Cutting Through The Crap

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This One's For You, P.T.


[enlargement of image correlates with clicking on it]


Turns out presidential election results are, for millions, fatal.
Gilligan found that, over the 108 years covered by his analysis (1900-2007), the age-adjusted suicide rate increased by an average of 9.7 per million over each Republican four-year term but decreased by an average of 11.1 per million over each Democratic term. The age-adjusted homicide rate increased by an average of 3.6 per million over each Republican term but decreased by an average of 4.2 per million over each Democratic term.
Resurgent commenter P.T. has pointed out that sociological studies are comparatively hazy (although this one is just numbers), and that correlation doesn't always imply causation. I agree; I've un-proptered a few post-hocs here myself. Still, given differing proclivities of the two parties, one could spin out some correlative explanations, if one were so inclined...

Outsourcing


Never let a good pander be held back by reason. From the latest debate:

“The best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say we stand with our friend Israel; we are committed to a Jewish state in Israel; we will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel.”

Gingrich then surprised the audience: “Governor Romney is exactly right,” he said, adding that in his opinion, the Palestinians were to blame for the prolonged stalemate in the peace process.



I'm no expert on Middle East politics; and I admit that, bearing as I do certain genes of long standing, I'm inclined to think Israel has a right to exist and that, other than by existing, it didn't start the never-ending hostilities there. Still, there are many policies Israel has undertaken with which I strongly disagree; and I'd think our government ought to reserve the right to disagree with any ally when facts warrant it. Not to mention turning the screws, if needed, to get parties talking.

So it's sorta funny, isn't it, that the same people who lie that Obama takes his orders from European capitals (mostly run of late, ironically enough, by right-leaning leaders to whose policies all the R candidates aspire), who've reacted with outrage when judges refer in any way to the laws of other lands, are willing explicitly to cede all policy-making in the Middle East to the Israeli government. "Not an inch of difference" doesn't leave much room, does it? If Bibi says it, we'll be for it, no questions asked; so say the leading contenders for R leadership, patriots all.

Exceptional America first.

With exceptions.




Monday, January 30, 2012

Voting To Discriminate


Smart and clear-speaking, innovative and successful in a tough town, Cory Booker is among the most impressive politicians in the land. And Chris Christie, the presumed future hope of the Republican party, is, on this matter and many others, dead wrong. The above video says exactly what needs saying regarding the idea -- likewise bubbling up in my state as the legislature is about to approve same-sex marriage -- that voters should get to decide matters of basic civil rights. Preventing tyranny, ensuring rights of minorities; it's why we have a constifrickingtution. How can people not get that?

Once again, in a seemingly endless succession of incidents and examples, we see how right-wingers, especially of the religionist variety even as they claim sole ownership of and love for our constitution, haven't the slightest understanding of what it's actually about.


More Lies From The Podium


RWS™ and R presidential candidates much prefer the lie that our financial meltdown was the fault of poor people. Never failing to defend Wall Street malfeasance, the crash was, they claim regularly, including in the latest debate, due to loans made under the Community Reinvestment Act. That this claim flies in the face of all the facts is not only not a problem for them, it's part of its beauty. For what is a teabaggR if not a person who loves lies when the truth doesn't fit?

From an interview with Francis Fukuyama on five books he recommends to learn about the financial crisis:

Let’s go on to your next book, which is highly readable and quite hard to put down: Michael Lewis’s The Big Short.

Michael Lewis is terrific both at picking topics and in his exposition. What I thought was most interesting about this book was that there is, to this day, a view about the whole pathology of collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) – these highly complex, packaged mortgage securities – as well as the credit default swaps – the insurance contracts written on those securities – that Wall Street created them and they simply got out of hand. They didn’t anticipate it would be hard to value them, how they would be misused, and so forth. What Michael Lewis points out very forcefully is that they were deliberately created by Wall Street banks in order to produce non-transparent securities that could not be adequately evaluated by the rating agencies, which then could be sold to less sophisticated investors, who would buy the idea that this junk debt actually had triple A ratings. So what this book does quite brilliantly is show that there was actually a high degree of intentionality in creating the crisis. The worst of all these securities are the so-called synthetic CDOs. A CDO is a bond that represents maybe a couple of thousand mortgages; a synthetic CDO is a group of hundreds of CDOs, all packaged into a single security. When you get to that level of complexity, no one can evaluate what this thing is worth. You can come up with sophisticated rationales for why this might actually follow some kind of market logic, but I think Lewis shows that the reason this happened is that they didn’t want anyone to be able to rate it.


Today's Republicans will always have the messaging advantage. (And, as we've seen, when they fear they might not, they'll censor it.) Reality is complicated, and understanding the world is hard work. Fact-based solutions don't fit on bumper stickers. So if your aim is to influence people to vote against their interest and for yours, and if you don't care whether what you say is true, and if you are assured your message will be repeated and amplified endlessly via your radio talkers and your Foxian falsifiers, you have a pretty sizable head-start.

Especially if you've successfully spent several seasons steadily softening the cerebri of your selectively sullied subjects.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Comment



Maybe this is why teabaggRs don't like science: Here's yet another study about cognitive differences between conservatives and liberals, about which I've already written much.

Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.

[...]

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.



Friday, January 27, 2012

Death By TV


My usual approach to the Republican debates is to read about them later; there's only so much lying and pandering I can take at a time. Last night, however, I was at the hospital waiting to help with a horrendoma (as we like to call really tough frustrating and dangerous operations) and the debate was on in the surgical staff lounge.

So there I sat, trying not to pay enough attention to cause a hemorrhage somewhere, when they began to address Newt's promise to have colony of 13,000 Americans on the moon by the end of his second term. (The 13,000 reference was, in fact, that when they got to that number they could apply for statehood.) Cost, in these times of deficits, was mentioned. Gee.

Anyhow, after they blathered for a while about how private business would be only too happy (or not) to invest billions in Newt's big idea, seeing as how the rewards would be, well, fundamental I guess, they got around to the biggest joke of the evening. (Fortunately, I didn't have to watch the whole thing.) Newt reminded us of the inspiration of that great conservative icon, JFK, when he promised we'd have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Mr Gingrich out-puffed his normal puffiness as he spoke of the kids going into science after that, how they rallied and created and did stuff because of the lure of space. But now, he said sadly, kids aren't choosing the sciences, presumably because we're not thinking Gingrichian big anymore.

At which point I wanted to shout at the screen: Science??? Science!!!??? REALLY??? Suddenly you're thinking science is good, that our future might somehow depend on it??? The guy in the party that denies science at every turn, that deliberately tries to ruin the teaching of it in our schools, that laughs openly at expertise? That guy -- THAT GUY -- thinks we should be inspiring kids to go into science.

I see I called that a joke back there a paragraph or two. What was I thinking?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crazy Talk


Here's a video. I can't embed it, but it's worth watching to the very end; otherwise you'll miss the point.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Truth Will Set Them Free (From Fox)





I had coffee yesterday with a couple of really good guys, writers of newspaper columns, one sort of a lefty, the other sort of a righty. One told an astounding story of a series of serious medical calamities that had befallen a family member, one after the other, just as they'd lost health insurance. And just as the Affordable Care Act was taking effect. It saved them from financial ruin.


So this seems a good time to post something I wrote a while back but never got around to clicking the "publish" button:


As people understand what's in (and, overcoming the lies of the RWS™, what's not in) the Affordable Care Act, they change their fox-fed negative opinions of it. From a column in a Michigan newspaper, written by a small businessman:

With the economy still in a slump, small business owners like me are doing everything we can to keep our costs down. A particularly troublesome cost for my business is health insurance.

However, I recently learned there are tax credits in the new healthcare law specifically for small businesses that will help us pocket some extra cash.

In Michigan, 85.1 percent, or 126,300 small businesses were eligible for a credit in 2010; 39,600 small businesses qualified for the maximum tax credit that year.

Unfortunately, I saw a survey from Small Business Majority that said 57 percent of small business owners don't know about the credits. If more small employers took advantage of this opportunity to save money, there would be more cash circulating in our community.

[...]

From my perspective as a lifelong, small, downtown business owner, a relatively small health care reform tax credit helped our company put tens of thousands of dollars into the economy. I see healthcare reform as powerful economic stimulus that really works.

Any cash boost, large or small, is welcome in this economy. We can use the money we save to invest in new equipment and new workers, so we can expand and help grow the economy.

I hope all small businesses owners in Michigan will look into these credits. We need all the help we can get.





Here's a few more facts about the ACA that'll never be known to those who get their "news" from Fox.



Guess what? Thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA/ObamaCare) and to an unprecedented effort by the Obama Administration, more progress has been made in the past three years to combat health care fraud and abuse than ever before. There was a 68.9 percent increase in criminal health care fraud prosecutions from 2010 to 2011, and 2010 was already the highest ever.


And there are these things already in place:


* brought coverage to 2.5 million young adults
* delivered big savings for seniors on prescription drug costs;
* given a significant boost to small businesses through ACA tax credits;
* provided new treatment options for cancer patients like Spike Dolomite Ward;
* saved taxpayer money by cracking down on fraud;
* and offered new coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions.



People knowing stuff. It's the greatest fear of the RWS™ and Fox "news" and every single one of the R presidential candidates.






Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You're Welcome


Recently I announced the end of word-verification for commenting here. Since I was getting spam comments anyway, I figured why not just make things easier for the tens of thousands of people who visit and share their views.

For the record, since doing that, I've been getting, and deleting, four times the number of spam comments I used to; and yet, because I'm such a generous soul, I'm still not reinstating verification. What a guy.

By the way, the Blogger so-called spam filter ain't worth a shit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Significance


I'd like to think this comment on Andrew Sullivan's blog is prophetic:

... a Gingrich nomination would be poetic justice - or maybe just justice. Gingrich didn't transform the GOP alone, but he is arguably more responsible than any one person for the Republican party becoming the cynical, reckless, destructive piece of shit it is now. I am not a fan of the Reagan Administration, but there is a big difference - as Newt would say a "fundamental" difference - between the party of Reagan and the one Newt was so instrumental in shaping, the current, decadent GOP.

The Republican Party of today is the party of Newt. I think the best bet for reforming it is for Republican grassroots to nominate someone who so thoroughly exemplifies it, and have him lose spectacularly. It would also be cathartic for the country if Obama finally grasped the nettle and took the opportunity to definitively crush, rhetorically as well as electorally, Gingrichism and its variants.

As I've written many times, I most certainly agree with the characterization of today's Republican party as one of despicable negativity: hatred, fact-averse denialism, untruthfulness, unfocused self-pity, especially of the poor-me Christianist variety, and doctrinaire obstructionism. I'd love to think that nominating Newt and his subsequent thumping would cause the Republican party to reassess itself and to return to thoughtfulness and connectedness to reality. But I'm not so damn sure he'd be defeated: I simply have no idea at this point whether Gingrich, with his appeal to the lowest common denominator, his willingness to lie and to play the card of aggrievement represents the fringe or the mainstream. There's no doubt he tapped into a deep well of "fuck-yeah-hate-'em-all-kill-'em-all" mentality in South Carolina. I really have no idea -- but I worry -- whether it's close enough to where we are as a nation that it would prevail in a general election.

Is there now a majority of voters who believe a president should arrest judges with whom he disagrees, after first ignoring any ruling to which he objects; who think Sharia is about to become the law of the land; who are okay with a president who considers himself king, as long as his view of unchecked power is aimed against a free press and checks and balances, who appeals to resentment of all things non-white Christian heterosexual? Have Fox "news" and the RWS™, with their non-stop, coordinated, and well-compensated stoking of hatred and discouragement of rationality finally succeeded in their deliberate dumbing of enough people to win the day? Lose the future?

It doesn't surprise me that Newt might be the nominee of the current iteration of a once-respectible party; but were he to go on to win, it'd be the absolute end of what remains of the confidence I once had in America's ability to find its way in tough times.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Soliloquy


Hard not to like Stephen Fry.* In his case, it's not just the English accent, which confers an aura of intellect on anyone. He's witty and an extreme polymath, and his comments above on polytheism mirror what I've written here before: if you look at the world as it is, and feel the need to explain it by invoking deity, it makes a lot more sense to believe there are lots of them, generally screwing around with themselves and us. (And I like his pointing out the inverse relationship, historically, between knowledge and religion.)

Christianity admits the inconsistency and inadequacy of its monotheistic claim by tossing in Satan. As explanations go, it fits a little better with what we see than the idea that there's only one guy in charge, a guy who's all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Has a plan for us all. Knows everything about us before we're born. And since, simply by looking around, it's evident god has way more on his plate than he appears able to handle, we also get saints and guardian angels to clean up his little messes, as needed. Judging on outcomes, though, they must be in over their heads most of the time, too. In any case, other than semantically, this is monotheism the way homeopathy is medicine.

Satan, I guess, does offer believers an explanation, more like an excuse actually, for why there's evil in god's perfect world. The unspoken extrapolation, though, is that his existence also fully negates the view of god as perfect. Either that, or Satan, like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, is actually carrying out their omniscient and omnamorous god's will.

I don't think I've heard anyone argue, though, that Satan is the cause of a child's bone cancer. That, I'd say, pretty much disproves the all3 idea of god. Given that children die of cancer every day, if there is/are god/gods then he/she/they have to be some combination 0f incompetent, inattentive, or uncaring.

In which case, what's the point?

______________________________________

*For Stephen Fry fans, by the way, this video is a must-see.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

They're All Insane. Scary Insane.


The RWS™/teabagger/Fox "news" favorite description of President Obama is as a dictator, a Nazi, an aggregator of vast presidential power. (The last phrase, because it uses a big word, I haven't actually heard.) So it's particularly puzzling, to say the veriest leastest, to see the deluded and clueless audiences stand and cheer Newt Gingrich when he says he'd haul judges before Congress, ignore whatever part of judicial rulings he chooses; without even hiding it, he's claiming the power of an absolute monarch. Which, by the way, is exactly how he sees himself.

So it's even more amazing that when Rick "I'm Running Third In My Own State" Perry bowed out (gee, ya think?) and tossed his feather weight behind Gingrich, he said we need a "humbler" government. That's even more amazing than Sarah Palin's über-ironic claim that four years ago we had a candidate who wasn't properly vetted.

Newt says of our enemies, over the definition of which he'd claim sole authority, "Kill them," and the audience leaps to its Foxified feet. Get rid of judges, he shouts, and they rise like a river of ridiculousness. Funny, isn't it: if some black guy does stuff you don't like, even when it's what he was elected to do, he's a damn dictator. When it's your guy, though, and particularly if he salts it with your favorite racial and religious hatreds, he can literally announce his disdain for the most central check against dictatorial power, and you'll jump around like Oprah just gave you a car. Well, a white Oprah, anyway.

Let's not bring up the fact that the great defender of marriage against teh gay, the guy who reveres marriage so much he's tried it thrice, tried to talk his second wife into an open marriage, okay? Like that's gonna make a difference, right, to the Constitution-loving patriots who adore him because he wants to burn it like a witch in Salem.

How can anyone with half a brain (see, there it is!) not look at these people and weep for our country? Weep? Hell, stab his own ears with an icepick and pluck out his eyes!

RWS™ and every R candidate claim that Obama is seeking deliberately to destroy our country. How? The fact is, with their well-paid propagandists, their obstructionism, their deliberate dumbing down of education, laughing at science, playing the religion card at every opportunity, creating and funding teabaggers and calling them real, lying constantly, ignoring facts at every turn and convincing their fear-forged flock to do so as well, they, themselves, already have. You see it in every audience at every debate.


Short Subjects


Here's a few unrelated but interesting tidbits:

This one almost makes me want to see Newt elected: he says Sarah Palin would have "a major role" in his administration. What do you suppose that would be? Energy secretary? He's said she's among the country's experts on the subject.

Whatever. I think it'd be great theater to see her in a role of national importance where she had actually to make herself learn stuff, answer serious questions, show up every day and work hard in an intense job that wasn't only about her. Think she'd actually accept a job like that?Wonder how long it'd last... About, I guess, as long as the country would last under a megalomaniacal hothead like Newt "Kill Them" Gingrich.

Next is this fascinoma, sent to me by my oldest friend: Koch brother Charles, funder of all things right-wing and anti-government, financial power behind the Tea Party and all other manner of crazy ideological fundamentalism, is a big fan of Social Security:
There’s right-wing hypocrisy, and then there’s this: Charles Koch, billionaire patron of free-market libertarianism, privately championed the benefits of Social Security to Friedrich Hayek, the leading laissez-faire economist of the twentieth century. Koch even sent Hayek a government pamphlet to help him take advantage of America’s federal retirement insurance and healthcare programs.
Finally, the winter meeting of the Conference of Mayors is being held this weekend in D.C., to discuss the nation's most serious problems, especially the economy and employment. Several D leaders and administration officials will attend; all R presidential candidates, and all R congressional leaders refused invitations. But, sure, they're concerned about jobs and open to ideas from those at the front lines.

I think it's no exaggeration to say that the current voices of Republicanism have no real values at all, except the desire to make money entirely unfettered, with no responsibility to the country that allows it to happen. Say anything, associate with anyone, tell any lie, do whatever it takes to deceive enough voters into giving away the store.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Inequality



The arguments -- as usual, reduced to meaningless sound bites -- over "income inequality" are pretty damn annoying, and I think Ds and President Obama are more to blame for the indigestion than the Rs. The latter are framing it -- would you believe? -- entirely dishonestly and cynically; and the Ds -- who could be surprised? -- are doing it with disorganized ineptitude. So the Fox "news" version, the Romnified reductio ad absurdum, is swallowed whole by the right with little or ineffective resistance from the left: Obama wants to end capitalism, envies success, wants to punish success, is waging class warfare.

Shocking stuff, right? Easy to grasp, like straws. Poorly -- because it takes more than five words to get people to understand, and requires a desire to do so -- refuted by progressives. The result, as intended, is that the point is missed entirely. It's not, in my view, about the rich getting richer, per se. It's about the consequences of it, as currently manifested, and what it means for our future.

Let's get this part out of the way: anyone who thinks much about it recognizes that capitalism depends on profits; that employment derives from successful businesses; that hard-working or inventive or creative successful people will -- and ought to -- make more money than others. Not a lot of people begrudge the trappings of success as defined in this country. I have no problem with Bill Gates' money, or Jeff Bezos', or Charles Schwab's. Or A-Rod's. (Okay, that last one...) I'm a little less sanguine about Mitt Romney's; the reasons are significant, but not relevant to the "income inequality" argument. Romney's money was made in the worst way, money for its own sake, money on paper, with no regard for the human substrate, for lack of a better word -- the people at the other end. Buying companies cheap, laying off people to make the bottom line look good, selling them off and raking in profits for himself and his investors, unconcerned for the companies themselves, letting them go bankrupt and walking away with millions. No goods; no services; just a lot of profit from shuffling paper and playing games with lives. Capitalism, sure; but at its worst, with no benefit to anyone but Mitt and his partners. None.

But that's still not the point.

Here's the point about income inequality. Two points, actually. First, it means, in a political system as corrupted by money as our is, that power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. That's what OWS, when you strip away the fuzz at the edges, is about. The very wealthy, the big corporations, get to write the rules, and the rules they write favor themselves at the expense of everyone else. Banks, big corporations. If shit flows downhill, money flows to the right. And the right, methodically, rapidly, is taking down all the protections against abuse that the left had been able to establish over several decades. Planning much more, while using their propaganda machine to make it look like patriotism, they've managed to convince the likes of teabaggers to act against their own interest. Behind the fog of disinformation and distraction, there's a serious threat to what little remains of our democracy; you'd think any non-corporation type of person would be concerned.

The second -- and, given the political leanings of those with the most money -- the more dire point is that income inequality in the US is leading to the end of civilization. Yeah. I guess that'd be called dire, all right. Is it true? Take a look around.

Start with Romney's announced budget plans (while keeping in mind that his tax plan will drastically redistribute wealth further upward):

In the Washington D.C., speech where he laid out his budget vision, he said “we’ll need to find almost $500 billion in savings a year in 2016.” But Romney has not given many details on what that would entail. ... Perhaps that's because the impact of these cuts would scare the bejeezus out of some people.

Taking half a trillion dollars out of $3.6 trillion works out to a 14 percent reduction. (To be precise, it would be 14.1 percent.) Applied equally to all non-defense spending, that would mean approximately $130 billion less for Social Security and about $90 billion less for Medicare, just in 2016 alone. To give you a sense of context, the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act amount to around $50 billion a year in 2016. And those cuts, unlike Romney's, are largely offset by expanded spending on Medicaid and subsidies for private health insurance, thereby cushioning the blow on the health care system.

Of course, Romney could decide to exempt Medicare and Social Security. But then the cuts for other programs would have to be much higher: 25 percent, on average. And when I say “other programs,” I mean every other non-defense thing the government does: Education, transportation, environmental protection, safety net programs, law enforcement…you get the idea. Can we afford to spend a quarter less on highways? How about the Centers for Disease Control and the FBI? Or Head Start, food stamps, and Pell Grants?

... These cuts would be in addition to the automatic cuts already set to take effect in January, 2013, now that the deficit super-committee has failed to reach a consensus. ...

What’s more, the above calculations – which I ran by several budget experts, just to make sure I had them right – are probably on the generous side. They don’t account for the impact of interest, which (for reasons I can explain in a separate post) are likely to require larger cuts. In addition, this is just a snapshot of 2016. The cuts to the big entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, would become larger in future years.

Still not convinced? Then keep in mind that Romney also supports a balanced budget amendment, which would likely require even steeper cuts than these calculations suggest, particularly if Romney were to cut taxes as promised (and thus reduce federal revenue).


There's the bottom line: the Rs all-but-designated hitter has announced (so have all of them) plans for taxes and budgets so skewed toward dismantling government in order to keep wealth sequestered with the wealthy that, if enacted, they'll effectively end our ability to maintain (let alone improve) our country. That's what this talk of income inequality is about. That's what's really at stake in this election. Willingness to spend money to have a future. It's not about simply taking money from some and handing it over to others (you know, Newt's welfare cheats, his rants against whom get standing ovations from his aggrieved and ill-informed audience.) It's about balancing capitalism and its profits with reasonable commitment to paying for obvious needs.

But the Romneys, the O'Reillys, the Hannitys and Becks, the Limbaughs and the Koch brothers, the Murdochs of the world -- mega-multimillionaires all -- are committed to ensuring that people don't see it that way. That their fodder stand up, waving American flags while shedding patriotic tears and hatefully denouncing the false vision of Barack Obama that's secreted from the propaganda machine, thinking they're giving glory to god, saluting their country, while, in fact, blindly facilitating its demise.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Take The Time


It's nearly an hour and a half long. So some time, instead of watching a movie, watch this. You'll be glad you did. (Although if you're like me, it'll make you weep for what the party of the RWS™ is doing to our future.)

Thanks, Dougie.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bolton From The Truth


By its screaming absence, one must conclude that mention of George Bush at Republican debates is as unwelcome as a rat at a restaurant; except I guess that's sort of an insult both to rats and restaurants. Nevertheless, it's clear Rs don't want anyone to remember anything about George Bush or to associate him with them. Except in one way.

When Barack Hussein Obama got Osama bin Laden, Rs were quick to place all credit with George Bush. And just the other day, while standing at the side of Mitt Romney, who actually seems to prefer lying to telling truth, John Bolton, the neocon's dream of the perfect Secretary of State, claimed that giving Obama credit for getting Osama is the same as if Nixon had taken credit for the moon landing. The implication, of course, is that George gets the pelt -- and, by the way, that Nixon didn't try to associate himself with the moon landing like a rat seeking food at a restaurant. Wrong, and wrong.*

Republicans bank on public forgetting. Abetted by their propagandists, they'll do everything they can to wipe out our collective memories. (What better example than Romney's insistence that Obama is putting free market capitalism on trial, ignoring the Bush-era deregulation that actually did put it on trial, and it was convicted.) They'd prefer, for example, that we don't recall when Cheney/Bush, having failed to do so, announced that getting bin Laden was no longer a priority. Walked away from the effort like it was a rat at a restaurant. Likewise, they'd urge we forget that President Obama, in a move I thought a little ballsy at the time, since the Cheney/Bush attempts had come to naught (actually letting him escape at Tora Bora), announced his intention to re-focus on capturing or killing Osama. Setting himself up for failure, he nevertheless went all in. Commitment, some would call it. Leadership. Gutsy. And guess what...

Other than the fact that he's dangerous, destructive, hateful, ideologically hide-bound and trigger-happy, I don't much care what Bolton says, except for the fact that any of the R candidates would likely appoint him Secretary of State. But this little gem has been a perfect microcosm of RWS™ revisionism and delusional thinking, and their certainty that their faithful will, as usual, having been Pavloved into foaming at the mention of Obama, nibble it up like a rat at a restaurant.
____________________________

* Fact is, Nixon did everything he could to bask in the glory of the moon landing, including giving out moon rocks like Halloween candy to foreign governments.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Rs Love Tax Cheats

The above chart is based on data from 2006, so the numbers are certainly different now. No doubt, the "tax gap" (the difference between tax money owed, and tax money collected; ie, the amount people don't pay that they should, by under-reporting, cheating, or just not doing it) undoubtedly is no longer bigger than the deficit. Still, it's real money.

So, guess what -- and be sure you're sitting down for this. (Well, actually, I think we already knew; but still...) The current crop of Congressional Rs voted down legislation to make it easier for the government to collect the funds already owed. Not to raise taxes. To collect the taxes owed.

Not too long ago, there were signs that policymakers of both parties recognized this. The Bush Administration pushed successfully for new withholding requirements on government contractors on the heels of troubling Government Accountability Office investigations showing widespread tax abuse. Then, in the 2010 health reform law, the Obama Administration teamed up with congressional Democrats to tighten reporting requirements on certain business transactions. These were two modest but real steps forward.

The current Congress, however, repealed both measures.


What possible justification can there be?

Just add this to the stinking pile of teabagger outrages. Without fear of reprisal from their fully-indoctrinated supporters, Rs continue to spit in the faces of everyone but the most wealthy among us. It's simply beyond understanding: not just that they're so blatant about it, so proudly willing to see to it that there's no money left (except, of course, for a bloated military) for even the most basic of needs to secure our future; but that their "base" (in both meanings of the term) -- the ones who aren't millionaires, who need public schooling and decent roads and health care and who'd benefit from research, from cutting energy costs -- are completely willing to let it happen.

So complete is their brainwashing by the RWS™ and Fox "news," so overwhelming is their ginned-up hatred of Barack Obama, based on lies swallowed whole, that they've been made blind and deaf to the reality of what's happening. I've said it a million times, and, as the election approaches, I'll be saying it more, unless rendered mute by what I see. It's another planet, another universe, another reality, based on no reality. Simply astonishing.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ham Of God


I don't doubt Tim Tebow is a nice guy, a godly guy. Seriously, I don't. After all, he reminds us of it every day, subtly, like a hammer. Yet, exactly because, shockingly unbiblical, he makes a public show of praying, he's become a hero, a paragon, to evangelicals. For lo, surely the winning football games of which he's been a part confirm the glory of god, the power of prayer, the undeniable rightness of everything in which they believe.

First and ten, sayeth the Lord.

God might ignore tens of millions of starving people around the world, or fail to answer the prayers of kids with cancer or end the ravages of epidemics, do nothing to stop wars fought in his name, but he calls one hell of a football game. For the one team, anyway. These wins are modern-day miracles, not unlike David v. Goliath.

Well, except that nothing important, no lives, no civilization is actually at stake, and that a football game is sort of small potatoes, compared to what else needs doing. Guess miracles aren't what they used to be. Something like grade inflation, I suppose. Or, maybe, god's tired of beating his head against the wall, taking a pass (as it were) on the hard stuff. I can relate: nowadays I spend much more time watching football than saving lives. Heckuva lot less stress.

Not generally one to rain on a parade of prayer, nor -- perish the thought! -- to ask obvious questions about the nature of a god who, according to the football faithful, spends time thumbing the scales for Tim Tebow while floods are drowning, droughts are starving, quakes are quashing his beloved children, I nevertheless can't help but point out something to his millions of fans. (Tebow's, that is.) I'm thinking even god doesn't have enough faith in Tebow to let him play the game on his own. So shaky is his (god's) faith in the kid that he figured he'd done all he could with the material at hand, Tebow-wise. To seal the win, he figured he had nearly to break Ben Roethlisberger's (sounds a little too Jewish, doesn't it, although the "oe" is sort of suspect) ankle and to knock their best defensive player out of the game with sickle trait (he has a plan for us all) before the ball was even snapped. Insulting, I'd call it. Nasty. A Texas-cheerleader-mom kind of move.

Now, as natural as scabies, like people cashing in on an oil smudge, R candidates are scrambling to get Tebow's endorsement (anyone doubt he'll be running for office at some point?), as his fans point to signs of the divine, god turfing us messages in a football stadium, (who needs burning bushes when you have statisticians?) like the fact that he threw for 316 yards, the same number as their quarterback's favorite Bible verse, John 3:16. You know, the one he used to wear, humbly, on his eye black for the world so see how believy he is; the one that promotes the essential untruth, the central guilt-trip of Christianity: that god so loved us that he gave his only begotten son...

Except he, uh, didn't. Dropping him in for, like, a celestial nanosecond, putting on a public dying, he knew he'd have him back in no time at all, good as new, at his side before the start of the second inning of eternity.

I never could figure how that episode constituted sacrifice by either of the two-thirds of the divinity. Unless you think neither of them knew he'd be resurrected (but surely they did, surely an event that newsworthy didn't just get sprung on them, come out of left field, so to speak), there's no way to see it except as a scam. (Tithest thou now or screw-ed thou will be.) Knowing he'd return home before the recliner cushions got cool, God "gave" his son the way Bernie Madoff gave dividends.

Compare the false claim of John 3:16 to the real flesh and blood parents who see their living, breathing kids off to war, knowing the risks, not knowing if they'll see them again... How come there's not a religion based on them???


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sabotage, Detailed

... If you look back at recent monthly data ... you’ll see that this particular green shoot should have poked through the ground months ago, but was stymied by the GOP’s debt ceiling hostage drama. ...
That’s a year’s worth of data. Taken in the context of the collapse of the credit bubble, it’s a pretty small blip ... But it’s a pretty big hit to a fragile recovery. It was only by November that total consumer credit returned to where it had been before the standoff on Capitol Hill. Look at the graph and you’ll see that the growth we just experienced could have come in July and August in the absence of that fight.



I realize post hoc doesn't necessarily mean propter hoc, and, as I've said many times, I'm no economist. So I leave it to others to confirm or dispose. Still, it's compelling. And, in my mind anyway, there's not the tiniest doubt that the aim of Rs during the debt ceiling posturing was to hurt the country, and therefore Obama, with not the slightest care about anything else but their own power.

Gay Marriage On The Brain


In times like these, it's beyond comprehension that fighting gay marriage continues to be an important rallying point for conservatives. People like Rick Santorum and those who love him make me feel I'm on another planet; their kind of primal pigheadedness on the subject (to put it more gently than I'm inclined) is as foreign as breathing sulphur.

Never mind "times like these." Why is it an issue at all, ever? In what way does the marriage of Adam and Steve or Ellen and Eve affect anyone else; why do so many people find it in need of outlawing? Outlawing! As I've written about it, and wondered, I think I've danced around the truth of it, tried to bring into focus what, in retrospect, I never fully articulated: if you believe the Bible is the literal word of god, and if your sense of well-being, your very life, in your mind, depends on it; and if you observe that gay marriage is acceptable to some -- to anyone -- then your world falls apart, the props underneath it crumble away. Here's a piece that says, much better than I ever did, what I'd been trying to say, trying to understand. The fact is, it's not about rationality at all, and rational questions are irrelevant:

... Santorum and other homophobes cannot speak frankly because their real motivations are private, emotional, and incoherent. It’s not as though Santorum dispassionately selected Catholicism from a menu of religious ideologies. He believes because he feels. Even before his wife’s miscarriage (in 1996), before his political career, some concatenation of circumstances installed what some have called religious “software” in his brain. Things are good when religion is dominant, bad when it is not. This is the truth of his experience.

I’m reminded of a story told by Tim LaHaye, notorious author of the apocalyptic “Left Behind” series. LaHaye was ten years old when his father died, and obviously devastated by the loss. As LaHaye tells it, it was during a pastor’s eulogy for his father that he truly came to believe. The pastor explained how his father was now in heaven with Jesus, and the young LaHaye knew this to be true, felt it to be true. Indeed, he must have wished it to be true as well. Of course he did; what ten-year-old boy wouldn’t?

That, not evolution or homosexuality or any other point of dogma, is the real issue for people like LaHaye, Santorum, and Chambers: the fundamental comfort that religion provides. If people evolved from apes, according to this logic, Timmy LaHaye’s father is not in heaven with Jesus and Rick Santorum’s son died for no reason.

And this is why we cannot argue with people who subscribe to this framework: there is simply too much at stake for them. They have wedded their fundamental sense of okay-ness to the truthfulness of a set of doctrines. Not only is sociology not at issue for Rick Santorum, Romans isn’t either. What is at stake is his very sense that the world is a good place, that things are basically okay, and that he himself is okay as a result. That may be expressed in a theological framework, but it is a psychological reality. If I marry my partner, therefore, Rick Santorum is not okay...



The phrases bolded by me distill it perfectly. But if they answer the question, they also suggest there's no hope, ever, for changing minds of people like Santorum. If belief in your god is the only barrier between you and emotional collapse, and if that belief says homosexuality is against your god, nothing -- no science, no studies; in short, no reality -- will change your view. The only hope, I guess, is that there are enough emotionally-healthier people out there to keep reason alive. It's an open question. In my state, the (outgoing) governor has just announced her support for legislation legalizing gay marriage. Already the self-righteous initiatives are being filed against it.

The author of the above article ends with a thought that, given the truth of what he'd previously argued, might just be whistling in the dark:

The fake secularism, the fake science, the bogus constructions of homosexuality—all of these are so transparently false because they are mere props. As one after another of them collapse, anti-gays will eventually be left only with their convictions, and the reasons why they have them. Perhaps only then, echoing Portnoy’s therapist, might we say “Now vee may perhaps to begin.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lasted More Than Four Hours


In case it hasn't been obvious on its face to everyone but teabaggers, here's but one example of the stupidity of the oft-heard Republican claim that American health care coverage is already universal, because we have emergency rooms for the uninsured.
TEXAS CITY — A woman injured in a wreck by a wrong-way driver claims a hospital’s $20,211 fee is unreasonable for four hours of examination and diagnostic tests.

[...]

According to Torres’ court filing, her hospital chart showed her total treatment time was 4 hours and 2 minutes.

“She was not admitted as an inpatient, and her treatment consisted of an examination and diagnostic testing,” the filing claims.

The hospital filed a lien on her property in Galveston County, the filing claims.


I can tell you -- and so can anyone else in the medical profession or anyone who's made a trip to the ER -- that this is anything but a singular experience. And yet the impenetrable wall of noise from the RWS™ and Fox "news" drowns out what ought to be easily-understood reality. Hence, unencumbered by any voice of reason from our so-called "liberal" media, and ineffectively retorted by D politicians, R candidates, to a man, proudly proclaim -- to the cheers of those most at risk of medical bankruptcy in their lifetimes -- their plans to undo The Affordable Care Act the minute they plunk their asses in the Oval Office.

Best health care in the world. What a country!

Job Creators



The above is based on these data. Any questions?

And, as long as we're doing charts, here's (big surprise) the projected effects of Romney's tax plan:



It's the same old shit, done during every era of the red part of the first graph. So, let's just sit back, relax, and let the jobs roll in, right?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Fair's Unfair


Just because Mitt Romney lies the way the rest of humanity urinates (freely, standing, sitting, asleep, awake, in dribbles, in great geysers), and just because he famously takes Obama's words out of context the way other people take out the papers and the trash, it doesn't mean it's okay when lefties take Romney's words out of context -- Romnification is bad no matter who does it.

So let me say that this sudden ecstasy over Mitt's saying "I like to be able to fire people" is pretty pathetic. Fact is, when he said it he was making a point about competitiveness, about choice in health care; fact is, when he said it, I thought it was a decent argument against single-payer. Unconvincing.* But, given the power of sound bite over complexity, potentially effective. (To be fair to lefties, they're not the only ones doing the piling on.) I also thought it was a dumb way to put it, since he ought to know better than anyone how words get used against people: he's the Platonic ideal of doing so. (And, like diarrhea follows salmonella ingestion, he complained that "Obama people" like to take things out of context. The man has no shame.)

Nevertheless, I hate it when it's done, no matter by whom or to whom. It speaks ill of the distorters, and it speaks ill of our "system," wherein such manipulations are expected (because it's true) to be effective: voters nowadays, most of them anyway, can't be bothered to look behind the rhetoric.

Meanwhile, it's nice to see the message of "Occupy Wall Street" is finally getting through:

"Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful or rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money? Or is that, in fact, somehow, a little bit of a flawed system," he said to a packed audience of reporters in Manchester. "So I do draw a distinction between looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods and leaving behind a factory that should be there."


Quoth .... wait for it .... Newt "I will BE the nóminy" Friggin' Gingrich, abandoning conservative principles (while inadvertently acknowledging what OWS has been all about) to criticize Mitt.

_______________________________

* Here's a few responses from people who gave it more thought than I did.




Preview Of Coming Attractions

[click image to enlarge.]

Of course, all of the R presidential candidates are sensible. And that "50% want another war" thing? After all we've seen, the horrific costs, the physical and mental* destruction of the troops who fight them, surely, despite the constant fear-mongering of the RWS™, the transparent propaganda of Fox "news," the obvious lies of the candidates that minimally thoughtful people must see through, right?, exceptional Americans all: couldn't possibly be true, right?

So we're good.

___________________

*Read the link to the end. Tip of the deep and deadly iceberg: how many more damaged young people are coming home from our neocon adventures? But, oh, how RWS™ love war; especially those (virtually all of them!) who never served.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Iowa


Saw the above on The Dish. Unnecessarily profane in a couple of places, but otherwise a nice insight.

And here's something even more interesting: that caucus over which political watchers gratify themselves relentlessly every time it happens? This year it garnered the votes of 5.4% of registered Iowans. Long run for a short slide, huh?


Who Is This Guy?


Gone, it seems, is the wishy-washy guy some have seen in the White House. Awake, it would appear, is he to the fact that there's nothing -- not a damn thing -- he could do around which Rs and RWS™ would not rally against him. Now, we're talking.

With the frothy... spittle still a-foamin' on the chins of the screamers after President Obama made the bold and absolutely necessary move to make a recess appointment to the consumer protection bureau, he's done something the crazies will see, even more, as evil incarnate: he's making rational and needed cuts in the Pentagon budget. The Pentafriggingon! Budget!!

Whatever else it might or might not be, it's damn brave; a clear-cut placement of the needs of the country above his own political future. Because only the most doctrinaire of right-wing zealots think we can balance the budget only by cutting needed services, necessary functions such as education, infrastructure, research, and all of the things now threatened out of existence by R economic policies. Along with cuts in some domestic spending, and raising some revenue, cuts in military spending -- which is and will remain more than twice as much as the next spender, and double the percent of GDP of any country except Saudi Arabia, who spends most of their money buying our stuff -- are absolutely unavoidable and necessary.

But forget reality: let the accusations begin. He's deliberately weakening us so our enemies (of whom he's been a part since his foreign birth and secret upbringing, planned by his overlords since pre-conception, probably including some sort of microchip implantation) can produce Sharia law in every township and crossroads. Right under our noses. Before we know what hit us. (Question for the conspiracy theorists out there: if it were true, wouldn't he wait until he was reelected?)

You can be sure it'll be on Mitt's lips even as I type: Obama hates America. Doesn't believe in it. What better proof than streamlining our military, focusing less on unnecessary wars and more on counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering? The bastard!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's An Outrage, I Tell You.

Hey. Have you heard the latest?? Obama has made another recess appointment. "Unprecedented," Rs are crying. A blatant power grab, they scream. Why, it's just, it's horrible, it's....



Never mind. [click image to enlarge]

And let's not forget what this is really about: Rs hate the fact that the consumer protection agency became law. Law. Passed by duly elected members of Congress, signed by the president. In filibustering Mr Cordray, they are, in effect, subverting the law of the land. Why? Simply because they don't like it.

That's the R version of democracy for you. That's the constitutional issue. Which action more threatens the working of government as designed by the Founding Fathers (of whose genetic material, like a vulpine sperm bank, they claim exclusive ownership) and enshrined on parchment?

[Update: here's the serious work Congress is doing, by way of claiming it's not in recess. Who's playing games, and who's governing?]



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Theory


Fact: Pat Robertson says God has told him who'll be the next president. (Refuses to spill. No one asks him to write it down and hand it over to a third party for safe-keeping.)

Fact: Only moments after announcing he was going home to Texas to reassess his campaign, Rick Perry says it's on to South Carolina.

Theory: Pat gave Rick a call and told him God says he's good to go.