Sunday, October 31, 2010

Heads In Their Hands

I looked around the theater. More than a dozen times the nearly sold out crowd put their heads in their hands and cursed under the breath. Some quite loudly.

"Are you kidding me?"
"I had no idea..."
"We are doomed..."

These were just a few of the words I heard coming out of the mouths of the patrons at the theater last night as I watched the shovel to the head stunning film Inside Job.

The film details the exact events which caused our economy to collapse in September of 2008. In several uncomfortable interviews, it puts the key people responsible (at least those that allowed themselves to be interviewed) on the spot. And turns them into gibbering messes. Here is the trailer.

To be quite blunt, it makes Michael Moore films look tame. The main reason for this is the film's director, Charles Ferguson, has a much mellower style than Moore. He asks simple questions and when his subjects try to stonewall he gently (totally unlike Moore) reminds what the facts are. And the film is loaded with such facts.

In a very simple and no nonsense way, Ferguson explains how lack of deregulation over the last 30 years brought us to where we are today. In many ways, it takes the theme of CNBC's House of Cards (shown to me by our esteemed Commenter in Residence, Last in Line) and takes it up a notch. Actually, about a hundred notches.

We being in Iceland where all was well until the country decided to deregulate everything. And then everything went to shit. And then the same thing happened here. Why? Well, the simplest answer is that people are greedy. Ferguson details the certain area of the brain that is stimulated by winning money. It's the same one that is stimulated from cocaine use and sex. Not surprising are the vast number of financial sector folks (including CEOs) that snort coke and hire prostitutes.

Every president from Reagan to Obama is blamed with the latter being held to the mat for hiring Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, two of the chief architects of the crisis. Men like Glenn Hubbard, Hank Pauslon, Frederic Mishkin, Martin Feldstein, Scott Talbot, David McCormick, Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Richard Fuld, and Joe Cassano are some of the many responsible for crisis. None of the are in jail. All of them retain their respected positions of power.

People lost their savings...their homes...everything. And all of these men kept their millions. My family lost around 40 thousand dollars. But that's not even the worst part. The thing that makes me sicker than anything right now is that I now have to hear that we need to "cut the private sector loose and watch the economy grow." This film details exactly how we tried that and how much of an absolute catastrophe it was.

In one very revealing scene, Dominick Strauss-Kahn, current managing director of the IMF, told a story of a party he attended in which some of the people mentioned above told Hank Paulson, "You have to stop us...regulate us...because we can't stop ourselves." I've been hearing a lot of complaints lately of Social Security being a Ponzi scheme. Yet these some people who offer these complaints...people who are so trapped in their own bias of pathological distrust of the government....want to give these men who actually got away with a Ponzi scheme more power! Completely. Fucking. Insane.

Basically, it comes down to this. Saying we need to cut the financial sector loose is like saying, "Hey, let's release the mass murderers we have locked up and deputize them."

When President Roosevelt set up financial regulations during his first term, he set the bar for how business was to be conducted. This lasted for about 45 years. During that time, there were no major financial crisis. From the time Reagan took office to today, how many have their been? Black Monday, the S and L crisis, the dot com bubble, and the Crash of 2008. How many more are we going to have to endure until we follow Jim Manzi's advice?

As we work to adapt our regulatory structure to fit the 21st century, we should therefore adopt a modernized version of a New Deal-era innovation: focus on creating walls that contain busts, rather than on applying brakes that hold back the entire system.

We had those walls, as Ferguson details in great disgust, and every leader from Reagan to Obama has failed to do anything to put those walls back in place. For those of you who think that the Dodd-Frank bill is going to help with any of this, let's get together. I need a good laugh after seeing this film.

And for those of you who call for less regulation, I challenge you to see this film and share your thoughts with me. Will you change your mind? My hope is that you will because the definition of where we are at, as the film so perfectly and eloquently summarizes, is absolutely unacceptable. In all honesty, it renders most of the topics we debate on here moot considering the gravity of what our country has become in the year 2010. Both parties are to blame.

And so are all of us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Funnies

I don't think there is a limit to how many times I can state how much I love The Onion. Two recent stories there had me ROTFLMFAO. Target #1: The media and whiny liberals.

With Democratic disapproval ratings in the quadruple digits, it's a foregone conclusion that Republicans will not only retake Congress, but hold it for the next 20,000 to 25,000 years. Experts also predicted the one-sided election results would cause Barack Obama to die on the spot, at which point the nation's leading conservative talk-radio host would be sworn in as president of the United States forever

Perhaps Democrats need to take a fucking chill pill, hmm?

The subject of race has come up recently in comments....

"We're bringing new voices and perspectives into the movement every day, and the addition of some more coloreds is only the beginning," Tea Party spokesman Michael Kealey told reporters, adding that he was "excited to welcome Negroes into the fold."

Please direct your competing victimization to the editorial board of The Onion.

Finally (the best for last, of course), the subject of "coercive government force to extract money from people" (aka Obama's taking Whitey's Money) has come up in comments again. For those of you who feel this way (special dedication to Flat Earther), will you you take this pledge?

I, __________ __________ __________ __, do solemnly swear to uphold the
principles of a socialism-free society and heretofore pledge my word
that I shall strictly adhere to the following: I pledge to eliminate
all government intervention in my life. I will abstain from the use of
and participation in any socialist goods and services including but
not limited to the following:

Police, Fire, and Emergency Services
US Postal Service
Roads and Highways
Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)
The US Railway System
Rest Areas on Highways
Public Water/Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower,
dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)
FDA Approved Food and Drugs
Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children
Treatment at Any Hospital/Clinic That Ever Received Funding From
Local/State/Federal Government
Medical Services and Medications That Were Created/Derived From Any
Government Grant/Research Funding
Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and
Velcro (NASA Inventions)
Use of the Internets, email, as the DoD's ARPANET was the basis for
computer networking
Foodstuffs /Meats/Pro duce/Crops That Were Grown With/Fed With/Raised
With/That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies
Public Education
Government grants/loans for higher education
Attending publicly funded or state colleges/universities


_________________ _________________

Disconnect your computer from the internets,
sign and hand deliver to the appropriate agencies.

For the record, I will not be taking this pledge. I fully support all of these services which apparently means that I am supporting fascism.

Seig Heil!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

She Had It Coming

I have now received over two dozen emails to comment on the Stompage in Kentucky. My first thought was....why don't any of these people leave comments? I guess they must be shy...

I'm not going to comment much on what happened outside of the Rand Paul event with Lauren Valle. As I expected, the victim has now been blamed and counter claims of "liberals do it too" have already flown out of the foaming mouths of right wing pundits. One example they tout is the union "beating" at a town hall event last summer. None of this surprises me. So, no, I won't be commenting directly on the Valle incident because it will serve no purpose. But I will comment on why that is (sadly) the case.

A long time ago on this blog, I predicted that someone in the Bush Administration would shoot someone and get away with it. And then Dick Cheney shot someone and got away with it. I caught a lot of hell for taking the stance that I did (especially from that ol' pookie last in line:)) but apparently time, once again, has proven me to be correct. No apology for Harry and 30 bits of shrapnel still remain in his body? Even after HE apologized to Cheney for the "embarrassment." This "Where Are They Now?" article was quite illuminating on a number of levels. It seems that the "official" version of the story was filled with lies and glaring omissions.

The reason why I bring this up today is that nothing the current form of the GOP and their supporters do surprises me anymore. Dick Cheney got drunk and shot someone. No problem. The things they say and do have gotten more and more ridiculous over the years. And, quite frankly, disturbing. It's a clear progression that is seen in their leaders. Dick Cheney to Sarah Palin to Christine O'Donnell. Who on earth could be next?

But there's really no point in seriously addressing this progression into disturbing lunacy any more because one has to "look at all sides" and "liberals do it too," right? Before long, as with Ms. Valle, the truth of what happened is completely lost and we are left with a group of about 30-40 million people that can pretty much do and say whatever they want...while monumentally frustrated people like myself try, in vain, to illustrate how the Democrats are actually NOT that way.

And that sometimes there is only one side to a story.

Again, though, it doesn't matter what I say. Don't believe me?

--Stephen Broden, the GOP candidate running in TX-30 said he would not rule out the violent overthrow of the federal government if the midterm elections don't turn out favorably for the Republicans, citing their "our nation was founded on violence" and the option is "on the table." Broden has received more campaign contributions than his opponent, Eddie Bernice Johnson.

--Sharon "2nd Amendment solutions" Angle, the GOP candidate for Senate in Nevada, says that Dearborn, Michigan and Frankford, Texas are now under Sharia Law and we must fight back to save them. This may be difficult considering the town of Frankford, Texas doesn't actually exist. Sharon Angle has received over 17 million dollars in campaign contributions.

--Last week, the office of Rep Raul Grijalva (AZ-7) received a toxic substance in an envelope illustrated with swastikas. This was the THIRD incident at his office since he has protested the new immigration law in that state. The first was a telephone call in which a person said he was going to "blow everyone's head off." The second was a bullet that had been shot through the window of his Yuma office in the middle of the night.

--A church carnival in Roseto, PA had a game which allowed players to shoot President Obama. The game was called "Alien Attack" and had cut out figure of the president holding a scroll that said "health bill."

These are four of hundreds of examples I have collected over the last year and a half. And it keeps getting worse.

In a post that made me profoundly sad, Kevin Baker linked a quote yesterday that mentioned our leaders swinging from lamp posts (because of the deficit) to which he replied, "You know, the hangman's noose is a remarkably simple thing to make." Yet, he bemoans continually the image of the "violent and crazed gun nut" as well as my questions on how exactly this sort of thinking is different from the sorts of things we see on hirabist web sites. I am at a complete loss as to how to explain this cognitive dissonance. Here, maybe this might help him jog him and his commenters out of it.

تعلمون ، حبل المشنقة هو شيء بسيط بشكل ملحوظ لجعل

That's his quote, translated in Arabic.

When I read what he wrote, as well as the ensuing comments, the first image that came to my head was this

photo of contractors hanging off a bridge in <span class=

and it made me sick to my stomach.

But none of that matters. The people that are likely to win control of the House of Representatives think that this is all perfectly acceptable because "liberals do the same thing."

--In their eyes, repeating their words back to them is somehow disagreeable(and, on this blog, voices in Mark's head, apparently) to the point of the threat of violence...even though they JUST SAID IT!

--In their eyes, passing a law that will save the United States money and help people with their health is a hanging or shooting offense.

--In their eyes, it's now OK to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater (as conservative pundits do every day on their programs) and then....shoot the firemen!

--In their eyes, discussions of hangman's nooses has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the fact that there is a black man in the White House. Nope. No prejudice here...move along...move along....

This is our reality now. Y'know, I had a brief glimmer of hope when I saw the perfectly peaceful and quite civil Glenn Beck rally a couple of months back. This hope was kindled further when I saw several on the right making concerted efforts to be a peaceful social movement. But all of this has gone out the window now with a veritable cavalcade of completely unacceptable words, speeches, and actions.

Anything goes, folks and if you think the 2010 election was bad, wait until 2012 starts on November 3rd, 2010. The couple of dozen example I have bookmarked will pale in comparison to the pile I will have over the course of the next two years. As David Frum put it recently, President Obama is takin' Whitey's money and there's a gonna be hell to pay!

And what about Lauren Valle?

Well...I guess she had it coming.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Did FOX News Engineer the Whole Juan Williams Flap?

During this election cycle, haven't Republicans been saying that the deficit is the most important thing? And when asked exactly what programs they'll cut, what's just about the only thing they'll say they'll cut? Isn't it NPR and NEA?

So isn't it curious that last week Bill O'Reilly asked Juan Williams a leading question about Muslims? One that Williams answered two parts: the first part making himself sound bigoted, and then going on to make himself sound reasonable? And then isn't it odd that some shadowy "liberal group" circulated a carefully edited video of his comments?

Doesn't this have all the shades of the Shirley Sherrod charade? And we all know who arranged that video, don't we?

And isn't it interesting that two days after Williams was fired from NPR he received what some people consider a two million dollar payoff from FOX News?

Have people who listen to NPR during Williams' tenure on the network noticed a change in his perspective? Hasn't he been parroting right-wing talking points on his appearances on NPR ever since he began working for FOX? Why didn't Williams heed the several warnings NPR management gave him to avoid making such comments? Did FOX hire Williams to get a spy into the NPR news room? Is FOX News fanning the flames of terrorism and inciting the bomb threat against NPR?

And hasn't NPR bent over backwards in all areas to avoid seeming partisan? Haven't they banned their employees from attending the Jon Stewart/Steven Colbert rally unless they're covering it? And aren't NPR and PBS just shills for corporate interests anyway? Don't they get like 60% of their money from corporate sponsorships and grants, 40% from local stations, and only 1.5% from the CPB? So, wouldn't cutting funding for CPB have no effect on NPR, and only hurt rural public radio stations that depend on CPB funding?

Is it even proper for NPR to employ someone like Williams, who works for a rabidly partisan political organization like FOX, which makes no secret of the millions of dollars it pumps into Republican political campaigns? An organization run by Roger Ailes, a notorious Republican political hack? An organization that pumped up the Tea Party and falsified video in order to make Tea Party rallies seem larger than they really were?

You couldn't blame anyone who thought that FOX cooked up the whole Juan Williams affair in order to discredit the last news organization that actually produces hard, no-nonsense news, could you?

Hey, can you blame me if people think these things? Can't I just ask a few questions?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Site Update

If you look to your left, you will see that the icon has changed. These are the new numbers for the House and Senate based on the polls and Andy's algorithm. They will change as his site updates them.


After having yet another in a series of extremely frustrating conversations at the gym last night with my ultra conservative friend Eric, I have decided to publish a short list of absolute myths that we have been hearing in the latest elections cycle. His insistence that Social Security was a Ponzi Scheme (it's not and here's why) got me to thinking about some of the other myths that far too many people believe.

First, we have this new and soon to be classic

1. President Obama has tripled the deficit.


President Bush's last budget had a 1.416 trillion dollar deficit. President Obama's first budget reduced that to 1.29 trillion dollars. The deficit came to 8.94 percent of gross domestic product for the year ended September 30, versus 10 percent in fiscal 2009. These are the facts.

2. President Obama raised taxes.


At Pig Pickin’ and Politickin’, a barbecue-fed rally organized here last week by a Republican women’s club, a half-dozen guests were asked by a reporter what had happened to their taxes since President Obama took office.“Federal and state have both gone up,” said Bob Paratore, 59, from nearby Charlotte, echoing the comments of others. After further prodding — including a reminder that a provision of the stimulus bill had cut taxes for 95 percent of working families by changing withholding rates — Mr. Paratore’s memory was jogged.“You’re right, you’re right,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you: it was so subtle that personally, I didn’t notice it.”

Few people apparently did.

(Sigh) if only my commenters were as open minded as Mr. Paratore.

3. President Obama bailed out the banks.


It was President Bush that bailed out the banks long before Obama took office.

4. The stimulus didn't work


According to the CBO, the raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

Want to see how the stimulus is working in ways that the "liberal" media won't show you? Check out these stories on YouTube, courtesy of the DOT.

5. Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.


Businesses will hire when they get more customers. In order to get more customers, we need to focus on the engine that drives our economy: the middle class. One of the main reasons why President Clinton was so successful in his tenure was his adherence to this fact. More people had more money so they spent more. Demand for goods went up because people weren't facing the rising cost they are today. Trickle down and supply side economics were proven to be failures.

With Warren Buffet paying 17 percent of his income in taxes and his secretary paying over 30 percent, the possibility of more customers seems unlikely.

6. Health Care reform costs 1 trillion dollars


The law will actually reduced government deficit by 138 billion. This is from the CBO.

7. Government spending is bad for the economy.


This one is especially frustrating for me. President Eisenhower used tax payer money (the top rate was 90 percent in his time in office) and built the national highway system. Clearly, this had an enormously positive effect on the economy, literally changing the American way of life and bringing us the system of commerce we have today. Improving infrastructure makes it more attractive for companies to set up shop in our country and is the key element to improving our economy.

It's become increasingly difficult for me to be fair minded with people that refuse to look past these myths. The old axiom that "there are two sides to every story" really needs to be ejected from the capsule for several of these issues. I have no problem entertaining a debate on the pros and cons of welfare capitalism, for example.

But when statements like "Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme" are made, there is only side to the argument that is correct. It should come as no surprise to me, then, that Eric, even after all of the facts regarding the behavior of our nation's financial services system have come to light, pines for the privatization of Social Security.

Really? Still?

And people wonder why I question awareness of self interest. Sheesh...

Monday, October 25, 2010

File Under: No Shit

Oh My God...I think I'm Gonna Barf...


So, they spend years telling everyone how is Satan and now they pine for him? "Good ol Bill?" Pardon me while I heave a giant load of vomit into the toilet.

As I have been saying all along, they are wrong about nearly everything. And they always will be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Please Donate Today...Hurry!

I just finished reading Dana Milbank's column today and still can't believe it.

On the morning of Oct. 14, a cyberinsurgency caused servers to crash at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The culprits, however, weren't attacking the chamber; they were well-meaning citizens who overwhelmed the big-business lobbying group with a sudden wave of online contributions. It was one of the more extraordinary events in the annals of American populism: The common man voluntarily giving money to make the rich richer.

These donors to the cause of the Fortune 500 were motivated by a radio appeal by the de facto leader of the Tea Party movement, Glenn Beck, who told them: "Put your money where your mouth is. If you have a dollar, please go to ... the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and donate today." Chamber members, he said, are "our parents, our grandparents. They are us."


It's simply amazing to me how ridiculous this has gotten.

Only in this day and age can Ron Johnson, a multi millionaire who worships Ayn Rand, run against Russ Feingold in Wisconsin as a non elite representative of the people. As Milbank goes on to mention....

The Tea Party, he wrote, will "constrain the elite's economic and cultural hegemony."
Oh? Who will do this constraining of the elite's hegemony? Why, people such as the Tea Party's Senate candidate from Alaska, Joe Miller (Yale Law School), and from Kentucky, Rand Paul (Duke Medical School), and from Colorado, Ken Buck (Princeton University).

Is this a joke? Really?

I know several people personally who post comments on here. They aren't multi millionaires protecting their power and pot of gold. They are ordinary, hard working people...many making less than my family...and yet they are staunch supporters of the latest version of the GOP...staunch enemies of President Obama and the Democrats...and I have no idea why. It makes no sense whatsoever.

They are willingly supporting people whose chief goal is to maintain the current system of maximum stratification. They view people who are actually trying to make their lives better as mortal enemies in some sort of sick and twisted reality. They act in direct conflict with their own self interest. And vilify anyone who points that out to them.

It's a sad fucking day in our country, my friends. Very fucking sad.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

File Under: No Shit

Just saw this headline in the New York Time.

Global Climate Change Doubt is Tea Party Article of Faith

Wow. I'm shocked.

“Climate change is real, and man is causing it,” Mr. Hill said, echoing most climate scientists. “That is indisputable. And we have to do something about it.”

A rain of boos showered Mr. Hill, including a hearty growl from Norman Dennison, a 50-year-old electrician and founder of the Corydon Tea Party.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”

I wonder if Mr. Denison posts on this blog?

And I really love his insistence that the Earth was made for man to exploit. I wonder if he ever stops for a moment and thinks about the effect of climate change (man made or not) on international security issues which could lead to destabilizing economies in various states around the world.

Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement, here in Indiana and across the country. For some, it is a matter of religious conviction; for others, it is driven by distrust of those they call the elites. And for others still, efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government and a sweeping redistribution of wealth. But all are wary of the Obama administration’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide, a ubiquitous gas, which will require the expansion of government authority into nearly every corner of the economy.

Any of you fall into these categories?

Ah, well. At least they are "thinking" as opposed to simply letting their emotions run away with them:)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Man Crush

While I admire and support President Obama, I do not have a man crush on him. I do, however, have a man crush on this guy.

Austan Goolsbee is the chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors. He is the Robert P Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business (currently on leave while he works for the president). He is a centrist and primarily focuses on human behavior as it relates to economics.

I can't think of a more concise and perfect explanation of President Obama's accomplishments in pulling us from the brink of disaster. Maybe it's his voice that aides in this...very deep and manly...hence the man crush. It's almost as if he's going to go and kick the crap out of someone after he's done with this briefing.

So, will this demonstration of numbers, facts, and policies be enough to convince my commenters that President Obama pulled us out of the ditch? Probably not. I anxiously await the remarks from people who have less than one percent of the knowledge and experience in economics juxtaposed with Mr. Goolsbee's presentation.

Remember, naysayers, it is alright to admit when you are wrong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If You Prick a Corporation Does It Not Bleed?

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that corporations are people is legally, morally and ethically flawed. Can a corporation testify in court? Can a corporation hold public office? Can a corporation vote? Can a corporation be a parent? Can a corporation be imprisoned for its crimes? If you prick a corporation does it not bleed?

No. A corporation is not a person by any commonsense definition, most specifically because it is not a citizen.

Over the past few years the right has rationalized that illegal immigrants and terror suspects have no rights because they are not citizens. We are, as the argument goes, therefore free to expel, imprison and interrogate them as we see fit.

Consistently applying this rationale to corporations means that the only rights they should have are the rights that are bestowed upon them by the laws that govern their creation and operation. By any commonsense definition corporations are not people and the government is free to dictate restrictions on their behavior, which it still does in excruciating detail.

Unlike citizens, corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution says that a corporation is a person. They are given no rights by the Constitution. A slave (euphemistically called a person "bound to Service for a Term of Years") is worth three-fifths of a person. A corporation? Zero.

If fact, corporations as they exist today did not exist at the time the Constitution was written. They did not become "artificial persons" that "possess individuality and immortality" until 1819 in another notorious Supreme Court decision.

Corporations exist solely to allow individuals to band together to avoid personal responsibility for collective actions. In particular, corporations are formed (in preference to partnerships) to avoid personal financial liability in the event of bankruptcy or other legal responsibility. This isn't evil or bad, it's necessary to run a business. But it's the reason why corporations aren't people.

As long as the officers of a corporation don't mix personal and corporate finances, and commit no crimes, they can run a company into bankruptcy and walk away without personal consequences. For example: let's say the officers of MegaMaint, a large building maintenance services corporation, build a new building with fancy offices for themselves and a fleet of nice new trucks, all with big loans from a bank. The building -- built by the lowest bidder -- has huge cost overruns, is poorly constructed and eventually collapses before completion. The trucks all break down -- lowest bidder again. MegaMaint goes bankrupt. The assets of the company are liquidated and the bank gets almost nothing. The bank goes after building contractor and the truck company, but they declare bankruptcy and their corporate officers skip out as well.

Now let's say that Jim is a small businessman who runs a sole-proprietor window-cleaning business. He doesn't have the money or wherewithal to hire a lawyer and set up a corporation. Jim borrows money from the bank to build a new outbuilding and a new truck
. Then he falls off his ladder and breaks his back. Jim doesn't have health insurance because he's in a high-risk occupation and the premiums are too high. He goes bankrupt from medical bills and lost income.

The difference between the MegaMaint CEO and Jim is that Jim is on the hook for everything. The bank and the hospital can go after everything Jim and his wife own in bankruptcy proceedings: their house, their bank account, their lake cabin, her jewelry, their stereo, their TV. They are forced to sell their house and property to pay off the bank loan and the medical bills.

The MegaMaint CEO is free to go out and do it all over again. Jim is out of his house, stuck in bed, broke, with a broken back.

How is that fair?

This is the key difference between a person and a corporation. No one is responsible in a corporation. As long as there's no proof of crime or entanglement with personal and corporate finances, no one is held accountable for a corporation's -- or the CEO's -- mistakes. To be fair, corporate bankruptcies are rarely this clear-cut. The CEOs are always giving themselves bonuses while the company's going bust, lying about financial prospects, or cutting deals with subsidiaries they secretly own. So CEOs are always involved with litigation after a bankruptcy.

Now the Supreme Court has also decided that corporations should be allowed to freely manipulate the electoral process via the media, by hiding behind "non-profit" slush funds that allow corporations to avoid responsibility for slanderous attack ads against their enemies. They can secretly donate millions of dollars to get candidates elected to office who have promised to do what these giant corporations want them to do: i.e., deregulate industries dominated by huge multinational corporations like Koch, BP, FOX News, Toyota, GlaxoSmithKline, etc., allowing them to escape even more responsibility for the things they do.

The corollary to the "corporation is a person" that makes this possible is the other perversion of the Constitution that the court has perpetrated: to wit, that "money is speech." The Constitution doesn't say that money is speech. TV didn't exist when it was written. The government tightly regulates the public airwaves for content, so it obviously has jurisdiction over what's broadcast. Why aren't the original intent guys all over this obviously overreaching radical activist Supreme Court ruling? Speech means standing on the street corner haranguing passers-by, or printing hand-bills with your manifesto. Multi-million dollar ad buys weren't never once mentioned by the Founding Fathers.

We have no idea who's giving to the political slush funds that finance these scurrilous ads. There are no reporting requirements. It could be foreign corporations or even foreign governments. Which would be a crime. But there's no way to find out because five guys on the Supreme Court think Target, Exxon, Burger King and Coca Cola are just regular folks.

To paraphrase conservatives's argument from a few years back: if they're not doing anything wrong, why don't they just tell us who's giving them all that money? Why are their donors afraid to stand behind their own words? Why aren't they offering their donor lists in order to help the government ferret out potential foreign corruption of the political process?

For a more concrete example of corporate irresponsibility, consider the BP oil spill. Because it involves at least three corporations and dozens of engineers and rig workers, it will be impossible to find the person responsible for the spill in the Gulf. But BP has a history of serious safety lapses resulting in numerous explosions, deaths and spills from the Gulf, to Texas, to Alaska. Their safety record is abysmal, even compared to other oil producers.

Corporate management at BP is responsible for this climate of irresponsibility. People and animals have died, economies have been trashed and our land and seas have been despoiled. Undoubtedly a few lackeys will be fingered as the fall guys who caused the spill. But the ones truly responsible, the ones at the top who demanded that they get the oil out as fast as possible no matter what, will never be brought to justice. And that's the whole purpose of corporations: to dilute personal responsibility so that the guys at the top enjoy all the benefits and never face the consequences of their mistakes.

Now the Supreme Court has given over financing of elections to these people.

It's the Bizarro version of the old maxim: with great power comes no responsibility.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Defining the Players

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Perfect Summation

Peter Baker has an excellent piece in today's Times on President Obama. Before you read it, check out the gallery of photos by Ashley Gilbertson that accompany the article. Amazing, right?

The paragraph that really jumped out at me was the one that dealt with this question: can a modern day president succeed and if not, what are the obstacles? Baker thinks that a modern day president really can't succeed and here's why.

An implacable opposition with little if any real interest in collaboration.

Mos def. It's their way or the highway. They want him to fail (for a number of reasons) and will do everything in their power to make certain this happens regardless of the public well being.

A news media saturated with triviality and conflict.

The story of the 2010 elections was written last August. The Democrats are going to lose big time on November 2nd and it will be because voters have rejected Obama due to his "failed" policies. Quite typical of the "liberal" media. But the triviality is the key here. We saw stories about education for about a week and then it was back to stories of trailer trash and ghetto crime.

A culture that demands solutions yesterday.

Ah, yes. Our hyper instant gratification society exemplified perfectly by Thelma Frank who told President Obama last month that she wasn't "feeling" the recovery yet. What does that even mean? And does she expect me to feel pity for her that she has to buy hot dogs and beans while still shelling out 50K a year for private school for her children?

This impatience has been pounced on by the Koch Brothers through their Tea Party network and exploited beyond all rationality. It's absolutely stunning to me that people who make less than 100K a year are listening to a word the Kochs and their cronies are saying. If we get the type of government that the current form of the GOP is striving for, the little that remains of the middle class are clearly going to be hurt the most.

A societal cynicism that holds leadership in low regard.

This one is probably the worst. We have a knee jerk reaction to hating leaders now. This used to not be the case. I lay the blame for this solely at the feet of the GOP in their insanity over President insanity which has now been conveniently forgotten (more on that giant pile of bullshit later).

A common mistake made by the Right is that people like me just hated Bush for no reason. This is an excellent example of hating in others what we fear in ourselves. I never hated Bush and simply thought he was incompetent. I think the results that came from his actions speak volumes. But they do hate Obama, though, and for no reason other than to be deliberately contrary. This would be why millions of people believe a shouting, mouth foamer when they say "Obamacare is threatening our freedom" without a shred of evidence to back it up. Or an alternate and detailed plan to replace it.

Since many Americans have this natural cynicism, they're going to distrust or even hate President Obama no matter what he does. As Baker concludes, a president in modern day America can, at best, hope for being average. Given our country's recent history that is filled with leaders that deserved accolades and respect, I find this entire, collective attitude to be completely nauseating.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nope, No Racism Here

From a billboard in Colorado...

Move along...nothing to see mention of the word racism which could cause anaphylactic fits of rage...move along...

Sitting in Wonder

I'm perplexed about something.

Why is it that 30 years later it's perfectly acceptable to rip Jimmy Carter new one after new one yet, only two years after he left office, the slightest word of blame or one that is even mildly derisive of George W. Bush sends conservatives into anaphylactic fits of rage?

Just curious...

Friday, October 15, 2010

What The Heck Do We Want?

With the election just over two weeks away, all of us are hearing a lot of sentences that start with "The American people want..." The question is does anyone who says this really know?

No, they don't. Why? Because the American people are basically Sally Field in the film Sybil. Check out this recent poll from the Washington Post. Americans say they want limited government but they also think that Social Security and Medicare are very important. The also want the federal government to be involved in schools, reduce poverty, and half of us want them to be involved in regulating health care. Only 39 percent asked in this poll want the government to cut spending. Wow. Really? This is down from 53 percent in 1994 when the GOP took over both houses.

What I found to be quite surprising was this poll showed that 50 percent wanted more government spending to fix the economy...regardless of the deficit. Even I'm not in that 50 percent. Combine this formation with this recent poll about the tax cuts and one wonders just how far Democrat's heads are up their arses. 65 percent of Dems, 64 percent of Republicans, and 63 percent of independents all said that the tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. What a stunning campaign opportunity completely lost. Still, it's better to have a disappointing friend than someone who acts in direct conflict with the interests of virtually the entire country. More on this notion later.

There might be a lot of anger out there about entitlements but the majority of Americans do support these programs. As election day draws closer, I'm becoming more of the mind that Tea Party victories could end up being a very good thing. Generally speaking, people don't care about something until it's taken away from them. If the Tea Party gets a decent size caucus in the House and a few candidates in the Senate, we will get to see how they govern. It's not going to be pretty for a number of reasons.

The mischievous part of me can't wait to see the public reaction. It's going to be quite a show. After all, the American people want to have their cake and eat it too:)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Sign for The Future

If you want to see what life would be like if the New and Hulked Out GOP is given control of anything in the future, take a look at the story of Gene Cranick.

Mr. Cranick is a resident of Obion County, Tennessee which requires its residents to pay a $75 fee to put out fires. Yea! No stinkin' socialism here, folks. Cranick forgot to pay it so firefighters would not come out to his home when he called. They did arrive, however, to spray down a water line between his neighbor's house (who paid the fee) and Cranick's burning abode. They stayed there to make sure the fire didn't spread and watched Cranick's house burn to the ground despite pleas and a payment in hand.

This isn't fear mongering for a future that isn't here yet. This is real. It happened. And it makes on wonder if the possible future so eloquently detailed in the film Repo Men (in which all government is neutered and corporations run health care at insanely high interest rates) might not be fear mongering at all. Robert Creamer put it best recently on HuffPo

Competitive markets are extremely efficient at encouraging innovation, increasing productivity and distributing goods and services in many arenas. But there are other arenas where history and experience have demonstrated that it is both more efficient and more humane to provide goods and services through government -- which, as Congressman Barney Frank likes to say, is the name we give to the things we have chosen to do together.

The core difference in values between the right wing and progressives is whether we create a society where we're all in this together, or all in this alone.

Mainstream Americans understand that there are a number of areas where it makes much more economic and moral sense to guarantee goods and services to everyone in the society and ask our citizens to finance them by paying their fair share of taxes rather than paying for them "ala carte".

More humane. Think about that for a minute. Which party do you think is more humane? I think that the Republican Party, in its all out effort and zeal to build a nation of rugged individualists, has forgotten the value of teamwork. In fact, they shit all over it.

The reaction to this story from the right is predictable. Why should Cranick "sponge off his neighbors" to get helped out, as Glenn Beck said recently. Except there was no sponging because he simply forgot to pay the fee as he had in the past. And if they had tax money covering the fire department he would be paying his fair share as well. I'm wondering what happens if you can't afford the fee. What then? I guess all the poor people in Obion county are fucked.

Today, there are politicians and commentators who want to push in the other direction: to water citizenship down, and turn Americans into mere customers. In this view, you should get things — including basics like fire service — not as a right of citizenship, but as a privilege with a price.

Indeed. So, in the GOP's vision of a perfect world, the only rights we would have as citizens are contingent upon how much money we have. Which party is it again that is the party of privilege? More importantly, which party continually blames the victim?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If the Flannel Shirt fits...

Apparently, a talent agency that was hired by the GOP to produce the ad below in the West Virginia Senate race called for actors who have that "Hicky, Blue Collar look." Here is a further explanation of the type of look they wanted.

These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks. Each character should bring several options and stay away from all black or all white or thin stripes (thicker stripes and plaid are good).

The talent agency also made several additional clothing suggestions, including a "Dickie's type jacket with t-shirt underneath," "Down filled vest," "John Deer hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)," and "Trucker hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)."

My oh my, what a stereotype! Adding further insult to injury was the fact that the ad wasn't even shot in West Virginia. It was made entirely in Philadelphia. So much for "grass roots." If I were Joe Manchin, I'd counter with an ad of him talking to people on the street in West Virginia with the tag line "Made entirely in West Virginia, not Philadelphia."

The other thing about this ad is that it is such a great example of how fake these things are. They're all paid actors playing a role that suits a narrative that is largely false. Take a look

Monday, October 11, 2010

Death Cult Recognized in England!

Two news stories caught my eye earlier this month. The first was about England recognizing Druidry as an official religion. The second was about a study of religious belief in the United States.

The English really are going to hell in a handbasket. They have this death cult that practices ritual cannibalism and ritual vampirism1. (Some subcults of this religion have even discarded the notion that the cannibalism and vampirism are ritualistic, and posit they are actually eating human flesh and drinking human blood!2) They venerate an instrument of torture and death as their holy symbol, which in their temples often has a corpse hanging on it3. This religion's entire belief system is predicated on human sacrifice; the belief is that one person must be killed in order to grant another eternal life4. This cult became the official state religion in England about a thousand years ago. They call it "Christianity."

When I first read an article on the local paper's website about England recognizing Druidry -- a nature-worshiping religion that existed long before Christianity and perhaps even its predecessor, Judaism -- there were reader comments about how terrible England was for recognizing a pagan religion that practiced cannibalism, human sacrifice and worshiped Satan (Druids don't believe in Satan, who is a Judeo-Christian godling). Which struck me as ironic given Christianity's roots.

So when the study on US religious knowledge appeared I was curious to what light it shed on this question. It found that atheists, Jews and Mormons exhibit the greatest knowledge about religion in general. Hispanic Catholics and black Protestants are the least knowledgeable. Mormons and Evangelicals know the most about Christianity, while atheists and Jews know more about world religions. Finally, the most important factor in religious knowledge is education level.

So all the study tells us is that educated people know more stuff. Which we already knew.

That begs the question: why do people believe their religions are the one true path, when they actually don't know very much about their religions, they would be repelled by them if they did, and their core beliefs and practices hold so many contradictions and borrowings from other religions?

Christianity is just as creepy and crazy as any pagan religion, in large part because it has incorporated many of those practices -- pagan symbolism (Christmas trees), the idolatry of graven images (the cross), polytheism (Christianity -- the religion where 1 God + 1 Christ + 1 Holy Spirit = 1 God!, and then there are all those troublesome saints), fertility celebrations (the word Easter comes from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility, hence the bunny rabbits).

And then there's the whole genesis of Christian dogma. It was finalized at the Council of Nicaea, which was organized by the Emperor Constantine, who likely died a pagan but had chosen Christianity for the Roman Empire for political reasons. The Council picked and chose from hundreds of different competing versions of Christian writings, finally hammering out a final committee-approved bible. Pretty much the same process used to produce an annual corporate report.

But no one sees their own religion as creepy. They have conveniently forgotten or ignored the parts they don't like, and interpret it the way they want to. Many Christian practitioners insist they know the absolute will of God, though when bad things happen to good people everything suddenly becomes mysterious. Furthermore, Christianity is not a monolithic religion. Practically every tenet of every Christian sect's doctrine is considered heresy by at least one other Christian sect. It's hard to believe any of these things are true when Christians have been murdering each other for centuries over fine points of theological interpretation.

And this mindset doesn't stop at religion. Some Americans insist they know the absolute will of the Founding Fathers, that the Constitution is an inviolable holy writ that means only what exactly what it says. But the disagreements among the Founding Fathers are well documented; they did not all believe the same thing. They argued and comprised and came up with one of the greatest documents ever written. Even so, within 10 years of its writing there were huge disagreements among those same Founding Fathers about what it meant -- like whether the Constitution should allow the establishment of a federal banking system.

Which really gets to the heart of the problem: people don't actually understand or know what the literal text of the Bible or the Constitution is. Instead they take the easy way out and adhere to one prophet or another who claims to know what the ultimate truth is, and then do that prophet's bidding.

This the first mistake we all make: trusting that the judgment of the pope, or Muhammed, or Rush Limbaugh is superior to our own. The second mistake we make is going along with them for the whole ride. The pope, Muhammed and Rush are right about some things. They're not right about everything, and they're dead wrong about a lot of things. Our willingness to go along with them, right or wrong, is perhaps mankind's greatest tragedy.

Religionists keep telling us we can't pick and choose what points of doctrine we accept: as Catholics we have to believe everything the pope tells us to believe. As Mormons we have to accept everything in the Book of Mormon. But picking and choosing points of doctrine is what every religious leader has been doing since Day One.

So, for a better world, don't be a Dittohead.


1) During communion Christians partake of wine and bread, which are symbols of Christ's blood and flesh. These are ritual acts of vampirism and cannibalism.

2) The Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation posits that the priest is performing an actual miracle and is literally converting the wine to blood and the wheat in bread to flesh. Which means either that priests should in a pinch be able to use communion wine for blood transfusions, or that the Pillsbury Doughboy is the Second Coming of Christ.

3) Christ was tortured and killed on the cross, which is the symbol of most Christian churches. Not all, mind you: the Jehovah's Witnesses think it's disgusting to venerate the instrument of Christ's death, and believe Christ was crucified on a pole and not a cross in any case. The cross in many churches also has a statue of Christ on it. This graven image is also a big no-no.

4) The entire basis of Christianity is that Christ died for our sins: human sacrifice. That he is human is sometimes disputed -- just as his divinity often is. That this was a real sacrifice is also disputed -- if he was divine and he knew he would be resurrected and granted eternal life, then three days of chilling out in a tomb is not much of a sacrifice. And there's the whole Abraham and Isaac sacrifice deal...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Nasty Climate

The subject of climate change has once again come up in comments so I thought I'd bring everyone up to speed on the latest which, in many ways, is sadly nothing new.

Basically, it comes down this: climate change is happening and the Chinese are moving ahead of us in green technology. Oh, yeah...and the right (as usual) is doing everything in their power to "prove" that man made climate change supporters are wrong by showing that it is a secret liberal plot to enslave and/or kill everyone.

Whether you agree that climate change is man made or not, it is happening. This means that parts of our planet are going to become unstable which will, in all likelihood, lead to national security concerns for the United States. Thankfully, our military has embraced the seriousness of the situation and is putting its resources to use.

As far as I'm concerned, it's probable that climate change is man made but I think we need more data and research. What we don't need is the pathological drive by the right to win the argument. Simply put, they are not being rational (surprise, surprise) and are hell bent to not give an inch on this issue. Worse, they seem to be turning more irrational. Take a gander at many of the conservative blogs out there that are offering this video and this video as "proof" of the liberal plot. Both of these shorts have been linked in comments here and emailed to me by hysterical conservatives. Read the comments below each video. Really guys? C'mon...

"Climategate" is over, folks. Factcheck dispensed with all of that hysteria quite nicely. They also addressed the "climate science slipping" meme as well. Again, all this demonstrates is that we need more data in my opinion. In the final analysis, I'm with Michael Mann on this one: time to take the politics out of climate science.

My employer, Penn State University, exonerated meafter a thorough investigation of my e-mails in the East Anglia archive. Five independent investigations in Britain and the United States, and a thorough recent review by the Environmental Protection Agency, also have cleared the scientists of accusations of impropriety.

But the attacks against the science must stop. They are not good-faith questioning of scientific research. They are anti-science.

My fellow scientists and I must be ready to stand up to blatant abuse from politicians who seek to mislead and distract the public. They are hurting American science. And their failure to accept the reality of climate change will hurt our children and grandchildren, too.

More specifically, time to remove those who have a pathological need to prove people wrong whom they don't like. In all honesty, that's what this is really all emotional reaction. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Ken Perrot has an excellent piece which basically torpedoes the naysayers and details that the only "gate" out there is "Skepticgate."

And, as I will continue to say over and over again, the Chinese are all in with green technology. If we want to keep pace with them, we're going to have to step it up. This could be an area that could keep jobs in this country (should we decide to lead the world in green tech) and, more importantly, spark our economy. You want to bitch about the deficit? Fine. Here's one solution to helping reduce it.

So, enough folks. I've got no problem with you if being a critical thinker is your raison d'etre. This is why we have peer review. But if you think that climate change science is part of a cabal whose goal is a power grab, I implore you to seek psychological help.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hope After All

Most of the time we don't like feel good stories. We'd rather have people dying or yelling at each other. It's more exciting, right? But this one made me proud to be an American.

The story of Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq should be told everywhere and often. The two men set out to visit 30 Mosques in 30 days travelling around 13000 miles across our great land and asking, is America a tolerant place? The answer was yes.

The fisherman in Montana became the embodiment of their trip -- Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation's first mosque was built in 1929.

For Ali, his favorite moment was Ross, North Dakota, a blip of a town with a population of 48 people. He knew little of the town's rich Muslim history, and it was difficult to try to find someone in the town who did.

A pastor directed them to a woman, who kindly pointed them down a dirt road to where the nation's first mosque once stood. It's no longer there. It's been replaced by a tiny cement block mosque, complete with a gold dome. Nearby, there's a cemetery marking the pioneering Muslims of America, with birth dates of 1882, 1904, 1931.

Ali stood in awe. As he approached the mosque, his heart pounded. "I knew our roots went deep in this country, but it was great to truly experience it. Praying in there was like hopping in a time machine," said Ali, a 25-year-old Muslim who was born in Columbus, Ohio. "I literally felt like I was plummeting and falling."

Indeed, Muslim roots are very deep in this country which many people do not know. What Ali and Tariq found was an America that is much more tolerant than the media make it out to be.

It's a small but vocal group of Americans in this country pushing this anti-Muslim rhetoric," Ali said. "And unfortunately in our society, whomever shouts the loudest is going to get the most air time.

Once again, I'm happy to be wrong! Check out their web site located here for more details of their trip and their upcoming plans.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why They Are The Way They Are (Part 1 of 2)

I've been thinking a lot about what drives Democrats and what drives Republicans from a psychological point of view. I realize it's over generalizing but one can't help but see patterns. I've spent a fair amount of time analyzing the GOP mindset and how they act based on their beliefs and ideology. I'll be talking about that at some point before the election but for now I want to focus on the Democrats.

If there is one word that can sum up the words and actions of a liberal/progressive/Democratic individual, it would be this one: Insecurity. This is the one thing that drives them more than anything else. Why?

Because of the election of 2004. The Dems still can't figure out how Bush won the election. It makes no sense. How could such a large group of people support someone clearly not competent to be president? More importantly, how could a guy who served his country in the military suddenly be looked upon as a traitor?

Reality ceased making sense for Democrats after that. It certainly did for me. More confounding is the simple fact that it's gotten worse. Compare George W Bush, for example, to Sarah Palin. Or Christine O'Donnell. I wouldn't be surprised at all if a resurrected Colonel Flagg become the GOP nominee in 2012. So, rather than try to get a public option in the health care bill (which, at one point 70 percent of Americans supported) or solidify taxes, the Democrats back down. It's a constant fear of losing.

Insecurity would also be why the left spends so much time focusing on what the right says and does. The fear of that many people (the conservative base) obeying a collection of individuals (the GOP leaders and now the Tea Party) who so clearly act against their best interests is much so that inaction is the course often chosen.

When you hear many Dems speak, there is a decided lack of assuredness. This isn't true for President Obama and perhaps Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. But it is for Harry Reid and most others. They look at themselves as being weak. Even if they had 25 percent of the arrogance of the right, it would improve their image in so many ways. But they don't. They're insecure.

The left simply can't get over that loss in 2004. They can't get over the millions of people who view them as being terrorist loving socialists who want to Hitler their way into everyone's life. In so many ways, the complete fabrication, lies and unreality are too much to take. The ass whoopings in 2006 and 2008 don't matter. It doesn't matter that they are the party in power. As long as this insecurity exists and they act accordingly, they will always be the "weaker" of the two.

Even though the exact opposite is true.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Why We Fight

So little girls can go to school...

Pulled from the Department of Defense Facebook page.

U.S. Army Capt. Lisa Kirby speaks with Kaka Kot School students to learn what they want to be when they grow up in the Nahr-e-Shahi district, Afghanistan, Oct. 4, 2010.The Afghan National Army's 209th Corps and the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division's Female Engagement Team donated about $3,000 worth of school supplies to the girls' school. Kirby is the team coordinator assigned to the 10th Mountain Division on Camp Mike Spann in northern Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Sandra Arnold

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Shine of the Free Market

Health care options in the market under the health care reform law became better.

I wonder who it was that said this recently? Take a moment and think about it.

I'm sure your first thought was a Democrat or health reform lobbyist, right?

It was, in fact, Jackie Berry, spokesperson for 3m. 3M is one of the largest companies in the world with over 76,000 employees world wide. 3M has decided to give their retirees cash to go and shop for health care on their own, giving them the freedom to choose whatever plan they see fit.

3M is a company that sees the benefit of the new health care reform law.

Let's let the soak in for a moment, shall we.

(cue elevator music for 1-2 minutes)

And we're back.

So what exactly is going to happen?
  • Starting Jan. 1, 2013, 3M retirees eligible for Medicare will get a health reimbursement arrangement: an account with credit in it to buy a Medicare supplement plan or a prescription drug plan.
  • Starting Jan. 1, 2015, retirees not eligible for Medicare will also get a retiree health reimbursement arrangement to buy an individual insurance plan on the open market
Berry said retirees will end up saving money, thanks to several provisions due to kick in between now and then.

Open Market? Freedom of choice? Saving Money? Wait...I thought the opposite was supposed to happen under this new law. Was there a very large group of people not telling me the truth? Hmmm....

Not everyone is happy with freedom, however.

Rita Horne, 73, whose husband Einer Horne worked 33 years at 3M, was not pleased to receive the letter.

"I got to tell you, I would like to take Congress and wring their necks," said Horne, of Hudson, Wis. "They've taken a very satisfactory and good health insurance program and going to I don't know what."

Her husband, 75, who's had cancer and open-heart surgery, said he knew this day would come ever since "Obama passed Obamacare."

"You would think every corporation in America would do the same. Number one, it's going to save a hell of a lot of money and number two, it's probably as fair a system as you can get out of anybody," he said.

Will the new plan save money for him? Horne laughed: "I have no idea."

Saving money and being fair you say, Einer? At least he admits it. But Rita doesn't want that freedom or choice at all. Sad. And why, Rita, aren't you guys already on Medicare?

More importantly, take note of the words I have bolded in black. There is nothing that is more accurate a summation of where all this vitriol about health care originates: fear of the unknown. They don't know what is going to happen but they sure don't like it. How is that possible if you don't know?

See, this is where people like the Koch Brothers come in with FreedomWorks and prey upon people's fears. They know people don't really know that much about reform so they use it to their advantage and co-opt them into believing complete lies. The end result is basically the current form of the GOP.

The fact is that as more companies follow the lead of 3M, more people are going to have a choice about where to get their health care. This will eliminate health care being tied to employers which has not worked out well at all. It's a step in the right direction of eliminating the far too many middle men. You don't hear the word "freedom" associated with the new health care law amid the screaming by people who stand the most to lose from reform. But here it is, folks, plain as day.

This is an excellent example of why I supported it. And a shining example of the free market:)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Our Little Angels

About ten years ago I was sitting on the couch at a family gathering. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my six-year-old nephew clapped his hands over my ears as hard as he could. The pain was excruciating, and the effect on my hearing was immediate: everything sounded muddy and indistinct. I thought he'd popped my eardrum. It took months for my hearing to return to normal.

As appalling as it might be that a young child would assault someone for utterly no reason, his mother's reaction was even more appalling: My little angel wouldn't do that!

But why would I lie about this? I asked her. How could I even think to make up such a lie?

Well, she admitted, the boy had been taking karate lessons, and they had just showed him how to box someone's ears. So, she grudgingly admitted, he might have done it. (How anyone could possibly think it was appropriate to teach a child how to permanently damage someone's hearing is still beyond me...)

And this isn't an isolated incident. My own sister was convinced that an adult was lying about her five-year-old's spitting at another child on the bus. This kid was completely out of control at home, so it's unclear why my sister would have a hard time believing he was out of control with a dozen other rambunctious kids.

Old fogey time: when I was a kid, my parents would never take my word against an adult's. It was a given that kids lied to avoid punishment. Why is it that so many parents these days can't believe that their kids act like, well, kids?

A few years ago our neighbors would drive their kids down our one-block street and park on the corner with the engine running to wait for the bus. I wouldn't have cared, except they blocked the intersection and made it difficult to pull out into traffic. When I was a kid I walked to school rain or shine, snow or sleet, in blustering cold or blistering heat.

Stories of parents doing their kids' homework projects these days are rampant. And it continues on to the college level. I recently heard a news story about how several colleges have had to ban parents attending college orientation sessions. I've heard other stories about parents showing up at their kids' post-college job interviews. When I was in college my parents -- and the parents of everyone else I knew -- had no idea what we did at college.

So, what does this have to do with anything? One of Markadelphia's favorite topics is education reform. So here's my take on it.

Everyone these days is bemoaning how bad the education system is. The president and every Republican out there is talking about firing teachers who don't perform. Others blame parents for not being involved enough. Still others complain that class sizes are too large, while others clamor for school vouchers and charter schools. But the one factor no one ever dares mention? The one that undeniably has the largest impact on the educational performance of our little angels? The little darlings themselves.

If we ran schools like a business we wouldn't be talking about just firing the teachers whose students do poorly on tests. We'd fire the kids who are doing poorly. And that's exactly what private schools do, and it's one reason why their test results are so much better than those of public schools. They can choose their students and dump the rejects back into the public system.

How many kids do you think there are in math classes in India and China and Singapore? How many hours a week do you think those kids' parents work? How many of those parents drive their kids to school every day? How many of those kids go to bed hungry? A lot of those kids have jobs and actually have to work. On the whole, our kids are richer, healthier and better fed. We spend far more on them per capita than third-world countries spend on their kids. We enjoy all the advantages, and yet kids in third-world countries are beating the pants off us academically. Why?

I think the biggest reason is that our kids just aren't motivated. Some teachers may well be boring. Some may be just plain bad. But that's how life is. When they get out of school they're going to stuck in boring jobs. They're going to work for terrible bosses. But they're going to have to suck it up and keep on working. Mommy isn't going to be there for them every day in the real world.

Now look at it from the kids' point of view. All they hear is us talking about is firing their teachers if they get bad test scores. What's the take-away message? I can get back at my teacher by flunking this sucky standardized test.

This situation has existed for many years now, so it's not the result of the lousy economy. There are many reasons: smaller families, richer families, more leisure time, lower general expectations for children, a system that's eager to label every quirk of personality as some syndrome that requires special treatment or drugs. In many ways America has become fat, dumb and lazy.

Of course we have to hold teachers, administrators and parents accountable for making sure our kids get the education and support they need. We have to fire bad teachers and get parents involved. But coddling kids with overweaning concern for their fragile little egos is not doing them any favors. We cannot continue to throw billions and billions of dollars down the rat-hole of education and demand Herculean effort and sacrifice from everyone except the little angels themselves.

We have to instill real self-confidence, self-reliance and inner drive in children by making them the masters of their own fates. That only comes when you stand or fall on your own. American parents need to take the training wheels off and give their kids a good hard shove down the road of life.