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The People Say: Screw the rich, go over the cliff already

You should read the comments in the latest update post on the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations on the NYTimes.  The jig is up.  Republicans are threatening to screw us now and blow up the economy in a couple of months just so some rich people can keep their incredible deal on taxes.  Oh, yeah, they’re really concerned about the deficit.  Read some of these beauties

Cleveland, Ohio

Once again, I considerate it unconscionable for the right wing Republicans (Tea Party included) to obstruct the normal functioning of our government down to the wire. We Americans don’t deserve such treatment from Republican congressmen. Hopefully, these renegades will be voted out in their next respective elections. Good riddance!

Staten island

Let’s go off the cliff. As a middle class taxpayer, I am OK with that.The Republicans’ will be paying for it long range. They should — as fierce defenders for the 0.1% , holding the country hostage!

            Charlotte, NC

Tax increases for everyone are not horrible, especially if Congress acts to phase them in over time rather than letting them hit all at once. The bigger problem is a failure to act on Medicare, AMT, cancelling the sequester, etc. Congress should stop wrangling over what they can never agree on and take up the pieces of legislation they can now pass given the increase in revenue projections from new tax revenues.

Chicago

It should be clear that the Republicans desperately want cuts to Medicare and Social Security cuts but do not want to take any responsibility for them. That is why they will not say what cuts they want, or for that matter, what loopholes they want to close to increase revenue. This of course follows running on how the President cut Medicare.

Pres. Obama has been clear what he wants on revenue, I would think that the Republicans should not also force him to list the cuts they want.

So instead we will continue to let the rest of the world think we are ungovernable when they hold up increasing the debt ceiling to force agreement for cuts they want. And we can succeed, again, in tanking the economy.

And this one is the top comment with over 128 recommends:

Arizona

I know this whole “Democracy” thing is a lot of smoke and mirrors, and is largely a charade, but The American People spoke in November, and we support President Obama’s plan, and overwhelmingly agree that the wealthier among us need to pay more than the rest of us.

The real crime here is that no matter what happens, it seems likely that the “Romney Rate” on income earned from dividends will barely budge up from its current 15%. Keep in mind that dividends were counted, and taxed the same, as regular income before the Bush Tax Cuts were put in place (at 39.6% marginal rate).

That rate has dropped from 39.6% to just 15%. That is what the GOP donors are really fighting for, the preservation of this lop-sided, unjust, and class warfare tax rate that does nothing but suck wealth out of this economy.

Pretty much.
Let’s do it.  Mano a mano. Let’s fight this class war.

So, all we need to do is add “Leadership Council” to our soiree

I was reading Krugman today about how Starbucks did a Komen with the “Come Together” campaign to make customers pressure their Congress reps and senators to shred the social insurance programs when I decided to look up the infamous “Fix the Debt” website.  It’s run by some shadowy group of rich people called the CEOs Fiscal Leadership Council.

Starbucks does a Komen

The CFLC is populated by the usual suspects of deadbeat corporate executives that we’ve seen in the past 4 years.  The CEO’s of Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and AT&T are on the list.  But so is T. Rowe Price, the 401K specialists.  (There couldn’t be a conflict of interest there, could there?  Nahhhh)  According to the Huffington Post, the CFLC consists of some of the most notorious pension plan underfunders.  Isn’t that sweet?  They are leading us to give up the only means of surviving in old age after they raid their company pensions to pay those M&A bonuses.  Now that’s Leadership.

Then I got to wondering, who commissioned this group?  I mean, was there a Congressional decree?  Did the President assemble this meetup of malefactors?  Because, how else did they get the “Leadership Council” thing in the title?  Who do they think they are leading?  I don’t remember asking for leadership off the so-called “fiscal cliff”.  I’m wracking my brains trying to figure out who appointed these guys, and they are almost all guys.  Wait, let me check.  There are 4 recognizably female names on a list of approximately 150 members. Good job, guys!  Does that mean women can’t be leaders or that they resist being lead?  Clarification is needed here.

And then I started to think, why don’t we left of center unpaid pundits (yes, I do flatter myself. If I don’t, no one else will) have a leadership council or many leadership councils?

For example, where is the Senior Research Investigators Leadership Council that will put pressure on Congress to stop listening to whiny pharma CEOs who keep telling our elected officials that they can’t find good help anymore?

How about a New Deal Democrats Leadership Council to tell Congress to stop listening to whiny rich CEOs that robbed us blind in the past four years?

Or a Dirty Fucking Hippy Leadership Council to tell Congress to get its shit together and do the right thing before we get our shit together and run against them?  Just an idea.

Or a La-La-La I Can’t HEAR You Leadership Council that will help Americans kick the cable TV news and talk radio habit so they’ll stop being suckered in by self-interested CEOs whose messages clog the airwaves.

Add your Leadership Council titles and purposes in the comments section.  I formally commission the best Leadership Council idea.  No, no, don’t thank me.  I take on this burden of Leadership for You.

Rand-omly related stuff

over the river and thru the woods to Grandmother's house we go

over the river and thru the woods to Grandmother’s house we go

Just got home last night from my trip to Pittsburgh where I had forgotten how bone chillingly cold winter weather is there.  It must be a unique combination of cold and humidity in the Pittsburgh climate.  My aunt took me on a tour of some neighborhoods that I had missed when I lived there before.  Little hidden gems that would be prime real estate territory if Pittsburgh was San Francisco.  She’s got a good eye. The view from the cliffs is spectacular and houses in that area are going for a song.  Nope, not going to tell you where they are in case I decide to become a long term real estate investor. Bwahahahaahhhhhh!

I was away from my internet connection for almost 5 days and I am here to tell you that it is survivable, especially if there are interesting people around to talk to.  But I was able to surf a teensy bit when the wind was blowing signal in my direction.  One of my favorite posts of the past week was Matt Taibbi’s 10 Most Pretentious Moments in History.  There are some awardees I had never heard of but will now have to track down, if I can stand it.  How have I managed to miss Martin Amis all my life??

Anyway, coming in as a close runner-up to the most pretentious moment in history is Ayn Rand’s appearance on Phil Donahue’s show in 1979.  Only one segment of this infamous interview was included in the post but it was so jaw-droppingly pretentious that I had to see the whole thing.  Take a look:

Part 2/5

Part 3/5

Part 4/5

Part 5/5

Wow, Roger Ailes must have been watching that because Rand laid out the entire conservative strategy for duping people on Fox.  She even demonstrated how the “Shut up! Shut up!” tactic works.  You just refuse to answer questions you don’t like and tell your questioner that they’re being rude.  What a piece of work.  It’s all there. But what was really unsettling was that the audience was much smarter back in 1979.  They called her on her bullshit.  You’re not allowed to do that on TV anymore.  Questioning uber meany conservatives who say stupid, illogical things is strictly forbidden.  It’s so forbidden that it probably hasn’t been done like that since 1979.

Rand was full of good ideas like letting the rich and powerful do whatever they liked and giving them permission to feel special about themselves.  She was an early proponent of eliminating public education.  She was an anti-feminist.  If you want to know why Hillary lost in 2008, look to Rand.  She gave men permission to murder a powerful woman’s political career for no other reason than they felt they should never have to follow a woman.

It’s hard for me to take in that Alan Greenspan was this woman’s disciple, but it certainly explains Andrea Mitchell’s dismissive and nasty attitude towards Clinton in 2008.  I listened in on the press briefings and was always struck by Mitchell’s nastiness and arrogance.

I only read The Fountainhead and decided to stop there.  So I had to read the cliff notes version of Atlas Shrugged on Wiki and, apparently, the precious “jahb creators” decide to drop out of society to teach the rest of us a lesson, which sounds like a very good idea.  But the literary reference that I think would most accurately describe the consequence of that decision is probably the one from Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe where the wise people of Golgafrinchan scared their problematic stratum of society into thinking their planet was about to be destroyed and tricked them into boarding an Ark Ship to be sent ahead to an outpost planet millions of light years away, leaving all the productive innovators and working class bereft of their input.

Unfortunately, according to Adams, the Golgafrinchans landed on earth. Rand was like an ancestral Eve.

And now for something completely but not really different, take a listen to this podcast by the Thinking Atheist’s Seth Andrews on the Church of Satan, which Andrews does with tongue firmly in cheek.  Rand and Anton LeVey must have known each other.  It’s uncanny.

Childhood songs mondagans

Atrios put up the lyrics of two childhood songs yesterday but he got them all wrong.

Here are the correct lyrics for the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Old Smokey:

My eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school
We have tortured every teacher, we have broken every rule
We are marching to the office now to hang the principal
Our school is marching on

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Teacher hit me with a ruler
I bopped her on the bean
With a rotten tangerine
And now she’s not so mean

(note that the original lyrics predates the use of assault weapons in school)

And here is Old Smokey:

On top of old Spaghetti, all covered with cheese
I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed
It rolled of the table, and onto the floor
And then my poor meatball rolled right out the door

It rolled into the garden and under a bush
And then my poor meatball,
Was nothing but mush.

The mush was as tasty
As tasty could be,
And then the next summer,
It grew into a tree.

The tree was all covered,
All covered with moss,
And on it grew meatballs,
And tomato sauce.

So if you eat spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
Hold on to your meatball,
Whenever you sneeze.

Kids in the 60s and early 70s were less violent. We knew all the words to the protest songs and no one we knew owned guns except bad suburban dads wwho beat their kids on Sundays as prophylactic punishment and hunters.

True story.

Earth to DC pundits: we’re sick of the “fiscal cliff” crap

In case you were wondering, I’ve been in Pittsburgh visiting relatives and doing things that I’ll fill you in on later. I’ve been staying with a favorite aunt who doesn’t have time for the Internet and whose neighbors have put passwords on all their modems since the last time I was here.

Anyway, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the urgency of the fiscal cliff is not resonating here. People are bored with it. It’s not like Iraq where the Bushies scared everyone into thinking Saddam Hussein had WMDs that he could drop on us in 40 minutes. No, it’s like they really want mute the next TV pundit who is hyperventilating about his taxes going up in January.

Oh, and that whole messing around with social security or any social insurance program? It’s a no go. Don’t even think about it. These relatives live in a different reality than I do. By that I mean, they watch TV news. And this “fiscal cliff” campaign has been a waste of time. Go over it already. No one here gives a flying f#^*. It’s just a bunch of rich people whining to them. Of course, if working people’s taxes go up in January and benefits get cut, they’re going to be pissed. But no one here is fooled into believing that legislators are twisting themselves into knots on their behalf.

They’re just tired of the incessant droning on and on about the fiscal cliff and, surprisingly, they have very little sympathy for whiny rich peoples’ immiment loss of their Bush tax cuts.

So, there you go, TV pundits. You have created a crisis that instantly triggers bathroom breaks. Suck up the new tax levels and stuff a sock in it.

Gun control is another matter. They’re not opposed to that. And they’ve made the connection with the shooters being primarily “white males”. So, verily I say unto you congress persons and senators brutally ripped from your eggnog and ski vacations, your time would be better spent legislating some way to make it inconvenient for white men to intimidate the rest of the country with their god given right to bear arms.

Merry Christmas!

Whoo-hoo! Go, Hawaii!

Hawaii lost both of its senators in the last couple of months.  Senator Akaka is retiring and Senator Inouye, who was a senator when I was living there as a child, recently died at the age of 88.  He spent something like 5 decades in the senate.  Amazing.

But do you know what is even more amazing?  In January 2013, Hawaii may be sending not one but *two* women to replace these two senators.  Mazie Hirono is already scheduled to replace Akaka.  And Colleen Hanabusa was Senator Inouye’s preferred replacement for his seat.  She has yet to be appointed by Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii’s Democratic governor but we shall see.

Stop me if this is old news.  I don’t watch cable TV and news of Inouye’s replacement has been scarce.

So that would take us up to how many women in the senate?  Have we cracked 20 yet?

It’s progress.  I’ll take what I can get.

One other note.  Of the Congressional delegation from Hawaii, both Hirono and Hanabusa are Buddhists, first and possibly second ever in the Senate, and the new representative from the second district, Tulsi Gabbard, is a Hindu.

Wayne LaPierre is not crazy.

He says we can call him crazy but I don’t think that’s his problem.

He was on Meet the Press and here’s some of what he had to say:

“If I’m a mom or a dad and I’m dropping my child off at school I’d feel a whole lot safer” if there were trained armed security guards or police protecting the school from people such as Lanza, LaPierre said, although he conceded that “nothing is perfect” as a deterrent against crime.

LaPierre also said, “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics” and complained that de-institutionalization of the mentally ill had put too many dangerous people on the streets of America. “We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets,” LaPierre said.

LaPierre goes on to suggest that we spend $2 billion on training armed school security guards.  Ahhh, but that could be a problem.  We don’t pay non-teacher school personnel too terribly well and these days, they’re all on contract without bennies.  You’re going to have to find a lot of very altruistic people for that kind of job.  And if they’re altruistic, aren’t they also likely to not see guns as an answer?  Besides, the vast majority of armed school security guards will never see action in their entire careers, if you can call that kind of job a career.  What will they do with their time besides frisking the odd MILF who drops off cupcakes at the office but forgets to bring her driver’s license?

It’s a problem when people are this tense, but one which LaPierre promotes anyway.  Before 9-11, parents were not terribly worried about dropping their kids off at school.  But as soon as everyone started to see an elementary school as a soft target of terrorism, the electronic doors and intercoms went up, the security cameras are mounted on every corner and no one feels safe.  It doesn’t help that the local news and Fox is broadcasting a steady diet of molestation and kidnapping in numbers disproportional to the actual statistics.

But all that security comes with a price and the price will continue to rise as long as there are people roaming the streets with guns.  In LaPierre’s world, the people with the most liberty and freedom are the lunatics with the guns.  The rest of us have to live behind barricades.

As for the databases to check the mentally ill, doesn’t LaPierre know that the Republican party sees maintenance of such databases as “discretionary spending”?  If we left it up to the Tea Partiers and Libertarians, the government would consist of a military and not much else.  Besides, I believe it was the NRA that fought tooth and nail against background checks.  But whatever.

The mentally ill are not all violent and I’d be pissed off if I had autism or aspbergers and suddenly started to be treated like a loose cannon.  Same goes for convicted felons.  Not all of them are dangerous.  Some felons go to prison for securities fraud or embezzlement or for possession of drugs.  And I’ve never met a video game that has killed anyone.

What makes people dangerous is not a video game or paranoid schizophrenia or a felony record.  It’s the ready access to a gun.

The solution seems like a no-brainer, which is why I think LaPierre is not crazy.  He just has no brain.

Rogers and Astaire. Verdon and Fosse. Temple and Robinson. Miller and Flanagan?

Something lighthearted and fun this morning.  This is 10 year old Autumn Miller working on a combo with her Hip-Hop dance instructor Todd Flanagan.

There are a couple of other Miller-Flanagan combinations on youtube.  Here’s another to Nicki Minaj’s The Boys.

Republicans bringing back the bad old days

William Tell keeps his hat on

You have to give Republicans credit for their dogged persistence.  They are going to drag us kicking and screaming back to the bad old days if it takes them a lifetime.  Look at all of the systems and bad ideas that western civilization got rid of over the past couple of centuries that the Republicans have updated and passed off as new and shiny.

1.) Sumptuary Laws: Wiki defines them as “are laws that attempt to regulate habits of consumption. Black’s Law Dictionary defines them as “Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc.””  The Chained CPI is the perfect way to restrain consumer spending, to the eventual detriment of the economy.  Back in the middle ages, the aristocrats didn’t want to have to compete with the commoners for things like purple dye and fine cloth.  If some merchant could buy that stuff for his daughter and supplies were strictly limited, that meant a duchess might have to do without.  We can’t have that.  In a similar way, the chained CPI is almost guaranteed to keep seniors from spending too much.  The working assumption is that they will scale down their purchases, going for cheaper consumer goods, probably of lower quality as well.  This will save the upper salaried from having to give up their Bush tax cuts or have their payroll taxes increased.  More money for them to spend on whatever their hearts desire, less for everyone else.  Too bad for poor seniors who scrimp and save for the meagerest luxuries.  This is what you get for a lifetime of work and getting laid off in your middle age.

Besides, it’s so much easier to tell who the lower classes are at a glance.

2.) The Truck System: Wiki defines it as “an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute (referred to as scrip), rather than with standard money. This limits employees’ ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer. As an example, scrip might be usable only for the purchase of goods at a company-owned store, where prices are set artificially high. The practice has been widely criticized as exploitative and similar in effect to slavery, and has been outlawed in many parts of the world.”

The proposed Medicare voucher system comes pretty close to a truck system.  Employees pay into the Medicare system throughout their working lives with the expectation that when they are of age, they will be paid their deferred compensation in the form of Medicare benefits.  Instead, they would get a voucher whose worth is much less than the originally promised benefit and it could only be used to purchase health care from a private insurer, who has no incentive to compete because there is no public option.

Truck systems have been outlawed in much of the world because it is seen as a form of slavery. Note that the proliferation of unpaid internships for college students is also a form of truck.  They cost parents a lot of money, the student gets no pay and the internship itself is frequently of questionable value in terms of acquiring further employment.

3.) Fear and lawlessness: In Republican world, the only people who have any true liberty are insane people with guns.  Apparently, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  Absolutely nothing. Everyone else is at their mercy and must either pay handsomely for security or fight gunfire with gunfire.  That leaves the rest of us afraid to walk around or go to school safely without fear of being gunned down.  We’re the ones huddled behind castle walls while the lawless roam at will.

4.) Serfdom: This trend is disturbing.  This is what you get when you make precariats out of workers.  The more insecure their lives are, the more they are willing to take whatever work they can get to pay their bills and they’ll do it at remarkably low prices. The attacks on labor unions is designed to create more insecurity.  Note that when you decide to go along with this trend, it’s bloody hard to win back your rights without some major socioeconomic shock, like a Great Depression.  As much as people might dislike labor unions, it’s better to have them to push around the management than not have any.

5.) Exploitation: If you want to know what the Republicans and their allies in the 1%, listen to this This American Life* episode about the The Little War on the Prairie.  This war was between the Minnesota Dakota against the US government who cheated them out of their lands.  You might be surprised to find that Thomas Jefferson was the guy who laid out the strategy of how the government was going to acquire the Dakota off their lands.  Basically it goes like this: we want the Indian lands, they aren’t going to give it to us nicely.  So, we’ll sell things to them that they want and get them deeply into debt.  When they see they’re in a hole they can’t climb out of, we make them an offer they can’t refuse.  We’ll cancel the debt if they give up their land.

It worked.  It also lead to the largest mass execution on American soil in the 1860s.  Go listen to the whole thing.  Abraham Lincoln turned out to be a decent guy but he must have been overwhelmed by the Civil War.  It’s a sad story.

So, how does this apply to Republican strategy?  As I’ve been saying for a couple of years now, it’s the Republican plan to put us in thumbscrews.  The idea is to basically turn down the heat on the economy so that people ain’t got jobs, people ain’t got money.  The corporations will stop investing, bankers will sit on the cash like the greedy dragons they are and the whole executive branch of government will be invaded by financial industry moles who will make sure that no one outside of their little evil group to which no one we know belongs gets any relief for the debt they can’t get out from.  And let’s make this clear, we’re not talking about the people who stupidly took out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford.  Those people got their comeuppance early.  No, the squeeze is now going to be on the middle class, including the college educated, whose wages have plummeted but whose living costs have not.  As long as there is an ongoing crisis of funding the government, unemployment insurance and all the other things that keep the economy barely chugging along, the screws on us will get tighter and tighter.

The Republicans want to break the social insurance programs.  We know this because if the deficit was really bothering them, they could end the Bush Tax Cuts on the highest earners and end the wars.  If they really wanted to cure the deficit problem, they would enthusiastically back a jobs program and fund unemployment benefits so that money could go back into the economy through consumer spending and so that people could pay their taxes again.

This is not what they are advocating.  So, I can only conclude that they are willing to risk severe injury to some industries, like pharma, and the economy in general and have people lose their houses and careers because they want to push us to the point where we are overwhelmed with living expenses that we can’t pay.  Then they will generously offer to turn the money tap back on if we just give up our social insurance programs.

The temptation is going to be great in the next couple of months, especially for the state of New Jersey.  Unemployment rates here were already above 10% when Sandy hit.  Now that one of the state’s major industries, tourism, has suffered a devastating blow, there will be a lot of pressure on our Congressional delegation to cut a deal so the money can flow.  I expect every one of New Jersey’s representatives and senators to crumble.

What would happen if we don’t give in?  I don’t know but it sounds to me like taxes will go up on the wealthiest among us.  I don’t know about you but my Bush tax cut never did amount to very much.  I’d never even miss it.  But I’m guessing that if you make between $250K and $800K, it amounts to quite a bit of money.  It might mean a change in social status. I suspect that’s why the White House press corps was so anxious to find out what the plan was when Obama gave his post Sandy Hook shooting presser.  They’re trying to figure out where they will stand after January 1, 2013.

So, that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.  The wealthy and their political arm think they can wait us out.  It’s all they’ve got left at this point.  They’re never going to be able to swing another wave election with social issues.  That demographic is dying off.  So, they’ll just keep us in pain until we give in.  Maybe it will work, maybe not.  Either way, they’re going to strangle the economy until they are no longer under any obligation to participate in social insurance.  And then they’ll move in and take everything.

That’s the Republican party in it’s modern form.  It’s still the same bunch of rapists and pillagers.  They’ve just got a formal party organization to hide behind now.  We’re now back to the bad old days of the Sheriff of Nottingham.  It’s hard to believe the middle and working class happily squandered their advantage over the past 30 years over such tripe like “family values” and “patriotism” and the “moral majority”.  I thought people would have learned their lessons by now but the Tea Party has signed up a whole new set of gullible Americans who are more than happy to bash the head of the person lower than them in the hierarchical scheme.  Some people never learn.

* I know nothing about semiotics but I find it interesting that Ira Glass, the semiotics major, manages to find stories that tie in so well to current events in a metaphorical sense.  Accident?  Coincidence?  Intentional?

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