Worst suspicions realized with Obamacare

Have you been following Lambert and Team’s Obamacare ClusterF^&* series on Corrente? They’re culling the internet and getting personal stories about what it’s like to sign up for the exchanges from around the country.  It ain’t pretty.  Some of their findings:

  • The sign-up procedure appears to be a way of matching your credit score to how much you will pay for a policy.  If you’ve been out of work for some time, have medical bills or have some other unforeseen life event that affected your credit score, expect to pay more for your health care.
  • The exchange policies are thin.  They are mostly in-network policies.  Unfortunately, you can’t always predict whether the guy who treats you in the ER is going to be in your network.  Come to think of it, that time I broke my wrist on vacation in Florida probably wouldn’t be covered so now you’re going to have to think ahead and purchase policies when ever you go out of town for any reason.
  • Cancer treatment may not be covered, or not covered in the way you thought.  You may not get the best treatment or the doctor you want because of the restrictions on the policy.
  • The websites are kludgy and definitely not ready for prime time in some places.

Here’s my overall impression: If you’re covered by your employer, you should consider yourself extremely lucky but be aware that no job is secure these days.  If you’re not covered by your employer, you fall into this “separate but equal” category thing.  Obamacare is supposed to help you get affordable healthcare but you might as well be using the other entrance, drinking from a spigot and barred from the nicer places of business.  They don’t want your kind hanging around.  If this is a *national* healthcare policy, it should be unconstitutional.  The difference is that now the discrimination is based on how you are employed.

On the other hand, there’s a possibility that now a lot more people will know what it feels like to be a discriminated minority.

Hard to believe that Democrats went along with this.

 

PPACA FAQ: How much are penalties for non-compliance with the ACA’s mandate, and how do they work?

[Authored (and cross posted) by Lambert at Corrente]

Let us begin our wonderful journey of discovery to find out how the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care act, commonly known as ObamaCare) is going to work out for you and me and people like us.*

 

* * *Q: How much are penalties for non-compliance with the ACA’s mandate, and how do they work?

A: You pay whichever is less: (1) The national average of the Bronze plan, or (2) a penalty.

For the penalty, you pay whichever is greater: (a) A dollar amount or (b) a percentage of income, pro-rated by the number of months you were not covered. (So, if the dollar amount were $95 — as itsometimes will be — and you were not covered for three months, the penalty would be $95 / 3 = $31.)

The dollar amount and the percentage of income are both phased in, starting with the Federal taxes you pay for 2014, in 2015. (The dollar amount, at least next year, is almost certainly less than the Bronze plan, even if we don’t have a Bronze plan to look at.) After phase-in, the dollar amount is adjusted for COLA. You pay the penalty at tax time. However, the IRS can’t put a lien or levy on you if you don’t pay the penalty.

This a little more complicated than the story you read in the press, and may cost you more money than you think. Spoiler alert: You could end up paying more than $95, which is the figure everybody quotes. I’m going to focus mostly on what happens next year, before the complete structure of penalties for non-compliance phases in.

 

* * *

Continue reading

PPACA FAQ: Call for questions

This post introduces and explains a new series, “PPACA FAQ” which is a joint venture between The Confluence and Corrente.  lambert, the proprietor of Corrente, is the author and “I” in the post below:


KatieBird and I, with assists from Hipparchia and Rainbow Girl, are starting a new series, whose title is as you see:

PPACA is, of course, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” which, being none of those things (except a big Act), is informally known as ObamaCare.

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions (origin on USENETexample from the IRS).

So, our concept is to pose and then answer questions about the PPACA (ObamaCare), for two reasons:

  • People need help, and AFAIK only conservatives are offering it.
  • People should also understand that ObamaCare’s complexity just doesn’t have to be, and that single payer is a real and better alternative.

So this is the plan: Continue reading

But you already knew that

crocusesMy new house, and some other stuff, has been consuming all of my attention lately.  You really feel the price of gas when you have to make long and/or repetitive trips.  The good news is that work is getting done on the new house.  I was there last Saturday, the birds were a-chirpin’ and the crocuses were a-bloomin’ and from my front porch, I can see for miles and miles almost down to the Allegheny River.

Anyway.

I followed some links from this post at Corrente to a James K. Galbraith piece at a German site that spells it out for the terminally slow (or in this case, the Europeans) out there in case they didn’t pick up on it during the 2008 election.  Galbraith boils down my five years of panic and alarm ringing succinctly:

Obama is no progressive


The debt deal will make things clear. The President is not a progressive – he is not what Americans still call a “liberal.” He is a willful player in an epic drama of faux-politics, an operative for the money power, whose job is to neutralize the left with fear and distraction and then to pivot rightward and deliver a conservative result.

What Barack Obama got from the debt deal was exactly what his sponsors have wanted: a long-term lock-in of domestic spending cuts, and a path toward severe cuts in the core New Deal and Great Society insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And, of course, no tax increases at all.

To see the arc of political strategy, recall that from the beginning Obama handed economic policy to retainers recruited from the stables of Robert Rubin. From the beginning, he touted “fiscal responsibility” and played up the (economically non-existent) “problem” of the budget deficit. From the beginning his team sabotaged economic recovery with optimistic forecasts and inadequate programs – in the clear interest of protecting the banking system from reform.

[...]

For European observers, one key to understanding how such things can happen in America is to remember that our presidencies are short. The professors who joined Obama for his opening act have already gone home. The advisers who remain face dreary futures in think-tanks funded by the likes of Michael Milken, our premier financial ex-felon.

Maybe, if they are especially loyal to their true masters, then like the former budget director Peter Orszag they can go to work for a bank. This surely accounts in part for their present actions.

And the President too is a young man. Unlike say Lyndon B. Johnson or Jimmy Carter, when his term ends he won’t be able simply to go home. He’ll need a big house in a gated suburb, with high walls and rich friends. And a good income, too, from book deals and lecture fees. He may be thinking about that now.

The good news is: it won’t save him. For if and when he ventures out, for the rest of his life, the eyes of all those, whose hopes he once raised will follow him. The old, the poor, the jobless, the homeless: their eyes will follow him wherever he goes.

I think that last sentence is true.  Barack Obama will go down in history as the worst president we’ve ever had, a true Sheriff of Nottingham.  Not only that but I fear he has set back the progress that African Americans have made in the past 50 years.  How ironic is that?  He’s certainly done a number on women.  But don’t fret too much for him.  I’m sure his post-presidency money will make up for that.

In the comments of that Corrente post, I found a link to this CounterPunch article that shows how the faux progressive movement works.  Once again, the author has the benefit of five years to finally put the pieces together.  Some minds work faster than others, but because we documented it in real time, people didn’t take us seriously.  Either that or the progressive meme that we were racists scared decent people away- just as it was intended to do.  From the article, The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats, we get this nugget from Patrick Barrett at the University of Wisconsin:

“What gets lost in all this faux movement politics,” said Barrett,  “is any real challenge to the growing imbalance of social, political and economic power. Quite the contrary, the ultimate impact of their actions is to reproduce if not  aggravate that imbalance. What we’ve got here is a deeply symbiotic relationship between a pseudo-movement that derives its raison d’etre and financial vitality from a vilification of the right, which it has helped to create and without which it would have no reason for existence. Indeed, the more extreme the right becomes, the better it is for them, since they live off of fear-mongering. To oppose the right in a meaningful sense would put them out of business. That isn’t to say that there is nothing to be feared in the right or that some of these folks don’t think they’re fighting the good fight, but rather that the two work in tandem, much like a good-cop-bad-cop team. As the right becomes ever more extreme, this Democratic Party cum non-profit industrial complex moves further and further to the right itself, thereby giving the Republicans and their ilk ever greater leash and making it easier to frighten the “progressive” masses.”

Barrett concluded, “Lest anyone think that this is some kind of conspiracy theory, it’s important to emphasize that this is primarily a function of social and economic structures and political institutions that create a market for these sorts of pseudo-movement leaders, who will flourish if the conditions are right. That’s why we need to focus our attention on altering those conditions, something these people have little or no interest in doing.”

If anyone has spent the last five years wondering what happened to DailyKos, Josh Marshall and Digby, there’s your answer right there.  And if you’re wondering what happened to all the liberals in the Democratic party, well, we’re still in exile.

Monday: Meanderings

Republican voters: Crazy or The Craziest?

Some thoughts I’ve been having…

First up, last night’s Virtually Speaking featured Joan McCarter from the big orange satan.  Jay and Joan discussed the Republican primary in the first part of the show.  Jay seemed rather incredulous about the way this whole circus is playing out.  I would have to disagree on a couple of points though.

First, it’s not the candidates or the process that is crazy.  It’s the party’s voters that are batshit insane.  I think years of Glenn and Rush have taken their toll.  The dark archetypes of our collective unconscious have been given permission to run amok and the Republican voter’s unconscious, softened by years of angry white male rage and religion, is particularly vulnerable.  I don’t think some of these people are even recognizable to their former selves.  My relatives have gone through a personality transformation.  Towards the end of the Bush years, they were briefly getting better but with the noise machine pulling out all of the stops lately, plus the rotten economy, they’re just not the same people.  So, there’s that.

But more than that is the process itself is starting to take on its own internal logic.  There is definitely method to the madness of letting the Republican primary stretch on indefinitely, or at least until the convention in the summer.  If you don’t believe it, consider that the Republican primaries have driven almost everything else off the front page.  Each day, we’re confronted by candidates trying to outdo each other in pandering to their crazy base.  The Sunday shows are chock full of Republicans trying to make their case.  We’re going to get austerity/deficit reduction messaging continuously until they pick a nominee.  I’d say that was extraordinarily successful strategy and not at all crazy.

Secondly, there’s definitely a note of hypocrisy and paradox on our side of the aisle.  Jay and Joan toyed with the idea that the Republicans would have a brokered convention, and if I were the Republicans, I’d definitely go for this option.  Keep everyone guessing until the last moment.  Make sure your arguments and worldview get the most airtime before the public.  But the hypocrisy is that this is precisely what we denied ourselves in 2008 when the number of delegates separating the two candidates was about as wide as a gnat’s wing.   And not only did we not get a floor fight, we denied the first woman candidate who had ever come that far from even getting a legitimate roll call vote.  (And why was that?  Well, if we had let a real roll call proceed, everyone would have been immediately aware that they were virtually tied.  We couldn’t have that.  It would ruin the narrative.)  I have yet to hear Jay or anyone on Virtually Speaking explain why we should have found that acceptable.  In fact, many Democrats and women, in particular, do not accept it.

Which brings me to another point.  I could have sworn that I heard Jay refer to the Hillary holdouts as crazy and compared them rather unfavorably to Republican nutcases.  Now, I admit that I might have misheard this and I will be probably force myself to relisten to the podcast but I think Jay has been in the echo chamber too long.  While she may not be popular among the Democrats who gave us four years of Obama (thanks for nuthin’ guys), she is very popular among the rest of the country’s voters for good reasons.  She has proven herself to be a capable, competent, well-respected politician and administrator, both domestically and abroad.  She beats every candidate of both parties in polls, which Democrats do not mention.  The people who are crazy are not the holdouts.  It is the segment of the Democratic party who insist on clinging to their pre-conceived notions about her.  But whatever.  What’s really crazy is to go into this fluid, unpredictable election year in the fourth year of a dismal economic crisis without a Plan B.  No, Howard Dean is not an option.  Remember, you have to appeal to all of the voters.

And as Craig Crawford mentioned on Saturday night, the deadline for getting on the ballot on some of the biggest states has not expired yet.  Many of the big Democratic states like California, NJ and Pennsylvania have their primaries late.  In NJ, we don’t get to vote until June.  A lot could happen between now and then.  That lot could consist of endless pounding on Obama’s poor performance in Republican primary debates coupled with a lot of sturm and drang on the deficit.  Obama did not use his bully pulpit well in the past three years.  He squandered a lot of it with trivial photo-ops in the first year to the point that his appearances on TV are now just background noise.  And he’s never been a passionate defender of Democratic values anyway.  Plus, there are a lot of people in the Republican party who cannot wait to vote him out of office.  They are motivated.  What has motivated the Democrats lately?

Let’s not understate the importance of motivation.  There isn’t a lot that people can do about the economy, mostly because their elected representatives are not responsive to their concerns or listening to sound economic advice.  But there is one thing that people can do that will give them a great deal of satisfaction.  They can vote Obama out.  I don’t intend to do this because I’m not voting for either major party candidate.  I’m sure there’s a third party candidate who will get my vote.  But there are millions of people out there who will get a feeling of exultation out of booting him out of the White House and replacing him with a Republican.  They don’t even care what comes next.  He is the Emmanuel Goldstein who is the cause of so much misery to them.  What we’re seeing is the beginning of a three minute hate on steroids.  It’s not pretty.

In other words, the Democrats are going to have a real problem come November and throwing a bone like contraceptive coverage to the wimmins ain’t going to cut it for the millions of women who are out of work.  To think Obama can just skate to the finish line again because the Republican base is f%^&ing nutz is just crazy.

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

Lambert has a full report of our trip to Washington with a lot more pictures of the places we visited.  Check it out.  I still have 40 minutes of video, including an “incident” at the National Portrait Gallery, that are trapped on my Flip camera.  Apparently, when Steve Jobs joined the choir invisible, he had not reversed his (untimely) decision to stop supporting PC based apps on the Mac OS.  I have Lion.  Flip won’t download.  Kid has Snow Leopard.  *Might* be able to download to her mac if I can find the fricking rosetta disk.  If anyone out there has a workaround, detail it in the comments.  I mean, a workaround that doesn’t require me to buy or borrow a PC.

Occupy Congress Continued

Thanks to all of you who contacted your Congresspersons and Senators about SOPA and PIPA.  What these bills seem to be attempting to do is two things: promote private ownership of internet content and to sharply censor the non-conformists under the pretense of protecting property. SOPA looks quiescent for now but it’s going to take constant vigilance to make sure it stays that way.  PIPA is still in play, as far as I can tell.

One thing I learned when I was on the board of ed is that politicians will back down and even do a 180 if opposition is noisy and persistent.  This is probably why our political class is quite content to cast the Occupations in a negative light.  They’re noisy and persistent but if they can be made to look dirty and violent, their message doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

I had some connection problems in our room in Washington and on the train on the way back so I wasn’t able to upload my pics or process my video yet.  Then I found out from the insurance claims adjuster that all of the siding on one side of my house needs to be replaced including vapor barrier, weather stripping around the windows and the shutters as well.  The claims adjuster said her own house had suffered some structural damage from the wind storm as well, although nothing this extensive.  We both think the wind came from a different direction since neither of us had ever seen anything like it before.  Anyway, it’s been an interesting week in a Chinese proverb way.  So, I am uploading a few pics tonight to try to catch up.

Some interesting tidbits: we met a ragtag triplet with the letters “SD” on their shirts.  They reminded me of the stereotypical fife and drums trio from the Revolutionary War.  It turned out that they were three of the contingent from San Diego who were thrown off the Greyhound bus in Amarillo, Texas.  That’s not quite accurate.  What *really* happened is that the bus driver pulled over, got out of the bus – and locked them in.  Then he unloaded their baggage and forced them off the bus leaving them stranded in Amarillo.  But here’s the great thing about the Occupation.  The deserted in the desert contacted Occupy Amarillo and Amarillo came to their rescue, picked them up, gave them a place to stay, fed them and sent them on their way to Washington.  That’s a heart tugging story with a happy ending.

Then there was a contingent from Walla Walla, Washington.  They were senior citizens who had become very active in the Occupy movement and had canvassed their neighborhood advocating the protection of Medicare.  They struck some kind of deal with their city officials so that their site remained intact and free of harrassment from the local constabulary.  They say they are getting an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone they have talked to about Medicare.  Another success story of people sticking up for each other.

Then there was the not-so-good stories.  One woman from Portland told horror stories about the Portland police.  It sounds like the whole Portland police force is made up of sadistic automatons.  Their attitude seems to be “crack heads first, ask questions later if they’re conscious”.  She said that she had a concussion from one of her unfortunate encounters and she hadn’t done anything to provoke it except be present.  The police attack without warning and in as brutal a fashion as they can get away with.

We spent much of the afternoon in conversation between the four of us, Lambert, Marsha (CoyoteCreek), DCBlogger and me, and went back to the Capitol lawn at about 6:00pm.  There was a festive mood and music playing.  It was hard to tell how many people were there because there was no lighting except flashlights.  We sat on the muddy ground on plastic rain ponchos and took it all in.  It’s a different mood in Washington than it is in Manhattan.  The police are a lot less menacing and they don’t seem to outnumber protestors.  They ride around the city on bikes in colorful jackets and blue helmets.  They’re, dare I say it?  Friendly.  Really weird.  And also a nice change.  You would have really had to get up into their grill to get your ass hauled away.  In fact, early in the day, one occupier got righteously indignant about all of the fencing around the lawn so he started to tear it all down.  They let him.  The occupiers either rolled up the fencing neatly and moved it out of the way or used it as ground cover over the muddy ground so they could erect their makeshift structures.  There was a staging area, a kitchen and a medic area.  The kitchen served oatmeal, bottled water and fresh fruit for breakfast.

The GA took awhile to get started.  I blame the location.  It’s a wide open space with no natural acoustical advantages.  The voice dissipates quickly.  We tried a double mic and it took several attempts to get it to propagate.  The GA read the agenda and the plan to visit representatives.  Each congressional office building was assigned a color.  To visit your rep, all you needed to do was find the color of his/her building.  We decided to go have lunch at this point since Marsha hadn’t eaten anything all day, so we didn’t participate.  Later, we heard that the occupiers found the offices deserted for the most part.  Maybe they were busy, I don’t know.  But the vast majority of occupiers are old enough to vote.  They are constituents.  They deserve some respect.  I can only imagine what those nice elderly gentlemen from Walla Squared are going to tell their neighbors about their visit to their congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rogers.  From what they told me about her, they were not impressed with her or the fact that she always seems to be standing behind John Boehner when it’s picture time at the Capitol.

Here are some pictures from our day.  Be sure to check out updates from Lambert, CoyoteCreek and DCBlogger at Corrente.  Also, Lambert hosted Virtually Speaking during the pajama party in our room last night.  Check it out.

Setting up:

Occupy Applique:

The GA tries the double mic:

{Ok, I started to video this with my iPhone and thought I stopped recording when I put my phone in my pocket.  Ha-Ha.  Always double check.  Yes, that is my voice.  I couldn’t always hear what was being said and mostly just caught the tail end of each statement.  Still, this gives you an idea of the challenges of doing a GA on the lawn.  If I were the occupiers, I’d walk down the mall and look for a circular concrete plaza on the right side a couple blocks up.  I think it’s the Naval Heritage Center. It’s a much better space for a GA.  Don’t know what the rules are for occupying it for that purpose but it didn’t look like anyone was using it.  hint-hint}

The Agenda:

Night on the Capitol lawn:

TC Fundraiser for Lambert and Correntewire

As much as I hate to admit it, some of the best work in the blogosphere has come from Corrente in the last three years.  I discovered Lambert towards the end of my stay at DailyKos when he wrote a brilliant essay about something.  I can’t even remember what that something was but I wrote a diary about it, now irretrievable.  I’m not trying to be flippant.  He really made an impression on me.  Damn Markos for archiving the diaries!

During 2008, Lambert was one of the few bloggers who trusted his instincts about Obama and the Democrats and what they were up to.  We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on many different things but I appreciate the fact that I can go shoot my mouth off at Corrente and he keeps letting me do it.  Ideologically, we’re close on the political spectrum although we’re a bit less crunchy granola than Lambert.

His coverage of OccupyWallStreet has been excellent.  His coverage and participation in conferences to discuss the state of the economy has been exemplary.  He’s got a lot of top notch writers.  And he does it all for free- mostly.

If you’re not a blog site the size of Eschaton or DailyKos or Firedoglake, it’s bloody hard to make a living at blogging.  Not only do you have to create compelling content but you have to be listed in a lot of blogrolls and mentioned occasionally by the people who can send you an audience.  The left has not been kind to the blogs who got it right about 2008.  The Confluence is on only a tiny number of blogrolls as punishment for our sin of being pretty in your face about how stupid the left was.  But Corrente has made peace with the left and even though it gets mentioned more and has more of a political impact than we have, it needs to keep going to become a big player.   And we need blogs like Corrente and The Confluence to present a different perspective on what it means to be progressive and liberal, and what the penalty is for having the courage to dispose of the DNC’s pre-written script.  Preserving the right to be unpopular and not go along with the crowd because you know that it’s wrong is very important.   In the meantime, it costs money to keep the site going and Lambert warm during the cold Maine winters.

So, if you can spare a dime, head on over to Corrente’s tip jar and throw in some filthy lucre to say thanks for doing the thankless job and sticking with it.

You can either make a one time donation here.  Or you can subscribe.

Ok, I’ll go first…

Obama’s “post-racial” presidential campaign starting early

Corrente has the links to James Clyburn’s accusation that criticism of Obama’s performance is driven by racism.  Actually, he’s saying something completely different.  He’s saying that the president’s problems are due to his skin color.  I assume he is referring to the question about Obama’s future electoral prospects.  You be the judge:

QUESTION: What do you think of Obama’s election prospects?

CLYBURN: I think they’re improving every day. I think the president has been a good president, a great commander in chief. I think when people allow themselves to — you know, I’m 70 years old. And I can tell you; people don’t like to deal with it, but the fact of the matter is, the president’s problems are in large measure because of his skin color. All you got to do is look at all the signs they’re carrying out there and look at the mail that I get. As I said, I’m 70 years old, I been going through this kind of stuff all my life. I know what kind of mail I get, I know what kind of phone calls I get, I know what people are saying who call the office.

I’m sure he didn’t mean what is underlined. It would be really bad if he was saying that Obama needs a four year handicap because he’s African American.  THAT would be a very racist, unfair, demeaning and untrue thing for Clyburn to say.

It also doesn’t speak well of Obama’s character if his feelings are hurt by the mail Obama is getting.  If it’s racist, it should go directly to the spam filter.  There’s no reason to read it or give it a second thought.  As I have told female bloggers over and over again, trollish comments are only little black pixels on your display.  They cannot hurt you.   They’re meant to make you feel bad for no other reason than to make you feel bad.  Why the hell is Obama reading them??  So, someone out there doesn’t like you.  You’re the fricking president and leader of the free world.  Are you going to let some asshole in Mississippi ruin your day because he doesn’t like your skin color?  It’s such an absurd idea I’m surprised a man like Clyburn would even bring it up.

Lambert also links to a post from Sean Wilentz in April 2008 about the outrageous accusations of racism directed at the Clintons and anyone who did not enthusiastically endorse Obama as the second coming of Jesus.  Many of us do not need to be reminded of one of the most disgusting aspects of the 2008 campaign season.  That was the year we became ugly, kkk grand poobah sheet wearing, knuckle dragging, racists even if we were young enough to grow up in an integrated society, in schools that were racially diverse and were brought up to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  It was beyond insulting.  My parents did not raise me to be a racist.  Not only did Obama’s droogs smear us, they smeared our parents.

Some Democrats took those insults seriously and didn’t want to be forced out of the tribe.  They capitulated so the Obama campaign would stop calling them dirty names.  Some of us would not be manipulated by false accusations to vote for a man whose political philosophy and accomplishments were vaporous and indistinct.  We judged Obama by what he did and said, not on any other factors.

And we’ll do it again in 2012.

Clyburn can go jump in the spam filter.

Time is on whose side in Egypt?

Pro-Mubarek protestors and secret security forces are attacking anti-government protestors in Egypt.  Al Jazeera is reporting that Mubarek’s speech yesterday took some of the fire out of the public who were demanding his ouster.

The Art of War probably has a whole subsection on time.  I can almost hear Sun Tsu telling his students that making your enemies hesitate is crucial to undermining their momentum.  It sounds like Mubarek appealed to the public’s sense of fairness to him, a national hero whose patriotism is unquestioned.  He promised to not run again, isn’t that enough?  It sounds so reasonable.  The public is probably wondering why to bother protesting anymore.  It’s too much chaos, too dangerous.  Too messy.

Yes, democracy is messy.  And there will always be speechwriters who know how to appeal to our weakest instincts, who will sneak into our subconscious and whisper to us of our powerlessness and will play up fear.  Sort of like what David Brooks does weekly in the New York Times.

If the Egyptians can resist the messaging and stick it out and redouble their numbers, who knows what they can accomplish?

Of course, it’s easy for us to say, sitting in our warm houses, minding our own business, not making trouble.  This year, economic conditions and corruption are enflaming the middle east.  In twenty years from now?  Who knows?  It may be us.

Is time on our side?

Lambert is live blogging the situation in Egypt on Corrente.  Check it out.

Sunday: What to do, What to do?

Susie Madrak has her own radio show on BlogTalkRadio.  On January 17, her guests were Eric Boehlert and Nicole Sanders.  They took a call from a woman whose unemployment benefits ran out last March.  MARCH.  Of 2010.  For almost a year, this woman has had zero income.  No unemployment, no little job, nuthin.  She’s spent all of her savings and is now living on a home equity line of credit to pay her bills.  And she called Susie, who’s doing the best she can with what she has too since being out of work for some time now, and asks what she can do to get lawmakers’ attention?

Susie talked about how the Communist party started organizing back in the Great Depression, preventing people from getting evicted and feeding the poor.  And back then, it got a lot of attention.  There were tent cities and Hoovervilles in Washington.  Evidence of poverty was everywhere.  It was the threat of a public uprising the finally got things moving.

Susie gave the standard answers about what can be done.  Show up at a congressman’s office en masse, hang out in front of the restaurant where he/she and friends have lunch, throw a tent city or two and call the local paper or TV station about it.  Butcha know, I don’t think that’s going to work anymore and as one of them said: the right has the biggest megaphones and they simply won’t report it.

The right knows their voters.  They motivate their voters to vote by romanticizing the fetus, by appealing to their religiosity.  If bad things happen to other people, it’s because they weren’t as pious and good as the typical Fox News viewer.  That same religiosity prevents the religious conservative from doing too much to help the poor by contacting their representatives and demanding action.  It’s because there is so much evil and bad and pain in the world that mankind does not have the capacity to clean it up.  Only god does.  So, we need to just wait for Jesus to come back, which should be any day now.  If you’ve ever wondered what the apocalyptic messaging in right wing propaganda has to do with anything, there’s the reason.  It’s to keep the older conservative voter who sees disturbing things from taking any action.

If Susie wants to know what to do, she is going to have to target these viewers to get involved.  One thing that temporarily woke people up was the sight of so many people suffering in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans.  Which means that the news machine will be very careful to never do that again.  So, if you can’t bring the news to the people, maybe you have to bring the people to the news.

Don’t isolate your older, more conservative relatives.  Tell them what’s going on because you’ve seen it personally.  Tell them what is happening to your unemployed friends.  If they ask why they’re not willing to relocate, tell them the truth.  There are no jobs.  Anywhere.  Be harsh with them.  They won’t want to see you.  But they’ll call and ask why you haven’t come to visit.  Tell them you’re trying to help your friends- who are unemployed and that they just don’t get it.  They’ll go on about how God is the only one who can clean this mess up.  Tell them that’s bullshit and Jesus wouldn’t want them to ignore the poor.  If they tell you that you’re friends did something wrong, tell them the only thing they did wrong was being born in the wrong part of the 20th century.  If they say, yes, it’s true, the older generation has it good in comparison, tell them, great!  We’re moving in with you.  With the bird.  And the kid who likes to play Edith Piaf songs all. the. time. and refuses to speak to you in anything but French and eats like there’s no tomorrow.  When they express some hesitation about that, tell them to turn off the fricking TV news.

As for Susie, I think she has a future in broadcasting but she really has to ditch her propensity to glom onto left wing memes.  I’m not saying stop being liberal.  I’m saying stop letting the left do your thinking.  On one broadcast a couple of months ago, I think Athenae was on, they got so frustrated with it all that they want to just ditch everything and go rustic, which is great if you have no dependents.  But in some respects, it reminds me of the older religious person’s decision to just stay in the house away from the evil men and sexual predators until Jesus comes back.  You can’t run away from the world’s problems when they seem insurmountable.  If you do that, the bad guys win.  They want people to feel helpless.  Learned helplessness is their goal.

The only way to win is to get together and fight back.  And if Susie hasn’t figured this out yet, the left’s support of Obama in 2008 has resulted in thousands of sparkling shards of leftiness with the incapacity to reform itself.  I keep appealing to people like Susie to stop blowing us off and join with us and let’s do something together.  But the left hasn’t given up on the stuff that doesn’t resonate with their potential allies who work for the big corporations the left condemns.  It’s incomprehensible to me that for all the intelligence the left claims it has that it hasn’t figured out yet that the corporations are not the ogres here.  It’s the rulemakers they help elect.  If the rules weren’t bent or destroyed, the corporations would go back to playing by the rules and merely scheming like grinches instead of running around causing havoc like Thing 1 and Thing 2.   Then there are people like us who voted for Hillary and are still personas non grata.  We’re always going to think Obama was the wrong guy for the moment.  But why would the left cut off half of its strength if it really want to make a change?  Let me ask you this, Susie, why haven’t you asked any of US on your show yet?   Not that we can’t host our own shows but that’s hardly togetherness, is it?

The left’s obsession with perfection mirrors the right’s eschatological fervor.  Neither one addresses the causes and concerns of people in the middle who still bitterly cling to their FDR era programs with track records of success for those who participate.  Both sides insist that if they can’t have everything their way, no one will get anything at all.  In this respect, the left does as much damage to its cause as the right does with its huge megaphones.

If you want to know why no one hears your cries, it’s because you haven’t joined with other voices.  And the men in charge, and it’s ALWAYS men, like it that way.  Power is the ultimate drug and no one is going to wrest it from them without a fight.  As long as the left remains broken, Susie and her tent cities are no threat to the power brokers.

In other news:

So, about that FICA 2% tax break.  I was just talking to my colleague about this the other day.  She was planning to roll that money into her 401K.  Hold off on that, I said, you never know how they’re going to take it out of your hide.  After all, you’re income tax may go up instead.  Sure enough, Carissa at Corrente discovered what the catch is in Making Work Pay Clawback.  You’re not going to like it.  I probably won’t like it a whole bunch more.  As a single person who only gets to claim Head of Household every other year, while still retaining the blessings of parenthood and a healthcare policy that requires that I am the major source of support for the kid, I pay an outrageous amount in taxes already but I’m well below the top tax bracket that actually gets…

wait for it

a break! Yep, if you’re in the 35% tax bracket, the amount of money you can make before you are taxed has risen.  For everyone else, the amount you have to make before the taxes kick in has dropped. Isn’t that special?  So, hold off on adding to your 401Ks, which only people who have paid off their mortgages can afford to fund adequately.  Not only has Obama managed to not soak the rich, he has given them additional breaks, acquiesced to a plan that underfunds social security, transferring that money to the general fund where it will be spent in Iraq, and raised taxes on our income.  In summary, the 2% FICA tax break does absolutely NOTHING to stimulate the economy. Well done!  Is this really the one we were waiting for?

Les Leopold at AlterNet attempts to answer the perennial question, “Why Do People Who Work in Finance Earn So Much More Than the Rest of Us?” Yes, I would like to know the answer to that question, as well as why it is that people who work in the corporate offices make so much more than the people who do the innovation and the hands on work to produce the products that make all the money?  And why is their gym nicer and their cafeteria food better?  Why is it they can use the mail service to ship personal items to international destinations while the people in the facility down the road can’t?  Shit, did I say that out loud?  Well, why???  What is it about dressing up and sitting behind a desk makes the people who make sometimes incredibly bad decisions so much wealthier than the rest of us?  The answer, as far as I can tell is that if you delegate your authority to other people to keep track of the money so that you can get actual work done, you run the risk that those delegates will reward themselves handsomely at your expense, and at a certain level of wealth, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  It’s extortion.  That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Leopold does some calculations:

Let’s try a back-of-the envelope calculation of Wall Street’s net social value. Compare their bonuses and profits for roughly the last five years (about $500 billion) with the economic losses produced in the financial crisis the bankers caused (about $4 trillion in value destroyed, not counting the ongoing travails of the 22 million people who haven’t yet been able to find a full-time job). For every dollar “earned” on Wall Street, about 8 dollars were destroyed. (In case you’re suffering from financial amnesia and forgot how the financial sector single-handedly caused the economic crisis, please see The Looting of America. Chapter One can be found gratis on AlterNet.

I hate to break this to the educators but, it turns out if you really want your students to learn something, testing is one of the best ways to do it.  You know those endless stupid projects you have our kids doing where they have to map everything out on big pieces of expensive poster board with connections to all of the other concepts in the unit?  Turns out that might be a waste of parents time.  What researchers have discovered is that those projects impose an artificial organization and categorization system on students that is more easily and naturally achieved by simply testing them on the material as soon as possible after they learn it.  Go back to the pop quizzes, teachers.  Save yourself and your kids and their families a nights of exhaustion and despair.  From the NYTimes article:

Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.

“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.

But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.

It makes sense.  If you impose a little bit of stress on the student in the form of a quiz or test, they are forced to rapidly organize the information and discover where they are deficient so they can revisit the information later.  If you impose too much stress on them by forcing them to adopt another organization method, you not only screw up their intrinsic method but you create a life long hatred of projects.  JMHO.

Anyway, it’s in the journal Science, which is a stickler for peer review and details and stuff like that so as much as you may dislike the concept of testing for retention, you can’t completely dismiss this paper.  Well, you *could*, but it would be pointless.

Another article from the NYTimes proclaims that Obama is to press a centrist agenda in his SOTU address.  So, it looks like after three years of playing the political philosophical mystery man, Obama has finally found a place to dig in his heels and plant his flag — right down the middle.  Which has moved significantly rightwards since he became president.  Uh-huh.  I see this as a way to head off Bloomberg and his silly No Limits soiree.  Which means, the vast majority of people who are not making $200K a year and have to work for a living without a safety net are still screwed and unrepresented by this President.  Obama has finally found his constituents:

Mr. Obama previewed the themes in a video e-mailed Saturday evening to supporters who had helped in his election campaign. But the video made plain that his speech would be geared more broadly toward the political center, to independent voters and business owners and executives alienated by the expansion of government and the partisan legislative fights of the past two years.

The rest of you scientists and airline pilots and mathematicians turned uber programmers and burger flippers and unemployed journalists and part time morticians can go take a hike.

Lovely.  By the way, NYTimes reporters, the economy is *not* “picking up steam”.  My friends are just as unemployed as ever and the rest of us are in danger of joining them.

I’m so glad that I can say with pride that “I didn’t vote for him”.

About that abortion clinic from hell, Alternet has a followup.  Well, there are a lot of articles on this subject.  The story is very gruesome but just goes to show you that desperate women will overlook unsanitary conditions, illegality and their own health to get abortions when they decide they need them.  There is nothing that a senior citizen mainlining Fox News can do about it.  These women are never going to bond with or have any warm and fuzzy maternal instincts for the fetuses they carry.  There’s no amount of shame or inconvenience you can foist on them that will deter them.  The only thing you accomplish by stigmatizing abortion and forcing poor women to “Chase the Fee” is that you end up risking two deaths instead of one.

This is the first but certainly not the last legal clinic that resembles a back alley abortion mill.  There will have to be a lot more of them before the anti-choice contingent starts feeling the weight of all of the deaths and destruction and infertility it has visited on women.  They will have to feel it and be made to take the blame for it.

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