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More on Social Security and the social compact

I am still getting comments from people in a snit over what I wrote about social security.  And I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding and denial going on here.  So, let me try one more time to get through to them.

First off, *I* am not the enemy.  I have no intention of depriving anyone of any benefits because if you start targetting one group of people as “greedy geezers” or “spoiled millenialists”, the whole idea behind social security starts to crumble.

Second, it’s not my idea to try for a grand bargain and if Barack Obama thinks there is a way to thread this needle without destroying social security, he’s the dumbest man on the planet.

Here’s the Republican Divide and Conquer plan:

1.) Tell the seniors that they’re safe.  Their benefits will not be cut.  This is the Republicans game plan because their fanbase consists of a lot of elderly, conservative people who have been convinced that they are superior Americans and have paid the most into the system.  This isn’t true but it all starts with an attitude and the Fox News lovers have one.

2.) Tell the younger generation that their benefits will be attenuated in some form.  The cost of living adjustments will be recalculated so they end up with less.  The late babyboomers, who PREPAID, by the way, and have had less money in the paychecks since the day they started working in the 80s, will have to take a cut or will be means tested or it will be turned into a welfare program and not a social insurance program.

3.) Coupled with the fact that a lot of them are unemployed, their 401Ks are not growing and their pensions are skimpy or non-existent, it becomes a lot harder to convince the younger generations that they should continue to pay for something that only a select group of arrogant, religiously conservative seniors can benefit from.

{Tiresome but necessary disclaimer: Did I say all seniors were arrogant and religiously conservative?  No, I did not.  But the voters who are most susceptible to this kind of messaging from Republicans are of this ilk, which is why the Republicans are so driven to get this done.  They only have a short period of time before their demographics start to expire- literally.}

So, this is also a case of divide and conquer.  If you can divide the electorate into the privileged who will get full SS benefits and the underprivileged who will have to work well into their 70s before age and illness force them to retire on a meager benefit, you can set up a Wisconsin scenario.  You will have one group of voters who will look on the privileged set with contempt and envy.  Why do they get everything when we are out here busting our balls and paying more in taxes for decades?  And once that happens, the senior set will be in trouble.  Because along will come some hardass Republican politician who has been bought and paid for who will put together some plan to knock down the benefits for those arrogant seniors.

Don’t get mad at me.  I’m not the one who comes up with this shit.  From what I can see, Social Security was fine for 80 years and if it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. If there’s a shortfall in two decades, raise the income level for the payroll tax. The problem is that Republicans don’t take their oath to the people seriously.  They take their oaths to Grover Norquist seriously.  Their plan to Starve the Beast is largely successful.  Over the years, the Social Security trust fund has been raided and now there is only a bunch of IOUs.  This is a problem for the wealthy because they need to pay that money back to us and they don’t want their taxes raised. They want to take loans from us to pay for their wars and their tax cuts and now that they are happy, they want the rest of us to forget that money was ours in the first place.  I call that theft and, if the politicians are in on this, fraud, when they expected us to pre-pay in advance for our benefits.  It is dishonest and lying and the worst kind of anti-American assholery to set up the late babyboomers to pay extra only to have the money not paid back by the people who had access to our account.

Did you ever wonder why it is that the wealthy will spend so much money to buy politicians year after year but won’t allow their taxes to be raised even a teeeeensy bit?  All that money could be used to pay some of their taxes.  Look at all of the money that pours into lobbying and superpacs and campaign warchests.  It’s billions of dollars each year and it’s just a drop in the bucket.  What is the character flaw in them, the moral failing in their upbringing, that prevents them from seeing that that money would be better spent paying back the IOUs so that people can retire without becoming destitute?  Why is it so important that they give their tax money to politicians and not their fellow Americans?  Are they oblivious to the damage they’re doing to the prosperity and stability of their country?  Are they living in an echo chamber where they think that anybody who is not like them is not pulling their weight?

These are the questions we must answer to turn this ship around.  And we need leaders who will confront these people and the culture they live in and ask them to account for themselves.  I don’t see anyone on the national political stage right now with the exception of Bernie Sanders who is asking these questions.  With Obama, it’s only going to get worse because he’s ready to cut a deal.  And when that deal is cut, it’s all over.  The Wisconsin Project will come to Social Security.  If you don’t like me talking about it, imagine how much more you will not like it when it comes to fruition.  Nows the time to get in front of the plan.  If you are a senior and you like social security, you must vigorously defend the benefits of the younger generations.  And you need to tell other seniors what is about to happen to them so that they don’t take the two tiered system deal that the politicians are about to construct.  Once that system is in place, it will be very easy to convince younger voters to get rid of the whole thing.

And a word of advice to those already collecting: Lose the attitude.  It’s not all about YOU.  No one is singling you out.  That’s the point.  But if you start getting defensive, you are going to alienate the very people you will need on your side in a couple of years when the Republicans move in for the kill.  We aren’t trying to insult you.  We are trying to wake you up.  We are all in this together but if you start getting offended by me just bringing the subject up in an honest way, we’re in trouble.  If it pains you to be thought of as a target, get over the feeling- quickly.  We don’t have time for easily offended people whose fee-fees are getting hurt.  The Republican noise machine will jump all over that.  Suddenly, the younger generations aren’t deferential.  We swear.  We’re not respectful.  You know how hard it is to fight back against the religious reactionaries without looking mean? Try it sometime.  Those of you without religious families have no idea how nice you have it.  They’re going to pull that shit on us.  We’re being mean to the seniors if we don’t give them a break and let them have their full bennies while we take cuts.  This will make us fight with ourselves while the people sitting on the cash distance themselves from any responsibility or obligation.

The Republicans analyse what it is that motivates people and makes them go to the polls.  And they play to win.  They’re like those orcs that can lose a couple of limbs but still keep on coming.  Right now, I recommend the “drag it out” strategy.  Drag this whole problem out and insist on lots of impact studies and alternative funding mechanism studies.  The longer we drag this out, the better the chances that the Fox News vulnerable Republican demographic will start to lose its critical mass and more younger people who want social security will take its place.  Here’s hoping that the babyboomers who are about to retire are less gullible than the seniors they are about to replace or we could have a very long fight on our hands.

And that affects me HOW exactly?

The New York Times is all aghast that the Republicans are about to roll out a ginormous, humongous Super PAC ad campaign against Obama using all kinds of nasty wasty buzz words and meanspiritedness.

{{Yawn}}

Are we talking about the same Obama who bumped a whole generation of adult women down to “sweetie” status, brushed Hillary’s dirt off his shoulders and connived with conman extraordinaire John Edwards to monkeywrench the Democratic primary process in Michigan?  Surely, SURELY, he has nothing to fear from some well funded ad campaigns because his record of “accomplishments” will speak for itself.  And anyway, a guy this callous, ruthless and insensitive to the way his behavior will set a precedent for the actions of others won’t stay up at night worrying about whether people are calling him names.

At least a front group calling itself Citizens United Not Timid (oh, how droll their abbreviation is.  Jocularity! Jocularity!) didn’t produce a documentary about him.  Well, not yet anyway.  Still, nothing to worry about as long as unemployment is back to pre-2008 levels and GDP rises to a crisp 3% per anum, right?

Anyway, the only people who are going to believe that crap in the ads are the religious nutcases- er, that Obama seems to be dumping his base for…

Whatever.  Not my problem.

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

BTW all you Democratic blogger activists carrying Obama’s water, did you know that Robert Kennedy once broke a beer bottle over the head of one of his Harvard classmates who had the audacity to celebrate his birthday in the same bar that Bobby chose for his own birthday celebration?  Yep, true story.  Turns out the guy was an arrogant prick when he was young.  Most people grow out of it.

Not that we like Mitt but to those of us out of jobs with dwindling savings and 401Ks that are about to be swallowed by some bad bets on a European debt crisis, what Mitt did as a kid is just not very important to us.  It’s what the people in charge did as adults that makes the difference.  If we were going to judge character by youthful and college age behavior, you guys would be kissing the ground the Clintons’ walked.  They were the very models of responsibility and maturity.

A little consistency please.

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

Hey, Bernie, why don’t you run?

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

My dream vacation:  Lake Powell, Arizona.

bliss.

About Welfare and Liberal Confusion

So, I was responding to Violet’s post at ReclusiveLeftist and my extra long comment got thrown in moderation.  I’m sure it’s nothing personal.  Nevertheless, this needs to be said so here is my response to a snooty comment from Tinfoil Hattie who objected to the fact that on the face of it, I agree with Mitt Romney that women with children as young as 2 should be encouraged to return to the workplace and put their children in subsidized childcare.  Said Tinfoil Hattie:

tinfoil hattie says:

With which of Mitt’s sentiments do you agree, riverdaughter? The one where motherhood is so sacred and important, and mothers should be at home raising children (the LDS doctrine, by the way)? Or the one where mothers should be punished for having children, and must be humiliated and reminded that they are lesser human beings and don’t deserve a “choice” because they are poor?

Here is my response with some additions and clarifications:

Well, tinfoil hattie, let me just say that the Republicans smell a weakness here in the area of welfare that liberals seem to be confused about. Yes, that’s right, I said it. Liberals, and I count myself as one, can’t seem to figure out what they really want in welfare. I would much prefer it if we had a system like Sweden’s or Norway’s where everyone has access to good healthcare and childcare and stipends and such. But we don’t.

But here’s the thing that I think the left is confused about: We seem to actually *want* for poor parents to collect welfare checks. That welfare check will keep them in poverty for a long, long time. When the children of those parents finally go to school, those parents will have been out of work, subsisting, barely, for 5 or more years. How is this a good thing under any circumstances? Even if you are a wonderful parent, welfare is no way to live. You end up in substandard housing, possibly in a high crime area, and all around you are people who have too much on their minds to even think about what lies beyond the confines of their public housing. It warps the perspective. You don’t strive for anything because you don’t know there’s anything worth striving for. If you grow up in an environment surrounded by lots of teenage mothers who didn’t finish their educations, that starts to look normal. Then the next generation gets trapped in it.

I can’t understand how liberals could possibly think that this is a good way to grow up. It’s horrible. So, yeah, anything the government can do to get people out of a generational rut of poverty and into a job is worth trying. Even if that means putting your kid in a government subsidized childcare center and going back to work when they’re two.

Back in the 90′s, when the Clinton administration tried to provide support for welfare recipients to help them transition to work, the Republicans were hard assed bastards and fought him on every single initiative. But think about what Clinton would have accomplished if his reform had gone through. Anyone who lost their job would have had access to training, housing vouchers, healthcare, childcare. It would have been a true safety net like we see in more progressive countries. No wonder the Republicans wanted to kill it. That would have been truly revolutionary. It would have meant that there would have been a path out of welfare and on the other end, it would have meant that no one who found themselves suddenly unemployed would be in danger of losing everything. Well, Republicans couldn’t have that. It would have been another Democratic triumph. So they killed it. And now, we’re all mad a the Clintons for wanting to change the way welfare recipients saw their lives as one endless, bleak month after month?

Don’t get me wrong, Republicans see this confusion on the left as a political opportunity and they’re going to jump on it. You don’t have to believe in welfare queens to want something better for poor people. It is compassionate to want to help single women transition to work. Yes, it sucks that some people have it better than others through no effort. But I don’t think it is a very good argument for why we should oppose work and training programs for people who need them.  There is an old Sufi proverb that says, “In the desert, there is no sign that says, “Thou shall not eat stones.””  I think this means, “I never promised you a rose garden and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”  If that means you weren’t born with a silver cadillac in your mouth then maybe you have to choose the best option to get back on your feet and that might mean putting your kid in daycare when they’re two and going to work.  What is at issue here is how much of a social safety net should we provide and why we can’t extend it to everyone.  What we need to do is persuade the public that helping others is a good thing and will pay off with a more stable, prosperous country.

So, I would be very, very careful about this issue. The Republicans will wipe the floor with us.  There are two reasons for this: 1.) most people are stretched to the breaking point economically.  If they can’t benefit from something personally, they don’t want anyone else to have it either.  This falls neatly into the Republican strategy of forcing Americans to look down at the next layer of the socioeconomic spectrum.  I’m not saying this is right or moral.  Only that it is human nature.  And the Republicans are very good at letting people’s ids get the best of them.  In this case, a powerless middle and working class person has the power to deny something to a person below them and they get to feel good about being selfish.  2.) The attitude that Anne Romney has it all and therefore we must question her sincerity regarding poorer women feeds right into the Republican “politics of envy” meme.  They will point to the clueless mutterings by liberals about Anne Romney’s privilege and it will look like they want to strip Romney of her money.  And the Republicans will jump all over that.  They’ll say that liberals have a problem with rich people and want to take their money away.  Well, it’s not true that we have a problem with rich people but we do have a problem when they don’t pay their fair share of taxes because that makes it harder on everyone else.  I also have a problem when the wealthy and well connected force their Ebeneezer Scrooge employment standards on the rest of us and strip us of the fruits of our productivity.

I don’t have a problem with Anne Romney’s choices.  I do have a problem with the country turning on working mothers at every possibly convenient moment, but that is not the problem with welfare.  The problem is that we are losing our grip on how to respond to political attacks like these and yes, this is a political attack.  We have failed in our ability to shift attention away from the nitty gritty of welfare and to the issue of why so damn many people are out of work and need welfare in the first place.  The way to address this is to ask why all hard working people don’t have access to government subsidized childcare and medicare for all like civilized countries. Why are we subsidizing bankers and not all women who need to work for a living? Why are we subsidizing insurance companies on top of the outrageous taxes we already pay? Shift the attention upwards to the institutions and wealth that are hiding behind a veil of secrecy.  Who is forcing us to choose and why are hard working people paying so damn much in taxes for goods and services that are rapidly privatizing and costing us more and more money?

Better yet, ask yourself why it is we gave so much money to Wall Street in 2009 only to have the banks turn around and use that taxpayer largesse to buy politicians of both parties to do their will at our expense.  Think about that.  We are subsidizing their campaign contributions that they will use against us. And why is it the banks qualify for welfare but a hard working American can’t even get a decent insurance policy without paying through the nose for it?  Why can’t women get government subsidized daycare no matter what their income is?

Why is our safety net so shitty while the banks’ is so good?  Turn the argument around.

Liberals, we need to get a grip and really think about what we are saying.  Do we really want to be the ones who say that it is ok for a poor person to subsist indefinitely on a government check and that this is the best way we can help poor people?  Because I’m not sure that’s the message we want to send.  We want to think about a policy that conforms to OUR worldview before the Republicans substitute policies that conform to their worldview.  Think it through.  The answers we are coming back with are not working for us.

Finally, never underestimate the Republicans.  They are masters at this crap and they play to win.

BTW, this man has a coherent worldview.

In Praise of Bernie Sanders

I’ve seen some commentary on the left blogosphere lamenting the loss of Dennis Kucinich’s seat in Congress to Marcy Kaptur.  Apparently, we’re all supposed to mourn Kucinich’s departure from the political scene.  For all we know, the exile is only temporary so I’m not sure what the blogosphere is getting so worked up about.

But here again, I find myself out of step with my own side.  First it was over Howard Dean.  Apparently, I was supposed to be reduced to wild paroxysms of ecstasy over his “Democratic wing of the Democratic party” single line in a single speech but all I saw was a dilettante dabbling in politics in his spare time while his wife looked after patients and tended the garden.  And the 50 state strategy, in retrospect, was a disaster because it brought so many Blue Dog Democrats into Congress.  Hardly the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.  What I learned from Howard is that you need a real moral movement behind the electoral successes you want to see.

Then there was my difference with the same left blogosphere over their support of Barack Obama vs Hillary Clinton.  I have written over 1000 posts on that disaster so there’s no need to recount it here.  What I learned from Obama vs Clinton is the value of evidence.  If you can’t find any, distrust any claims.  On the other hand, if you see behaviors that you don’t like, you’d be a fool to ignore them just because you assume the candidate is something you are divinely wishing for.  Wishing doesn’t make it so. There simply is no substitute for data and there is nothing more likely to lead to the wrong conclusions than confirmation bias.

And now, there is Kucinich and the further demise of the true liberal Democrat.  There really aren’t that many left in Congress since Steny purged Massa and Weiner and made examples of them to other progressives if they even thought about bucking their leadership.  Some people claim that Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich were the last of the true liberals.  But I would disagree whether Dennis Kucinich is in Bernie Sanders league.  What I recall of Kucinich was his anti-war stance.  And it was very popular among lefties.  Well, we don’t like war, even those of us who have family members in the Army don’t like them.  And I was the single holdout in my family who never bought into the reasons for going to war in Iraq (see above for the value of evidence), which made me popular at family dinners.  When Kucinich ran for president, anti-war was what defined him in my mind.  Oh sure, he was for single payer health care and everything but for some reason Kucinich never resonated with me.  Whatever the left ever saw in Kucinich just left me cold.

At this point, we are three for three.  I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with me or the left.  Going by the track record, I’m guessing it’s the rest of the left.  They need to figure out why they keep falling for politicians who don’t deserve them.

Anyway, I want to sing Bernie Sanders’ praises.  The guy is golden.  He is a true lefty but he understands the concerns of the little guy like few politicians can.  He seems to get how difficult it is to live in this country if you’re not rich.  I think he also has a different definition of success.  Success is not necessarily measured by how much money you make.  I don’t agree with Bernie on some issues.  For example, I don’t think the constant bashing of pharma is helpful, especially for those of us who have been forced out of pharma and have to figure out how to make a living while having to work in the big pharma framework on a smaller scale and dodging the CEOs and vulture capitalists who seek to exploit us.  I’d really like it if he spent some time exploring our issues, maybe talking to some of us, getting a deeper understanding of what drug discovery means.

But then I look back on his filiBernie from last year and I am eternally grateful to him for so much of what he DOES get right.  He knows what economic injustice means and how devastating it is to our future.  And he explains the issues and argues his points to clearly and persuasively.  It’s almost a shame we have C-Span.  Before the days of cable, a speech like Bernie’s might have gotten our full attention on prime time.

And Bernie is hard working.  I can’t remember when I subscribed to his email or twitter feed but I know more about what Bernie is up to than my own senators Menendez and Lautenberg.  My senators are relatively reliable liberals too but I have no idea where they’re speaking this week, what radio shows they’re appearing on, what bills they are introducing or co-sponsoring.  For any of that information, I’d have to go research.  But Bernie’s got a crack team of people letting me know what he’s up to every minute of the day and I have to say, Bernie appears to be working his heart out.  He might be a Don Quixote tilting at windmills but damn, the dude is tilting.  He appears to be tireless.

So, I’d just like to say, thanks, Bernie.  Thanks for sticking to your convictions as well as you do.  Thanks for speaking for the working people.  Thanks for looking out for our interests.  And thanks for being so well prepared, hard working and organized because luck favors a prepared mind.  Maybe this is what sets me apart from the left.  I admire the hard work, dedication, passion and preparation of people like Bernie Sanders.  That kind of behavior isn’t as topical or trendy as being the anti-war candidate but I can rely on Bernie to dig down into an issue and base his support on principle and conviction.  It reflects a kind of integrity.  If I ever had the chance to vote for Bernie, I wouldn’t find it difficult.  I only wish I didn’t have to move to Vermont to do it.

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

Continuing my theme of pounding on New Atheism and the secular movement, here is another podcast that is worth a listen.  This one is based out of Austin, Texas and is for feminist atheists.  It’s called Godless Bitches.  The title doesn’t reflect the articulate and rational voices of the participants whose dialog is sprinkled liberally with strong Texas twangs.  The latest podcast from the Godless Bitches takes on Rush Limbaugh and the birth control debate.  In this podcast, the shock and disbelief of the attack on women’s reproductive rights comes through loud and clear.  It is inconceivable (no pun intended) to these women that this fight is even taking place in the 21st century.  I hate to say this to the Judeo Christians out there but the horse has already left the barn on contraception.  You are not going to win this one.  In fact, this is the issue that may very well be your undoing.  The backlash will be ferocious.  You can check out Episode 2.5 here.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I keep bringing up all of these atheist podcasts.  Well, for one thing, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.  There is an ocean of them and I discover new ones every day.  They come in every flavor.  There are some that are rational to the point of being dry, there are some humorous ones like the war on Christmas speech that Rebecca Watson of Elevatorgate fame gave, there are brilliant speeches by activists like Greta Christina and there are some mainstream, accessible ones like Ask An Atheist and The Atheist Experience.

My point is that this is a growing movement based on positive atheism.  You don’t have to be an atheist to appreciate their point of view and advocacy of secularism.  The movement includes freethinkers, skeptics, rationalists, humanists and agnostics.  They are speaking out, coming out and getting together.  They are the push back to the Judeo Christian right.  In the past, it might have taken decades for these groups to organize to the point where they had an impact.  In many respects, it resembles the LGBT movement that developed over several decades.  But modern technology is changing all  of that.  Plus, they are having conventions and seminars all over the country and the world.  This is going to develop much more quickly than previous movements. In a couple of years or less, it could be a legitimate threat to the religious right, which may be why the religious right is pulling out all of the stops this year.  This election year may be the last one where the Republican party is able to use the dwindling numbers of the Judeo Christian right against our secular government.  It has to get as much authoritarian crap written into law as it can before its base loses critical mass.

So, this message is to those of you who are holding back about coming out.  It’s ok.  There are a lot of us out here who have deconverted from our Judeo Christian upbringings.  You may lose some friends and family but it gets better.  You will find other people like you as more and more of us come out.  And activists like Greta Christina are advocating for physical spaces where we can connect and build our own communities what will take the place of the churches we leave.  I think that’s going to happen more and more.  For all I know, the “religious liberty” meme is directed at the New Atheist movement.  It’s trying to get ahead of the rest of the American public because this movement has the potential to have a greater impact on government than Occupy.  It’s better organized, has been in existence longer and has a clearer set of goals.

Expect to see and hear anti-atheist messaging from the right in the next couple of weeks.  The last thing it wants is for secularism to make a resurgence in this election year.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson predicts the extinction of the fundamentalist Judeo Christian:

The 16 Trillion dollar Con

…. Or “16 Trillion for Bankers and Sacrifice for us” …. It hardly seems fair.

From Bernie Sanders today comes this heart-stopping news:

Veil of secrecy lifted at the Fed

More than two years ago, I asked Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, a few simple questions that I thought the American people had a right to know: Who did the Fed bail out? How much did they receive? What were the terms of this assistance?

Incredibly, the chairman of the Fed refused to answer these fundamental questions about how trillions of taxpayer dollars were being put at risk.

Thanks to an amendment that I included in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to audit and investigate the Fed, the American people are finally getting answers to these questions.

A few days ago, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office completed the first independent investigation into the emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve. As a result of this investigation, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided a jaw-dropping $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the world.

Among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland. In my view, no agency of the United States government should be allowed to bail out a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president.

The GAO also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse. In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict-of-interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

Let me repeat:

we now know that the Federal Reserve provided a jaw-dropping $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the world.

Where the heck does the Federal Reserve GET this kind of money?  And why can’t they give it to prop up Social Security and Medicare?

Bernie’s Speech and the Bully Pulpit

Bernie Sanders gave a speech yesterday and called on the president to be a leader and stand firm against the Republican push to dismantle programs that serve the middle class and the poor:

Oddly enough, about 3 hours later, I was chosen to participate in an Eagleton Institute survey.  You never quite know what they’re trying to get at with these polls but the pattern I detected was what the public thinks of the power of the presidency.  It looks like Obama and his minions have done a number on public opinion and have convinced many of us that he’s powerless to do much of anything except negotiate the farm away to the Republicans.

This is BS.

When Obama campaigned for president, he specifically said he was going to negotiate with everything on the table.  If you go to the negotiations willing to give everything away without a backstop, you should not be surprised when you end up losing everything.  The Republicans will never be satisfied with your first offer and will keep moving right until you give them everything they want except for some symbolic and worthless concession that everyone will see through.  That’s because they’re REPUBLICANS.  You know, those snakes you pick up on the side of the road who complain about the cold so that you hold them close to your bosom?  They end up biting and killing you and you should not be surprised because you knew their nature when you picked them up.

Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Cooper Union where he denounced his opponents and said you can’t compromise with people who are determined to do what they want no matter how much you compromise.  Nothing you do is going to satisfy them.  The secessionists complained bitterly that the government would not let them alone but every attempt to appease them failed.  That’s because they were determined to secede.  Secession was a foregone conclusion.  They were simply going to play the part of the aggrieved party until they got what they wanted.  Lincoln said:

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly – done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated – we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas’ new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

I am quite aware they do not state their case precisely in this way. Most of them would probably say to us, “Let us alone, do nothing to us, and say what you please about slavery.” But we do let them alone – have never disturbed them – so that, after all, it is what we say, which dissatisfies them. They will continue to accuse us of doing, until we cease saying.

I am also aware they have not, as yet, in terms, demanded the overthrow of our Free-State Constitutions. Yet those Constitutions declare the wrong of slavery, with more solemn emphasis, than do all other sayings against it; and when all these other sayings shall have been silenced, the overthrow of these Constitutions will be demanded, and nothing be left to resist the demand. It is nothing to the contrary, that they do not demand the whole of this just now. Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can voluntarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing.

Nor can we justifiably withhold this, on any ground save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality – its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension – its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man – such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care – such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance – such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

In other words, you can’t blame the secessionists for being what they were.  That was their right to believe that slavery was acceptable.  But if you believe that slavery is immoral, unjust and not representative of the principles upon which your nation was founded or wanted to go, it was your duty to tell the secessionists that you would not yield to their desires for free, exploitable labor that left generations of men, women and children chained.  It is your duty to draw the line and not yield.

President Obama has to reckon with this.  Is it OK for Republicans to continually erode the social safety net, the insurance programs and taxpayer sponsored programs that voters want with the assistance of the Democrats because he feels that he must negotiate with his opponents?  Or should he go over the heads of the Republicans and use his bully pulpit effectively to appeal directly to the American people and persuade them to put pressure on their lawmakers to protect what is important to them?

This is a no-brainer.

Which means that the people who brought us Obama in 2008 have no brains.  He’s terrible at persuading and he spent so much of the first year in office squandering his TV time with stupid, trivial appearances every day at lunch that many of us have tuned him out.  If I were him and were really serious about this whole presidency gig, I’d have fired his PR team a long time ago.  That first year extension of this campaign has had a disastrous effect on his ability to use his bully pulpit.

But more than that, they have saddled us with a president who signalled before he was even elected that he was going to yield everything in an attempt to discover what would make Republicans happy in a totally bipartisan, post partisan era of love and understanding.  What this has turned into is a lot of foursomes on the golf course and deal making behind closed doors.

Normally, you get the president you deserve.  But most voters did not want Obama in 2008.  They voted for him because he was the Democrat and because Democrats held a gun to their heads and told them they couldn’t have who they really wanted.  That’s not very democratic, which is why I left the party.  But he’s there now.  It’s his duty to protect and defend all of the people, including the ones who pay and pay and pay and whose taxes never seem to be enough to appease the Republicans.  Our contributions never seem to decrease, our out of pocket expenses to pay for privatization continually go up and we don’t get what we pay for.  Meanwhile, the people at the top continually get the red carpet treatment.  When will it end?  It will never end so long as the poor and the middle class have pennies left that the wealthy and well connected have not claimed as their own.  What’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is theirs.  At this point, I don’t think they even know why they have to be so greedy nor do they consider the consequences of their actions.  Their power is like an all-consuming fire that even deprives itself of the oxygen to keep it going.  It is self-destructive.  But that won’t matter to the 99% percent of us who will have to live with the burned out embers of our nation and national economy.

They will eventually get what they want so long as Obama and the Democrats continue to yield.  And Obama and the Democrats will continue to yield so long as they do not value  or see the moral imperative of protecting those programs in government that have made our economy strong and our genius the envy of the world.  They would sacrifice the rest of us to satisfy the greed of the few and they do not see this as morally wrong?

They have the power to say no to the Republicans and to rally the nation to their side.  We should accept no less.

Sunday: Bernie Sanders and other general stuff

Hey, there, sports fans, I’m at the mall, window shopping and typing this quick one on an iPad. Typos may apply.

Bernie Sanders has been all over twitter in the last couple of days to gain momentum for his speech on the budget tomorrow at 4:00pm. If you want to give him ideas or just a “you go, Bernie!”, check out #sharedsacrifice on Twitter.

Things that annoy me (feel free to add your own in the comments):

1.) Bathing suit manufacturers. Look, I know you guys need to make money and I should not be surprised to be asked to fork over $92 for the tankini *top*. But some of us have ancestors who should never have left the mists of Ireland. Pale, freckled people with auburn hair and blue eyes do not look good in black, fire engine red and eye popping fuschia. Our golden undertones are accentuated by brown, olive greens, and burnt orange. These colors are in noticeably short supply this year. I take that back, I can’t find any of these colors in any of the department stores I checked. This means that no matter how many discounts are applied to the $92 tankini *top*, I will pass on it because I will look completely ridiculous in the damn thing. Maybe this is a secret scheme to keep us pale people out of the sun but I resent it.

2.) Apple MacBook Air notebooks are like catnip for geeks. Steve Jobs is a pusher. (no, dandy tiger, I didn’t break down and buy one but I have to go past the apple store to get to my car. There’s still time to do damage)

3.) Many thanks to Ken the optician at the Bridgewater Commons Lenscrafters who repaired the frame on my Transitions lenses in about 5 minutes. My eyes are so sensitive to light that I can’t live without those suckers. Ken was very friendly and efficient. I promise not to step on them anymore.

4.) After three years of staying away from the news, I was finally exposed to the Casey Anthony trial through my mother. I’m the kind of courtroom virgin is hard to find for this case. It seems that everyone has an opinion. So, after having watched the evidence presented so far and after sitting through plenty of sketchy scientific presentations in the past, here’s my opinion:

– Casey Anthony is an impulsive, immature woman who is a compulsive liar
– Just because someone is a compulsive liar, that doesn’t mean they are murderers
– Prosecution: is that all there is? Really? You haven’t proven a damn thing.
– The chloroform issue is a maguffin. The evidence is very weak
– The Anthonys are a seriously messed up family. Both children show a similar distaste for their mother.
– Even though the defense claims that Casey was sexually abused seem to be a poor excuse for Casey’s behavior, it can’t be ruled out. Her father was a cop. If she was abused as a child, who the heck was she going to tell?
– The defense has totally destroyed the credibility of his client by admitting that she is a compulsive liar. It is highly unlikely that she will take the stand in her own defense.
– If she hasn’t confessed in the past three years, she’s not going to. Give it up, ladies.
– I’m going with an accidental death caused by Casey. She did something with Caylee that caused her to die. I’d go with involuntary manslaughter but even then, there isn’t anything that definitively ties Casey to the crime.
– I think someone helped her cover it up and leave no traces. Someone who understands crime scenes would be a good collaborator.
– Bottom line: she may get away with murder. There’s no there there except her subsequent behavior as a normal 23 year old in the year 2008. Maybe compulsive liars can even lie to themselves.

Related: Nancy Grace is a horrible person and I hope I never have to sit through another half hour of her show ever again.

But more than that, the entire female population (except *me*, according to my mother) is ready to string Casey up not so much for the murder, which is horrible enough, but because she acted like a ‘barfly’ floozy. The barfly line was compliments of Grace, who also calls Casey Anthony “tot mom” for some bizarre reason. The persistent use of the term “tot mom” serves to dehumanized Casey Anthony. She becomes the symbol and target of a national “slut shaming” ritual. I don’t know what was going on in her head but her reactions and emotions in court seem genuine to me.

Heck, I have relatives in my extended family who acted just like Casey Anthony when they were in their early twenties. One went to jail for what he did. But what sets him apart is that he is male and bad behavior was expected of him and he didn’t kill any one, accidentally or on purpose. “Boys will be boys” is still the standard operating procedure even though we intellectually know this is wrong. Fortunately, he grew out of it and he’s now a pretty good guy and a surprisingly good father. It is possible to grow up.

But not for Casey Anthony. If she gets away with murder, she will be the most hated woman in America and other women will hate her the most. Women checking and shaming other women after Weinergate, the Supreme Court ruling against female Walmart employees and the application of the Daughter Test is the last thing we need. Women need to learn to treat other women as adults or we will never be equal.

Bernie Sanders and the $1Million dollar drug innovation prize

Bernie Sanders sent out a tweet yesterday pointing to a Slate article from 2008.  It’s a proposal for revamping the patent system.  The idea is to reward drug innovators with a $1Million dollar prize instead of a patent.

 

When I told the BFF about it, he said, “Great!  What do we do on day 2?”

Seriously, Bernie, this is not necessarily a bad idea.  There are a lot of drug innovators out of work right now, or their work situations are very precarious.  This is especially true of medicinal chemists who specialize in transforming chemical scaffolds into drugs.  Then there are people like yours truly who design drugs who are vamping until our next gigs.

The problem is that drug research is incredibly expensive.  Any idea we have has to be ordered or made, and then tested.  There will have to be multiple assays run to verify structure activity relationships and biological activity.  Then there is the gauntlet of safety analyses required by the FDA.  It could work in a virtual environment but it requires the drug innovator to assemble a pharmaceutical company by themselves and presumably that $1M prize would have to be used to pay all of the contributors back.  After all, pharmacologists have to eat too.  What I fear would happen with the prizes is that desperate innovators would end up signing all their rights away to venture capitalists in order to make payroll while they’re starting up and going through the necessary iterations to prove a concept.

In other words, it’s not enough to live on or start to innovate, especially when one considers that it takes years and overhead expenses of the painstaking trials and errors to bring a drug to market.  Incubators have a very high failure rate.  I’m sure that the incubator model is just perfect for someone out there looking to feed on carrion but for labrats with families?   Ehhhhhh, not so much.  How do you bring down the startup costs?

I have a better idea.  The government can start its own companies.  Right now, pharmaceutical companies are trying to shed or tear down their labs in the US.  They want to rent the space to incubators but frequently, the price is too high for little companies.  In the end, it’s cheaper to just demolish them.  Buy the suckers up along with the equipment.  Better yet, snap up the old labs in the midwest.  That way, the scientists you need to hire to run the places can afford to live there on reasonable salaries.  Give us a place to do what we love and let us make the management decisions without the constant restructuring and mergers.  Then, we’ll sell the patents back to the government for a dollar.  That’s the going rate at the old pharma I used to work for.  It’s a fair deal.  You get dedicated scientists who can focus on their work without worrying about losing their houses and their kids’ college funds and you get the patents you need to bring the costs of prescription drugs down.

While you’re at it, reform and update the FDA so new drug entities can come to market.  You’re also going to have to level with the public about drug safety.  It is going to have to assume some level of risk or new drugs will never make it.

The big pharma companies won’t like it much.  In fact, I can already hear them howling and marshalling their army of lobbyists.  In general, I’m sympathetic to their predicament but if they hadn’t bet the pharm on short term solutions instead of the hard work to fix a broken system, they wouldn’t be in mess they’re in.  This is where we are in terms of drug innovation: research for antibiotics, cardiovascular, CNS and reproductive health drugs are getting severely scaled back by big pharma.  The big companies are going after biologicals, which have their own set of problems.  Well, alright then, let the pharmas knock themselves out on antibodies and have the government focus on the other therapeutic areas they have decided to pass on.

So, go, Bernie, but think this through thoroughly. You want to set it up in a way that makes it resistant to political games.  What pharma research needs is stability in order to innovate.  Any potential public-private partnerships need to be set up in way that protects and preserves this country’s scientific infrastructure and allows innovation without the chaos of the quarterly earnings report.  In other words, R&D has to be sequestered from the pressures of the business environment to some extent.  Just as you don’t want your insurance company deciding your medical treatment, you don’t want MBAs directing research.

Make sure to consult people in the R&D industry who are already in the process of setting up their own mom&pop drug companies in their garages.  That means you need to talk to the people who actually do the work, not the management class.  You will get a completely different assessment of what is broken in the current system and how to repair it.  You will have to compensate us well enough to induce a future generation of scientists to discover drugs.  That’s because this is hard work, requiring years of study and lab experience.  It has to be rewarded appropriately.  Health care and pensions would be very attractive.  But in the end, it could be a bargain.

Tuesday: Dash Away All!

Your American Dream, that is.

I’m running late so I’ll keep this short…

In the News:

Mike Bloomberg who is richer than Jesus, thinks he can buy his way to the presidency with his new schtick, No Labels.  As if we need yet another centrist group teaching us how to speak softly to Republicans.

A federal judge in Virginia thinks it is unconstitutional to force people to buy bad health insurance policies from private parasites insurance companies.  This may be the first and last time we may agree with a conservative Republican about anything.

The Senate voted for cloture on the tax bill that they’re going to stick us with while further undermining the social safety net.  Sanders, Leahy, Brown, Hagan, Voinovich, Lautenberg and Gillibrand were among those who voted No on cloture.  Reward good behavior.  Send them a note of thanks.

Bernie Sanders had this to say on the Obama-McConnell Deficit Increase and Social Safety Net Destruction Plan:

“It makes no sense to me to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires while we drive up the national debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. I further object strenuously to the lowering of rates on the estate tax, which only benefits the top 0.3 percent, the very, very wealthiest people in this country. I also am concerned about a significant precedent which diverts $112 billion in payroll taxes away from the Social Security trust fund. Our goal now must be to strengthen Social Security, not weaken it. Of course we must extend unemployment benefits and the tax breaks that the middle class desperately needs, but in my view we could have and should have negotiated a much stronger agreement.”

No, it doesn’t make any sense but they’re going to do it anyway.  Well, what did the Obamabots expect when they allowed 1800000 voters to be thrown under the bus by Obama and the DNC and they never raised a peep?

Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, died at the age of 69 yesterday after suffering a tear to his aorta.  He was a very well respected diplomat and an important part of Hillary’s team.  RIP.

If you are convinced that Liberals and Conservatives look at the world differently, it looks like you might be right.  In a new study from researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it has been shown that those identifying with the liberal side of the spectrum were more likely to track the eye movements of another person than conservatives.  The researchers postulate that conservatives are less persuadable by the feelings of others than liberals.  But this is Nebraska we’re talking about so you have to wonder what the researchers are planning to do with this information…

And now, guys en pointe.  I didn’t think the description of this would work but by golly it does.  This is the Waltz of the Flowers from a very updated version of The Nutcracker, A Hard Nut, now playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Who says guys can’t be beautiful snowflakes too?

Bernie Sanders says what the Big Dawg couldn’t

I missed most of the FiliBernie yesterday where Bernie Sanders took to a nearly empty Senate floor and spoke for 8 hours and 36 minutes.  Fortunately, I caught it on C-Span2 the second time around.

Bernie laid it all out.  The irresponsible tax breaks for millionaires, the distress of the unemployed, the immorality of the giant wealth transfer from the have-nots to the have-mores:

I checked the {{very limited}} coverage of what should be Bernie’s historic speech and the comments were overwhelmingly positive.  This is what most Americans think and what they want to hear their politicians saying:

“So Clinton appeared in the WH briefing room–who cares? Bernie was the best show of the day.”

“i loved it. truth. at long last, truth.”

“Thank you Senator Saunders. Thank you. Your speech gave me hope.”

“I was so moved by both the substance and the style of my fellow ex Nu Yawkuh in the well of the Senate that I called both my senators and my congressman. I actually broke down weeping while speaking to one of their staff people. God bless Bernie Sanders.”

“It’s no wonder people were listening. Senator Sanders was speaking for the vast majority of people who are sick and tired of seeing sham “compromises” that always favor the large corporations and the wealthiest segment of our society. Why don’t we see Bernie Sanders more often on mainstream media? Could it be because he tells the unvarnished truth?”

The positive comments go on and on and on.

By the way, there is something really disturbing about the NYTimes coverage of Bernie’s speech.  Last night, they had an article with hundreds and hundreds of comments in support of Bernie.  Readers were so grateful to Bernie for finally giving their anger and disappointment a voice.  But this morning?  Can’t find it on their site.  It appears that the Times deep sixed it.  Update: Here is the original article I saw last night.  Scroll down to see the comments.  I can only find an update about how Bernie is now a C-Span sensation and, once again, the comments are overwhelmingly positive.

Now, I understand why Bill Clinton is supporting this bill.  He made it pretty clear yesterday.  This was the best deal that Obama could get.  And it was the best deal Obama could get because he royally f^*#ed it up at the beginning of his term by lowballing the stimulus.  So, now, the country is teetering on the verge of another plunge and we are at risk of deflation once again.  And the only way Barry is going to get any stimulus money now is by cutting a very unfavorable deal for the taxpayers with the greedy, hard hearted, antisocial, callous, mean, murderous, careless, un-American Republicans.

But let’s not sugar coat this bill, Bill.  Bernie spelled it all out yesterday.  Republicans will never be satisfied with compromise.  They want it all and they won’t be happy until they have complete control of the money supply and can do whatever they want.  I don’t think it even occurs to Republicans that they are going to destroy their money machine when they’ve nailed the coffin shut on the middle class.  They don’t think that far in advance.  They don’t consider themselves to be beholden to the country.  The money they get from us in the form of bailouts and our 401k stashes they play with, well, that’s just like chips in a global casino.  The get it from a bank called the United States of America but keep the winnings and let the hard working citizens of this country go begging to the Chinese to pay for essentials.

It’s wrong, Bill.  You may see Obama as facing a pragmatic dilema, trying to cut a deal to keep us from falling further.  But the problem is fundamental.  And it can’t be covered up or deleted from media websites and explained away as being the best that can be arranged at this late date before the Republicans take power.  It must be addressed.  Is it moral to steal from working Americans and are you going to let them get away with it?

Bernie was out there yesterday, all by himself on the Senate floor, speaking about the immorality of greed and speaking up for the working class.  But he is not all alone in the country where people talk about this to their friends, families and neighbors every day.  A recent poll by Bloomberg shows:

Americans want Congress to bring down a federal budget deficit that many believe is “dangerously out of control,” only under two conditions: minimize the pain and make the rich pay.

The public wants Congress to keep its hands off entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. They oppose cuts in most other major domestic programs and defense. They want to maintain subsidies for farmers and tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction. And they’re against an increase in the gasoline tax.

That aversion to sacrifice is at odds with a spate of recent studies, including one by President Barack Obama’s debt panel, that say reductions in Medicare, Social Security, military and other spending are necessary to curb a deficit that totaled $1.29 trillion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, or 9 percent of the gross domestic product.

“The idea that we can solve our structural-deficit problems merely by asking more of the well-off is totally unrealistic,” said David Walker, who was U.S. comptroller general from 1998 to 2008 and now leads a group advocating against deficits. “The math simply doesn’t work.”

That’s right, David.  We want the expensive wars to stop and we want our jobs back so we can refill the coffers.

Do what Bernie asks you to do: call your congressman and senators, and tell them you do not support this tax bill.  Tell them the payroll tax relief is not what you expected of them because it will undermine Social Security.  Tell them to Soak the Rich for a change.  That’s it, send them a fax with the message “Soak the Rich”.  And then ask your family and friends to do the same.  Bernie wants you to speak out.  And remember to thank Bernie.  Send him an email or phone his office and thank him for sticking up for you.

Don’t give up without a fight.

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