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Krugman and I differ on Obamacare

This is sad.  I really like Paul.  We agree on so many things.  He’s one of the few people who is getting a clue about the myth of structural unemployment.

But with Obamacare, he’s hopeless.

I think it has to do with his own social isolation.  He lives in Princeton surrounded by some of the most successful individuals in the world.  Of course, all around him is the detritus of 6 years of dismantling of the R&D industry.  He only has to cross Route 1 to visit the now shuttered lab where I worked for 15 years. Some of the smartest people I know are having a really hard time figuring out what just happened to them.  But it’s unlikely that Krugman knows many of them, or any of the less accomplished people I know.

Here’s the part of Paul’s latest Conscience of a Liberal post on Obamacare that I resent most:

The current state of public opinion on health reform is really peculiar. If you’ve been following the issue at all closely, you know that the Affordable Care Act is one of the great comeback stories of public policy: after a terrible start, it has dramatically exceeded expectations. But hardly anyone seems to know that.

It’s easy to understand how that happens for Fox-watchers and Rush-listeners, who are fed a steady diet of supposed Obamacare disaster stories.

Um, I HATE Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  I consider them to be on the same par as pneumonic plague.  They spread misinformation quickly and the effect is always malignant.  I don’t watch cable news of any kind and I don’t listen to Rush.  So, where could I have possibly gotten the crazy idea that Obamacare is a disaster waiting to happen??

Maybe it’s from my own data and observations.  Maybe it’s because the plans are not so great for the price.  Maybe it’s because some of us could afford the lousy premiums if we could get a subsidy but our incomes are too low to qualify (could someone please explain how that even makes sense??).  Maybe it’s the persistent feeling that Obamacare is leading to a less secure job market.  Maybe it’s because for some of us, it’s a choice between cashing in some of our IRA and facing a steep tax penalty to pay for our premiums or being forced into Medicaid where the state may collect our estates from our heirs when we are dead.  There are a million reasons why Obamacare might not be working so well for the rest of us, 40 million approximately.  If Obamacare is only reaching 7 million new subscribers, doesn’t that leave most of the 47 million uninsured still uninsured?

Here’s my take on Obamacare: It’s full of poison pills.  There’s just enough in it to help people with pre-existing conditions and some self-employed people to thrill the cockles of the liberal’s heart.  For everyone else, cost controls are not in place, there are no mechanisms to force competing carriers in a local market to cooperate with each other leaving the unsuspecting facing steep out of network costs, the unemployed are still mostly not covered (and they can’t afford the premiums anyway without a subsidy) and to get any kind of public option, aka Medicaid, you have to give up nearly everything you own and have spent your whole life working for.

This is not a good plan, Paul.  Most people do not live in Princeton or NYC.  They live ordinary lives with ordinary wages and this plan seems to have bypassed many of them.  Obamacare was cobbled together by a chief executive who seemed to want to wag his penis around instead of actually pushing for a well crafted piece of legislation.  Then it was severely compromised by Congress, first by Republicans who are malignant narcissists and then by Democrats who repeatedly sold out their constituents in a desperate attempt to prop up a guy who was not ready to be president.  Why the push to ram this extremely flawed piece of legislation through so quickly?  Why was it more important to save Obama’s ass than to ask him to do a good job?  Why aren’t enough liberals asking those questions?

Don’t insult us, Paul, especially those of us who are die-hard liberals who find the right wing utterly repugnant.  It’s not going to make Obamacare better and won’t help the party.  It reminds me of the days when anyone who saw through Obama in 2008 was called a racist.  It’s not fair and it’s beneath you.

Study shows how morals can be changed by others

Well, this certainly explains the typical Fox News viewer who only 15 years ago was perfectly rational and sane:

People can be tricked into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions, researchers report today in PLoS ONE.

The researchers, led by Lars Hall, a cognitive scientist at Lund University in Sweden, recruited 160 volunteers to fill out a 2-page survey on the extent to which they agreed with 12 statements — either about moral principles relating to society in general or about the morality of current issues in the news, from prostitution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

But the surveys also contained a ‘magic trick’. Each contained two sets of statements, one lightly glued on top of the other. Each survey was given on a clipboard, on the back of which the researchers had added a patch of glue. When participants turned the first page over to complete the second, the top set of statements would stick to the glue, exposing the hidden set but leaving the responses unchanged

[...]

People were even willing to argue in favor of the reversed statements: A full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements, the authors write. Hall and his colleagues have previously reported this effect, called ‘choice blindness’, in other areas, including taste and smell and aesthetic choice.

[...]

The possibility of using the technique as a means of moral persuasion is “intriguing”, says Liane Young, a psychologist at Boston College in Massachusetts. “These findings suggest that if I’m fooled into thinking that I endorse a view, I’ll do the work myself to come up with my own reasons [for endorsing it],” she says.

These researchers took their good sweet time getting around to researching and publishing this stuff.  Where were they 4 years ago??  Of course, we can’t ignore the effect of peer pressure and the “pain of independence”.  Once you identify with a group, it’s hard to break away from it even it it’s going over a cliff morally, like the Democratic loyalists are doing currently.

Still, it makes sense.  Think about all the times Geroge W. Bush confused Osama bin Laden for Saddam Hussein when he was trying to gin up support for stupidly invading Iraq.  Or think about how many people were snookered into supporting the Patriot Act or the Department of Homeland Security or think that Occupy protestors are lice ridden sex addicts.  Or that Sandra Fluke is a slut.  Or that 47% of Americans don’t deserve the social security they paid into all of their adult working lives.  Or that it is OK to call your opponent’s supporters racists.

It’s easier than we think.

And for those Democrats out there who think that Romney has screwed up so badly that he’s bound to lose, be careful to not jump to conclusions.  This election is still a referendum on Obama who was no FDR during the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Negative feelings towards him are running pretty high right now.  If people want to get rid of him, they’ll find a reason.  It won’t be that hard.

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.

Fox and Dogmatism

How many of you have read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba?  Go read it if you haven’t yet.  Altemeyer is the expert on the kind of people who do what other people tell them to do and the people who lead them.  John Dean referenced Altemeyer heavily in his book Conservatives Without Conscience.  Getting into the heads of the authoritarian follower is useful if you want to understand where right wing politics are going.  Don’t bother trying to convert the authoritarian follower.  They’re tough nuts to crack.  But it may be possible to head off potential problems and plan for the future by studying this group and understanding the era that produced them.

To that end, here is a very interesting talk about dogmatism from Judy Johnson professor of cognitive psychology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.  By the way, it’s curious that the authorities on authoritarianism and dogmatism are in Canada, isn’t it?  It’s like Canadian ethologists are studying Americans to try to figure out what makes us tick and maybe building even higher fences to keep us out.

When I viewed this talk, I was struck by the similarity of the highly dogmatic to the typical Fox News viewer.  Now, it is probably not a revelation to anyone that the typical Fox News viewer is highly dogmatic.  But I often ask myself, did they start out this way or did Fox News indoctrinate them?  After this talk, I’m pretty convinced that the Fox News viewer is a product of the 1950s and that the right wing is taking advantage of this natural constituency to drive politics even further to the right.  Johnson’s research also reinforces my hypothesis that the reason why the right wing has stepped up the crazy in the last couple of years is because it is running out of time.  There isn’t another demographic with this high degree of dogmatism on the near horizon until the helicopter parent generation of children is of voting age, and the degree to which they adhere to dogmatism may depend on how the internet is regulated in the future.  So, the authoritarians who are presently in charge are going to ram everything they can through federal and state legislatures in this election cycle and the next because their target demographic and critical mass is dying off.

With that in mind, we should ask ourselves why it is that Democrats are not simply digging in their heels and waiting it out.  Are they being lead by morons or not really an opposition party?

Anyway, here is Judy Johnson’s talk on Dogmatism: A Scar on the Face of Reason:

Thursday: Assholes R Us

Did you see this list of the top majors for the 1%?

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in?

The writer, sly dog, was probably trying to make a point, because he wrote from a biology department, and it turns out that biology majors make up nearly 7 percent of college graduates who live in households in the top 1 percent.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order.

Undergraduate Degree Total % Who Are 1 Percenters Share of All 1 Percenters
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs 142,345 11.8% 0.9%
Economics 1,237,863 8.2% 5.4%
Biochemical Sciences 193,769 7.2% 0.7%
Zoology 159,935 6.9% 0.6%
Biology 1,864,666 6.7% 6.6%
International Relations 146,781 6.7% 0.5%
Political Science and Government 1,427,224 6.2% 4.7%
Physiology 98,181 6.0% 0.3%
Art History and Criticism 137,357 5.9% 0.4%
Chemistry 780,783 5.7% 2.4%
Molecular Biology 64,951 5.6% 0.2%
Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies 184,906 5.2% 0.5%
Finance 1,071,812 4.8% 2.7%
History 1,351,368 4.7% 3.3%
Business Economics 108,146 4.6% 0.3%
Miscellaneous Psychology 61,257 4.3% 0.1%
Philosophy and Religious Studies 448,095 4.3% 1.0%
Microbiology 147,954 4.2% 0.3%
Chemical Engineering 347,959 4.1% 0.8%
Physics 346,455 4.1% 0.7%
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration 334,016 3.9% 0.7%
Accounting 2,296,601 3.9% 4.7%
Mathematics 840,137 3.9% 1.7%
English Language and Literature 1,938,988 3.8% 3.8%
Miscellaneous Biology 52,895 3.7% 0.1%
Source: 2010 American Communty Survey, via ipums.org
{{hangs head in shame}}

See??  This is yet another reason to invest in research.  If you don’t keep us in the lab and pay us well, we’ll go to work on Wall Street.  Nice economy you’ve got there.  Be a shame if something *happened* to it.

I suspect that the large number of geeks on Wall Street represents the number of quants hired to construct and run the dynamic models.  Take D. E. Shaw, billionaire biologist, for example. While he’s running a hedge fund, he’s got a sideline creating molecular dynamics simulations programs on proteins.  I can definitely see the crossover but what the top dogs probably fail to realize is that to the geeks, the programs are just research, as in “what would happen if we tweaked this parameter?” and there goes the Euro. God, help us.

Ironically, major pharmaceutical companies are run by former ketchup company executives and salesmen.  Go figure.  What we really need is for everyone to stick to their own kind.  No more of this mixing of the majors.  It’s unnatural.

However, this study just confirms my suspicions that it is much easier for a hard sciences major to learn business and finance than a business major to learn the hard sciences. And we in the research industries are going to pay for that lack of intellectual reciprocity.

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

Did you catch the article in Vanity Fair titled National Public Rodeo about the Juan Williams at NPR fiasco?  There’s a sad little tale of karmic justice in it, considering the way the candidates and Fox treated him in South Carolina.  His story sounds vaguely familiar.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Flashy African-American dude with gigs at prestigious institutions gets hired by a bunch of solidly middle class, no-nonsense, Minnesota-type liberals.  They’re thrilled to be adding to the diversity of their lineup; he thinks he’s doing them a favor.  Turns out he’s an “idea rat”, not a workhorse, he’s considerably more conservative than they realize, and he has a history of lack of respectful treatment of women.  They would have known this if they had bothered to check out his background a bit more thoroughly but they’re blinded by their instinct to do good or fear of looking unfairly and tastelessly bigoted.  The staff and management try to accommodate his quirks and his moonlighting for their arch enemy.  But after half a decade, it’s just not working out.  They try talking to him but whenever they try to rein him back in, he starts accusing them of racism.  Everything is racism to him.  Racism, racism, racism.  So, they sit and wait until he royally fucks up in some spectacular way and then they fire him.  And the ones who fire him who end up losing their jobs in a firestorm of conservative vs liberal rhetoric- and accusations of racism.

It’s either a misunderstanding of worldviews or it’s a clever, common strategy to accuse your detractors of the most vile, prejudicial instincts in order to get what you want.  Too bad it bit him in the ass in South Carolina.  I almost feel sorry for the guy.  But he took the bait from Fox News and they own him now.

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

I’ve been following Jeff Jarvis’s Tweets from Davos, Switzerland.  He snarked this tweet late yesterday:

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

Now in the more fun part of #WEF: brainstorming sessions. Surprising that execs will play.

Jeff seems astonished that there is still no sense of responsibility among the uber rich.  They either don’t realize or callously don’t care about all of the misery they’re causing.  Or, maybe it’s all part of the plan.  What strikes me as odd about the very rich is that it seems like they live in a California-esque paradise of self-esteem programs.  No one has ever told them what stupid, selfish excuses for human beings they are.  They’ve never had any “character building” experiences.  You know the kind?  Whenever you needed something really badly, like a college education, and your parents didn’t have the cash to at least keep you from starving, they always said it would build your character?  I should have a rock solid foundation of character by now.  Not so the uber rich.  Their voices are “full of money” and they have no sense of guilt for running over people who get in their way.

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

BofA’s Moynihan responds that bankers will bear their scars for many years to come. So will we all. #wef

Somewhere, I hear the world’s tiniest violin…

****************************
The right’s boogieman, George Soros, says that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, there won’t be much of a difference between a Obama administration and a Romney administration.  The best shot Democrats have to retain the White House is for Santorum or Gingrich to get the nomination.  I happen to disagree with this.  Republicans, well, movement conservatives, will pull out all of the stops if Gingrich gets the nomination.  They want to win and all of the misery of the past three years will be dumped on Obama, some of it for good reason.  He squandered his opportunity to drag the country leftwards to the middle when he first took office and had a filibuster proof majority.

And why did he fail to do that?  It’s because he doesn’t believe in it.  He told you on Tuesday night that he was a moderate Republican.  He’s been saying that for four years now.  His heros are Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Doesn’t anyone ever notice that he doesn’t cite any Democrats as his role models?  Well, for one thing, no one believed that crap about him being the second coming of FDR so he had to drop it.  I think that forcing him to actually say he is a Democrat supporting strong Democratic values is physically and psychologically painful for him but I encourage the doubters to try.  Try to make him say something nice about LBJ or Bill Clinton.  Watch him flinch.

Anyway, Soros says he’s worried about the Supreme Court.  I’m not too worried.  I suspect that Ruth Bader-Ginsburg will announce her retirement before the election and will be replaced.  That leaves the composition of the court stable.  It would be different if Alito or Thomas or Kennedy stepped down but for some reason the Supremes have a history of living to a ripe old age whether we like it or not.

Here’s the rest of Soros’ interview from Davos, who, by the way, is also suffering from the failure to imaginate any other contest than the one between the Republicans and the Republican disguised as a Democrat. There are simply no other alternatives, like, replacing the Republican running as a Democrat with a real Democrat. I’m beginning to think that Soros is the one playing 11 dimensional chess here.:

OccupyWallStreet: Wow! Who is this guy?

Have you been practicing your rant in case you ever get asked to explain what’s wrong with the country to a Fox News reporter?

Well, this guy finally got his chance…

I don’t know who he is but he gets my vote.

Saturday: Too much news

More beach, less news

July is supposed to be a slow news month. Everyone is on vacation and nothing much is going on. But for some reason, the powers that be, who may also be the idiots in charge, have decided to misbehave and act up and basically do things that piss us off. Too much of this stuff is interesting. Such as:

* Obama has deep sixed Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Speculation is that he is going to appoint some dude named Raj Date who used to work for a bank. Becaaaaaauuuse that makes so much sense from a Consumer Protection POV? Call me skeptical. I know, I always have to be the one who just has to be different but not appointing the woman who created the agency in the first place seems like a really bad idea. I’m sure the usual excuses will be rolled out to justify this: the Republicans were being mean and wouldn’t let me appoint her, she doesn’t have any experience running an agency (variation of the Penis Years argument), and my favorite, she doesn’t have the personality for the job. People found her abrasive and “not a team player”, ie she wouldn’t kiss someone’s ass and actually took the description of the job seriously or she was determined to get the job done in spite of the guys who refused to cooperate and she did not disguise how impatient and displeased she was about their unhelpful behavior. Queue the talking points! In another display of mean spirited misbehavior, the Republican House is trying to pass a bill that would prevent recess appointments to federal agencies from getting paid. (Check out the pic of Warren on this link. Yep, they’re going with the personality excuse) So, unless you’re independently wealthy, you will have the same pay as an unpaid intern. That should encourage plenty of the altruists and experts to apply!

*Rupert Murdoch’s media empire continues to crumble. Two of his long time generals, Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton have resigned under fire. Check out The Guardian UK for the latest fallout to this scandal (Oooo, it just allowed the use of the word *fu^&ed* in a quote on the front page. It must be serious.) The Guardian seems to think that the spread of the scandal to the US through the phone hacking of 9/11 victims phones is going to spell the end of Fox News here. It cites the creation of an investigation of the matter at the FBI. That sounds serious and very promising until you read the news article that says…

*Republicans are holding up the extension of Robert Mueller’s appointment as head of the FBI. He’s been serving a long time, 10 years long, in fact. He needs a special dispensation to serve longer and the Republicans are not going to give it to him. In particular, Rand Paul, the Libertarian nut, has filed a stay of the extension. We can only speculate why but the repercussions are clear:

There may be significantly less time to complete the steps necessary to avoid a disruption at the F.B.I. than had been generally understood.

The widespread understanding has been that Mr. Mueller’s term will expire on Sept. 3, because he started work as F.B.I. director on Sept. 4, 2001.

But the administration legal team has decided that Mr. Mueller’s last day is likely to be Aug. 2, because President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001. Coincidentally, Aug. 2 is also the day the government will hit a debt ceiling if Congress does not raise it.

So, there ya’ go. Mueller could go out with a bang if he ramps up the investigation of News Corp in the three weeks he has left. Scratch that, I read somewhere that the debt ceiling crisis really happens on July 22 because the legislative process takes a certain amount of time to work its way out. Soooo, thanks Rand Paul for leaving this position unfilled on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11! Good job. And how conveeeenient for Fox News. How much you wanna bet the Republicans are holding out for a guarantee that the Fox News investigation goes nowhere? Hey! Maybe this is a good time to call your cable or satellite company and insist on them dropping Fox News from the lineup until the investigation gets to the bottom of the matter. We need a little righteous indignation here. And if I were Democrats who were serious about changing the narrative, I would bring this up at every opportunity.

*And while the Republicans and Obama fiddle with the debt ceiling, Rome burns. Governors of various states are very worried that they will not be able to meet some obligations, such as Medicaid and unemployment benefits. The last one is rather near and dear to my heart at the present time so I am most seriously displeased. Note to the still employed: have at least 6 months savings on hand and a Plan B in the event that your government decides to screw you over. I’ll do ok but I worry about others who have been out longer than me. And, NO, I don’t think we should be forced to fork over our future Social Security and Medicare bennies to satisfy the serious peoples’ desire for a Brave New World without a Safety Net for average American Workers, although this suspiciously looks like a pressure tactic to make the poor and desperate even more poor and desperate. I find this terror tactic completely unacceptable. I want Obama to soak the rich, stop letting them separate themselves from their patriotic tax obligations, or instruct air traffic controllers to redirect their private corporate jets to the Cayman Islands where they can spend more time with their money. Please include an air and naval blockade, landline internet with 512 kb DSL and only the base package cable featuring all the reality TV the bonus class can eat.

*Virtually Speaking last night was pivotal. Stuart Zechman went all PUMA. (I can almost see Stuart flinching as he reads that) But really, Stuart, what you suggested at the end of the program was what we recommended 3 years ago. We told voters to remain undecided. That was particularly important for Democrats in Exile because so many disenfranchised voters were mad enough to jump to the Republicans. I have always felt that Friends don’t let friends vote Republican, even though I personally logged a protest vote for McCain at the very last second in the voting booth. I cried, Stuart. I was so upset that my former party forced my hand and I wasn’t going to reward them for it. It wasn’t a racist thing. I don’t have that in me and Obama has never struck me as particularly black, to be honest. I just had to draw the line. So, I applaud your sensible suggestions to the new unterbussen to remain undecided. Now, you are partially responsible, as are we, for what comes next. We have to a.) stop people from panicking and screaming “Oh My Gawd We’re All Going To Die if a Republican is Elected!” and b.) we have to find a replacement. We need to identify a different candidate to endorse or draft. You know my preference because it’s actually possible and will put the fear of God into the Democrats but if you still have a strong objection, let’s find an alternative that all Democrats, not just the “creative class” can endorse. You need the people who left the left for the Tea Party (um, that would not be us. We were liberals before, during and after 2008). Welcome to the unaffiliated independent Democrats in Exile. I don’t recommend you actually use the term “Democrats in Exile” in any official capacity as the acronym is not terribly uplifting.

*Avedon Carol found a post about the end of Harry Potter. Let’s face it, it was all about Hermione. What she really thinks of her fellow Gryffindors is truly priceless:

In the final book, the girl has to wipe her parents’ memory of any trace of her so they’ll be protected. Essentially orphaning herself. But do people feel bad? Do they start going all Harry Potter on her? No. They are like, “Oh, hey, Hermione, all of my friends and family who still love me and still know who I am are getting together for a massive party. You can come if you want.” and she’s like, “Jolly, fucking jolly, assholes”

*Finally, this one is for katiebird. Guerilla knitting is something we bitter knitters can get behind. My favorite is the lava-esque emanations from the crack in the pavement. I also like the knitted tree, which looks like one badass Fu^&ing fractal.

Yes, that *is* yarn

* Oo, Oo! I nearly forgot. Brook made me go to an arty indie movie theater last night to see Tree of Life. It was the most incomprehensibly beautiful film I have ever seen. Still have no idea what it’s about but I recommend it anyway. I seriously want the kitchen in that movie.

One final thing: for you new unterbussen who are just tuning in, you may be wondering when we lost the New Deal. I periodically replay this video to show you when it happened. Forget Hillary Clinton for a moment. The two candidates could have been Barack Obama and John Edwards for the purposes of this exercise. Keep that in mind as you watch it and take note who the speaker is. A more potent symbol of the New Deal does not exist. Harold Ickes Jr. Is the son of Harold Ickes, FDR’s right hand man and “get it done” guy for implementing the ABC programs during the Depression. Ickes was a Chicago Republican who Roosevelt converted. He was a witty smartass who helped to execute some of the most successful programs in American history. I’d like to think his son shared that commitment to the American people. In any case, he knew exactly which principles were being violated in May 2008 and that has been our downfall ever since.

The RBC limited the number of Clinton supporters in the venue and gave most of the seats to Obama supporters. We had two front pagers attending the meeting who were lucky enough to get in and report from the inside. The whole thing was a travesty and miscarriage of justice from start to finish. And that is how we got an anti New Deal president. The party is not unified to this day. Many former Clintonistas left for the Tea Party, not from stupidity but out of anger and confusion. And we need those people back.

Here’s the clip:

An update on Juan Williams’ firing

Juan Williams' steepest descent to Fox News

I found this article from the NYTimes on Peter Daou’s Twitter stream.  It’s about the fallout from Juan Williams’ firing:

Of the thousands of complaints that have saturated NPR in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing earlier this week, some of the most telling have been from callers describing themselves as long-time “viewers” of NPR who warn that they are going to “stop watching.”

Stop laughing.  It’s rude.

But wait!  There’s more:

In an interview on Friday, Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive, defended the decision to dismiss Mr. Williams and said it was not the product of political or financial pressures.

His contract was terminated, she said, because “he had several times in the past violated our news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people’s air.”

On one such occasion last year, Mr. Williams said on Fox that Michelle Obama has “got this ‘Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress’ thing going,” an allusion to a leader of the black power movement of the 1960s.

In each instance, Ms. Schiller said, “We called him on it, we had a discussion, we asked him not to do it again.” NPR’s ethics code states that journalists “should not express views” in other outlets, like TV shows, that “they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

People deserve second chances, Ms. Schiller said, but “we made the decision here because, at a certain point, if someone keeps not following your guidance, you have to make a break. And that’s what we did.”

By the way, Juan Williams filled in for Bill O’Reilly on Friday.  So, it’s too late to take him back even if NPR wanted to.  But why would they want to?:

Jennifer Houlihan, a spokeswoman for New York Public Radio, said the issue “was not hurting” pledges. “We’re hitting or surpassing our goal at this point,” she said.

Oo!  Oo!  Fire Mara next time.  I’ll double the donation I used to give.  Better yet, stop being sycophantic Obama toelickers and I might even start watching listening again.  Yeah!  Purge the whole organization of Obots.  Concentrate on reporting the news like you used to do when you didn’t kiss conservative or “creative class” ass.

Do something different, like, oh, I don’t know, how about journalism?

More on Mara: Eric Boehlert says he never said NPR should fire Mara Liasson and neither has Media Matters.  Boehlert says that NPR should address the Code of Ethics conflict that Mara has with Fox.  I agree.

Of course, I think Mara has already done significant damage to NPR’s brand and getting rid of her would be only one step in a long painful road to recovery.  It has to take on the Obots in its ranks too before I come back.  But, Ok, give her a warning and a choice: stay off of Fox if you want to make absolutely sure you don’t violate NPRs code of ethics or find another job.  Seems fair to me.  I would have fired her by now but maybe all she really needs is a 6 months performance plan and a hard ass editor with a big red sharpie.  She might even leave on her own.

Liberals open minds, brains fall out over Juan Willams’ firing.

I shouldn’t be surprised over the lefty reaction to Juan Williams’ firing.  Ok, I’m not surprised.  Some people seem to think this is a free speech issue.  It’s not.  Allow me to insert my humble opinion as a former dedicated NPR listener.

Juan Williams parked himself on NPR during the Bush years.  That’s when I really started to notice him on NPR.  It was about that time that Congress appointed some Republican operative to the head of the corporation for public broadcasting and severely cut the budgets of CPB programming.  Eventually, NPR was pretty much on its own, getting underwriting from companies that specialize in ‘Wealth Management”.  The tenor of the reporting changed and Juan Williams was one of the leaders of that change.

In order to not offend the Republicans who might be listening in, the reports became more “on the one hand, on the other hand”.  Both sides were presented equally as if there was nothing at all wrong with any batshit crazy thing a movement conservative might say.  Mara Liasson and Steve Inskeep joined in.  Some of the interviews of Democrats became downright hostile.  I can remember one that Inskeep did with Rahm Emannuel that was inexplicably aggressive and nasty and I don’t even like Rahm.  In other words, NPR became just like every other media outlet: afraid to tell the truth without couching it in terms that conservatives wouldn’t find offensive.

Over time, instead of getting a quality news program that I had listened to for over 20 years, NPR became dependent on its donors – those wealth management people.  The reporting definitely suffered.  I used to write NPR diaries at DailyKos documenting the sad demise of NPR.  Juan, Mara and Steve lead the way, along with a generous dollop of Cokie “Tokyo Rose” Roberts.  The Village had gotten a grip on Morning Edition and All things Considered and it began to specialize in High Broderism.

Fast forward to 2010.  Now we are in the midst of a fall fund raiser and maybe the corporate donations aren’t as abundant as they used to be.  And maybe listeners aren’t ponying up either.  Then Juan Williams agrees with O’Reilly that muslims going all jihad is the greatest threat to this country.  Are you going to donate to NPR after you hear that?  Because O’Reilly is clearly looney toons and if Juan is agreeing with him, that means that Williams might also bring that perspective to NPR.  Listeners can come to two possible explanations for Wiliiams’ statements: 1.) he shares some of conservative O’Reilly’s bigoted beliefs about muslims or 2.) he has no problem pandering to the viewers’ base emotional responses for money.  If I am a listener of NPR, I pride myself that I am also NOT a listener of Bill O’Reilly, no matter how soft and squishy the reporting has become.  I start to make calls to the NPR member station and threaten to withhold my contribution.  (Actually, I’ve done this in the past over Mara and Steve).

The head of NPR, Vivian Whatshername, has had enough.  Juan is hurting the NPR brand name and threatening the credibility of the station. Is he a secret conservative shill who lets his sympathies for Fox viewers cloud his reporting on NPR?  If he isn’t fired, would any listener contributors believe anything Williams has to say after this point?   He was warned several times before about this.  He crossed the line.  He has to go.

Here’s my take on this: no matter how far NPR has fallen from its zenith in the nineties, it still has a reputation to maintain as a genuine news organization.  Journalism is what it does.  Once that mission is threatened by the possibility that some of your staff are not above demogoguery and pandering, the whole enterprise is threatened.  Money and budgets disappear as do the rest of your staff.  Juan undermines NPR’s news credibility.

Now, some of you may argue, unsuccessfully IMHO, that NPR violated Williams’ free speech when it terminated his contract.  That’s nonsense.  Williams can say anything he damn well pleases.  He landed on his feet and will get 2 million bucks for selling his soul hook, line and sinker to Fox.  He will now become just another emasculated “liberal” on Fox.  What NPR did was protect itself from accusations of extremist conservative bias.

Yep, there’s still a lot of cleaning up to do on aisle nine at NPR.  Their journalistic standards have fallen significantly since they decided to throw away excellence in reporting in order to make the conservatives comfy.  But that’s not the mission of a news organization.  They are supposed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.  It wasn’t NPR’s liberal reporters that gave them the reputation of being liberal in its heyday.  It was that NPR was so effective at reporting the truth with high standards and integrity.  And as we all know from Stephen Colbert, “the truth as a strong liberal bias”.  That is why Republicans tried so hard to bring CPB down during the Bush era.  When you hear the truth, extremist conservatism ala Fox starts to sound really stupid.  So, I applaud NPR for taking this step.  They did the right thing in order to start on the long road to recovery.

If Juan were working for any other outfit other than a news organization, I’d probably agree with the people who felt he was being singled out for sharing unpopular views.  This is not the case here.  The guy just has no integrity when it came to journalism and it was going to reflect badly on NPR.  He had to go.

Thursday News: Downwind

That's right, lower that gas mask

We didn’t start the fire but we wouldn’t mind being downwind of one of the biggest marijuana bonfires the world has ever known.  134 tons of confiscated weed were set ablaze in Mexico yesterday.  We’re a little puzzled over the draconian steps to eradicate the pot before it makes its way across the border.  What this country needs right now is some tasty weed or a batch of brownies.  What a waste.

New Jersey Cablevision customers are downwind of a nasty dispute between their cable provider and News Corp, the company that shoves Fox down our throats.  For the last 5 days, Cablevision customers have been without Fox programming including Glee, House, and some major league baseball and football games.  I can’t find any evidence that Fox News was pulled, however, which is a shame.  News Corp is doubling the subscription fees for retransmission of Fox programming for Cablevision.  That’s $150,000,000 for Cablevision alone.  It looks like Cablevision customers who just get the broadband service were also affected.  They were unable to download programming from Hulu for a period of time but that seems to be restored.

News Corp is going up against Dish at the end of the month.  As a Dish customer, I’d like to encourage management to take a hard line with News Corp.  Take it all off the Dish lineup, including Fox News.  It’s extortion but maybe this latest move is a good thing. The more we can contain the Fox News contagion, the better.  I’ll download Glee from iTunes.  But more than that, this is just another example of a corporation thinking that the average Joe has unlimited disposable income.  We don’t.  The fees for every damn little thing are skyrocketing.  Enough already.  Try to make due with the billions you already have.

On the mortgages/foreclosure fiasco, the rule of law appears to be downwind of some very sketchy bank tactics for seizing what might not be theirs and throwing families out of their houses.  Atrios has been doing a really good job finding more and more evidence of bankster fraud.  In the latest article on the mess, Battle Lines Forming in Clash over Foreclosures, the New York Times reports:

Now those missing and possibly fraudulent documents are at the center of a potentially seismic legal clash that pits big lenders against homeowners and their advocates concerned that the lenders’ rush to foreclose flouts private property rights.

That clash — expected to be played out in courtrooms across the country and scrutinized by law enforcement officials investigating possible wrongdoing by big lenders — leaped to the forefront of the mortgage crisis this week as big lenders began lifting their freezes on foreclosures and insisted the worst was behind them.

Federal officials meeting in Washington on Wednesday indicated that a government review of the problems would not be complete until the end of the year.

“The misbehavior is clear: they lied to the courts,” she said. “The fact that they are saying no one was harmed, they are missing the point. They did actual harm to the court system, to the rule of law. We don’t say, ‘You can perjure yourself on the stand because the jury will come to the right verdict anyway.’ That’s what they are saying.”

Robert Willens, a tax expert, said that documentation issues had created potentially severe tax problems for investors in mortgage securities and that “there is enough of a question here that the courts might well have to resolve the issue.”

Ah, yes, the poor investor will have to sort through all of the tax issues.  So sad.  It’s so much worse for investors than the families that lose everything including the roof over their heads just because the documentation is screwed up.  I guess it never occurred to anyone that lowering the principle on some of the loans would allow some homeowners to stay in their houses and pay their mortgages.  At least the investors would get *something* for their investments.  Or investors could take it up with the banks who always seem to be in the middle of all these messes.  But banks seem to make money off of of foreclosures.  Hmmm, if I had been a congressman, I might have made foreclosure a lot less attractive for banks and avoided much of this mess.  Oh, well!  Not my problem.

It does appear to be a problem for those congresspersons, however, who appear to be downwind of voter anger over Congress’s complacency with the economy.  In A National Election, Like it or Not, E.J. Dionne reports on the experience of Democratic Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy from Ohio, who mistakenly keeps trying to tell her voters about the “accomplishments” of the last two years.  For some stupid reason, the voters aren’t paying any attention to the half assed Lily Ledbetter law or Health Care Reform or the financial bailout:

Kilroy recalls encountering a voter who told her: “I’ve voted for you throughout your career, but I’m not voting for you this year because I don’t have a job.”

She spoke to her constituent about what Congress had accomplished, and also about how the tied-up-in-knots U.S. Senate had blocked other House initiatives.

To which the voter replied: “Do you think I care they’re stuck in the Senate? I don’t have a job.”

Stivers, who lost to Kilroy in 2008 by just 2,312 votes, has had much happier doorstep experiences. “People were mad at George Bush two years ago and they were going to take it out on anyone with an ‘R’ after their name,” he said. This time, they’re eager to talk about — you guessed it — “the debt and jobs.”

Yep, it’s a mystery.

As Greg Sargent reports in The Enthusiasm Gap Remains just Awful for Dems:

But still, the enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

It’s like that Far Side cartoon where Einstein can’t figure out the famous relativity equation until his cleaning lady starts straightening up his desk.  “All squared away” The Democrats have tried everything but the stuff that actually works.  Denigrating the stupid hicks who join the Tea Party doesn’t work, Greg.  And I know a lot of Democrats don’t want to hear this but if the closest you’re going to get to having a liberal in the White House is Hillary Clinton, then you might just want to elect Hillary Clinton.  There’s no way in God’s green earth that Kucinich is ever going to get there.  Get squared away already.

Here’s a hint, Mary Jo and all you Democratic Congresspeople:  Congress didn’t do enough for the working class.  The best you can do is say, “I’m sorry.  I get it now. I’ll put pressure on Obama to kill the Catfood Commission.  Please don’t vote for Republicans.  They’ll only make it worse, er, faster than we will.”

Ed Potosnak can balance an equation and gets my vote.

And that goes for all the rest of you Democrats sending stupid emails to me, assuming I’m some low information, irrationally angry voter who doesn’t know what the heck is going on.  The destruction that ongoing layoffs have had on my friends and family is devastating.  I really don’t want to hear about some half assed health care reform bill or some lame Ledbetter bill that doesn’t guarantee me equal pay- now, this very moment without any legal hassles.  I want to hear about how you’re going to save my retirement and my job.  I guess it’s just irrational to want to be able to maintain my base caloric and shelter requirements.  As it happens, I have a Democrat , Ed Potasnak, to vote for this November but I’m not supporting a party that seems incapable of getting its act together when it had every possible advantage in the past two years.

And finally, Juan Williams is downwind of someone at NPR who has some scruples. Last night, NPR fired him.  After years of being the not-so-secret conservative mole at NPR, Juan finally took things too far on his other gig at Fox:

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

NPR said in a statement that it gave Mr. Williams notice of his termination on Wednesday night.

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

I’ve been disappointed with NPR since the Bush administration when it went from National Public Radio to Nice Polite Republicans.  The consensus reality/perception bending by Williams, Mara Liason and Steve Inskeep got to be too much for me to take in the mornings.  It was nauseating to hear it on the program I had listened to faithfully since I was in college.  I’m glad that Williams got the boot because his remarks were designed to mislead viewers like my mother into believing that Muslims are going to go all jihad on helpless Americans.  The purpose of those remarks are to terrify people who will short circuit their risk assessment thought processes.  And studies have shown (damn, where is that reference?) that voters who are fearful of their own mortality will vote for conservative politicians who promise to protect them.  Those viewers of Juan Williams on Fox will not think about how most Muslim Americans have families and jobs and don’t have time to do terrorist activities.  They’ve got PTA meetings and shopping to do.  Besides, they’re so small in number, how the heck are they going to get away?  It’s a big country. Don’t get me started.  I have to deprogram my mom of this stuff every time I see her.

Yeah, Juan Williams is one of the bad guys and he’s been sitting on NPR like some big ugly insect that the NPR listeners are just supposed to ignore.  We’re supposed to believe that Williams was an unbiased journalist who just coincidentally has this other job on Fox News where he’s allowed to spew nonsense and deceive people.  But none of that could ever possibly spill over into Morning Edition.  Riiiiight.

Now, get rid of Liason and Inskeep and I’ll come back.  Maybe I’ll even write a check.

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