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      The Ukrainian military clearly doesn’t care enough to actually fight: The day began inauspiciously for Ukrainian forces as they sought to establish an operating base in the city of Kramatorsk, moving in units from a nearby military air base. According to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and a witness who spoke by phone, a column of six [...]
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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:

The One Paragraph that Sums it all up

This is the blurb on the frontpage of the NYTimes about the Romney-Ryan plan vs the Obama administration on the issue of Medicare:

President Obama and his campaign are arguing that the Romney-Ryan approach to Medicare would leave older Americans vulnerable to rising health care costs.

I’ll bet that when the writer wrote that paragraph he or she had no real insight about what they were talking about.  It’s just the zeitgeist. There doesn’t seem to be an epiphany here.  Why are health care costs continuing to rise?  How is it that our elected representatives have allowed these costs to rise without restraint? And it fails to put the blame where it belongs, especially when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. The biggest failure here is Obama’s because he and the Democrats have been unwilling or unable to prevent health care costs from rising to unsustainable levels.

And let us be clear about this, we have known that the rise in health care costs would be unsustainable, a deficit hog and a drag on the economy since the Clinton administration.  But the Republicans flooded the airwaves with Harry and Louise and the Democrats were too craven to stand their ground.

It doesn’t matter whether the Republicans restructure or eliminate Medicare or not.  The costs will keep on rising because we have done absolutely nothing to stop them from rising. The costs related to Medicare must be addressed.  There are painful ways of doing it, like the Romney-Ryan plan that would boot old people back into the private insurance market when they can least afford it, or there are less painful ways but expanding the insurance pool and putting a firm cap on the cost and types of procedures that will be covered, just like every other developed country in the world with good health care systems do.

What we have here is a failure of leadership.  We do not have a president or Congress who is willing or able to make a case for sensible reforms or is willing to say that Americans have to get over their ego and misinformed sense of superiority problem.  A good doctor can be found in many places including hospitals that serve the poor and the military, higher costs do not necessarily equal better care, you don’t need to go to a swanky hospital for good treatment, some alternative medicine is crap and we shouldn’t be paying for it, and the hospitals and other providers are not entitled to every last penny in the Treasury just because they send us an invoice.

But whatever.  Neither party has any intention of taking on the real problems associated with healthcare.  Neither wants to tell the public like it is or get the providers’ hands out of what they perceive to be bottomless pockets.

Your politicians at work.  Wake me in 2014.

Melange:A World of Woo, tribal belief, willful self-delusion and Jane Mayer

There are a lot of interesting nuggets in the intertoobz these days.  Some of these things go together and show the lengths we will go to delude ourselves or cling to tribal beliefs.

Let’s start with a podcast.  So, you’ve given up the Judeo-Christian belief system for God 2.0 or no god at all.  Some of us would call this progress.  Giving up bronze age superstition and tradition for something more modern and relevant is quite a bold step.  So, why are so many of you turning to woo?  Woo is defined as “ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers”. Woo includes the belief in astrology, auras, energy fields, homeopathy, accupuncture, chiropracty and vaccination phobia.  Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist interviews various professionals who debunk these woos and tries to explain why otherwise rational people are attracted to them. Let’s put it this way, if you’re into woo, it’s hard to take anything you say seriously. You’d might as well be a nutcase fundy eschatologist.   Check out Seth’s recent podcast here.

Jay Ackroyd tries to lead Digby to the light when it comes to Obama’s commitment to a Grand Bargain on Social Security and Medicare.  First, go read the piece from Digby where she actually sounds like she’s blown right on past where Conflucians are sitting straight into the arms of the former Democrats who are so angry they’ve started to identify with the Tea Party.  Wow.  That’s quite a leap.  I know the party will reel her back in and, to be honest, we don’t really need more Tea Partiers in Congress, thank you very much.  But, yeah, Digby.  Jay’s right.  The Obama contingent are not liberals.  However, Jay is not right that they’re centrists.  The Obama contingent is definitely on the right side of center.  Nooooo doubt about it.  The only way that they are centrists is if you consider moderate republicanism centrist.  That would make Bill Clinton a flaming commie.  No, no, don’t go there, Jay.  We have seen the studies.  There’s no way in hell that Bill Clinton is a centrist in the same way that Obama is a “centrist”.  The center moved in the past 12 years.  You guys have got to accept this because your irrational belief that Clinton is an evil Republican dude compared to Obama, is what got Obama elected in the first place.  You’ve been done in by your tribe’s woo.  I mean, think about it: your group is asking us to believe that Bill Clinton is, was and always will be more conservative than Barack Obama.  Step back and think about that and ask yourselves if that’s rational given everything you now know.  If YOU can’t swallow it, why are you asking US to believe it?

As for Digby, I really like her and I’ve found her recent evolution to be promising, if only temporary in the lead up to the election.  I expect her to chicken out even though her “Hey! We’re eating grass!” moments are fun to read.  There is a place for left of center Democrats who don’t have our minds so wide open that our brains have fallen out.  We just need to create it.  It probably won’t happen this election cycle unless the Obama half of the party is defeated by the Clinton half of the party.  That’s where we are now.  You may not think the Clinton half is sufficiently liberal but the American people do.  In any case, they’ll drag the party back leftwards like an earthquake in Japan.  It could be a true realignment on the way back to sanity.  And remember, Wall Street rejected the Clinton half last time.  So, you know, how much more proof do you need??  Besides, there is no hope for Howard Dean.  Most people don’t know who he is and wouldn’t like him if they did.  We need to be realistic and work with what we’ve got.  And as far as I can tell, Americans would be ecstatic to return to the Clinton years, even if they were supervised by his wife. A woman in charge would be very good for women in general, wouldn’t you agree?  Especially when that woman is a passionate defender of women’s reproductive rights?  I mean, can women really trust Obama after they way he dragged his feet on the conscience rule, betrayed us in the healthcare law and kept Plan B behind a counter?

As far as everyone having “skin in the game”, Obama’s term for sacrificing in the upcoming Grand Bargain, um, I’ve seen my industry devastated by Wall Street grasshoppers and I’ve lost a very good living, permanently.  So, you know, I’ve already been flayed.  Not only that but I’m in the age cohort who has to wait until I’m 67 before I get the Social Security I prepaid for decades.  I’m not sacrificing anymore skin.  No, do not even ask.  Don’t make us come down there to Washington to make your lives miserable.  You do not want crowds from the size of my graduating class on the mall.  No, you do not.  I suggest that Congress go hunt people with an excess of skin, ie wealthy people.  Give them a good reason to whine.

The last bit is an interview of Jane Mayer on Fresh Air with Terry Gross entitled “Obama in Impossible Bind Over Donors”.  The Impossible Bind is that he wants and needs money from the wealthy and Wall Street but he doesn’t want average voters to know how indebted he is to his big donors so he has to blow the donors off in public.  It’s a sad, sad situation.  Terry, to her credit, seems to have come around after being such an insufferable Obama fangirl in 2008.  Jane Mayer valiantly tries to make Obama look good when it comes to fundraising.  You can almost hear Jane pleading with the audience to understand what Obama is up against but I found her extreme earnestness irritating.  It’s a cruel world out there.  Poor Obama, forced to accept SuperPAC money and trying to make it look like he doesn’t like it.  It’s all the fault of the mean Republicans that he’s sucking up all the money he said he didn’t want.  And while Romney is appearing at the SuperPAC soirees, Mitt has a deputy actually ask for the money, while Obama goes to the soirees and the money just mysteriously appears for him but he doesn’t suck up to anyone to get it.  I find the distinction indistinct.

Oh, but Obama isn’t giving away the Lincoln Bedroom!  So, you know, there’s that.  And that’s presumably why the donors are complaining.  They get nothing from Obama.  Not even a tote bag.  He won’t even take pictures with his donors so they can use that to name drop. It sounds like Obama got too much of a reputation as a schmoozer in 2008 and he’s desperate to squash that meme this year but that doesn’t mean he’ll be turning the filthy lucre down.  He just doesn’t want to have to thank anyone publicly for it.

But the funniest part of the interview is when Mayer is forced to debunk the idea that Obama made the bulk of his campaign money from millions of teensy contributions.  I know, you’re probably thinking that small contributions mean less than $100 because that’s what the Obama campaign lead us to believe in 2008.  We were all under the impression that millions and millions of working class Joes were mailing $20 to him in gratitude with a little note saying, “Bless you, Barack!  Save the Republic.  We’ve been waiting all our lives for you!”  Right?  Intellectually, you know it’s not true because the sheer size of the amount of money he collected, plus all of the contributions from wealthy Wall Street contributors, is public information. But the meme kinda slipped into the chinks of the gray matter and created it’s own woo.  It just *had* to be true because so many people repeated it.  It’s sort of like that woo we debunked about Obama running a fabulous campaign.  Um, no he didn’t, unless you consider gaming the caucuses and paying off the superdelegates and DNC fabulous, and we can prove it but myths die hard.

Anyway, it turns out that the definition of small depends on who is using it.  Small donations to you and me would be less than $100.  Small donations to the Obama campaign means maxing out at $5000.  See the difference?  One is $4900 more than the other. What working class stiff has $5000 to stuff into an envelope for a guy who had less than two years of national political experience before he decided to run for president?  And inadvertently, Mayer exposes what the Obama campaign thinks of the people who gave less than $5K.  They’re not even on the campaign’s radar.

But the final bit of silliness from Mayer is when she contrasts Bill Clinton’s extroversion against Obama’s intellectualism.  That’s got to be a first.  Whatever you might think of Bill Clinton,  making the guy who went to Georgetown, Yale Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar sound like a high school dropout car salesman next to Obama doesn’t really work too well.  What she’s really trying to say is that Clinton is a gregarious politician who likes politics and can carry on an intelligent conversation with anyone, even his enemies, but that the Obama contingent doesn’t like politics and getting hands dirty and actually doing the stuff that gets things done.  I know that she didn’t mean to say that but that’s essentially what she said.  If you were a big money donor, whose campaign would you rather give $5 million to?  (George Soros, call me!)

Once the bloom is off of Obama’s rose, you can’t listen to this stuff without laughing at all of the holes in the arguments.  The woo is gone.

Not much to say

Mentally sunning myself by my infinity edge pool on the terrace on Santorini. Wake me when it’s over.

According to Katiebird, there’s a bit of a circular firing squad going on in Twitter.  Democrats are realizing they’ve gotten themselves into another fine mess with Obama.  And you can always measure the discontent by the appearance of anti-Hillary posts popping up here and there.  Apparently, she is now a neo-con, carrying out their secret agenda as crafted back in the Bush years.  Bwahahahahahaaaaah!

Of course, that’s not what the people promoting the neocon agenda conspiracy theory are saying. Because that would be wrong without explicit proof. It’s the classic, “I didn’t say it was your fault, I said we’re going to blame you” strategy.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria.  Without the US and the most prominent Secretary of State leading them, the people of North Africa and the middle east would live contentedly, like dumb animals, having absolutely no idea that they are being politically and economically oppressed, satisfied with their lot in life.  They would never have a “Hey, we’re eating grass!” moment on their own.

I’m always amused by the Democrats who are dissatisfied with any kind of policy in the middle east.  No matter what it is, it’s *always* they wrong one.  Aggressive intervention against Iran is justifiably horrifying.  But so are sanctions to them.  What are we left with?  Sternly worded letters?  Maybe we should just ignore Iran and hope it goes away.  That’s fine with me except when kids are too quiet, I start to wonder what they’re up to.  Keeping an eye on them might be a good idea.  Is that OK with the Democrats?  Can we peer over our shoulders once in awhile and tell them to stop that and stay on their side of the car? Or is this too, none of our business?

But why not blame Hillary for all foreign policy problems that she most likely had an enigmatic part in?  Bay of Pigs?  Hillary.  Vietnam?  Hillary.  Bikini Atoll nuclear tests?  Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.  In fact, anyone who has gotten a radiation induced cancer since the Manhattan Project, that was probably Hillary’s doing.  Just call her Hiroshima Hillary.  She’s always secretly been a neocon.

And she’s married to the Big Dawg, who never gets tired of wheeling and dealing.  He’s interested in reforming Medicare because it’s going to start eating up our money at an accelerated pace soon.  Better get a grip on it before some Randy young Republican decides it would be easier on the wealthy to just abolish it altogether.  You know, rein in medical costs, maybe open it up to everyone and expand the pool with healthier individuals?  Stuff like that, stuff we haven’t tried yet.  I could see Bill Clinton doing a Mary Poppins, cheerfully conscripting some nitwit into doing something he wouldn’t do otherwise.  Or he could be entirely evil.

Hillary probably put him up to it.

Whatever.

People are going to believe what they want to believe.  Some Democrats have said that the result of the last four years wouldn’t have been different with Hillary in charge.  I beg to differ.  It’s surprising that the Obama fans can’t see the truth about Hillary.  It is this: The Bankers Didn’t Support Hillary.  No.  They supported Obama.  And Obama has been nothing if not attentive to their needs.

So, you know, you can blame the Clintons because they are convenient targets.  I have no doubt that the people who have taken over the Democratic party have analyzed what makes Democrats tick and can manipulate the message to make sure the Clintons look really, really bad.  And they’re not perfect, not by a long shot.  What humans are?   So, this is made somewhat easier.

But it still doesn’t solve the problem of Obama.  He’s the one who’s been at the helm for 4 years.  Somehow, I can’t even in my wildest imagination come up with a scenario where Hillary is as indulgent towards the wealthy and well connected as Obama has been.  I’ve tried making her out to be out of touch, neglectful of the unemployed, callous towards the hapless homeowner, solicitous towards the health insurance industry, indifferent to the rights of women and permissive towards the banking industry. I’ve tried but I just can’t.

I’ve lost interest in this campaign.  Maybe that’s by design.  Maybe both parties would prefer that the some of us sit it out this year.  You know and I know and Paul Krugman knows that regardless of who gets the office in November, we’re screwed.

Of course, there is a better candidate available.  But the Democratic loyalists keep getting played into scurrying away from her like she’s Kryptonite.  There’s still time, you know.  If you want to change the dynamic, you have to go bold.

In the meantime, I’ve got better things to do than watch the Democratic loyalists get played like a bunch of low information Fox News viewers, continually going against their own best interests.

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Occupy wants to OccupytheDNC in Charlotte, NC.  Hmmm, if it’s anythng like Denver in 2008, expect for the city to be on lockdown with thousands and thousands of riot geared cops and the national guard ready to throw your ass into jail the minute you step off the curb.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea.  In fact, if I were the DNC, I’d go easy on Occupy for PR purposes.  At this point, it needs all the good PR it can get.  But what I anticipate is a lot of bloody heads, brutality and marginalization of people who are determined to give the 99% a voice.

The bloody heads and brutality I’ve come to expect.  It’s the marginalization by the Obama administration that I find indefensible.

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