Friday, December 31, 2010

Critical Thinking, Science and Conservatives

Mark's post on critical thinking got me to thinking about an article I read recently. It said that the vast majority of scientists surveyed were Democrats, independents or undecided. Only 6% of them were Republicans. The right, of course, latched on to this as evidence of political bias in science. But it really reflects the sort of personality that's attracted to science in the first place.

Science is all about observations and the hypotheses that explain them. As scientists collect more data the hypotheses are refined. The theories change and are often thrown out completely when they don't fit the facts. In science there's always the possibility that the ground will be pulled out from underneath you. It doesn't happen overnight, but it happens in every field of study. Every theory is temporary, subject to change. That doesn't mean the theories are wrong; they're just incomplete.

People on the right seem to crow about never having changed their minds, as if it were some kind of badge of honor. They want an answer now, and once they have it they will not allow it to change. Even if the underlying facts change, or were initially misapprehended. They don't seem to trust science because science doesn't provide them a dogmatic answer that will justify what they've already decided they want. They hate uncertainty because it breeds fear.

Sure, there are some conservatives in science. But the very definition of science involves learning new things, and new ideas will of necessity change the way we think. And that's anathema to most conservatives: for them everything must remain static and unchanging. The way it was must be conserved for eternity. Even though that golden age was much different from what the conservatives of that time longed for.

A more cynical person would say that conservatives just aren't smart enough to be scientists, or are too greedy to waste time getting a PhD or working in academia for peanuts. But for many fields of study there is too much conflict between matters of fact and religious or political beliefs.

The foundation of modern biology and zoology is the theory of evolution. It explains pretty much everything, from why embryos develop the way they do, to how infectious diseases mutate. So a career in biology is out of the question for someone who thinks that Noah collected pairs of wombats, dodos, jaguars, penguins, polar bears, awks, platypuses, orangutans, bison, lemurs and aurochs from all across the world, put them on a boat for six weeks then led them back to their places of origin.

Astronomy and cosmology are similarly taboo: the creation of the universe is an open question for astronomers. For someone who thinks the earth was created six thousand years ago geology is right out. As is anthropology and pretty much any of the social sciences.

But there are some conservatives in those fields. One is C. Martin Gaskell, a conservative astronomer who is suing the University of Kentucky for not hiring him because he publicly questions the validity of evolutionary theory and theorizes on how the bible relates to contemporary astronomy. I thought Republicans were against frivolous lawsuits? I mean, it's a simple business question for the University: what serious student of the sciences would consider attending an institution that hires a guy like that? Such a hire would cast a bad light on the whole university, especially considering that Kentucky houses the Creation Museum and is providing public funding for a Noah's ark park.

The really hard sciences -- physics, mathematics, chemistry, medicine -- would seem to harbor the most conservatives because they come into conflict with political beliefs only rarely. And they are clearly the most applicable to money-making opportunities.

But when hard science does conflict with conservative ideology -- especially when there are economic implications -- the science loses. A prime example is climatology. Some conservatives deny that it's happening. Other conservatives deny that we have anything to do with it. Others say the scientists are lying to make money. The remaining few conservatives who acknowledge the reality say that we'll just adapt.

Mainstream climatologists agree that we should adapt. The best way to adapt is to reduce carbon emissions and develop new energy technologies. The best time to adapt is now, while we have enough oil and gas to make the transition smoothly.

One of the most foolish things I ever heard George Bush utter was also the most illustrative of the conservative mindset. He said, "Do you want the terrorists to control the oil in 50 years?" In 50 years there's not going to be any more oil to for the terrorists to control. We will have burned it all. Or at least all of the Middle East's easily accessible oil.

When the oil is gone we will of necessity reduce our emissions and develop new energy sources. Why put that off to the time when competition for the little remaining oil will be bringing us to the brink of war with China, and we have total dependence on countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Russia and Venezuela for our oil?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Actual Death Panel

On December 20, 2007, a 17 year old girl named Nataline Sarkisyan died after a three year struggle with leukemia. Cigna, the insurance company that covered her, refused to provide coverage for the liver transplant that she needed to live. They did, however, provide the same amount of money for an "Investor Day" meeting to announce their earnings just a few days before Nataline died.

Soon after that time, a gentlemen by the name of Wendell Potter, Cigna's VP of Corporate Communications, left Cigna after it became clear to him that the company wanted him to wage a spin campaign to make it look like they didn't essentially kill Nataline. He couldn't take it any more. And now he has book out about the entire experience. A book, incidentally, that answers (again) how private corporations harm people or, in this case, kill them.

Generally, there are two parts to the strategy. One is what they’re doing publicly, what you can see. The other is what they’re doing behind the scenes — working with PR firms like APCO and through the think tanks.

They approach this very strategically. It’s important to note that the committee that I was on for quite a while, the Strategic Communications Committee, they’ve been working on this for a long, long, time well before the elections were held in 2008. They see all these organizations as ways to communicate with public opinion.

Think tanks are particularly important because they have good connections. The Heritage Foundation, CATO, the American Enterprise Institute and the Galen Institute and a few others that issue reports and commentary and people from those organizations themselves have connections to the media, can get op-eds placed in the Wall Street Journal and other places.

Insurers also work through their PR firms with T.V. producers, in particular, the conservative talk shows like Fox. They see that as a very very important place to go to get their point of view across and the producers are probably on speed dial.

Insurers also worked for a long, long, time, as I did when I was with Cigna, to develop relationships with reporters in the mainstream media. I certainly had very good relationships with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today.

It's as simple as that, folks. Even easier when the place you start from is having a large group of people that have a pathological distrust of government to help you along. So it becomes the government that has the death panels, they say, not them, knowing full well that they are the actual death panel and the government could stand in their way by actually enforcing the law. And just like that, a family who has paid their premiums and expected coverage watches a loved one die. Worse, the family is at fault, not the insurance company, and blaming the victim is the icing on the cake.

I'm trying to imagine what kind of people think it's alright to spend a quarter of million dollars on a party as opposed to saving a person's life. It makes me sick to think about it but that's our society today...driven by insatiable greed and supported by anti government fervor that enables it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Critical Thinking

The topic of critical thinking has come up again in comments. It was born out of discussion (the latest in a series) which can best be described as MARK IS WRONG BECAUSE HE IS _______. This very tedious tactic has been going on for quite some time and it makes me wonder just how insecure some of my posters are in their ideology and beliefs. I mean, I am wrong from time to time, but how does that mean that they are right? Such a black and white world they live in....

The insta-contrarians in comments latest volley is that I am illogical therefore I am wrong. Well, folks, I am not Spock. Logic should be employed as part of an eclectic approach to analyzing the issues we talk about on here but it shouldn't be used as the sole tool in the tool kit. A link regarding critical thinking was provided to dispute this assertion.

Interestingly, the link provided by one of these ICs (insta-contrarians) had this to say about critical thinking.

The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal.

First, I agree completely with this statement. This is the framework I use to instruct young people. Second, this is an ideal and it would be very difficult to achieve it in one's lifetime. I know that I fall short of this ideal. We all do.

But I think I can say without much doubt that the ICs in comments come nowhere near this on nearly every issue. The only time they do is when I say something with which they agree. Surprise, surprise. We are on the same side of the argument so they win!

Want some examples?

1. I have yet to see any honesty in facing personal biases from the ICs. I have admitted several times on here that I have a horrible bias against Muslims.

2. I have yet to see any sort of flexibility regarding liberal and progressive policies from the ICs. They are all bad. I have stated many times on here that Reagan did many things he had to do given the context of his time and that he was right to do them. I've admitted that the Laffer curve works in countries with high tax rates and, possibly, with corporate taxes. It also works on a micro level.

3. I have yet to see any open minded analysis of climate change from the ICs. They are all warmists! I, however, have stated many times that I'd like to see more data but that the methods used in support of climate change are sound. This was recently confirmed by THREE independent panels (see: peer review).

If you ICs are the critical thinkers that you claim to be, demonstrate to me how you live by this definition above. If you reject the definition, that's fine. Why?

No doubt this will solve nothing and we'll quickly be back to personal insults and more "logic" based thinking.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best Of 2010

It's that time of the year again, folks. What stands out as the best TV show, film, track and album of 2010? Here are my choices.

Not even a fucking contest. The last episode was so unbelievably stunning that its implications
go far beyond simple entertainment. ABC's Lost explored philosophy, religion, human nature, sociology, time travel and alternate universes. The view on the afterlife was so beautiful and eloquently loving that I'm not ashamed to admit that I was moved to tears. Much of the reason for this, of course, has to do with the similarities between the Jack/Christian relationship and the one I had with my own father.

There's so much more to this show that I loved. The acting was impeccable. The production value was top notch through all six seasons. The writing was stellar. There will never be another show like this one. Go buy the complete series immediately.


Completely torn on this one. I have to say that this year it is a tie. The fun part of me that enjoys comic books and HK action films completely loved Kick Ass. What if someone became a super hero in real life? Forget about all the cliches...this is very real life. Well, mostly. The gun battle in the hallway at the end was completely unrealistic but still...

Solid entertainment along with beaucoup armaments. The character of Hit Girl (and the actress that plays her) alone are worth at least 2 viewings.

But then there is the part of me (seen most on this blog) that thinks that Inside Job should be seen by every single American followed by a broad and determined movement to change the way our country operates. Both films are fantastic in their own way and I really can't make a decision so I choose both.


I've always been a sucker for psychedelic pop. "1000 Years" by The Coral is a perfect example of this. Taken from their latest LP, The Butterfly House, "1000 Years" is pure bliss in under 3 minutes from this underappreciated band from Hoylake, Merseyside.

Honestly, the whole disc is worth it and was in serious contention for Best Album. That honor, however, fell to one of my old favorites.


Tom has provided the soundtrack to over 30 years of my life. I saw his video for “Refugee” before MTV had even launched. I love all of his records but Mojo is massively good. I played it nearly every day this summer and was magically connected to all summers past in which, not surprisingly, I was listening to Tom Petty.

This would be one of those glimpses back to the 70s I yearn for on a daily basis…courtesy of the man who gave us many a great tune during the time. Take this line from the track "Let Yourself Go": “Got a blond headed woman that likes to come around…cute little hippy girl lives in town…brings a bag of records and she plays ‘em ’til dawn…give me little lovin’ then she got to go home.” I yearn to live in that world again…

So, how about you? What were your picks for 2010?

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's the Boards, Stupid (5 of 20)

We hear a lot of people whine about excessive executive pay. The reason why this is the case is because of the boards of various private concerns. Stockholders can bitch and whine all they want but the boards make the decisions and if they want to pay someone like Bill MacGuire half a billion dollars even though he back dated stocks...well...there's little anyone can do.

And if an already neutered government is run by men and women too timid to actually regulate private business for fear of being labelled a socialist, we are going to continue to see salaries that completely ridiculous.

In addition, Steverman astutely points out that the very wealthy in this country further consolidate their power by sitting on boards of other companies. If you are a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett that's not such a bad thing given their stated goals and actions towards social justice. But not everyone is Gates or Buffett. Many are like MacGuire above. Their only interest is money and power.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Happy Birthday, Jesus! When you return, please pay no attention to the several million people in this country who have mistaken you for a Muslim with your dark hair, dark skin, Middle Eastern looks, and robe. They were expecting a dude who looked like a member of the Lynard Skynnard Band. In other words, a WHITE dude.

Probably best not to hang out with the poor, the sick, the meek or the peacemakers either. Before you know it, you'll be branded a social justice lover who wants to redistribute wealth and (gasp!) take away Joe Cassano's second vacation home. Yeah, I know he got that house from breaking the 8th commandment but those millions of folks who would get nervous if you were on a plane with them think that you said, "Go forth and worship the unregulated derivative."

Take heart, though, my Lord and savior. We are only human, after all, and maybe someday everyone down here will actually read and understand your words.

And understand the meaning of your birth.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Perfect Reading for Christmas Eve

"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street..." --------Dylan Thomas, "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

For the entire text, click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Luck and Who You Know (3 and 4 of 20)

Many of the comments over the years on here have always made me chuckle. One stock line I hear quite a bit is "if you work really hard, you can make it!" or "successful people work really hard." The former is largely false and the latter is true in some cases but not all.

I was reminded recently in comments of my life in corporate America in the 1990s doing sales and marketing. Hard work never got us anywhere. It sort of reminds me of the teachers who tell students to "just try harder!" This has never made any sense to me. You can push harder or pull harder but try harder? No. Trying involves patience and dedication but not effort as we have conventionally thought about it. Not "harder."

Both of the companies I worked for won clients as a result of two things. The first was just luck. I would happen across some bit of information (mostly on accident) and we'd have a new client. The second was who I knew...which was a lot of people. We built a lot of business from networking which brings us to numbers 3 and 4 of the Secret Weapons of the Super Rich: Executive Perks and Networking.

Senior executives at large companies typically receive not just a salary but bonuses, grants of stock, and stock options. They may have the ability to defer some of their compensation until future years, which can help with tax planning.Corporate leaders may also get help with tax preparation, along with free medical care and valuable insurance benefits.

We've talked about this one before. One very clear advantage the wealthy have over everyone else is they are able to structure how they are paid so they pay less in tax. This is why you never hear any talk of flat taxes any longer--something I would be in favor of today. The wealthy would end up paying more than they do now if there was a flat tax. The wealthy also enjoy the advantages of being able to hire accountants and lawyers--something your average Joe can't do. I had many clients who would regale me with stories of how they were going to save money while passing it on to their customer.

The topic for discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January is "shared norms for the new reality." Sound sleepy? For most of the rich and powerful in attendance, the real payoff is an opportunity to network with other rich and powerful individuals.

Sounds great, right? But honestly this new reality is simply adjusting the market to sell more to each other as opposed to the vanishing middle class. I can only imagine the tittering and guffawing that goes on Bill Clinton shows up at this event (as he has in the past) and talks about the engine of the middle class.

I guess I'm laughing as well because this is how we got our business back in the 1990s: networking. There was no hard work at all involved...just my very social personality. We got new business because of the people that I knew who trusted me. We lost business because we weren't in the "club." This was more true of the first company I worked at as opposed to the second. The first was run by two guys who were just terrible with clients. We pitched to every major company in town and we only were chosen from 2 of them. And that was to do smaller, less paying work.

Later, when I and two others split off from the first company we did better but we still weren't in the right networks and it was very clear we never would be. This is why I also laugh at people who think that small business is being fucked over by the government. Small business is being fucked over by the in crowd. They don't want small businesses to succeed, on the whole, because it leaves less money for them. Greed really kicked into high gear in the 1990s culminating in the nuclear level we have today.

They are able to do this because they are very strict about who they let into the club. It ain't Joe the Plumber, that's for sure. And yet he (and countless others) blame the government and President Obama who actually gave them tax breaks. Why is this?

Because their love of the dream (working harder and then making it) is too powerful to ignore. Like many other myths, they simply believe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Semper Fi!

The other day someone used the term "warmists" in comments. I had never heard this term before but apparently it refers to people who have succumbed to "climate change hysteria." They refuse to accept the "truth." You know the "truth" I am talking about, right? The one Thomas Friedman astutely defines as "a fraudulent, anti-science campaign funded largely by Big Oil and Big Coal." Those silly can they not see the facts? Well, guess who else doesn't see the truth and the facts.

The United States Marine Corps.

Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, has directed both the Marines and the Navy in strategies that will "out green" Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and petrol dictators like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Apparently, going green is going to save the lives of our troops.

Fewer fuel convoys in theater can mean saving the lives of soldiers, said Katherine Hammack, the new assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment. Last week -- at the start of October's energy awareness observance -- the word "energy" was added to the name of that office. It's a reflection of the Army's new focus on energy.

There was one casualty for every 24 fuel convoys in Afghanistan in fiscal year 2007, according to a 2009 Department of the Army study.

Maybe there are other reasons to go green. Huh. I guess the hysteria over the "warmists" must have overlooked this fact. The article also details how the military is going to figure out ways to use less energy. One way is going to be solar power and more energy efficient buildings. All of this translates into better security for the troops.

The Navy is also up to some pretty cool shit as well. They've recently tested a biofueled Green Hornet (50 percent conventional fuel and 50 percent camelina, a hard plant that can grow in difficult soil) that flew above Mach 1, a critical threshold to clear the jet for operations. The Navy has also launched the USS Malkin Island, an amphibious assault ship powered by a hybrid engine. They also have the RCB-X combat boat which runs on 50 percent algae.

"Going green is about combat capability and assuring Navy's mobility," said Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, which leads the Navy's Task Force Energy. "It is not just about natural security; it also strengthens national security. By having reliable and abundant alternate sources of energy, we will no longer be held hostage by any one source of energy, such as petroleum."

No shit. Thankfully, there are people out there that are actually THINKING about the myriad of positive outcomes from green technology as opposed to being obsessed with winning arguments and not being wrong. It's important to also note that camelina and algae are biofuels that don't compete with ethanol (a food related biofuel).

All of this is part of Secretary Mabus' overall plan to increase security, reduce costs, and make our military more efficient by having a "Great Green Fleet."

We are moving towards alternative fuels in the Navy and the Marine Corps for one main
reason, and that is to make us better fighters. Strategically we have got to break the
dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels. We would not let countries that deliver our
energy today build our warships, we would not let them build our weapon systems, we would not let them be responsible for our defense and yet we’re willing to let them power those same warships, those same airplanes, those same weapon systems.

So strategically there’s a compelling case to be made for changing the way we get and the way we use energy. Tactically you can make the same case, every time you cut a ship away from an oiler, every time you produce the energy where you are you’ve made us better war fighters.

Semper Fi!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Well...are you?

Are you smarter than a Fox News viewer? How about a CNN viewer? Take our quiz to find out.

Please publish your results in comments below. I was wrong on one of them.

Oh, and there are plenty of facts to back up each question. Have fun with those:)

Shh (2 of 20)

Continuing on with examples of how the wealthy in this country have more advantages to grow their worth and attain more power, we have the hedge fund.

Hedge funds, which are also restricted to accredited investors, use a variety of often complex strategies, such as high-tech, proprietary trading platforms that buy and sell stocks in milliseconds. There were more than 8,000 hedge funds at the end of 2009, according to Hedge Fund Research.

Something else to note as well. Hedge funds are not obligated to disclose their activities to third parties. In addition to being very under regulated, hedge fund disclosure is not available to the non investor. Even to investors, they have very limited transparency and this is how someone like Madoff was able to run (an actual as opposed to make believe) Ponzi Scheme.

So, hedge funds are another example of something that is offered only to the very wealthy which further cements their ability to maintain power over the rest of us.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Get Ready

I recently completed the magnificent Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I highly recommend this wonderful series of books if you have not read them. In the last book, King through out a line that I will be using in great frequency starting today so get ready.

One of the characters in the book is describing in detail to the series' heroes how a town's residents (the morks) function and how their minders (the Algul staff) rule them. These residents are doing great harm to the universe and Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy (the heroes) are learning about them so they can attack the town and stop them.

Most morks are selfish introverts masquerading as rugged individualists-they want the world to see them as Daniel Boone types-and the Algul staff loves it, believe me. No community is easier to govern than one that rejects the very concept of community.

Now I finally get it and some of you. Fucking mega!

Christmas For Me! (1 of 20)

I guess I must've been nice as opposed to naughty because Santa has given me a very large present in the form of this year in the form of Ben Steverman's article/power point presentation over at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Each section details exactly how the wealthy of this country have far more advantages than the rest of us and have set up a system to not only keep it that way but to net them more money and, with it, more power. Since this has been the overall and ongoing argument in comments for the last year or more, I thought it would be cool to showcase his 20 points and see if I can make any sort of headway through the 1,000 feet of rock granite minds that make up some of my regular readers. Let's dive in and take a look at his first point.

Under U.S. law, certain investment products are only available to accredited investors, who must have a household net worth of $1 million or more. A key advantage of many of these so-called "alternative investments" is that, at least in theory, they help diversify a portfolio because they don't move in lockstep with traditional stock and bond investments, and so help balance out returns. Alternative investments include venture capital funds, private equity funds, direct investments in commodities such as timber, and stakes in private companies.

Available only to accredited investors...hmmm...but I thought that the market was free and we all had the same choices as everyone else? Apparently, we don't.

Of course, I'm certain that many of you will look at the first three words and leap into the usual GUBMINT BAD rhetoric but I'm hoping that you are smart enough to operate on the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and figure out why and how this law exists the way that it does.

Here's to hoping!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Voices in his Head?

I get a a lot of grief in comments for arguing with the voices (conservatives) in my head. I have a post coming soon that addresses these comments. For now, though, and because it's Sunday, check out this video.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

I wonder if Stephen Colbert has voices in his head as well.

More importantly, a goal of mine has finally been achieved: "Jesus would've probably been a liberal Democrat." I've toyed with the idea of saying this but after some thought realized He wouldn't be either a Democrat or a Republican.

But the simple fact that Bernie Goldberg said it on Fox News pretty much makes my day. Recognizing the contradiction in the way Christ lived his life and the obsession the right has with the free market is the first step in realizing that being a Christian, as defined by Christ's words, and being a conservative (libertarian, evangelical or otherwise) today are mutually exclusive.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The Senate just voted to repeal DADT, 65-31. I don't see many victories these days but this is certainly one of them. A couple of weeks ago I didn't think it would happen. But here we are.

I'd like to issue a special note of honor to Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; George Voinovich, R-Ohio; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both R-Maine for putting the vote over 60. I don't care if you have a "D" or "R" next to your name. When you do the right thing, you get credit from me. Well done, Senators.

This would be one of those days when I am super fucking proud to be an American!


As I was scrolling through my news feed on FaceBook the other day, I saw that one of my very conservative friends (also an evangelical minister) had "liked" The American Principles Project.

I went and checked out the site expecting the usual. I certainly got that but right up front I saw something that was such a fine example of monumental hypocrisy that I, of course, had to share with all of you.

On the first page, we get their mission statement, which reads as follows.

The American Principles Project is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving and propagating the fundamental principles on which our country was founded - universal principles, embracing the notion that we are all, "created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

At first glance, I think we would all agree with this. But take a look at the first article in their news feed.

A response to a response - The Argument Against Gay Marriage: And Why it Doesn’t Fail

Are you fucking kidding me? We are all created equal...have unalienable, liberty and the pursuit of happiness....UNLESS YOU ARE GAY IN WHICH CASE FUCK OFF!!!

What a load of hypocritical bullshit on a myriad of levels. If they actually believed their mission statement (the Declaration of Independence), they would embrace gay marriage. More troubling, and this is glaringly true of many conservatives these days, is their insistence that the Constitution limits government....except when it comes to things like gay marriage. Then its OK for the federal government to dictate what people do in their private lives.

The ONLY reason why homosexuality is considered a sin is because at the time the Bible was written, Romans were buggering little boys. That is a sin. In fact, it's a criminal act that has somehow translated over the centuries to mean that being gay is a criminal act. But back in those days, there were no Neils and Steves adopting little children from Haiti and operating their little B and B. Our culture has changed...our society has moved...homosexuality isn't a crime, folks.

I don't get it. Why are people so concerned about gay marriage? What do they think is going to happen when it becomes legal?. It's been illegal in most states for the history of our country and the heterosexuals certainly haven't improved it. In fact, it's worse now then it's ever been with the divorce rate being so high.

I don't care if they don't like gay people. That's their right. But to be such a hypocrite about the Constitution. Is it all about fear...AGAIN...with these people?

Friday, December 17, 2010

What I feel like every day in discussions on this blog. Bloody brilliant!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sweet Site

Just found Michael Laser's site, and I love it. We see a lot more of these popping up in this day and age of biased media. Want to know the basics with some nice detail about Iran? Click on the link on the left hand side of his page. And if you absolutely have to have opinions, he offers links on all sides.

He also has a pretty cool link called Liberal vs. Conservative Values. Like Michael, I found myself laughing at the fact that I agree with some of the simplified polar opposites. For example,

On the social safety net

The liberal view

• There are people in this world who need help. They struggle to put food on the table, or can’t afford medical care—and many of them live in the United States. A civilized society would try to help them, instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. (Someday, the one who needs a helping hand may be you, or someone you love. All it takes is a serious illness, an injury, a lay-off, or a death in the family.)

The conservative view

• People are responsible for themselves—and, given the chance, they’re capable of supporting themselves and their families. If the government makes a practice of providing for people (with welfare, for example), they become weak and dependent, and lose their will to work. Nothing could be more destructive to the health of our society.

I agree with both and do not think they are mutually exclusive. Why do many of you think they are?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Other Nixon Legacy

The Nixon Library released another 265 hours of conversations Richard Nixon recorded during his presidency. What's interesting about these conversations is how they show the kind of progress we can make in 50 years, and how far we still have to go.

In those conversations, according to the New York Times article, Colson told Nixon he had always had "a little prejudice." Nixon responded that he himself wasn't prejudiced but that "I've just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits."

In other words, Nixon prejudged people based on their ethnicity because "all people" have certain traits. One of the dictionary definitions of prejudice is "preconceived notion or opinion." So there's no question that anyone who makes broad assumptions about someone based on race or ethnicity is prejudiced in at least one sense of the word.

Another dictionary definition of prejudice is "an irrational attitude or hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race or their supposed characteristics." This is the one that Nixon thinks he is innocent of.

But in practice, one sort of prejudice makes the other sort possible. By buying into the idea that certain groups all share some trait, you automatically exclude a person from consideration for certain jobs solely based on their ethnicity. And the crazy thing is, especially in the US, almost no one can claim any one ethnicity -- my ancestors came from at least five different countries and pretty much everyone here can say that.

Most of the headlines echo the New York Times: "In Tapes, Nixon Rails about Jews and Blacks." But Nixon was bigoted all around. From the Times:
“The Jews have certain traits,” he said. “The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”

Nixon continued: “The Italians, of course, those people course don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but,” and his voice trailed off.
Paradoxically, this is a ray of light.

Nixon was obviously prejudiced in all senses of the word against pretty much everyone. At the time of these conversations people were becoming what the right loves to call "politically correct" about racism. But 10 years earlier Nixon's ethnic slurs would not have raised any eyebrows.

The headlines on this story trumpet Nixon's prejudice against Jews and blacks, but relegate his racism against the Italians and the Irish to minor talking points that burnish Nixon's racist credentials. These days Nixon's anti-Irish and anti-Italian prejudices seem silly, nonsensical and almost quaint.

The most damning thing in the Nixon story was this (from the Times):
At another point, in a long and wandering conversation with Rose Mary Woods, his personal secretary, that veered from whom to invite to a state dinner to whether Ms. Woods should get her hair done, Nixon offered sharp skepticism at the views of William P. Rogers, his secretary of state, about the future of black Africans.

“Bill Rogers has got — to his credit it’s a decent feeling — but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.

“My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” he said. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have to be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it, Rose.”
It's taken less than 40 years for a black man to attain the highest office in the land, not 500. But, some will argue, Nixon was right after all: Obama is the son of a Kenyan and a white American. He had been "inbred."

No, Nixon was just racist and wrong. Colin Powell would have been able to run for president and win. I don't think Powell has the stomach for the crap you have to put up with to get elected (I don't see how anyone can stand it). But he has the ability to lead and he had the trust of the American people until he was caught up in the Bush administration's lies on Iraq. And he was serving in Nixon's military at the time Nixon made his pernicious remarks!

And, yeah, Powell too had been "inbred." But that's the point. Everyone in this country has been thrown into the melting pot. It doesn't take 500 years for this to happen: it only takes the time for racist bigots to die out and the artificial barriers that separate us to fall away and allow us to treat each other as equals.

In the next 50 years we'll likely see the last vestiges of racism against American blacks die out, and the anti-gay hysteria disappear completely. As groups assimilate prejudice eventually evaporates (new prejudices may form as new out-groups arrive, but that's life).

This question of assimilation seems to be the bone of contention for a lot of people on the right today. They aren't prejudiced, they insist, but it's not right that Mexican Americans "refuse" to learn English or that American Muslim women wear veils or that Somali Americans eat weird food. These people demand assimilation instantly, but they miss the lessons of history.

Assimilation doesn't happen in a day. Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Italian, Norwegian and German immigrants spoke their native languages.

But their kids assimilated and now all their descendants speak English and wear jeans and eat hamburgers and French fries. And we eat Kung Pao chicken and sushi and beef burritos.

The wrong way to force assimilation was what happened to many American Indians -- kids were taken from their parents, stripped of their clothing and their names and forced to learn English.

If you want to hire someone you don't criticize their clothes, what they eat and how they talk. It's the same thing with assimilating recent immigrants into our society. To encourage assimilation and remove racial tension we need to accept people for what they are. We can't insist they change instantly -- it's not possible. The adults will never change, because adults can't. But their kids -- their kids will be 100% American if we don't alienate them.

Like the generations of Swedes, Frenchmen, Russians, Poles, Czechs who came to this country, these new kids will forget their parents' native tongues, throw away their veils, and stop eating weird food. Their parents will bemoan the loss, but hey -- that's life in America. If we make the American way of life attractive and inviting the kids will be helpless to resist The Borg of American popular society.

At the same time we may get something new in the process. Like pizza: the staple of American life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Son of Trying Again

The clearinghouses that run the inner circle of the derivatives market are very exclusive. As the article details, banks try get into to the club only to be rebuffed for "having too little capital." But that's not the real reason.

“We are not a nobody,” said Sanjay Kannambadi, chief executive of BNY Mellon Clearing, a subsidiary created to get into the business. “But we don’t qualify. We certainly think that’s kind of crazy.”

The real reason the bank is being shut out, he said, is that rivals want to preserve their profit margins, and they are the ones who helped write the membership rules.

Mr. Kannambadi said Bank of New York’s clients asked it to enter the derivatives business because they believe they are being charged too much by big banks. Its entry could lower fees. Others that have yet to gain full entry to the derivatives trading club are the State Street Corporation, and small brokerage firms like MF Global and Newedge.

Preserve their profit margins...exactly what I have been saying all along. And these committees, not the government, write the rules. Great. Please let's continue to have more shit and paranoia blamed on the government so these assholes can continue to rip people off.

So is there a way to quantify all of this? No. Why?

The precise amount that banks make trading derivatives isn’t known, but there is anecdotal evidence of their profitability. Former bank traders who spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements with their former employers said their banks typically earned $25,000 for providing $25 million of insurance against the risk that a corporation might default on its debt via the swaps market. These traders turn over millions of dollars in these trades every day, and credit default swaps are just one of many kinds of derivatives.

The secrecy surrounding derivatives trading is a key factor enabling banks to make such large profits.

Super! So nothing at all has changed since 2008. Ah well, let's just say it's all the fault of the government and move on. These guys running these clearinghouses are all rugged individualists simply reaping the benefits of a free market. We need to leave them alone because it's clear that their market is perfectly competitive. The government just needs to get out of the way and watch the economy take off. Except, how can it when these people ARE TAKING ALL OF THE MONEY!

Since I know some of you aren't getting this yet, here's another way to look at it.

And the profits on most derivatives are masked. In most cases, buyers are told only what they have to pay for the derivative contract, say $25 million. That amount is more than the seller gets, but how much more — $5,000, $25,000 or $50,000 more — is unknown. That’s because the seller also is told only the amount he will receive. The difference between the two is the bank’s fee and profit. So, the bigger the difference, the better for the bank — and the worse for the customers.

It would be like a real estate agent selling a house, but the buyer knowing only what he paid and the seller knowing only what he received. The agent would pocket the difference as his fee, rather than disclose it. Moreover, only the real estate agent — and neither buyer nor seller — would have easy access to the prices paid recently for other homes on the same block.

Wow, that's fantastic. And this is perfectly OK with 30 to 40 million of you?

But listen, I can feel many of you still digging in your heels as you always do and refusing to accept these facts. Let's keep going because I know your knee is jerking to that ol' classic, "Let Loose the Market (And Watch It Take Off)."

Mr. Griffin said last week that customers have so far paid the price for not yet having electronic trading. He puts the toll, by a rough estimate, in the tens of billions of dollars, saying that electronic trading would remove much of this “economic rent the dealers enjoy from a market that is so opaque.”

Tens of billions. Staggering. So where is the government again? Oh, that's right...neutered in the corner by Tea Party hysteria.

Under the Dodd-Frank bill, the clearinghouses were given broad authority. The risk committees there will help decide what prices will be charged for clearing trades, on top of fees banks collect for matching buyers and sellers, and how much money customers must put up as collateral to cover potential losses.

There is so much anti-government fervor out there that conservative Democrats, feeble minded wankers that they are, are succumbing to zillions of falsehood riddled with paranoia. People like Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown are painted as Nazis...choking the "poor and helpless" derivatives market out of their money and giving it to a lazy, lower class useful idiot with a flat screen. The more we fail to recognize that men like Sanders and Feingold are our last line of defense, the more our country decays.

Basically, what we are doing is blowing up our air force on the eve of a major aerial conflict because a little over a third of our country is afraid of flying.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trying Again

I've put up a fair amount of information regarding the shift of wealth in this country and how, unless you are very wealthy, you are being screwed over by the top two percent in this country. This will continue to happen as long as we have somewhere between 30 and 40 million people in our country who have a pathological hatred of government.

It's pretty clear to me that it's going to take a long time to convince some of you. More than likely I never will. Because even after all the information I have put up here, I still get questions like this.

Do you have some way of quantifying the gouging that you are talking about?

When I answer a question like this with figures and commentary (by myself and others), they dismiss it all as illogical and the sources as biased...ironically falling into the genetic fallacy trap of which I am so often accused. An example of this was a challenge that was recently issued to demonstrate a counterpoint to a recent study which showed the stimulus and TARP programs to be successful. I have to see such a model.

Still, the questions persist.

Ripped off HOW? How does someone else getting richer rip me, or you, off?

Trying again...

A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Derivatives Trading
Clubby Clearinghouses Limit Competition and Consumers Face Higher Prices.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks’ influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer’s home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer’s customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices — and his customers’ prices — could be, he says, because banks don’t disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know if I got a fair price, or what they’re charging me,” Mr. Singer said.

Seems pretty straight forward to me. Any of you getting it now? Or we going to fall back into the "winning the argument-want him to fail-never be wrong" pathology again?

See, this is what happens when you don't have enough regulation. People are gouged out of money and purposefully left in the dark. Do they have any other choice? If you think they do, call Mr. Singer and tell him. Let me know how the conversation goes.

The marketplace as it functions now “adds up to higher costs to all Americans,” said Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates most derivatives. More oversight of the banks in this market is needed, he said.

Sorry, Gary, but that's not going to happen any time soon. People think that government is the problem. Until they ditch their pathology, banks are going to continue these practices.

But, hey, what about the financial overhaul bill?

Under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, many derivatives will be traded via such clearinghouses. Mr. Gensler wants to lessen banks’ control over these new institutions. But Republican lawmakers, many of whom received large campaign contributions from bankers who want to influence how the derivatives rules are written, say they plan to push back against much of the coming reform. On Thursday, the commission canceled a vote over a proposal to make prices more transparent, raising speculation that Mr. Gensler did not have enough support from his fellow commissioners.

Excuse me, but doesn't the GOP want to support guys like Dan Singer? I guess they would rather support the banks.

“When you limit participation in the governance of an entity to a few like-minded institutions or individuals who have an interest in keeping competitors out, you have the potential for bad things to happen. It’s antitrust 101,” said Robert E. Litan, who helped oversee the Justice Department’s Nasdaq investigation as deputy assistant attorney general and is now a fellow at the Kauffman Foundation. “The history of derivatives trading is it has grown up as a very concentrated industry, and old habits are hard to break.”

And I'm the one that gets ripped for not having any depth, economically speaking.

But how exactly do these clearinghouses keep people out? And why is that relevant? More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Take a look at these two photos. On the top is what the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings, is supposed to look like. On the bottom is what it looks like this morning after 16 inches of snow have been dumped on it.

I can't help but think of the Dome as a metaphor this morning for the Democrats...super inflated and pumped up after the 2008 election...completely collapsed and deflated after a mountain of bullshit has been heaped upon them.

To me, the snow represents how the "minority" party can be effective if that party has a relentless, well financed engine of propaganda behind it. 30 percent approval rating or less? No problem. Let's get Rush, Glenn and Sarah on it. Problem solved. Democrats have nothing like this. Perhaps it's simply not in their nature. More likely is the fact that they don't have irrational fear combined with paranoia about the government on their side. Whatever the reason, the Democrats have caved to so many things in the last week that this image of the snow heaped Dome is honestly perfect.

For the next two years, they need to heed the advice of the unnamed Holocaust survivor. "When someone says they want to kill you, believe them." I know I'm going to heed it. Quite literally, lives are at stake as is the future of this country.

And I'm not going to sit around and watch aimlessly as pathological ideologues destroy it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

WTF Has Obama Done?

Signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis.

One of the main reasons why I am a Democrat is because they seem to understand (in giant leaps and bounds) that helping people is a good thing. And that it's OK when the government does it. Apparently, the only "help" that the government is allowed to do in GOP Land is related to guns and blowing things up. Certainly, I have no problem with this if the situation presents itself where that is necessary but their mindset seems awfully narrow.

Surprise, surprise...

Friday, December 10, 2010

So Obvious

Fox News has been the talk of town of late. Check out this video of Hannity.

What I love about this one is how he doesn't actually say that Scott is wrong. Just another fine example of shamelessly playing to the bigots in the base. Check out this photo (left) of Scott. Could he BE any more obvious?

A leaked document from Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon also has the Internet buzzing. I have no idea why. Are there people out there that are still surprised by the fact that Fox News manipulates language in order to sway people to think a certain way?

Here is the memo.

1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.

2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."

3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."

4) When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

Yeah, and? Why is this a shocking revelation? I suppose it is very interesting to see how Fox uses the word "government" and how insistent they are that is mentioned a great deal. Since we have been discussing this recently, I thought at least worthy of a note. This is yet another fine example of how marketing manipulates people into acting against their self interest. The word "government" is a code word specifically used to control thought.

In many ways, it's a trigger word (see: The Manchurian Candidate) used to activate somewhere between 30-40 million Americans. Clearly, it's very successful.

Hell, they don't need to kill anyone anymore. When you have that many people so nicely controlled, who needs assassins?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Fuck You

I'm not usually this blunt with titles in my posts but that is my message for the GOP today and its supporters. Fuck you. Fuck you and your single minded pathology that desires all Democrats to fail regardless of the human consequence.

Senate Republicans today blocked a procedural vote to take a straight up and down vote on health care compensation for 9/11 workers. I guess the people that dug body parts out of the rubble and got really sick as a result of all the environmental hazards need to pull themselves up by their boot straps and get their own fucking health care, right? How are these people any different than our troops? The (phony) gripe by the GOP is that it the price tag is too much (7.4 billion dollars) and they are worried how to pay for it.

How about the tax breaks you just gave to Thurston Howell? Assholes.

I'm trying really hard to see their side of it, being the reflective guy I am, but they have about as much of a "side" as the Selma police had in the 50s and 60s. NONE.

Click here for a list of the douchebags who hypocritically beat people with the flag but then do nothing about it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Deal With It

A couple of months back, as part of continuing education, I participated in a two day seminar titled "Beyond Diversity." For the most part, I consider myself to be a racially sensitive person but I quickly found out how many things I take for granted every day. For example, see any Band Aids at Target or elsewhere that are NOT white flesh colored (other than the cute kiddie ones)? How about hair care products that are made for the type of hair that black people have? These might seem like minor things but this is our culture. For the time being, anyway, it is a white dominated culture and that's a problem. The evidence is in the numbers but I'll get to that in a moment.

If these examples don't convince you, ask someone you know that is black if, when they teach their children how to drive, if they also teach them how not to get shot by a police officer (regardless of said officer's skin color). Every parent in the seminar, who had children of driving age, taught their kids where to put their hands, how to talk to the officer, and how, because they were black, they had to be more careful than white drivers. Since I knew that the people at the seminar were probably very tuned in to race issues, I decided to ask every black person I see regularly if they had children of driving age or older and if they taught them in the same manner.

Every single one said the same thing as the folks at the seminar.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we still have racial issues in this country. More importantly we have four basic areas of denial or avoidance that are illustrated beautifully in comments on this blog nearly every day. Before I detail what they are, however, I want to make one thing very clear. There is one reason and one reason alone why I am talking about this: The Achievement Gap.

The achievement gap has long been documented between whites and blacks and is numerical evidence that our culture is still white dominated. Even today, we see the same problems we have seen for decades.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Conversations people are unwilling to true...especially here.

But how does this unwillingness that Ferguson mentions manifest itself? Through the following four areas

1. Ignorance. We see two different types here: unconsciousness (I don' t know what I don't know) and Dys-Consciousness (I don't know but I think I do). The former describes myself when I learned about the band aid colors. The latter describes someone who would say "I'm not racist. I have a Black friend." Something else to avoid here is, when discussing issues of race, don't make your black friend a spokesperson. "Well, he's black-let's ask him?" essentially says that all black people think alike because of their race.

2. Denial. This describes some of my readers. Many of you bitch that "it's all over now-why can't the blacks just get past it?" Or "we've already had this discussion." To answer the first question, because of the achievement gap and to answer the second, it's not good enough because of the achievement gap. Face the numbers. Deal with it.

Another element of denial is something else we see all the time: Blaming the Victim. There are great examples of it in comments all the time. I'm certain we will see several after this post. If Bill accuses Hank of being prejudiced or participating in discrimination, somehow (as if by magic, see: out of someone's ass) Bill is the problem, not Hank. "He brings it on himself" is the phrase we hear most commonly.

3. Redefinition. Another area in which several of my readers reside. "It's only a few people" or "It's in human nature. There's nothing I can do about it." I've said the latter myself and I was most assuredly wrong to do so. We also here people say that it's not race but behavior...which is actually prejudiced if you think about it. So, if they are black, they behave a certain way?

4. Counteratttack/Competing Victimizations. This is the area in which most of the right wing pundits reside. The obsession with the wise Latina remark by Sonia Sotomayor is a great example of this. The New Black Panther voting "story" is another. Simply mention that someone is prejudiced on any right wing blog and watch this area unfold in all its glory as well as both of these comments. You'll see them faster than flies screaming to shit.

In looking at these four stages of avoidance, it is quite clear that they all exacerbate the problem. Folks, we need to start having these conversations and not fall into any of these stages because the numbers don't lie. As long as we, as a culture, continue to fail black people, the issue of race is going to continue to come up and the wheel of perpetuity keeps on spinning like wheels in a good, old fashioned Minnesota snow storm. The word "racist" will be heard over and over again. I know many of you don't like it when it does.

So, you don't like it when the issue of race comes up and it makes your head hurt? Fine. Work on fixing the achievement gap which starts with a conversation. Face the problem and deal with it rather than being a dick about it.

After all, it's honestly in your self interest if you think about it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Brought to you by McDonald's

Tonight is McDonald's night at my children's school. Know what that means? It means that the McDonald's in our neighborhood will donate 20 percent of all its earnings this evening to our school's PTO. I talk a lot on here about the incorporation of our country and this is one fine (shitty) example. Any of you know why our education system REALLY sucks? It's because of crap like this. Let's market to a bunch of kids and use our little carrot of money to an already underfunded entity in our country and draw them in like flies to shit.

Further, we have an enormous (pun intended) problem with obesity in this country and McDonald's is part of the problem, not a solution. Even worse than that, it's just another example of how our children are brainwashed into believing that everything is sponsored by something. Success means private corporation...especially if an athlete or movie star is associated with it. Learning? That's boring! Someday I'll make it rich and be like _____ because _____ Inc. says I will if I buy their product. As an instructor, I don't have millions of dollars to throw into a PR campaign. They do.

Sadly, they win every time.

So, the next time any of you want to whine about liberals destroying our schools, why don't you stop and think about shit like this? What's destroying our schools is our materialistic and indulgent culture...brought you by McDonald's!

And your seemingly never ending support and worship of private corporations.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Chronic Lack

The fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans these days is one very simple core belief: the middle class drives our economy. Either you believe this or you don't. If you don't, you live on Fantasy Island. There are less people spending less money so we are stagnate and unemployment remains high. It's really quite simple when you think about it. The solution of most on the right (libertarian, conservative, whatever) is to give the rich more money whether it's through tax breaks or charity vis a vis corporate welfare or Tea Party "grass roots" organizations (© The Koch Brothers).

Many of our nation's companies have already accepted this new normal. Remember the Citigroup document? This is but one example of hard evidence that the middle class is all but gone. So, when will those of you in the middle class wake up and realize that you are the solution to our economic woes? More importantly, when will you see that there is one party that is decidedly against that solution and one that is trying to realize it?

Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, wrote a brilliant piece last week on Sarah Palin and the angry middle class. I won't comment on his thoughts on Ms. Palin. That's not allowed, of course, because I'm "obsessed." You can add that rule to the lexicon of BIG NO-NOS in our little Lewis Carroll looking glass prism of unreality. You know which one I'm talking about, right? The one where all criticisms of George W. Bush are manifestations of psychosis and ignorance, denial, redefination, and counterattack/competing victimizations are perfectly normal when discussing race.

Instead, I'm going to talk about the other stuff he put in his column, regarding the middle class, which was far more insightful. Case in point...

The anxiety began three decades ago when the median male wage that had been rising for three decades began to stagnate. Families responded by sending wives and mothers into the paid workforce, working longer hours, and then, finally, going deep into debt.

Three decades ago? Hmm...who has been saying that lately? Me.

So, why is the middle class (and many of you) so angry?

According to the right-wing narrative, the calamity that's befallen the middle class is due to the cultural and intellectual elites who run the mainstream media and direct the government, dispense benefits to the undeserving (immigrants and poor blacks), advocate multiculturalism, and dominate popular culture (supporting abortion and gay marriage).

Remember Alinksy's last interview in Playboy? He saw all this coming in 1972.

The right would give them scapegoats for their misery -- blacks, hippies, Communists -- and if it wins, this country will become the first totalitarian state with a national anthem celebrating "the land of the free and the home of the brave." But we're not going to abandon the field to them without a long, hard fight -- a fight I think we're going to win. Because we'll show the middle class their real enemies: the corporate power elite that runs and ruins the country -- the true beneficiaries of Nixon's so-called economic reforms. And when they swing their sights on that target, the sh-- will really hit the fan.

Alinsky died that year and clearly his battle was lost. Many in the middle class--many of YOU--have accepted the right's narrative, as defined by Reich, as gospel.

So, if we can get past this lie, what is the real problem? Reich knows.

In reality, the bad economy is likely to continue for most Americans beyond seven years -- maybe for 10 or more -- because of a chronic lack of aggregate demand. So much income and wealth have now concentrated at the top that the broad middle and working class no longer has the buying power to get the economy going again.

Folks, this is the one and only reason why I am as upset as I am. It's not because I'm envious of those who have more money than me. I'm not 10 years old for crying out loud. It's because I am so enormously frustrated at those who can't accept this simple fact that Reich has so eloquently summarized. The working class of this country has no buying power any longer. They are being gouged out of every dime they have by people who DO NOT NEED THE MONEY. Until this changes, our economy is going to suck. Big time. In order for that to change, the wealthy are going to have to alter their lifestyles.

The real problem lies in our economic structure: the yawning gap between Wall Street and Main Street, the incentives operating on large corporations to pare American payrolls and expand abroad, and the demand for short-term profits over better jobs and wages for most Americans.

In "Inside Job," former Fed Chair Paul Volker calls Wall Street CEO salaries "excessive." No shit. They are quite literally ruining this country's economy.

So, what should we do?

The real solution lies in changing that structure: making taxes more progressive, investing in education and infrastructure, and having a national economic strategy for good jobs and wages.

In other words, the platform of the Democratic Party. The three ideas listed here are anathema to any conservative or libertarian even though they have been proven to work in the past, time and again. They worked for FDR. They worked for Harry Truman. They worked for Dwight Eisenhower (a pinko Commie by the standard set by today's right with his 9o percent tax rate). They worked for Jack Kennedy. All of these men had a progressive tax platform, invested in education and infrastructure, and had sound economic strategies for good jobs and wages. Even Bill Clinton had this in the beginning and then he began to succumb to the lure of that ol' siren song of deregulation and look where that led us.

I understand that many of you are control freaks who can't admit when you are wrong but you are completely in error about this one. Worse, by not supporting these very clear solutions, you are exacerbating the problem. Why this leads to more bile and mouth foaming heaped at me and the Democrats is beyond me. Is it hubris? Adolescent power fantasies? I guess I'm really not certain.

But if you look at history, this sort of blindness produces a kind of state that I know that none of you want. So, get with the fucking program, pull your heads out of your asses, and start supporting solutions. Even if you have to admit that you are wrong and that someone else with a different perspective might know what's in your self interest.

People like me do this every day. It's called reflection.

And it's what saves civilizations.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Not White

I was cleaning out the game shelf and saw this card game that my kids play with from time to time. It's basically a deck of cards with all the famous Bible characters on it. Since I haven't done a religion post in a while and it is Sunday today, I thought we'd take a look at one particular card.

Check out the one of Jesus Christ.

First of all, what up with the sandy blond beard and brown hair? Weird. And I love the idyllic setting..quite child like...and that's just why I put it up here. For many ADULT Americans, this is how they view Jesus...through the eyes of an eight year old.

Let's start with one basic and simple fact. Prepare yourself for this one, folks. I know it will come as quite a shock for all of you.

(Mark lowers his voice to soft whisper)

Jesus was not white.

And he did not look like Duane Allman.

In fact, Jesus probably looked at lot more like this.

Minus the gray hairs because he died when he was in his early 30s. And the extra chub.

I can't help but wonder how this simple fact would completely fuck up so many people if Christ ever does return. He lived in the Middle East so he basically "looked like a terrorist." So, does that mean if he were praying on a plane people would get nervous? More importantly, how much prejudice and discrimination would he encounter? Oh, that's right. None. There are no racists in this country except for Sonia Sotomayor.

The real problem here as well as an eternal frustration for me is how many people believe silly fairy tales like the Duane Allman Jesus. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, because many of these same people believe that they wealthy of this country are going to magically save the country through self regulation and tax cuts that pay for themselves.

I suppose it makes it simpler for them to see have this sanitary and simple image of Christ but wouldn't God, as we do with our own children, want us to become as intelligent, mature, and successful as possible? Maybe he might want us to take the time and research what kind of man Christ really was and why did and said the things he did...y'know, deal with the complexities of historical and geographical context and all.

The word complexity, though, seems to be sneered at in our country today. We cheer idiocy and intelligence is viewed as being sacrilegious or (gasp!) elitist. Why do we have the perpetual need to pursue the uninformed child inside of all of us when what we should really be doing is pursuing the self actualized adult? I guess I'm holding out hope that some day we can give up fairy tales like this one and move on to a higher level of spirituality. I can start small.

Let's take up a notch over Dora The Explorer, hmm?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

WTF Has Obama Done?

Eliminated subsidies to private lender middlemen student loans and protect student borrowers.

This one is in my top five. And, yes, it was in the health care bill.

Way to go, Mr. President!

The Konstitutional Klub

Apparently...and I'm still recovering from pulling several stomach muscles laughing my ass off...Michele Bachmann is organizing classes on the US Constitution. As you swallow the small amount of vomit in your mouth, you should probably know that Bachmann is doing this for all the incoming Congressional freshmen just to make sure that they understand what it "really" means.

She's brought together a faculty that is mighty impressive, I must say. On staff will be Sean Hannity, Andrew Napolitano (the only one who is actually qualified) and David Barton, a Christian evangelist who has called the separation of church and state a "myth."

I hope they release an online version of the class or perhaps there's some way I can get a look at the curriculum. I'm sure it will be more of the same beating of the Constitutional club over the head in order to further a tragically warped belief system but, I have to admit, I'm too curious. For example, how are they going to address the issue of slavery? Or the formation of the national bank? Taxes? Interstate Commerce? Borrowing money on the credit of the United States?

I suppose I (sadly) already know the answer.