large and angry (and often violent bunch of people ) want to force women have their rapists' babies. This isn't me being partisan. This is fact. Next week in Mississippi, they're going to vote in a personhood amendment that will say a fertilized egg is a person. These same fanatics vote for Republicans who do their damndest, while people need jobs, to make it impossible for a woman to get an abortion in this country. Now, how do you propose we hold hands and get along with people like that?

Further, when I watched Enron, or Iraq, or the latest Disaster Capitalism in action (a bunch of crooks packaging crap loans and saying they were candy) I watch people get ruined, jobs lost (750,000 a month during the last months of Bush), A GDP contraction of NEGATIVE 8.9% in 4Q2008, all that and then someone says we should all just get along. Well, sure. If you're the people who got us into Iraq, let a thousand people drown in Katrina, or ignored warnings about Bin Laden being determined to attack the US, who want to deny gay people the right to marry, or continue with 50 million people not getting health care, or force women to have rape babies, well, sure, you'd want to hold hands with the liberals and "all get along" now wouldn't you?

And when those same forces would rather tank the economy than let Obama have another term, I think it's a crock to say we need to get rid of political parties. What we need is more and better Democrats. The parties represent people with actual views. The Republicans have made it quite clear what their views are. They want more war, less taxes, no safety net, no abortion, health care only for those who can afford it, and a 1% that has more wealth than they could ever need telling us the country is broke.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

No Apologies

 “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank. “ - Barack Obama Campaign Promise – October 27, 2007

While arguing about the Iraq war during the Bush lies that led up to it, I was attacked, almost run over, sucker punched, ridiculed, and slandered by people that really hated me for my position. Even people supposedly close to me said things like I'd be toast if I were to mouth off against the president in "some other countries." I always thought this was a kind of threat, and that the person who said it really wished that we lived in one of those "other countries" so people like me could be made to shut the hell up.

Well, now the big military adventure in Mesopotamia is over, and we're trillions of dollars poorer for it. And I still haven't heard an apology from the people who treated me like shit over this. And you know what? I don't really expect one. Because I know that I'm talking about people who think that anyone who thinks the middle class gets screwed in this country is a Marxist. And I know at least one of those people openly derides the "Arab Spring" because Arabs are dogs incapable of bringing democracy to themselves, so bringing it by gun is, supposedly, just fine, even if it does cost thousands of US lives and trillions of dollars. And I know at least one of these people has rich parents, so all he's worried about is the estate tax, although I'm sure punching hippies works for him as a side-line. Maybe there's some racism in there--some new found love for the well-debunked The Bell Curve.  And I know the rest of them simply don't want to admit I was right because, by-God, that would mean they were wrong about something.

Now you've all had a chance to admit you were wrong and apologize. Instead, you're out there spreading BS about Obama, lying about the economy, deriding the OWS protesters, and protecting the very captains of industry that got us into this mess. In the end, even though some of these people who said I would be toast are pro-choice, they'd apparently rather force women to give birth to their rapists' babies than vote to raise the income tax on millionaires.

Well, at least these Marxist Kenyan anti-colonialist socialist dirty fucking hippies have the right idea. George W Bush lied us into war, put foxes in charge of hen houses, and ran the world economy into the ground. And now you fucking losers want to blame Obama for the mess you created. And you know what? If there really was some justice in this world, you and all the rest of you Bush apologists would be toast.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Best Elements in the Country Are Not on the Right

"We are free today substantially but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions." -- James Madison, quoted by George Seldes in The Great Quotations: The Wit and Wisdom of the Ages.
George Seldes was the uncle of my friend Marian Seldes, the great actress. He was a journalist whose early work on the dangers of tobacco were suppressed by the tobacco industry. His political newsletter, In Fact, went after many powerful interests, especially the National Association of Manufacturers. This is from his wikipedia page:
Among the favorite targets of In Fact was the National Association of Manufacturers. Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who subscribed to In Fact while an undergrad at Harvard, said, "I heard about the National Association of Manufacturers first from Seldes and more from Seldes than I ever heard again. If you were to read the mainstream press, you'd hardly become aware that such organizations existed, that businessmen worked together to pursue their own interests." In fact [sic] also attacked Charles Lindbergh for his Nazi sympathies, the American Legion for helping to break strikes, and labeled many captains of industry as "native fascists." Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said, "[Seldes] used the word fascism to reflect an authoritarian state of mind that tended to stifle free speech and dissent and also tended to believe that might was right."
Whenever I hear wingnuts saying that liberals are the real fascists, I think back to Seldes's day, when people really understood what fascism meant. As someone who was assaulted by Bush supporters many times because I dared to say that we had been lied into war in Iraq, I'm damn sure that it's not the left trying to stifle free speech and dissent. I was called a traitor by people I'd known for a long time because I wouldn't get on the bomb-Muslims bandwagon.

And now, those same people who were so wrong about Iraq, and about Bush's tax cuts to the rich creating jobs, or deregulation creating jobs, or lax oversight from Federal Agencies (foxes guarding hen houses) creating jobs, those same people are belittling Occupy Wall Street. Those same people are spewing supply-side crap about the lowest taxes in 60 years being too high, about Obama causing all the debt that was really caused by Bush, about regulations being the reason rich people won't spend all the money they're sitting on, and I'm just glad that George Seldes isn't here, because I'm afraid his head would explode if he was.

Seldes was, of course, called a communist because he dared to stand up against the rich and powerful (because to the right, there is no middle, you're either with them or you're a commie). He was a gadfly and a muckraker, something we could sure use more of today. Of course, there are some respected media critics in today's world who follow in Seldes footsteps, like Dean Baker. It's just that no one reads them, which, of course, was a problem for Seldes too. The big difference, of course, is that for Seldes, it was actual censorship and Joe McCarthy that stopped people from hearing what he had to say. Today, you can read Dean Baker's Beat the Press any time you want.
"A people that wants to be free must arm itself with a free press." -- George Seldes
But you can't just have a free press. You have to pay attention. When someone tells you that both sides are the same, that Obama is creating as much of a mess as George Bush, don't hit them like they would you. Just point them towards the truth. And keep reading it yourself.

h/t Rick Unger

Friday, September 23, 2011

If I Were a Rich Man

The rent is too damn high.

The share of renters paying 30% or more of their household income on housing costs — the government threshold to determine if housing is unaffordable — rose to 53% last year from 51.5% in 2009 and about 50% in 2008, according to 2010 Census data released today.

If the market is so damn efficient, then why isn't some wealthy REIT-type company buying up all these cheap, foreclosed houses, fixing them up, hiring superintendents to maintain them, and renting them? They could lock in very low long-term interest rates on mortgages, immediately start making profit, and have a long-term land speculation investment to boot.

I guess if the invisible hand of the market is really God, as Republicans seem to think, then God doesn't want people to have affordable housing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Democratic Nominee in 2016?

Maybe Jon Huntsman is running for the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination?

Seriously, where else is a "sane" Republican going to go?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sitting Out an Election Should Never Be an Option

I might have missed a couple of school board elections, but for the most part I've voted in every election I could have. As my wife says, it'd take an army to keep me away from the polls. And not once has there been a Republican worth voting for. Never. And I live up here where they supposedly still have Liberal Republicans. Never seen one.

Of course, even with the Upstate New York Republicans sounding as crazy (or crazier, see Palladino) than the national Rethugs, there were enough of them to elect a tea bagger as my congressman in 2010 (NY-20). Consider the old joke from up here: if you throw a rock, you're more likely to hit a deer than a Democrat.

I often wonder what kind of person sits around lamenting the fact that no one in Washington cares about the little guy and then votes Republican. I'm fairly certain, and some evidence has shown as much lately, that people in that situation take their cues from social policy. Take a typical religious guy who thinks abortion is murder and therefore forcing women to have their rapist's baby is the only Right thing to do. That guy's going to say, Democrats don't care about me as a working guy anyway, because they're spineless and appoint Wall Street fat cats to their cabinents just like Republicans do, so, I'll go with the abortion thing. Or a union guy who's convinced Democrats (who have run away from gun control faster than you can say "gun show loophole lets terrorists get guns") are going to send the jack-booted thugs to take all your guns (almost three years into the Obama administration and you still have all those guns). So, they vote Republican. Or, say you're a racist or a bigot, hell, you're not going to vote Democrat! You've been voting Republican since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act.

So, these people who have been economically beaten about the head and torso by the Republican party for years vote Republican. It's what's the matter with Kansas. It's what's the matter with a lot of places.

Polls show that most people actually agree with the Democrats on almost every single economic issue. We like our services, we hate our wars, we blame Bush and Cheney, we think we spend way too much on defense (we do) and on foreign aid (we don't). Americans might not know a lot of specifics, but they seem to get the gist of it. Single issue voters, and the fence sitters who really lean way one way or the other, they get out there for the Republicans. And what do the rest of us do?

Well, judging from the collective freak out from the left over the debt ceiling, they stay home on election day. That's what happened on election day 2010. A bunch of liberals acted like they were going to punish Obama and let the tea baggers run the House of Representatives. How's that working out?

Whichever gay hating, Muslim hating, tax hating, gun-totin, union busting, poor hating, Hooverville-creating hippie puncher makes it out of the GOP Primary clown car, we'll have the same choice that we had in 00 and 04. We can elect a guy who lets us down a little, or we can let the next Supreme Court nomination go to President Perry. We can elect a guy who believes in unions, and a safety net, and infrastructure, and education, and science, and climate change, or we can elect George W. Bush on steroids.

Seems like enough to get me off my liberal ass.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Republicans Won't Vote to Cover the Debt they Voted for

Ezra says:

Raise the debt limit by $1.9 trillion. This is the amount by which the debt limit would have to be raised to implement the House Republican budget through 2012. Those who voted for this budget, which includes all but five members of the Republican caucus, explicitly endorsed policies that would produce this amount of additional debt. So there should be no dispute about having to raise the debt limit accordingly.

That's right. All but five of the current House Republicans voted for a budget that causes almost $2 trillion in debt, but they won't vote to pay for that debt.

I am so sick of the "both sides do it" bullshit. There is only one side that is refusing to raise the debt that they actually approved. Only one side is being so childish that they would sink the freaking boat rather than make one single billionaire get his hands wet by bailing out the water.

The fact that more white people are identifying as Republicans now, when Republicans are really showing off their stupid, just proves that it's racism that's driving the Republican hatred of Obama. What else could be driving white people (not minorities) to self-identify with a party that votes for debt then refuses to cover it, that denies global warming and evolution, that starts trillion dollar wars based on lies, and thinks anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to burn in hell for eternity?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bachmann's Headaches

I think Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee. She will likely get Palin's endorsement. She can raise serious money from the tea bagees. And she's as far right as the rest of the Republican base, therefore a natural fit. The only thing that can stop her would be a bunch of evangelical nutcases and genocidal maniacs holding their noses and voting for the rich Mormon because they think he has a better chance of beating Obama.

But I don't think that having migraines means she shouldn't be president. And if a bunch of knuckle draggers in the GOP can ignore their own arguments about Obama's lack of executive experience, then by all means they should nominate the woman.

But the fact that she does get migraines got me to thinking. If there is a God, maybe he/she/it is talking to her. Maybe the migraines are a sign that she's got all this God stuff wrong. Maybe God is trying to tell Bachmann, by giving her such painful headaches, that she shouldn't be such a bigot.

Just a thought.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ken Go Predicted this Years Ago

A long time ago, at the beginning of the Bush era (the age of irresponsibility), my old friend Ken Go, a southern California mortgage broker, told me that a frighteningly large chunk of consumer spending was being fed by home equity. He said when this stopped, it would be disastrous for the economy.

How the Bursting of the Consumer Bubble Continues to Hold the Economy Back -

"Earlier this year, Charles M. Holley Jr., the chief financial officer of Wal-Mart, said that his company had noticed consumers were often buying smaller packages toward the end of the month, just before many households receive their next paychecks. “You see customers that are running out of money at the end of the month,” Mr. Holley said.

In past years, many of those customers could have relied on debt, often a home-equity line of credit or a credit card, to tide them over. Debt soared in the late 1980s, 1990s and the last decade, which allowed spending to grow faster than incomes and helped cushion every recession in that period."

I haven't asked Ken what he's been seeing in his crystal ball lately, but I'm sure it's not good. My guess is that a lot of demand is building up in the system as cars and refrigerators get old and need replacing, but who knows how long we could go before that demand starts seeing its way back into the system. I certainly don't see it happening until people who are upside down on their mortgages get right-side-up again.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Last 11 Years of Republican History

Disenfranchise voters. Steal election. Deficits don't matter. Deregulate everything. Ignore terrorism. Bullhorn promise. Tora Bora. Eliminate Surplus. War of lies. Eliminate middle class. War crimes. The rich get much richer. Ignore Bin Laden. Heck of a job. Financial disaster. Little Depression. Millions of foreclosures. Children left behind. Blame Obama.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bachmann's Dog Whistle Politics: Concern Trolling Black People

Michele Bachmann jumped at the chance to sign Bob Vander Plaats's Marriage Vow, which includes this ear piercing statement:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.

Any time a Republican talks about slavery, you should pay close attention. And, what's up with singling out Obama for the time frame reference? Has the rate of single parent black families gone up since Obama became president? According to the Annie E Casey foundation's Kid's Count, 67% of African American children lived in a single parent household in 2009.  In 2008, under President Bush, it was 65%. Not a really big difference, so why mention Obama? Maybe Vander Plaats has some of these suddenly politically involved people working for him:

Some Neo-Nazis have also quietly been joining national campaigns and offices to start sharpening their political teeth, he claims.  “We have people working with the most recent incoming class of freshmen in the House,” says Culpepper. “And they don’t even know it.”

To be kind to Vander Plaats, I suppose his group is simply trying to state, in stark terms, how bad it is that so many black children have to grow up with only one parent these days. It's so bad, in fact, that it should be compared to the "disasterous impact" of slavery. Sure, it's hyperbole, but they're trying to use "facts" to make a point. Since Republicans aren't used to working with real facts, I will try to help them out.

First of all, the footnote to that dog whistle sends one off to an Institute for American Values publication, The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans. Since no page number is given, I looked at all references to slavery and could only find data referring to 1880. So, right off the bat, it seems Vander Plaat has done what Republicans love to do: he made shit up.

Also, consider the source. The Institute for American Values was founded by David Blankenhorn, who made the news just the other day with this gem that many Mormons will just love:

David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values in New York, said polygamy was more in line with core values than same-sex marriage. At least polygamists, he said, were faithful to the concept of a union between man and woman.

How is marrying many women faithful to the concept of a union between a man and a woman (singular)? Maybe because regular sex with different women is less icky to him than gay sex. Of course, the Bible has all kinds of fun marriage types that are approved by God, and polygamy is one of them.

Next, it seems that Vander Plaats completely ignored the question of mixed race children of slaves, of which there were many.

The Southern author Mary Chesnut wrote in her famous A Diary from Dixie of the Civil War-era about the hypocrisy of a woman's recognizing white men's children among the slaves in every household but her own. Fanny Kemble, the British actress who married an American slaveholder, wrote about her observations of slavery as well, including the way white men used slave women and left their mixed-race children enslaved.

It's obvious that, since the master and father of this slave didn't live in the slave housing with the mother, this child was not living with both parents.

Actual facts about slavery put the Vander Plaats quote in some context. Since it seems that what he and Presidential candidates Bachmann and Rick Santorum believe is that children are better off with two parents in the house: so much better off, in fact, that a child born a slave in 1860 would be better off (because she had two parents) than a child born today who is living with only one parent. So, here are a few facts about slave children that will make it obvious to anyone what a huge dog whistle this is (note that just a few days ago, I predicted Bachmann would start blowing the dog whistles):

Most infants were weaned within three or four months.
Half of all slave babies died in the first year of life--twice the rate for white babies.
The average birth weight of slave infants was less than 5.5 pounds.
Children entered the labor force as early as 3 or 4. Some were taken into the master's house to be servants while others were assigned to special children's gangs called "trash gangs," which swept yards, cleared drying cornstalks from fields, chopped cotton, carried water to field hands, weeded, picked cotton, fed work animals, and drove cows to pasture.
By age 7, over 40 percent of the boys and half the girls had entered the work force. At about 11, boys began to transfer to adult field jobs.
Nearly a third of slave laborers were children...
Diarrhea, dysentery, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases as well as worms pushed the infant and early childhood death rate of slaves to twice that experienced by white infants and children.

So, things really sucked for slave children in 1860, but, hey, they were living with both parents! Yay! Ponies and glitter! On a side note, the current Republican Governor of Maine might like the child labor practices of that day, and Bachmann's dislike of the minimum wage law certainly seems like a hearkening back to the day when the job creators weren't hampered by pesky regulations regarding the welfare of the workers.

Anyone aware of the southern strategy will know damn well what Vander Plaats and Bachmann are up to here. Remember what Lee Attwater said:

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968, you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Lee Attwater's boss in the Reagan administration, Ed Rollins, is Michele Bachmann's campaign manager. So, it's not much of a stretch to realize that when they "sit around saying" black children had a better chance of having two parents when they were slaves, they're not being very abstract at all.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A Radical Republican Didn't Want Future Congresses Defaulting on Our Debt

Yglesias, in asking who our political heroes are, suggested the Radical Republicans of the 1860's and 70's deserve a little more mention. So I found it interesting that, when I was reading Jack Balkan's piece about how section 4 of the 14th Amendment came to be, I came across this quote from Senator Benjamin Wade, a Radical Republican from the Reconstruction Era:

[The proposed amendment] puts the debt incurred in the civil war on our part under the guardianship of the Constitution of the United States, so that a Congress cannot repudiate it. I believe that to do this wil give great confidence to capitalists and will be of incalculable pecuniary benefit to the United States, for I have no doubt that every man who has property in the public funds will feel safer when he sees that the national debt is withdrawn from the power of a Congress to repudiate it and placed under the guardianship of the Constitution than he would feel if it were left at loose ends and subject to the varying majorities which may arise in Congress.

Now, today's radical Republicans (who are really quite the opposite of the ones from the 1860's) love to talk about the original intent of those who wrote the Constitution. Of course, they will not look into the intent of Sen. Wade, because it suggests that their little temper tantrum in regards to the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. Of course, today's Republicans aren't big fans of the 14th Amendment in general (e.g., Rand Paul, who has promised to filibuster the debt ceiling bill), so I'm sure they'll either ignore this inconvenient fact, or just lie about it.

Balkan lays the whole thing right in their modern laps:

Like most inquiries into original understanding, this one does not resolve many of the most interesting questions. What it does suggest is an important structural principle. The threat of defaulting on government obligations is a powerful weapon, especially in a complex, interconnected world economy. Devoted partisans can use it to disrupt government, to roil ordinary politics, to undermine policies they do not like, even to seek political revenge. Section Four was placed in the Constitution to remove this weapon from ordinary politics.

Because sending this thing to Anthony Kennedy to decide would be too much for Wall Street to bear, I figure the Democrats will cave to Republican hostage taking and pay the ransom (trillions in cuts to the middle class and poor, while the rich get richer).  What a shame that we're not on better financial footing right now, because this is one constitutional showdown that really should happen. Either we're good for our debt, or we're not, and leaving that up to the whim of people who, like Michele Bachman, have a tenuous grasp of history and economics at best, is just stupid.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

John Jay was a Founding Father against Slavery

Michele Bachmann should look up John Jay. But she won't. He was one of our founding fathers who, along with Hamilton, advocated for a strong, centralized federal government. He co-wrote the federalist papers. So, apparently, the Republican rule of Never Praise a Big Government Liberal is in effect here, although Bachmann's example of an anti-slavery founder (even though he wasn't a founder), John Quincy Adams, isn't exactly someone modern conservatives would like:

He supported internal improvements (roads, ports and canals), a national university, and federal support for the arts and sciences. He favored a high tariff to encourage the building of factories, and restricted land sales to slow the movement west. Opposition from the states' rights faction quickly killed the proposals.

Bachmann's statement that the founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery is, of course, wrong. The majority of the FF's voted to continue slavery, as we see enshrined in the Constitution's three-fifths clause. John Jay didn't sign the Declaration of Independence and didn't attend the constitutional convention. But he was a founding father. And he was against slavery.

Jay was a leader against slavery after 1777, when he drafted a state law to abolish slavery; it failed as did a second attempt in 1785.[63] Jay was the founder and president of the New York Manumission Society, in 1785, which organized boycotts against newspapers and merchants in the slave trade and provided legal counsel for free blacks claimed as slaves.[64] The Society helped enact the gradual emancipation of slaves in New York in 1799, which Jay signed into law as governor.

The interesting point here is that Bachmann could easily put this to rest with a little research, but instead just makes shit up. That makes her a typical Republican.

This is, of course, the obligatory slavery bashing from a member of the Confederate Party who is desperate to sound like she's not a racist. Now that she's assured us that she's against actually owning people, I suspect this means there's going to be a tirade of tall tales to come regarding Kenyan anti-colonialism, welfare queens, affirmative action, hate crime legislation, and assorted Willie Hortonisms. This bumbling bullshit from Bachmann is the equivalent of her saying, "I'm not a racist, but..."

Then she will proceed to blow the dog whistles as loudly as she can, while cleaning up in the heavily Evangelical southern primaries (where she will not mention slavery, of course). If she can keep raising money as well as she has been, she will be the GOP nominee. And, having gotten that whole opposition to slavery thing out of the way already (lest anyone doubt that she detests that which the Bible says is OK), she will be free to advocate more prisons, harsher federal sentencing laws, cuts in social programs for the poor, union-busting, pro-corporate deregulation and privatization schemes, and a whole host of other GOP greatest hits that got us where we are today: a country of prisoners and wage slaves.

“It's really an extension of what they've always been trying to do since slavery—to find a way to get the cheapest labor legal or illegal so they can make the most profit possible,” argued Mr. Muhammad.

“Literally, if we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”

Of course, if she did get elected, followed the dictates of the corporate overlords, and got rid of the minimum wage, she may have to rethink that whole opposition to slavery thing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Republicans Care More about Beating Obama than They Do about Your Job

Ezra Klein likes to say that Mitch McConnell is the most honest man in Washington. In a recent post on bad debt ceiling arguments, Klein writes:

”I actually think it would be easier to pass a comprehensive plan,” he [McConnell] said. “Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill fixed Social Security in 1983. It’s lasted for a generation. Reagan carried 49 of 50 states the next year. They did it together. Reagan and O’Neill did tax reform in 1986, Bill Clinton and Republicans did welfare reform in 1996, and Bill Clinton and Republicans actually balanced the budget for a number of years in the late 1990s.” Aside from welfare reform, every single one of the deals McConnell mentions exchanged spending cuts for tax increases — the very deal McConnell has ruled out in this case.

Besides the obvious smug dishonesty of the turtle-necked Senate minority leader, there's a nugget there that reveals the bigger truth, which is that McConnell doesn't care what happens to the US economy as long as a Republican has a shot at beating Obama in 2012. To do that, Republicans have concluded, we will need another recession or worse.

Remember that McConnell said, "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." McConnell doesn't want the Republican priority to be to help people get jobs, or preserve the jobs we have, or help people keep their homes, or get us off the oil teat. He wants to beat Obama. Most important thing.

So, if you're wondering if we'll see a "comprehensive plan" come out of the debt ceiling hostage situation, go back to the first quote: "Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill fixed Social Security in 1983. It’s lasted for a generation. Reagan carried 49 of 50 states the next year." So, if the Republicans and Democrats reached some kind of "comprehensive plan," then, McConnell's reading of history suggests that Obama would win next year by a landslide. And he's already made it clear that the Republicans don't want that. Ergo, no comprehensive plan.

It's really quite simple. Republicans represent rich people. Rich people are richer now than they've ever been. They can survive another recession or even depression. They live in gated communities with private security, schools, etc. They really don't care about the rest of us. In my old labor union, we had a phrase to describe these greedy people: "I got mine. Fuck you."

And fuck us they will. Meanwhile some poor people, minorities, union members, and other folks who will be getting fucked still vote Republican because they believe the lies: Obama is coming for their guns, even rape and incest victims should be forced to give birth, we should all practice Biblical marriage, or some other theocratic bullshit. Bigots will vote for the Confederate Party, even it means the loss of their job and their home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Republicans Who Never Worked Hard Want to Cut Social Security

Funny, you just don't see Democrats lining up to make cuts in Social Security, but a Growing Chorus Of Republicans Demand Social Security Cuts In Deficit Deal:

Add Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to the list of Republican lawmakers unsatisfied with the party's reluctance to back Social Security cuts.

The longtime Senator, who will retire at the end of her term in 2012, called on both parties to include the program in debt ceiling talks on Tuesday in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. She's releasing her own legislation to spur talks, a bill that would raise the retirement age gradually to 69 and reduce benefits by trillions over the next several decades by pegging the annual cost-of-living- adjustment (COLA) to one percent below inflation every year.

I hear guys in my old union bad mouth "both parties" on Social Security, but it's really only Republicans who want to "save" the program by raising the retirement age and reducing the COLAs. But this isn't surprising. Al Gore wanted to protect Social Security in a "lock box", but he's fat. George W Bush wanted to give Social Security to Wall Street, and we see how that would have worked out.

But there's something bigger here: people who get paid a lot of money to sit on their asses are essentially saying to all the Americans who bust their asses for a living that they should have to keep up the back-breaking work for a few more years, and then get less money when they do retire. I say make Kay Bailey Hutchison work with a shovel or a hammer for a year and then see what she thinks about raising the retirement age.

Maybe then she could use her calloused hands to sign on to a deal that removes the income cap on Social Security taxes (income over $107,000 a year is not taxed).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reading Can Expand Your Mind: Idiocracy Edition

Hunter, as usual, is worth the read:

I am more bothered by the notion of conservative legislators that we as a nation do not need to make progress than by any specific successes or failures in actually progressing. The conservative plan for the end of readily available oil is either to ignore it or demand we drill the remaining stuff out faster: there is no plan B. The conservative plan for creating jobs is not "tax cuts", because we now have all lived through an unimpeachable real-world demonstration that those tax cuts didn't create any damn jobs, but to tell us all that we need to suck it up and expect nothing better. The plan for health care is to have less health care. The plan for our infrastructure is to not have a plan, because that costs money. There is no vision of a future America that does anything any better than we do right now: instead, there is an active hunger to do each thing slightly worse.

It seems that the gated communities think the food trucks will brave what's left of future America to keep their grocery store shelves full, the way fuel trucks wind through Pakistan and Afghanistan today. It seems the gated communities think people will continue to put up with the kind of Randian fantasy world the "conservatives" have planned: hatred, violence, and austerity for all but the gated community dwellers.

Are any of us surprised? No, not really. The 1980's gave us a nice big helping of the same, under the label greed is good. Now we're just doubling down, saying no – greed is literally good. And as corollary, poverty is immoral. And as further corollary, helping people who are in poverty is Wrong. All of this is fine and good and espoused by people who declare themselves to be the bestest kind of Christians, and wear prominent crosses, and argue that the black fellow in the White House does not really love Jesus.
This long brewing conservative contempt for the poor is now boiling over, with poor people who hate abortion or black people or hippies lining up to get in on the punch fest, oblivious to the fact that they, too, are being punched. And when they finally stagger back to their corner and demand to be cut so they can see, they will not see past their hatred, not even to save themselves from the corporate masters and beltway elites whose rush into the global economy means that America matters even less, despite hollow claims of exceptionalism from the likes of Sarah Palin, et al.

That is, until the gated community dwellers (with their private schools, police, and fire departments) realize that they have to live somewhere that has roads and bridges leading to them, if only to get food to their grocery stores. Oh, and farms, they'll need those. And plenty of poor people to cut their hair, clean their toilets, mow their yards, teach their kids creationism and Exxon/Mobile approved science... And those poor people will need some bare minimum to survive on, you know, because the Bible says you should be good to your slaves. Or something.

And, in this recession, it accelerates. And the laws get changed so that the rich have more power, and the poor have less. And the very serious financial gurus declare that the rich need their losses to be financed by the rest of us, but the rest of us will be getting no such help from the rich. Tax cuts for them; belt-tightening for everyone else.
And a large part of the population laps this up, and dresses up in revolutionary war garb, and waves flags, and celebrates every damn bit of it. Then they take buses provided by the lobbyists arguing for the rich to go to conferences sponsored by lobbyists for the rich, where they all vow to take their country back, learn how to edit videotape, and feel patriotic as all get out.

As long as there are enough people willing to be herded into supporting the rich, this will continue. Frightening proportions of Americans believe all kinds of right wing lies: that the earth is not warming, that the universe is 6000 years old, that homosexuality is a choice, that Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9-11, and that forcing women to give birth is sound medical policy. How much harder can it be to convince them that tax cuts for the rich increase revenue and create jobs? How hard can it be to convince them that some country is a threat, so we need start a war?

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."—HG Wells

It all comes down to ignorance, which is why Republicans want to gut Public Education. People who are aware of things like history, science, and facts are the most dangerous to a plutocracy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Death in the Streets

Ezra Klein has a great piece on smart cuts to Medicaid. He apparently thinks that Republicans will get on board because:

"Shifting costs won’t work because we’re too decent a nation to let these people die in the streets."

A quick search shows me that an astoundingly large number of homeless people die in the US every year. I'm sure some of them have some sort of health coverage, but still, death in the streets is actually pretty common.

It's just that one political party would like to do something smart to stop it, and the other thinks the planet is getting colder and the universe is 6000 years old.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are People Who Use the Bible to Defend Bigotry also Pro-slavery?

Slavery and the Bible: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. Eph.6:5"

And that's the New Testament!

Our New York State Senator, James L. Seward, is against gay marriage. Like most bigots, I assume he uses the Bible as his defense for discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation. Since Senator Seward wants to use the Bible as a basis for our laws, I'm anxious to hear his forthcoming defense of slavery.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The "Both Parties Suck" Mentality is Really Bad for Workers

Those who say both parties suck should note that only one US Political Party supports the right of workers to organize into unions. In fact, the other, i.e. the Republican Party, is actively taking away the right of people to collectively bargain for a good wage, easing child labor laws, and even ranting about the evils of a minimum wage.

Remember the Battle of Blair Mountain and all the other struggles workers went through in this country when you go to the ballot box.

The Battle of Blair Mountain was one of the biggest civil uprisings in the United States history and the largest armed insurrection since the American Civil War.[1] For five days in late August and early September 1921, in Logan County, West Virginia, between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners confronted an army of police and strikebreakers backed by coal operators during a struggle by the miners to unionize the southwestern West Virginia coalfields. Their struggle ended only after approximately one million rounds were fired,[2] and the United States Army intervened by presidential order.

People fought and died for American Workers to have rights like 8 hour days, weekends, minimum wages, and unions. The least any of us can do, but especially union members, is to remember those people who fought for our rights against powerful corporations, and to vote for the people most likely to make sure we retain those rights.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons to vote for Democrats, not the least of which is that we tend to have at least a basic understanding and respect for science. But most of all, just look at what George Bush did. Seriously. The Republicans had their chance, they ran things the way they wanted, and it was a disaster of epic proportions. GW Bush is the modern Hoover, and here we are in a Great Recession started by GOP ideology. It doesn't work. Tax cuts for the rich don't create jobs (in fact, George Bush had the worst job creation record since Hoover). Deregulation and privatization create corruption and legalized theft. Pollution increases health care costs.

Democrats, for all their faults, did not cause our current troubles. Republicans did.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Republicans are Stubborn: James Arness Edition

RIP: James Arness.

Held the record for the longest continuous role portrayed by a single actor (20 years) on prime-time television (for Marshal Matt Dillon on the CBS western "Gunsmoke" (1955)), until Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers" (1982) and "Frasier" (1993)) tied the record in 2004 (at 20 years).

Why is it that the two actors who've played the same character on TV the longest are both Republicans?

James Arness "...had the pleasure of knowing Ronald Reagan before he became Governor of California." Before becoming governor of California, Ronald Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild.

Side note: I once listened to Kelsey Grammer bad mouth unions while I was placing a mic on him, and my reply was, "Well, we can't all be rich Republicans."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Flaming Feces: Romney Lies about the Bush Economy

Republicans don't care about facts. One of the important facts of economics is that a lot of economic indicators, like unemployment and food stamp use, are lagging indicators. That means they get bad AFTER an economic disaster.

What Romney calls the Obama Economy is really what's left of the failed Republican experiment in supply-side bullshit undertaken during the Bush Administration, in which we had massive tax cuts for the rich that were supposed to create jobs that resulted in an economy shedding jobs to the tune of 750,000 per month when Obama took over.

Furthermore, the debt, which Romney and his magic underwear are trying to also blame on Obama, was mostly created by the Bush tax cuts, two unpaid for wars, and a Medicare prescription drug benefit the total cost of which the Bushies lied about, and for which we have not paid.

That's a lot of failure under Bush that Romney, of course, wants to put in a paper bag, light on fire, and place on Obama's doorstep. So, there's Obama, stomping out the shit fire, and Romney sitting back saying it's Obama's shit, when it's really George W. Bush's.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wonder Who Bush and Cheney Left Burrowed in the Food Regulation Bureaucracy

Molly Ivins used to say that if you really want to see the difference between Republicans and Democrats, look at food safety.  Republicans were in charge of the federal government for 8 years and now the Democrats for a little over two. In the game of staffing the federal bureaucracy, Obama has a long way to go to even undo the damage the Cheney administration did.

Like unemployment and food stamp use, a lot of what comes out of the government in terms of regulation is a kind of lagging indicator. So, yes, we are still seeing results of the Bush/Cheney administration.When you inherit a government that Bush/Cheney had de-fanged when it comes to regulatory prowess, what's a guy supposed to do?

With that in mind, this piece in the NY Times tells me that even a basic thing like food identification has become a difficult thing for the government to enforce. And with austerity becoming the buzzword in Washington, I don't expect Obama to be able to do much to reverse the damage any time soon. Even a lot of Democrats are suckling on the Big Ag teat, and it's hard to regulate businesses when they basically buy the politicians and write the laws.

I recently read about meat glue that they use to put pieces of lesser cuts together into a T-bone. There's all kinds of food safety horrors that evolved during lax regulatory years of Republican corporatocracy. Fits right in with the lax environmental regulation, financial regulation, and all the other things that government is supposed to do that Republicans would rather do away with.

These are things that happen because George W. Bush and Richard Cheney hated regulation and did everything they could to make sure the government either didn't do it, or did it badly. And the Bushistas had 8 years to put cronies in charge regulating their old frat buddies' businesses.

Generally speaking, Republicans are from rural areas that produce food and giant ag companies that want to slip shit past the consumer, and Democrats are from cities, where the consumers are. So, there's that.

The Bushies (i.e. Cheney) were especially adept at putting foxes in charge of hen houses, and then the industries that got helped hired the very people who helped them.

Some people even got left behind, so-called "burrowing" that Cheney was doing at the end of that nightmare.

Additionally, before leaving office, the Bush administration aggressively placed political appointees into permanent civil service positions as part of a process known as “burrowing.” Some of the burrowed former political appointees have close ties to Cheney, such as Jeffrey T. Salmon, who was a speechwriter for Cheney when he served as defense secretary. In July, he was named deputy director for resource management in the Energy Department’s Office of Science.

So, yeah, Cheney's dark forces really did a number on a lot of things like this, especially for energy companies. Remember, these are the boys that brought you everything from Enron to Iraq to most of the debt they're trying to blame on Obama.

Follow the money.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Does Jesus Know Everything?

Perhaps a better question is: why do so many Christians ignore their own book?

in reference to:

"13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."
- SAB, Mark 13 (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Argument from Ignorance

Ezra Klein makes the argument that there's no evidence that higher taxes on the wealthy hinder growth. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary, as Ezra points out with this graph:

When has the absence of evidence (or even evidence to the contrary) ever stopped a Republican from doing (or not doing) something (See: Iraq, Global Warming, et al)?

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." --Donald Rumsfeld

"Appeal to ignorance -- the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., there is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist -- and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: there may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we're still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." -- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: (Chapter 12 - The Fine Art of Baloney Detection)

Herein lies the rub. Republicans don't care about facts.  They are not constrained by reality or science. They make up whatever they need and ignore everything to the contrary. So why do we try to reason with them logically? Seems like a waste of time.

One answer is that they must be mocked, ruthlessly and endlessly, for ignoring facts. This is why Stephen Colbert is so funny and necessary. Under Citizens United, facts mean even less, and money even more, which benefits the party that is weak on facts and strong on money. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

George Bush is Responsible for the High Rate of Food Stamp Consumption

As someone who's depended on food stamps a few times in his life, I'll start by saying it's a great program that really helps people who most need it. It is a valuable stitch in a safety net Republicans love to unravel and denigrate. And Newt Gingrich, who has certainly studied his Lee Atwater, certainly knows that the mere mention of food stamps conjures up, for many white Americans, images of black people taking advantage of the program (young bucks buying T-bones is the racist image here). Here's Atwater quote:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

So when Newt Gingrich calls Obama the Food Stamp President, he knows damn well he's blowing the dog whistle.

But it's more than just racism here. This is Newt's shifting of the blame for the economy on Obama. Newt knows damn well what most Americans don't: food stamp consumption is the Ultimate Lagging Indicator in a bad economy.

Have a look at the ebb and flow of food stamp consumption and you'll see that the economic lag can be 2 to 4 years. It actually makes sense for this number to begin peaking at this moment, 7 quarters from the trough of business activity. It probably gets worse before it gets better, but it holds no sway over the prospects for our recovery.

Fact is, a whole lot more people are hungry (and homeless, broke, without health care, unemployed, and all the other bad things that happen during recessions), because Republican ideology, implemented by President George W Bush, ruined the US economy. Tax cuts for the rich didn't create jobs, and deregulation led to the Inside Job that was the Wall Street Fiasco.

Watch for Newt and the rest of the Insane Clowns to keep trying to shift the blame for Bush's debt, and Bush's economy, onto Obama. And note that under the dog whistle of the southern strategy, the GOP's got a whole lot of blame shifting going on.

So much for the party of responsibility for your actions.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rand Paul Doesn't Care About Slavery

Rand Paul has equated a right to health care with enslaving doctors. For an eye doctor, he really doesn't see things very clearly, so I'm going to spell it out for him in a way he can understand.

Under universal health care, doctors still get paid. They are also free to leave the profession if they find obeying their hippocratic oath too much of a burden in exchange for making very good money. They would also be entitled to receive said health care, as they are people too.

Contrast that to, say, some black men from Africa coming to his house, capturing him, shipping him and a bunch of other white guys in a torture chamber of a ship to Africa where he is treated as property, tortured daily, and forced to work (of course, working as a doctor is much better than working in the fields or mines). Oh, and he would barely be fed enough to keep him alive, be forced to live in a shack, his wife and daughters regularly raped, and his children could be bought and sold by his master.

That Senator Paul would make such a grotesque comparison proves that he has forgotten what actual slaves went through (assuming he believed it when he was taught it, which assumes that he was taught about slavery), and that his argument against health care as a right has reached a point of such strained metaphor that it is revealing his true perspective on matters of race.

Because, really, could he be so ignorant of the history of slavery? Doubtful. Even dumbasses know what real slavery is like. Senator Paul is just pushing his usual bullshit hyperbole, and he doesn't care if it's insulting to the descendants of slaves, or anyone else who cherishes human rights. He only cares about getting and keeping everything he can into the hands of rich people (who happen to mostly be white).

So, if you're stuck working for next to nothing with no health care, living in a shack, getting beaten by cops for no reason, or thrown in prison on a bullshit charge that white people get away with all the time, Rand Paul thinks it's your own damn fault, and that if you dare suggest, as the Pope does, that basic health care is your right, then you are just trying to enslave him.

It takes a special kind of assholedness to argue something like that, the kind that apparently makes the good people of Kentucky vote for you. Which, of course, proves that southerners really do want to see the south rise again.

in reference to:

"I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be."
- ThinkProgress » Rand Paul: If You Believe In A Right To Health Care, ‘You Believe In Slavery’ (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IOKIYAR is Pretty Common

Oh, and Ted Nugent sucks.

in reference to:

"As it turns out, Common could apparently dispose of this part of the controversy rather inexpensively. Departed NWA rapper Eazy-E, for whom violent rhetoric about police constituted a pre-breakfast warmup, scored an invite to an event headlined by then-President George H.W. Bush on the strength of some charitable donations. The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s then-Director of Communications, Wendy Burnley, said of E’s appearance, “Democrats, eat your hearts out!”"
- Sean Hannity | Common | Ted Nugent | Mediaite (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Children Suing to Protect the Future

I've always wondered why our children haven't sued over what we're doing to the planet. We're leaving them an environmental mess. Once upon a time, even conservatives thought the government should protect the environment.

Those conservatives are long gone. They've been replaced by a party of vicious thugs (Ayn Randians who think the poor, gays, minorities, and even the old are parasites) funded by richer thugs who tell them what to do.

They pass laws gutting regulations, appoint their own regulators, and control the courts, so they can go on polluting, pillaging, and accumulating wealth, while shifting the real costs on to future generations.

And yet the Republicans seem so smug when they, the ones who created most of the debt, suggest that we shouldn't pass that down to the kids. Sorry, but there goes your future retirement and health care, kiddos. You keep paying in now, and all you'll get back when you're old is a coupon for something you can't afford.

Sorry kids. Some of us are trying to do the right thing, but this is a corporatocracy. And the corporate class is winning the class war.

You have one hope: sue us. Law suits sometimes attract corporate attention. If the legislature won't get you justice, your only hope is with the courts.

Of course, this is the most corporate Supreme Court in history. So, good luck with that.

Oh, yeah, and if you'd really like to make an impact on protecting the environment and the economy? Don't vote Republican, and be sure to vote in every election (even those mid-terms).

in reference to:

"Attorneys representing the children and teenagers filed yesterday, or are preparing to file, 52 separate lawsuits and petitions based on a novel legal theory: that the government has failed in its duty to protect the atmosphere as a "public trust" for future generations."
- Young Activists Sue U.S., States Over Greenhouse Gas Emissions - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

These are the people Republicans want to leave behind

It's small change by US budget standards, of course, but this is the kind of "bleeding heart" stuff Republicans hate, and would cut, leaving these people to die in the streets. Go read the whole thing and note the numbers on veterans who are homeless--is this the way we treat people who fought for our freedom? It is if your support of the troops ends with putting a bumper sticker on your car.

in reference to: Homelessness Is Not Just About Housing (view on Google Sidewiki)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Racism by Inference

Michael Eric Dyson nails The Donald with this devastating fact that Trump can never understand, followed by a body blow to the gasbag's ego. Ouch. Welcome to the big leagues, Trumpies. Good luck in the primaries!

in reference to:

""Skepticism about black intelligence and suspicion about black humanity have gone hand in hand throughout the history of this country in feeding the perception that black people don't quite measure up." "The reality is that Barack Obama has been called to account by a man who has nothing near the intellectual credibility or the social standing that the president has,""
- Dyson: Trump propagating "racism by inference" - Face The Nation - CBS News (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, April 29, 2011

More Anti-union Crap from Republicans

Republicans hate unions, and will stop at nothing to get rid of every last collective bargaining agreement in America.

The fact that so many union workers vote Republican is evidence of how easily duped people can be.

in reference to:

"But lost in all the media hysteria vilifying the TSA was the appalling story of labor abuse against the agency’s screeners, a consequence of Republican anti-union policies. If anyone is wondering why collective bargaining rights are so important to public sector workers, look no further than the TSA, whose employees suffer the lowest morale and highest attrition rates of any federal agency, year after year."
- Did You Fall for It? America's Outrage Over TSA Naked Body Scanners Was Right-Wing PR to Prevent Workers from Unionizing | | AlterNet (view on Google Sidewiki)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Republicans Turn to Wall Street for Protection from Angry Voters

Are Republicans so stupid that they have to be fed talking points from Wall Street in order to get questions they actually want to answer at town hall meetings? Or are they such pussies that they have to have their Wall Street bulliles step in and protect them from the voters who are asking tough questions?

It's obvious that the tea party, which was supposedly pissed off about using tax dollars to bail out Wall Street, has no idea that they are actually being controlled by a bunch of rich fucks from Wall Street.

It amazes me how ignorant Republican voters are about this kind of thing. They are being used by the very people they were angry at, and they don't even know it. It must be willful ignorance, too, because when confronted with the facts, they will only get angrier and threaten to "take it outside"--because we know that violence is the ultimate answer for conservatives.

That's how we wound up spending trillions on the Iraq war--a massive federal welfare program to defense contractors.

But, hey, if you're a conservative, every dollar spent on war is one less dollar to spend on food stamps or health care for the poor and old.

So, if you've got the balls to go shout at your congressman, remember, you're going to get shouted down by a bunch of violent shills who were bussed in with Wall Street money and Karl Rove talking points.

in reference to:

"American Action Network, a relatively new conservative front group founded by a group of Wall Street bankers, is loading up conservative activists with softball questions and talking points to bolster Republican lawmakers on the Ryan plan"
- ThinkProgress » Wall Street Front Group Loading Up Conservative Activists With Soft Ball Questions For GOP Town Halls (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Excess People

I've been lucky. I'm white. I was smart enough to get scholarships, a degree, a good union job, a great wife, great kids... Even though I'm retired on disability now, I have a safety net holding me up. I do a little work running websites for people. So while I was sitting here this morning drinking my organic Kona coffee, I finally read this terrific interview of David Simon by Bill Moyers.

Bill Moyers: I was struck by something that you said. You were wrestling with this one big existential question. You talked about drug addicts who would come out of detox and then try to steel-jaw themselves through their neighborhood. And then they’d come face-to-face with the question—which is…?

David Simon: “What am I doing here?” You know, a guy coming out of addiction at thirty, thirty-five, because it often takes to that age, he often got into addiction with a string of problems, some of which were interpersonal and personal, and some of which were systemic. These really are the excess people in America. Our economy doesn’t need them—we don’t need 10 or 15 percent of our population. And certainly the ones who are undereducated, who have been ill-served by the inner-city school system, who have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy, we pretend to need them. We pretend to educate the kids. We pretend that we’re actually including them in the American ideal, but we’re not. And they’re not foolish. They get it. They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multibillion-dollar drug trade.

Great way to start the day: a healthy dose of cynicism with my coffee and now I'll have that slightly pissed off quality for the rest of the day as I read story after story that oozes from the ether confirming every doubt I have that the oligarchy can make the trains run on time, much less find something constructive for the "excess people" to do in this country.

Bill Moyers: After all these years do you have the answer?

David Simon: Oh, I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the incarceration money, all the enforcement money, all of the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash, I would hurl it as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs. I would rather turn these neighborhoods inward with jobs programs. Even if it was the urban equivalent of FDR’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—if it was New Deal–type logic, it would be doing less damage than creating a war syndrome. The drug war is war on the underclass now. That’s all it is. It has no other meaning.

I've been writing a lot about race lately, and Simon touches on race in the interview, pointing out that the people most affected by the drug war are black, brown, and poor. But the more I watch politics in this country, and the more I see polls that show that nearly half of Republicans in Mississippi would ban mixed race marriages, the more I realize that a huge part of the problem is racism. It's what drives the birther shit, it's what drives the Ayn Randian let-the-parasites-die mentality, and it's what drives the drug war.

This is why I like to read Dennis G. at Balloon Juice. His essays on the Republican Confederate Party consistently point out that the real desire of modern conservatives is to steal the labor of the underclass, especially the minority underclass. They are mostly chicken-hawk racists these days, afraid to come right out and say what they know a large portion of the Republican base is thinking, but it's all there, right under the skin. No matter how debunked The Bell Curve has been, they still believe it, and they will keep right on doing whatever it takes to keep their boot on the neck of the excess people in this world.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The federal government should spend when times are bad...

...and cut when times are good.

I'm so dismayed that otherwise progressive people (like some of my union brothers) are calling for cuts in federal spending in the middle of a huge recession. The fact that Republicans are saying we should cut should give us pause, as they are so often wrong, especially on economic questions (this is a Bush recession, after all).

The fact is that we are suffering from lack of demand while borrowing costs are extremely low. This is the perfect time to spend billions of infrastructure, which will pay big dividends in the long run, while employing lots of people in the short run.

And yet, here we are again buying into the Republican framing of the debate, that we need to cut, cut, cut, when, in fact and as usual, the exact opposite of what Republicans are saying is true.

The one exception I can think of to prove the rule is that some, and I mean very few, Republicans are actually calling for cutting the Pentagon's budget. Of course, when the time comes to actually vote to cut defense, it's a safe bet that we'll see just how serious they are.

For more, see:

and many recent postings to my recommended reading list.