From a Time story on Chelsea Manning, serving a barbarous 35-year sentence for committing the truth in a public place:
For starters, the Department of Defense was known as the Department of War until 1947, when the newly-created (and named) Air Force, along with the Army, gathered under the same roof for the first time with the Navy (the new outfit was known as the National Military Establishment until 1949).It would have been immediately clear to George Orwell (who was to publish 1984 two years later) that the United States was about to embark on a series of wars that would continue, almost unbroken, for the rest of the century and well into the next one.
War has always had, not to put to fine a point on it, a specific and violent meaning. With the end of World War II — and the beginning of the Cold War — the U.S. government found itself needing a standing Army for the first time in its history. Replacing War with Defense made the change more palatable.
Many of you have written in to ask whether racism is dead in America. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks, but the answer is not yet. Not till we see a black man and a white woman in a Cialis ad.
Frank Rich’s monthly essay in New York is out, and let’s hope he’s right. Which I think he is. Excerpt:
The received wisdom that sex scandals threaten a Hillary run is preposterous. It’s the reverse that’s true. The right’s inability to stanch its verbal diarrhea on the subject of female sexuality — whether provoked by rape, contraception, abortion, “traditional marriage,” gay marriage, gay parenting, or pop culture — did as much as anything to defeat Mitt Romney, his “binders full of women” notwithstanding, in 2012. (He lost women voters to Obama by 11 percentage points.) And that obsession with sex can defeat the GOP again. Todd Akin, the avatar of “legitimate rape,” may be gone, but many of the same political players will be in place in 2016 as in 2012 — more than a few of them alumni of the Clinton sexcapades of the 1990s.
No matter how much Republican leaders talk of reining in their sexist language (though not their policies) to counter charges that the GOP conducts a war on women, they just can’t help themselves. Whether or not there’s a war on women in 2016, there will be a rancorous and tasteless war on one woman. And it is guaranteed to backfire, drowning out fair G-rated questions about the Clintons’ dealings just as Monica and other “bimbo eruptions” drowned out such now-forgotten Clinton scandals as Filegate and Castle Grande.
And a Happy New Year to bloggers everywhere:
TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has put his name on the ballot to run for another term, defying repeated calls for him to step down after admitting he smoked crack “in a drunken stupor…”
“If you want to get personal, that’s fine,” he told reporters, according to the Star. “I’m sticking to my record, and talk is cheap. You’re going to see action like you’ve never seen before.”
The medical term for this sort of behavior is “autophagia.” Soldiers in Vietnam used to call it “stepping on your own dick.”
When Republicans and the Tea Party contribute to hunger by attacking food stamps, people of color aren’t the only ones who suffer: Republicans are physically harming their own base. Slashing food stamp benefits won’t harm the Koch brothers or JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, but it will definitely harm poor whites in a place like McDowell County, West Virginia, which is 94% white (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), rural and has a life expectancy of only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females (according to a report that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013). If life expectancy is any indication, the economic conditions for white males in McDowell County aren’t much better than the economic conditions in Haiti, where, according to the World Health Organization, males have a life expectancy of 62. In contrast to McDowell County, that study showed a life expectancy of 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California — which is affluent and heavily Democratic.
From the New York Times:
Much of the deal came down to dollars and cents. Mr. Dimon, the people said, signaled during that Sept. 24 call that he was willing to increase JPMorgan’s offer to settle an array of state and federal investigations into the bank’s sale of troubled mortgage securities before the financial crisis. The government, these people said, had already balked at the bank’s two initial offers: $1 billion and $3 billion.
And so that same week, Mr. Dimon traveled to the Justice Department in Washington for a meeting with Mr. Holder that underscored how expensive the healing process had become. At the meeting, the people briefed on the talks said, JPMorgan executives raised the offer to $11 billion, $4 billion of which would serve as relief to struggling homeowners.
But Mr. Holder wanted more money to resolve the civil cases, the people said. And despite the bank’s requests, he refused to provide JPMorgan a so-called nonprosecution agreement that would halt an investigation from prosecutors in California, who were scrutinizing the bank’s mortgage securities. Instead, the people said, he informed Mr. Dimon that the Justice Department wanted JPMorgan to plead guilty to a criminal charge in that case, an unusual show of force against a Wall Street bank.
I’m beginning to like the Attorney General, just a little bit. Now if he could only remember where he mislaid the First Amendment…
Heads the tan man wins, tails we all win. An elegant solution from Professor Wolff:
By all reports, there are enough Republican members of the House of Representatives ready to vote for a clean Continuing Resolution so that with the support of the Democratic members, such a raise would have no trouble passing. But John Boehner is clearly fearful that if he allows such a bill to come to the floor of the House, he will lose his Speakership.
Now, the position of Speaker of the House is not a party office, like Senate Majority Leader. It is a Constitutional office, voted on by all members of the House. To be elected Speaker, one needs an absolute majority of all votes cast, not counting abstentions by those voting “present.” In return for bringing a clean CR to the floor, the Democrats could make a deal with Boehner to abstain, or alternatively throw enough votes his way, to guarantee his reelection as Speaker. Hell, they could even make a deal not to challenge him for reelection in his District. They could make the same deal for a raising of the debt limit.
Just a thought.
…The Guardian’s got you covered:
While it is true that if e-coli bacteria from fecal matter is ingested, that it can can cause ailments such as cramps, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, and other illnesses, the likelihood of anyone contracting these ailments from holy water under most circumstances is small…
Forty years ago I planted a black walnut sapling, which is now a huge, massive tree producing bushels of nuts every year for the squirrels. Not for us, as you would appreciate if you ever tried to shell a black walnut.
Producing also, from its roots and fallen leaves, a substance called juglone which poisons practically every edible plant in its vicinity known to man — except the pawpaw tree. The pawpaw is a native American fruit in the custard apple family, reputed to be delicious. Neither you nor I have ever tasted a pawpaw, because it doesn’t keep well enough to reach the market.
What could I do then but plant pawpaws in the shade of the walnut? Nothing, and now, four years later, I have two pawpaws big enough to bear flowers and thus, theoretically, fruit. The thing is, though, that pawpaws are not self-pollinating. In the wild they are pollinated by carrion-eating flies, which they attract by having flowers the color of rotting liver. Since this is an iffy proposition, the hopeful pawpaw grower is advised to hang spoiled meat from the branches. Fortune smiled on me. Out hunting snakes just at blossom time, I came across a rotting deer carcass.
Just to be sure, though, I backed up the deer bones with hand pollination. The deal is this. First you take an artist’s brush and then just go to it:
Pollen is ripe for gathering when the ball of anthers is brownish in color, loose and friable. Pollen grains should appear as small beige-colored particles on the brush hairs. The stigma is receptive when the tips of the pistils are green, glossy and sticky, and the anther ball is firm and greenish to light yellow in color.
See? Nothing to it. A few weeks later and Shazam!, you’ve got yourself not just one but two baby pawpaws. Only about an inch long so far, but wait till October.
After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn’t changed all that much…
She's also retired, something the 69-year-old widow couldn’t afford before. When 25-year-old Canadian Max Sidorov was moved to take up an online collection to send her on vacation, more than 32,000 people from 84 countries responded — pledging $703,873 in donations.
We seem to be in Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s RV, deep in the heart of Kansas:
Other than being surrounded by more than a mile and a half of 6-foot-high chain-link fence topped with sharp rows of barbed wire, the land above ground isn't distinguishable from expanses of hills and trees that surround it. The proposed shelter's entrances — nondescript concrete loading docks tucked discretely into the wooded hillside — are easily defensible against any potential intruders provided there's not a full-scale military attack, Vicino said…
Before it comes time to ride out Armageddon or a deadly global pandemic, though, Vicino says the Vivos Survival Shelter and Resort will be a fun place for members to take vacations and learn assorted survival skills to prepare them for whatever world-changing catastrophe awaits.
Take five minutes of this and call me in the morning:
Norman Mailer was once asked if he thought if an atomic war would kill all mankind. Hell no, he said. We’ll smother ourselves in our own shit first. More and more, Mailer appears to have been right.
Looking on the bright side, though, small sparks of beauty may survive here and there. So take a look at this video sent along by Asher Pavel, and hope for the birds.
To give you an idea of how truly stupid the bipartisan War Party in Congress is, its members are even stupider than the citizenry they pretend to represent:
Sixty-two percent of the public say the United States has no responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and antigovernment groups, while just one-quarter disagree. Likewise, 56 percent say North Korea is a threat that can be contained for now without military action, just 15 percent say the situation requires immediate American action and 21 percent say the North is not a threat at all.
Louis Brown, 50, a poll respondent from Springfield Township, Ohio, said, “We don’t need additional loss of American lives right now.”
In the poll, 4 in 10 Americans cited the economy and jobs as the country’s most important problems, while only 1 percent named foreign policy.
In the late 1950s I worked for the Washington Daily News, a long defunct afternoon tabloid. Of the three Washington papers, it was the most widely read among the African-American community which then as now was the majority group in the city. This didn’t stop us from identifying black suspects in police stories as “colored,” until one day a delegation of civil rights leaders protested to the publisher, John O’Rourke. So he split the baby in half, and from then on we tagged Caucasians by race, too: “Police charged John Doe, 53, white, of the 1200 block of DeKalb St. NW, with murder in the deadly assault.”
Which is beside my main point, but I just thought I’d throw it in. My main point involves advertising. One day I was down in the composing room, watching them put together an advertising supplement. I asked an ad salesman why all the clothing models were white when so many of our readers weren’t.
“White sells black,” he explained in simple words, as to a child. “Black don’t sell white.”
Nowadays this sort of racism is dead on Madison Avenue, except when it isn’t. Clinical death will occur only when the middle-aged black man in the Cialis ad heads off to the beach for a little bathtub action with his blonde sweetie.
Is this what it seems to be? Is the Senate really more responsive to the will of the people (read “more afraid”) than President Obama is? Or is it just that the president doesn’t have to run for office anymore? Here’s Dean Baker, on AlterNet:
Both the New York Times and Washington Post decided to ignore the Senate's passage by voice vote of the Sanders Amendment. This was an amendment to the budget put forward by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that puts the Senate on record as opposing the switch to the chained CPI as the basis for the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)…
With all the Republicans who pronounce endlessly on the need to cut entitlement spending, there was not a single Republican senator who was prepared to say that switching the Social Security COLA to a chained CPI was a good idea. And even though President Obama has repeatedly stated as clearly as he could that he supported the switch to a chained CPI, there was not one Democratic senator who was prepared to stand up and speak in solidarity with the president.
Okay, okay, so the top-seeded Notre Dame women edged out Iowa 74-57 a few hours ago in the second round of the NCAAs. More to the point though:
Sophomore center Bethany Doolittle, left open as Notre Dame trapped Logic, led Iowa with 16 points, including 10 in the first half.
“Bethany stepped up and kept us in there, but we just struggled to score, especially in the second half,” Bluder said. “It was a tough night all the way around.”
…Mother Nature has her little ways of upgrading the gene pool. From Raycom News Network:
“Urologists across the country have noticed a trend in men over the last few years who are getting their vasectomies at the time of March Madness,” Schwartz said. “You have a perfect excuse to watch basketball all weekend.”
Many urology centers report a dramatic increase in the number of vasectomies they perform this time of year, saying business increases by as much as 50 percent.
From Peter Turchin, professor of ecology and mathematics at the University of Connecticut:
In the US, there is famously a close connection between wealth and power. Many well-off individuals — typically not the founders of great fortunes but their children and grandchildren — choose to enter politics (Mitt Romney is a convenient example, though the Kennedy clan also comes to mind). Yet the number of political offices is fixed: there are only so many senators and representatives at the federal and state levels, and only one US president. As the ranks of the wealthy swell, so too do the numbers of wealthy aspirants for the finite supply of political positions.
When watching political battles in today’s Senate, it is hard not to think about their parallels in Republican Rome. The population of Italy roughly doubled during the second century BC, while the number of aristocrats increased even more. Again, the supply of political offices was fixed — there were 300 places in the senate and membership was for life. By the end of the century, competition for influence had turned ugly. During the Gracchan period (139—110BC), political feuding led to the slaughter of the tribunes Tiberius and Gaius on the streets of Rome. During the next century, intra-elite conflict spilt out of Rome into Italy and then into the broader Mediterranean. The civil wars of the first century BC, fueled by a surplus of politically ambitious aristocrats, ultimately caused the fall of the Republic and the establishment of the Empire.
This from The Caucus slipped past me last week. I should have paid better attention, and it should have been given better play by the Times. If the Evangelicals and the Baptists are dusting off the social gospel and lobbying for it, good things could happen. At the very least the Golden Rule is a welcome change from vaginal probes, gay marriage, and the War on Christmas.
Leaders from some of the nation’s largest and most influential Christian congregations are urging President Obama and members of Congress to end their fiscal brinkmanship and find a way to agree on new revenue and spending cuts that will reduce the deficit while protecting the poorest Americans.
In a public letter, to be released on Monday just days before severe budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect, the groups urge that the fiscal debate be framed in terms of “moral choices.” The letter blames both parties for slowing the country’s economic recovery and risking the possibility that more people will slide into poverty…
Almost 100 pastoral leaders signed the letter, including the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the president of the National Baptist Convention.
A group of feminist activists stripped off their shirts and flashed their breasts in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
They were members of Femen, a Ukraine-based feminist group that has spread around the world and that frequently organizes topless protests. Femen has protested abortion restrictions in the Ukraine, and has also protested in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot. They have also staged anti-rape demonstrations in France.
…His wonders to perform. It turns out that television, far from making us dumber, is in reality culling the morons. It’s actually the anti-boob tube, applying the best eugenic principles to the whole human race. From MedPage Today:
Men who watched TV for 20 or more hours a week had a 44% lower sperm concentration compared with men who did not watch TV. In a multivariable analysis, sperm concentration tended to be inversely associated with time spent watching TV, and a trend toward lower sperm count emerged from the data.
Thomas W. Malone, director of MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, puts numbers to what we all knew. Assuming we have been keeping our eyes open.
If it’s not just putting a bunch of smart people in a group that makes the group smart, what is it? We looked at bunch of factors you might have thought would affect it: things like the psychological safety of the group, the personality of the group members, et cetera. Most of the things we thought might have affected it turned out not to have any significant effect. But we did find three factors that were significantly correlated with the collective intelligence of the group.
The first was the average social perceptiveness of the group members. We measured social perceptiveness in this case using a test developed essentially to measure autism. It’s called the “Reading the Mind and the Eyes Test.” It works by letting people look at pictures of other people’s eyes and try to guess what emotions those people are feeling. People who are good at that work well in groups. When you have a group with a bunch of people like that, the group as a whole is more intelligent.
The second factor we found was the evenness of conversational turn taking. In other words, groups where one person dominated the conversation were, on average, less intelligent than groups where the speaking was more evenly distributed among the different group members.
Finally, and most surprisingly to us, we found that the collective intelligence of the group was significantly correlated with the percentage of women in the group. More women were correlated with a more intelligent group. Interestingly, this last result is not just a diversity result. It’s not just saying that you need groups with some men and some women. It looks like that it’s a more or less linear trend. That is, more women are better all the way up to all women.
A thought to take with you into the voting booth tomorrow. It’s from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The good and just society is neither the thesis of capitalism nor the antithesis of communism, but a socially conscious democracy which reconciles the truths of individualism and collectivism.”
From Sunday Styles:
[Larry] Flynt recently filed a federal trademark infringement suit against two of his nephews, who had started selling adult movies under the name Flynt. The Hustler creator argued that his brand was being sullied with “inferior products.” He won.
“People don’t want their porn to look tacky,” he said.
I figured the quote below would get at least as much MSM attention as Ed Rendell kvetching about Obama, but either nobody noticed or nobody cared. It’s Grover Norquist, during episode 16 of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (my transcription). I see no other way to read this than that the GOP’s leading intellectual expects President Obama to win a second term, with the Democrats retaining the White House till at least 2032.
The modern Republican Party has been president-centric for the last 40 or 50 years because they knew they’d never have the House and Senate. In the same way that the Democrats for the last 60 years have been a congressional party. Their power is in the congress and then when Obama came in, what did he do? He signed the stimulus package that the Democrats in congress wrote. He signed the Dodd-Frank Bill which was not the Geithner bill, it was written in Congress…
The Democrat party for the last 60 years has been run out of the House and Senate. Republicans have been president-centric. That shifts, because if you look at the next 5, 10, 20 years the Republican are more likely to have the House and
Senate than the President, and that’s where the leadership is going to come from.
Now that I’ve discovered this site, we’ll be hearing a lot more from VietNamNet Bridge:
Ms. Bui Thi Vinh and Mr. Ha Van Toi, 91, in the southern province of Ben Tre, have officially become wife and husband on June 4.
After several months of strongly protesting the two elder people to live together, children of Ms. Vinh and Mr. Toi were glad to support them. A small party that they organized on June 4 was seen as the official wedding for the old couple.
Ms. Vinh said that being convened by the local officials, her children and Mr. Toi’s children understood the old couple’s wish. “Several days ago, Mr. Toi’s son took him to my home to visit me and then took us to the church for marriage ceremony,” she said.
Since Mr. Toi lived with Ms. Vinh in her house, the old couple went to church every morning, then they dropped by the market to buy food. They together cleaned their garden and house.
Two months ago, local people were surprised knowing that a couple of 91 years old asked the priest to perform marriage ceremony for them. Their families tried to stop the old couple from living together.
Thanks to the patience of local officials and being influenced by the public opinion that supports the old couple, the two families have understood of the two people’s hearts.
In case you have any friends who are opposed to Obama’s health care plan but amenable to reason — admittedly a tiny demographic — you might direct them to this article by Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.
Two-and-a-half years later, Baptists’ surgeons have earned more than $950,000 in bonuses. Medicare, meanwhile, has netted savings: Its bundled rate is about 5 percent lower than all the fees it used to pay out for the same services. “It wasn’t a home-run,” says Zucker, noting the start-up costs in administering the program — not to mention a handful of lost employees. “But I’d call it a solid triple…”
Although it’s not fully implemented, some say the Affordable Care Act has already significantly catalyzed the health-care system. Leaders know where Medicare wants to go, even if they didn’t chart an especially aggressive path for how it would get there. “Forever and a day, everybody had been saying we had to change the way we paid for health care,” Roades says. “Now, we have a sense of direction of where the country’s biggest payer is headed. And that provides cover for everybody else to move in that direction…”
But the system, he says, is shifting away from it. “The goal, quite simply, is to improve our quality metrics and bring down per-capita costs,” Blum continued. “That’s going to be the ultimate success.” When Baptist Health Systems started down this path in 2008, it had little idea where it would lead or whether the doctors would revolt. Now that 78 percent of his doctors have received bonus checks, Zucker is more confident.
We may or may not wind up acting with our customary insanity in reaction to Israel’s current cries for war. Barack Obama and Joe Biden rather than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are in charge, and so this time our strutting chickenhawks might not get their way. Which would spare us another descent into Macbeth’s dilemma:
I am in blood stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.
In recent months, talk of Iran’s nuclear ambitions has fueled the Republican presidential campaign, served as the backdrop for this week’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and earned a pledge from Obama on Sunday that the United States would resort to military means if necessary to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Israeli officials acknowledge that the widespread acceptance in the West that Iran is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon isn’t based just on the findings of Israeli intelligence operatives, but relies in no small part on a steady media campaign that the Israelis have undertaken to persuade the world that Iran is bent on building a nuclear warhead…
His point was driven home in February, when Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, said that Iran is developing a missile that could strike targets more than 6,000 miles away — such as the East Coast of the United States.
The missile project is “aimed at America, not Israel,” said Yaalon, a well-known hawk who advocates a military strike on Iran by Israel and its allies.
“Israel has everyone so worked up that the thought is, let’s temper what they do, rather than, let’s stop or control what they do,” said one European diplomat based in Jerusalem, who like many diplomats declined to be identified further because of the sensitivity of the subject…
“…I’ve been talking about this since 2005, and nearly every year has been the ‘Iran year,’” Javedanfar said. “I think the level of hysteria has dropped... If Iran gets a bomb it is not something I would like to see, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end. It’s a mistake to use words like ‘existential threat.’”
The first date-specific prediction of when Iran would have a nuclear weapon was made in 1998, by the then head of military intelligence, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, who warned that Iran could have the bomb by 2008…
Not that the predictions have been consistent. In 2009, Israel’s then-spymaster, Meir Dagan, estimated that Iran would have a weapon by 2014. That same year, Yossi Baidetz, the head of Israel’s military intelligence research division, said that Iran had all the nuclear know-how it needed. In 2010, Israeli officials shortened their estimates to 2012.
From the New York Times:
The network and its allies say the legal action is part of a campaign by the church to cripple an organization that has been the most visible defender of victims, and a relentless adversary, for more than two decades. “If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes, “it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.”
Lawyers for the church and priests say they cannot comment because of a judge’s order. But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”
Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”
The Rude Pundit quotes Martin Luther King:
Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.
Exactly. Greenspan and the Chicago boys. Newtie. Governor Walker. The Koch brothers. Cantor. Perry. Reagan. Bush the Lesser. McConnell. The Tea Party. The two Pauls. On and on. All of them conscientious objectors in the war against poverty. And all of them bound, if the Bible is right, for the same place as Dives.
From the New York Times:
LONDON — The chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, António Horta-Osório, decided Friday to give up his bonus for last year after taking a leave of absence from the struggling financial firm.
Lloyds, which is partly owned by the government, said Mr. Horta-Osório told the bank’s board that he did not wish to be considered for an annual bonus for 2011. Mr. Horta-Osório was in line for a bonus of as much as £2.4 million, or $3.7 million. The board accepted the request, Lloyds said in a statement.
“As chief executive, I believe my bonus entitlement should reflect the performance of the group but also the tough financial circumstances that many people are facing,” Mr. Horta-Osório said. “I also acknowledge that my leave of absence has had an impact both inside and outside the bank including for shareholders. On that basis, I have decided to request that the board does not consider me for a 2011 bonus…”
Are you listening, Jamie Dimon? How about you, Blankfein?
From Tom Degan at The Rant, a line I wish I had written:
Well over a year ago I predicted on this site that the religious bigots and crazy people who long ago hijacked the “the party of Abraham Lincoln” would never nominate Mormon Mitt Romney. “David Duke will be named head of the NAACP before that ever happens” I speculated at the time. It appears that I might be forced to eat a healthy dish of crow on the occasion of Mitt’s victory in the New Hampshire Primary last night. This is not to imply that the half-witted “base” of that party are happy about what happened last evening. Anything but. Let me put it to you this way: The Republicans just got the news that they’re pregnant and they’re trying to fall in love as rapidly as possible.
This went into effect Monday. I’ve waited a while to see whether the MSM would jump on the good news with its customary enthusiasm. Oddly, no.
On Friday, the federal government launched an element of the Affordable Care Act that is likely to have far-reaching consequences on the cost of health care in the United States in the form of new regulatory controls on how private health insurance companies spend the money they collect in premiums. Rick Ungar, a left-leaning specialist on health care policy who writes for the corporatist site, Forbes.com, explains:
That would be the provision of the law, called the medical loss ratio, that requires health insurance companies to spend 80 percent of the consumers’ premium dollars they collect — 85 percent for large group insurers — on actual medical care rather than overhead, marketing expenses and profit. Failure on the part of insurers to meet this requirement will result in the insurers having to send their customers a rebate check representing the amount in which they underspend on actual medical care.
This is the true ‘bomb’ contained in Obamacare and the one item that will have more impact on the future of how medical care is paid for in this country than anything we’ve seen in quite some time. Indeed, it is this aspect of the law that represents the true ‘death panel’ found in Obamacare — but not one that is going to lead to the death of American consumers. Rather, the medical loss ratio will, ultimately, lead to the death of large parts of the private, for-profit health insurance industry.
In August of 1910, former President Theodore Roosevelt delivered in Osawatomie, Kansas, a speech in which he laid out what he hoped would become the fundamental beliefs of the Republican Party.
Here is part of what he said:
The new Nationalism puts the National need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat National issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from over-division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring National activities to a deadlock.
This new Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people…
The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows…
We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.
Here is all of what President Obama said earlier today in Osawatomie. I hope you will read it all, after the jump. The president has found his true voice at last. See if you agree. I have posted the remainder of his speech after the jump.
Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking a few of the folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor of Osawatomie, Phil Dudley; your superintendent, Gary French; the principal of Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam. And I’ve brought your former governor, who’s now doing an outstanding job as our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius……
It is great to be back in the state of Kansas. As many of you know, I’ve got roots here. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Obamas of Osawatomie. Actually, I like to say that I got my name from my father, but I got my accent — and my values — from my mother. She was born in Wichita. Her mother grew up in Augusta. And her father was from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep.
My grandparents served during World War II — he as a soldier in Patton’s Army, she as a worker on a bomber assembly line. Together, they shared the optimism of a nation that triumphed over a Depression and fascism. They believed in an America where hard work paid off, responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried — no matter who you were, where you came from, or how you started out.
These values gave rise to the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known. It was here, in America, that the most productive workers and innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth, and every American shared in that pride and success — from those in executive suites to middle management to those on the factory floor. If you gave it your all, you’d take enough home to raise your family, send your kids to school, have your health care covered, and put a little away for retirement.
Today, we are still home to the world’s most productive workers and innovative companies. But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.
For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets — and huge bonuses — made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.
It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions — innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.
Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness. Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements — from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.
But this isn’t just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.
You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because some people thought massive inequality and exploitation was just the price of progress.
Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today: that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.
But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can. It only works when there are rules of the road to ensure that competition is fair, open, and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for customers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children, or selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.
In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”
For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.
Today, over one hundred years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.
Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits — especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.
It’s a simple theory — one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.
Remember that in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history, and what did they get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class — things like education and infrastructure; science and technology; Medicare and Social Security.
Remember that in those years, thanks to some of the same folks who are running Congress now, we had weak regulation and little oversight, and what did that get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity, and denied care to the patients who were sick. Mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford. A financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.
We simply cannot return to this brand of your-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and its future. It doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.
Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top one percent has gone up by more than 250%, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of one percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent.
This kind of inequality — a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity — that’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.
Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them — that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.
More fundamentally, this kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise at the very heart of America: that this is the place where you can make it if you try. We tell people that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, hard work can get you into the middle class; and that your children will have the chance to do even better than you. That’s why immigrants from around the world flocked to our shores.
And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class.
It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. It flies in the face of everything we stand for.
Fortunately, that’s not a future we have to accept. Because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country — a view that’s truer to our history; a vision that’s been embraced by people of both parties for more than two hundred years.
It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.
So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy?
It starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is, we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages or pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win — and shouldn’t want to win. Those countries don’t have a strong middle-class. They don’t have our standard of living.
The race we want to win — the race we can win — is a race to the top; the race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers; the most advanced transportation and communication; the strongest commitment to research and technology.
The world is shifting to an innovation economy. And no one does innovation better than America. No one has better colleges and universities. No one has a greater diversity of talent and ingenuity. No one’s workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or daring. The things that have always been our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of this moment.
But we need to meet the moment. We need to up our game. And we need to remember that we can only do that together.
It starts by making education a national mission — government and businesses; parents and citizens. In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. Their income is twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. We shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now — we should be hiring them. We shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools — we should be demanding more. We shouldn’t be making it harder to afford college — we should be a country where everyone has the chance to go.
In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to science, research, and the next generation of high-tech manufacturing. Our factories and their workers shouldn’t be idle. We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges, so they can learn to make wind turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries. And by the way — if we don’t have an economy built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance. Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering. This country shouldn’t be known for bad debt and phony profits. We should be known for creating and selling products all over the world that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.
Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers, and communicate with the rest of the world. That’s why the over one million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed shouldn’t be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and bridges; laying down faster railroads and broadband; modernizing our schools — all the things other countries are already doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their shores.
Yes, businesses, not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we have always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed. Historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt worked with Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II, including my grandfather, the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas, who started the interstate highway system and doubled-down on science and research to stay ahead of the Soviets.
Of course, those productive investments cost money. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everyone to do their fair share. If we had unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we’d never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.
Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law, and proposed trillions more — including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
But in order to actually close the deficit and get our fiscal house in order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Most immediately, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000, and it would badly weaken our recovery.
But in the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education, and research, and high-tech manufacturing? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both. That’s not politics. That’s just math.
So far, most of the Republicans in Washington have refused, under any circumstances, to ask the wealthiest Americans to go the same tax rates they were paying when Bill Clinton was president.
Now, keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early 50s, when the top tax rate was over 90%, or even the early 80s, when it was about 70%. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent.
This is the height of unfairness. It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay a higher tax rate than somebody pulling in $50 million. It is wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. And he agrees with me. So do most Americans — Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.
This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get to the middle class, and the economy as a whole.
Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.
But part of the deal was that we would not go back to business as usual. That’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on this core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing to millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college. We’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us every inch of the way. But already, some of these reforms are being implemented. If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you’ll have to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes. There are also limits on the size of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle a firm that goes under. The new law bans banks from making risky bets with their customers’ deposits, and takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.
All that is being put in place as we speak. Now, unless you’re a financial institution whose business model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers, or making risky bets that could damage the entire economy, you have nothing to fear from these new rules. My grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life, and I know that the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals want to do right by their customers. They want to have rules in place that don’t put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing. And yet, Republicans in Congress are already fighting as hard as they can to make sure these rules aren’t enforced.
I’ll give you one example. For the first time in history, the reform we passed puts in place a consumer watchdog who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders, payday lenders or debt collectors. The man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former Attorney General of Ohio who has the support of most Attorneys General, both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country.
But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anyone here think the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Of course not. Every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or member of our Armed Forces could be tricked into a loan they can’t afford — something that happens all the time. Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. I intend to make sure they do, and I will veto any effort to delay, defund, or dismantle the new rules we put in place.
We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening them. Here’s another example. Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll be calling for legislation that makes these penalties count — so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.
The fact is, this crisis has left a deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis, and working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house. The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who have yet to benefit from historically low interest rates. And they should recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, they will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest.
Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again. In the end, rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see the stake we have in each other’s success. And it will require all of us to take some responsibility to that success.
It will require parents to get more involved in their children’s education, students to study harder, and some workers to start studying all over again. It will require greater responsibility from homeowners to not take out mortgages they can’t afford, and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It will require those of us in public service to make government more efficient, effective, and responsive to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting programs we don’t need, to pay for those we do. That’s why we’ve made hundreds of regulatory reforms that will save businesses billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just throwing money at education, but challenging schools to come up with the most innovative reforms and the best results.
And it will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel put it best: “There’s another obligation I feel personally,” he said, “given that everything I’ve achieved in my career and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by…the United States.”
This broader obligation can take different forms. At a time when the cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States — not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible.
I think about the Big Three Auto companies who, during recent negotiations, agreed to create more jobs and cars in America; who decided to give bonuses, not just to their executives, but to all their employees — so that everyone was invested in the company’s success.
I think about a company based in Warroad, Minnesota called Marvin Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s competitors closed dozens of plants and let go hundreds of workers. But Marvin didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand or so employees. In fact, they’ve only laid off workers once in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even kept his eight employees during the Depression.
When times get tough, the workers agree to give up some perks and pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said, “You can’t grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood — and that’s the skills and experience your workforce delivers.” For the CEO, it’s about the community: “These are people we went to school with,” he said. “We go to church with them. We see them in the same restaurant. Indeed, a lot of us have married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere. But we are in Warroad.”
That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the greatest nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest companies understand. Our success has never just been about survival of the fittest. It’s been about building a nation where we’re all better off. We pull together, we pitch in, and we do our part, believing that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; and that our children will inherit a nation where those values live on.
And it is that belief that rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie — maybe even some of your ancestors — on a rain-soaked day more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on buggy, bicycle, and foot, they came to hear the vision of a man who loved this country, and was determined to perfect it.
“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common interests are as broad as the continent.” In the final years of his life, Roosevelt took that same message all across this country, from tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing that no matter where he went, or who he was talking to, all would benefit from a country in which everyone gets a fair chance.
Well into our third century as a nation, we have grown and changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster. The playing field is larger. The challenges are more complex.
But what hasn’t changed – what can never change – are the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the words of the man who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago, “The fundamental rule in our national life – the rule which underlies all others — is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.”
I believe America is on its way up. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
AMARILLO, Texas – The last of the nation's most powerful nuclear bombs — a weapon hundreds of times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — is being disassembled nearly half a century after it was put into service at the height of the Cold War.
The final components of the B53 bomb will be broken down Tuesday at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, the nation's only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. The completion of the dismantling program is a year ahead of schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, and aligns with President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons…
The Justice Department got the headline, but the spadework for this giant bust was done by a new unit in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services called the Center for Program Integrity — created by President Obama’s health care legislation to fight the Medicare fraud that costs the taxpayers billions of dollars a year. And a highly-placed source (one of my sons, who works there) says this is just the beginning:
The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against 91 people including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals allegedly involved in a nationwide Medicare fraud scheme in eight cities totaling $295 million in false billing.
“The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare – jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation’s most critical health care program for personal gain,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release. “Our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations are working aggressively to combat Medicare fraud and our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive – or effective. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and partners across government to fight against health care fraud.”
According to the Justice Department those charged are accused of a variety of fraud-related crimes including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The scheme involved home health care, physical and occupational therapy, mental health services, psychotherapy and durable medical equipment services, the Justice Department said…
CARMAGEDDON!!!! — the near-apocalpytic closure of a stretch of freeway in Los Angeles — has come and gone. I survived, although I did have to eat several of my own toes in order to do so.
There was indeed a ridiculous amount of breathless local coverage of Carmageddon throughout the weekend — it was more burdensome than the actual closure. (I will say in LA’s defense that this was a total shutdown of a ten-mile stretch of one of the busiest freeways in the world. In a number of cities and towns in this great land of ours, ten miles of freeway would be pretty much the whole town.) Now come the inevitable recriminations about the hype and hysteria that attended the run-up to the non-event, such as this one from Russ Baker.
There is, however, a rather gratifying lesson to be learned from this complete absence of disaster. In fact, it’s so gratifying that no one will ever speak of it.
Government (boo!!! hiss!!!) went out of its way to inform the citizenry what it was doing, and made the citizens participants in solving the problem. Government did what the citizens could not do for themselves - i.e. the work of improving the freeway — and gave the citizens the means to deal with the larger problem — i.e. not causing traffic jams — as they saw fit. Whereupon everyone seems to have made any number of personal decisions with the common good in mind.
Okay, so maybe that’s a little grandiose. Maybe they didn’t have the common good in mind — maybe they just didn’t want to be stuck in traffic. So, Galt-like, they selfishly stayed off the freeways altogether. Even if you put that spin on it, you’re still left with individuals acting in concert with an awareness of a larger community.
And they did this in Los Angeles!
That’s kind of how it’s supposed to work, isn’t it? That’s not apocalyptic, but I’d call that a pretty big deal.
Of course, the last thing we want people to realize in this country is that we’re all in this together, and that sometimes we can solve our problems simply by keeping that in mind. So we’ll make fun of Los Angeles for a few more days, and then move on to round-the-clock coverage of the next missing white girl...
[Ed. note: for details on the Streaker of 405, please apply here.]
I never thought I’d be holding up Bill Clinton as a profile in ballsiness, but here goes. This is from historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:
On tape, Clinton said he had pleaded for calm, and he described the climactic confrontation since as deceptively quiet. A week ago tonight, he almost whispered to Gingrich and Dole his reasons to veto their last, loaded resolutions keeping the government afloat. “You’re not the only people with convictions,” he told them.
His spiel extended full credit for sincerity to the other side. They all wanted to balance the budget, but they could finish the job without riders to the budget that would throw 380,000 kids out of Head Start. Or slash college funds or Medicaid.
If he must close the government to uphold countervailing values, so be it. He promised Gingrich and Dole that they would feel his priorities before this was over. Gingrich especially seemed shaken by the final notice. They were going over the cliff after all, and the Speaker quickly confided his surprise. All his calculations had assumed Clinton would bend or fold.
Clinton said he thought Gingrich and his caucus were fooled by their own propaganda about the moral force of their proclaimed crusade. In the past week of shock or shutdown, as the President’s approval ratings skyrocketed while those of Congress plummeted, they clung to hopes that the adverse reaction was temporary panic. The president thought the mainstream press fed their delusion by attributing his success to nimble posturing and salesmanship — anything but a strong stand on principle…
Since the 1980s, Republicans projected absurdly high growth and low inflation in order to conceal their massive accumulation of public debt, while the Republican Congress now was predicting years of low growth and high inflation to justify their maximum cuts in nonmilitary programs…
His polls had shot up nearly to 70 percent with the likeliest voters, 55 and older, even though he had not yet gotten to veto appropriations slashing Medicare and Medicaid. He said these shutdown vetoes were magnificent teaching tools … If the next continuing resolution contained more poisoned riders as the price of reopening the government, he would veto that, too, gaining a platform to explain. “There are horrible things in there,” he said. “People have no idea.”
From the Associated Press:
“A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.” — Defense Secretary Robert Gates warning that shrinking defense budgets will mean a smaller military and a diminished American role in the world.
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From the New York Times:
The hope, the scientists said, was to find a “choke point” that could greatly reduce the flow of spam. And in a paper to be presented on Tuesday at the annual IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in Oakland, Calif., they will report that they think they have found it.
It turned out that 95 percent of the credit card transactions for the spam-advertised drugs and herbal remedies they bought were handled by just three financial companies — one based in Azerbaijan, one in Denmark and one in Nevis, in the West Indies…
If a handful of companies like these refused to authorize online credit card payments to the merchants, “you’d cut off the money that supports the entire spam enterprise,” said one of the scientists, Stefan Savage of the University of California, San Diego, who worked with colleagues at San Diego and Berkeley and at the International Computer Science Institute…
Is John McCain coming to his senses at last? Is the old maverick risen from the grave? From Greg Sargent’s Plum Line, here’s an excerpt from a speech the senator gave today:
“With so much misinformation being fed into such an essential public debate as this one, I asked the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta, for the facts. And I received the following information:
“The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. We did not first learn from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the real name of bin Laden’s courier, or his alias, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of Al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation. We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ used on a detainee in U.S. custody. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts, or an accurate description of his role in Al-Qaeda.
“In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married, and ceased his role as an Al-Qaeda facilitator — which was not true, as we now know. All we learned about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti through the use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against Khalid Sheik Mohammed was the confirmation of the already known fact that the courier existed and used an alias.
“I have sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirm for me that, in fact, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in Al-Qaeda and his true relationship to Osama bin Laden — was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’
“In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. I hope former Attorney General Mukasey will correct his misstatement. It’s important that he do so because we are again engaged in this important debate, with much at stake for America’s security and reputation. Each side should make its own case, but do so without making up its own facts.”
If you’re as ill-informed as I was until just now, you’ve never heard of the Mondragon Cooperatives in the Basque country of Spain. The Rag Blog can fill the gap. Fascinating stuff. Here’s a sample:
In a few years, armed with these ideas, [Father Arizmendi] selected five graduating students from his technical school and with donations and borrowed funds from the credit union, his team of young workers formed a small cooperative workshop, ULGOR, named from one initial of each of the five students’ names.
It brought in about 20 more workers and started to produce a small but very practical kerosene stoves for cooking and heating. The single-burner stoves were much in demand and the coop thus thrived and grew. Today it’s called FAGOR, and its 8,000 current employee-owners in several divisions produce a wide range of high-quality household appliances sold across the world.
But this small startup in 1956 contained the first secret of MCC’s success — the three-in-one combination of school, credit union, and factory, all owned and controlled by the workers and the community. Starting a coop factory or workshop alone wouldn’t work; a startup also required a reliable source of credit and a source of skills and innovation.
Typically, an MCC coop is entirely owned by its workers — one worker, one share, one vote. Worker-owners get a salary that is a draw against their share of the firm’s annual profit, and is adjusted upward or downward at the end of the year. By Spanish cooperative law, a portion of the profits has to be turned over to the local community for schools, parks, and other common projects, The remainder is set aside for the repair and depreciation of plant and equipment, health care and pensions, and emergency reserves, as well as the workers’ salaries.
Technically, MCC worker-owners are thus not wage labor, but associated producers. There is an income spread, according to skill and seniority, but this is set and modified by the workers themselves meeting in an annual assembly. The assembly also elects a governing council, which in turn hires a CEO and management team.
This sort of decency is rare among district attorneys anywhere, and virtually unheard of in the cesspool which passes for criminal justice in Texas. My new hero is Patricia Lykos.
State officials had denied his request for a pardon, but Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos agreed to review his case after she took office in 2009. New DNA tests on the forensic evidence in the case came back February 22 and conclusively ruled out Rodriguez, now 50, Lykos said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“When this scientific inquiry began, there was no legal requirement or mandate for any further work to be done by our office, because the case had been dismissed,” Lykos said. “Instead, we acted on the most important obligation of all — to see that the truth emerges, and that justice is done. Today, we can state that an innocent man has been vindicated.”
The Harris County District Attorney’s office will ask a judge to formally declare Rodriguez innocent at a Thursday hearing, she said.
Lykos, a Republican, campaigned on promises to reform the prosecutor’s office in Texas’ largest city, and she has drawn praise from defense lawyers for creating a post-conviction review process to examine new evidence. The Innocence Project, which won Rodriguez’s release in 2004, gave her an award in 2010 for that program.
From the Associated Press:
Doctors from numerous hospitals set up a station near the Capitol to provide notes covering public employees’ absences. Family physician Lou Sanner, 59, of Madison, said he had given out hundreds of notes. Many of the people he spoke with seemed to be suffering from stress, he said.
“What employers have a right to know is if the patient was assessed by a duly licensed physician about time off of work,” Sanner said. “Employers don’t have a right to know the nature of that conversation or the nature of that illness. So it’s as valid as every other work note that I’ve written for the last 30 years.”
And now, for a change of pace, some good news. Bill Clinton’s misbegotten child, DADT, is dead. Everybody has heard this by now, but whole generations of younger Americans can’t understand just how good this news really is. One who can is author Perry Deane Young, an army veteran and a war correspondent in Vietnam. Let him tell you how it was in the bad old days:
Like many thousands before and since, I lied when I came to this line in the Army’s health questionnaire: “Do you now or have you ever had …. homosexual tendencies?” I had been actively, if secretively, homosexual since early puberty, but I also knew the brutal consequences of being open about those “tendencies.”
There came a moment of terror for me in February of 1967 when I stood at the alphabetical end of hundreds of soldiers posing for our graduation picture at the Fort Gordon Military Police School. Lost among that anonymous sea of olive drab, I was stunned to hear my name called out by one of the officers standing down front.
Words cannot begin to describe the fear and dread going through my mind as I slowly made my way to the front. Like all homosexuals at that time, I lived in constant fear of being “found out.” I honestly felt my hopes and dreams for the future would come crashing down. In fact, I felt I would never have a future except as some silly societal category of lesser human being…
My fears turned out to be unfounded. An officer handed me my diploma and I slowly made my way back into the stands, amid the whispers of what’s he done, why’s he so special?
To this day, I have no idea why I was singled out. All I know is that in that moment, I realized that I could not live with that sort of terror. Some day, somehow, I would have to deal with it. I could not live a lie. A wise old survivor of the death camps in Nazi Germany said it best: “Freedom is not having to lie about who you are.”
How can anybody believe that being homosexual is some sort of moral choice? Nobody in his or her right mind would choose to live the way homosexuals were forced to live in the 1950s and 1960s. Even now, the taint of being homosexual is so strong the suicide rate among gay teenage is several times that of heterosexuals. The suicide of the young Rutgers student last year dramatically illustrates how far we have yet to go.
During my time as a correspondent in Vietnam, I simply got up one morning unafraid to be myself. And, yes, there were some wonderful loving moments I cherish from my days among the military in Vietnam. In his book, Dispatches, Michael Herr mentions two Marines “making love” one night during the battle in Hue. And in my own memoir, Two of the Missing, I describe having sex with a Marine in Danang, a Navy Lieutenant in Saigon and an Army captain in Phu Bai.
Simply put, there have been homosexuals and homosexual activity among service men and women for as long as there have been service men and women. John Horne Burns’ The Galleria was a barely fictionalized account of gay American soldiers in World War II Italy.
The Marine Corps commandant is simply over-reacting to outdated images of homosexuality and masculinity in his recent statements against repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He does a disservice to homosexuals and to the Marines. He helps perpetuate the myth that homosexuals are weak and can’t be trusted to control themselves in a professional manner — and he also seems to think the Marines are redneck rubes who can’t handle being around somebody different.
The truth is the commandant is not nearly as aware of societal changes or as sophisticated as the troops he commands. He is concerned about image, and nothing more. The current Marines grew up in an environment of sexual and racial tolerance where being gay is simply not an issue. They also know that the old stereotypes of homosexuals as sissies, pansies, fairies are no more valid than the old stereotypes that denigrated people of color in our country.
The Marine commandant is wrong about homosexuals and wrong about the kind of men and women who serve in the U.S. military. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, gave an eloquent summary of both counts in his testimony before a senate committee on Feb. 2, 2010:
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
As a gay man swiftly slouching toward the age of 70, I am dismayed by the attitudes that still cause gay men and women to kill themselves. But, I am heartened by changes in the laws that will make it possible for young gay Americans to grow up with the same freedoms everybody else enjoys. It reflects a healthier time for homosexuals and for America.
I’ve posted this song in various YouTube versions here on Bad Attitudes on Christmas Eve previously, so this year I won’t disappoint. A true story, the song was written by John McDermott about the Christmas Truce of 1914 in the First World War.
The song reminds me of an incident at our own home. My grandfather, although born in America, was raised by his German parents who had come over after a life of poverty in Europe and had started a floral business in the United States and had built a successful floral business, my great-grandfather, an orphan and raised as an apprentice as a groundskeeper to a much higher level of craftsmanship, having been a groundskeeper for several rich German families.
Quite often my grandfather would travel with father to Europe to bring over tulips from Holland and other flowers from other parts of Europe, and although I did not know it, must have mastered the German language quite well. My great-grandfather was a committed socialist. My grandfather never talked about such things to me as he had lost his family to Eastern Germany’s blackout of the West during the Cold War. He never spoke of his family again, it being too painful, but I found his father’s story in an old clipping from a book about businessmen in the town where they lived.
At 70 my grandfather suffered a massive stroke and after staying at various places, none being suitable, he came to live at our house. At Christmas, while my sister was playing Christmas songs on the piano, she played the music to Silent Night and then, in his infirmity in which he did not know where he was or what time it was as he was blind and had no memory that we were aware of, he started singing the words to Silent Night, as my sister described it, in perfect German.
If only such were true in all of the world in relation to war. It will probably never be so but in the meantime, we can hope that one day all men will remember the beauty of a truly silent night and end war forever. The video below tells the story of one place and time where that happened in a war zone, if only for one brief, bright, shining moment. In one or more of the times I posted this people have asked about the incident so this year I have chosen a video that shows some book titles that have been written about that fateful night.
Merry Christmas to all.
But even as we enjoy the antics, we must hasten to the aid of our country. The reason has nothing to do with the minority leader’s skin tone, or the three aforementioned Republican comediennes or, for that matter, Mitch McConnell’s chin or John McCain’s tiny anger issues, or C Street, or Rush or Cheney or Glenn Beck.
We must take on today’s radioactive politics for the sake of my 1-year-old grandson.
I was babysitting him on the night when Miss O’Donnell won the Republican nomination for senator in Delaware. The television was filled with footage of the incomparable O’Donnell and news of how she opposes masturbation and believes that scientists have successfully implanted human brains in lab rats. I could not have taken my eyes off the television for anyone else except my grandson, with his huge luminous black eyes and hair, his rosy brown skin, his toothy smile. But this toddler is so lovely, innocent and funny that he broke the spell…
From the Wall Street Journal, of all places:
They may be an eccentric minority, or (in the view of conservatives) a lunatic fringe. But a Quinnipiac University poll this year showed nearly two-thirds of those with household incomes of more than $250,000 a year support raising their own taxes to reduce the federal deficit…
An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times by Garrett Gruener, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, makes two important points about taxing the rich. (Mr. Gruener founded Ask.com and is the CEO of Nanomix and is a co-founder of Alta Partners, so he’s got street cred.)
First, he says tax rates don’t make or break the success of an entrepreneur — or the jobs he creates. He says he’s paying the lowest rates of his working life. But “if you want the simple, honest truth, from my perspective as an entrepreneur, the fluctuation didn’t affect what I did with my money. None of my investments has ever been motivated by the rate at which I would have to pay personal income tax,” Mr. Gruener writes.
History, he says, shows that “modest changes in the tax rate for wealthy taxpayers don’t make much of a difference if the goal is to build new companies, drive technological development and stimulate new industries…”
“What will change my investment decisions is if I see an economy doing better, one in which there is demand for the goods and services my investments produce. I am far more likely to invest if I see a country laying the foundation for future growth.”
…and have been since that night early in the millenium when I first heard Professor Warren on late night radio as I drove through Virginia on I-95. Thrillingly, she was talking about a trick employed by insurance companies to extort fake “late fees” out of customers. The companies, it seemed, would require East Coast customers to mail their payments to a West Coast address, and vice versa. That way a sucker could pay on the dot but still incur a late fee because of the extra day or so in the mail. A few million pennies here, a few million pennies there… It all added up.
Here, I knew at once, was a woman who really, truly understood me to the depths of my socialist soul. We two could find true happiness together, I said hopelessly to myself as I drove forlorn and lonely through the gathering dark of Bush’s America.
A planned Quran burning Saturday in Amarillo was thwarted by a 23-year-old carrying a skateboard and wearing a T-shirt with “I’m in Repent Amarillo No Joke” scrawled by hand on the back.
Jacob Isom, 23, grabbed David Grisham’s Quran when he became distracted while arguing with several residents at Sam Houston Park about the merits of burning the Islamic holy book. “You’re just trying to start Holy Wars,” Isom said of Grisham after he gave the book to a religious leader from the Islamic Center of Amarillo.
To those of us who are getting along the news these days can seem, in a certain sense, comforting. After all we have been here before, haven’t we? — time after time, even. For an instance take a look at this, substituting Tea Party for pseudo-conservativism, Obama for Eisenhower, and so on as needed. Very few of Richard Hofstadter’s words would need changing if they were written for tomorrow’s New York Times. In fact they were written for The American Scholar in 1954. We somehow managed to stumble through that outbreak of national idiocy, soiled and tattered but mostly intact. With luck, we may even do it again.
The new dissent is certainly not radical — there are hardly any radicals of any sort left — nor is it precisely conservative … It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions, and institutions.
They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word, and they are far from pleased with the dominant practical conservatism of the moment as it it represented by the Eisenhower administration.
Their political reactions express rather a profound if largely unconscious hatred of our society … Adorno and his co-workers found that their pseudo-conservative subjects, although given to a form of political expression that combines a curious mixture of largely conservative with occasional radical notions, succeed in concealing from themselves impulsive tendencies that, if released in action, would be very far from conservative.
The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulsiveness and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere … The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or subconsciously aims at their abolition.”
Who is the pseudo-conservative and what does he want? It is impossible to identify him by social class, for the pseudo-conservative impulse can be found in practically all classes in society, although its power probably rests largely on its appeal to the less-educated members of the middle classes. The ideology of pseudo-conservatism can be characterized but not defined, because the pseudo-conservative tends to be more than ordinarily incoherent about politics. The lady who, when General Eisenhower’s victory over Senator Taft had finally become official in 1952, stalked out of the Hilton Hotel declaiming: “This means eight more years of socialism,” was probably a fairly good representative of the pseudo-conservative mentality…
The restlessness, suspicion and fear shown in various phases of the pseudo-conservative revolt give evidence of the anguish which the pseudo-conservative experiences in his capacity as a citizen. He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded. He is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics in the past twenty years. He hates the very thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is disturbed deeply by American participation in the United Nations, which he can see only as a sinister organization…
All those opinion polls must be sinking in at last. This is the first time, so far as I can remember, that John the Bronze has yielded so much as a millimeter in his lifelong battle to hand everybody else’s money over to the rich. Presumably Boehner’s about-face is due to President Obama’s recent discovery that class warfare is a game two can play.
WASHINGTON — House Republican leader John Boehner says he would support extending tax cuts only for middle-class earners even though he considers it “bad policy” to exclude the highest-earning Americans from tax relief during a recession.
President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser said Sunday he is happy that Boehner, R-Ohio, isn’t willing to hold hostage an extension of tax cuts for those earning under $250,000 a year, or more than 97 percent of earners, to try to gain a continuation of breaks enjoyed by the wealthiest…
…now that you mention it. A correspondent sends this:
Hope springs eternal that Obama may be smart enough to realize that his current accomodationist trajectory is a ticket to one-term obscurity; I wonder, was Obama canny enough to see this, and orchestrate Mayor Daley’s stepping down to get Rahm out of the White House without any blood on the floor? I’m guessing Rahm is the kind of guy to wreck the place on the way out if he was forced to leave.
If Daley winds up in the cabinet in a few months, we’ll have our answer.
A thought for the weekend, from Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, by John Maynard Keynes:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtue.
We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from he love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.
This showed up in my inbox just now. I pass it along as evidence that there may be hope for our species yet. (H/T to commenter mfd)
On Saturday, April 24th, the Opera Company of Philadelphia teamed up with the Reading Terminal Market Italian Festival for a large-scale “Flash Opera” event! Over 30 members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and principal cast members of LA TRAVIATA performed the famed “Brindisi” in the aisles of Reading Terminal Market.
From the McClatchy Newspapers:
WASHINGTON — The number of naturally occurring microbes that eat methane grew surprisingly fast inside a plume spreading from BP’s ruptured oil well, an oceanographer who was one of the first to detect the plumes said Tuesday…
On the other hand…
However, the microbes also use oxygen in the water, and Joye said the repercussions of the resulting oxygen depletion aren’t yet known… They’re also looking to see if the microbes will draw down oxygen to levels that would make the waters unsuitable for life. The Gulf of Mexico already has dead zones created by nutrients from fertilizer carried from the Midwest by the Mississippi River.
NEW YORK — Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston say they're engaged and hope to get married within six weeks in Alaska, an abrupt turnaround for the couple that just months ago was fighting over child support and Johnston's critical comments about the family…
The couple is ready to get married but Palin told the magazine they'll probably see a marriage counselor, Schaefer said, adding that Plain made it clear that Levi will have "a lot of work to do."
Asked whether the magazine paid for the interview, Schaefer would not discuss details of the arrangement except to say that the magazine paid for the expenses of the photo shoot.
An old and occasionally wise deceased relative of mine would say that you can never tell what a man is really made of until he reaches he top of whatever pile he’s climbing. Take Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who seems to have cheerfully and efficiently done the bidding, on his way up, of a succession of fools, murderers and monsters: Ronald Reagan, Robert J. Casey, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, among others.
With no reasonable hope (or perhaps desire) to become president, he has now arrived at the highest point he can. And look what has happened to him. The man is committing good sense practically every time he opens his mouth:
“For example, should we really be up in arms over a temporary projected shortfall of about 100 Navy and Marine strike fighters relative to the number of carrier wings, when America’s military possesses more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft of all kinds?” Gates asked. “Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to allies and partners? Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?”
Pelosi’s great advantage is she has played her cards early and is a proven, aggressive political operative … Yet going forward, Pelosi will have to answer herself for some of the legislative shortcuts taken in her fierce “damn the torpedoes” march toward final passage. “She’s impressive, horrifying at times, but impressive,” said one person who observed the speaker closely in weeks of backroom meetings.
Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal:
Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns this newspaper, so one should probably take pains to demonstrate that one is attempting to speak with disinterest and impartiality, in pursuit of which let me note that Glenn Beck has long appeared to be insane.
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.
Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don’t go far enough.
The letter says that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and “this is the real pro-life stance.”
…to give up on the whole human race, damned if some guy down in Peru doesn’t go and teach an alpaca to surfboard:
From Bette Noir’s blog, The Frump Gazette. Which I have just discovered, and recommend. I agree with her about President Obama’s political strategy; I hope we’re both right.
Well, frumps, things are definitely starting to look up for Democrats and the Obama administration if my Lunatic Fringe barometer can still be trusted. I’ve discovered, over the past year, that there is a quantifiable inverse relation between the fortunes of the Obama White House and threats of violence from the far-right reaches of the blogosphere. None too stable at the best of times, these folks have a tendency to fly around the room backwards whenever Obama shows signs of succeeding at advancing his domestic social policy agenda.
Obama has an interesting way of achieving his ends. He allows debate to rage unbridled, allows people to act out and vent melodramatically until we are all simply exhausted by the topic. Then, as we mentally move on, he quietly administers CPR and, next thing you know, dead-in-the-water issues are moving apace toward realization. It’s a pretty impressive strategy, to me, at least.
Just think about the health care reform battle. A year went by while we raged and fumed on our various sides of the issue. As Obama put it in his Health Care Summit, last week, “everything that could be said, had been said.” Gray-haired grannies duked it out with the local teamsters in Town Halls. Conspiracy theorists pumped up the volume and warned us all of The New World Order and/or Socialism/Fascism that lie just around the corner…
The poor-little-me ad for Dodge Charger during the Superbowl was, essentially, ineffable. But I’ll give it a shot anyway:
The commercial presumes — and who am I to say the marketers are wrong — that the American male is a brow-beaten, miserable, helpless, pussy-whipped drudge. The only recourse left for the poor wretch — his last, desperate chance at manhood — is to take out a loan for a new Charger. Each one comes with a 12-volt socket that doesn’t talk back and never gets a headache.
And what does Iceland have to do with Wikileaks? The first part of a seven part Wikileaks series posted on Youtube is below. Watch the rest by clicking on the window to get to YouTube to watch the rest of the seven part series. And donate today to Wikileaks. The Dragons are waiting on your help to pounce.
If you have information about wrongdoing in your company or your government, go to Wikileaks.org and click on the Secure Submission button to let the story be known to the world. Or click here. The Dragons have the goods on many bad actors but they need your help today. Donate or contribute your corruption documents or your story that will lead to such documents.
The world is waiting and the Dragons are ready to pounce. If you read the site when it was up, you know that they have gathered a huge amount of information on crooks and liars and similar bad actors. My apologies but I couldn’t resist not posting two videos about dragons. The children of the world need your help to make their world a better place than it is today. And Wikileaks can help make it happen if you can help the fierce Dragons do their work. Yes, Virginia, there be Dragons.
Both videos are below.
Looking at the bright side, here’s Maggie Mahar, at Health Beat:
For example, under the House bill, a family of three making $32,000 a year would pay $1,360 in annual premiums for good, comprehensive coverage; under the Senate Finance Committee bill, that family would be asked to lay out $2,013. Today, without reform, if that family tried to buy insurance, it would find that the average plan costs $13,500. For this household, the current legislation makes all the difference.
Too often, the press suggests that such a family would be expected to pay $10,000 out of pocket to cover co-pays and deductibles. That just isn't true.
Even if the entire family were in an auto accident and racked up $200,000 in medical bills, at their income level, the House bill caps out-of-pocket expenses at $2,000 a year. Under the Senate Finance bill, the family would have to pay $4,000.
Moreover, under both bills, there are no co-pays for primary care. Even private insurers cannot put a $25 barrier between a family and preventive care.
The flurry of stories about finally putting the health insurance under the antitrust laws like everybody else have left me puzzled. How could such an outrage have been going on since 1945 without anybody noticing? And by anybody, I mean me.
Here’s the answer, taken from an excellent story by Matthew Perrone of the Associated Press:
But industry analysts say courts have long limited the scope of the exemption to allow federal regulators to intervene in instances where competition could be jeopardized. They note the law has never stopped regulators at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission from intervening in a merger or acquisition.
In practice, the exemption from federal antitrust laws mainly allows insurers to share data on payments and risk ratings — a useful collaboration among life and casualty insurers. But Wall Street analysts point out that giant health insurance companies like Humana, Wellpoint Inc. and UnitedHealth Group have little need to share data, thanks to their national size and scope.
“While the threat to repeal the exemption makes for good headlines, we can’t really see how it alters the business for the established publicly traded players,” wrote JPMorgan analyst John Rex in a note to investors.
With 94 percent of U.S. health insurance markets meeting the Justice Department standards for “highly concentrated” — meaning dominant insurers face little competition — most academics agree reform is needed. But they point out that federal regulators could have prevented much of that concentration under existing law.
Since 1996, the federal government has cleared 400 mergers in the health insurance field, according to the American Medical Association.
The Washington attorney who brought this to my attention was full of admiration. “Terrific politically,” he said. “Scores major PR points without the need to risk any substantive change. Bill Clinton would have loved it.”
From Agence France Presse:
OSLO – US President Barack Obama sensationally won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday less than a year after he took office with the jury hailing his “extraordinary” diplomatic efforts on the international stage.
Obama was honoured “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjoern Jagland said.
The committee attached “special importance to Obama’s vision and work for a world without nuclear weapons” and said he had created “a new climate in international politics.”
“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” it said.
Astonishing stuff. Makes me, for the very first time, wish I could be inside George W. Bush’s head. For him then, and for all the boys and girls at Fox, a list of talking points:
1. What do you expect from a bunch of socialists?
2. Not that I’m a racist, but I know affirmative action when I see it.
3. Carter, Gore, Obama? Do we see a pattern here?
4. A clumsy attempt by Europe to save a failing presidency.
5. The Norwegians are just using Obama to slap George W. Bush in the face.
6. Besides, who cares what a bunch of geeks in Oslo think? The International Olympic Committee speaks for the whole world.
7. No thinking person has taken the Nobel Peace Prize seriously since Reagan didn’t win one for ending the Cold War.
8. We elect a president to keep America safe, not to win prizes.
9. True leadership is not an international popularity contest.
10. Peace is no big deal anyway. No, wait a minute. Strike that last one.
The Anybody But Bush effect? Obama magic? The president’s blackness? The American people’s willingness to choose a black president? Whatever.
Anyway, here’s the amazing news, from Reuters:
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – The United States is the most admired country globally thanks largely to the star power of President Barack Obama and his administration, according to a new poll…
“What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States for 2009,” said Simon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.
He believes that during the previous administration of George W. Bush the United States suffered in the world ranking with its unpopular foreign policies but since Obama was elected, and despite the recent economic turmoil, the country’s status has risen globally.
“There is no other explanation,” Anholt said in an interview, referring to the impact of Obama.
Amidst all the daily evidence that human evolution seems to run in reverse, it’s good to be reminded that sometimes it doesn’t:
LONDON, England (CNN) — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a posthumous apology for the “appalling” treatment of Alan Turing, the British code-breaker who was chemically castrated for being gay…
Turing was just 41 years old when he committed suicide, two years after undergoing a court-ordered chemical castration. He had been found guilty of gross indecency for having a homosexual relationship. The punishment in 1952 was either a prison sentence or chemical castration. Turing chose the latter.
Normally I’m able to contain my enthusiasm for Thomas L. Friedman, but fair is fair. He makes perfect sense today. And as longtime New York Times readers will know, it’s a kind of sense that was absent from those pages for far too long.
As Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, put it last week: “The settlement movement has cost Israel some $100 billion ... The double standard which for decades has favored settlers with inexpensive housing, heavily subsidized social services, and blind-eye building permits has long been accompanied by a kid-gloves approach regarding settler violence against Palestinians and their property ... Settlers and settlement planners have covertly bent and distorted zoning procedures, military directives, and government decrees in order to boost settlement, block Palestinian construction, agriculture, and access to employment, and effectively neutralize measures intended to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace progress.”
For years, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the pro-Israel lobby, rather than urging Israel to halt this corrosive process, used their influence to mindlessly protect Israel from U.S. pressure on this issue and to dissuade American officials and diplomats from speaking out against settlements. Everyone in Washington knows this, and a lot of people — people who care about Israel — are sick of it…
So if Mr. Obama has bluntly pressed for a settlements freeze, he is, in fact, reflecting a broad sentiment in Congress, the Pentagon and among many Americans, Jews included. Haaretz quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as calling two Obama aides pushing the freeze “self-hating Jews.” Bibi’s spokesman denies he said that. I hope he didn’t. When you have to trot that one out, you’re really, really out of ammo.
It has recently come to my attention that the entire population of the world except for China is being poisoned by chemtrails. These are the apparently innocent contrails from commercial and military jets — secretly modified by the Power Structure to suppress evolution so that the New World Order (NWO) can be imposed on mankind.
Why and how? This is complicated stuff, so pay attention:
The NWO will fail if citizens become genetically empowered to wake up and fight with superhuman powers against tyranny. This is already occurring, and chemtrails are ultimately ineffectual at preventing the inevitable.
Few know the chemtrail program’s true purpose, and most of those implementing it have been told lies. They believe the “mass vaccination” scenario, that what they are doing is beneficial to citizens. Unfortunately this illusion, like all others created by the power structure, shall fall away in due time.
The point (more fully explained here) is that we are evolving into organisms with 12 helixes in our DNA rather than the standard two. Dr. Berrenda Fox is currently working with children who only have three helixes, but are already telepathic and can fill glasses of water just by looking at them. Plainly if this kind of thing continues, mankind will become too intelligent to fall for the Power Structure’s tricks.
But it will not continue, because many ordinary people such as yourself have already armed themselves with orgone generators capable of neutralizing the evolution-halting power of those chemtrails that fill our skies.
These generators may be had at the website linked above for $95 plus shipping and handling for the natural finish model and only fifteen dollars more for a copper patina finish.
If I were you I’d go for the copper patina option despite its higher price. Why? Here’s why:
While many people are fascinated by the natural look of orgone generators, other people might prefer a more finished, art-like appearance with less need to answers questions like: “What’s it’s for?”
The Weathered Copper Patina finish gives these orgone generators the look of an esoteric art object either dug up from a ancient Minoan archeological site or something Mr. Spock brought aboard The Enterprise. Either way, it looks nice sitting on a shelf, on top of the TV, or on a desk — without raising suspicions about its true function.
Speaking as a member of the demographic cohort of which Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff is speaking here, may I say before I stroke out that there’s no fool like an old fool?
The dirty little secret of conservative talk radio is that the average age of listeners is 67 and rising, according to Sinton — the Fox News audience, likewise, is in its mid-60s: “What sort of continuing power do you have as your audience strokes out?”
If you set out to completely discredit the bankers and eviscerate their political power, you’d proceed exactly as Obama has done, enabling it to reach its reductio ad absurdum conclusion of fat bonuses and tax-funded bailouts in the trillions of dollars, at which point the public will rise up in fury, doing the work which was impossible for you, a new “liberal” president…
What better way to trigger “change” that even the banking Aristocracy are powerless to stop than to give them everything they want: no restrictions on stupendous bonuses, no punishment or prosecution, no mark-to-market rules with actual bite, no limits on accounting legerdemain, and on and on and on?…
And what will be the result? A complete repudiation of the entire Bush/Treasury/banker bailout and “free pass” to further plundering. And when the public rises up in righteous fury, then you appear to bend, almost reluctantly, to “the public will.”
Here’s The National Review’s recipe for bringing the Zombie Party back to life:
Strange as it may seem, the best GOP spokesman right now appears to be former Vice President Dick Cheney. He has taken the Obama administration to task over its declassification of CIA torture memos. He says Team Obama has made America less safe. He’s right. Perhaps he can rally the party?
This will be all over the news, of course, but I can’t resist putting it up. Fascinating and truly, truly important. Heute Specter, Morgen die Franken, as Hitler used to say. Well, something like that anyway.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.
The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.
“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right,” Specter said in a statement posted by his office on PoliticsPA.com.
“Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”
My late stepfather, Ralph Ingersoll, would say that there’s no way to tell who a man really is until he makes it to the top of his particular pile.
Here is a man who had spent his entire previous career working for a succession of fools and monsters and madmen. His specialty at the CIA was the Soviet Union, which he seemed to have got exactly 180 degrees wrong. There is hardly a CIA horror of the past 30 years in which he was not intimately involved.
But apparently Ralph was right, as he often was. Gates was just biding his time, climbing and scheming, until he finally got to the top of the national security heap. All he needed was a decent boss to work for.
From Ed Yong’s excellent science blog:
Learning a new language as an adult is no easy task but infants can readily learn two languages without obvious difficulties. Despite being faced with two different vocabularies and sets of grammar, babies pick up both languages at the same speeds as those who learn just one. Far from becoming confused, it seems that babies actually develop superior mental skills from being raised in a bilingual environment.
Fallows primarily covers many interesting aspects of the ups and downs of living in China (as well as timely comments on aviation technology, computer technology and home and business computer productivity programs). He, along with a New York Times contributor, have also published what looks to be an invaluable series of DVDs for those who speak English seeking to do business in China as well as for others who have an interest in world business. He has also published some some books some of our readers might find interesting that are listed on the sidebar on his blog.
Fallows also regularly delves into a variety of domestic American matters and quoted Robert Gates a couple of days ago:
It is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk — or, in effect, to “run up the score” in a capability where the United States is already dominant — is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take.
Gates’ comment reminded me so much of Eisenhower’s farewell address that I think it bears repeating here and so I’ve posted a Youtube recording of it below. Eisenhower’s famous speech is still relevant today, perhaps more than ever and goes much farther in its implications than Gates’ limited comment (although it was an easy farewell speech for Eisenhower at the time since he was on the way out; the fact that it can be said that he paid scant attention to his own beliefs during his eight years in office should be taken into account when judging the man).
Some Eisenhower biographies, however, indicate if someone like George Bush or Richard Nixon had been in office during those years, General LeMay and some others may have had their way in starting more unnecessary wars which would have involved the use of nuclear weapons. According to those biographies, Eisenhower prevented several wars.
If Gates can live up to the words in the quote from Fallows’ piece, we might see significant reductions in military spending if we remove our troops from where they are not welcome. My fear is that we may be doing much more harm to ourselves than any benefit our current military adventures may bring, particularly in Afghanistan. President Obama must learn to seriously discount the advice of the leadership of much of the military establishment.
After all, these are the same people were also involved in the decision to go into the Big Quicksand of Iraq. (Pardon my changing the name from The Big Muddy to The Big Quicksand — when I think of Iraq I don’t think of Mud except in a rhetorical sense). Many of these leaders are just grownup boys who like military toys. That kind of leadership is not acceptable in this economy or under this administration.
However Gates’ comment makes sense unless he just wants to shift the same amount of money to Afghanistan, refit the army to the same level prior to the Iraq war trashing so much equipment, and without making the military cuts that are needed if we are to reduce our bloated military and intelligence budgets so as to put the nation on a more sane military path. I am unsure what he means by “take care of our people.” Let's hope he is talking about all Americans and not just those in the military. We simply must find a way to reduce military spending. The Big Russian Bear, assuming it ever existed, is gone and there exists no reason to have a military budget as large as it was during those years.
Putting pressure on doctors to misdiagnose wounded warriors and thereby reduce benefits to soldiers suffering from PTSD is probably the most inhumane method of reducing the military budget imaginable. Let’s hope Gates will stop this practice, either voluntarily or by pressure from the public or the current Administration.
We must keep in mind that Eisenhower’s farewell speech didn’t do much good. Only a few years later we were mired in the Deep Muddy of Vietnam. I know I’m not the only one critical of Obama’s pursuits in Afghanistan. That he is getting involved deeper there makes me wonder if he’s just using the adventure for political cover in case we have another major terrorist attack by actors from other nations. If that is true, I see this “insurance policy” as creating the conditions for ensuring that we do.
Mildly encouraging (depending on how you feel about tribalism) news from The Situationist:
White people don’t show hints of unconscious bias against blacks who belong to the same group as them, a new study suggests.
But this lack of bias only applied to black people in their group, according to the findings. Most white people in the study still showed evidence of some unconscious bias towards blacks who were in an opposing group, or who were unaffiliated with either group.
What impressed the researchers, however, was just how quickly these group bonds could form. The lack of bias toward fellow black group members was uncovered just minutes after whites joined the mixed-race group, and without participants even meeting their fellow members personally…
Does the internet encourage or discourage relationships? Do we encounter people we never would have otherwise, and form friendships and bonds that transcend geography? Or are internet relationships mainly projections, figments of our nerdishly fevered imaginations?
This, of course, is a topic of eternal interest in Left Blogostan, where such imaginations are not rare. It’s a popular fantasy to meet someone over the net, talk about all your deepest secrets and naughtiest fantasies, and end up falling in love. And it certainly makes sense to think that a hundred hours emailing is more revelatory than a couple hours drinking beer. I mean, both are important; but, say, 160 emails in forty days provides more data for calculating the Wall Street favorite, the running average. Muddy or shallow or repetitive or discombobulated thinking is inevitably exposed. Some level of contact might have been made.
So what do you think?
More lifted from Matt Steinglass at Accumulating Peripherals. When I was his age I was easily half as smart as him, but there’s been considerable slippage since. As an extra bonus, the next-to-last paragraph contains an excellent example of an infinitive that had to be split in the interest of clarity.
One of the things that chess grand masters encounter when they play machines like Deep Blue that can’t be beaten by humans is that the machine sometimes makes moves that don’t appear to make any sense. Humans play chess by “clustering” classes of moves that tend to work well according to higher-level strategic insights built up over long experience in playing the game.
Machines play chess by calculating, with brute force computation, which moves lead to the best possible outcomes over the next hundred-odd rounds of play. So machine moves occasionally look weird, from a human point of view; humans simply can’t calculate far enough out to see why they work.
When Obama was running against Clinton and Edwards in the primaries and adopted the position that mandates were a bad idea, many health policy wonks were baffled. At the time (January 2008), a theory occurred to me, which I proposed to a journalist friend over dinner.
Everyone knows that the problem with instituting community rating (i.e. everyone pays the same price for health insurance) without mandates is that healthy young people will opt out of buying health insurance. This in turn makes health insurance more expensive, leading yet more healthy people to opt out, creating a gradual death spiral for insurance companies.
Meanwhile, if, as in Obama’s plan, a government-funded insurance plan has been set up that offers taxpayer-subsidized affordable coverage, private insurers will soon be unable to compete. So, if you institute community rating and a public plan without mandates, who will start pressing you to institute mandates? The private insurance companies.
You shift the political landscape so that your enemies start to use their strength in the service of your goals. Jujitsu! And meanwhile, since the public mostly opposes “mandates” because they sound mean, you can use your anti-mandate stance to beat your primary opponents. Double jujitsu!
Of course, this seemed too conspiratorial and deep to be an actual explanation for what Obama was doing … But I think we are starting to get a lot of evidence of how Obama views politics, and one thing he does religiously is to not get out ahead of his constituency. Another thing he does is to try to rearrange conflicts so that interests are aligned with each other, not freezing each other into gridlock — so that his side can win without having to beat anyone.
Anyway, Obama is now saying mandates are going to be a part of the health care solution proposed in the upcoming budget bill. Apparently he now thinks he has the political strength to do the whole reform at once, universal care, mandates, and all. Maybe he’s wrong, but he hasn’t been wrong yet.
(CNN) — Shark attacks on humans were at the lowest levels in half a decade last year, and a Florida researcher says hard economic times may be to blame…
“To have a shark attack, you have to have humans and sharks in the water at the same time,” Burgess said. “If you have a reduction in the number of people in the water, you’re going to have a reduction in the opportunities for people and sharks to get together.”
From Brady Bonk, at Ketchup Is a Vegetable:
Allow me to once again paraphrase one of my moonbat radio talkers, Thom Hartmann, for an excellent point he made yesterday.
It is a misconstrued myth that passage of anything in the Senate requires 60 votes or more. That magic number is actually a simple majority: 51. What requires 60 votes is a procedural vote known as cloture, a call to question, which means, essentially, “shut up and vote.” Though, as Senate rules stand, it doesn’t actually mean that.
Senate Rule 22 allows for a “procedural” filibuster, by which senators can simply declare a filibuster but do not have to stand and speak to maintain said filibuster. This is fine except in the case where the pain-in-the-ass minority party applies the filibuster to everything and anything, to the point where the expectation is that you must have 60 votes or more secured to accomplish anything.
This is a situation that saps democracy. Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid needs to force filibustering senators to talk, something he can do by just waving his magic wand. Otherwise, there’s just an expectation that any legislation requires a supermajority vote.
In the Chinese calendar, 2008 was the Year of the Rat. In our country it was the Last Year of the Twit. Many things happened during the year except in the White House where nothing at all happened.
The presidential campaign that seemed to have gone on forever finally came to a close with the astonishing election of a man who, as he pointed out in a speech, would not have been served at a lunch counter in the capital city only a few decades ago. There was a sense of optimism everywhere — well, almost everywhere — as the nation watched the sure-footed young president make the opening moves of his historic administration. The contrast with his feckless predecessor was hard to miss, even if you didn’t agree with everything he was trying to do. At least he was doing something! And there was very little chance we were going to ‘misunderestimate’ him.
What was hard to measure was how much of this awakening spirit owed to the great promise of this graceful and articulate new leader or to the realization that we were Twitless at last. One could almost hear Martin Luther King’s voice soaring over the Mall: Twitless at last. Twitless at last. Thank God Almighty, we are Twitless at last!
Of course there are always more twits and creeps-in-waiting: crooks, fools, mountebanks, and self-seekers eager to put their incompetence, arrogance and stupidity to work for the good of the country. Rodents like Cheney and Rumsfeld are bound to emerge from the sewers of the business world slavering for their piece of the power pie.
So far, it does not seem that any of these vermin have made it into high positions in the new government. Although it does give pause that our new Secretary of the Treasury ‘didn’t notice’ that he was short by $35,000 in income taxes. This ‘oversight’ might be less troublesome in a cabinet member who wasn’t in charge of the country’s money, but let’s not rain on the parade.
Anyone is an improvement on Henry Paulson, who, with an assist from Congress, handed out billions to banks without bothering to ask what they were going to do with the money. And guess what? They took the money and went on vacations to plush resorts, they rewarded themselves for their excellent work with big bonuses, they redecorated their offices, and they ordered up a nice new corporate jet or two. What? You expect these highly talented financial guys to ride on ordinary commercial airplanes?
Speaking of corporate jets, one of the enduring images of 2008 is that of the Three Blind Mice from Detroit, the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler, begging Congress to give them billions to shore up their mismanaged companies. As if to demonstrate that there is no limit to an American automaker’s hubris, the Mice traveled to Washington by three separate corporate jets at a cost of God knows how many tens of thousands of dollars. It was a matter of security, one of them said. When they returned to Washington a few weeks later, they drove. What fast learners these fellows are!
And so it remains to be seen if the country as we knew it, and kind of liked it, will survive 2008, the final, dismal year in the Reign of the Twit. True to form, the Twit spent the final days of his administration trying to convince himself that he had been an honorable and effective president. His method was to get himself interviewed by compliant TV persons — Larry King Live, for instance
When the Twit and his unfortunate consort appeared on Larry King Live’s show, the intrepid electronic journalist asked Dubya about the charges that his administration had used torture on suspected terrorists at Guantanamo and other even more sinister places. “We don’t use torture,” Twit responded, and that was the end of that. This might have been more persuasive if his vice president only days earlier had not bragged about how effective torture had been in protecting the country from the bad guys. Cheney, of course, never includes himself as one of the bad guys.
In various lame-duck statements the outgoing president said that he had accomplished a lot, always careful to avoid specifics lest his opponents get wind of what he had been up to. And so the year ended, with the White House obscured by a putrid fog of self-justification. And in the distance, the faint beginnings of a rising chorus: Twitless at last. Twitless at last. Thank God Almighty, we are Twitless last.
From today’s New York Times:
Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.
The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results…
In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.
In total, 472 Americans — 84 blacks and 388 whites — took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.
On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.
Thanks to Scott Horton at Harper’s No Comment for posting the video below. If you haven’t been reading Scott’s blog, you’ve missed some extremely important stories that I haven’t seen anywhere else or laid out as clearly as Scott has done it. For example, there is a post detailing the 87% prosecution rate vs. 13% Republican rate by Karl Rove and the Bush Justice Department indicating that approximately 1000 Democratic politicians were prosecuted who you are unlikely to have heard of before now; a post on why you should cancel your HBO subscription today, assuming you subscribe; and a story indicating that if we don’t tackle the tough and arduous job of prosecuting our own war criminals, other nations are preparing to do so.
But today is a day for celebration, so let’s start with something to get us in the mood, even if we know that we have a long way to go to get where we need to go, at least we are on the way there, starting today. Just don’t get complacent, there’s a lot of work to do yet.
More thoughts from Tom Degan, the sage of Goshen. Read the whole rant here:
The film was called Yellow Submarine and it starred animated versions of the Beatles. At the movie’s end, when John, Paul, George and Ringo liberated the good people of Pepperland from the evil clutches of the naughty Blue Meanies, what did they do? Did they ostracize the Meanies? Did they banish them from Pepperland forever? No. They reached out to them! Leave it to John Lennon! (or the actor doing a lousy impersonation of John Lennon’s voice):
“Hello, Blue People! Won’t you join us? Look up!”
… Although some of the people he has appointed to his team have left me somewhat puzzled, I have no other choice but to give the President-elect the benefit of the doubt. To those progressives who are now in the process of having a nervous breakdown at the make up of the new administration, I have three words:
President Sarah Palin…
Interesting take by Todd Gitlin on the Reverend Rick Warren flap, via The Rag Blog. I’m staying out of this controversy right now, having noticed that every time I got mad over something Obama did during the election season, he turned out to be right and I turned out to be wrong. It just may be that Obama plays better political chess than I do.
My initial reaction to Obama’s Rick Warren announcement was horror.
After what seems like weeks of intense back-and-forth, but in fact is only a day’s worth, I’m still appalled. It’s one thing to invite the adversary into the tent the better to defeat him with a smile — neutralize him, in colder terms — but it’s quite another to give him a throne, even if a purely symbolic throne. Warren’s political interventions are mostly terrible (AIDS and environment are the exceptions).
The argument that this was crass political calculation — triangulation, as another president once said — comparable to FDR making nice to segregationists and Stalin, falls afoul of the fact that this overture to Warren was unnecessary. To get the New Deal, FDR really did have to make deals with the racist devil. To defeat Hitler, FDR really had to ally with Stalin. It’s history: get used to it.
But I’ve yet to see a single argument to the effect that Obama’s invitation to Warren accomplishes a single practical thing, let along that it was necessary. So I take it as an ugly brush-back: a gratuitous slap at feminists and LGBT’s. I hope it’s ill-considered, impromptu, but suspect it’s actually one of a series — bridge-building to the right on principle.
But meanwhile, some proportion here, people. Other appointments are arguable but some are clearly superb. Harold Meyerson, than whom no one knows L. A. and labor better, says bluntly: “Hilda Solis is great.” (So does every union person I’ve seen quoted.) E. J. Dionne, Jr., makes a firm case for Arne Duncan at Education. John Judis calls Obama’s incoming science adviser John Holdren “the Mick Jagger of climate change,” meaning that “by the end of Holdren’s speech, I was ready to join the world environmentalist crusade.” When I was teaching at Berkeley, I heard Holdren, who taught physics there, give a fabulous talk about nuclear dangers.
Meantime, Obama still hasn’t taken up residence in the White House.
Wes Boyd and Joan Blades had the right idea, back in the fading days of the 20th century, when they started what became the excellent Move On with a simple petition.
Vis-à-vis Clinton-Lewinsky, recall that their petition read: “Congress must Immediately Censure President Clinton and Move On to pressing issues facing the country.”
Censure Obama over Warren — directly, sincerely, viscerally — and move on.
Interesting piece (from which this exerpt comes) by Mark Rudd at The Rag Blog. Like him, I’ve read Dreams from My Father. And what I took away from it made me, too, cautiously hopeful.
So [Obama] has a narrow mandate for change, without any direction specified. What he’s doing now is moving on the most popular issues — the environment, health care, and the economy. He’ll be progressive on the environment because that has broad popular support; health care will be extended to children, then made universal, but the medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance corporations will stay in place, perhaps yielding some power; the economic agenda will stress stimulation from the bottom sometimes and handouts to the top at other times. It will be pragmatic — Summers is talking about the growth in income disparity as a significant problem. On foreign policy and the wars and the use of the military there will be no change at all. That’s what keeping Gates at the Pentagon and Clinton at State and not prosecuting the torturers is saying.
And never, never threaten the military budget. That will unite a huge majority of congress against him.
I.F. Stone’s granddaughter brings us up to date on the party given for the greatest journalist known to man, living or dead. I’ve posted the introduction to the post below, but by all means go read the rest for her take on Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton and what such appointments could mean for an Obama administration, as well as the war between real journalists and those who write for the mainstream media, whose judgment is almost always clouded by corporate editorial oversight.
Perhaps her views are not so kind to the aforementioned powers that be, but I agree with her sentiments totally. So go read the rest and let us know if you agree. We need to let Obama know not to step into that 30-foot and growing pile of manure left by former administrations. Without further ado, here is Aimai writing at her blog If I Ran The Zoo:
Well, that was bracing! Yesterday we had a blast honoring my grandfather, I.F. Stone, for his first hundred years and looking forward to the next hundred which he will spend, variously, at Mt. Auburn Cemetery and in cyberspace. There were marvelous speakers, among the best of whom was Jack Beatty, Chris Lydon, and Tony Lewis. Among the most controversial, apparently, was your own Aimai since I had been tasked with speaking of Izzy as a proto-blogger. That set the cat among the pigeons.
I believe firmly that she who blogs first, laughs last so I woke up this morning at four a.m. to get my account into print first. Its rather complicated to explain, of course because of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle surrounding things said at cocktail parties. I hew to a hard, Proustian model of memory “I write, therefore I am” which loosely translates in the real world to “she who gets it down in pixels can lay claim to the experience.” So, with a grain of salt, take all my witty rejoinders as actually having been said. I can assure you that no matter what I said, they weren’t listening so they weren’t heard. And so, to the event: [click on the link to read the rest]
My nephew Will Doolittle is an editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York. Like so many of us, he teared up on election night. But he had a special reason:
I haven’t felt this sleepy since 1996, when my daughter Zoe was a baby.
Back then, it was the nighttime excitement of having a newborn in the house that had me drowsing at my keyboard during the day.
When I got up in the night to warm a bottle for her, I would carry her down to the couch and turn on the TV and watch old movies while I fed her. My wife would find the two of us on the couch in the mornings — the bottle on the floor, Zoe slumbering on my chest.
Now, it’s the excitement of the election. I became a political junkie over the past few months — switching on CNN or MSNBC or C-SPAN every time I walked through the bedroom at home; checking an expanding list of Web sites every time I shifted in my seat at work (maybe something had changed in the last three and a half minutes!); tuning my radio only to POTUS ’08, the all-day all-politics station.
Back then, being a new father of a black baby, I was enamored of all things African-American. My infatuation with Zoe spilled over into an immediate affection for anyone with brown skin and curly hair. And the feeling seemed to be mutual. When I went out for walks with Zoe and passed black strangers on the street, their faces would inevitably light up and their eyes soften when they saw us.
It might have been my goofy smiles that moved them, but, more likely, it was the sight of the beautiful child accompanying me.
Zoe is much taller now, and I don’t flash that new-dad smile anymore. When she and her sister and her mother and I go out, we’re another family, bound by love and laundry, and that’s how everyone sees us.
Back then, sometimes when I was holding Zoe and trying to put her to sleep, I would read to her Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, because it was short and beautiful and, more than 130 years later, still resonant with truth.
But, when I reached the part about every drop of blood drawn with the lash being paid by another drawn with the sword, I would always get choked up, sometimes so much so that I couldn’t finish.
The last three days have been like that, as I watched Obama speak Tuesday night and saw people in the crowd crying; as I listened to people like Colin Powell talk about the way his entire family, sitting together at home and watching the election returns, wept when they saw Obama had won; as I read essays, even by conservatives, about how wonderful it is that America has elected a black president.
It is not out of happiness for Obama that we weep, but for our country, feeling, in some measure, we are redeemed.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer:
Democrat Barack Obama is the unofficial winner in North Carolina, but the victory over Sen. John McCain won’t be sealed until provisional ballots are counted and certified next month.
Unofficial returns show Obama ahead by 13,746 votes.
Trends over the last 14 years point to Obama having a wider lead after the provisionals are counted, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.
I am putting up two videos that are available at the Real News Network. I think they are most neccessary and appropriate to post here. I urge you to consider Zinn’s recommendations and take them to heart, and in due time, to non violent action in the spirit of Gandhi and other promoters of change.
I promised another Beatles song earlier this week and here it is, sung by the incomparable Nina Simone. Another Simone song will follow next week, a post in which I will explain why I don’t agree with my good friend and mentor, Jerome Doolittle, one generation ahead of me in age and several in wisdom, in his previous post. I believe that the pen — or perhaps the keyboard — is mightier than the click, and will explain why.
What is this nonsense? They never heard of Alan Greenspan in Stockholm?
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Paul Krugman, the Princeton University scholar and New York Times columnist, won the Nobel economic prize Monday for his analysis of how economies of scale can affect trade patterns and the location of economic activity…
The 55-year-old American economist was the lone winner of the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award and the latest in a string of American researchers to be honored. It was only the second time since 2000 that a single laureate won the prize, which is typically shared by two or three researchers.
Let’s take a break from watching hate.
I was never a great fan of the Beatles because they ushered out the folk music era and brought in a new era in music. Fok music is my favorite style of music even though it is not watched or listened to very often in this country. I must admit that the lyrics of the Beatles are often quite uplifting, even though I find some of them repetitive. But maybe repetitive is what we need as an antidote to the damage that Fox News causes.
I hope this song can undo some of the damage that watching the last post might have caused to some of you in the way it did me. I’m going to put up at least one other Beatles post in the next day or two. I already have one in mind. Any requests from our readers? I can't do them all in a short period of time, but I can work some in over the next month or so. The medium is the massage. And we here at Bad Attitudes tend prefer the loving kind of massage, not the hating style that Rupert and the talk radio format are famous for spewing.
As far as I can tell, this ends the Chalmers Johnson series from the Real News Network at this time. If you liked what you saw in this series, please donate generously to the Real News Network. The only funding they receive is from viewers like you. You won’t see news like this on your evening news unless you work to make it happen. The Real News Network is helping people to become aware of the real problems that trouble this nation. Please do your part to help educate others.
Here’s part of this week’s dispatch from the Evans-Novak Political Report. Increasingly the GOP’s old-line pundits seem to be filing from Heartbreak Hotel, poor things. Yeah, right.
The picture is as grim for Sen. John McCain and Republicans as it is for the U.S. financial sector. If the election were today, Sen. Barack Obama would win in a blowout, with huge coattails at the Senate and House level…
It's not simply anti-incumbent sentiment dragging down Republicans, either. Vulnerable freshmen House Democrats have seen their poll numbers improve along with Obama's. Democratic House gains, which we predicted last week to be a mere 6 seats, could reach 20 seats if things keep going the way they are now…
Republicans may have made a devastating mistake in nominating McCain, whose lack of clarity, conviction, and understanding on the economy has handed the Democrats a win on this issue, where a more economically savvy Republican could have won the day.
Instead of making donations to politicians this year, I made a small donation to The Real News Network. I urge our readers who are able to do so, to do it now. This video explains what they are about and what they will offer us in the future. The founders are from both sides of the political spectrum who, as Jerry Doolittle reminded us, on certain issues meet in common agreement on the problems facing the nation. There is only so far that we bloggers can take things. Americans are so used to the television format that in order to get our message out, the format must be expanded beyond corporate TV news. This a long term plan, as the cable networks are unlikely to take on The Real News network at this time.
I urge you to donate today to help them get started. Maybe this video will convince you.
I suspect that many of our readers here at Bad Attitudes are registered to vote. However, we do have new people visiting the site daily as our site statistics indicate. Whether you’re supporting Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Ron Paul, a third party candidate like the Libertarian candidate Bob Barr or even two candidates that we have written quite a bit about here at Bad Attitudes (and whom no one who writes here supports), John McCain and Sarah Palin, did you know you can register to vote online?
Or even if you just want to register as a Democrat instead of a Republican for a change this time, or vice versa, you can do it! Registering to vote has now officially become available online. Hopefully we are moving towards the Oregon model of voting as the technology becomes more sophisticated.
How do you register online? Just go here and fill out your information. It’s that easy. The only way we can demand change from our politicians is to have everyone participating in the process and that requires that everyone register to vote. Won’t you do so today by just clicking right here.
But we would warn Karl Rove wannabees who want to foul up our future by attempting to defraud the system. Your day is coming soon. We just want everyone to do what they have a right to do: vote to demand change. And we sure need that change right now, don’t we? Four more years of the same just won’t cut the Grey Poupon mustard anymore, even if you can afford a bottle of it. And make sure to tell your neighbors. If you can’t remember voteforchange.com, then just tell them to go to Bad Attitudes.com and register from here. Because those rich fat cats have been stealing your right to afford the regular mustard, much less the exotic kind. So do your part to cut the mustard. Get out your keyboard and go register today.
This is the best political news I’ve heard all year, maybe even forever. A friend of mine was taking a cab in Cleveland last week. The driver went on and on about the economy — no jobs, low wages, medical bills, gas prices, foreclosures. At last he said, “You know what, fuck it! I’m voting for the nigger.”
…there’s a silver lining in that cloud over Wall Street:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Democrat Barack Obama has opened a 9-point lead over Republican John McCain in the U.S. presidential race amid turmoil in the financial system and growing pessimism about the economy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News national opinion poll released on Wednesday.
Among likely voters, the poll found Obama now leads McCain by 52 percent to 43 percent. Two weeks ago the race was essentially even, with McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 47 percent, the Post reported…
Nouriel Roubini, the famous economist who long ago predicted the financial meltdown about to occur in the US and who has been right on the money on practically every prediction he has made in the last six or eight years has something to say today about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts.
Perhaps sensibility will sink into some of the so called brightest and best minds, whose hollow shells for brains are in fact filled with nothing but wild ideology, who subscribe to a belief system just as obscene, if not more so than the brutal ideologies of Germany in 1933 and Russia in 1917, and they will finally come around to sanity and realize that socialism indeed works in some segments of a civilized economy, provided it is tempered with incentives for everyone to have the opportunity to exercise initiative and entrepreneurship in a capitalist economy that has a soul.
But I doubt that we have many leaders in our midst who have that kind of insight and ability. Only honest and upright men and women who govern a country can be counted on to look out for the interests for all of the citizens of that country, particularly the least of these among us. And that kind of leadership has sadly been lacking in this country since at least 1980, if not long before then.
What I fear most is that most of our citizens have been indoctrinated with the same kind of ideology since the era of Ronald Reagan, and many of them long before that era. It may be impossible to turn this nation around to honest and sensible government policies, and this country may indeed be a lost cause on the world stage. Without further ado, what follows is part of Mr. Roubini’s rant of the day — although Mr. Roubini seldom rants — since I just took my turn at having mine. And I didn’t even get into the debt we're adding every day by continuing to borrow billions monthly from the Chinese, Saudis, Russians and other world governments. Maybe Moe Blues, who has much more experience in this topic than I do can fill us in on that and more on what we, our children, and their children’s children may have in store in the coming decades.
So now Comrades Bush, Paulson and Bernanke (as originally nicknamed by Willem Buiter) have now turned the USA into the USSRA (the United Socialist State Republic of America). Socialism is indeed alive and well in America; but this is socialism for the rich, the well connected and Wall Street. A socialism where profits are privatized and losses are socialized with the US tax-payer being charged the bill of $300 billion.
This biggest bailout and nationalization in human history comes from the most fanatically and ideologically zealot free-market laissez-faire administration in US history. These are the folks who for years spewed the rhetoric of free markets and cutting down government intervention in economic affairs. But they were so fanatically ideological about free markets that they did not realize that financial and other markets without proper rules, supervision and regulation are like a jungle where greed — untempered by fear of loss or of punishment — leads to credit bubbles and asset bubbles and manias and eventual bust and panics.
From The Guardian, and about time:
Biden’s comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
But his statements represent the Democrats’ strongest vow so far this year to investigate alleged misdeeds committed during the Bush years.
“If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued,” Biden said during a campaign event in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to ABC.
“[N]ot out of vengeance, not out of retribution,” he added, “out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president — no one is above the law.”
From the Washington Post:
Since his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has spent more than 3,000 hours helping more than 100 law enforcement agents in an ongoing federal corruption probe that has implicated “scores of other persons not yet charged,” lawyers said in court filings yesterday.
A day has arrived that I thought would never come. A major party candidate (a presumptive one, anyway), turns out to have a smaller net worth than I do. On the other hand Joe Biden has a contract to write a book and I don’t. Inquiries invited.
If you loved the suspense and thrill-a-minute action of “My Dinner With Andre”, or you’re a Fritjof Capra fan, then you probably already know about the wonderful movie “Mindwalk”. If not, perhaps you’ve heard of the book The Tao of Physics. Capra described his motivation for writing the book this way:
Physicists do not need mysticism, and mystics do not need physics, but humanity needs both.
Ideas this all-encompassing are never bereft of controversy. Capra has been dissed by some physicists, but encouraged by others. He said:
I had several discussions with Heisenberg. I lived in England then [circa 1972], and I visited him several times in Munich and showed him the whole manuscript chapter by chapter. He was very interested and very open, and he told me something that I think is not known publicly because he never published it. He said that he was well aware of these parallels. While he was working on quantum theory he went to India to lecture and was a guest of Tagore. He talked a lot with Tagore about Indian philosophy. Heisenberg told me that these talks had helped him a lot with his work in physics, because they showed him that all these new ideas in quantum physics were in fact not all that crazy. He realized there was, in fact, a whole culture that subscribed to very similar ideas. Heisenberg said that this was a great help for him. Niels Bohr had a similar experience when he went to China.
Commenters at YouTube were unable to find “Mindwalk” from Netflix, so they were happy to find the full movie there. It stars Liv Ullman as the physicist, John Heard as the poet, and Sam Waterston as the politician, with music contributed by Philip Glass.
For some time certain politicians and newspapers in the United States have been selling the idea that the troop surge in Iraq was a success. For a much better analysis, let’s turn to my favorite online video news source, The Real News Network. Rather than donating to politicians this election cycle, I’ve donated to the The Real News Network. I hope you will consider doing the same.
So the Belgians are buying Anheuser-Bush for $52 billion, and good for them. Don’t know much about ’rithmetic, but I know plenty about beer, having sluiced the stuff down on a pretty regular basis ever since I was old enough to fool bartenders with my fake I.D.
As the years rolled by and I approached my twenties, I began to realize that the stuff I was drinking was by and large watery swill. And this was even before it had occurred to American brewers that they could remove all flavor completely and sell the remainder as “Lite” on the false premise that it wouldn’t make you “Hevy.”
Back in those days one of the two worst beers in the country was Genessee, which at least had the virtue of being down in the dollar-a-sixpack range. The other was Budweiser, which charged full mass-market prices.
The only decent beer generally available in America (and only, as I recall, on the East Coast) was Ballantine’s Ale. Most barflies found its beer-like flavor, derived from things like hops and barley, to be bitter and repellent.
Of course there were foreign beers on the market too — Heineken’s, Corona, Beck’s, St. Pauli Girl and a few others. But they were expensive and barely better than the American stuff.
I learned why in 1959 when we joined a group of American noncommissioned officers on a tour of the Löwenbräu brewery in Munich. It ended in the tasting room where the brewmaster invited us all to get shitfaced, compliments of the house.
Once the process was well along he challenged the sergeants with various feats of strengths. None of them could match him, and so I stepped forward like a damned fool, as my wife playfully remarked while failing to pull me back to my seat.
But the chance to stick it to a roomful of career sergeants was not to be passed up, not by a recently-discharged private who was confident he could do the brewmaster’s tricks. And promptly did so. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d… Oh, well.
Back, however, to our overview of beer through the ages. During the tour the brewmaster had shown us a room full of pipes and catch basins and filters which removed impurities that could cause the beer to spoil during transport.
What was being filtered out, I asked. The flavor? “You might call it that,” he said. “Yes.”
My suspicion is that Budweiser has similar rooms, where product quality is scientifically lowered to the level that the American lush has come to expect from a premium brew.
Whatever direction Budweiser’s Belgian owners decide to take with their new company, it can only be up.
RALEIGH, N.C. — L.F. Eason III gave up the only job he’d ever had rather than lower a flag to honor former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms…
“Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week,” Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.
He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his “doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice” and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
For those of you who think of Alaska as a Red State, full of Bush supporters and Libertarians who must surely send their government welfare checks back to the state each year, you will be pleased as Punch and Judy to know that last week in Juneau, the capital city accessible only by plane or by sea, the protesters against Bush, Cheney and the torturers in our government were out in full force.
You are now allowed to put a blue high achievement star for Alaska on your map of the United States that you keep in your vest pocket underneath your lapel pin. And thanks to Libby of Juneau for helping those of us who are having a little trouble getting around these days to see the sights of Juneau.
From the Washington Post:
The Justice Department agreed yesterday to pay biological-weapons expert Steven J. Hatfill a settlement valued at $5.85 million to drop a lawsuit he filed after then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft named him a “person of interest” in the investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks…
Under the terms of the deal, the Justice Department agreed to give Hatfill, 54, a lump sum of $2.825 million and to purchase an annuity that will provide the scientist an annual income of $150,000 for the next two decades.
The agreement, in which the government did not admit wrongdoing, ended a five-year legal saga.
Ashcroft has done me no wrong either, and consequently I am willing to accept the same deal that Hatfill got. Where do I sign?
Chávez Goes Over the Line, and Realizes It reads the headline in today’s Times. Substitute Bush for Chávez and the sentence loses all meaning. For Heaven’s sake, Hugo, try to be a little more presidential and a little less democratic.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela started this month as the most prominent political supporter of Colombia’s largest rebel group and a fierce defender of his own overhaul of his nation’s intelligence services. But in the space of a few hours over the weekend, he confounded his critics by switching course on both contentious policies.
In doing so, Mr. Chávez displayed a willingness for self-reinvention that has served him well in times of crisis throughout his long political career. Time and again, he has gambled by pushing brash positions and policies, then shifted to a more moderate course when the consequences seemed too dire…
The law would have forced judges in Venezuela to support the intelligence services and required citizens to cooperate with community-monitoring groups, provoking widespread fears that the government wanted to follow Cuba in creating a societywide network of informants whose main purpose was to nip antigovernment activities in the bud.
Just finished listening to Hillary’s speech, which struck me as graceful and useful. And from as much of the subsequent pundibabble as I could endure, this seemed to be the consensus.
So I’ll only bother to add two things that are unlikely to come up in everybody else’s instant analysis.
First, both Hillary and Chelsea clapped back at the audience. New rule, as Bill Maher says: Keep your hands to yourself. Otherwise you look as stupid as every show biz jackass who bounds into camera range clapping for — well, for whom?
If for your own wonderful self, it amounts to an unattractive act of public masturbation. If for the audience, it is the gesture of a desperate suck-up.
The second thing was Hillary’s juxtaposition of two words that I doubt have been uttered in sequence by any major presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, for 30 years. They are “promoting” and “unionization,” presented as a desirable goal.
Not “recognizing the importance of” unionization. ” Not “backing” or “championing” or “defending” it. Promoting it. Maybe the word was carelessly chosen or insincerely spoken. But if not — if the active promoting of unionization by government has become mentionable once more in mainstream Democratic rhetoric — this could turn out to be huge.
Apparently it’s polygamy.
Something struck me last night, looking at TV footage of the wives and children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who were taken from their home in what’s starting to look like another bonehead play by the Great State of Texas
Every single one of them seemed vigorous, healthy — and slim. There were perhaps 20 or 25 women and children altogether in the cllps I saw. What are the odds, in a random group of that size anywhere else in America, of not seeing a single wide load?
In Namibia the cure for poverty has finally been found. It’s a sure-fire cure, one hundred percent effective. It’s money.
“The opponents of Basic Income Grants always have the reasoning that people will become dependent,” says Pastor Wilfred Diergaardt. “In fact, what we are seeing here is really lifting people up out of dependency into becoming human again.”
Claudia Haarman, one of the administrators of the project, agrees. “What makes people dependent is poverty, because they are dependent on other people, they are dependent to beg.”
All right, in these times we need as many feel-good stories as we can lay our hands on. Here’s Jiang Xiaojuan, a 29-year-old Chinese police officer who stepped in to feed babies orphaned by the earthquake:
“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn’t think of it much,” she said. “It is a mother’s reaction, and a basic duty as a police officer to help.”
Want to remove all slime from the election this fall and limit debate strictly to the issues? Rick Hertzberg knows how:
The solution is obvious. Obama should ask McCain to be his running mate. McCain should ask Obama to be his. And both should say yes.
A campaign pitting an Obama-McCain ticket against a McCain-Obama ticket would absolutely guarantee a general-election campaign that would be about The Issues and nothing but The Issues…
Is this the end of Nixon’s Southern Strategy? (Incidentally, note the lapel pin in the photo below. Do we see a pattern emerging here? For instance, did Mussolini wear a lapel flag?)
The result in Mississippi, and what Republicans said was a surge in African-American turnout, suggested that Mr. Obama might have the effect of putting into play Southern seats that were once solidly Republican, rather than dragging down Democratic candidates.
Since the news has been so terrible lately, filled with reports of torture, death, foreclosure and financial disaster, all brought down on us by the Bush Administration, I’ve been loath to post anything lately, However, since there is good news out there, it’s time to post something to lift the spirits of progressives everywhere. This news from the financial pages of Yahoo, which really isn’t news unless you’ve not been paying attention to the details as I haven’t, should lift the spirits of young and old alike. Pass the word to your progressive politician. We don’t need no stinking Social Security “reform”
Reports that the Social Security system will soon run out of money have been greatly exaggerated.
As surely as day follows night, the annual report from the board of trustees of the OASDI fund (Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance, otherwise known as Social Security) has brought forth alarms that the fund will run out of money in the not-too-distant future.
Although flush with cash now and over at least the next 10 years, the Social Security system is expected to gradually begin paying out more in benefits than it takes in from payroll taxes with the result that by 2041 its assets, in the words of the trustees, will be exhausted.
For those who look at only the summary page, this conclusion is nothing new. Indeed, the trustees have come to the same conclusion every year, the only exception being the year the fund is expected to run dry.
Guess what? Under the actuaries’ low cost projection, the Social Security system never runs out of money.
That said, you might ask the question why this more realistic projection has escaped politicians from both major parties.
I don't know why, but I can only theorize that it's because they haven’t taken the time to read the entire report, which is available on the system’s Website.
In my opinion the single greatest issue arising from the immoral and inept and illegal Bush/Cheney misadministration is the blowback likely to be generated by the disasters we’ve wreaked around the world. We’ve made enemies of literally millions of people in Iraq alone; five million refugees, internal and external, plus a million dead, and who knows how many lives and bodies left shattered, most of them not initially predisposed to despising us. An economy and social structure in ruins; existing political instabilities exaggerated throughout the region; American and Israeli strength increasingly intertwined, and thus suspicion and guilt increasingly collective in nature.
How will Americans process that knowledge?
My guess is they’ll start with denial, but that river ain’t flowin’. We try to follow our beloved President down the cherry-blossom path, but like him we keep finding ourselves bewildered and deserted. Dana Milbank lists the countries whose governments have changed hands in one sense or another as polities around the world reject the Cheney approach. Spain, Italy, Poland, Japan, Britain, and Australia have all substituted Bush doubters for the Bush promoters who helped, or at least didn’t complain about, the war.
Bush’s pariah status has turned his Coalition of the Willing into a retirement community and given the president an unusual role in the domestic affairs of other countries. In Australia, one of Rudd’s predecessors as Labor leader, Mark Latham, got the top job after describing Bush as “the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory.” He further described members of Howard’s government as a “conga line of suckholes” to Bush.
Howard, in turn, expressed a view that al-Qaeda terrorists would be praying for a 2008 victory by Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular.
Bush enjoyed this mutual affection. “I can tell you, relations are great right now,” he said last year in Sydney, which was all but shut down by security measures needed to keep him safe.
Relations are perhaps not quite so great now, but Bush put on a brave face as he welcomed Rudd to the White House Friday. He called the 50-year-old premier a “fine lad” and even praised Rudd’s decision to pull out of Iraq. “I always like to be in the presence of somebody who does what he says he’s going to do,” Bush reasoned.
Rudd, touched by Bush’s manner, said he was designating the president as “an honorary Queenslander,” after the prime minister’s home state.
Will international hostility toward us decrease, as we flush the Bush presidency down the memory hole at top speed while people around the world continue to suffer from our latest war of aggression? Probably it will; there seem to be signs in international polls that the current political campaign has helped our image abroad, if only in showing a lot more engagement by Americans than the world has recently seen from us, and in reminding us all that the nightmare will soon end.
Now the question is, what do we do about it? By “it”, I mean the whole shebang. The Bush wars and the disasters they’ve created, not confined to Afghanistan and Iraq. The loss of honor involved in the revelations of systematic and institutionalized torture. The direct assaults on privacy and civil liberties. And perhaps most disgusting and frightening of all, the attempts to rob us of our most basic American right, to cast a vote that counts toward the decisions we as a nation must make.
If at this transitional moment we succumb to the ease of the remote and switch to another channel, we’ll miss a tremendous opportunity. We could recoup a large amount of the global goodwill that flooded our way after 9/11 if we were to repudiate the conduct and aims of the previous presidency. This to my knowledge the US has never done, but we need to make explicit public record that Bush, Cheney, et.al., violated both the letter and the spirit of our national institutions, and many cases our laws as well.
By default, those institutions will remain in their current configurations, ready for use by the next occupant of the Oval Office. Doubtless, the three most likely occupants will all employ the office with greater reverence for tradition and international coöperation than the current one. But will the next President agree to make warrantless wiretaps illegal? Or will we just agree to define “warrant” and “wiretap” so that whatever we’re currently doing is now okay?
The real question is whether the November election will bring the US to a realistic operating posture with respect to the rest of the world. We no longer dominate. We never should have tried. We can still lead by example, if we admit our mistakes and try to fix them. Or we can hunker down and wait for the incoming, hoping to be raptured.
I subscribe to the Evans-Novak Political Report and you don’t so here’s what the Prince of Darkness has to say this week:
Amid the exciting windup of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and the mop-up of the Republican contest, the reality is that 2008 shapes up as a very bad year for the GOP. The fact that the Democratic turnout in yesterday’s Virginia primary was double the Republican reflects the larger, more boisterous Democratic rallies from Iowa to the Potomac primaries. The pessimism and gloom in the business community is particularly pronounced.
Adding to the dark mood among Republicans is the increasing prospect that they will not be able to bolster their morale by running against the detested Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Her unification of Republicans has been one of the few GOP assets going into the campaign. It will take time and effort to work up a passion against the likable Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) no matter how leftist he really is.
While the Democratic delegate race looks like a dead heat, all the momentum is with Obama. He showed increasing ability to win white votes yesterday. The Clinton campaign is in disarray with the sacking of the campaign manager and the resignation of the deputy campaign manager, plus the migration of campaign contributors to Obama. Clinton’s reliance on the March 4 Ohio and Texas primaries, where her nominal lead is based on out-of-date polls, is risky in the extreme.
James Fallows passes along a participant’s perspective on the so-called crucial role of so-called organization in Obama’s recent string of stunning victories. Read the whole thing here.
My note re organization: At 11 AM I got a call asking if I could be the Obama “lead” at our [Washington state] caucus location, which had 12 precincts caucusing. Someone delivered to me a few hundred campaign pins, a few posters, and lots of stickers. When I showed up, a few minutes after noon, the place was plastered with Hillary posters. Obama early-arrivers volunteered to take all the materials off my hands. The materials were all snapped up before 20% of the ultimate attendees arrived. There were 2,000 people there. They voted at least 5 or 6 to 1 for Obama over Clinton overall, if not higher. I was the only “organizer” for Obama, and I did almost nothing nor could I. We were simply swamped with people.
Today, when I didn’t have any info on the Maine caucuses, except that she was expected to win, I read that Obama had addressed an overflow crowd yesterday, with 3,000 people not being able to get in and being forced to stand out in the snow. Note that this is just what happened in Seattle at Key Arena on Friday. The giant overflow crowd left outside in foul weather is a sign of an organization that has been overwhelmed, not an organization that has been successful. As soon as I read that, knowing what had just happened in WA, and having seen the amazing demographic diversity of the Obama supporters in our caucuses (which made me think, “This is not a regional phenomenon”), I told [xx], “He’s going to carry Maine.” It didn’t take a genius!
We need more of you to join the cause! Let your voices be heard! I dedicate this post to Monique Frugier, the toughest fighter for peace on the planet, and to Avedon Carol, whose blog The Sideshow is essential reading. Sorry for all the people I left out, but I can’t list you all. Thanks to all the thousands of liberal female bloggers who contribute to the cause. Sorry about the name of the song, but if you have a problem with it, talk to Joe Hill about it. I saw him last night.
I think my southern roots have been influencing me lately, but enjoy the music!
The excerpt below is from a piece at Smirking Chimp by Paul Rogat Loeb. His argument seems pretty sound to me. In fact I said something along vaguely similar lines last month, although more briefly and with an added integrationist twist.
As media commentators proclaim Hillary Clinton's rebirth from the ashes of defeat, they miss a critical story--Obama and Edwards won the New Hampshire primary. Add together Obama's 36 percent and Edwards's 17, and they beat Clinton's 39 percent by 14 points…
Those who make up the Obedwards constituencies recognize the problems with so many of Clinton's approaches and stands. That's part of what's driving them, along with a genuine passion for Obama and Edwards, and a sense, confirmed by the polls, that either of the two has a better shot at beating the leading Republicans than does Clinton.
If we look just at delegates, both Iowa and New Hampshire advanced the Obedwards combined cause. But because the coverage has focused so exclusively on the Obama/Clinton match-up, they've missed that a solid majority of Democrats in both New Hampshire and Iowa rejected a candidate who a short while back was proclaiming her nomination as nearly inevitable…
Congressman Robert Wexler, D-FL, has started a drive to collect signatures of those who think the Vice President should be impeached. Among whom I count myself.
Of course it’s true that war crimes and crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations. But if they manage to leave the dirt and the office at the same time they will have gotten away with it. They won’t be able to travel openly outside the US, of course; but Bush had hardly traveled before he was President, and Cheney never does anything openly anyway. Rice will be feted by Stanford, like Rumsfeld, and no one will think of attaching any taint of blame to the man sent to the UN to do his masterly sales job on the world.
We gotta start somewhere. No one can fire the Vice President, so he can’t be let go late one Friday evening after a decision to cut losses. And no reasonable person wants to impeach Bush only to end up with Cheney. So OVP seems like a good place to start.
By the way, if you hear anyone argue that simply leaving office in disgrace is sufficient suffering, point out that, for example, convicted liar Elliot Abrams is still poisoning public policy. Five Presidential terms (that is, three Presidents) later, he’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy.
Unless we put a wooden stake through the area where the heart would be, they’ll be back. Cheney’s an excellent place to start.
Who knows what other miracle cures may follow from all this? I ask as a specimen of homo sapiens born with the attention span of a fruit fly…
To their surprise, neurobiologists have discovered that homosexuality can be turned on or off in fruit flies. They’d known that sexual orientation can be genetically programmed, but they didn’t realize it could also be altered by giving a drug that changes the way the flies’ sensory circuits react to pheromones.
Within hours of the treatment, previously heterosexual male fruit flies would be courting other males, and treatment could also cause flies who had been engaging in homosexual behavior to become exclusively heterosexual, the neurobiologists report in Nature Neuroscience.
From the Associated Press:
DENVER — A state representative abruptly left the Republican Party and became a Democrat, the first time in 20 years that a Colorado lawmaker has switched parties.
Rep. Debbie Stafford, 55, who also is a minister, said the Republican Party no longer represents her values … She added: “I am not leaving the Republican Party as much as I believe the Republican Party left me.”
When Karl Rove resigned I was on the road, unable to do justice to the moving photo below. I use moving, of course, in the sense of bowels.
There the two heroes stand, fighting back manly tears — George Walker Bush, born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, and Karl Christian Rove, born on Christmas Day of 1950 in Denver. East and West, then. So far and yet, and yet . . . so near: Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgement Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgement Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
So it begins.
It’ll be harder to extract our military from Iraq than we’ve admitted to ourselves (and that’s saying something), because with all the mercenaries and their support systems we’ve really got over a quarter-million people on the ground. Of course about a quarter of them are Iraqis, but a lot of those will want to leave.
They’ll have to catch something other than Expat Airlines, though. So will the Indians and Pakistanis who’ve been employed in large numbers by the various contractors, as described for example in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City.
Pro Group, with offices in Amman and the United Kingdom, is launching Expat Airways in conjunction with the Jordanian Air Force. The Baghdad flights will use Jordan’s Marka Airport.
Ashraf Mraish, managing director for Pro Group, based in Amman, said Jordan’s tight visa restrictions drove the decision to exclude non-Westerners. Refugees have overwhelmed Jordan, which has imposed strict entry requirements for Iraqis.
“It would cost us much more to accommodate non-Westerners,” Mraish said this week. “We hope this flight is a solution to make (contractors’) lives easier.”
You can see why the Jordanian Air Force would consider it a national security issue to get Americans and other Westerners out of Baghdad, can’t you? Well, I can’t. It looks to me like a US operation under Jordanian cover. Probably Blackwater and Halliburton types starting to draw down.
According to the article, US taxpayers are funding payroll for 180,000 contract workers in Iraq. And of course we also have about 150,000 uniformed military folks there. It’s gonna take a while to get that many people out. But with those in the White House seeing clear signs of desertion in Republican ranks, the panic they deny is obviously setting in.
So it looks like they’re starting to decamp. But they don’t want anyone to know that, a perfect symbol of which is that Expat Airlines planes will have no logo.
Administrations come and, though it sometimes takes forever, they go. Individuals last a bit longer; but arguments outlive us all.
Consider, for example, the argument between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists that caused the English Civil War in 1642, leading to the execution of King Charles I and the exile of his son, later Charles II. Apparently the historical knowledge required to make useful comparisons was insufficiently widely distributed. (Unfortunately Decline and Fall would not be published for 135 years.) What were they thinking, not killing the kid? Mercy and regicide don’t mix. Not that the alternative always succeeds, mind you; but you gotta start somewhere.
In American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips talks about the connections between the English Civil War and the American one. New England, after all, was favored with lots of Puritans, who were generally sympathetic to Cromwell’s Roundheads. Many New Englanders shipped back to England to fight against Charles I.
Big Men in the Southern states, on the other hand, expected the privileges their patrons back in England had of owning and ordering, and basically living in a Cavalier fashion (how else?). The Province of Carolina, for example, was named after the headless king. It was granted to eight supporters by Charles II when he regained the throne. (One of whom, Lord Shaftesbury, employed a secretary named John Locke.) Most of the Southerners who returned to England to fight in the Civil War were Royalists. They tended to believe in centralization of power, since they were in the center. Unfortunately we’re not able to do a controlled experiment in this regard, but had their quarters been swapped for those of their slaves, they might have thought differently.
The conflict, in other words, was inherent in the soul of the United States from long before it became an independent political entity. Monarchy or Parliamentarianism? You’re either with us or against us.
Which adds a bit of back story to the current conflicts between Congress and the White House over whether, despite Tony Snow’s ruling, Congress has, and will execute, Constitutional oversight responsibilities with respect to the executive branch.
Kanye West might be right, though it seems to me that Shrub cares more about money than skin color; he and Snoop seem to be cool with each other, for example. But I can name one black person George Bush does care about: John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and the only member who was involved in the Congressional fight to get documents from the Nixon White House. Then there’s Henry Waxman, neither the most beautiful Representative nor the most riveting speaker, but something of a progressive Javert. John Dean says Waxman “may be the nation’s most diligent and vigilant member of Congress”. That, beloveds, is truly what the Founding Fathers intended, Federalist Society be damned.
In the Senate, the White House faces Patrick “Go Fuck Yourself” Leahy, who just might harbor a bit of resentment against the Cheney administration’s imperial style. And Leahy, like Waxman, was elected to Congress for the first time in November, 1974, three months after Nixon resigned.
“This is a further shift by the Bush administration into Nixonian stonewalling and more evidence of their disdain for our system of checks and balances,” said [Leahy]. “Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law — in America no one is above law.”
The question now is what to do about the obvious facts — namely, that the President and the Vice President, among others, have committed serious crimes, in my view including war crimes and crimes against humanity, and violated their Constitutional responsibilities.
There’s an X-Files episode about Mulder and Scully going to Texas on an investigation, and filing reports afterward. Their reports are quite different, and the episode shows flashbacks from both points of view. It’s one of their silliest; the scene with Mulder explaining that it’s surprisingly difficult to shoot out the tires on an RV making circles in a parking lot is great. It’s filmed in black-and-white, and includes a sheriff who Mulder recalls as a country bumpkin with buck teeth and Scully recalls as a southern gentleman of whom Mulder is jealous.
Turns out the town is infested with the undead. Our heros realize this when, as a result of ordering pizza, they wake up with their shoelaces tied and the pizza uneaten. Aha, says Mulder, vampires.
When they finally get the scoop, they realize the sheriff is also a vampire. The vampires, it seems, have learned to live in relative peace with the surrounding community by keeping their heads down and only feeding in ways that the locals can dismiss as religious visions or alcohol-induced fantasies. The sheriff, realizing he’s got a sympathetic audience in the FBI agents, confesses, and apologizes for the pizza-delivery boy: “He never got the concept of low-profile.”
Which, I assert, is a metaphor for government. Like vampiring, government resembles typography and refereeing; when it’s done well, it’s unnoticeable. In a basketball game, where calls make much more difference than in baseball, football, soccer, or tennis, the best referees are quiet: they call all the blatant stuff and let the dinky stuff go, and they do so in a relatively even manner. This is what people want when they petition for referees to “let the players decide the game”.
Problems arise when one side adopts a consistent strategy of not simply pushing the envelope of the rules but openly flaunting its refusal to obey them. How then can a fair referee “let the players decide the game”? Inadvertent rule violations are one thing; cheating is another, and the nature of things in such cases is that the “activist” referees control the outcome. And we saw how well that worked in 2000.
The question now is, God help us, what the Supreme Court will do if the dispute over subpoenas arrives there. I doubt there’s any pro-Monarchist position that couldn’t attract Scalia and Thomas, and probably Alito. But I think, for now, that the rule of law might hope to get five votes. We’re very likely to get Kennedy, who’s often called The Swing Vote; and we might even get Roberts on the issue of separation of powers, an area in which the Court has historically guarded its prerogatives, and where the Chief Justice’s own power and prestige are affected.
Thorsten Veblen describes another kind of vampire in his Theory of the Leisure Class. The Wikipedia entry notes, among other things, that Veblen’s critique is more radical than that of Marx, who grants the superiority of capitalism over feudalism. Veblen doesn’t; he considers capitalism to be the modern manifestation of primitive tribal behavior, in which status is the highest value.
In Veblen’s view, the development of human society grew from the prehistoric search for necessities, specifically food. At first, everyone brought back what they found, and everyone ate. Then some people realized that they could intimidate others, or attack them and steal their take, and avoid the hard work of gathering.
Over time, this “leisure class” did less and less real work. They preferred hunting to gathering. Hunting generates food when it’s successful, but it burns a lot of calories with uncertain results. They might occasionally raid neighbor tribes and bring back booty that was useful to everyone, thus provoking Paleolithic blowback. Which in turn creates the requirement for a constant vigil to protect the home land.
The leisure class concentrated on two things:
There are several natural results of this social structure, such as endemic warfare and lies, and the endless struggle for alpha-dog status. (“Think I’ll buy me a football team.”)
Veblen argues that status quickly dissociated itself from utility, to the point that one can now determine the status of an activity largely by judging its usefulness: the more useful it is, the lower its status. Think farming versus bond trading. Even activities that might seem to have useful side effects, such as the physical fitness required to play football, can be masquerades, according to Veblen, who considers that the “relation of football to physical culture is much the same as that of the bull-fight to agriculture”.
Thus he derives the concept of conspicuous consumption, consuming more than you need: if you can waste, you must have a lot, so waste indicates high status. Once you’re consuming as much as you can, you want people to know it, otherwise you don’t get the status points.
Next there’s conspicuous leisure. If you can sit on the porch and wave as the neighbors leave for work, you’re higher status than they are. Then comes vicarious consumption — your dependents are also wasteful — and vicarious leisure — your servants sit on the porch and wave.
Veblen proceeds to apply this viewpoint to a variety of society’s oddities, often with comic effect. You can tell, he says, that society affords God very high status by looking at the number of people employed for his vicarious leisure. He has a stretch of about two pages on why dogs are higher status than cats that is hilarious. In his view, hunting is an expression of the right of the leisure class to do whatever useless thing strikes its fancy. The fox hunt, for example, is certainly not done for the sake of calories, and that inefficiency is a hallmark of status. The more useless, the higher the status.
He must have been pretty popular at cocktail parties back in 1899 with that kind of line.
So when I catch myself having Nixon flashbacks, I remind myself: yes, this is really a new version of the same battle. Yes, this is a battle that’s apparently endemic to American life. Yes, it even goes back three and half centuries to the English Civil War. And, okay, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s what humans have always done. We’ve also always killed each other. Doesn’t mean we can’t stop.
We’re not seeing replays from the Nixon years randomly. This struggle’s been going on for centuries. Should the United States have an all-powerful executive, kinda like a pope or, here’s an idea, a king? Or should we elect, say, a legislature or a parliament to make the rules?
It comes down — surprise! — to the rich and powerful few against the meek and voiceless many. And the rich are way richer now, compared to the rest of us, than they were only a decade or two ago. Maybe, after all, we should just return to a feudal society and admit the rich will always control us. Feudal serfs, after all, were assured food, clothing, and health care, such as it was, by the lord’s need for laborers at the next harvest. We peasants had some value. (Especially after the Black Death, when the number of laborers dropped in Europe dropped by about a third in a year and a half. Good times!)
Alternatively, we could shoulder our burdens as citizens and try to emulate the founders, or rather to realize their highest statements of ideal. We are many, and we have recently found new ways to organize and to make ourselves heard.
There is much to do. War still rages in Iraq, there is still great poverty in the richest nation in history, and many of our citizens are without health care. Past generations of Americans have surmounted obstacles more difficult than these. It is our turn.
It’s possible that we’re on the verge of a new flowering of democracy in America — of all places! — arising from the abuses of the Cheney administration.
But if so, the first step is to confront the abuses and the lawbreaking head-on. I don’t mean that we’re ready to confront our own national nature as couch-potato bullies; that’ll have to be put off. At a minimum, though, we must accept that our government can be hijacked by people whose actions, whatever their statements or even intentions, are destructive to the point of criminality.
And that this affects us all.
The President and the Vice President command, and to some extent control, the entire federal bureaucracy, including what amounts to a private army in the CIA, and a huge and nearly unaccountable intelligence community with an unknown budget. I haven’t read everything written by the founders, but I have yet to encounter anything I could interpret as countenancing a President’s private army or an unaccountable spy network. This, it seems to me, is exactly what they were rebelling against. And exactly how things happened in Rome.
In this continuing argument, I’m reminded of the judgement of Lazarus Long:
Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
I’m basically a libertarian in that I don’t want government to tell me what to do. But I also think we can do things collectively that we can’t do alone: schools, roads, hospitals, moon shots, cures for cancer. What do we call the entity that executes our wishes in this collective fashion? I think the word is government, but I’m not stuck on that.
I’m also a socialist in that I think our collective actions should have the goal of increasing the common wealth. And it seems to me that a big part of our common wealth is our heritage of participatory government.
If we fail to confront the blatant law-breaking by the President and the Vice President in some institutional way, we will take a big step down Rome’s path. Probably we can’t impeach both Bush and Cheney before the 2008 election. But we should try.
And there’s no statute of limitations on war crimes.
Few things offer more convincing proof that the end times actually are coming than a romp through the Fashion and Style section of the Times itself, from which this comes:
And James Kendi, a Brooklyn tie designer whose dagger-shape bandanna and buffalo plaid ties are worn by Mr. Famighetti (not to mention Justin Timberlake), sees his neckwear as part of a way of life — a goofy albeit style-conscious one best portrayed in a video on his Web site (kendities.com) of a lanky guy in a striped tie dancing on a bed to Serge Gainsbourg’s “Sea, Sex and Sun.”
But what about Mr. More Ordinary? Can he wear a cheeky tie and not look clownish? The answer is yes. But Matthew Edelstein, the fashion editor of Details magazine, cautions: “It’s important to keep the rest of your styling subtle. Pairing an unusual tie with an equally statement-making look could make you appear as if you’d recently escaped from the mental ward.”
Interesting comments on Jerry’s “Cuba Copes” started me googling… According to the (pinko wrestlers at the?) World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Global Footprint Network’s 2006 report, Living Planet, in which the US was not quite the hero:
…Cuba was the only country to have achieved sustainable development.
Cuba’s rating was based on the fact that it is the only country in the world that has a high level of social development, including good health and education systems, and does not use up more resources than is sustainable.
Social development, hah. They’re low on iPods. Still, they seem to have a sense of community. I wonder where that comes from.
Cuba remains, as Chomsky says, the threat of a good example.
I don’t know if the report is correct, but I expect a lot would depend on definitions. I also expect the mainstream interpretation would differ radically from mine. The question is, why?
It seems to me that:
Unless I missed my symbolic logic class (and I did), it follows that
In Greider’s terms, we either give capitalism a soul, or it kills us. Or as Bertrand Russell put it, our ethic requires competition, but our methods require coöperation.
Somewhere, possibly Live on the Sunset Strip, Richard Pryor spoofed his crackhead self with stories of Jim Brown trying to bring him back to noticing what he was doing to people around him and to his future. At the same time the pipe was whispering, Nobody understands you but me. At this point Pryor mimes the Hall of Fame fullback, looking mean at him: “Whacha gone do?”
Update: You might have missed something I missed until Google brought it to my attention. Fortunately for the sanctity of the Union and the purity of our bodily fluids, Florida, a sustainable state if there ever was one, was ahead of the curve in the area of research on the Cuban ability to farm sustainably: starting in July, 2006, the state
…banned faculty members at Florida’s public universities from having any contact with the island nation under a law enacted last week. “This law shuts down the entire Cuban research agenda,” says Damián Fernández, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.
Cuba is one of six countries that the U.S. State Department has designated as a “sponsor of terrorism,” although U.S. scholars can travel to Cuba for research if they first obtain a government license. The Florida measure, which passed the state legislature unanimously, essentially closes that loophole by disallowing state-funded institutions from using public or private funds to facilitate travel to such countries.
Border closed, problem solved.
The line that’s used so often by political obfuscators that it became a Simpsons cliché is again shown to be a smokescreen. According to a new UNICEF study, of the twenty-one “economically advanced” countries in the study, Britain was the worst and the United States the second worst place for children.
The study attempted to measure children’s well-being in several aspects of life: material, health, education, relationships, behaviors and risks, and self-perceptions. The results will doubtless provide fuel for the fires that power both ends of the political spectrum.
The social conservatives will call the situation unacceptable, and continue to oppose full funding for schools and health care for children. They’ll fulminate over impending socalism, and tell us we couldn’t afford it even if we adopted such a heretical policy. This view is belied by the report:
The evidence from many countries persistently shows that children who grow up in poverty are more vulnerable: specifically, they are more likely to be in poor health, to have learning and behavioural difficulties, to underachieve at school, to become pregnant at too early an age, to have lower skills and aspirations, to be low paid, unemployed and welfare-dependent.
Regardless of where you place yourself on some imaginary spectrum of political views, it’s hard to argue with that. It is of course impossible to measure the harm done to succeeding generations by inadequate provision for children, but it is not difficult to see the harm this causes to society, even if dollars are your only unit of measure.
The wimpy liberals, on the other hand, will wring their hands in despair over the terrible plight of the children, and compromise away another quarter of what the children have left. Perhaps they’ll agree to state that evolution is controversial, or to allow advertising in schools, or to hand over some schools to the private sector. They’ll find something to give away, some principle on which not to stand.
I can hear the sound of distant whining now. “All we can do is what the government can afford, and it can’t afford much because of all those tax cuts we gave to the super-rich. And we wouldn’t dare rescind tax cuts; we’d have negative ads run against us from then on by the super-rich, who wouldn’t vote for us in any case.”
Could it be that the capitalism we tout to the world is actually hurting our children? Well, it hurts everyone else, so I don’t see why the kids would be excepted. In its place I suggest a different standard by which to judge the value of an action: somebody, please, think of the children.
Oh, and one more thing: I wonder how much play this will get in US media. I’m not holding my breath.
It’s rare that I have the occasion to say something good about Bush but when one comes along, I’m on it like a goose on a goober. I don’t suppose an equitable and intelligent reform of our grotesque agricultural policy has a chance in the world of getting through Congress, but still Bush seems to be trying. And don’t let me hear any of that partisan bickering about how he only managed to locate his balls on this issue when he didn’t have to worry about the farm vote anymore.
The Bush administration yesterday proposed legislation that would reduce payments to farmers by $10 billion over the next five years and cut off support for wealthy ones entirely.
The measure, which would succeed a five-year agricultural authorization expiring at the end of this year, was described by some critics of current policy as perhaps the most reform-minded farm bill in decades.
At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia’s newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn’t long before Bush found him.
“How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.
“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.
“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”
“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House …
“I’m not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall,” Webb said in an interview yesterday in which he confirmed the exchange between him and Bush.
When I was a little boy we had an enormous black Newfoundland called Cokie. Cokie’s life consisted of rooting around in the garbage cans behind the dining hall of the boarding school my father ran, and grinning and slobbering on anybody who seemed to be in need of a good slobbering but otherwise mostly just lying around in the shade with his tongue lolling out.
From a distance Cokie was often mistaken for a bear. He was sort of an animal George Foreman, s0 big that he could afford to be good-natured. He couldn’t be bothered to lose his temper, or snarl at man or beast, or bark in anything but excitement and welcome.
Then one summer vacation my father rented the school to a semantics conference. One of the conferees was a woman who showed up with a tiny lapdog, perhaps a Yorkie. Who knows, or cares. One of those nervous, inbred, and insufferable yapperdogs, anyway.
This nasty little freak took on Cokie as a summer project. She would yap, and snap and circle him, sometimes daring to dart within range and then jumping back, and all the time yapping, yapping, yapping.
Cokie just lay there day after day indifferent, unoffended, passive, in a stupid-seeming torpor, showing hardly a sign of life. Until at last one afternoon he suddenly snapped back, and bit the head clear off the little pest.
“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
…from W.B. Yeats:
Our friend Monique Frugier sends pictures (including captions) from Vietnam Vet Bill Perry, who was at Monday’s Antiwar Protest at the United Nations, which coincidentally occurred on the day that 43 made his speech there. If you watched network television on Monday, you probably had to endure some portion of 43’s speech. However, if you threw your television out long ago and now stay tuned only to the blogosphere, now you know that there was a big protest at the UN on Monday. Thanks to Monique and Bill. Incidentally, I’m adding Bill and his Band of Brothers’ website, Veterans for Peace 144 to our sidebar. Go there to check out the latest pictures and video detailing some of their recent work including “Arlington North” (near the Liberty Bell). Cheers and thanks! See ya’ in a few days. I’m out engaging in politics for a couple of days.
5,000 folks gathered at Dag Hammershold Plaza, across from where Bush was addressing the UN, to let the World know that we Americans are working to Drive Out the Bush Regime
Delaware Valley Veterans For America Communications Director Chad Hetman, Iraq Veterans Against the War co-founder, Tim Goodyear, Veterans For Peace National President, Dave Cline, and Delaware Valley Veterans For America Executive Director, Bill Perry, pump up the crowd of 5,000, in the shadow of the UN
Delaware Valley Veterans For America Director of Communications, and Iraq Veteran Against the War, Chad Hetman, on the lookout for Evil Doers Dubya, Condi, and John Bolton
Chrysler Building from the 30th floor of our Lawyers’ Office
Dean LeBaron, venture capitalist and futurist, who was recently written about in Barron’s magazine offers by way of video commentary a surprisingly simple but effective plan for solving the problems of the Middle East. Here is the Wisdom of the Ages.