• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    katiebird on Serial: I think I figured it…
    katiebird on Serial: I think I figured it…
    katiebird on Serial: I think I figured it…
    strangelybrown on Serial: I think I figured it…
    riverdaughter on Serial: I think I figured it…
    elliesmom on Serial: I think I figured it…
    katiebird on All Roads Lead to Jay
    riverdaughter on All Roads Lead to Jay
    katiebird on All Roads Lead to Jay
    katiebird on All Roads Lead to Jay
    katiebird on Getting a jump on Serial,
    riverdaughter on Getting a jump on Serial,
    katiebird on Getting a jump on Serial,
    katiebird on Getting a jump on Serial,
    riverdaughter on Getting a jump on Serial,
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean Joe Biden John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Keith Olbermann Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare occupy wall street OccupyWallStreet Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    November 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    30  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • A word on Abenomics, QE and doing Stimulus right
      Quantitative Easing, to put it simply, no matter what form you do it in, is only marginally effective. Most of the money goes to the rich, you may or may not get a technical win in GDP, and in many cases the money may flow out of the country. If you want to improve the [...]
  • Top Posts

Gruber, Serial and Stupidity

Jonathan Gruber thinks you’re stupid.

Much has been made recently of Jonathan Gruber, ACA architect, giving away the game when he admitted that creating and passing the bill depended in part on the stupidity of Americans. There were also a lot of Democrats who relied on that. Even now, those of us forced in to buying these junk health insurance plans at inflated prices, or suffer a penalty that doesn’t fall on those blessed with employer based plans, are told to suck it up because it’s for our own good or the good of some other person. It’s funny that the moralizing seems to be falling on our heads all of the time but not on those people temporarily secure in their jobs that pay bennies. How is this different than the fundy Republicans who are always telling us that if something bad happens to us, it must be something we’ve done and not just a series of unfortunate events that have happened while they idly stood by and watched?

But I digress.

I won’t beat a dead horse about how the Obama administration has been counting on the stupidity of the people that voted it into office since 2008. The administration and it’s campaign managers are, after all, the “culture of smartness” that runs the finance industry. I think we are all on the same page about that now, are we not? Some of us came to that conclusion sooner than others, mainly because our former jobs consisted of sorting out patterns and data and not believing things that were not supported by evidence.  It doesn’t make us better people or smarter people but it does help just enough to know who’s bulls%^&&ing.

I have to believe that if Americans were better trained, they would have spotted the missing data when it came to Obama’s true opinions on the wars. They might have been more attuned to the misogynism coursing through the campaign stops. After the election, they might have noticed that the administration coasted on the Lily Ledbetter Act as if it ensured paycheck fairness when it clearly did no such thing. They might have made a bigger fuss about the fact that the Obama administration only tweaked slightly the Bush Conscience Rule until recently. Or that in spite of Obama’s evolution on LGBT concerns, federal contracts were still allowed to discriminate. They might have caught on sooner to the flaws with HAMP. Or holding the bankers accountable. You know, stuff like that.

It’s the kind of thing the Obama administration is famous for.  It announces things, initiatives, changes, to make Americans think it’s doing something and then it quietly doesn’t really do them. It depends on your stupidity and the fact that you will quickly dismiss anyone they have previously labelled as a “racist” because the troublemaker and naysayer hasn’t gratefully accepted their portion of poisoned mushrooms. (Have you ever had to prove you’re not a racist? Go ahead and try it. The burden of proof is on the accused regardless of the motive of the accuser. You can be perfectly innocent and have hundreds of character witnesses. It only takes one person with a particular goal in mind and a very big microphone to ruin your reputation.)

Anyway, I keep wondering why it is that the people who should be better critical thinkers can be so clueless. Why is it so many of us keep falling for the same old lies and misdirection? Some of it can be attributed to the fact that we are herd animals and usually adopt the opinions of those people in our immediate cohort but it’s really quite puzzling how so many of us manage to screw up so often.

Take Serial, for example. The podcast is a little more than half way through its exploration of the murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her former boyfriend Adnan Syed for the murder. I am a faithful follower and have come to the conclusion that Adnan Syed was not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He shouldn’t be behind bars. He is not guilty for the same reason that Casey Anthony was not guilty for the crime of killing her daughter Caylee, and that is, there is no physical evidence tying Adnan to the crime and plenty of clues that someone else did it. In particular, Adnan’s friend, Jay, who was the prime witness in this trial, had the motive, the means and, most crucially, knew where Hae Min Lee’s car was parked. He lead police right to it.

Years later, Jay is refusing to talk to Sarah Koenig, Serial’s investigator, about the crime. But where Serial’s team, and many Slate readers, see this as Jay’s trying to move on past a painful period of his life, I see it as an attempt to avoid self-incrimination. After all, Jay was never tried for Hae’s murder and it’s possible that something he says will trip him up and revive the case, this time in a different direction.

But what really floors me is the number of Slate readers who are still not convinced that there’s been a huge miscarriage of justice in this case against Adnan. Two weeks ago, Koenig spoke to an innocence project type team and they all came to the same conclusion that I did. This case shouldn’t have come to trial. There wasn’t enough evidence. It looks like Adnan’s conviction and sentence of life in prison relied heavily on the fact that the jury was easily lead, impressed by in court demeanor and the fact that Adnan did not testify on his own behalf. There is also the very real possibility that the jury was influenced by ethnic, racial or cultural issues.

Then, there was something the innocence project lawyer said that stuck with me. She said that when reviewing this case, they needed to give Adnan back the presumption of innocence. Everyone is entitled to that in court. But in this podcast, we are starting with a presumption of guilt that Adnan must somehow overcome. The deck is stacked against him because he is always trying to prove a negative and it’s not difficult to come up with exceptions that don’t conclusively rule him out as a suspect. But what keeps getting buried in all this is that there is no physical evidence tying Adnan to the crime and very little attempt by the prosecution to come up with any. There’s not a single hair, clump of dirt or strand of DNA that links Adnan with the crime. Thousands of people in Baltimore can’t account for their whereabouts on the day of the murder. The only thing that links this one individual with the victim is a past relationship that ended amicably, the dubious account of a former friend and some inconclusive cell phone records. How do you send a 17 year old to jail for life without parole on that?

I get that the jury was fooled. But after all that we’ve heard in this case, it is baffling to me that so many presumably educated readers and listeners still have doubts. Don’t mistake what I’m asserting here. I’m not saying Adnan is innocent. I’m saying there’s not enough to go on to convict him and a disturbing amount of material to point to someone else. But the listeners are not looking at the evidence. They are all caught up in perceptions of likeability and innocence. And beneath it all is the frightening possibility that we have trained a generation of citizens to give equal weight to the other side even when the argument is full of holes. We have lost our ability to evaluate accurately. The concept that there must be something there or an innocent kid was thrown in jail does not automatically strengthen the case for doing so. Similarly, just because Jay is a well spoken, polite kid on the stand doesn’t mean he’s a good person.

It’s depressing. We just don’t seem to have the collective IQ to think our way out of most deceptions.

What is the purpose of Serial anyway? Why take a case so badly flawed and present it as a real mystery? What if the real mystery is why couldn’t the justice system figure this out? What if Koenig is out to expose something else entirely? Why are we so stupid? And is it leading to punishment and injustice on a grander scale?

Iraq: The project that will not die

Open Carry extremists in Texas

Open Carry extremists in Texas

The first significant split I had with my brother happened over Iraq.  That’s because he was struck with temporary moronity  propagated by Fox News that trickled down to all of the other media outlets by what I suspect was a small evil group of psy-ops specialists.

It’s hard to be the only scientist in the family.  I’m sure I sounded like some unpleasant klaxon harshing the “let’s go kick some Haji ass!” mellow.  Everyone in America seemed to be on the same team.  There was no talking to them. There was no proof that there were WMDs in the desert.  There was no evidence for a nuclear weapons industry.  And you could be damn sure that if there was oil to be had there, it was going to be hoarded by the companies who went in there to get it.  That last one was a particularly difficult concept to get across.  They just didn’t understand WHY you would want to withhold oil from the global market.  It just sounded crazy.

So, now Iraq is falling apart and Obama wants to sit on the sidelines and let it happen.  In a way, that’s understandable.  It wasn’t his war.  He didn’t start it.  Also, he supposedly gave a speech about it that no one can find a record of.  And there’s that Nobel he needs to live up to.

But part of the responsibilities of being the leader of the free world is having to do some pretty unpleasant things.  I never thought that the president that took over from Bush in 2008 was going to be able to walk out of Iraq on the first day.  You don’t have to be a “war monger” to realize that stabilizing a country that has been deliberately de-stabilized by a bunch of ideological and greedy nut cases is a top priority.

But I get the feeling that the Obama campaign never got over its campaign mindset.  It’s been all about being the fricking cock-on-the-walk and controlling the foreign policy to the point of strangulation lest a political rival look good.  What followed was not a serious commitment to responsible behavior  but a couple of announcements that the war was over even though the country is still a chaotic mess.  I’m as disappointed with some of the pacifism at all costs people on the left as I am with the haji-kickers on the right.  Getting out of Iraq was never going to be easy and not laying the ground work for doing so carefully is going to hurt all of us.

For one thing, we can all expect gas prices to spike now.  Yep, it’s going to happen.  And if we are on a saddle point of plunging back into recession, this is certainly going to help that along.  When oil spikes, everything gets more expensive.  Poorer people are already wondering where they’re going to get the money to feed their kids.  Imagine how that’s going to go when the already high cost of food goes even higher.  How do you get to work?  What’s going to happen to the industries that rely on tourism?

But that’s a little selfish whining from some first world citizen, right?  I mean, how would you like to be a Kurd watching as the US prepares to screw you over again 30 years later?  Or any Iraqi really who lived through the last 10 years?  And if there weren’t religious extremists in the country 10 years ago, there sure are now because there is nothing that will create dangerous extremism better than instability and economic hardship.

There’s a warning there for Americans but we’ll probably be too distracted and hypnotized to realize what it is before it’s too late.

“largely an insult to the intelligence of women”

That’s how Judge Korman describes the Obama administrations dogged resistance to selling Plan B over the counter without age restrictions.  By the way, did I mention that Korman is a Reagan appointee?  HHS secretary Sebelius and the justice department has requested a stay to Korman’s previous ruling on Plan B.

Korman noted:

“If a stay is granted, it will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail — thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process,”

And…

At one point in his ruling, Judge Korman notes that lawyers for the administration insist that allowing over-the-counter access to the drug for everyone while the government appeals the case would mean “uncertainty” for girls and women about whether they could get the drug.

The judge rejected that argument out of hand, saying that “this silly argument ignores the fact it is the government’s appeal from the order that sustained the judgment of the commissioner of the F.D.A. that is the cause of any uncertainty, and that that appeal is taken solely to vindicate the improper conduct of the secretary and possibly for the purpose of further delaying greater access to emergency contraceptives for purely political reasons.”

He also rejected the government’s argument that women might be confused about the drug’s availability if it was made available to everyone without a prescription and then later restricted because the government won its appeal.

Yep, that’s pretty insulting.

Want to know what else is insulting?

Pimping Lily Ledbetter as if real women in the real working world don’t already know that the Ledbetter law doesn’t give them paycheck fairness nor keeps the target off their backs if they ask Human Resources for salary comparison information.

Bowing to anti-abortion congressmen in order to pass an ill-conceived, labyrinthine, insurance industry friendly healthcare law.

Bending over backwards to kiss the asses of a 2000 year old boys club where all the members wear red beanies in order to enforce anachronistic traditions about the nature of women and forced motherhood.

Concentrating all of the administration’s skimpy job creation policies on manly construction projects because otherwise, American mens’ masculinity and egos might be threatened. (See Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men)

Making the White House a hostile working environment for female advisors. (same book)

Two campaigns’ worth of consultants, surrogates and paid bloggers flogging fear, uncertainty and dread over the Republicans taking away our reproductive freedom while the real actors in that scheme were the old boys club of the Democratic party arranging things to their satisfaction in smoke filled rooms.

In a way, I’m not surprised the Obama administration thinks it can get away with insulting the intelligence of women.  It’s worked so well for them this far.  Young women flocked to them in droves after the crazy shit Republicans did in the past several years.  But you’d have to be really stupid to not notice that the Democrats did nothing for women since Obama took office except continue to capitulate to the neanderthals in this country who have largely succeeded in turning back the clock on women’s freedom.

So, while I am encouraged to find that there are judges out there who still think women have brains and that they should be encouraged to exercise them in their own interest, I’m disappointed that so few women have actually bothered to do it.  Even now, some left wing bloggers insist that there was no difference between the Democratic candidates in 2008 when it came to advocating for women.  That kind of denial of reality and history simply strains credulity.

That just encourages the Obama administration to continue to treat us like children, and they to continue to behave like Duggaresque patriarchs of daughters they have sworn to “cover” until they hand us off to our husbands.

Compare and Contrast: A little consistency

Bayeaux Tapestry: Cleric slaps Aelfgyva. It’s just tradition.

So, I read this the other day at Eschaton:

Obama Administration: Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

             BRIEF FOR THE UNITED STATES ON THE MERITS

Marriage is, of course, a vitally important institution, and one supported by the federal government through benefits and other programs that rely on marital status. An interest in preserving marriage as limited to heterosexual persons, however, does not justify Section 3. Tradition, no matter how long established, cannot by itself justify a discriminatory law under equal protection principles.

Then, I remembered that it was only about two weeks ago that the White House did THIS:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday proposed yet another compromise to address strenuous objections from religious organizations about a policy requiring health insurance plans to provide free contraceptives, but the change did not end the political furor or legal fight over the issue.

The proposal could expand the number of groups that do not need to pay directly for birth control coverage, encompassing not only churches and other religious organizations, but also some religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service agencies. Health insurance companies would pay for the coverage.

The latest proposed change is the third in the last 15 months, all announced on Fridays, as President Obama has struggled to balance women’s rights, health care and religious liberty. Legal experts said the fight could end up in the Supreme Court.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the proposal would guarantee free coverage of birth control “while respecting religious concerns.”

Now, I am delighted that the LGBT community’s argument that traditional marriage is just “traditional” is getting the recognition it deserves.  That tradition is usually based on religious principles that many of us don’t subscribe to and in actuality, those religious principles undermine marriage and family integrity.

But I can’t for the life of me figure out why women are so damn powerless with the Obama administration and why the argument “Tradition, no matter how long established, cannot by itself justify a discriminatory law under equal protection principles” gets no traction with the White House when applied to over half the Americans in this country .  Tradition is destiny for women in Obama’s America.

Where is NOW now that their Feminist in Chief is traditionalizing the religious role of women in American society?  And why are people like Culture of Truth mum on that subject?

Just askin’.

Men do not mentor women

Obama Aides Drinking Beer Shirtless in Local DC Bar 2010

The NYTimes has an article on the front page about the dearth of women in the senior positions of the Obama administration.  The paper tries to make it sound like it’s on a par with the Clinton administration but far, far better than the Bush administration.  I love how they keep trying to rewrite history.  We remember how Clinton kept nominating women to the Attorney General’s office until he got one that didn’t have a nanny problem.  And then there was Madeleine Albright.  She was a first.  Then came Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only the second woman on the Supreme Court.  And Joycelyn Elders.  Who could forget her?  It was Bill Clinton who hired Brooksley Born, even if she was overruled by Summers, Geithner and Rubin.  And who could forget his most important advisor on health care reform, Hillary Rodham Clinton?

So, what is the NYTimes saying?  “At least they’re not as bad as the last guy” is not a winning message, IMHO.  Ahh, here’s a possible answer:

Interviews with current and former members of the administration, both men and women, suggested that there was no single reason for the discrepancy, and several repeatedly spoke of the administration’s internal commitment to diversity and gender equity.

But several said that the “pipeline” of candidates appeared to be one problem. They said it seemed that more men than women were put forward or put their names forward for jobs. In part, that might be a result of the persistence of historical discrepancies: men have traditionally dominated fields of government service like finance, security and defense.

Oh, my!  That sounds insurmountable!  What’s a president to do if he only gets recommendations that are male?  He simply cannot change the status quo.  It is impossible.

Bullshit.

Of COURSE men are going to put other men in the pipeline.  It is human nature for people to be comfortable with people who are most like themselves.  In this case, having a penis is extremely important.  Don’t ask me how it is important.  It just is.  Apparently there are urinary challenges to overcome or circle jerks where women are genitally challenged.  Who knows what initiation rites one must undergo to get into the pipeline?  Maybe it’s a matter of being tall enough to play center forward.  Or being able to get onto the greens at the right country club.  Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with the job.  It just has to do with a certain comfort level, to be able to sound important and have that sound acknowledged, to be able to swear without fear, to be able to take one’s shirt off when playing billiards at the local bar.

You know, guy stuff.  Men do not mentor women.  I have never seen it in a professional setting.  Let me think….  Nope, I can’t think of a single instance when men mentored women in the chemistry field.  Sometimes, women were hired to management positions and then the men around them bitched and moaned about how unqualified they were but I never witnessed one woman chosen from her male colleagues who was nurtured and forwarded for a management position by a senior male.

The president *could* just say, “your list must consist of as many females as males”.  We might expect him to set an example or be proactive but I guess that’s just too much to ask of this president.  He might force his team to come up with female names.  That might make the people making recommendations to form a professional relationship with some females, whether they liked it or not.  And that might get females into the pipeline.  As it is, since all of the candidates are male, half of these guys are going to be below average.  Are the candidate pickers trying to say that there are absolutely NO women who are better than the average guy to fill these positions?  Oh, wait, that was a Larry Summers idea.  See Brookesley Born reference above.

I would try harder if I were the president.  There’s really no excuse at this point.

Obama fans have a lot to answer for when women stagnate and regress for eight straight years under a “Democratic” president.  Does the end still justify the means?  One might reasonably argue that in 1993 and 1996, women were just starting to percolate through the system.  But 20 years later, there’s really no good excuse anymore.  As Dina Refki, executive director of Women in Government said in the article:

Experts on women in government suggested that more transparency might help equalize the gender ratio as well. “We know that to bring that level of leadership to 50 percent, we have to make a deliberate effort to find women and appoint them to that level,” said Dina Refki, the executive director of the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University at Albany. “Most of the time that deliberate effort isn’t made.”

Has there been anything close to a deliberate effort made?  This mother of two daughters says, “definitely not”.

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.

Secret Service Unit Hired Prostitutes

Why am I not surprised?  This is on the frontpage of the NYTimes this morning:

Twelve Secret Service agents assigned to this port city in advance of President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas were relieved of duty, amid accusations of misconduct that is said to have involved prostitution, a government official confirmed Friday.

The misconduct is said to have occurred before Mr. Obama arrived here on Friday afternoon for the meeting of more than 30 world leaders that begins Saturday.

White House officials would not comment, referring all questions to the Secret Service. News of the accusations was first reported by The Washington Post.

In a statement, a Secret Service spokesman, Edwin M. Donovan, acknowledged that agents had been recalled because of accusations of misconduct and that they would be replaced by other Secret Service personnel, but he did not address the issue of prostitution.

“The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously,” he said, adding that the matter had been turned over to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Prostitution is legal in designated areas of Colombia.

Well, I guess that makes it Ok then.  It’s just our western imperialist culture that makes a big deal about prostitution.

You know, I could see maybe one or two bad apples.  But TWELVE?  This is more like a gang looking for a bang.

Of course the White House will distance itself from this incident.  You know, they actually work for the Treasury department and Obama has no control over who guards him and yadayadayada.  I don’t know.  It’s more the ambience of the White House.  Women aren’t exactly in the loop and treated like professionals or experts or anything.  And then Michelle is doing the SAHM thing.  You SAHM moms out there can whine all you like about how you’re being attacked {{eyes rolling}} but it’s working women who seem to be getting the shaft in the Obama era.   And when women repeatedly get treated with little respect, and we don’t make clear that women are not commodities, well, we shouldn’t be surprised.

You can blame the Republicans for a lot of bad stuff but at least you can’t call them hypocrites.

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

More on women: I am really disturbed that Hillary Rosen felt that it was necessary once more to kiss the asses of the sacred cow we call Stay at Home Mothers.  Fume all you like ladies.  You are not doing a harder job than all the other working mothers out there.  Trust me on this because I have been there.  Your efforts do not make the world go around any more than anyone else’s. I don’t want to hear about your “sacrifice”.  If you want praise for staying at home with your kids because you loved them so much, then it wasn’t a sacrifice.  It was a choice you made.  And that choice is no better or worse than any other choice that a working mother made.  It is no better or worse and it isn’t more worthy of praise or self-righteous snootery.

It’s about time you SAHM stop looking down your noses at everyone else and clutching your pearls when the working mothers have the audacity to demand respect.  And it’s about time that the rest of us stop apologizing and worshipping at the altar of people who choose motherhood as their exclusive career.

There, I said it.  Deal with it.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 471 other followers