Contributors

Monday, April 30, 2012

Fucking. Brilliant.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

With this amazing volley, Stephen King, one of my favorite authors of all time, has entered into the Election of 2012 with an absolute corker of a piece in The Daily Beast. 

Here’s another crock of fresh bullshit delivered by the right wing of the Republican Party (which has become, so far as I can see, the only wing of the Republican Party): the richer rich people get, the more jobs they create. Really? I have a total payroll of about 60 people, most of them working for the two radio stations I own in Bangor, Maine. If I hit the movie jackpot—as I have, from time to time—and own a piece of a film that grosses $200 million, what am I going to do with it? Buy another radio station? I don’t think so, since I’m losing my shirt on the ones I own already. But suppose I did, and hired on an additional dozen folks. Good for them. Whoopee-ding for the rest of the economy.

That makes him a small business owner, right? Hee Hee...

Oh, and about that whole envy thing...

The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the rich—they squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes up—are not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can’t seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber … which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins.

This would be why they think that folks like me and other Democrats are secretly envious of rich people...BECAUSE THEY ARE. And that's the only sort of perception they seemingly understand.

In a perfect little verbal nutshell, he sums up exactly how I feel.

What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

Good Lord, I think I actually have an erection from reading.

The next time someone says to you, "Well, if rich people want to pay more in taxes, they should just write a check to the Treasury" show them this brilliant piece by a man much eloquent than I!

Look Out!

Just re-discovered this chestnut from last year that I lost in my "Ideas" file.

You bought into the myth that unions are the cause of America’s demise. You didn’t bother to learn America became a world power when union membership was at its peak. You didn’t bother to learn America became the envy of the world while 1 of every 3 Americans was a union member.

Right. But remember, unions are the biggest threat to our country what with all those teachers, police officers, firefighters and city clerks that make millions a year. Look out!

To make matters worse, you’re again being played for a chump. The same puppets who did nothing while your standard of living decreased are now using the oldest gimmick in the book — jealousy — to continue their assault on American workers. Rather than protect Americans’ jobs, they deflect your attention through jealousy.

“Cut the pay of government workers,” they cry. “Increase their health premiums. Decrease their pensions. Break their unions. After all, you’ve suffered so they should suffer too.” And in your misery, you buy their argument while more jobs head oversees. Pretty stupid, eh?

That's why it cracks me up when I hear all this talk about envy. As usual, it's accurate but it's more of a self description.

Misery does indeed love company.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Antithetical Man

Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love. 

 ---from a letter that group of Jesuit scholars and other Georgetown University faculty members wrote to Paul Ryan last week.

And just like that, any sort of capital the right had built up with Catholic leaders after the contraceptive flap evaporated.

Thankfully, there are many other folks out there that see Paul Ryan's budget exactly for what it is.

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to urge you to resist for moral and human reasons unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition programs. The committee has been instructed to reduce agricultural programs by an additional $33.2 billion. In allocating these reductions, the committee should protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises. Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong.

Huh. They must see the same thing I do when I see Ryan's budget: cutting food stamps to the poor. Ah well, I guess they are liars too. I guess Paul Ryan is a liar now as well.

Ryan argued that government welfare "dissolves the common good of society and it dishonors the dignity of the human person." He would restore human dignity by removing antipoverty programs.

What's terribly ironic about all of this is that Ryan himself said recently that he used "his Catholic faith" as inspiration for his budget. Really?

1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first. 

3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.

I'd say that's a Trifecta of Failure, according the leaders of his faith. Of course, this is what I was talking about when I wondered how Ayn Rand and the teachings of Jesus can somehow be magically fit together. The truth is they can't.

Unless you live inside the bubble.

In which case, subsidies and tax cuts for the wealthy are just fine.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Health Care Fallout

Conventional wisdom says that if you voted against the health care law then you are safe, right?

Wrong.

Representatives Jason Altmire and Tim Holden both lost in primaries to opponents who joined together with activist groups to pummel the veteran lawmakers over the opposition to the new health care law and climate change legislation — positions they had used to their advantage in the past to show their independence from President Obama and the Democratic Party.

Ooops.

Further...

While Republicans have seized on the health care law as a political weapon to employ against the president and Congressional Democrats, many Democratic voters and party activists see it as a major achievement and are poised to punish Democrats who fought it. The results on Tuesday also suggest health care could be a major rallying cry if the Supreme Court overturns all or part of the law this summer.

Obviously, I'd like to see the Supreme Court uphold the law. But perhaps I'm wrong in thinking this. What if they do overturn it? That could galvanize a mildly listless base out to vote. Moreover, I still maintain if it is overturned, then you will see a revival of "Medicare For All" that may actually happen.

Oh, and if you are keeping score (and I know some of you are:)), if the Supreme Court does overturn the law AND there is increased voter turnout and/or renewed life for a single payer, government option, that would be an example of losing the argument and still achieving the goal.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Backwards

Here's another piece to go along with my latest post on immigration.

According to the Pew Research Center, the net migration between the U.S. and Mexico over the last five years was essentially zero, and the downward trend suggests that flow of both legal and illegal immigrants may have actually reversed back toward Mexico.

Again, they aren't coming, folks.

The First GDP Report of 2012

The first quarter of 2012 GDP report is in and the initial estimate (there are two more to follow) speaks volumes.  US growth was at 2.2 percent. Of course, how you interpret this depends on whether or not you are a half full or half empty kind of person.

Any growth of 2 percent is good but with unemployment still over 8 percent that simply isn't enough to significantly bring the later number down. The good news is that this result suggest that the economy will continue expand into the year with analysts predicting 3 percent growth throughout the year and that will bring the unemployment rate down.

More importantly, this growth has been fueled by consumer spending which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. It's also important to note that this marks the 11th straight quarter that the economy has expanded since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. This coincides with the election of President Obama so to say that he is "destroying the economy" is simply wrong when you consider these numbers. That also doesn't mean he's done an absolutely perfect job either. It simply means he's done the best he could given what he was handed and considering the mistake that was made in estimating how deep the recession was back at the time. In other words, a good (not poor or amazing) job.

Oh, and then there's this.

All levels of government are under pressure as they struggle to control budget deficits. Government spending fell at an annual rate of 3 percent in the first quarter.

But wait! I thought that when government cut spending, that would spur growth. Oh well, I guess not.

THE WEIGHT OF GOVERNMENT-Government spending cuts are weighing on the U.S. economy in a way that hasn't been seen in generations. Those cuts have reduced growth for six straight quarters - the longest stretch since 1955.Reduced government spending subtracted 0.6 percentage point from the first quarter's growth. Fortunately, the drag may decline the rest of this year. Defense spending fell sharply in the past two quarters, which isn't likely to continue. And state tax revenue is recovering, closing budget gaps."It's hard for the economy to accelerate when the government has its foot on the brake," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.

This is why I have zero respect for right wing economic advice. It's simply wrong.

Some other notes from this report...

Many economists predict growth will strengthen in the second half of this year because they think hiring will continue to improve. Job growth has helped drive the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent in March from 9.1 percent in August and given households more money to spend.

That's good news for the president. If the unemployment rate drops below 8 percent, it is very likely he will win re-election.

Consumers this year have reduced their debt loads. Housing is inching back. State and local governments aren't cutting as much. Banks are lending more. And the threat from Europe's debt crisis has eased somewhat.

But no! The world is still ending!!! It has to be!!!

I'm nearly certain that the right will jump on this and spin it to be horrible and Armageddon-like but I guess I don't see how above 2 percent growth can be a bad thing. You certainly can't call it amazing but it's definitely good considering the external factors of 2011 some of which were simply unpredictable.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We Want YOU!!!

Are you a washed up actor or actress that needs a gig before you get spit out the bottom of the porn industry?

Well, the right wing media industrial complex WANTS YOU!

Take Janine Turner, for example.  She couldn't find work anymore in that liberal cesspool called Hollywood (buncha fucking socialists who don't want to make any money) so she parlayed her talents to reach a willfully ignorant audience of millions eager to fork over the hard earned cash to commiserate with others in their fear, paranoia, anger and hatred.

Here's an example of what YOU can do!

Here are some tools. When the Democrats start ranting, use the GIRLFRIENDS acronym to forge through the storm.

G: Get Reasonable. Want to teach your children that laws don’t matter? Be a Democrat. 
I: Informed on Phony Contraception Battle. Want your children to lose their religious freedom? Be a Democrat. 
R: Republicans Are the Women’s Party. Want your daughter to be constrained by government? Be a Democrat. 
L: Legislative Liberty Is Lost. Want your child to live under tyranny? Be a Democrat. 
F: Fuel and Energy Policies Are a Farce. Want your child’s transportation to be a horse? Be a Democrat. 
R: Return Women to the Workforce. Want your daughter to live off the government? Be a Democrat. 
I: Insolvency — Sinking in a Sea of Debt. Want your child to live in debt, hounded by creditors? Be a Democrat. 
E: Entitlement Society — “Give me Liberty and Gimme, Gimme!” Want your child to be dependent on other people’s money? Be a Democrat. 
N: National Security — We Are Vulnerable. Want to teach your child it’s okay to be bullied? Be a Democrat. D: Darkness — Democrats Want Us to Be in the Dark. Want your child to sit in the dark? Be a Democrat. 
S: Sick — Our Health Care Will Soon Be Hopeless. Want your child to be sick for a year? Be a Democrat

Steady paychecks guaranteed by Bill Whittle. And remember, it doesn't matter at all if you believe what you are saying or are even factual. This has $$$ written all over it!

So why let Sarah Palin get all the market share? This is one oil well that won't dry up (wink wink!)

Should I?

I can't help but think of Mike Lofgren when I watch this video which just came up on my dashboard courtesy of Cult Grand Wizard, Kevin Baker.

 

I'm wondering if he would recant his promise to post this once a month considering that  he and his readers have assured me on several occasions that they are, in fact, logical and mathematical thinkers yet there are no facts or evidence supporting most of the claims in the video (aside from the usual War On Christmas type anecdotes).

Are there any facts I could present them that would change their mind? Should I bother?:)

Look Out! They....aren't coming...

Talk to any conservative these days about illegal immigration and they' ll tell you that our country is being overrun and our president is doing a terrible job of protecting our borders and stopping it.

As with many things they foam at the mouth about, this simply is not true. 

Roughly 6.1 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants were living in the U.S. last year, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007, according to the Pew Hispanic Center study released Monday. It was the biggest sustained drop in modern history, believed to be surpassed in scale only by losses in the Mexican-born U.S. population during the Great Depression.

About 1.4 million Mexicans left the U.S. between 2005 and 2010, double the number who did so a decade earlier. In the meantime, the number of Mexicans who entered the U.S. sharply fell to about 1.4 million, putting net migration from Mexico at a standstill. More recent data suggest that most of the movement is now heading back to Mexico, accounting for the drop in the illegal immigrant population.

Why is this happening?

Much of the drop in illegal immigrants is due to the persistently weak U.S. economy, which has shrunk construction and service-sector jobs attractive to Mexican workers following the housing bust. But increased deportations, heightened U.S. patrols and violence along the border also have played a role, as well as demographic changes, such as Mexico's declining birth rate.

So, the president deserves some of the credit as well.

The Christian Science Monitor has a great piece on why Mexicans are staying home and why its likely to continue. Here's a video to go along with it.



I think we are going to see more of these types of stories as prosperity continues to rise worldwide and as we shift into a multipoloar world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not Just Fox
























True not only of Fox but the general thinking of the base and its pundits as well.

Oh, Really?

 
The party of fiscal responsibility...hmph.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Explain, Ass Hats...


My Oh My

As I perused the Wall Street Journal this morning, I was positively stunned to see this headline.

High Tax Rates Won't Slow Growth

Holy fucking balls on a Popsicle stick!!

Well, it is the opinion page so I suppose they can be forgiven for such heresy.

But they sure do make a convincing argument with (ahem) numbers, facts and stuff. Let's start with a few basic ones.

The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly.

Of course, this begs a key question.

Will taxable incomes of the top 1% respond to a tax increase by declining so much that revenue rises very little or even drops? In other words, are we already near or beyond the peak of the famous Laffer Curve, the revenue-maximizing tax rate?

What is that Laffer Curve thing again?

The Laffer Curve is used to illustrate the concept of taxable income "elasticity,"—i.e., that taxable income will change in response to a change in the rate of taxation. Top earners can, of course, move taxable income between years to subject them to lower tax rates, for example, by changing the timing of charitable donations and realized capital gains. And some can convert earned income into capital gains, and avoid higher taxes in other ways. But existing studies do not show much change in actual work being done.

So what would that rate be on the top earners before we would see a decline in revenue?

According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity, the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50%-70% (taking into account that individuals face additional taxes from Medicare and state and local taxes). Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the 1970s. To reduce tax avoidance opportunities, tax rates on capital gains and dividends should increase along with the basic rate. Closing loopholes and stepping up enforcement would further limit tax avoidance and evasion.

Holy SHEEEIT! That's a higher rate than even I have considered!!! So, what does it say that the fucking Wall Street Journal is recommending it? I've been told several times that they are a reputable source, after all.

Assuming the revenue problem is solved, how about the issue of economic growth. After all, we've been told time and again that high taxes mean less growth.

Will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth? In the postwar U.S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth—not lower. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP annual growth per capita (to adjust for population growth) averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.

Good grief, that can't be true, can it? Well, let's get back to revenue.

One cannot evaluate the ultimate growth effects of raising more revenue without identifying what is done with the revenue. If part of the revenue is used to reduce the federal debt, more of savings go into capital investment, enhancing growth. The fact that those paying higher taxes will reduce their savings somewhat does not fully offset this effect as some of their higher taxes would come out of consumption.

If some of the additional revenue is used for public investments with a high return, such as education, infrastructure and research, it raises growth further. The neglect of public investment over the last few decades suggests that the returns could be quite high.

Which is exactly what the president has been saying for his entire term. So why are the Republicans and others on the right against this given these facts?

Monday, April 23, 2012


RandLand

I had the distinct pleasure over the weekend to spend some time with my friend of 32 years, John Waxey. He owns a cottage in Wisconsin and we stayed up late on Saturday night/Sunday morning shooting the breeze. As is usually the case, one of the topics we discuss is politics and he came up with a very interesting idea that I am going to turn into an ongoing theme on this site.

Every day we hear conservatives/libertarians complain about the size of government, the lack of religious values, and....well...just about everything else in this country. They blame liberals and say that they are fucking everything up (despite many facts to the contrary) and if only they could run things the way they should be run, everything would be great. Essentially, their vision of how a country should be run  is superior and the liberal vision is inferior.

So, John's idea was simple. Allow them to annex a few states and form their own country. That way, they can govern as they see fit and not have to worry about liberals messing things up. I knew right away what it should be called: RandLand.

RandLand is a right wing dream, folks, and I'm here to tell you that I want to make it come true. Not only would the right be happy but the rest of us rational people would be too. With them out of the way doing their own thing, we wouldn't have to waste our time on all that hate, paranoia, anger, and fear. They could just do that in their own country.

I figure you could give them South Carolina, maybe a few other states in the south, and then Montana. Those would be more than enough to sustain them with each of those states have plenty of natural resources and access to the ocean to allow free trade. Of course, their xenophobia might be a problem but I'm sure they'd figure out a work around.

Think of the possibilities, though. Laissez faire economics...no drivel about climate change...abortion illegal...prayer in school...no gun laws...no social security...medicare...lazy fuckers on food stamps...no weird foreign people (or people who aren't white for that matter)...you know, REAL Americans.

Of course, I haven't even mentioned the best part. They could FINALLY prove folks like me wrong by having a living example of how well all their ideas would work in action. Moreover, they wouldn't have anyone to blame if (ahem, when) their policies failed because, after all, no liberals will live in RandLand. So, the responsibility would all be on them. I say we give them their moment to shine.

Now, I know some of you might be laughing by now and thinking that I'm just being silly but, I assure you, I'm not. In fact, I think this is the only way to show folks on the right how their little ideas would work in practical application. They need to live it and have no one standing in their way (see: no one to blame but themselves).

So, who's with me? Let's make RandLand the 197th country in the world!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Kinda Joe!


Voices In My Head (Double Live Gonzo Edition)

If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we’re done. We’ll be a suburb of Indonesia next year. Our president, attorney general, vice president, Hillary Clinton–they’re criminals. They’re criminals. Who doesn’t know the crimes our government are committing?

We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November! Any questions? 

If Barack Obama is elected, I'll either be dead or in jail this time next year 

 ---Ted Nugent (at the NRA meeting last weekend in St. Louis)

I'd say Ted has done a fine job of summing up what Charely Pierce wrote about recently in Esquire. I hope to God that he sticks around and keeps talking from now until November 6th!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Skirmish in the War on Women

The Republican-controlled Minnesota state legislature recently passed bills requiring women to take RU 486 (mifepristone, or the abortion pill) in the physical presence of a doctor. It's common practice for this drug to be administered via video conferencing.

Republicans claim that this is to protect women's health, but it's obviously just another bogus road block to prevent women from getting abortions. According to the bill's sponsor, Joyce Peppin:
This bill is about women’s health, Just a few statistics about this type of drug: 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 58 ectopic pregnancies. That’s something to be taken seriously.
What Peppin neglects to mention is that these 14 deaths occurred over 10 years, between September, 2001 and April, 2011. According to the FDA 1.52 million women used the drug and 14 died: eight of those deaths were due to Chlostridium infections and the rest were due to illegal drug overdose, methadone overdose, murder, toxic shock and septic shock. Even if you include the questionably attributed cases, that's only 0.9 deaths per 100,000.

By comparison, the death rate for Viagra is about 5 out of every 100,000. A fact which led Phyllis Kahn to make an amendment to require men take Viagra under the supervision of a physician.

What's even more outrageous is the mortality rate among pregnant women in the United States:
Maternal mortality ratios have increased from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006. While some of the recorded increase is due to improved data collection, the fact remains that maternal mortality ratios have risen significantly
Yes, a pregnant woman is 15 times more likely to die if she brings a child to term than if she uses mifepristone. By comparison, the death rate for people taking aspirin and other NSAIDs is between 21 and 24 deaths per 100,000, and the death rate for Tylenol is 150 or more per 100,000.

Why do we have all these maternal deaths? Basically, lack of health insurance, family planning services and prenatal care. Since a pregnant woman has a preexisting condition, insurance companies will be able to deny pregnant women insurance until the ACA takes full effect.

Mifepristone is one of the safest drugs on the market. Why? It's just a big dose of contraceptive hormones that cause the uterine lining to shed, something which happens naturally every month. This also happens spontaneously in a quarter (and some sources say as much as 50 or 75%) of all pregnancies, resulting in miscarriages, or spontaneous abortions.

So when these people claim that they're passing all these laws to protect women's health, they're lying. They're really pushing a religious or political agenda attacking women's freedoms and rights.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cynical Republican Stance Against Gay Marriage Fading

NPR is running a series of stories on big campaign donors in the wake of the Citizen's United decision. The other day they ran a story on Paul Singer, a Wall Street vulture investor who preys on vulnerable companies. Singer is backing Romney, who has a similar background.

But the interesting thing about Singer is that he's also backing gay marriage. Singer's son is gay, and was married in Massachusetts. Singer has donated more than $8 million to the cause. From the story:
"I believe a generation from now, gay marriage will be seen as a profoundly traditionalizing act. It will have channeled love into the most powerful social institution on earth: marriage itself," said Singer in a video posted on the gay news blog Towleroad. 
He was speaking at a 2010 fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Chad Griffin, a political strategist and board president for the group, says Singer supports gay marriage not in spite of being a Republican, but because he is a Republican. 
"He is a real force in the fight for full equality in this country," Griffin says.
Singer isn't the only such Republican: it's well known that Dick Cheney supports gay marriage (his daughter is gay), and George W. Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, came out as gay two years ago. Bush's first Solicitor General, Theodore Olson, successfully led the challenge to California's Prop 8 gay marriage ban.

George Bush won the 2004 election largely on the strength of the anti-gay marriage fervor that was spreading across the country in the wake of court decisions at the time. Yet Bush's campaign manager, his representative at the Supreme Court and his running mate actually thought gay marriage should be allowed on constitutional grounds.

For years the Republican Party has been cynically manipulating popular sentiment against gay marriage for political advantage, knowing in their heart of hearts that it's wrong to deny people equal rights and force one religious group's beliefs on an entire nation. Now many of them are making their true feelings known, since the handwriting is on the wall and opposition to gay marriage is making its last desperate gasp.

Abortion is exactly the same: it's a personal freedom issue, just like gay marriage. The government shouldn't be telling me who I can and can't marry, and it shouldn't be telling my wife what she can do with her own body. It's a total Republican no-brainer: women must be free to use birth control and have abortions, within reasonable limits and with exceptions like those Rick Santorum's wife used. Sometimes the responsible thing for a pregnant woman is to carry the child to term, and sometimes the responsible thing is to get an abortion. Any true Republican knows in the core of his being that it has to be this way.

This Republican strategy is particularly cynical in their recruitment of Catholic voters. Republicans have used gay marriage and abortion to get Catholics to vote Republican, while taking stands that affect far more people and that Catholics have always opposed: the death penalty, the proliferation of guns and callously killing kids on the street, endless wars in foreign countries, harsh treatment of immigrants, degradation of the environment, cutting taxes on the rich while cutting programs for the poor and middle class, and on and on. John Boehner's recent rejection of Catholic bishop's criticism of House budget priorities is proof of this.

Voters of faith have to look beyond hot-button social issues and view the entirety of a party's platform. Their stands on social issues can blow with the wind, completely dependent on the whims of the big-money men or the schemes of political strategists. Because in the end, the rights guaranteed in our Constitution have to trump religious predilections.

Wealthy Republicans like Paul Singer are now openly supporting gay marriage. If he had a daughter who needed birth control or an abortion, you can be sure he would be able to flout whatever laws were in his way, by sending them abroad if necessary, and then spend millions to get those laws changed to ensure his granddaughters would have the same opportunity to exercise their right to control their own destinies.

Thanks, Charlie!

My first thought at Charley Pierce's brilliant piece in Esquire was, "Hey, he's stealing my shit!" which quickly turned to some inner rumblings about imitation being the highest form of flattery. In fact, he very simply defined the exact reason why I spend so much time talking about the conservative base.

Pierce echoes Mike Lofgren's tell all from a while back and sums up the current political situation quite well.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Republican party, root and branch, from its deepest grass roots to its highest levels, has become completely demented. This does not mean that it is incapable of winning elections; on the contrary, the 2010 midterms, as well as the statewide elections around the country, ushered in a class of politicians so thoroughly dedicated to turning nonsense into public policy that future historians are going to marvel at our ability to survive what we wrought upon ourselves.

This isn't merely an opinion anymore. It's a fact.

It is now impossible to become an elected Republican politician in this country if, for example, you believe in the overwhelming scientific consensus that exists behind the concept of anthropogenic global warming. Just recently, birth control, an issue most people thought pretty well had been settled in the 1960s, became yet another litmus test for Republican candidates, as did the Keystone XL pipeline, to which every Republican presidential candidate pledged unyielding fealty despite the fact that several prairie Republicans and an army of conservative farmers and ranchers are scared to death of the thing.

Again, all facts. But here's the worst part.

Eventually, as was proven by the failed candidacies of Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, which helped lose the Republicans a golden chance at controlling the Senate as well in 2010, these people cared less about whether the party succeeded than they did that their ideology was kept pure and their private universe invulnerable.

They cared less about whether their party succeeded...in other words, they don't care if they win or lose elections. When you reach that level of irrationality, it makes me wonder what else you are capable of doing. This is exactly what the Democrats don't understand and why, I fear, they severely underestimate the conservative base of this country.

Certainly, this is a mistake I have made in the past but no longer. I know what I ...what we are up against.

Armed with the power of its extraparty institutions, there is a strong element within the Republican base that does not care if the party loses one, two, or three elections as long as their ideology remains pure. There is nobody so powerful in politics as influential people who don't care if they lose. The Republicans have these in abundance. 

Pierce doesn't hold out much hope for the Democrats.

The Democrats don't have them at all. This is what keeps the Democrats from being able to make the Republicans pay full price for their party's departure from reality on so many issues. In 2006, the Republicans were handed a defeat in the midterms every bit as resounding as the one suffered by the Democrats four years later. The difference is that there were so many institutions enabling and validating the Republicans' outré ideas that they didn't see any need to moderate them as a result of the 2006 debacle. They simply rode out the 2008 presidential election and retooled those ideas for the age of Obama. Suddenly, we started hearing about "czars," and more talk about socialism than you would have heard at Eugene V. Debs's bachelor party. What were once moderate Republican ideas were now the thin edge of the collectivist wedge. The transformation was complete. And it was remarkable.

Never underestimate the ugly side of American populism and what it can become.

So, is there a solution?

The Democratic party has an obligation to beat the Republican party so badly, over and over again, that rationality once again becomes a quality to be desired. It must be done by persuading the country of this simple fact. It cannot be done by reasoning with the Republicans, because the next two generations of them are too far gone. 

Hence, one of the main reasons for this site.

Thanks, Charlie!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Four Family Tableaux

There's been a firestorm of artificial outrage in conservative circles since Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney hasn't worked a day in her life. Rosen said this in the context of Mitt Romney asserting that he understood the average woman's concerns about the economy because his wife tells him what to think.

The point isn't really whether Ann Romney worked, but whether she has had to make the family and economic decisions and sacrifices that the average woman does. So let's have a reality check with a common situation in modern American families. Here's the initial conversation, followed by the discussion that follows in four different types of families:
Son: Mom, I need $2,000 for soccer club.
Mom: I'll talk it over with your father.
Traditional nuclear family, stay-at-home mom:
Mom: Our son needs $2,000 for soccer club.
Dad: Two thousand bucks? We can't afford that kind of money for soccer. And isn't the soccer season over?
Mom: Yes, but that's high school. He's really good, and he might be able to get a college scholarship if he sticks with it. Without the club he'll never get noticed by college coaches.
Dad: But two thousand bucks. That's impossible. I'm already working two jobs.
Mom: I could get a job...
Dad: And who'll take care of the kids? Do you know how much day care costs? I'm sorry, but we just can't afford it. He'll have to get a part-time job or do without.
Typical family, both parents working:
Mom: Our son needs $2,000 for soccer club.
Dad: Two thousand bucks? We can't afford that kind of money for soccer. And isn't the soccer season over?
Mom: Yes, but that's high school. He's really good, and he might be able to get a college scholarship if he sticks with it. Without the club he'll never get noticed by college coaches.
Dad: But two thousand bucks. I'd have to get a second job. Can't he work part-time?
Mom: Between school and soccer practice he already has no free time.
Dad: Okay, okay. I think I saw an opening at Walmart.
Divorced parents:

Mom: Your son needs $2,000 for soccer club.
Dad: Two thousand bucks? I'm already paying you a ton for child support. And isn't the soccer season over?
Mom: Yes, but that's high school. He's really good, and he might be able to get a college scholarship if he sticks with it. Without the club he'll never get noticed by college coaches.
Dad: But I already have another family to support.
Mom: Who's fault is that? If you hadn't knocked up your secretary we wouldn't be in this mess.
Dad: Tell him to get a job.
Mom: You're so out of it. He already works 20 hours a week at Burger King. Between that and soccer practice, he's just barely able to keep his grades high enough to stay on the team.
Dad: Then you get a job. I'm tired of paying to sit on your fat ass all day, you lying bitch!
Mom: What?! Taking care of six kids is a full-time job! And do you know how much day care costs? And if you had let me use birth control we wouldn't have six kids all under the age of 17!
Dad: The answer is no! (slams the phone down)
Romney family, Son #1:
Mom: Tagg needs $2,000 for soccer club.
Dad: (takes out wallet, counts out cash) Here.
Romney family, Son #2:
Mom: Matt needs $2,000 for soccer club.
Dad: (takes out checkbook, writes check) Here.
Romney family, Son #3:
Mom: Josh needs $2,000 for basketball club.
Dad: Didn't I just write a check for that the other day?
Mom: That was Matt, and it was soccer.
Dad: Okay, then. (writes out check) Here.
Romney family, Son #4:
Mom: Ben needs $2,000 for lacrosse club.
Dad: I left my checkbook in my other suit. Take it out of your pin money.
Romney family, Son #5:
Mom: Craig needs $2,000 for swim club.
Dad: Do you think I'm made of money?
Mom: Yes, I saw that picture of you with your Bain pals. Just buy another company, fire half the workers, then make the survivors take out a loan to repay you. Reap twice your original investment, walk away and let it go bankrupt.
Dad: Ha, ha, very funny. (writes out check)
The point isn't really whether Ann Romney worked, but how her perspective on average women's lives could possibly illuminate Mitt's thinking in any useful way. She has lived her entire economic existence in his shadow, completely dependent on him for all income, never wanting for anything.

My mom was a real stay-at-home mom, what Mitt Romney pretends his wife was. My mom raised six kids all by herself, while caring for her ailing father the last 20 years of his life. My dad was a janitor, real estate agent and bus driver, and worked all kinds of long and weird hours. When Ann Romney was having her first child, my mom was manually running clothes through a wringer washer (also known as a button-crusher and hand-masher), and then hanging them on the clothesline to dry. When we had pancakes for supper we kids thought it was a treat: little did we know it was because we didn't have any money. My mom had none of the nannies and cooks and maids and gardeners that people in Ann Romney's position can have.

Ann Romney has certainly had her trials and tribulation, and I have nothing bad to say about her. But worrying about whether she could afford the things her kids needed was never one of them. She's never had to make economic tradeoffs, favoring one child over another because she couldn't afford to give them all what they needed. She never had to sacrifice her time with them in order to make money to pay for the things they needed.

In other words, she's never had to face any of the hardest decisions that the vast majority of mothers in America have to face. That doesn't mean she can't sympathize or understand the trouble they have. But for Romney to claim that his wife has some kind of first-hand experience that would give her some kind of special insight to council him on the lives of average women is flat-out nonsense.

The truth is, average conservative women were already thinking what Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney. And that seed of truth has to be ripped out and burned with the sharpest vitriol by the right-wing chattering classes as fast as possible, lest it take root and spread among the Republican base that already doesn't trust Mitt Romney for exactly this reason.

We Really Don't Know

The case of Trayvon Martin has been discussed quite a bit in the hallways and classrooms for the last 6 weeks. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor is typical of the points of view that one would overhear in most any school that contains people of color.

"You name it … walking, in stores, in my car, in malls, getting ice cream," says Mr. Powell, who grew up in Compton, Calif., and now also coaches high school football. "I'm always being racially profiled – by the police or women on the street who give me looks and clutch their purses tighter when they see me coming." He says police pull him over four or five times a month on average, for "driving while black." Officers "go through my trunk, my glove compartment, look under and behind the seats," he says. 

Most people that are white, including myself, just don't really know what this is like. When you live with this sort of prejudice, day in and day out, it takes its toll. It's easy for people to throw out how they think people should act but until you've lived, you really don't have a clue.

Moreover, the following is something I hear frequently right around the time the driver's license is issued.

Powell says his parents, like many parents of black boys, gave him the "talk" when he was growing up: how to dress, walk, act, and speak in situations from shopping in stores to being stopped by police. "They said to be polite. Look people straight in the eyes. Tell them exactly what they want to hear without attitude. Always carry items out of the store in a bag." 

Instead of shopping, though, it's how to act when a policeman pulls you over. Keep both hands at 10 and 2 O'Clock, look right at the officer, smile, answer in shortly worded sentences etc. Imagine having to add this talk in to all the other ones that you have to have when a teenager starts to dri

So, Mr. Powell's situation is quite common and this is easily seen if you take the time to read the other testimonials.  Perhaps after you read them,  I'm hoping that you will see what Trayvon Martin was likely dealing with before he was shot. 

Of course, we will never really know. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Flaunting the Founding Fathers?

Today I'm wondering where exactly in the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, or the subsequent amendments does it say that one must present a photo ID to vote. I've been assured by my buddies on the right that they know the Constitution better than anyone and will, under any circumstances, most definitely adhere to to it.

After all, they wouldn't want to be accused of flaunting the founding fathers like Barack X, would they?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Perils of Pop, or Why Our Economy is Killing Us

A while back Markadelphia asked why everyone is down on soda. Here are some reasons.

Empty calories: 12 ounces of sugar- or corn syrup-sweetened soda can contain 140 or more calories. If a person drinks only 3-5 cans a day, that's a quarter to a third of the recommended daily caloric intake for an average sedentary American. This provides absolutely no nutritional value, which means that its either displacing real food, or people are consuming that many additional calories from real food that provides protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free diet sodas may not be any better. Studies have shown an insulin reaction to aspartame in rats, and while this may or may not carry over to humans, it's quite likely that artificial sweeteners promote overall increased caloric intake, as aspartame appears to cause carbohydrate cravings. Sweeteners like cyclamates and saccharine have also been linked to cancer, and aspartame is a serious hazard for those who have phenylketonuria. It has also been linked to severe headaches in some people. Breakdown products of aspartame include phenyalanine, methanol, formic acid, and formaldehyde, which is stored in fat cells and is probably carcinogenic.

Thus, both diet and sugared soda are linked to weight gain and diabetes, which both lead to heart disease, stroke, and a whole host of other medical problems.

Phosphoric acid: many soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which causes calcium excretion and bone loss, especially in older women who are already predisposed to osteoporosis. Some researchers believe this is simply due to the replacement of milk in the diet; in either case it means women soda-drinkers are more prone to broken bones.

Citric acid: citric acid, which is present in many types of soda, including Mountain Dew, erodes tooth enamel. A popular high school experiment is to place a tooth or mouse in citric acid, which then dissolve away in a couple of weeks. Someone who sits at a keyboard all day sipping Dew — regular or diet — is not doing their teeth any favors.

Caffeine: caffeine is an addictive substance which is generally considered harmless. But it's a full-fledged drug addiction: withdrawal symptoms include headache, muscle pain, stiffness, vomiting and depression. There are also many instances of people dying after consuming too much caffeine. France outlawed Red Bull after an Irishman died from drinking four cans. A fourteen-year-old Maryland girl recently died after drinking two Monster energy drinks over a 24-hour period.

In short, soda consumption has absolutely no positive benefits.

When I was a kid soda was a treat, like a cookie or a piece of cake. But over the last forty years people have begun treating soda as a staple food, replacing juice and milk. This is especially problematic for women and children, who need that calcium. Milk has its own problems with BGH and excessive antibiotic use, but soda is the worst possible replacement. Plain water is far superior in every way.

Going to a fast-food place like McDonald's used to be a treat as well: we would eat there a few times a year, when out shopping or on a long road trip. Today many pork out on pizza, burgers, fries and sodas every day. Even worse, parents regularly bring that stuff home to feed their kids. This diet is the main cause of the epidemic of obesity that is sweeping across the world, but is hitting the United States particularly hard.

When I was a kid, you either brown-bagged a sandwich to school or you ate the school lunch, which was an institutional version of the square meal you got at home. You drank government-subsidized milk for 2 cents a carton. These days most schools have pop and candy machines and some even have fast-food outlets on campus.

The truly awful part is that our economy requires this. Investors demand high returns, and businesses that don't experience at least 5-10% annual growth are viewed as losers and hammered on the stock market. Companies like Coca Cola, McDonald's, Burger King, Pepsi, etc., have experienced growth for years, mostly at the expense of sit-down restaurants and grocery stores.

The push for growth in profits has forced these companies to adopt tactics of relentless advertising, callous indoctrination of the young, increased convenience and ubiquity, and product reformulation to maximize addictiveness. In the process they have completely altered our behaviors and degraded the health of the nation.

But for that kind of domestic profit growth to continue, Americans have to increase their consumption of products that are bad for their health (costing us hundreds of billions more in medical costs), or our population has to increase (unlikely, since that will only happen through immigration), or the price of these products has to increase (unlikely, since the main draw is the cheapness of fast food).

The economic model of endless growth in consumption — and our waistlines — is literally killing us.

Grab Bag Of Irritation

I thought I'd take a break from politics today and put up a Grab Bag. It's been far too long since I've done one and I'm honestly in the perfect mood today.

Soda Popped!

What is it with virtually everyone I know these days completely freaking out about soda?

Somehow, all of the conversations I've had about health and/or food recently have all gone the same way. One of my friends will say something like, "And soda...OH MY GOD, Soda is just the worst thing in the world. It's SOOOO bad for you" followed by semi-violent head shakes and then something like..."Horrible...it's just so horrible for you" as if they were talking about Chernoyl or something.

Yes, I know that soda is bad for you if you drink 89 cans a day but having one on occasion is not the same thing as smoking two packs a day, for pete's sake. It's as if you are instantly going to get diabetes if you have one can of a regular, sugar filled Coke. The descent into anaphylaxis is nearly instantaneous whenever the subject comes up and is blown so far out of proportion that it's driving me completely nuts.

Speaking of which...

The Land of Exaggeration 

I know that being Minnesotan means taking some small thing that happened to someone once and turning it into an everyday occurrence that now happens to everyone everywhere is par for the course. But, seriously, I just can't take it anymore.

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine about how I talk about sex quite a bit and in great detail. "You can't do that, Mark. People just don't like it," she pleaded with me. "But why? So what?" I asked.

"Well, you can't go around raping people either," was her reply.

WTF???!!!

So, talking about sex is the gateway to rape? Seriously?!!?

But it's not just with such a touchy subject...it's with fucking everything! I was telling a parent of one of my son's friends that I was going to celebrate my birthday in Nord East (a tres hip area of Minneapolis). She, being the TOTAL suburban mom, commented, "Oh, that's an awful section of town. Back when I was 18 (20 years ago) someone I dated stole a car there once."

To this day, she has never gone back there!

Even smaller things like...it takes me five minutes to drive from my house to pick up the kids at school. They are out at 410pm so I usually leave at 405pm. Yet my wife is constantly on me about leaving at 350. Why?

Or in the past few years (and for some inexplicable reason), people have started freaking out about snow here in Minnesota. The weather douches issue warnings if it is going to snow more than an inch and tell everyone that it is literally going to be the most awful storm in the history of the earth. Again, why?

Because we live in a land of gross exaggeration. This isn't simply true of politics, mind you (Barack Obama is a socialist or Hitler). This is true of just about everything and it seems more prevalent in the Midwest. People that talk about sex are rapists, a car robbery in NE Minneapolis means that it's now East St. Louis, it takes an 20 minutes to get somewhere that's 5 minutes away, and the world is going to end when it snows a few inches in Minnesota. IN FUCKING MINNESOTA!!!

AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Please, enough, people....

A Titanic Obsession

Alright, enough already with the Titanic shit. I realize it's the 100th Anniversary and all but has anyone else noticed that our obsession with this profoundly sad and tragic event is perpetual whether it's the anniversary or not? Seriously, there's something emotionally....well....just fucked about it.

And James Cameron's underwater explorations (which, b to the w, have been waayyyyy over reported) aren't helping. He made a movie about 14 years ago that made a lot of money...big fucking deal. I hated it. The dramatic hysteria literally made me sick to my stomach. It just wasn't that good, folks.

Yet, he continues to revisit it with documentary after documentary and re-release after re-release. Now, it's out in 3D. Whoopee! The only film the guy has made since Titanic was Avatar. How about exploring some new territory there, Jimbo and, oh, I don't know, make a film every five years or something rather than continuing to revisit that awful fucking film every other month.


Whew, I feel much better now that I have gotten all that out!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Amen, Michelle


Saturday, April 14, 2012

And Speaking of Paranoia, Fear and Shit Your Pants...

Right after I put up the post below, I saw this come up on my dashboard in Blogger.

Good. Lord.

What's sad about this faux intellectualism and truly awful understanding of political theory and history is how perfectly it fits Boaz Point #1.

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox (and the right wing blogsphere, for that matter) seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren't activated, you aren't alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don't think rationally. And when they can't think rationally, they'll believe anything.

And if they'll believe anything, they will certainly plunk down their money to buy books with "Get Ready For Armageddon" in the subtitles (hence the main reason why these things keep coming out:)). I used to have, at least, some respect for Kevin. No longer. He's completely given himself over to what amounts to a Doomsday Cult. Ironically, the science of climate change doesn't phase him (it's a liberal plot) illustrating just how completely back-asswards minds like his truly are.

Further, I'm still wondering how Kevin and his regular commenters (some of whom post here) would have made it through the truly tough times in our nation's history...the times of rugged individualism of which they so often lament and pine for...I mean, there weren't antibiotics back then. There's no way a group of such hysterical old ladies would have lasted...crying the end of the world every other day. They would've spontaneously combusted in a fit of anger, hate and fear.

I'd really like to know when the end is coming. What's the time frame? He's been saying it for over 9 years now, according to his writings. I'd like a ball park so when the date that is the furthest away comes and goes, they will perhaps see that they were mistaken. Likely, this will not be the case as they can always point to something bad that happened as evidence of the coming end.

When the only tool in your tool kit is the Apocalypse.....

Check, Check, and Check!

So, Mitt Romney addressed the NRA  yesterday at their big convention in St. Louis, Missouri in what was billed as "a celebration of American values." The day before the convention, this piece from AP caught my eye. Here was the quote that made me chuckle.

Although Obama has virtually ignored gun issues during his term, the NRA considers him a foe and plans to mount an aggressive effort against him.

What I truly don't understand here is that President Obama is acting with the exact benign neglect when it comes to gun laws that gun rights folks have so vociferously argued that they want to see from the federal government. And yet...

We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen and those who seek to protect their home and family. President Obama has not; I will.

Uh...huh? That's not what happened. Gun rights have never been looser and violence around the country has continued to drop. What the fuck is he talking about?

In a second term, he would be unrestrained by the demands of reelection. As he told the Russian president last month when he thought no one else was listening, after a reelection he'll have a lot more, quote, 'flexibility' to do what he wants. I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that, but looking at his first three years, I have a very good idea.

Ah, I see.

Paranoia...
Fear...
Shit your pants...

Check, check and check!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ah, Well...







































I guess that hopey changey stuff is working out after all...just not for her. I seem to recall DJ from Kevin's blog muttering something about her scaring the hell out of me.

I'm shivering with fear, dude.

Voices in My Head

It's been a while since I did one of these and some discussions in comments have inspired me to return to one of my favorite topics. But first, some clarification.

I have been told that the conservative views that I take issue with are not, in fact, accurately portrayed. Nor are they necessarily the views of my commenters who migrated over from Kevin Baker's site. No, oh no, these are "voices in my head" with whom I am arguing.

It's my view that the former point is complete horse hockey as I am simply relaying the message. I know it must be embarrassing to have to be associated with people that aren't well mentally but I have to live with Dennis Kucinich and Buck Johnson so you're just going to have to lump it. However, I should be a little extra considerate, I know, because there are far more on the right who are simply nuts. So, I will, at least try:)

Regarding the latter point, I also call bullshit because, although it may not be exactly the view of some of my commenters, it sure does sound an awful lot like it. And some of you aren't doing anything to formerly denounce such silliness so you really can't blame me for ascribing it to you. In fact, part of me think that you really do think this way and are (surprise surprise) engaging in a combination of faux outrage and the innocent babe in the woods routine.

Now, I think there is a way we can tell if I am right or not. Take a look at this video.




This is Florida Congressmen Allen West, a Republican and Tea Party favorite. He is also the favorite of Kevin Baker, proprietor of The Smallest Minority gun blog. He believes that there are 79 to 81 members of the Communist Party in the Democratic Party. He states it very clearly in this video which, incidentally, was released by his campaign. So, it's straight from him and not a liberally biased source.

Do you agree with him? If so, why. If not, why not.

Let's see if this is truly a "voice in my head."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In A Visual Mood

I'm in a visual mood today so here are some images I've snagged over the last few days. First one is dedicated to those of you who think the president has done a bad job with the economy...


...for my Tea Party friends...

...and this one just made me cackle...



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taking Candy from a Baby

I don't know how much stock I put in studies like this, but I found this article in Scientific American. The study found that wealthy people are significantly less considerate of others, and are much more likely to cut you off with their luxury cars. Yeah, I know this fits into the "well, duh..." category.

But the following part was especially humorous:
In order to figure out whether selfishness leads to wealth (rather than vice versa), Piff and his colleagues ran a study where they manipulated people’s class feelings. The researchers asked participants to spend a few minutes comparing themselves either to people better off or worse off than themselves financially. Afterwards, participants were shown a jar of candy and told that they could take home as much as they wanted. They were also told that the leftover candy would be given to children in a nearby laboratory. Those participants who had spent time thinking about how much better off they were compared to others ended up taking significantly more candy for themselves--leaving less behind for the children.
Yes, the study shows that rich people will take candy from a baby. Shades of Montgomery Burns!

Now, we all know that some rich people are quite generous. Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates have contributed much of the their time and money to worthy causes. When I was a kid I spent many hours at one of the libraries built by Carnegie throughout the United States and Britain. Gates has spent billions of dollars vaccinating kids in third-world countries.

But we also know that these people are by far the exception to the rule. Most of  today's wealthy are nameless brokers, bankers, hedge fund managers, CEOs and heirs who will never make any significant contribution to society.

But this isn't some abstruse academic question. Republicans are on record against compassion and empathy. When President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court he mentioned the importance of those qualities and was roundly derided by Republicans.

Why does this matter? If the people who make policy are wealthy, compassionless men like, say, Mitt Romney (who told us he likes to fire people and doesn't care about the poor), they're going to make decisions that benefit the privileged few and damn the consequences for the majority.

Everyone in this country understands this basic fact. It's one of the biggest reasons that many Republicans don't trust Romney, though they don't frame it that way. They usually characterize him as a closet liberal, but the real knock against him is that he is actually a soulless husk and will simply say anything to get elected. He doesn't really stand for anything except money and power. They know he can't relate to them and just doesn't care about them.

And when Romney endorsed the Paul Ryan budget that would give even more tax cuts to the wealthy while cutting spending for everything else but defense, he almost literally declared his support for taking candy from babies.

As the Republican nomination process cycled through the various Romney challengers, Santorum, Cain and Gingrich, the main draw wasn't the tirades about contraception and 9-9-9 and invented Palestinian peoples. No, it was these candidates' middle-class roots that so many Republican voters were attracted to. They knew the non-Romneys could better understand their lives than a guy whose wife drives a couple Cadillacs and whose only knowledge of football and NASCAR comes from his friendships with team owners.

Santorum ultimately did the best against Romney, but finally had to throw in the towel against the rising tide of cash. He represented the average Republican hope that you could start from scratch and make it to the top (though Santorum has distorted his own family history, implying that they were all destitute coal miners: in reality Santorum has always been well off, his father was a psychiatrist at VA hospital and his mother was nurse).

Romney represents the death of that hope: the Republican realization that only massive amounts of cash from Romney's cronies and multinational corporations can unseat a president who started out where where most American did and truly represents the American success story.

An Excellent Job!

Two years ago, during his SOTU address, Barack Obama promised double American exports in the next five years. So far, the first two years of that time period has seen an increase of just under 30 percent or an increase from 140 billion a month to 180 billion a month. At this pace, the president will get close to or achieve his goal. Why is this happening and why is this a cause for optimism?

Tyler Cowen has the answers in his fantastic new piece, "What Export-Oriented America Means."

First, it is the United States that is leading the way in high tech machines that populate the manufacturing industry worldwide. Countries from around the world need to buy them and we make the best ones. But it's not as simple as that.

The more the world relies on smart machines, the more domestic wage rates become irrelevant for export prowess. That will help the wealthier countries, most of all America. This logic works on both sides. America is using less labor in manufacturing, but China is too, even as its manufacturing output is rising. The fact that Chinese manufacturing employment is falling along with ours means that both our higher wages and their lower wages are becoming less relevant for the location of manufacturing decisions. The less manufacturing has to do with labor costs and relative wage levels, the greater the comparative advantage of the United States.

Bingo. But won't this hurt American jobs?

You’ll hear the word “insourcing” more, too, to join the far more familiar “outsourcing.” For instance, in one manufacturing survey from November 2011, almost one fifth of North American manufacturers claimed to have brought production back from a “low-cost” country to North America. The corresponding number from early 2010 was one tenth of those companies, partly because of rising labor costs in developing nations, and partly because labor costs don’t always matter so much anymore.

The core political truth about this, however, is a little awkward: So many of the jobs vulnerable to foreign imports have already vanished that there is little left for voters or less powerful manufacturing-based labor unions to fear from free trade. The new job growth has been in health care, education, services and government, areas that are largely insulated from foreign competition and that will themselves seek out export markets. American higher education is in demand around the world, too, and has little to fear from foreign colleges trying to expand offerings in the United States.

This would be why I constantly harp on education. If you are a low skilled laborer in this country, learning how to operate high tech manufacturing machines should be your number one goal in life-stat! Developing countries of the world will need you to train their workforce.

Second, as I have discussed previously, the US may become the new Saudi Arabia in terms of energy exports. With the shale and natural gas industry starting to boom due to recent discoveries, we are poised to be able to take advantage of world demand and truly become a dominant, energy power.

This demand isn't just limited to energy. The third cause for optimism is that the developing countries themselves As BRICS, for example, continues to develop, their demand for our products to help them in their development is going to grow exponentially.

The leading categories of American exports today—civilian aircraft, semiconductors, cars, pharmaceuticals, machinery and equipment, automobile accessories, and entertainment—are going to be in the sweet spot of growing demand in what we now call the developing world.

That's right. Put all of this together and what do you get?

Export success will resurrect the United States as a dominant global economic power. America will be wealthier, its products will have greater global reach, and it will largely cure its trade imbalance with China. The fear of American foreign policy being determined by Beijing, or constrained by the financial resources of the Chinese central bank, will be forgotten. No one will view the United States as the borrowing supplicant in the U.S.-China economic relationship, and, all else equal, our exports to China will increase friendly feelings toward that country.

No more boiling pit of sewage. Thank goodness!!

All of this shows that we are well on the way to achieving the president's goal and promise that he made. In light of all of this information, saying that he is "destroying free enterprise," is simply not true. In fact, he has shown that his method of governing (the combination of  government partnership and knowing when to stay out of the way) has clearly produced positive results.

When it comes to the issue of helping to increase exports, the president has done an excellent job!

The Wall Street Journal?

I have to echo Joe Scarborough in his recent piece for Politico and go even further by wondering if the editorial staff at the Wall Street Journal has started doing bong hits.

The paper's lead article showcased a study declaring that U.S. companies were emerging stronger from the Great Recession than they were even before the 2008 financial meltdown. The Journal quoted Wells Fargo's former chief economist who said the last few years have made U.S. companies "leaner, meaner and hungrier." That positive sentiment was backed by a WSJ analysis that showed sales, profits and employment higher among the Standard and Poor's companies than in 2007.

This article details how US corporations have returned to pre-recession profits. 

An analysis by The Wall Street Journal of corporate financial reports finds that cumulative sales, profits and employment last year among members of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index exceeded the totals of 2007, before the recession and financial crisis. 

Deep cost cutting during the downturn and caution during the recovery put the companies on firmer financial footing, helping them to outperform the rest of the economy and gather a greater share of the nation’s income. The rebound is reflected in the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at a four-year high.

In addition to hiring overseas, companies have been squeezing more productivity out of their employees. In fact, “in 2007, the companies generated an average of $378,000 in revenue for every employee on their payrolls,” while last year, “that figure rose to $420,000.”

Scarborough goes on to mention an article by Walter Russell Mead whom I've recently started perusing at the insistence of regular commenter, juris  imprudent. His piece, "The Myth of American Decline," offers a very different perspective of how our country is doing in comparison to what Mitt Romney and the Republicans claim is happening.

The United States isn't in decline, but it is in the midst of a major rebalancing. The alliances and coalitions America built in the Cold War no longer suffice for the tasks ahead. As a result, under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, American foreign policy has been moving toward the creation of new, sometimes difficult partnerships as it retools for the tasks ahead.

I agree. He goes on to discuss the changes in the Trilateral system over the years which echoes many things I have said on here. He concludes on a very upbeat and like accurate note.

Despite all the talk of American decline, the countries that face the most painful changes are the old trilateral partners. Japan must live with a disturbing rival presence, China, in a region that, with American support, it once regarded as its backyard. In Europe, countries that were once global imperial powers must accept another step in their long retreat from empire.

For American foreign policy, the key now is to enter deep strategic conversations with our new partners—without forgetting or neglecting the old. The U.S. needs to build a similar network of relationships and institutional linkages that we built in postwar Europe and Japan and deepened in the trilateral years. Think tanks, scholars, students, artists, bankers, diplomats and military officers need to engage their counterparts in each of these countries as we work out a vision for shared prosperity in the new century.

The American world vision isn't powerful because it is American; it is powerful because it is, for all its limits and faults, the best way forward. This is why the original trilateral partners joined the U.S. in promoting it a generation ago, and why the world's rising powers will rally to the cause today.

This is why Mitt Romney (along with various right wing pundits) don't seem to get and it was evident in their childish criticism of the president's conversation with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. In the final analysis, the American system is the best way forward and because the world is set up the way it is now (liberal economies and free trade), countries will have little choice but to embrace our way of doing things if they want to remain a player in the global marketplace.

Given all of this, how can the right continue to say that America is falling apart and it's all Barack Obama's fault? Now, even the Wall Street Journal (gasp!) seems to be saying that Barack X simply doesn't exist.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Reasonable Middle Ground on Climate Change

It has become Republican dogma that climate change isn't happening. That it's impossible for puny humans to change the climate of this huge planet. That God wouldn't let it happen because, as James Inhofe says, he made a promise to Noah.

The press, afraid of being accused of siding with liberals, still gives conservative climate change deniers a fair hearing, often referring to climate change as a "controversial theory." The idea is that they have to give equal credence to both "sides" of the debate to be fair.

The problem is that the press has fallen into the Republican trap and let the conservatives define a false equivalence between the hard evidence of all serious climate scientists on one side, and a few hand-waving cranks funded by oil companies who say "we couldn't possibly hurt a planet this big" on the other.

The reality is that acknowledging anthropogenic climate change is the reasonable middle ground. Climate change deniers are on the rightmost extreme, and radical anti-humanists are the leftmost extreme. I was reminded of this by an essay that appeared in the Huffington Post. In it, Peter Jay Brown wrote:
We humans are merely passengers on the spaceship Earth. We produce nothing important for a healthy planet, but certainly spare no expense at taking what we need and then some. We are the ultimate planetary narcissists.
Guys like Brown are just as wrong as Inhofe. They whine when wind turbines kill a few birds. They romanticize nature, implying that animals are somehow nobler than men. The truth is, animals behave like the brutes they are. When random fluctuations in environmental conditions happen to favor one species they drastically over-reproduce and lay waste to the land and other species. Just like we do. The difference is that they're not self-aware and can't stop to think about what they're doing before it's too late. We are. And we need to take responsibility for the problems that we're causing. Now.

As the only intelligent tool-using species on the planet, we have become the owners and operators of planet Earth by default. Short of total thermonuclear war, any ecological damage we inflict on the planet will probably only result in our own demise, and not the end of all life on Earth. Life has flourished with high concentrations of CO2 in the past, and would likely flourish again, albeit after migrations and die-offs of certain species. The biggest effects of anthropogenic climate change will likely be inland droughts and flooding of coastal cities, starvation, widespread plagues, world-wide wars over declining agricultural, water and energy resources, and the decline and collapse of human civilization as we go the way of the dinosaurs.


If a comet chucked out of the Oort cloud takes a bead on Earth, only a technologically advanced space-faring human race will be able to prevent the destruction of this lovely blue planet. Countering a repeat of the Siberian Traps would be much harder, but in the long run the human race is the Earth's only hope of saving the planet from total destruction. 

One could argue that the Earth evolved humans as protection against the larger threats that it was vulnerable to in the past. It is thus our responsibility to further develop our technology to a point where we can save the Earth — and ourselves — from certain doom.

But the truth is, right now we are hurting the planet — and ourselves — with our excesses. The 2000-2009 decade was the warmest on record, and this past March was the warmest in history. Tornadoes struck Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi in January. They hit Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Tennessee in February. In March and April tornadoes hammered the nation's midsection again, and Texas too.

Inhofe's invocation of God's promise to Noah is especially striking because Inhofe so completely missed the point. Noah didn't sit around waiting for God to build his ark. Noah built it because a flood was coming.

Climate change — including floods — is coming. The seven billion humans burning billions upon billions of tons of coal, gas and oil are mostly to blame for that change. We can't just sit around and expect God to clean up our mess.