Monday, December 26, 2011

Wherein Wendell Potter Takes Politifact to Task

Wendell Potter, former insurance company executive turned whistleblower, has written a post in which he takes Politifact to task for choosing a "Lie of the Year" that is actually true.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sad, True, and Maddening

Hunter produced another quasi-perfect post at the Daily Kos. (The "quasi-" refers to a couple of typos.)

The post, titled The failure of Austerity, is a must-read for everyone, but in particular for those who subscribe to economic theories that far-right conservatives promote (far-right conservatives being 95% of conservatives around) and dim-witted supporters espouse and repeat mindlessly, regardless of any contrary evidence.

It is sad that about half of the U.S. population, give and take a few percentage points, has been manipulated into believing that the government can do no good when it comes to changing the course of the economy, and it is maddening that too many in government act as if that were a true statement.

In an excellent book titled Perfectly Legal, tax policy expert David Cay Johnston writes, and I paraphrase only slightly, that the organic pursuit of self-interest is what makes democracy work, and that for too long a vast number of Americans have subscribed to and supported economic policies that go in the opposite direction of their self-interest, which is a failure of democracy of the highest level.

That the ideologues and hacks should continue to promote economic theories that have as much connection to reality as alchemy does is understandable; after that's how they make a living and prosper. But the fact that a sufficient number of people believe their fantastic claims is sad and maddening, because they make life much worse than it needs to be for those who know that the idiots are buying from a seemingly inexhaustible supply of snake oil. And that is what Hunter articulates so well in his post.

The only thing that I have yet to resolve in my mind if most of the blame lies with the ideologues and the hacks, or if it should fall squarely on the shoulders of their dim-witted supporters. And the more I think about it, the more I believe the latter is the case.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Too Little, Too Late, If You Ask Me

Tom Foreman reports on cnn.com:
Among the chief complaints of many voters: Obama has been too quick to compromise, too weak in taking on opponents and too much like just another politician intent on triangulating re-election, rather than being the transformative, bold leader they thought they were electing. 
[...] The White House is now clearly launching an offensive aimed at shifting voter disappointment from their man to the opposition.
If you ask me, too little, too late. If he gets re-elected it will be because the G.O.P. candidates are weak and ridiculous beyond belief. And yes, Obama would be a slightly better president than any Republican who might get elected. For the millions of Americans who are hurting and were looking for a "transformative, bold leader", it will be small comfort. 

A president who could not achieve anything he could have achieved, had he wanted to, in the two years when he could count on a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a clear majority in the House will achieve nothing noteworthy after both houses of Congress will have switched to the opposition, something very likely to happen in 2012. 

Sigh.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

If It's Good For Bill Kristol, Well, It's Not Very Good

Hunter did it again at the Daily Kos.

In 6 brilliant, cutting paragraphs (plus two perfectly appropriate quotes) he destroys the mythical wisdom of serious Republicans such as that of the unfortunately very real Bill Kristol.

My favorite passage is this:
In any event, the sort of people that intellectual giant William Kristol praises as fellow intellectual giants should, at the least, give a person pause. The fellow who is currently pining for Paul Ryan to come save conservatism from the wreck of the current campaign season was previously pining for Sarah Palin to fill the same role. 

The rest of Hunter's post is here.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Stop The Presses

Here's an interesting statement for my (10) Republican/Libertarian friends to ponder:
I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.
The statement was made in Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators, a Bloomberg op-ed by entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, who "founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in 2007 for $6.4 billion [and] was also the first non-family investor in Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)."

Go read, and ponder.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Virus of Republican Ignorance

Eric Alterman has a pointed post on Alternet about the virus of GOP ignorance and the role that the mainstream media plays in spreading it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Unless You're a Far-Right Islamophobe

Happy Thanksgiving to all men and women of good disposition.

And to all far-Right Islamophobes, may you choke on halal turkey. :-) Pamela Geller, Frank Gaffney: That includes especially you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

News Flash from the Republican Debate on National Security

What national security issue do you worry about that nobody is asking about, either here or in any of the debates so far?

Rick Santorum: The spread of Socialism.
Ron Paul: Overreacting to non-existent threats and starting new wars.
Hermann Cain: Cyber-attacks
Mitt Romney: Latin America (and Socialism)
Rick Perry: Communist China
Newt Gingrich: Electromagnetic pulse attacks, WMDs in American cities, cyber-attacks.
Michele Bachmann: Who the fuck knows? Al Shabaab?
John Huntsmann: Joblessness and lack of opportunity, debt, lack of faith in our institutions

News flash for Republican presidential aspirants: Neglect the growing fury of jobless Americans at your peril. You are going to have to deal with them on a national security level long before a terrorist with a briefcase nuke plants it up your ass. It seems Huntsman and Perry are the only ones who are even remotely attuned to the gravity of the situation.

News Flash for Republican Candidates

Michele Bachmann: It's the UniTED States, not the UniNED States. Hermann Cain: It's killed not keeled. Rick Perry: It's nuke-lear not new-cool-ar. I'm sure I missed a few, but if I have to live through another ten debates, I'm not saying you need to master your language, just pronounce it properly. Thank you. Oh, yes! It's pundit, not pundint, pundant, or pendant. Again, thank you.

Paul Krugman's Perfect Take Down of Newt Gingrich

Krugman, on ABC's This Week With Christiane Amanpour: "Newt [...] is the stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like." Classic.

No Persons In Their Right Mind

While my "love" for Democrats (with a few notable exceptions) is close to hitting the nadir, no middle-class Americans in their right mind can vote for a Republican. Period. I repeat. No middle-class Americans can vote for a Republican. I say this after watching all but one of the presidential Republican debates.

But I don't just mean the Republicans running for president, the sanest and most principled of whom is Ron Paul (and that's all anyone needs to know). I mean any Republican, for any office. Including Blue Dog Democrats. Period.

Why? Because Republicans stand in antithesis to everything that is in the interest of the 99% of Americans (even if, apparently, about 50% of voting Americans don't know it). Read the previous post, David Michael Green Is At His Very Angriest Best

David Michael Green Is At His Very Angriest Best

Read We Are Not Your Human Resources, David Michael Green's latest rant on The Regressive Antidote blog.

Here's a taste of it:
Our solutions no longer reside, if they ever did, in the ballot box. The Republicans are a sheer criminal enterprise, whose entire function is to redistribute wealth from the rest of us to already wealthy elites. But the Democrats are actually worse, because they do exactly the same thing, while trading on the party’s past reputation for representing the public interest. For my money (which, along with yours, is precisely what is at stake), Obama and Clinton and their ilk in Congress have betrayed me and the country more than, say, any of the Dicks – Cheney, Armey or Nixon. You expect the asshole kid on the playground to live up to his reputation. It hurts a lot more when your best friend is the one sticking in the knife.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On The NBA Lockout

Though I have nothing intelligent to say about the NBA lockout, I can still recognize an intelligent article about it by someone else. Enter Bill Simmons's Business Vs. Personal.

Writes Simmons: "We were coming off of one of the top-five NBA seasons ever, now it's November, the league isn't playing … and nobody really cared. Imagine the outrage if pro football disappeared for an entire month. Where's the clamoring for regular season pro basketball?"

Though I like basketball, I'm really in the "and nobody really cared" camp. After reading Simmons's take on the whole debacle, I'll admit my interest has been aroused..

I Don't Know How To Do It

I don't know how to do it, and I don't think anyone knows how to either, but until money is out of politics for good we are going to get the Congress that money wants us to get (it's a must read).

Another Open Letter to President Obama


Dear President Obama:

If the Super Committee on Deficit Reduction fails to do the work that it was assigned to do, will you finally become convinced that Congress has reached a complete stalemate, because the two parties (one in particular) are unable or unwilling to cede any ground to their opponents? And, more importantly, will you then make a stand on behalf of the American people and veto any bill which does not include an increase in revenues financed by tax increases on the wealthy individuals and entities, those who make it their daily business to look for new ways to lower their own taxes, and evade their responsibilities as good citizens of this nation? Or will you continue to be an accomplice, willing or unwilling it does not matter, of a system which is designed to stick it to hard-working middle-class and poor Americans?

I am still looking forward to the day when your uplifting speeches actually translate into comparable policies, a la FDR.

You can still become what you promised you would be for the hundreds of millions of suffering Americans, in spite of all the pressures that you are subjected to to maintain an indefensible status quo.

Respectfully,

Watch This (UPDATED)

UPDATE: So I was wrong. For now.
----------------------------------------------------
Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reports that there may be a deal in the making to exclude the Pentagon from the automatic sequestration that would be triggered if the so-called Super Committee (on deficit reduction) fails to reach an agreement by the coming Wednesday. If a deal is reached to exclude the Pentagon, you can bet your first-born's life that it will be yet another cave-in by Democrats. In other words, Democrats will get nothing in return, but they will accept to save the Pentagon from cuts because they are afraid to lose a huge constituency, the military, in the 2012 elections.

Democrats will publicly reason that there can be no partisan disagreement that the Pentagon's budget should not be sacrificed, without granting the same grace to the lives of the many hard-working, retired, or unemployed Americans who will suffer because of the cuts that will be made to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

And, in the ultimate mockery of the intelligence of thinking Americans, they will also reason, publicly or secretly, that by caving in they are protecting the interests of America because taking a principle stand might make them the minority party in both branches of Congress and contribute to losing the White House to a Republican. All of this while never asking the question: What good can come of a party that never takes a principled stand for its core constituencies in the name of self-preservation? Who needs it? I am increasingly convinced that the Democratic party is inching closer and closer to the apex of total uselessness.

Watch what happens on Wednesday, if you don't believe me.

Hope, After All

As an uplifting companion to my previous post, titled Sad and Outrageous, I offer this clip from last week's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.


Please spread the words of this wise, clear-minded 84 year-old.

Outrageous and Sad.

I was going to post this as a comment on Douglas Groothuis's Facebook page, but I decided against it. Not because I am afraid of the consequences, but because I did not want to start a long, pointless tirade against me by a few of Douglas's hundreds of friends. While I have no ambition and no delusion to pose as a teacher or a professor, I do hope that Douglas finds this post here and that he learns something good from it.

On his Facebook page, Groothuis-- who is a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary--recommended Mark Levin article with the following title: Mark Levin on Occupy: ‘What are these pieces of crap contributing to society?’ Levin is known for his hateful commentaries against all things liberal and I am not linking to his post because I do not want to foster undeserved publicity for him and his hateful thoughts. 

Occupy, of course, is short for Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement which for the last two months has brought the issue of how big financial institutions have brought economies all around the world to their knees, without any of them paying the price for their actions. One of his Facebook friends posted the following response: "My son, a gainfully employed New Yorker, marched on Thursday. We are all made in the image of God and we've all have fallen short. People are not pieces of crap." Another wrote ‎"Pieces of crap, huh That's not what my theological anthropology says." And I wrote: "Merry Christmas to Doug and Mark Levin, too." That's it. On the other hand, Groothuis's recommendation earned 3 "Likes", but I am sure that number will rise before long.

The fact that Groothuis has chosen to recommend the link without so much as a disclaimer about the title can only be taken to mean that he endorses not only Levin's message but the way it was phrased as well. And that would be no surprise, since Groothuis is not new to these attacks on OWS protesters. A few weeks ago he made a comment to the effect that Tea Partiers are better dressed and smell better than OWS protesters.

Since the birth of OWS, Groothuis has not missed a chance to take the worst possible examples offered by protesters and build negative generalization upon generalization of the movement's participants and their, admittedly, varied goals. At the same time, Groothuis likes to post about Christian apologetics and often quotes passages from the Bible on his page. What a curious mix of Christianity and contempt for fellow human beings.

Unfortunately Groothuis has some influence in Evangelical circles, often talks at Churches and public fora around Denver, and has a loyal following on Facebook, so his frequent posts decrying all opponents of conservative politics, and particularly President Obama, as socialists, un-American, unintelligent, hypocritical, deceitful, etc, carry some weight.

What never ceases to amaze me is that very few people call him out on the dissonance that exists between his avowed love of Christ and Christianity and his pedestrian rhetoric about anyone who has a different point of view. In doing what he does, and in how he does it, Groothuis trespasses the line that separates Christian advocacy and political indoctrination. You can be a credible advocate for Christianity or you can be a mouthpiece of the worst elements on the Right, but you cannot be both.

It is a shame that only few of his followers on Facebook attempt to show Groothuis what a sad, outrageous, and indefensible example of Christianity he offers, and that many of them choose to laud him and encourage him instead of calling him to use better judgement. Well, I am glad to be one who is willing to call him on the madness of his words, with the hope he will see the error of his ways.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why The Founding Fathers Were Wiser Than You Know

"Ridiculous veneration for the Constitution of the United States." Those are the words of Sanford Levinson, constitutional scholar, who has written a wonderful book that I highly recommend, both to those who understand its greatness and its limits and--particularly--to those who regard it as a sacred document, on par with Scriptures.

The book is Constitutional Faith, and you should buy it and read it as soon as you can.

And by the way, I wrote a post almost 4 years ago wherein I made many of the points that Levinson makes about the Constitution.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Strange History of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

I just finished viewing The Strange History of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" on HBO, a documentary about the long process that led to the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell", the U.S. Military policy that relegated our gay and lesbian brother and sisters who serve in the military to the role of second-class soldiers. Sen. McCain and his efforts AGAINST the repeal were prominently featured.

I can only say two things about the Senator: How sad it is that a man who sacrificed as much as he did for this country would fail to see how his efforts against the repeal were an utter betrayal of American values. And, how lucky we are that he did not become president of this nation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The God Delusion

I found this on Facebook:

Why I reject Atheism?
By xxxxxxxxxx · Wednesday, September 29, 2010 [name withheld to protect the author's privacy]
I prefer truth over falsehood.
I prefer reason over emotionalism.
I prefer substance over vacuity.
I prefer logic over absurdity.
I prefer sound argumentation over provocative assertions.
I prefer life over death.

Oh, dear!

In this person's diseased mind (because I am of the opinion that religious belief is truly a mental disorder), religion stands for truth, reason, substance, logic, sound argumentation, and life. Atheism, which is the rejection of the irrational, fantastic being(s), whose existence cannot be proven and whose influence on human affairs and nature is also impossible to prove, is false, emotional, vacuous, absurd, litigious thinking and, cherry on top, dead(ly).

This is the kind of "logic", "substance", "reason", "truth", "argumentation", and (sanctity of) "life" that we need to overcome if our species is to advance beyond our superstitious stage. Disheartening. But hey, the number of atheists is rising, so there is some hope at least.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Duh!

Here's a report from the reputable Guttmacher Institute, showing that public funding contraception reduces unwanted pregnancies.

Of course, the United States is full of morons who think that abstinence education is the only solution to unwanted pregnancies, that we should not subsidize the lifestyle of poor "sluts" who "choose" to have sex, get pregnant and would seek an abortion, if state law allowed it. I also understand that Congress is full of callous, truly evil politicians who view abortion as the immortal wedge issue that can be applied to a stupid electorate every election to obtain the desired results; so these politicians cut public funding for reproductive care, in hopes that the "moral" divide between good Evangelicals and bad everyone else will play their advantage.

What I don't understand is how people of average intellect cannot see through the ploy of those who speak against abortion, and say they would like it to be banned, and also fight against access to contraceptive care. They are obviously not paladins of morality. They are just manipulative liars who care not one iota about women and their children and would say just about anything that people are dumb enough to believe to hold on to and expand their own power.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hunter Is Quickly Becoming My Favorite @ The Daily Kos

Always on target, always acerbic, with a keen eye for the absurdity of the all situation, Hunter is quickly becoming my favorite blogger at the Daily Kos (with the excellent Joan McCarter).

Today, Hunter took it upon himself to dismantle a) the intellectual (?) confusion at Fox News over Halloween, and b) for the twofer, the apocalyptic stupidity and shamelessness of Republicans in Congress, in a story you have to read to believe: House to vote on reaffirming 'In God We Trust' motto: All other problems apparently solved

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Personhood Insanity

The "personhood" amendements referenda that, for a few years now, have been popping up in different states are a despicable example of the way in which insane religious beliefs are morphed into a political tactic to help a party (the Republican Party, of course) and are a step toward a theocratic state, the disclaimers of such referenda's proponents notwithstanding.

Theocracy is not simply the imposition of religious rule over secular rule. That, of course, would be bad enough in a modern, civilized society. The real danger of theocracy is that it seeks to establish the rule of indefensible myths and unfounded belief over reason and science. And because modern theocrats have become more despicable and astute in their tactics, they have understood that it is important to camouflage their evil intents as science. Hence the unscientific drivel that is intelligent design is presented as a viable alternative to the scientific theory of evolution. Hence those who oppose the curbing of human activities that are taken as a very likely factor in the increase of global warming (a likelihood expressed in scientific terms to a 90% degree of certainty) do so with the pretext of conducting better science.

The theocrats' tactics are typified in these "personhood" amendments, which when you think about it have little meaning when the Party that supports them also support the ridiculous concept of "corporate personhood". Take for example the despicable referendum on the ballot in Mississippi. While the text of the amendment itself does not specifically mention science, the website set up by the amendment's supporters poses as scientifically sound. Falsehoods and misleading facts are presented in such a way that would have the ignorant believe that science backs the fantastic notion that a fertilized egg should be accorded the same rights that humans gain after birth. Keep in mind that the fertility specialists community view this as a laughable notion, since most fertilized eggs do not implant into the uterus or develop further.

Note that abortion would not be the only casualty of the passage of Amendment 26 in Mississippi; Many forms of contraception would be banned as well (for example the "day after" pill, under the unscientific pretense that every fertilized egg represents the first step toward human life. That would be true, if only it weren't scientifically false.

I invite to go over at the Daily Kos and read Kaili Joy Gray's excellent post, The Personhood Amendment: Rights for eggs but not for women for an expanded discussion of why this theocratic fantasy only shows that a majority can be of the Right and often be wrong, particularly if they are ignorant and/or dupes, the way most religiously-motivated voters are about scientific matters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Category

I have decided to create a new category to underscore Republican mischief in knowingly using either made up stats, or factually inaccurate data, to goad their stupid electorate into following them to the brink of disaster and beyond. The new category/label is going to be named "M.O.E.", which does not stand for "margin of error", as the statistically savvy among you might have logically guessed, but for "margin of evil", which is the threshold of inaccuracy that no disreputable Republican fears to trespass in his/her pursuit of unfettered personal or corporate power.

So welcome, "M.O.E. (margin of evil)", our newest labeling category.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Aren't Against All Capitalism

There is an excellent piece on the Huffington Post that everybody who is mindlessly pooh-poohing the Occupy Wall Street movement and repeating the hateful, mindless drivel that the right's bullshit-emitting volcanoes, Rush Bimbo and Faux News, are making up of whole new cloth, day in, day out. (Yes, I do have in mind more than a couple of friends/acquaintances who fall in the category of mindless pooh-poohers. Not to say that none of them has a mind. Unfortunately some do, which makes them pretty evil in my book).

Anyway, you should read the whole post, Not Here To Destroy Capitalism, But To Remind Us Who Saved It. And here's an excerpt, to get your appetite for intelligence up:
Kristof's right to suggest that the Occupiers aren't "half-naked Communists aiming to bring down the American economic system." This isn't the "Project Mayhem" of Chuck Palahniuk novels -- we're talking about a movement that's spurring people to move their money from "too big to fail" banks into credit unions. That's not exactly "smash the system." That's more like a group of people seeking out a means to maximize their power within the system, or using consumer choice to preserve, enhance and improve the best parts of the system. As Matt Taibbi notes in a fitting companion piece to Kristof's, "These people aren't protesting money. They're not protesting banking. They're protesting corruption on Wall Street." [Emphasis added]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If You Read Nothing Else For The Rest Of The Year, Read This

Go to The Daily Kos, and read A Voice From the 1%. It speaks about the perspective of the Occupy Wall Street movement as seen from a person who "made it" in life.

I was particularly moved by this passage, which is obvious to those with an ounce of perception and intellectual ability, but not to the typically brainwashed right-wing American:
I was not amazed but disgusted when John Boehner and his crew tried to justify the extremity of their position by rebranding the wealthy as "job creators." While true in a very basic sense, it obscures the fact that jobs are a cost that is voluntarily incurred only as a result of demand. Hiring has no correlation at all to profits or to income - none. Let me keep more of my money without increasing customer demand and I will do just that - keep it. Perhaps I will spend a little more of it, though probably not, but even if I do it won't help the economy very much. Here is another secret of the well-to-do: we don't really buy much more stuff than everyone else. It may be more expensive stuff, sure, but I don't buy cars, or appliances, or furniture, or anything else more frequently than the average consumer. The things I do spend more money on are services such as travel, entertainment, restaurants and landscaping, none of which generate well-paying middle class jobs. There, in a nutshell, is the sad explanation of what has happened to the American economy over the last 25 years of "trickle down" economics.

With this cherry on top, which answers the most irritating criticism that conservatives like to triumphantly level at the OWS movement, i.e. that no one really knows what the protesters stand for (as if it should stump anyone with a brain):
As George Orwell wrote in "Homage to Catalonia" about fighting fascists, I don't always need to know what I am fighting for when it is clear what I am fighting against.

This Is Why I Find The New Republican Breed Unbearable

Paul Ryan is slowly but surely becoming the face of the Republican party of future years, the supposedly "serious-thinker" in-chief. And still he says stupid, misleading, and irritating things like this:
"[It] appears that the politics of division are making a big comeback." Of course, he is saying it without a hint of irony. But to Congressman Ryan's credit, it is always hard to see a problem clearly when you're part of it yourself.

For decades, the Republican Party has fostered division in this country with its policies and with its rhetoric. It finds no shortage of socially useful programs to slash or defund, while it opposes any tax increases for those who have more than they could possibly ever need, or spend.

For 2 years Republicans talked about the dangers of death panels coming to American health care if we let "Obamacare" become the law of the land, when in fact death panels are a staple of the American health care system. (Tell Rep. Ryan to read Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans, Wendell Potter's account of how the America health insurance sector plays Americans for fools is not. Wendell Potter was a VP at Cigna, he should know. Or suggest that he watches Michael Moore's "Sicko", a portrayal so accurate of the American health care system that even Fox News didn't find anything bad to say about it.)

For years Republicans have said that they would not support any tax hikes. But now their true message is finally surfacing: They don't want to raise taxes on the "job creators" (their wealthy ├╝bermasters), but it's okay to raise them on those who cannot afford a tax increase (the poorest in particular). That would be the effect of any flat tax plan, a Republican wet dream, that did not include significant exemptions for those in the lowest income tiers.

Actually, Think Progress has it right, in a post titled Talking About Income Inequality Isn’t Dividing America, Actual Income Inequality Is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What The Fuck?!?

"Uh, yeah. Huzzah. It's great that 300 congressmen had the guts to stand up for mom, apple pie and baseball."

This is from a post by Barbara Morrill of the Daily Kos, announcing great bipartisan agreement on celebrating the baseball Hall of Fame. Finally, bipartisanship at work on something that really matters to Americans, particularly unemployed, underemployed, and sick Americans. And by the way, minority party: a good way to handle such a meaningless, offensive vote would have been not to to vote for it. Stay away from the floor of the House, until the discussion moves on to things that are relevant to the country's well being.

It reminded me of Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement, in which the Rolling Stone magazine's reporter says that the only business which is transacted on the floor of Congress these days is the naming of post offices and schools. We have to get rid of the bums, all of them. Start from scratch, ban political advertising, bring on free, public debates and public campaign financing. We won't get anywhere fast until we do.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Support A Flat Tax

I do. For corporations. So no corporation can get out of paying taxes. You pay 20%, no loopholes.

And, to foster employment in the United States, there should be a penalty v bonus scale system, to reward companies that keep employment in the United States, and to punish companies that outsource plants and work.

Realize that even though corporate taxes in the United States are among the highest on the planet, as Republicans like to say on Fox News and to any organization that offers them a mic to spew spin at, that is true just in terms of statutory rates, not for effective rates. Many companies pay no tax. So you support a flat tax? Start by supporting a flat tax system for those who systematically use the law to pay no tax at all, and who use profits to destroy small businesses and export jobs abroad: large American corporations.

Yes, please.

Do get rid of the Electoral College system. It is an abomination that grants some states unbalanced power in the election of the President.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Greatest Scam Perpetrated by The Financial Sector on Unwitting Americans

Now that the title of the post got your interest, you do want to know what the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the unwitting American public is, right? 401Ks. There, I said it. And I have been saying that for a long time, to my friends and to my wife. And now, after a long time, they are starting to understand what I meant and still mean. And last night Rachel Maddow put things in perspective for you, with the help of Simon Johnson.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Republican Debate, Bonus Round

Here's a quick summary of the Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, since there is a good chance you were among the 99%-ers (not that you were occupying anything, you were just not occupying your couch to watch it.) It's in the form of the answer each candidate might have given to the hypothetical question "What did you do last summer?".

Santorum: I spent last summer with my religious, entirely heterosexual family, trying to get google to change the search results hierarchy for Santorum.

Cain: Last summer I played Sim City a lot, and ate a lot of pizza, and then I fell asleep. And then the Archangel Koch came to me and told me "go and spread the 9-9-9 gospel." And I did not know what that crazy motherfucker was talking about, was it the price of pizza or some secret code for Sim City? What the fuck, motherfucker?!? Well anyway, I still don't know how, but I came up with my 9-9-9 tax plan.

Gingrich: When I was in Congress, in the summer of 1994, I ... oh, last summer? When I was in Congress in 1995...

Ron Paul: I didn't do anything last summer because the Federal Reserve is fucking us and our money and we need to get rid of the government, all of it! (Eyebrow falls off, head explodes.)

Rick Perry: When I left the house in the summer, I was packing heat. And a nukular weapon, in my pants. And I was wearing cowboy boots. And I hate Mormons.

Michele Bachmann: Last summer I was a business woman and a tax auditor for the I.R.S., I cooked for my 27 foster children and 5 natural children, did everything my husband told me to, and I have a message for all the white moms who are getting evicted from their nest: Hang in there! It's a shame you live in fear of losing your home while Barack Obama, that horrible black man, lives in a house. But help is on the way, and I am president Barack Obama will not have a house any more... either.

Mitt Romney: Look around, fellas. Who cares what I did last summer? Have you seen the other candidates? I am white, handsome, and love business. Who cares if I am a Mormon?

The End.

Cain's Jobs Plan

"Some people will pay more, but most people would pay less is my argument... Who will pay more? The people who spend more money on new goods. The sales tax only applies to people who buy new goods, not used goods. That's a big difference that doesn't come out." (Republican presidential aspirant Herman Cain, on last Sunday's Meet the Press.)
Yes, because what better way to create employment and jump start the economy out of a recession than to encourage people to stop buying new shit and trade in used shit instead? You know what else doesn't come out? A lot of people will pay zero tax, because they will rob the grocery store instead of paying for the stuff they used to buy. And as an added bonus, if you are caught stealing and go to jail, not only will you pay no income tax; the government has to feed you, too.
It amazes me that these Republican buffoons are even taken seriously.

They Might As Well Call It "The 999% Plan"

The Tax Policy Center's review of the 9-9-9 plan is in.
Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan would raise taxes on 84 percent of U.S. households, according to an independent analysis released Tuesday, contradicting claims by the Republican presidential candidate that most Americans would see a tax cut.

The Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, says low- and middle-income families would be hit hardest, with households making between $10,000 and $20,000 seeing their taxes increase by nearly 950 percent.

Since the difference between 950 and 999% is actually petty, in the general scope of things, I hope someone renames Cain's evil/idiotic idea the 999% plan, to signify the increase in income tax that the poorest would be subjected to. But this is America, so there are plenty of people who should be protesting this evil tax reform plan who are actually rooting for it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Immoral Games

Markos Moulitsas is right:
Every time you hear conservatives talk about the "rights of the unborn," remember this—their opposition to abortion has nothing to do with babies. If it was, they wouldn't oppose funding for pre- and postnatal care. If it was, they'd support wider dissemination of contraception and better sex education and family planning services. After all, the best way to avoid an abortion is to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

No, this has nothing to do with babies, and all about controlling human sexuality. If people can have abortions, if they can use condoms, then they will fuck—and that will somehow bring about "social collapse." Forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to full term is, in their minds, a just punishment for being sluts.

To conservatives, sex is simply bad. (See Markos's full post here.)

It's typical of Republican/Conservative hypocrisy to fight their battles under false premises. Against taxing the oligarchs and plutocrats? Say you're defending job creators. Fighting for your donors in the oil and gas industries? Say environmental regulations are destroying America's job base. And the same applies to sex. Sexual freedom (as Orwell understood well) is one of the pillars of free society. Particularly sexual freedom for women. If you can control what people can do in the most intimate sphere of their lives, which is what they do with their bodies, is there really anything else you cannot control, squash, impose? So the Republicans' real agenda on sexuality is one of tyranny masked as compassion for the unborn, and it is quite telling that the Conservatives' compassion for human beings stops at the unborn. They have no problem condemning the unborn, once born, to a life of misery, poverty, tribulation, subjugation, modern slavery, ill health.

Shame on them, and on all those who enable them in defense of ideals that Republicans have betrayed daily for close to 50 years.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mark Cuban's Money

You might know him as, among other things, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He has a boatload of money and, apparently, he is not looking at paying high taxes as class warfare.
So be Patriotic. Go out there and get rich. Get so obnoxiously rich that when that tax bill comes, your first thought will be to choke on how big a check you have to write. Your 2nd thought will be “what a great problem to have”, and your 3rd should be a recognition that in paying your taxes you are helping to support millions of Americans that are not as fortunate as you. (Mark Cuban, on his blog. Emphasis added.)

When he says "helping to support millions of Americans" I am sure he does not mean what Republicans usually mean, which is "helping to support leeches who do nothing and expect stuff in return." He means those who, try as they might, will never have the skills, the opportunities, and the blessings that a Mark Cuban earned. Well said.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Michele Bachmann on HPV

Via the Daily Kos.

"Okay, so what I'm hearing here is that there is a disagreement in the scientific community on this issue [of HPV vaccinations]. On one side you have the full weight of the medical and scientific establishment, and on the other side you have Michele Bachmann citing studies in the New England Journal of Some Lady I Just Met."
---Stephen Colbert

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Welcome to Fascist America

Why don't Repuglycans just rename their Party to match their ideas? Uniion-busting? That is fascism. Ask Mussolini.

Read about the outsourcers' bill of rights that the Republican House just passed.

This is how Rep. George Miller (D-CA) had to say about the bill from the floor of the House:

Under this bill, a company can retaliate against a worker for trying to organize a union. The employer could layoff that worker and subcontract their work out.

A company can bust a union by setting up a shell company down the street and send all the work there until all of the union employees have lost their jobs. Workers would be out of luck because the NLRB would be prohibited from ordering the work returned to those now-unemployed workers.

Welcome to Fascism, America.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sen. Sanders on Countdown on How To Save Social Security



A sane man puts intelligence back in a national debate which epitomizes insanity and corruption.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Republicans Announce Their Picks For "Gang Of 12"

The Republican picks for the "Super-Congress", the "Gang Of 12", or whatever you want to call it, are out. All six have signed Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes. Ever.

Whether the deficit-reduction commission ends up being the "stalemate commission" or the "cave-in commission" is, basically, entirely up to Democrats. Time to start packing your bags for friendlier, civilized countries, I fear.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

How California (And Government In General) Wastes Tons Of Our Money

Mendocino Marijuana Raid.

Think about it: Add to the value of the marijuana seized ($800 million) the cost of running the operation, the cost of jailing the perps, the loss of revenue from money that could have been earned by California through other productive endeavors, and the cost of trying and jailing people for possession and/or distribution of the stuff, and you will see that the war on drugs is sheer insanity, particularly in a country that tried Prohibition and passed an amendment to repeal it.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Weekend Reading: Do It For Democracy

It's a beautiful day and, yes, you might think you have better things to do. Barbecue, go to a pool, go to a National Park, to a ballgame or to the mall. The choices are many. The couch potatoes will just stay home and blast the A/C and the TV instead.

Of course, that is kind of how we got to the predicament we're in. We stopped caring about the things that matter. We stopped reading, we stopped trying to find out what goes on in the world around us. We misinterpreted the role we play in a healthy democracy by reducing it to voting every two or four years (if at all) for people who are supposed to represent us. We became numb to the talking points of the few and inured to the pain they inflicted on our lives, as if inevitable.

Someone said that democracy is not a spectators' sport. It isn't, it shouldn't be. Not only we let it become a spectators' sport, we let it become a victim's activity. That's the prevailing thought of many, that we are all victims of an incessant stream of conspiratorial activities at the hands of the powerful is so dangerous and so destructive; because, if you believe that the world is run by a small number of conspirators that cannot be stopped, you stop fighting for what you, in theory deserve.

That is also why religion has such a devastating effects on the lives of Americans: because if you get used to submitting yourself to a higher, unquestionable authority in matters of spirituality, you will most likely retain that attitude in all facets of life. George Carlin put it best, when talking about the Ten Commandments, he said this about the 4th (or 5th, depending on which flavor of Christianity you submit to): "Obedience, respect for authority. Just another name for controlling people. The truth is that obedience and respect shouldn’t be automatic. They should be earned and based on the parent’s performance. Some parents deserve respect, but most of them don’t, period." You can quibble with some aspects of Carlin's routine, but not with the central point: obedience and respect should not be automatic; not for parents; not for any authority, be it governmental or of any other kind.

But it's hard to question authority without being able to grade its performance, not based on belief or unsupported personal convictions, but on facts and logic. Of course, we have also been trained to believe that one man's facts are another's man fallacious opinions. That is not so: everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. It is true that facts and data are subject to interpretation; but the interpretation should rely on a consistent world view. Only when logic is twisted beyond recognition, do facts also lose their essential truth.

I hope that you will forgive me for this long preamble. To make a long story short, there are many things you could be doing this weekend. In truth, they are not all mutually exclusive, and that is precisely why I invite you to read these posts which I found engaging, illuminating, and--to a great extent--convincing.

How to Think About Standard and Poor's Downgrade
America in Decline
30 Years Ago: The Day the Middle Class Died

By all means, don't stop at these; they are just recommendations. If you don't like them, find your own reading. But, as surely as you must feed your body and your spirit, don't forget to also feed your mind. Your well-being, and the well-being of those you care about, depends on it, all the more so in an ailing democracy.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Beyond The Outcry for S&P's Downgrade Of The USA's Credit-Worthiness

(UPDATED with Robert Reich's perspective, below my original post.)

There are those who decry the decision of Standard & Poor's to dowgrade the credit-worthiness of the United States as laughable, indefensible, and wrong. I beg to differ. S&P did the right thing, and I hope that other rating agencies will follow suit. This does not mean that S&P and other credit rating agencies do not have credibility issues of their own, nor that we should take everything they say or write as the revealed word of god. But after the the pitiful spectactle offered by the two political parties in the standoff over the debt ceiling, which ended with the side of the hostage takers getting everything they wanted (98%, according to the Speaker of the House), and the other side, the Stockholm-syndrome plagued Democrats, acting as if we have to thank the kidnappers for releasing us after paying a 2.4 trillion ransom, how can anyone blame S&P for just taking reality into account?

The American government gave the world the worse possible performance it could have given, and we should expect everybody to applaud because it decided to honor its debts? How deluded are we if we think that the world regards the current political class as responsible and trustworthy, and that we are deserving of the best possible rating?

I believe that when all the dust has settled you will see that S&P's rationale for downgrading the United States' credit rating actually makes a lot of sense. Below are excerpts from their press release, in the order in which they appear. (Emphases added.)

  • the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

  • [we are] pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.

  • The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

  • It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

  • Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues...

The conclusion of the press release states:
On the other hand, as our upside scenario highlights, if the recommendations of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction–independently or coupled with other initiatives, such as the lapsing of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners–lead to fiscal consolidation measures beyond the minimum mandated, and we believe they are likely to slow the deterioration of the government’s debt dynamics, the long-term rating could stabilize at ‘AA+’.

The full report can be found on Standard and Poor's website.

P.S. You will hear that the Obama administration has levied accusations that S&P's numbers are off by a couple of trillion dollars, making the downgrade decision flawed or outright wrong. But you should also notice that much of the rationale for the downgrade lies in the intransigence of (Republicans in) Congress against raising revenues, and on the lack of credibility of Washington's political class. So the downgrade is less about numbers than it is about prospects and credibility. And the decision therefore falls squarely on the shoulders of those who decided to take the American economy hostage in the service of their wealthy overlords.



---------------------------------------------------------------
And now, as promised, is Robert Reich's take on S&P's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. It is interesting, because Reich correctly points out that S&P has no business telling the United States how large a deficit it can run, unless its ability to repay its debts is in question.

While I respect Reich's point of view greatly, I still would not discount the weight that the credibility of American politics has in forecasting the nation's ability to repay its debts. In other words, I welcome S&P's downgrade IF, and that's a big if, it sends Washington the message that some things are off-limits to politicking. Which is why I also blame President Obama for not throwing the weight of the Fourteenth Amendment at the leaders of the Republican Party and at Tea Party members during the negotiations. The President is making many people regret their decision of supporting him instead of Hillary Clinton. It is hard to imagine that Mrs. Clinton could have done worse than he has in negotiations with Republicans, who have run all over him from Day 1 of his arrival in office. And that, which is that Obama is making us long for a Clinton presidency, speaks volumes to the magnitude of his failure so far.

Study Cuts Through The Fog Of Anti-Union Lies

Here is an important post regarding the strong correlation between a decline in union membership and declining wages.

News Flash For Eric Cantor

Rep. Cantor (R-VA) opposes extending unemployment "benefits" (really, unemployment benefits should be called unemployment insurance, which every worker contributes to via payroll taxes).

Perhaps Rep. Cantor needs to be reminded that getting unemployment insurance, Rep. Cantor, is not a choice. You cannot get unemployment insurance payment unless you are laid off. And the unemployed are not lazy bums who seek to ride on the backs of others, any more than people who receive Social Security payments that they themselves have funded throughout their working lives are.

Mind you, it's not that Eric Cantor is opposed to spending money altogether. It's rather that he is very selective in deciding whose money gets spent: If it's my money, to support corporations, wars, energy companies (except, of course, for renewable energy), then he has no problem with it. If it's the other way around, that is if the issue is collecting more money from those who have oodles of it, to support middle- and low-income families, then he marches to a very different tune. There is nothing he would not cut in order to preserve the right of the mega-rich, be it individuals or corporations, to hoard all their possessions.

I know unemployed people, and I know how unfavorably they live through their situation. First off, unemployment payments are not--by any reasonable standard--enough to make ends meet. Secondly, most people I know who are unemployed are actively seeking employment (which is a condition for continuing to receive payments). In the current economic climate, it is very hard to land an interview for most people, let alone a job offer, let alone an actual job. Most offers they receive are inadequate replacement for their previous income, you might even call them demeaning.

Which leads me to the next consideration: Why should anyone be expected to take a job, any job, regardless how demeaning or beneath one's education, when the pay that comes with it barely tops the money they are receiving for their unemployment? In what completely upside-down world could anyone talk of the dignity of work, when the work you are offered does not match your qualifications, nor your legitimate salary expectations, particularly if you have experience and you are good at what you do, or used to do? The moment you accept an inadequate job your chances of pursuing adequate jobs are diminished: it becomes harder to search for a good job and harder to interview for one, so the benefits of having inadequate employments are dwarfed by what you lose in comparison.

Many people think that dignity automatically comes with work, any sort of work. That is a a view that benefits only ownership, as opposed to workers. There is no dignity for an out-of-work teacher flipping burgers for $7.25 an hour. There is no dignity for an unemployed engineer working on an assembly-line for $12 an hour. And yet too many people are taught that there is more dignity in that than in holding out for work commensurate with one's ability and earning expectations and collecting unemployment. So yes, we should try go get people off unemployment and put them back to work again, but not off unemployment and into any job.

It's an upside-down world indeed, one where people like Rep. Cantor can shoot their mouths off about things they don't know or don't understand and collect $193,400 a year for it. It's the kind of money not even teachers should be making, and they work to make people's lives better. He makes it, on our backs, by doing everything he can to destroy the American middle-class. If this country has any hope left within, it must start with booting people like Cantor out of office.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Kudos To Gov. Christie (R-NJ)

It' not often that I will praise a Republican, but even Halley's Comet pays us a visit every now and then.

Gov. Christie' response to people who objected to his appointment of Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim-AMERICAN judge, to a state bench deserves a big round of applause.
They are criticizing him because he is a Muslim American…I was disgusted, candidly, by some of the questions he was asked by both parties at the Senate judiciary committee…Sharia Law has nothing to do with this at all — it’s crazy! It’s crazy. The guy’s an American citizen…This Sharia Law business is crap. It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background. (Via Think Progress)

Perhaps a few others can follow suit.

And here is an extensive video of Gov. Christie's remarks on the Sohail Mohamed/Sharia Law controversy. With a standing ovation for him, no less.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It's the President's Birthday. Yawn.

You can always count on The Onion to keep things in due perspective: Obama turns 50.

An Ounce Of Preventation Is Worth...

What, preventation does not exist? True. Neither does the adjective preventative. Please.

The correct form is "preventive". Do not believe those that say that they are equally acceptable. Preventive, as in "preventive medicine", is correct. Preventative is tolerated (not by me, really) just because it has become so widespread, but it is not correct. The fact that many people use it does not make it right, just like the fact that many people use "it's" does not make it a possessive adjective.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

What The H Really Stands For

The President's middle initial is starting to look more like an H for Herbert than H for Hussein. That would be Herbert as in Herbert Hoover, the president that led the nation to its greatest economic depression yet.

And I am not the only one to fear so.

And, as Hoover, he is almost certain to be end up as a one-term president, which means that things are only going to get worse for the next six years, at least.

The ship is sinking, start looking for a lifeboat.

Because Not All Christian Leaders Are Repugnant Backers Of The Rich And Powerful Over The Weak

Jim Wallis: "[S]lashing programs for the poor while exempting the rich from sacrifice is repugnant to our spiritual values and contrary to scripture." Apparently the span covered by the adjective "our" needs to be further defined, since this is not true for all Christians.

Read The Moral Default, by Jim Wallis.

The Age Of Greed

The Age of Greed is the title of a new book by Jeff Madrick. It comes with the recommendation of Michael Winship, senior writer on the now defunct Bill Moyers Journal.

At a minimum, Winship's review of it. The book itself sounds like a good read, too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Matt Damon Is My New Hero (As He Schools a Dumb Reporter)

I always liked Matt Damon, now I like him another bit more.



This is exactly how to confront the drivel of too many libertarians and Republicans, and their platitudes about economic incentives in the free market.

A More Equal America?

Doing Debt Ceiling Battle the FDR Way is a very timely post by Sam Pizzigati on the history of debt ceiling battles while FDR was in the White House. Very instructive, and a little depressing, considering how low we have sunk since then in our national conscience.

The Return of the SHITTERS

Fox ‘Expert’ Blasts Expanding Access To Birth Control: ‘Are We Going To Do Pedicures And Manicures As Well?’ (via Think Progress)

Need I say more?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Reply to "Facts on Taxes"

Over at The Constructive Curmudgeon, a highly tendentious post appeared in the last 24 hours entitled Facts on Taxes.

This is my rebuttal.

If the title of your post had been Opinions on Taxes, I would have not written this response. But you chose to call it Facts on Taxes. Can you please source the facts, with data and not the names of known partisans like Thomas Sowell?

I like to accompany the opinions I express on my blog with facts, as I did in a post called On The Fantasy That "Taxing Job Creators Is Wrong", which is my view on the myth that taxing "job creators" is wrong. Please read it, as it addressed the fallacies of your assumptions in this post.

Envy, by the way, has nothing to do with asking for the rich to pay a higher rate on some of their income. Progressive taxation is based on the assumption that it is fair for those who have more discretionary income to pay more than those whose income is barely sufficient to make ends meet. Not to mention the fact that the rich benefit more from public services and infrastructure more than low-income Americans, directly or indirectly.

Besides, for someone who believes in the "religion of the free-market", can't you see that a strong economy needs to leave more money in the pockets of those who are more likely to spend it--lower-income Americans--than in the pockets of those who are more likely to save it, or invest it--often outside of the United States?

Finally, if I hear one more time that "we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem", I am going to throw up. It's just a talking point, a clever but mendacious one for the most part.

Of course we have a spending problem, mostly driven by elective wars and the greed of mega-corporations in the oil, banking, and health services industries. But we also have a revenue problem, created by George W. Bush tax cuts which were supposed to have "sunset" by now, and have been extended by the outrageously weak and inept President Obama. Or did you miss the news that revenues are at their lowest point in at least 50 years, if not since the Great Depression, and that top tax rates are at their lowest point since Eisenhower (with the exception of one of the Reagan Years)?

Ironically, remember, that President Obama was accused by his opponents of being the most liberal Senator when he was running, a lie easily born-out by his first 30 months in the White House. He is a centrist at heart, and has been governing from right of center. Of course, in a country where politics is dominated by right-wing extremists, governing from right-of-center still makes you look a liberal extremist, I guess. But compare Obama's policies with FDR's, Johnson's, and even Carter's, and you will see that he is a pro-business, pro-establishment politician. Far from being the socialist populist he has been depicted as by most of the media, he is a corporate socialist.

Peace out.

Country [Club] First!

Rememeber the McCain/Palin campaign slogan? Country First? They almost had it right. It should have been "Country Club First", as easily visible in the Republican intransigence at closing loopholes and raising taxes on the richest Americans.

I have read somewhere that asking the rich to pay their fair share is actually envy (a sin, according to the Christian fundie who wrote it), masked as a cry for social justice. Well, well... is that the nutshell that American Christ-ies see in the debt ceiling "debate", Republican-style? That the elderly, the dispossessed, the jobless, the evicted, the sick in this country should be asked to pay their "fair" share by Republican leeches for the rich, instead of being "soooooo envious"? Or is the righteous exasperation of the trodden-upon being mistaken for envy by the deluded and by the peddler of the "American exceptionalism" delusion?

You should ask yourselves, because the answer is readily available. In fact, it is available in a very readable, astute, and acerbic post by Hunter on the Daily Kos. The guy tells it like it is on the wholly Republican debt ceiling debacle, and this is the paragraph that--best of all--captures the folly of the whole affair:
We're at this point because Republicans insist that the rich pay not one penny more in taxes, despite enjoying the lowest effective tax rates in modern U.S. history. Instead, Republicans demand cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Straight-up class warfare, though they will send for the fainting couch if you point that out.

And this is the apt closing:
This has been the worst display of governmental incompetence for a very, very long time, and that is saying something. If ever we needed an example of partisanship clearly and unambiguously taking precedence over the economic needs of the country, this would be the textbook example. Let's hope we still even have textbooks a year from now, though, because the one thing have been Republicans are being most unyielding on is the demand that we do all of this all over again within six months or a year or so, in order to let them extract even deeper cuts and even more asinine demands.

Crooks, the lot of them.

Read the rest of Hunter's post here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Republicans Playing Politics With The Future of America?

As Pat Garofalo points out at Think Progress, "when the Republicans held both chambers of Congress from 2003 to 2006, and had a Republican in the White House, they not only didn’t approve a balanced budget amendment, they never even held a vote on it."

Wait! You mean that the debt ceiling frenzy of the last few months is just political posturing to gain advantages for the people the Republican party truly represents, i.e. the super-rich? Get out of here!

The Job Creation Myth

Hello! I just stumbled across a post on the "job creators" myth on the blog of a radio personality from St. Louis: Paul Harris. The guy has the right ideas about job creators and he hosts a show on poker. How bad could he be?

Businessweek: Republican Leaders Voted for Debt They Blame on Obama

Via Joan McCarter of the Daily Kos:

Businessweek: Republican leaders voted for debt they blame on Obama.

No big news there: Republicans are behaving like the hypocrites they are. But look at the chart in McCarter's post. And memorize it. And print it. And show it to all the Republicans and Libertarians and Ayn Randers who will no doubt try to lecture on out-of-hand spending and the problem is not on the revenue side, and all like bullshit.

You should be tired. You should get mad. You should take to the streets, like they do in the rest of the world when they learn the politicians are playing games with their future. And you should rebel against this kind of hypocrisy and stomp it out. Or it will continue to grow like an incurable cancer in your lives.

Another Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President.

Stop pussyfooting: Raise the damn debt ceiling already. You are a constitutional scholar, so you should know that the Constitution of the United States says that the national debt shall not be questioned. And, in fact, it never was. Particularly, it never was questioned by your opponents, who are now posturing as the most principled financial sages when in fact they raised the debt ceiling over and over again without batting an eyelid for decades.

You, Mr. President, like to call yourself "the adult in the room". That may be so. But you are not behaving like the type of adult anyone should take as an example. You like to say that you are seeking compromise because the House is in the hands of your opposition. It is true now, but it was not when you negotiated health care reform from a losing position, after surrendering to every demand your opponents made of you, even when the Democratic Party held the majority in both chambers of Congress.

Mr. President: If your goal was to show that there is nothing Republicans will say yes to, you have proved your point. Enough already. Let the chips fall where they may but, for our sake, it's time to move on.

Be the man we thought we helped elect. For once. Please. Or the only good thing that I'll be able to say about your presidency is that at least you weren't McCain.

Sincerely,

[Name withheld]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Here Are Your Job Creators

When Republicans say that we can't raise taxes on the rich because they are the job creators, they must be thinking of these two:
Borders
Cisco
And remember, the idea is that not raising taxes is the key to job creation. It makes you laugh when you look at this.

And I am listening to Grover Norquist, the insufferable servant to the powerful who is saying that government should not raise taxes under any circumstances, including the debt ceiling deal proposed by the President, which says raise taxes one dollar for every four in spending cuts. Go to hell, Grover.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On The Fantasy That "Taxing Job Creators Is Wrong " (And Why, Poor Things, We Should Not Raise Taxes on Them)

The key to achieving success, motivational speakers and business leaders will tell you, is being able to envision the future you want to achieve for yourself. Everybody can start a successful company and contribute to the success of others by creating jobs and opportunities for them. All you have to do is dream big, think bigger, and pursue your goal with a singularity of intent. Such is the power of the myth of America, the land of opportunity, and so is born the myth of the "small-business job-creator" that Republicans mythicize. Perhaps it is so. Perhaps, and I don't for one believe it--Ayn Rand was right in dividing individuals into the equivalent of superhuman achievers, forces of nature that cannot and should not be messed with on the one hand and leeches on the other. But--and I don't know about you--I am starting to get beyond annoyed at hearing this little nugget of conservative PR: "This is the exactly the wrong time to raise taxes on 'job creators'."

The logic of this insidious, fallacious, and dishonest argument goes more or less like this: the economy is in deep trouble, unemployment is high, people need jobs, and raising taxes on those who are in a position to create jobs is plain dumb." Even at first blush there are so many things wrong with this mendacious line of thinking that one does not know where to begin rebutting it. But I'll try.

We'll start with 9/11. When 9/11 hit, the economy was already in a recession, or so Bush-friendly economists liked to point out. To be fair, it is not just Bush-friendly economists who agree with the basic idea that the economy was already in a period of downturn when Bush inherited the presidency, from Clinton and from the Supreme Court. So be it. So, enter George Dumbya. He almost immediately lowered taxes. On everyone, sure, but much more for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans. From here on, we'll refer to these wealthy Americans as "job creators", both to please conservatives and because living in a fantasy is sometime a necessary refuge from everyday life (particularly the type of live engineered by conservatives). It was supposed to be a temporary thing to help the country recover after 9/11, but you know how things go. Nothing in life is as permanent as the supposedly temporary.

Anyway, at the end of George Dumbya's eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the net job creation (1st term in office vs. last term in office) amounted to 3 million, give or take a few heads. That's meager, particularly at a time when taxes were the lowest since Ronald Reagan's last year in office. Compare that figure with the 23 million jobs created under 8 years of Bill Clinton. Now add to that the fact that during the same time that jobs grew by 3 million (or +2.3% in term of payroll expansion) the population grew by 22 million, or 7.7%, and you will see that job creation did even remotely keep up with population expansion. (Under Clinton the population grew more rapidly, by 25.2 million or 8.9%, but roughly one job was created for each new arrival).

When George Dumbya left office, he left Obama a country in shambles. (Be it known that I think President Obama did a horrid job during the first 2.5 years in office.) Taxes under the new president remained untouched for the first 2.5 years, and yet joblessness continued to grow, from 7.8% when he came into office, to the current 9.2%.

To recap: taxes have remained at their lowest than at any time since Reagan's last year in office for the last 10 years or so, but the unemployment rate has continued to rise--from 4.2% when Bush came into office to 9.2% under Obama at present. Aside from the not tiny but conveniently overlooked fact (by conservatives) that most of this rise in unemployment came under George Dumbya (4.2% when he arrived, 7.8% when he left eight years later = +3.6%), where are the jobs that the job creators should have created under the most favorable tax treatment of them in 30 years? It seems that the correlation between low individual tax rates and job creation is dogmatic at best.

But, you will say, the economy is not doing well, so Obama should actually lower taxes. Really? How low is low enough for jobs to magically start appearing? There is only one thing that's worse than making the same mistake over and over again and expecting different results: doubling up on the same mistake.

But, you might also add in a desperate attempt to save the conservative day, corporate income taxes are very high. You would say that because you probably heard that corporate taxes in the United States are among the highest in the industrialized world. Of course, the fact that you heard it does not means that it is true; it is simply a consequence of the existence of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the Republican party. Simply hearing/saying it though doeth not truth make.

Consider, if you will, the fact that Citizens for Tax Justice estimated that only Icelandic companies pay lower income taxes than U.S. companies [pdf reader required] (for the 28 OECD countries for which data are available). Also, check out this list of 15 tax escape artists, compiled by The Daily Beast. Only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Republican congressmen/women, and Joe the Plumber could say with a straight face that taxes are killing American jobs.

What in fact is killing good American jobs is the fact that the policies promoted by Congress after Congress make it easy, even rewarding, for American companies to export capital, and the jobs that go with it, overseas. What is killing good American jobs is the fact that conservatives have been waging an all-out war on unions and the middle-class ever since Ronald Reagan took office and that there is no countervailing force to the power of corporations. The United States have by and large stopped making added-value products, and they are no longer competitive against the rising competition of places like China and India, to name but two where labor is a slave-based commodity. The one thing that is not killing jobs is the effective tax rate that corporations pay, thanks to the loopholes that they themselves have written into the tax code only to cheat us out of what we should reasonably be able to expect from in return for all the legally-sanctioned tax breaks they have already been granted.

So what could a good government do to reverse the death spiral in which the American economy and labor market seem trapped?

To begin with, the last thing it should do is listen to the deficit hawks who say that we should cut spending and have balanced budgets without raising taxes. The exact opposite is true. Sure, in a strong economy we could in theory leave all in the hands of the so-called free-market (another expression as void of practical meaning as job creators). But what about the economy we currently "enjoy", as opposed to the economy we are asked to fantasize about? The economy we have is one in which everyone knows someone who is unemployed, as opposed to the fictional economy where Joe the Plumber, the plumber without a plumbing license, can talk about the business he is trying to protect from Obama's socialism as if it existed anywhere in the real world instead of being a figment of his closed, ignorant, and fevered mind?

In an economic situation such as our present one, you should learn to recognize the government as the buyer of last resort. When no one wants to buy or spend money, when corporations have more incentive in investing outside of the United States, the government could and should stimulate the economy by thinking big, by building big things, renewing infrastructure, public education, transportation routes and systems, that sort of thing. Instead, the power to think big has been squeezed out of the minds of our leaders to such an extent that they are incapable of simply following the successful steps laid out by their predecessors in the successful New Deal and Great Society eras.

The government could and should also disincentivize the pernicious but consolidated practice of American companies that follow profits anywhere profits can be pursued, regardless of the methods used and the damage requisite in reaping them. It could also raise taxes a bit and--yes--redistribute it (!) to those who could pump it back into the economy by simply purchasing life's necessities that they currently cannot afford.

A fair government could also punish, instead of rewarding them, those who gamble with other people's money because they know that when their Ponzi scheme comes to light they can can get away with a slap on the wrists and a bailout. It could, in my dream world at least, bolster the middle-class confidence by decreasing the eligibility age for Medicare, instead of increasing it; that move alone might help people to leave a job they are currently hanging on to only because they need to make it to age 65, opening job opportunities for those who are currently relying on public money to outlast the doldrums. It could, ideally, assure the nation that no changes are going to be made to the benefit structure of Social Security until the last wasted penny has been cut from the D.O.D., or until the last cent has been recovered from the tax cheats that game the system to pay no income tax on epochal profits.

That, and not the mythical faculties of job creators, is something worth fantasizing about. Why, if you can dream about it, you might even be able to make it come true.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mowing Down Everything That Stands In The Way Of Unreason

Republicans and their corporate overlords have a pretty clear agenda: to mow down everything that stands in the way of their unreasonable claims and policies.

Scientist overwhelmingly agree that humans influence the climate? Defund science.

Public schools teach curricula that include evolution but not creationism and it's younger sibling, intelligent design? Defund public schools.

Research shows that the risk of unwanted pregnancy in sexually active young women is to make cheap contraceptives available? Defund Planned Parenthood and sex education.

The list of such examples is endless.

The goal of the Republican Party and of its funders is to remove all obstacles to unfettered corporate domination of our lives, to create an endless reservoir of easily replaceable and uneducated laborers (hence the drive to push the cost of tuition up and to eliminate public education as we know it), to destroy critical thinking, to establish a social climate which makes it easier to control individuals by making them live in fear of real and imaginary threats, and to control people's sexuality, which--as Orwell understood--is the primitive seed and the last bastion of individual freedom.

It does not come as a surprise, then, that the great Republican minds that control the House of Representatives--in particular those that inhabit the House Appropriation Committee--have devised yet another scheme to demolish science that stands in the way of their goal. As the Huffington Post reports
The House Appropriations Committee is set to put the final touches on a funding bill Wednesday that proposes to slash the government's data collection arm by 25 percent -- a cut that economists and statistics experts say could end up costing taxpayers and businesses billions.

"It's essentially turning out the lights as economic policymakers are trying to do their work," said Andrew Reamer, a George Washington University professor who focuses on economics and U.S. competitiveness.

[...] the cuts in question target the Commerce Department's Census Bureau -- recently one of the bogeyman of the right. The cuts would take effect in October, leaving the bureau little time even to plan to mitigate the impacts.

[...]

"[The cuts] would have major, permanent impacts on the nation's economic and demographic statistics," the bureau said, according to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member and past chair of the House Joint Economic Committee.

If numbers, real numbers, stand in the way of your plan, just stop collecting them, or weaken our ability to collect them and analyze them meaningfully. Then your opponents will have nothing on which they can base their criticism of your policies, because it will no longer be a case of what you say versus facts; it will be a case of he says, she says. Absent hard data, factual findings and scientific analysis truth will cease to have any meaning. That is what Republicans understand and what they have been working to achieve since at least the Reagan presidency. It's just a fact, and if they have their way, they'll make it disappear, too.

An Open Letter to President Obama

Mr. President:

I am a 46 year-old male who understands that if a couple of Presidents like you should succeed you, I will not retire at 65, nor probably at 70. Most likely, I will not retire in the United States; if I have enough to retire on anywhere else, I will have to leave, my money with me.

If you are really thinking of raising the eligibility age for Medicare and of cutting Social Security Benefits in your desire to be re-elected or to appear as an adult who is capable of striking political compromise with unrelenting opponents, then know this: you are a traitor.

If you think that traitor is too strong a word, please consider this: In doing what you propose, why even in simply proposing it, you are betraying the promise that past generations have made to future ones, that they would get what they had been promised, when they were due to get it.

Worse, you are choosing to cut benefits (because a delayed benefit or a smaller benefit are cuts) instead of going to get the money we'd need to keep things intact where you should be looking for it: reducing the size and the budget of the military, which are ridiculously bloated; going after corporations who export not only profits (to tropical tax havens), but American jobs (read "lives); taxing the truly rich at rates that would be higher than they have been since President Clinton left office, but still lower than the rates the rich have paid, even for most of the Reagan presidency. Those, may I suggest, are a few things that a progressive President would have fought for. Instead, you are ready to sacrifice the futures of people who have already sacrificed much and have little left to look forward but the hope of relative tranquility in retirement. In essence, you are saying to them that seniors have it too good, and that delaying their life-saving benefits for two years would be a step in the right direction.

If that is not betrayal, Mr. President, I don't know what is.

Moreover, the message you are sending to those who would vote for you or any other Democrat is this: Why bother? If electing a Democrat means that things will get worse just a little slower than under a Republican, and not better, than you are giving your party's potential electors a good reason not to bother. In fact, perhaps it would be better if the country went to hell faster, under a series of Republicans. That way we'll find out quicker where rock bottom is, and what will happen when we hit it.
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