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    • How Ebola Aerosolized in Pigs Could Kill Millions
      Up until today I’ve been moderately sanguine about Ebola outside of some poverty struck African countries with compromised health care systems (and places like Greece.)  The main danger is incompetence and austerity, as with the CDC and Texas fumbling their Ebola cases. No more. Ebola is aerosolized in pigs.  This may not seem like a [...]
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No one loves you more than you love yourself: Alan Simpson edition

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 9.04.34 AMAlan Simpson was on the DailyShow with Jon Stewart last night. I guess he was sent by the powers that be to soften up the younger crowd.

Note to the powers that be: If you’re trying to sell something as unpalatable and sadistic as cuts to the social insurance programs (and let’s be honest here, raising the retirement age even by one year while recalculating the COLA based on some new criteria *is* a cut), don’t send this guy. You want to send some young, hot dude, like Ben Affleck, not some crotchety, old guy who is prematurely decomposing before our eyes and is already sucking off the government teat.

Oh, did I forget to mention that? In 2010, this is what Alan Simpson had to say about Americans who put so much of our own blood, sweat and money into our social insurance benefits policies:

In a letter responding to criticisms against him from a group representing older women, former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson wrote that he has “spent many years in public life trying to stabilize” Social Security. However, he wrote, “Yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!”

Nice.

I think what angers me the most about Alan Simpson’s “Suck it up, people. It’s not as bad as a hot poker up your rectum” attitude is that it’s so out of touch with the reality of our present working environment.

Women my age were socked with a surplus SSI tax the minute we started working full time. We were told that we needed to pay our benefits in advance. Ok, fine. And then we started working and almost as soon as we hit that pension vested mark, our companies shifted us over to 401Ks.

But that wasn’t all. In the US, it takes 5 years at most companies to go from 2 weeks to 3 weeks of vacation. Maternity leave is not paid. If you have sick days, you’re lucky, but these usually get factored into the maternity leave you get, along with your vacation time, if you’re lucky enough to work for a company that grants it. So, you come back to work exhausted with no vacation or sick time. And you do that for years while you pay the highest child care costs in the western world.

Meanwhile, our European cousins get 6 weeks of vacation time to start.

Our work ethic in America is relentless. We work hard, very hard, for a lot longer than most of the developed world, and get a lot less time off to enjoy the rest of our lives. In the last decade, I routinely had weeks of vacation time left at the end of the year from the 4 weeks I worked up to after 20 years. I rolled them over to the next year. And why did I have so much time left over? I was afraid to leave my desk, not that it mattered in the end.

Here’s my point: The American worker is wildly productive. It’s insane how hard we work for as many decades as we do under the constant stress and fear of layoff and economic insecurity. The masters of the universe should be grateful that all they have to pay is 7% of an employee’s social security benefit. But no, they are not grateful. They don’t want to have to pay anything.

Meanwhile, if any of us had known back in 1986 that we were going to be set on a track of decades of work with few productive, restorative breaks only to end up with absolutely nothing when the time came to retire, if we were ever able to retire, we would have done things quite differently. Maybe we would have demanded more up front. Maybe we would have screamed bloody murder when George Bush stole the White House from Al Gore. Maybe we would have tarred and feathered Newt Gingrich back in the 90s and rode his fat ass out of Washington on a rail. Maybe we would have saved more, bought smaller houses (although, my house is already pretty reasonable). Maybe we would have seen the social issues as what they were, a clever decoy to get older conservative voters to sign on to punitive economic policies. Maybe we would have been a lot more vigilant about absolutely everything.

But we didn’t know. And why didn’t we know? It’s because we are Americans and bad stuff happens to people in other countries. Even now, you’re probably sitting there reading this thinking, “They can’t be serious about cutting social security for those of us who don’t have decent pensions to retire on. They couldn’t be that heartless. We’re Americans.”

Oh, yes, they would. They would do it. And that’s because “No one loves you more than you love yourself”. In other words, do not expect people like Alan Simpson or Nancy Pelosi, and definitely NOT Barack Obama, to care two shits about what happens to you. Politics to them is a game, not a service. They spend their days listening to lobbyists of the self-identified “Jahb creators” crying crocodile tears about how hard it is for them to find good help anymore. Those people don’t think you deserve the salary you’ve got, let alone retirement benefits. They definitely will expect you to “suck it up, people”. You WILL retire poor, if you can retire at all. That’s what you get for sacrificing the best years of your life to American capitalism so the 1% can live comfortably.

They’re going to try to turn Social Security into a welfare program instead of a social insurance program. That money is ours to do as we like, whether or not Alan Simpson, acting like some selfish ex-husband on behalf of the rest of the selfish ex-husbands in the elite group of rich and well connected, thinks we need it or not. They will never, never stop until the Republicans and conservative Democrats and their backers are reduced in numbers in the House and Senate to make them completely impotent. They don’t care about you. They don’t love you. Your life is not important to them and they’re going to do everything in their power to deprive you of the money YOU paid because in order for the rich to take what they want they have to convince themselves that  you haven’t worked hard enough. Yes, that is what they think.

Are you going to take this lying down?

********************************************

Found this QOTD over at Corrente:

If we didn’t share in the prosperity, why should we share in the sacrifice?”

Yes, all of us should be asking ourselves this question.

Thursday: Dear Julian

Bank of America's new headquarters?

Please pay attention, Julian.

For the last 4 days, the country’s newspapers have been in a tizzy over the leaked State Department cables full of juicy gossip and how nobody likes Iran and whether Hillary should resign because she authorized American ambassadors to snoop on their buds at the UN.  (Ummm, no, that’s not a resignable offence.) And all this time, you’ve been sitting on the real bombshell: leaked documents from the Bank of America.

Why the f%^& have you been wasting our time with this note passing crap from the State Department?

Dish, Julian!  We want to know what the bastards have been up to and what they’ve been saying about us while they’ve taken trillions of dollars in taxpayer money to make up for the other-people’s-money they gambled away.  Oh, sure, we already know they think they’re the smartest dudes on the planet and we’re all a bunch of stupid suckers. (See Money Never Weeps from This American Life.  Priceless.)  But we want to see some perp walks, Jules.  You know, dudes shedding their bespoke suits for some neon orange jumper.  And for Gawd’s sakes, do it before Interpol catches up with you and the world shuts down your servers.

The scope of the theft of taxpayer dollars is breathtaking.  Am I reading this right?  Citigroup alone helped itself to $2.2 trillion?  From the AP, Fed ID’s Companies That Used Crisis Aid Programs, we get this (very short) summary:

New documents show that the most loan and other aid for U.S. institutions over time went to Citigroup ($2.2 trillion), followed by Merrill Lynch ($2.1 trillion), Morgan Stanley ($2 trillion), Bear Stearns ($960 billion), Bank of America ($887 billion), Goldman Sachs ($615 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($178 billion) and Wells Fargo ($154 billion).

The New York Times has a more detailed article on the Fed Bailout in Fed Documents Breadth of Emergency Measures.  It’s a wonder we didn’t have another Great Depression.  Once again, the Yanks come to the world’s rescue and bails out foreign banks as well.  The bastards have soaked us for every penny in the past couple of years, raising interest rates on credit cards and foreclosing at the drop of the hat, and they brought several countries to ruin.  Ireland, Spain, Greece, Iceland and now Italy, have all been taken to the cleaners by the monumental greed and carelessness of these jerks.  They should have been taken over two years ago.  Instead, they’re still walking around free, rewarding themselves generously and sticking it to the rest of us.

Citibank, Jules, do you have anything on Citibank?  Merill-Lynch?  Get it out there, Julian.  Don’t waste a minute more of our time.

Speaking of Citigroup, Peter Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, is in negotiations to join their investment banking unit. Wait!  Isn’t there some kind of rule about joining the corporation you might have been protecting in your previous capacity as a public servant?  Don’t you have to wait a couple of years?   (Ah, yes, here is an article from Aug 2010 that refers to the waiting period for ex-legislators and regulators before they can lobby.) Or does that only apply to actual public servants, like the Clintons, who were forced to divest themselves before Hillary became Secretary of State so as to avoid even a hint of a conflict of interest?  I guess that level of scrutiny and ethics doesn’t apply when it is a guy who has left the Obama administration, even if it once applied to Congress and everyone else in government.

So, Orszag is going to join one of the criminal organizations that held up the country at gunpoint.  Yeah, that doesn’t look the least bit sleazy or unethical.  I’m sure they’re going to say, “But he’s not going to lobby.  He’s just going to join the investment banking unit.  That’s not a conflict.”  Uh-huh.  If the Obama administration doesn’t dissuade this deal and doesn’t immediately institute new rules about how long its former officials have to wait, then we can pretty much dispense with that whole notion that somehow Obama’s administration will be holier than any previous administration of either party.

And let us not forget that it was Peter Orszag who recently wrote that ridiculous opinion piece in the NYTimes about how we should turn Social Security into a welfare program.  Let’s recap: Peter Orszag, former acolyte of Robert Rubin, is present during the worst days of the banking crisis and has a hand in structuring that pathetic stimulus package after the banks crippled the economy and now, he’s going to work for the very same guys who fleeced us.  He now tries to persuade taxpayers who have been diligently paying for their retirements all of their working lives to take a haircut on Social Security because he and his new buddies don’t want to pay back their generous tax breaks.  Have I got that right?

As for Social Security and the “new and improved” Bowles-Simpson charade of a deficit reduction proposal, Paul Krugman says this in Destroying Retirement in Order to Save It:

Let’s think about that. Right now we have a retirement system that has the great virtue of not being intrusive: Social Security doesn’t demand that you prove you need it, doesn’t ask about your personal life, doesn’t make you feel like a beggar. And now we’re going to replace that with a system in which large numbers of Americans have to plead for special dispensation, on the grounds that they’re too feeble to work for a living. Freedom!

It’s worse than that, Paul.  It’s more like having to beg your ex for child support and having him plead to the court that if he gives you money, you’re just going to spend it.  Alan Simpson does not like the obligation to pay Social Security to the people who invested in it.  F^&* that $hit.  I’m not going to be made to feel like a spendthrift floozy for wanting my hard earned money back when I retire.  If I don’t get it back, it will be like paying extra taxes all my working life so that the wealthy don’t have to pay theirs for all the public services government provides them.  Social Security works and I’m sick to death and angry as all hell when people like Alan Simpson trash it.  And Obama better not think he can act like some kind of hero by saving it.  Politicians who play games with people’s retirements to score votes are in for a rude awakening.

I don’t know what must be done to punish the wicked and hit the reset switch to get rid of the virtual debt all of us responsible, hard working people are being forced to pay to the gambling addicts.  But politicians better get a move on it.  There are a lot more voters than bankers and these days, you don’t have to watch campaign ads on TV if you have a DVR.  People are paying attention.

Am I done ranting yet?  For the moment.

Onto some promising news in the area of education.  It appears that an alert superintendant and a principal in Texas have discovered what I have long suspected: teachers reward compliance over actual knowledge mastered and this is showing up in standardized tests.  (I can just see this thread being highjacked by opponents of standardized testing.  Get over it, guys.  In the rest of the world, standardized tests are, well, standard.  This is a losing battle.)  In A’s for Good Behavior, the students with the best grades in the class were not always the students with the best test scores in terms of mastery of material.  Conversely, some of the students who got poor grades in class and seemed turned off by school, scored better than their honor roll counterparts.

I’ve seen this in action with my own eyes.  For nine miserable years, Brooke floundered in school.  Her tests were always outstanding, putting her in the top 1-2% in the state and nationally.  But this kid never made the honor roll.  Her teachers were constantly on my case to force her to turn in signed test papers that never made it home, fill out reams of pointless worksheets covering material she already knew and write drafts of papers with corrected mistakes that she never made.  She was misdiagnosed as having ADHD, was sent to detention on multiple occasions for minor infractions and humiliated in front of the class by one of her teachers for not having a pencil.  Points were taken off for breathing too loud.  For nine long years, I struggled to get the kid out of bed in the morning because she didn’t want to go to school.  She wasn’t a troublemaker.  She was bored out of her mind and tired of spinning her wheels in class not learning new material.

High school has been a blessing for Brooke.  She has skipped grades in several subjects and she’s now doing the work.  But it has been a constant struggle with the educational establishment and has been personally expensive as I have born the costs of additional testing, summer courses in math to keep her at her level and online courses to substitute for what the high school couldn’t or wouldn’t provide for her.

But Brooke is lucky in some ways.  I knew there was something wrong with the way she was being educated and took steps to correct it.  In my own extended family, I’ve seen what happens when a kid doesn’t have that kind of advocacy.  It’s not pretty. The study in Texas suggests that up to 10% of their students were being underserved because they failed to meet the teacher’s standards of compliance.  Meanwhile, a significant number of A students thought they were smarter than they actually were.

They’ll probably grow up to be bankers.

Alan Simpson and the Republicans are Domestic Terrorists

And if Obama and the Democrats go along with this, they’re finished as a party:

The Republican co-chair of the White House’s fiscal commission predicted this morning that his controversial recommendations for reducing long-term deficits will have a real opportunity to become enacted next year, when the nation brushes up against its debt ceiling, and newly elected Republicans threaten to send the country into default.

“I can’t wait for the blood bath in April,” said Alan Simpson at a Christian Science Monitorbreakfast roundtable with reporters this morning. “It won’t matter whether two of us have signed this or 14 or 18. When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ‘em a piece of meat, real meat, off of this package.’ And boy the bloodbath will be extraordinary.”

[...]

Yesterday, Republican leaders, including soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner and NRCC chairman Pete Sessions made it clear that the the GOP will attempt to tie increasing the debt limit to spending cuts.

“We’re going to have to deal with it as adults,” Boehner said at a leadership press conference. “Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”

Your obligations are to US first before anyone else.  You borrowed from our retirements to pay for your wars and your decades of tax cuts for the rich and your banker friends who can’t stop gambling.  Now, pay us back.

Democrats, don’t run for cover behind Alan Simpson and the Republicans who are salivating over gutting Social Security.  And don’t think you can force hardship on millions of Americans in order to pin the blame on Republicans just in time for an election.  That’s immoral.  You have enough votes to be held personally responsible if they get their way.

Accountability before Austerity


Accountability before Austerity: Peter Orszag says, “Let’s turn Social Security into a Welfare Program!!”

Ok, he didn’t exactly say that because that would make people mad.  But what he writes in the NYTimes is essentially the same thing:

You know, I can’t even excerpt parts of this flaming piece of crap.  It’s so full of misdirection and propaganda that it would be obscene and irresponsible to repeat any of it.  If you want to poke holes in his argument, go read it yourself.  He must think we are incredibly stupid.  He reminds me of the Grinch who baldly lies about stealing the Christmas tree and we are the naive and gullible Cindy Lou Who who is no more than two.

He thinks the proposals from Simpson and Bowles last week were fine and dandy!  Peter Orszag was until recently Barack Obama’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget.  So, I think we can safely assume that Barack Obama is on-board with dismantling the most successful program the Democrats ever produced, that has served millions of Americans faithfully and at low cost for decades and decades.  Hey, don’t blame me or Conflucians or Correntians or Anglachelians.  We saw this coming and don’t want any blame for voting for this fraud.  We tried to warn people.  We did the responsible thing and for that we were called racists and losers.  Paul Krugman explains how the Obamacans got it wrong in his post today, The World as Obama Sees it. (I think he’s been reading Anglachel)  The signs have never been good about Barack Obama since he was a candidate, Paul.
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