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Obamacare subsidy rules overturned by Republican judges.

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?  From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.

[...]

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

Done in by a drafting error.  Huh.

I think I am being too hopeful about it being the end of the beginning and that maybe the country will get serious about a national healthcare policy that includes true universal responsibilities and cost controls.  After all, if you’re still receiving insurance from your employer, there’s probably no rush on your part.  You probably feel either distant compassion for those of us poor souls who have to put up with this ACA crap or indignant that we are insufficiently grateful for the miserly coverage we are forced to pay for.

But the Republicans might have done us a favor for being the obstinate, selfish, mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners, uncompromising assholes that they are.  At some point, the sheer weight of all of this pigheadedness, coupled with insurance insecurity, may actually provoke a backlash against them and we could end up with Democratic congresspersons motivated to actually fix the gigantic flaws in this byzantine, unworkable and deeply unsatisfying act.

Well, we can dream.

Update: Top comment from the NYTimes article on the same subject shows the bitterness towards the Democrats who compromised too much:

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 1 hour ago

Someday, our nation will adopt single payer. The Democrats in name only in Congress sold the people down-the-river by failing to adopt a public option.

The blame lies with Sen. Max Baucus and the former Senator from Aetna, Joe Lieberman, among others.

We also have a president who was not willing to argue forcefully enough for the public option, as Obama is also a centrist Democrat elected to maintain the status quo while pretending to offer hope and change, just as another centrist Democrat, from a town called hope, allowed Wall Street to hijack his better angels.

That’s assuming they actually had better angels, Kevin.

The Doomsday Code

I noticed a common thread on twitter tonight was from adults who were brought up in evangelical families.  That’s because one of the “signs of the end” is that the world would turn against Israel.  Evangelicals operating within a zionist eschatological framework have been waiting for this as a sure sign that the rapture, tribulation and second coming are upon us.  Many of us who have had to tolerate this stuff for years have been aware of how dangerous this kind of thinking is.  The reason it’s dangerous is because these religious zealots will tolerate, and in some cases, even promote, all kinds of evil because the worse the world situation is, the nearer their own salvation.

George Bush starts a crazy war?  Sign of the end.

Israelis bomb Gazans to smithereens?  They’ll all start converting to Christianity pretty soon.

Plutocrats rob billions from innocent people, leaving them impoverished in their retirement years?  There’s nothing we can do to stop corruption.

It’s just a symptom of the evil system of things that we live in.  They actually seem to be glad of all the suffering because it means their own salvation is nigh and, anyway, anyone who dies before the tribulation gets a second chance!  Isn’t that wonderful??

No. It’s demented.  Let’s not kid ourselves and be respectful of these lunatic beliefs that have the potential to propagate evil behavior without any checks.

If any of you are interested in learning about the Doomsday Code and why your Christian neighbor is looking especially anxious and giddy this week, look no further than this comprehensive documentary by Tony Robinson. Robinson has a thorough understanding of the code and spells out what it means to the rest of us towards the end of the video.  It’s long but it will tell you all you need to know and what the end timers are looking for in the near future. Why, Yes!, it is scary as all get out even if it is selfish, wishful thinking on the part of some very misguided people.  Imagine having the living daylights scared out of you 24/7 when you were a kid.  These people are not safe, their religion is more unhinged than Scientology and there are a lot of them in America.

Enjoy!

 

About Kos and Netroots Nation

Please fade away

I’m embellishing a comment I made in the last thread and moving it up to the front page.

This is not specifically about Netroots Nation and Markos Moulitsos, the founder of DailyKos, and why he won’t go to Arizona next year.  However, I went to the first two YearlyKos events so I can comment on this whether they like it or not.  The first YearlyKos in Las Vegas was amazing.  The second was just weird in ways I can’t even describe.  The “vibe” was off and I started to feel coerced in a way that was not dissimilar to the kind of emotional manipulation you might find in a fundy evangelical tent revival meeting.  It was deeply unsettling.  So, maybe I knew after YearlyKos2 that I didn’t really belong anymore.

But now I hear that Kos is onboard with getting behind Hillary and telling his droogs to fall in line.  I don’t know because I don’t go to DailyKos and haven’t for going on 6 years now.  But I did read his self-righteous little screed about why he wouldn’t be attending Netroots Nation in 2015 and here’s my take on it:

For the presidential campaigns of 2016, Kos should STFU. Seriously, it was Kos that forced us (Clintonistas posting at DailyKos) out of our tribe and then lead the social psychology storm troopers to quell stifle smother kill dissent on the left.  If I recall correctly, he referred to us as a “shrieking band of paranoid holdouts”, or something to that effect. (Katiebird may remember the lovely term of endearment better than I can) Let’s examine Kos’s moral authority to make pronouncements about 2016.

Did Kos support Florida and Michigan voters in 2008? Um, no.

Was Kos a Hispanic leader defending the rights of primary voters who were locked out of Texas caucus sites? Um, no.

Did he defend the little old ladies who were silenced in Kansas? How about the primary votes in NJ that were handed over to Obama at the convention without so much as a “by your leave” by that paragon of virtue, Jon Corzine? Did he question the precedent the Democrats were setting when the most successful female candidate in the history of American politics was humiliated by being denied a legitimate role call vote at the convention?

No, No and, most emphatically, No.

His behavior was egregious and extraordinarily un-democratic in 2008 but no one challenged him. Well, WE did but then his flying monkeys accused us of racism.

So, I’m sure that Kos now flatters himself as a man of principle by refraining from entering Arizona. But he sold those principles to the highest bidder in 2008 giving us a president who I am convinced will go down in history as the Nero of our republic. In the process, he helped to invalidate the primary system, promoted the ends justifying the means, and allowed misogynism of the most vile and opportunistic kind to flourish on his blog.

So, fuck Kos with a 2″ diameter test tube brush.

He’s done enough damage. The best thing for Democrats to do is to get the hell out of the way and let people have choices in 2016.  A legitimate primary where real issues are discussed in detail by women who are familiar with policy, and can extrapolate policy outcomes, would be a very good thing. The party’s obsession with trying  to decide what is the best for us (and I am being generous with my words here) backfired stupendously in 2008.  It needs to back off now.

Just stop tinkering with the election process. Most Democratic voters know who is going to work for them. They don’t need to be corralled like sheep.

Update: So, I went over to the Big Orange Satan to see what they’re up to and it’s worse than I thought.  They are playing with dangerous things.

Update2: Maybe it doesn’t matter whether Kos attends Netroots Nation.  But we should never forget the atmosphere that he created in 2008 or dismiss the idea that it can’t happen again.  It can if we aren’t vigilant.  IMHO, Democrats should start with a fresh slate in 2016 (not necessarily fresh candidates) and evaluate candidates more dispassionately than they did in 2008. (yes, I know I’m dreaming)  As far as I can see, we did not learn our lessons and safeguards are not in place in the primary system or online to prevent a repeat.

Part time work and Obamacare: Why some Americans hate the Democrats right now

The New York Times has an article on the perils of part time work this morning.  In short, employers expect people to be on call all of the time with very unpredictable hours.  If you ask for more consistent hours, you might find your hours cut even further.  Just go read it.  It’s a nightmare.

Couple that with Obamacare.  You HAVE to have an insurance policy or pay a penalty.  But if you don’t have a consistent income from week to week, you don’t have the money to pay for the policy.  And if you don’t make enough money, you don’t get a subsidy, as I found out earlier this year.  So, to recap, the precariat worker is doubly screwed, triply screwed if they live in a state that doesn’t expand Medicaid.

So, to all of you lefties out there who just can’t understand why the working class is not enamored with the expensive, low coverage plans that they can’t afford anyway, wake up before it’s too late.  This is a disaster in the making.

Stop blaming the victims for being insufficiently grateful.

About those migrating kids…

Maybe I missed something critical to fully understand this story but isn’t it odd that these kids have been coming here suddenly out of nowhere?  They’re being chased out of their home countries by gangs?  Where did THEY come from?  Are these gangs motivated by politics, drugs, economics?  Why are they singling out kids?  What or who is stirring this pot?

Don’t get me wrong.  Americans shouting at helpless kids to go home are ugly and mean and those are not American qualities that I want projected around the world.  And it’s not fair to these kids that so many states are turning them away when they need a place to stay if only temporarily.

But something about this story seems really improbable.  It feels like the emotional side has been fed an extra dose of steroids. It reminds me of some of the worst Hollywood sentimental tear jerking movies.  Or a little bit like this:

 

Yeah, Iraq shouldn’t have invaded Kuwait but while I was listening to that girl testify, all I could think about was what were the chances that the tiny country of Kuwait would have so many premature babies in incubators.  The numbers just didn’t add up. Call me a cold hearted cable TV viewer.  On the other hand, if you’re going to lie, I guess you should go big.

Still, gangs in central America chasing so many kids out of their countries to take a dangerous trek to America?  What are the odds?  What’s really going on and what is it they want us to do without thinking this through?

Sign me, Not Fallen Off the Turnip Truck

This week in STEM: Annnnd a NEW round of job cuts!

This morning, Microsoft announced a new round of job cuts.  It recently acquired Nokia and that seems to be where the bulk of the 18,000 hits are going to come from.  Let’s try to parse why they’re doing this, shall we?  Here’s an explanation from new CEO Satya Nadella:

The larger-than-expected cuts are the deepest in the company’s 39-year history and come five months into the tenure of Chief Executive Satya Nadella, who outlined plans for a “leaner” business in a public memo to employees last week.

“We will simplify the way we work to drive greater accountability, become more agile and move faster,” Nadella wrote to employees in a memo made public early Thursday. “We plan to have fewer layers of management, both top down and sideways, to accelerate the flow of information and decision making.”

The size of the cuts were welcomed by Wall Street, which viewed Microsoft as bloated under previous CEO Steve Ballmer, topping 127,000 in headcount after absorbing Nokia earlier this year.

“This is about double what the Street was expecting,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “Nadella is clearing the decks for the new fiscal year. He is cleaning up part of the mess that Ballmer left.”

The goal is to simplify the work process.  That sounds good.  Everyone likes simplicity.  It makes work easier to deal with if the path forward is cleared of unnecessary complexity and clutter.  But that’s not really why they’re simplifying, is it?  The goal of the simplification is actually to “drive greater accountability”.  On the surface, this also seems reasonable until we stop to consider, accountable to whom?  If you’ve been paying attention in the last decade, this usually refers to shareholders.  Shareholders want greater accountability.  Does that mean they want a bunch of reports and retrospective analyses to peruse at their leisure to make sure everything is being done with an eye towards simplicity, agility and speed?  Probably not.  Accountability is generally a code word for shareholders wanting to see that they’re not spending a penny more on people than they absolutely have to so that they can increase the amount of money they can hoard get for their shares.  It will be up to these 18,000 people to account for their existence.

It sounds like they’re going to get rid of management- everywhere.  Good luck with that! </snark>

Finally, we see that Steve Ballmer left a mess.  Not sure what that’s all about since I’m not in the software side of tech and I only use Microsoft products under duress.  But just because the company now has 127,000 people doesn’t mean that some of them necessarily have to go.  Unless they need to be accountable, of course.  I’m sure this comes as no surprise to the workers at Nokia but no one forced Microsoft to buy them.

So, to recap, Microsoft buys struggling cell phone manufacturer Nokia, drinks its smooth and tasty patent milkshake and discards the worker bees because they are no longer sufficiently accountable.

If anyone is still wondering why the US doesn’t make anything worth exporting, look no further than this layoff announcement and the rest of the carnage happening at IBM, Cisco, Intel and Hewlett-Packard.  It looks like a bloody hemorrhage this month.  There will be a lot of tech workers hitting the virtual pavement.  Contrast this with the way Germany handles its STEM workers.  When times get tough, they reduce their hours to part time and keep their wages high.  That way, when the economy recovers, they can rev their engines up again and work productively with a work force that has not lost its critical skills.

German shareholders and the government work together in a smart way to ensure they have the skills to compete in the market later.  American shareholders and government?  ehhhhhh, not so much.  Finland (the home of Nokia) must be thrilled with Microsoft’s announcement, even though they must have been expecting it since the acquisition.

Someone should tell the Microsoft people to stop referring to its workforce as a “mess” that needs to be cleaned up.

In the meantime, Derek Lowe wrote another post about the prospects of new Chemistry PhDs.  It looks like the number of post docs has gone down in recent years and the number of unemployed PhDs has gone up.  So, to recap, you spend 4 years as an undergrad and about 5-7 years getting your PhD in a very difficult subject that demands sharp, innovative thinking and many thousands of hours of lab work and what do you get for your hard work?  Not much.

Paraphrasing what a former colleague told me in 2009, when it comes right down to it, the reason why employers say they can’t find good help anymore is because what they want, what they really, really want, is a new graduate with 25 years of experience.  I would add, and someone who they can make accountable whenever they please.

Hey, did you hear about the CDC losing track of influenza and smallpox vials?  Funny what persistent underfunding and a round of sequestering will do to your disease control mechanisms.  I’m not surprised after what I heard during my trip to Cambridge, MA in May.  A recent visitor to the CDC said that the place is demoralized and disorganized with co-workers not even knowing who was in their groups.  I don’t blame this on government since the CDC didn’t used to be this FUBARed.  No, I blame it on the authoritarian nut cases in the Republican party whose intractable, unyielding, “take-no-prisoners”, never compromise, never surrender attitude and actions are putting the rest of us at risk.

We need to hold them accountable.

Oh, by the way, congresspersons who vote for more H1B visas in the immigration bill before the excess glut of American STEM workers are re-employed should be vigorously primaried.

 

Book Review: Salvage (Or what Jill Duggar should have read before her wedding)

I was looking for a good cleaning/renovation distraction story when I saw Salvage by Alexandra Duncan in the Editor’s Picks section of Audible.  It sounded like an interesting sci-fi story about a girl from space stranded on earth.  In this case, it’s less Ursula LeGuin and more Young Adult but intriguing in it’s own way.  In fact, it brought back some old memories but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Salvage is the story of Parastrata Ava, a “so-girl” on a deep space merchant ship who commits an unpardonable sin.  A so-girl is something like an assistant manager but in this case, Ava can only manage other women.  That’s because the deep space merchant ships have been in operation for so long that each one of them has become its own little polygamous tribe.  Think of it like a cross between the Taliban and the FLDS church traveling the Silk Roads of the galaxy.  Every now and again, two merchant ships will dock at a space station above Earth for some genetic swapping, er, marriages.  This involves sending some young 16 year old girl as a bride to the other ship.  She has no idea who she is going to marry or whether she will be a first, second or fifth wife of her husband.  There’s no choice in the matter and she’s not supposed to ask questions.  Virginity is highly prized and, as you can imagine, sometimes these weddings go disastrously wrong.  Without giving too much of the plot away, this is what happens to Ava and she is forced to flee the space station or face an honor killing via the airlock.

In spite of the fact that Ava has never been on earth before and has no cardiovascular conditioning, she manages to survive her abrupt introduction to gravity.  Ava’s story starts to resemble many hero narratives complete with a wise guide character who teaches her some basics and then dies tragically, leaving her to figure the rest out for herself.  Ava has been raised in a fundamentalist religious society but it’s remarkable how quickly she manages to discard all of that indoctrination.  I think it’s the fact that she is forced to survive on her own that makes it so easy for her to see how useless the religious dogma is to her new circumstances.

One such revelation occurs when she tells a young earth friend one of the foundation myths of her ship.  It’s about a ship on a voyage that was trying to hide from a marauding ship in the vicinity.  One of the women was singing and the men on the ship told her to shut up or she would attract the attention of the pirates.  But the woman said that was nonsense and kept singing.  Sure enough, the pirate ship found them and havoc ensued.  And that’s why women on deep space vessels were forbidden from singing on penalty of death!  Ava believes this story like it’s Eve’s curse until her young friend points out that her science book says that sound doesn’t carry in space.  Then it dawns on Ava that the myth was just another clever way to blame women for everything and keep them in their place.

It also dawned on me that there are a lot of silly myths that women are supposed to swallow without question even today that are intended to keep them in their place.  The Genesis creation story is just one.  The biblical obsession with virginity is another.  Maybe 3000 years ago it was important for inheritance rights, because, after all, you could only be sure of who your mother was back then and even up until blood typing, you could never be 100% sure who your father was.  But in the 21st century, we have genetic testing to keep everyone honest.  The notions that a woman must guard her virginity or be considered worthless coupled with all of the societal baggage that goes with being a female just seems antiquated in the light of new technology and contraceptives.  It does make you wonder who it is that fundamentalism is trying to protect. It also makes me cringe when I see even women on the left who claim to be feminists consistently deferring to men, ignoring their own concerns.  The indoctrination is very, very deep.

Anyway, I immediately thought of Jill Duggar, Duggar family valedictorian, now Jill Dillard, when I read this book.  As many of you may know, she is the first of the Duggar girls to get married.  She and her hubby tied the knot on that non-Christian holiday, Midsummer’s Night Eve, and they saved their first kiss for the altar.  A lot of people think that’s correct and virginal and special but I think that saving such an intimate thing as a kiss for a spectacle in a church full of a 1000 people who all but “hubba-hubba!” and cat-call in the pews, is a bit on the obscene side and looks like a violation of their privacy. Rather than looking uber Christian and sacred, it reminds me of something pagan, barbaric and tribal.

Yeah, I think the so-called Christians out there should know what some of us see during these Quiverfull weddings.  We have a completely different interpretation of what we are witnessing and it’s vaguely horrifying, not spiritual.  What did we miss?  The parading of the blood stained sheets the next morning?  Was there a contract to return the bride to Jim-Bob if Jill’s hymen turned out to be too easily ruptured?  Why not actually watch to make sure the marriage is consummated like royals did thousands of years ago?  These people are way too involved in their children’s private lives.  A Duggar wedding, while preceded by a chaste courtship that’s supposed to be all about getting to know your future spouse’s character, turns out to be focused almost entirely on sex and not companionship.  It seems strange and the reverse of what most everyone we know does these days.  We know that when it comes to relationships, the thrill is gone all too quickly and it’s only when you decide there are other things to keep you together that you get married.  That’s the sacred that the Duggars seem to miss.  And it’s not like the Quiverfull movement doesn’t have it’s share of miserable marriages and those that end in divorce.  Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering is a testament to the failure of these unions and the destruction they wreck on the young people forced into them.

I remember when my Jehovah’s Witness friend H. got married at the tender age of 17.  She and her boyfriend B. abstained until their wedding night but we all knew that the reason they married so young was because they couldn’t be normal unmarried teenagers and do even a bit of snogging without getting disfellowshipped.  Two months later, she was sitting in my living room with her head in her mother’s lap, suffering from morning sickness.  She was a changed person in every way and no longer the happy, confident friend I knew.  It was shocking.  Her youth was spent in just a few weeks.

Parastrata Ava turns her back on all of that and focuses with laser like intensity on the future where she controls her own destiny and whether or not she even wants to have sex and with whom.  What I really regret was that Jill didn’t get a copy of this book smuggled to her before the wedding so that she knew there was something out there besides a life of never having a minute to herself and babies and men telling her to stop singing all the time (even if her hubby, Derick, does look like a reasonable guy who might even let her wear pants someday).

Recommended.  4 sponges.  There are some parts of the middle that drag a little bit and the ending, while satisfying, could have been more satisfying and ended all too soon.  Hoping for a sequel.  This character has earned one.

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