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    • The Attack In Ottawa will be used to justify losing more rights
      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Do we Democrats in Exile get our “Get out of jail free” card now that Obama does what he was recruited to do?

He doesn’t have to worry about reelection anymore.

There are two options, as I see it. Take over the party (this may take awhile) or leave the party altogether and start our own.

Choose swiftly. You’ve already wasted 5 years.

Let’s call the VSPs!

Atrios says that if the Grand Bargain comes we should get on the horn and call our reps, senators and White House.  But why stop there?

If the people who really count are the Very Serious People like David Gregory, Thomas Friedman and David Gergen, then shouldn’t they find out just how much the Average American doesn’t want cuts to their pre-paid social insurance benefits?

These VSPs don’t mingle with the rest of us but maybe it’s time they found out how many of us there are and that we’re not putting up with any bullshit.  We worked for our social insurance benefits, we paid through the nose for them and we’re demanding every penny back, with no cuts.  In fact, we’ve put up with a lot in our working lives including crazy hours, expensive daycare and reduced pensions, if we’re lucky.  I think we deserve a raise.  Raise the Social Security benefit so we can retire with the same lifestyle as our parents.

The last thing we need is a bunch of patrician thumbsuckers telling us to make more sacrifices so they don’t have to pay more in taxes. I don’t know who these VSPs think they are but I’m sick of their shit.

They ought to know that there is life beyond the Beltway cocktail circuit and we are not amused.

Here’s what I want to know

Here’s the Dow over the past year:

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 1.34.50 PM

What I want to know: Is the recent surge above 14000 due to the prospect that the cuts to the social insurance programs was a fait accompli?  Or is it just because the financiers have free and unfettered access to the treasury in the form of trillions of dollars of our money?

What would happen if the sequester continues for a period of time but the social insurance cuts, specifically to Social Security, are off the table?  Will The Market sink like a stone?  I want to know who is really in charge here.

So, let the sequester happen and let’s not rush to negotiate an end to it.

Let’s see what happens.

Obama wants to screw us out of our Social Insurance accounts. Also, water is wet.

No shit, Digby.

Do you remember how you spent the last year of your life making a big f^&*ing deal about Mitt Romney’s hijinks in prep school?  How about how mean he was to the family dog?

And what did you do to make Obama feel uncomfortable?  Nothing.  That’s right.  You did nothing.  No, that’s not quite right.  You did WORSE than nothing because you wouldn’t even entertain challenging the party hierarchy.

So, now you’re mad that the dude is in the White House and he’s ready to cut the net out from under you after all those decades of Social Security, Medicare and surplus payments all we tail end babyboomers made “because we are too menny”.  NOW, you’re livid.

I hope you finally understand what has been pissing ME off since 2008 when it was perfectly clear that the Democrats were electing an MBA Bonus Class Corporate Ladder Climbing Stooge as a president.

There was no talking to you people but now, now that the actuality is upon you, now, you’re mad.  Not only are you mad but you actually seem surprised that they are using the sequester as an excuse to cut our social insurance policies.  It’s like they LIED to you and you didn’t even realize it.

Really, Digby?  Did you really not see this coming? At all??  I find that hard to believe but maybe it’s because I’ve actually worked in a ruthless, cutthroat corporate environment and I’ve seen that there’s nothing they won’t do to enhance shareholder value at your expense.  They’ll ruin their own brand and productivity just to make sure they have no obligation to you.  Obama reeks of that environment.

You carried his water and now he’s going to screw you and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it unless you get on the horn with your congressperson (count yourself lucky if you don’t live in a gerrymandered district like I do) and complain.  It’s got to be loud and vociferous and constant until he/she gets the point.

Then, you need to get the band back together on the left and stop looking down your noses at those of us who saw this coming five years ago.  There needs to be a solid voting bloc to push back against this either in Tea Party format or as a separate entity.

You can get mad or you can get even.

I’d get even.

Personal Power Dynamics- a Refresher

The squeeze is here.  The outgoing hardasses among our elected officials have a limited time only to solidify the 1%’s stranglehold on the money stream.  They’ve been busy the last couple of years on the cocktail weenie circuit.  Witness this exchange between Gwen Ifil and Paul Krugman from last week’s Noose Hour:

THAT, ladies and gentleman, is what happens to a journalist when all they ever hear is people all around them telling them that cutting “entitlements” is unavoidable.

Every time I see crap like this, I shake my head.  To me, it looks like Ifil is very sincere.  She truly believes that people who do not have wealth *must* give up some little piece of whatever they have.  She doesn’t question why or whether this is the best solution or what will happen down the road.  She has “thought stoppers” carefully positioned in her mind by the people who she hangs out with.  Her attitude is religious, not rational.

I’ll give her a hint as to why we shouldn’t go down this path.  Back in the mid 2000’s, the pharma industry was full of Gwen Ifils.  Those over educated, technically proficient college graduates were doing Ok.  No one was getting rich but we weren’t living in public housing.  And many of my friends didn’t think they would need social security or medicare when they retired.  Those days are gone.  We are now the new precariats.

But I digress.

Gwen Ifil is not the worst of the bad actors on news hour programs.  She seems to be more earnest than some of her counterparts on shows like This Week with George Stephanopolous.  Yesterday, George Will got his bow tie in a twist and did his best “I shall not be mocked, sir!” at Krugman, while his syrupy, cynical side kick Mary Matalin opportunistically joined in. (What was it, Carville?  Was the sex *that* good??) It is impolite to point out that people who insist that the working and middle class eat their poison mushrooms are not being honest or mathematically correct on cost savings.

Ahhh, the old “civility defense”.  Let’s call this what it is, shall we?  It’s the best bullying tactic on TV.  Call your opponent impolite and have your gang join in.  We have seen how this works in religion as well.  NO ONE is allowed to question a religious person’s beliefs.  It’s impolite.  That’s why we have faith based initiatives, red beanie dudes monitoring women’s fallopian tubes and pious and extremely tedious church ladies who know much more about gay sex than we do tut-tutting over the “homosexual agenda”.  The minute you tell them you don’t believe their shtick because it’s irrational and cruel, they get all up in your grill about how rude you are to them and how polite society does not question others’ belief systems.

In personal power dynamics, one of those 3 day courses that are given to corporate management and salesmen and which the scientists were encouraged to try out on their colleagues, we learned about the passive-aggressive scale.  This scale goes from 1 to 10 with the lower end representing passive communication and pressure while the upper end represented aggressive communication and pressure.  The optimal sweet spot for communication and negotiation is between 5-7.  That represents assertiveness without aggression.  People who communicate in a passive style, that is 1-4, are at a distinct disadvantage in getting what they want.  In order to be more productive, they need to step it up into the 5-7 zone.  Conversely, if you are a fucking abrasive asshole, you need to tone it down or you will jeopardize your ability to get things done in the future.

HOWEVER, if you’re in the sweet spot and your opponent starts ratcheting up the scale, getting more aggressive, YOU need to get more aggressive in order to hold your ground.  If you’re at 5 and he goes to 7, you need to go to 7.  If he goes to 8, you need to go to 8.  He needs to see that you are not going to back down and that your committment is as strong as theirs.  This will force him to come down or disengage.

The call for civility and the “no-mockery” zone thing is a pre-emptive strike that is intended to keep the true aggressor from looking truly aggressive.  George Will with his stupid bow tie and nerdly glasses looks all refined and low key but he’s been very successful at bludgeoning his opponents.  Paul Krugman has just enough Princeton ego and mocking amusement to push Will and force him to invoke his civility strategy.  The civility strategy is deployed to prevent people like Krugman from getting too assertive and meeting aggression with aggression.

It’s almost impossible for one guy like Krugman to do battle against this almost impenetrable wall of irrational belief.  Oh sure, Will and his gang know that what they’re saying isn’t true and that they’re working for the bad guys. But I think we give the Gwen Ifils and David Gregory types more credit for their intellects than they deserve.  You can bet that they got to their present positions by being bright politicians, not by sticking to the facts and reasoning things through.  They are experts at navigating the rungs of media power.  They aren’t economists and they don’t have to actually experience the real world the way the ex-pharma worker does- well, not yet anyway.

But they *have* been somewhat protected from the effects of their belief system on their wider audience.  We send a lot of emails to our congressmen.  But do Ifil and Gregory have any idea how their brainless acquiescence to the dominant dogma is received by the average American?  Maybe it’s time they found out just how unpopular it is to the 300 million of us who don’t live inside the beltway.

When was the last time you contacted the News Hour?  When was the last time that any media personality heard from someone other than their own little circle?  When was the last time that Gwen Ifil felt uncomfortable?  When was the last time that George Will or Mary Matalin was called mendacious?

It’s time we stepped it up to at least an 8.  Paul Krugman needs some help.

Boogiemen and Clubs

The Third Way picking off sleepers in the Mead Hall

I’m trying to find the motivation to write anything in the last couple of days.  The small evil group who runs the world and to whom no one we know belongs seems determined to take away our social insurance benefits that we pre-paid.  I was on my way home from Philly last night listening to All Things Considered and let me tell you, there is a reason why I gave up NPR news programs back in the mid Naughties.  Last night, they interviewed some asshole from a casino corporation who is advising the president on the “fiscal cliff” from the business perspective.  I don’t remember his name (and for some reason, I can’t find the clip) but I was so infuriated after his little spiel that I could barely drive.  Here’s a summary of what he said:

He recognizes that the current economic environment is bad.

He thinks we need to cut back on “entitlements”.

He thinks that the American people need stability and something they can count on beyond the next quarter.

He thinks that social security can be replaced with something that works better.

He is convinced that if taxes are raised on the wealthy, they won’t have enough money to spend in casinos, leading to job loss.

Here’s what he really meant:

His business is suffering because not enough people are gambling.  They’re actually more concerned with keeping their houses than losing them, if it can be believed.

He doesn’t want to pay the employer’s part of social security.  Well, neither do I but now that I am self-employed, I am paying both parts and since it is MY MONEY, social security is the best way to ensure I have something to retire on.

He thinks it’s a bad idea to make Americans uncertain about their economic futures with layoffs and stuff because it means fewer people are going to gamble.  So, getting people back to work and stable is a good thing, mostly for him but if it turns out to be good for the average American, that’s good too. For some reason, like many business people, he seems to have a blind spot where the social insurance programs are concerned.  Making Americans more secure about their retirement futures might just get them to visit a casino in their younger years.  On the other hand, people like myself, who are unlikely to ever make the money I did a year ago are going to sock money away in a mattress and never visit a casino ever if there’s no social security on the horizon or a paltry sum compared to what we were lead to believe (I’ll address that a little later).  So, Mr. Casino man really needs to think this through.  Or maybe he has thought it through and has been convinced by his consultants that the illogic of his contradictory thoughts will not get much scrutiny from the NPR interviewers.  The consultant, probably from the company Mr. Grinch Consultants Inc, was correct.

He seems to have in mind a replacement for Social Security and Medicare.  We can count on his suggestion to have something to do with the private market.  That means there will be an administrator raking in the big bucks.  This is completely unnecessary.  Social Security is the best run government agency we have with very low overhead.  It’s extremely efficient.  Therefore it must be dismantled. This reminds me of the interview I heard on Ann Applebaum’s book about the Iron Curtain last night on the BBC History Extra Podcast.  When the Communists took over Eastern Europe, they were determined to put their ideological stamp on the economy.  When their plans failed, they blamed everything but communism. For example, if there was a private grocery store that everyone wanted to go to and as a result, the state store was suffering, the ideologues reasoned that the problem was the private store was making the state store look bad.  Solution: Close the private store.  In our case, the business community is upset that Social Security, being socially secure, is making their privatization schemes look bad.  So it must be replaced. To me, this demonstrates that the problem is not necessarily communism vs capitalism.  The problem is ideologues.

I don’t even know what to say about the wealthy, taxes and gambling.  It seems to me that the way they got to be so wealthy is that they figured out a way of gambling without suffering any losses.  Now, they have more money than they can spend in several lifetimes.  Surely the casino owner is not expecting me to feel sorry for them that need to pay a little more in taxes. If they want to gamble and be entertained, a slight increase in taxes isn’t going to prevent that. Besides, this conflicts with his other statements about the stability of the economy to average Americans.  There are very few really rich people, even though they have a disproportional share of the wealth.  Therefore, even though the level of luxury, entertainment and gambling they demand is high, it is limited by the monetary barrier of access.  There may be a high ratio of servant/employee to wealthy dudes but it’s a niche market.  On the other hand, there are millions of working and middle class people who can afford to gamble a little bit of money and take in a Cirque du Soleil show.  In this respect, I see the casino owner not that different from a car company owner.  You’re going to sell a lot more Ford Focuses and Toyota Camrys than Maybachs or even Lexus SUVs.  He’s going to get more bang for his buck by selling more affordable sedans.  In this case, the casino owner is correct to assert that working and middle class people need more economic stability but he’s not really making a case for sparing the upper class from tax increases.  The wealthy are not going to find themselves suddenly homeless and unable to afford a vacation in Vegas.  If he expects more middle class people visiting Las Vegas to have a bit of money to spend then there’s no reason to think that the wealthy are going to suddenly cut back because they get hit with a small tax increase.  Besides, the employees who previously served the rich hand and foot can be reallocated to serve the middle class guy from California less lavishly.

Does that make sense?  I am not an economist after all but this doesn’t appear to be rocket science.  (I am also not a rocket scientist)

Anyway, would someone please tell me WHY the president needs so much input from the business community??  Just because they have an opinion, and it always seems to involve killing the social insurance programs, doesn’t mean that the opinion is a good one.  Nor does it mean that it must be followed.  We do not need to compromise with people who are going to kill the economy down the road when future seniors have no money to spend.  The president needs to hear from more people like myself and my colleagues who were mailed out little retirement account booklets by our companies when were were still employed that showed what our incomes were going to be like 30 years in the future based on pensions, 401K savings and SOCIAL SECURITY.  Yes, the company factored that in.  I have saved some of my little booklets and would be happy to share them with any politician or president who is thinking of tinkering with the formula that all of us working people relied on decades years ago.  Did we pay that money or didn’t we?  And if we did, we want it.  All of it.  We earned it.

By the way, I don’t think there is a good place to cut off Social Security and Medicare benefits.  No matter where you do it, there are going to be people who are unfairly penalized because they were born a few months too late.  That’s going to create a lot of resentment, anger and unless the economy improves and employers decide to hire everyone between the ages of 45 and 70 without any penalty, it’s an unworkable and unfair plan.  And as a citizen of this country who paid a lot of money in taxes in the past couple decades of working, in New Jersey, no less, where we lose 39 cents for every dollar we send to DC, I deserve to be heard and treated with as much respect as some Sheldon Adelson wannabe.

So, this is where I turned off NPR because high blood pressure and driving on 95 at rush hour is not a good combination.

Now, on to the boogiemen.  I have been told that the Third Way and the DLC and the neoliberals are an unholy alliance and they are planning a ritualistic sacrifice where they stand around in a circle in dark robes and masks and watch General Petraeus and his biographer have sex while they slaughter a goat or some such thing.  And I have been  told that I am not taking their threat seriously because I have made fun of them and said “boo!” to the boogiemen.

But here’s the thing: I don’t like ANYONE who plans to strip our social insurance programs or offer us a “truck system” in its place or wants to substitute a 401K, which really is like gambling against the house, or wants to means test or take away Tricare from my mother or any other stupid, ill-conceived, hard hearted, ruthless, callous, sociopathic pro-casino owner plan.  No, I do not.  I don’t care if they are Third Way or Republicans or neoliberals or just passive progressive Democrats who fold the minute a Tea Partier stirs up a breeze.

The problem is not that these people are organized and determined.  The problem is that WE are NOT.

It doesn’t do us any good to worry about the enemy if we don’t have a plan to rally the troops to fight back.  And this is the awful legacy of the Obama years: he has completely dismantled the new deal coalition of left of center partners.  We won’t go into all of the details of what Obama is all about or his character traits (or lack thereof) or how the left was deceived and betrayed or how they could have used the threat of Hillary Clinton to shake Obama to the core during the 2012 election year and decided to pass on it for some unfathomable reason or neglected to pressure any candidate or party at all during 2012 or any of that.  It’s too late to hold Obama’s feet to the fire now since he’s re-elected and the left didn’t protest- at all.  What I am saying to all of you out there who are worried about losing the social insurance programs is that you can’t do anything about the tidal wave that is headed your way if you do not join together and push back.

We need to organize and do it quickly.  I have suggested an umbrella group called a Federation for Democratic Reform based on the Christian Coalition model.  The purpose would be to organize a voting bloc, to lobby effectively, to vet candidates and to promote the policies that we want to see.  Since we are as uncooperative as cats, I suggest we adopt the “12 Word Platform” and make holding the line on the social insurance programs as our first goal.

Now, I am an idea rat.  I am not good at organizing.  You should see my file cabinet and my car.  But I am good at spotting trends.  And the trend that I see is despite the crowds and protests in Greece and Spain, the governments in both countries are totally ignoring what the people actually want. We’re next.  And while Greece has a real problem with its tax system, the US does not.  There is no reason why the 300+ million of us have to tolerate the theft of the money that the wealthy took for their ridiculous tax cuts in the past 30 years.  We shouldn’t have to put up with the dismantling of our social insurance programs simply because Wall Street wants more money to put on the global craps table.  We don’t need to endure failing infrastructure and expensive wars and have a bunch of wealthy media people running around like chickens with their heads cut off hysterical about some “fiscal cliff”.  As the famous quote goes, “Your inability to plan ahead does not constitute an emergency for me”.  In this case, it is beyond offensive that anyone in the media or government should make any of us working and middle class people feel sympathy for the absurdly wealthy or shame that we are asking for our money back or urgency to put all of our skin in the game so that the wealthy don’t have to put any in the game at all.  Fuck that shit.

What is lacking here right now is the ability of the new deal proponents to coalesce and say FUCK THAT SHIT!  That is what is needed.  I would like to hear a discussion in the left blogosphere of how we intend to get the band back together.  No more discussion of Third Way boogiemen.  There are all kinds of boogiemen out there.  What I want to hear is how many of us are going to grab our weapons, join together and go out of the mead hall to fight the Grendels out there.  Anyone who starts wordsmithing and getting in a snit about who they will and won’t stand next to should be offered the opportunity to go out into the night by themselves to fight the monster alone.

Bribing North Korea

It looks like Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS group are in a heap of trouble.  Very wealthy people gave mucho dinero to Karl and all they have to show for it is pretty much the same thing they had before the election.

But these guys didn’t get to the top by playing pattycake.  There’s a reason why many industries committed genocide against their employees.  They don’t want to be tied down.  They want to be “weightless”.  All the pension, social security and health benefits costs were keeping their hard earned money out of their own pockets.  So, they went on purges and listened to consultants from McKinsey and Boston who made them believe that they could get much of what they wanted by stressing the superstars to the breaking point and outsourcing everything else.  And what they couldn’t produce themselves, they could license in from the desperate startups.  Right?  You know I am.

Of course, that won’t really work out for many reasons that are unfamiliar to them.  If you’re a scientist, you’re better off developing your hobby for photography or serving tables in a restaurant than in an insecure startup or the crazy world of the corporate lab where all your hard work could get you laid off at any moment.  Or relocated to an expensive area of the country.  And then laid off again. As a lifestyle, it sucks.  But at some point, they’re going to have to hire some of us back.  Maybe there will be some nasty superbug that will need an antibiotic that no one has been working on or maybe the “Christians” will need medication to help them adjust to reality.  Social Security is still out there weighing the wealthy down.  They find it profoundly irritating.

Anyway, regardless of the sturm und drang on the Republican side and the fact that they are just now getting around to asking whether they made the “Christians” too hard assed, self-righteous, condescending, rigid, judgmental, mean-spirited, sex-crazed, irrational, willfully ignorant and just plain unbearable to be around, they aren’t going to give up trying to gut social security while they still have a lame duck session.  And when they have so many legislators retiring or leaving involuntarily, the billionaires still have a few tricks up their sleeves.  For instance, if those newly liberated reps and senators don’t do this one last favor for them, they’ll never work again.  How’s that?  You think you have a posh office at some K Street lobbying firm waiting for you when you get out or a nice Board of Directors appointment or financial industry position?  Think again. They can make all of that go away and leave you with nothing but a rented U-Haul for you to cart your papers back to Indiana.

Maybe there’s an opportunity here for the rest of us.  This situation reminds me of North Korea in the Clinton years, always threatening to go nuclear if they didn’t get what they wanted.  The answer to ratcheting down the threat was to pay them off.  We fed them during a famine, if I recall correctly and sent them oil.  If it kept North Korea from behaving badly, it was a small price to pay.

So, maybe we can offer to pay these retiring and defeated legislators to go away and do it without hurting anyone.  And anyway, if they gut social security to save their cushy jobs, they might have a fat bank account but they may never be safe again from the raging grannies and people from New Jersey who will break their knees (metaphorically).  It would be an ignominious demise, heaped with utter shame and disgrace.  They might have to leave the country.  But if they’re willing to take the money from the rich and powerful to cast a final vote in favor of the people who already have too much money at the expense of the ones who will soon have none, then shame might not be a problem for them.  You might as well take money from the middle and the left.  Our money is good.

So, name your number.  How much will we need to collect to make you go away without touching Social Security or changing Medicare?  We can all chip in and put the money in an escrow account called the “Retired Legislators and Mashie Niblick Lifestyle Readjustment Fund” or something like that.  We promise not to invest in mortgage backed securities with it.  Then, after you leave office and your successor is sworn in, we will dispense the funds to you.  Consider it our parting gift, a nice little nest egg for you to start the next phase of your life.  (Sorry, no Obama Phone.  We’re talking about serious payoffs here.)

No, don’t thank us.  WE will thank YOU.

Whaddya say?  Get back to us ASAP because I think there are some people in New Jersey who are doing practice swings with their lead pipes.

{{KIDDING!! Just kidding!}}

So, here’s a poll for all of you who want to retire someday on the money that you pre-paid for decades:

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