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      Stirling Newberry and I have been writing about Japanafication for years—on blogs, at least since 2004. Those of us who are old enough remember when Japan was THE miracle economy.  Technologically advanced, vibrant and rich.  It was eating America’s lunch, and most other countries.  For peak alarmism at this fact in a fictional form, read [...]
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Stupid, heartless people

Read Paul Krugman’s piece on the death of food stamps in the Farm Bill, after 40 years of success.

Now, I understand that some people think this is a dandy idea.  Split the Farm Bill up so that all the committed tax dollars go to industrialized farms and address the SNAP program separately, where there will be no such security for families with children.

But all I see is an opportunity for Republican voters, who have been deceived to believe that the country is suffering a scarcity of food stuffs that they have to pay for, to get another opportunity to shame and humiliate people.  Apparently, needing food is a reason to strip the dignity from your fellow citizens.

Yeah, that’s really nice.  I believe this is how bullying works.  Pick on someone for something they can’t help and then physically and mentally punish them for it.  That ought to make the Republican base feel smug and good about themselves.

Pathetic.

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

Need more DryLock.  Merde.

Paul seems confused about libertarian populism. Let me take a crack at this.

Up front, I want to say that there’s nothing on heaven and earth that could make me vote for a Republican or a Randian Libertarian.  In fact, when I moved to PA, I re-registered as a Democrat.  Unlike NJ, PA’s primaries are closed.  If you want to vote in the primary, you have to pick a party *before* the election, not on the day of.  So, I figured I would bite the bullet and try to get rid of as many DINOs as I can.

That out of the way, Krugman seems confused about why Republicans think they can pick up white voters through libertarian populism.  And it is true that in general, white voters who vote Republican are voting against their own interests.  But they have been conditioned for years that it’s OK to crap on minorities and women.  When it comes to white working class voters who vote Republican, it’s all about promising the guys that they won’t lose their white male privilege.  That’s what the abortion debate is all about.  That’s why we are still debating the voting rights act and affirmative action.

But the older conservative voter is dying out.  Where will the Republicans find new converts?

Allow me to speculate.

There are a ton of people who were laid off since 2008 who have ended up working for themselves.  Voile!  Instant grouches about taxes.  It is going to be hard enough to pay the bills and the new healthcare insurance bills for themselves and their families.  Think several car payments worth of extra bills on top of what they already have to pay to self insure themselves through the exchanges.  Then stick them with all of the Social Security taxes and self-employment taxes and you have the makings of a new Libertarian.

In fact, Paul should not be so surprised about how the Republicans plan to do this.  NJ has set a perfect example.  And we know that when NJ voters are given a choice between a Democrat who doesn’t reform the tax system like he promised vs a Republican who promises to hold the line on taxes no matter what, they’ll choose the Republican.

Think about it, Paul.  Making entrepreneurs is how they plan to make new Libertarian Republicans.

It’ll probably work too.  Without a compelling a forceful message from the Democrats, there’s really nowhere to turn for relief.

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

Holy Hemiola!  There are two guys here this morning tearing out half of my basement and all of my screen porch.  It sounds like an earthquake down there.

Update: We have met the enemy and he is ducts.  Lots and lots of ducts.  Now I need an HVAC specialist.  Cha-ching!

{{sigh}}

Screen porch gone except for the roof and four supports.  Already an improvement.

Best Book on Keynesian Economics

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.

You have to wait until the last third of the book for the economics stuff and it’s so well hidden that it’s almost subversive.  I’m surprised that conservatives haven’t put it on a banned book list.

Quick summary: An English lawyer draws up a trust for a kindly old Scottish gentleman who leaves his fortune to his niece with the stipulation that the full funds will not be made available to her until she is 35 years old.  The old uncle wants to prevent the niece from falling prey to fortune hunters.  The niece, Jean Paget, spends her childhood in Malaysia and returns there just before the start of WWII to become a typist at a rubber firm.  When the Japanese invade Malaysia, the women of the firm are sent on a 6 month march from one village to another while the Japanese try to figure out what to do with them.  Along the way, Jean meets Joe Harmon, an Aussie soldier commandeered by the Japanese to drive trucks for them.  I won’t give too much of the plot away but let’s just say there’s a crucifixion and the two protagonists are separated for years.  She thinks he’s dead, he thinks she’s married.

They finally get together with the reluctant help of the lawyer, who has fallen in love with Jean Paget even though she could be his granddaughter.  Jean is not college material (although you may disagree with her own assessment after you read what she does during the war and afterwards) but she has a keen business sense.  She can’t get all of her money for 10 more years when the book starts.  But she can get discretionary dispensations from the Lawyer.  What she does with the money is clever and amazing.

This book is well written, adventurous, has a good plot, you can dance to it and even people who don’t like to read books will like this one.  That’s what makes it so deliciously subversive.  Nevil Shute was a clever bastard.

Get a copy for that Fox News lover in your family.  After he/she reads it, you’ll never have a problem explaining Krugman or stimulus to them again.  I guarantee it.

Highly recommended.  It’s also a great audio book.  You won’t even realize you’re cleaning.

5 sponges.

Here’s a clip from the Masterpiece Theater production back in the 80’s.  The whole movie is not available on YouTube (darn).

I’m not an economist but…

…I read Krugman’s latest post on Conscience of a Liberal this morning about the recent actions of the Fed to raise interest rates.  I’m scratching my head over this one as well because the economy, as I see it, is still in the dumps and I’m still meeting plenty of people who think the economy sucks and unemployment is too high and self-employed people are hurting and it’s just pretty fricking awful all over the damn place.  So, I’m going to guess that the actions of the Fed are in response to something Wall Street is doing as they take advantage of The Market and everyone else in the world.  Are we experiencing another housing bubble? Are the hedge funds still accumulating foreclosed properties like there’s no tomorrow, driving up the cost of housing for everyone else?  I was lucky to get my house but I knew there were a lot of other offers on it and the only thing that gave me an edge is that I had cash and was an owner who was actually going to, you know, live there.

Anyway, I’m going to guess that there’s something afoot that I haven’t paid attention to that is on the Fed’s radar and since bankers, brokers, hedgies and the bonus class are the only people we bail out and go out of our way to not inconvenience, the rest of the world’s billions will just have to suck it up.  If our lives become even more difficult and strained, well, tough titties for us. We must not make it hard for the yacht owners to pay their kids private school tuitions or wives go without the underpaid au pairs for even one summer.  And since the vast majority of us do not occupy the ranks of the “not to be inconvenienced” group, it should come as no surprise that the consequences of the Fed’s actions on OUR lives is of no concern to it.  Of course, impoverishing the real market is eventually self-limiting and self-correcting, as Jefferson once wrote, but people will put up with a lot of shit before they throw the bastards out.

Or is there a political element to this strategy?  Is it still the plan to inflict as much suffering on average Americans as possible so that they will snap and take any measly short term relief in exchange for giving up whatever is left of the tattered social safety net?  If I were going to gut social security, this is not the way I would do it.  No, I’d wait until the economy was growing like Topsy and everyone was fat and happy and only then spring it on us that we’d have to give up social security.  But maybe these guys think Fear, Uncertainty and Dread will be more effective.  If we plunge back into recession because of it, will the Democrats catch the blame, along with all the bad stuff headed their way over Obamacare?  Time will tell.  But one thing is for sure.  The rest of us must still pay for the outrageously reckless behavior of a handful of selfish, greedy sociopaths.

Krugman is unreasonably optimistic about Medicaid expansion and Obamacare

Decreasing the surplus population in Ireland through starvation and homelessness

He’s not the only one.  Digby is also cautiously optimistic about how things are going to go.  Both of them seem to think that the increase in premiums are only going to affect a small subset of people and everybody knew this from the start, had they been paying attention.  They seem to think the people most irked are going to be relatively well off younger people, like entrepreneurs who work for themselves.

But that’s not really true.  I’m not surprised that neither Digby or Krugman are seeing who are going to get slammed by Obamacare most severely because it has become almost a habit not to talk about them.  I’m referring to the millions of long term unemployed, many of whom are over 50, who are now forced to cobble together some kind of living as self-employed.  That affects just about everyone I know who was laid off since 2008.  To these people, the premiums are not just a nuisance.  They are extremely burdensome.  And if Lambert has been reading the tea leaves correctly, lumping these people into the Medicaid pot puts whatever estate they have left at risk.  So, to recap, Obamacare is putting an extra burden on these people who are now forced to a.) work for themselves, b.) pay all of the payroll tax by themselves and c.) pay for their own retirements.

Today, Krugman writes that the states that are opting out of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare are going to create a backlash against Republicans.  Oh, if only I could believe it.  But I have always felt that the systemic exploitation that our current politicians have allowed to happen over the last 30 years has lead to a repeat of an Irish Potato Famine Scenario, not the beginning of a new Golden Age of rationality and righteous indignation.  The right wing noise machine is still strong and the people who get royally screwed by the Medicaid opt out will be portrayed as a bunch of fricking losers who can’t pull their weight in this new economy.  They will be spat upon by the people who are only a rung or two up the ladder who are simultaneously terrified it will happen to them and triumphantly crowing about their moral superiority.  Yeah, they will look like a bunch of stupid hicks to the rest of us but the message they will be getting is that the world is a random, chaotic, evil place and the only reason they’re surviving is because God favors them, or some such nonsense.  That will keep the whip kissers in line, keeping them from raising their hands against their masters, demanding better wages and benefits.  If they don’t remain obedient and passive, bad things will happen to them.

It’s not that much different than what happened to the starving Irish against their landlords who owned everything, took everything and rented the rest.  Back in the early 19th century, Irish workers had no rights and employers and landlords took full advantage of that.  Why would they not?  What laws were going to constrain them?  When the famine hit, the Irish couldn’t stand up for themselves and the rest of Great Britain acted like they brought it on themselves for being Irish and Catholic.  Some of the onlookers even argued that to help them would be wrong and go against God’s plan.  A lot of people died before the population dropped sufficiently and the potatoes developed some resistance.

Throwing the over 55’s into Medicaid and taking their property to pay for it is very reminiscent of the workhouse and relief rules the Irish had to contend with.  If you had a quarter acre of land, you were not too poor to support yourself.  In order to get any kind of relief at all, you had to give that up.  Then you were eligible for the workhouse where you might get some food in exchange for losing every other possession you had.  In the Medicaid opt-out states, you won’t even get relief.  You’ll just get access to the emergency room and bill collectors.  Back in the 1840s, most people looked upon this as wretched and bad but the ones who were not suffering put up with it.  Opting out of Medicaid is like the landlords pulling down the roofs of starving tenants.  It happened and people were both homeless and starving but no one stopped the billhooks.

So, I don’t expect that there will be much backlash against the loss of Medicaid funds in the bible belt states.  It’s still a plantation down there where labor is expected to be obedient and pious and if you end up poor and sick, it’s because you didn’t follow the rules or were insufficiently religious.  You’ll see.  The right wing media and some of the regular media, will continue to reinforce learned helplessness in the public and Americans will start to accept this hardship when the alternative, public options, Medicare for All, cost controls, etc, will start to seem like impossibilities.

In the meantime, the left’s willful ignorance and denial of just how bad Obamacare is going to be is doing them no credit.  It is BAD policy.  All of the potential problems that the left wants to minimize or deny could have been avoided had the policy been carefully crafted by a president who cared about average Americans and by a Congress who wasn’t rushed to make some really bad concessions.

As for Digby’s silly rationalization that so many lefties were duped by Obama back in 2008 but that she and a few of her friends were not but couldn’t find enough people who agreed with them, that’s incredibly offensive bullshit.  WE were here.  We still call ourselves “Democrats in Exile”.  We saw through Obama and knew what he was because we actually listened to what he was saying.  He was not a brilliant politician.  His campaign staff simply took advantage of demographic trends and realized that a lot of baby boomers would vote for an African American candidate over a woman because of the period of time when these voters came of age, in the Civil Rights Era.  That’s probably why the well off older baby boomers are still in love with Obama.  He completes them.  The campaign would stampede the rest with fear, vicious misogyny, outright lies about our intelligence and racism and blatant bullying of delegates.  Predictably, the activist Democrats acted like the herd animals the campaign psychologists thought they were.

But there was absolutely no truth to the lie that Digby and others are propagating that they couldn’t find like minded Democrats who felt the same way they did about what a fraud Obama was in 2008.  We were here and there were a lot of us.  We were simply defamed and called racists and Digby and her ilk went along with that characterization because they were cowards who were afraid of guilt by association.

If you don’t stand up against unfair propaganda and you allow the bad guys to weaken your side, you should not be surprised if you find that you too are eventually powerless.  I don’t expect that the left will every stop rationalizing about why they invited vampires into their house but I really wish they would start putting more of their energy into getting them out.  We don’t have time for silly self delusion.  Obamacare is almost upon us and about to take out the Democratic party and what remains of whatever defense we have left.

Addendum: It looks like Glenn Greenwald is public enemy number one for, you know, being doggedly persistent about civil liberties and stuff.  It goes without saying that we stand with Glenn against all the nastiness heading his way.

If only Glenn had stood with us five years ago when our hair was on fire when Obama bamboozled everyone, got Hillary to suspend her campaign and then voted for the telecomm immunity bill once he thought his nomination was secure.  But of course, we were only stupid, racist, women back then and people like Digby refused to acknowledge our legitimacy or, unbelievably, our existence.

So, even though Glenn was more than happy to jump on Obama’s bandwagon back when all the lights were flashing red, we are going to stick with him no matter what.  Because he happens to be right about the intrusion into our privacy and it is wrong to publicly harass and defame people who expose uncomfortable truths and wrongdoing.  Glenn is a human being and we do not approve of harassment investigations,  personal attacks or dehumanization of him or his family.  In this respect, we have been consistent with respect to Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.  It is acceptable and morally responsible to criticize unconstitutionality, poor policy and unethical behavior.  But we don’t get personal, racist or go after family members because that’s wrong.  You can check our archives.

By the way, guess who voted against the telecomm immunity bill back in 2008? Of course, the candidates were otherwise indistinguishable.  {{rolling eyes}}

Hitler finds out about the $1 Trillion dollar platinum coin

Don’t tell Krugman.

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

Totally unrelated:  Congratulations to the Hillsborough High School Bio Team who beat surrounding high schools, including Princeton Day School,  in competition on Thursday. Brooke tied for the highest score. Whoop! Whoop!  Go Raiders!

What the Bio Team really needs is its own cheerleaders:

 

It could happen.

Point – Counterpoint on Getting Away With It

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells have written a review of three recently released books (four if you count Mann and Ornstein’s book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, which I have read and highly recommend).  The title of the piece, Getting Away With It, focuses primarily on Noam Scheiber’s book The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery on the Obama administration’s capture by the financial elite in the immediate aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008.

I haven’t read the books they reviewed yet but my Audible credits are coming around tomorrow.  However, I do have some differences of opinion on some of their interpretations.  Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Krugman and Wells live in Princeton and don’t visit the central PA too often so they’re not exposed to how the Tea Party contingent really lives.  Even I don’t know that mysterious tribe all that well but I’ve had to sit at holiday dinners with them so I have a bit more of a clue.

First, there is criticism of Cory Booker and Bill Clinton’s defense of Mitt Romney’s role in Bain capital.  Krugman and Wells think this has something to do with Clinton and Booker’s sympathy with the finance industry.  I’m not so sure.  Instead, I’m reminded of something James Carville said recently:

In focus groups of Pennsylvania and Ohio voters, the Democracy Corps found an American public that is struggling to pay for everyday items and racking up student debt. Regardless of their education or economic status, these folks haven’t seen signs of an economy recovery – and don’t expect to see one anytime soon.

“These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction.  They are living in a new economy – and there is no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country.”

Even so, write the authors, these voters don’t know all that much about Mitt Romney. And, what they do know about him isn’t all that positive.

“Respondents immediately volunteer that Romney is rich, out of touch, and in the pocket for Wall Street and big finance. ”

The voters in these focus groups sound a lot like the Wal-Mart mom’s we listened to last week: they know that three years may not be enough for Obama to have fixed the economy, but they don’t know what he’ll do to make it better.

That means, say Carville/Greenberg, Obama shouldn’t try and beat Romney on the “are you better off than you were four years ago” argument. Instead, they should try to beat him at the “how are you going to make things better over the next four years.”

“It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance – and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction.  They are wrong, and that will fail.  The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the president talk about the future. ”

It is true that voters and campaigns are more complex than they are often portrayed in the media. That said, elections are also pretty simple. Voters are either happy with the status quo or they aren’t. When they aren’t happy with what’s happening to them now, they look to their other options.

So, if voters already know what Romney is and who is responsible for the mess we’re in, then clubbing them over the head with Romney’s history with Bain Capital, or his adolescent insensitivities or his absent minded treatment of the family dog or Anne Romney’s horses and houses, is a wasted effort.  What voters want to know is what Obama is going to do about the lousy economy and the more the Democrats keep harping on Romney’s business and family, the more angry they’re going to get that Obama is evading the question.  So, Ok, Romney was a businessman and he was very good at his job.  Let’s move along now because the election is getting closer and the Democrats have yet to seal the deal.  How is Obama going to fix things?  What is his vision of America?  Where are we going?  If he can’t give a convincing answer by November, he’s out of there.  (But why wait?  Why not replace him now?  But I digress)

The middle section where Krugman and Wells detail how Geithner ran the show for the banksters and Obama tried to negotiate with a party that doesn’t believe in negotiations has been done before in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men.  I don’t think there’s anything new here except that Krugman and Wells confirm what all of us have been thinking.  Obama as a politician sucks.  He squandered his Democratic majorities and his famed “judgement” lead him to appoint political asskissers like Larry Summers and finance industry mole Tim Geithner.  Their opening critique of Thomas Frank’s book Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right sums up why this was a very bad combination:

Frank focuses on what is, as he says, “something unique in the history of American social movements: a mass conversion to free-market theory as a response to hard times.” It is indeed remarkable. After all, for three decades before the financial crisis American politics and policy had been increasingly dominated by laissez-faire ideology, by the belief that markets—and financial markets in particular—should be allowed to run free. Then came the inevitable crash. But far from demanding a return to stronger regulation, much of the American electorate turned to the view that the crisis was caused by too much government intervention, and rallied around politicians aiming to dive even deeper into the policies that led to crisis in the first place.

How did this happen? Frank’s answer is that it was the bailouts that did it. By doing things Geithner’s way—by bailing out the bankers without strings or blame—the Obama administration left an understandably angry American public with the correct sense that someone was getting away with something. And the right proved adept at exploiting that sense. The famous February 2009 rant by CNBC’s Rick Santelli that started the Tea Party movement was a denunciation of TARP, the big bank bailout passed in the waning days of the Bush administration (although a plurality of voters believe that it was passed under Obama). True, Santelli focused all his ire on a tiny piece of TARP, the planned aid for troubled homeowners (aid that mostly never materialized), not the much bigger aid for banks. But at least he was blaming someone, which the Obama administration was refusing to do.

And by the time Obama began, tentatively, to suggest that some bankers might have misbehaved a bit, it was too late. The entire Republican Party and much of the electorate had settled into a narrative in which the financial crisis of 2008—a crisis that followed fourteen years of hard-right Republican congressional dominance and eight years in which hard-line conservatives controlled all three branches of government—was caused by…too much government intervention to help the poor and, especially, the nonwhite. As Frank writes:

“Back to the usual, all-purpose culprit: government…. The feds forced banks to hand out special loans to minority borrowers…and…the entire financial crisis was a consequence of government interference.”

Moving along to Thomas Edsall’s book, The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, they get only part of the mental picture of the Republican party voter.  There is a dominant narrative of scarcity, which is ridiculous because there’s plenty to go around if the wealthy would just get off their massive piles of ill gotten booty.  Edsall says the Republican party voter is also scared of losing dominance:

So where does the embittered politics come from? Edsall himself supplies much of the answer. Namely, what he portrays is a Republican Party that has been radicalized not by a struggle over resources—tax rates on the wealthy are lower than they have been in generations—but by fear of losing its political grip as the nation changes. The most striking part of The Age of Austerity, at least as we read it, was the chapter misleadingly titled “The Economics of Immigration.” The chapter doesn’t actually say much about the economics of immigration; what it does, instead, is document the extent to which immigrants and their children are, literally, changing the face of the American electorate.

As Edsall concedes, this changing face of the electorate has had the effect of radicalizing the GOP. “For whites with a conservative bent,” he writes—and isn’t that the very definition of the Republican base?—

the shift to a majority-minority nation [i.e., a nation in which minorities will make up the majority] will strengthen the already widely held view that programs benefiting the poor are transferring their taxpayer dollars to minority recipients, from first whites to blacks and now to “browns.”And that’s the message of Rick Santelli’s rant, right there.

Now, the GOP could in principle have responded to these changes by trying to redefine itself away from being the party of white people. Instead, Edsall writes, the response has been to “gamble that the GOP can continue to win as a white party despite the growing strength of the minority vote.” And that means a strategy of radical, no-holds-barred confrontation over everything from immigration policy to taxes and, of course, economic stimulus, some part of which would be paid to minorities.

Ok, this is where I think it would help for Krugman and Wells to visit Central PA.  I don’t doubt that the Republican voters in the South (and Arizona) are very concerned with brown people.  It is an irrational fear with some historical roots in segregation in that part of the country.  But the irrational Republican leaning voters that *I* have to put up with aren’t bothered by immigration or african Americans.  Noooo, they’ve got their knickers in a twist over the degradation of the culture from loose women and gay people.  They’re concerned that the Christians are losing their edge and immigrants are probably a lot more religious than the young’uns who believe in evolution that they pick up in those satanic public schools.

I appreciate Robin Wells’ perspective on the south and racial tensions that linger and I’m not denying that this is what is motivating nuts in Alabama to turn school kids into the INS.  But it’s not the South everywhere and the operatives in the Republican party are very good at picking at the fears of an older generation that sees itself besieged.  It watches way too much Fox News than is good for it and is scared to death of death. They’re consumed with stories of pedophiles, violence, rape, murder, burgled houses.  They’ve lost the ability to connect cause with effect.  The world is mysterious and chaotic.  The Republican party is worried about losing its numbers because these older, easy to manipulate voters are dying off and the new American voters that are rising to replace them are Internet babies who aren’t particularly religious, are open to gays getting married, like their contraceptives, thank you very much, and are pretty comfortable with diversity.  If it were only white people, they’d still have time, but it’s all this modernity that’s creeping in with the information superhighway that is dooming the Republican party.

It’s not that the Republican party is becoming a refuge of white voters. The problem is that the Republican party becoming the party of the id.  Every phobia, prejudice or dark archetype that lurks in the human soul is being given permission to run free without any inhibitions.

The guy I wrote about the other day, Bryan Fischer, even admits that this is part of the plan.  He is going to make it safe to discriminate against gay people.

Democrats are missing the point here.  It’s not just race, and by the way, it is perfectly reasonable to disapprove of Obama’s performance without being a racist or harboring racist tendencies.  Krugman knows that the Republican party is insane but he doesn’t realize that the way they’re doing it is by giving their voters permission to act like barbarians and making it feel like civilization.  There is no one responsible in the Republican party who is calling a halt to the bad behavior.  So long as that continues, the party will continue to devolve into a mob of human animals all seeking their own power.  They’ve only got a small window of opportunity to kill the New Deal so the operatives have to amp up the crazy now.

If there were a God, now would be a good time to ask for his or her intervention.

This morning in Central New Jersey

Nice thunderstorm.  Ahhhh….  I’m snug under the covers listening to Krugman’s 201o lecture at the London School of Economics titled “The Night they Reread Minsky“.  Get it?  The Night they REREAD Minsky?

Nevermind.

Hurricane Irene poised to take out Northeastern liberal elite bloggers

That’ll learn them dirty f%^&ing hippies.  Whoo-hoo!  We really should get together and throw a hurricane party.  My house is just above the label that says “2pm Sunday”.

So much to do. Appetizers, beer, rum. Mostly get fresh water.  Natasha Chart tweeted a handy disaster preparedness list for those of us on the hit list.  Here’s a tip I learned when I rode out Hurricane Charlie in Naples, Florida about 5 years ago: fill your bathtubs up with water.  When the water stops flowing, you’ll want to use that water to flush your toilets.

When Floyd passed through here about 13 years ago, our water treatment plant was flooded and out for 2 weeks.  Yep, do you know how hard it is to keep a 2 year old clean for two weeks without showers and baths?  The mayor had a fireside chat every evening for 2 weeks to assure us that the water would be flowing any day now while his hair got greasier and greasier.  Ah, those were the days.  Such fun.  Speaking of fun, I really must clear that gutter above my deck while I have time…

The inaptly named Bound Brook, NJ after Hurricane Floyd, about 5 miles from yours truly

But it’s not just the NJ bloggers, and that would include Krugthulu who lives about 10 miles from me, it also includes Atrios and Susie Madrak.

Speaking of Susie, in case you haven’t heard, she’s in the hospital under observation for a possible heart attack.  As you may know, Susie’s been unemployed for awhile.  Health insurance is expensive.  By the way, did you know that the COBRA subsidy will end next week?  The subsidy helped pay 65% of the cost of COBRA for newly unemployed people, like me.  I’m not on COBRA yet but I can now look forward to paying the whole thing myself on my meager unemployment check starting next month when my severance benefits end.  Isn’t that special?  Stranded in NJ with a mortgage, no job and no COBRA subsidy.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to live on and I’m probably not going to fetch top dollar on the flesh market on Craigslist anymore.  You’d think Obama would have made sure that this subsidy lasted until 2012 but you would think wrong.  It’s enough to drive a girl to socialism, I tells ya.

Anyway, if you have some spare change, now would be a good time visit Susie’s page and  make a donation to her tip jar.

Get well, Susie!  We need you back on Virtually Speaking Susie.

 

Monday: Even Billionaires Get the Blues

It’s a good thing we still have Social Security.  There are some (formerly) rich people who are going to need it:

The epicenter of what may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history was the 17th floor of the Lipstick Building, an oval red-granite building rising 34 floors above Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

A busy stock-trading operation occupied the 19th floor, and the computers and paperwork of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities filled the 18th floor.

But the 17th floor was Bernie Madoff’s sanctum, occupied by fewer than two dozen staff members and rarely visited by other employees. It was called the “hedge fund” floor, but federal prosecutors now say the work Mr. Madoff did there was actually a fraud scheme whose losses Mr. Madoff himself estimates at $50 billion.

The tally of reported losses climbed through the weekend to nearly $20 billion, with a giant Spanish bank, Banco Santander, reporting on Sunday that clients of one of its Swiss subsidiaries have lost $3 billion. Some of the biggest losers were members of the Palm Beach Country Club, where many of Mr. Madoff’s wealthy clients were recruited.

The list of prominent fraud victims grew as well. According to a person familiar with the business of the real estate and publishing magnate Mort Zuckerman, he is also on a list of victims that already included the owners of the New York Mets, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and the chairman of GMAC.

Bummer.  Didn’t anyone tell these suckers, er, wealthy individuals to diversify their assets?
It’s interesting that Madoff himself refers to what he did as a “Ponzi Scheme”.  So, the people who got to the party late footed the bill for the ones who came early.  But is that where all of the money went?  Does that mean the early investors have at least a moral obligation to refund their ill gotten booty to the late investors?

Morals?

On another note, it looks like the Republicans are still not done with their irrational hatred of everything labor.  Paul Krugman makes reference to the Republicans’ efforts to stick a fork in the unions before the changing of the guard next month.  The hard hearted meanies can’t find it in themselves to extend a measley $15 billion to the autoworkers so they can keep their jobs and their houses and prevent Michigan from turning into a landscape straight out of I Am Legend.  But when Krugman turned his attention to Europe, where the Germans are holding out for equally selfish reasons this line had me giggling:

Last week Peer Steinbrück, Mrs. Merkel’s finance minister, went even further. Not content with refusing to develop a serious stimulus plan for his own country, he denounced the plans of other European nations. He accused Britain, in particular, of engaging in “crass Keynesianism.”

The Germans are being stubborn and dragging their feet, refusing to join the rest of the class and insisting that nothing needs to change.  (I hate to stereotype but my own experience with my German colleagues is oddly similar.  You must prove something a priori before they sign on to actually trying it and even then, they resist.)  But Germany is hardly immune to sharing the wealth so the flinching from Keynesian economics is pretty funny, even if it is shortsighted and ruinous for everyone else in the EU.

But the US has it easy in the area of labor unions compared to Germany.  Decades of assault on labor has resulted in very little protection for them.  What do the billionaires want anyway?

It must be the sheer scale that is the problem.  A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.  Money has no real meaning to the superrich. There are only so many necessities of life a person can buy with a billion dollars.  After a certain threshhold value, it’s all play money.  Is that why they seem to be so stingy towards the people who work for them?

Well, we can only hope that there will be some new riches to rags stories that will come out of the Great Financial Collapse of 2008 that will make it all worthwhile.  Schadenfreude and all that.

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