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    • The End of the Rebels in the Ukraine and the Ukraine’s Future
      We’re down to street fighting in Donetsk.  The Russian leaders resigned in the last two weeks.  The rebels appear to be done, at least in terms of their conventional military phase (of course, I could be wrong depending on how much stomach Ukrainian troops have for house to house fighting).  It seems like that would [...]
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Romancing the PUMAs

Lambert posted about the Democrat’s growing election dilemma yesterday with some speculation from an EJ Dionne article. PUMAs are back, baby!  Oh Yeah!

Or should I say, the stupid racist menopausal uneducated working class sino-peruvian lesbians are back.  It’s very weird how the Democrats manage to mine the data and come up with this constituency over and over again.  It’s a distortion that kinda-sorta proves the point of the Mad Men post I wrote yesterday.  Computers can be extraordinarily useful but they also tend to be levelers.  There are descriptors that the guys (and they are almost always guys) did not collect before they ran their analysis.  Now, they may have enough information to get enough PUMAs to the polls in November but THIS former PUMA, and I suspect many others, will be a much tougher sell.  But first, let’s try to clarify what we mean by Clinton voter and PUMA.

From my own perspective, the acronym PUMA, Party Unity My Ass, was only useful through the 2008 election season.  I was a New Deal Liberal style Democrat who voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.  Unlike a lot of younger Democrats, I have a completely different and more realistic understanding of what the Clintons were up to back then.  I’m a late baby boomer who didn’t benefit from the earlier baby boomers’ advantages.  I was a working mother back in 1992 and I strongly identified with Hillary Clinton.  I saw “ending welfare as we know it” as a very good thing because the idea was only part of a strategy to introduce more of a European style welfare state with a national health policy, educational training, child care and housing.  It was all part of a package deal.  Then I saw both the Democratic party and the Republican party pick that package to bits.  The Democrats helped deep six the healthcare initiatives and Newt Gingrich’s Contract On America destroyed welfare.  That’s what happened guys.  You might have been studying and partying.  The rest of us were living in a grown up world.  As for NAFTA, I’m sorry, I think it’s a good idea to remove trade barriers between your two closest neighbors.  I had problems with some of the details but in general, these were Republican insertions, not Clinton’s.

We can talk about Glass-Steagel and Robert Rubin if you like.  In retrospect, deregulation of the banks and derivatives, etc, was a pretty bad thing but it was also an unstoppable phenomenon.  Clinton was NOT the driving force behind these initiatives.  From what I can recall, Phil Gramm was the nasty on the TV all the time ramming this crap down our throats.  Go look it up.  To this day, I avoid Texas just so I don’t have to run into that drawl.

Ok, so that’s my background.  You can read my credo in the tabs to find out what I value, and from the site statistics, someone(s) has become very interested in those values of late.

Now, when I say PUMA was only a 2008 thing, that means that to ME, after the election was over, it lost its meaning as a resistance movement.  The Democratic party lost me.  I officially rescinded my membership in the party in 2008 and only re-registered as a Democrat in PA last year when I applied for a new driver’s license here in PA after my move.  In PA, the primaries are closed so voters are forced to choose a party when they register to vote, unlike NJ where the semi-closed primary means you can choose a party on primary election day.  I think anyone who reads my credo will see that I am a liberal New Deal style Democrat but my party affiliation, in spite of my registration, is very tenuous.  In other words, if a third party came around that represented my views, I’d jump in an instant.  Also note that I’m not a fan of the Greens and don’t particularly care for the crunchy type’s irrational condemnation of GMO crops, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy and corporations.  I find some of the left to be as black and white in their thinking as the right and, frankly, I am losing patience debating the “religious” beliefs of both sides.  I’m also not a selfish short sighted Libertarian.  That’s where the rebels without a cause hang out. And you will never catch me voting for Republican ever again.  My one vote for McCain in 2008 was purely a protest vote against the Democratic party because of its unethical treatment of its own party voters in 2008.  It was not an expression of support for the Republican party or its cavalier, cruel, heartless, greedy, narcissistically malignant, lying, deceptive, destructive platform of “ideas”.

It was very upsetting to pull that lever and I will never forgive the Democratic party for pushing me to make that decision for a couple of important reasons.  First, I was deprived of an identity and second, I was deprived of voting for the first African-American for president.  But in my very important opinion, voting for the first ANYTHING was not a sufficient excuse to overlook or condone the party for rigging the primary and compromising what the party stood for. Some Democrats were able to overcome their moral resistance to what the party was asking them to do.  I could not.  That’s what made me a PUMA and also explains why PUMA lost its utility after the election.  I felt that that what was required to fix what was broken was something bigger, more organized and longer lasting than a slogan.  And then real life intervened and I couldn’t devote any time to it.

But PUMA did survive in another form on other blogs.  I can’t endorse these other PUMA blogs.  I have a sense that they were compromised by Tea Party and Republican operatives.  There was an irrational embrace of birtherism and a weird support for Sarah Palin.  This blog struggled with some of those holdouts for awhile until their presence got to be unbearable.  These are the people that I think EJ Dionne is referring to in his post.  What I think they have in common is their extreme anger at what happened to them in 2008.  They were completely ignored by the Democrats who circular filed their votes and topped it off with a smug, “we’re smarter and know what’s best for you, you ignorant working class ‘gits” attitude.

Oh really?  Those PUMAs who are still fuming on the Tea Party friendly blogs may not have Ivy League degrees or know someone who works in a “creative class” field but when it comes right down to it, the election of Barack Obama has done more to solidify the strangle hold of the oligarchs on the American public than any previous president we have ever had.  We have actually devolved as a progressive nation.  I will go so far as to say that Obama’s presidency has sped up that devolution.  You could argue that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been different but my intuition (which hasn’t failed me yet in this whole mess) tells me that you would be wrong.  In any case, when it comes right down to it, the “creative class” that got fooled into voting for Obama in 2008 and 2012 is no different from the working class voters it dismissed so senselessly. To the oligarchs, you might as well be living on a rice paddy in Bangladesh.  Your ultimate fate is no different than the bitter gun toting church goers in rural Pennsylvania.  You can be economically ruined and made politically impotent just as easily.  That truth is just now dawning on you as you read The Divide and Piketty’s Capital and the latest study that says you don’t have enough money to make a dent in the lobbying shield wall of the 1%.

As for me, I don’t know if I would support Clinton in 2016.  My sense is that so much has happened to fundamentally change the nature of our country in the past 20 years that there would have to be a personality much bigger and more visionary than Clinton’s to drag us back onto the right track.  Could she do it?  Maybe.  But maybe she also recognizes the political landscape that she would be entering.  I saw her evolve during the primary season.  She was forged by fire and was gaining momentum when the party cut her off.  That was a mistake the party made out of fear but it made it prematurely.  By September of 2008, Elmer Fudd could have gotten elected as the first cartoon Democratic president, the situation was that dire.  In a sense, the election of Barack Obama was not a triumph of identity politics as much as it was one of panic and desperation.  But I have no doubt that under Hillary Clinton, there would have been more rehab and less codependence.

Slightly off topic, I find it interesting that so many people on both the right and the left are ramping up their anti-Hillary rhetoric.  Those Democrats who are still on the fence about her should take a moment to think about what’s going on there. Both parties are pawns of the oligarchs right now.  And someone in the Democratic party has pushing hard on the idea that if we just let Obama have his 2 terms, we could have Hillary in 2016.  That push acknowledges two things: 1.)People want someone to do something already and they’ve decided that the most likely person is Hillary and 2.) if you treat voters like children and make them delay their gratification, you can make them focus on some future uncertain reward while taking their minds off what they can do to help their own desperate situations in the present.  Whatever the left is currently spewing about how bad the Clintons are bears a striking similarity to the right’s mindless invectives against them to me.  And that suggests that there are some very powerful people who do not want Hillary to be the next president.  If she were already in the pockets of these very powerful people, you would expect less vilification, wouldn’t you?  Think about it.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this link to Phillip Zimbardo’s steps for overcoming situational influence.  The Democratic activist base should have read this before they flattered themselves that they were not at all like Kansas and couldn’t be fooled into doing anything against their own best interests.  I only recently discovered these steps but I think I’ve been wise to them since YearlyKos 2007 in Chicago when something just didn’t seem right.

As to the Democrats winning the election in 2014 and 2016, I’m almost getting to the point where it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference which party wins in November.  Having the Democrats in charge only slows down the slide to the right.  It doesn’t stop it.  And as destructive as the slide might be, I see very little evidence that the Democrats are motivated to prevent if from happening.  In fact, the dangerous collapse of the Republicans into crazyville only makes it easier for the oligarchs to get just about anything they want from the Democrats with very little effort.  Like I said before, I would gladly jump to a third party that is more responsive to my values.  At this point, appealing to me as a former PUMA is probably a waste of time because I see what I am to the party- a faceless data point projected onto a latent structure.

When the party starts treating me like an enfranchised citizen again, then we’ll talk.

 

Democrats are screwed next year if they can’t figure this out

Another short one and I’m gone.

I’ve noticed that a lot of partisan Democratic blogs have kinda sorta stepped away from the relentless cheerleading of the ACA.  Now, the message is, “Well, the GOP plan is nothing so Obamacare *HAS* to work”.

I’m guessing that a lot of researchers have been there.  You spend months, years on a project and the sucker just refuses to go anywhere.  There are no breakthroughs.  Generally, it’s the biologists’ fault but what are you going to do?  You don’t want to abandon the project so you keep propping it up.  Unless you have a really talented project leader who can reassess and has the courage to take a new approach, the project is doomed to being terminated the next time it comes up for review.

That would be 2014.

Look, guys.  I’m talking to YOU, Democrats.  I don’t know what your project manager has been telling you but if you don’t get your shit together and offer a radical and effective alternative to the ACA, you’re all going to be laid off in the next round of restructuring.  You may get laid off anyway because that’s just the way things go these days.  There’s always some political asshole gunning for your job and trying to steal credit.  But as long as you are employed, you might as well do your f&*(ing jobs.

There should be THREE health care reform plans: the non-existent GOP plan, the Obamacare “let’s give the insurance companies everything they want and guarantee a hefty profit for them for eternity!” plan and YOUR plan.

Your project manager is incompetent.  He got promoted too soon before he even ran a single project on his own.  If you don’t want him to take you down with him, you’d better figure out a way of digging yourself out of this hole. And let me make this perfectly clear to you, because you don’t seem to be getting it: protecting your project manager with phrases like “it’s not his fault, it’s the policy” is not helping you.  Of course it’s his fault because it is his policy but he and his friends are going to point the finger at anyone but himself.

And may I remind you that every other country in the developed world has figured out how to do this without impoverishing the citizens who through no fault of their own have been forced to seek insurance on the independent market. And here’s an update for you: back in 2009 this might have been a tiny segment.  It is tiny no longer. More and more people are unemployed or underemployed and don’t get health benefits.  Stop calling us a tiny fraction.  We are legion these days.  That’s why there has been so much outrage over this stupid, ill-conceived policy and it’s disastrous implementation.

There is no excuse for failure here.  There are a lot of templates to choose from.  Pick one and get on with it.

You have a year.

Thinking like a Republican…

(I don’t mean the Eisenhower-Lincoln-Teddy Roosevelt kind, I mean the hardass Ted Cruz, Grover Norquist, Eric Cantor kind)

… if I were a Republican who was really ambitious and had adopted the values and attitudes of my sponsors, I would see this debt ceiling battle as possibly my party’s last stand.  With the gullible generation dying off, my party is going to start losing seats gradually.  It’s going to get harder and harder to do what I was elected to do, that is, kill the New Deal and that pesky Social Security.

I don’t have to kill it all by myself.  All I have to do is cripple it enough that people start seeing it as welfare.  I just have to drive a wedge between generations and make sure that younger people start seeing seniors as spoiled, bigoted, whiney, freeloaders.  They’ve gotten a pass up to this point because my party has made sure that they feel  that their own benefits are not under attack.

But if I don’t hold out for “entitlement reform”, which unsophisticated seniors who watch Fox think is medicaid, food stamps and student loans or something for younger people who haven’t had to “build character”, then I haven’t done my job.  And if that means that the US has to default on its loans to generate enough of a crisis that cutting social security and sending it on its way towards oblivion is presented as the ONLY option for saving all of us from catastrophe, then I will have fulfilled my mission and my sponsors will reward me generously even if my party loses in the next mid-term election.  In fact, sacrificing my party is Ok.  We’ll just become like the House of Lords or something for awhile and let the rifts in the Democratic party deal with our new normal.

So, bring on the default.  What do I care?  This is what I was brought up and indoctrinated to do for the past 80 years.  There is nothing more insidious than Social Security and Medicare.  They’ve got to go even if we have to sacrifice our political careers and bring the world’s economy to a screeching halt.  The general public still doesn’t really get what we are up to.  It thinks this is about the deficit.  That’s fine.  They won’t know what hit them.  Time is fleeting but it’s still on our side and nothing will deter us or deflect us from our goal.

Now, if I were a Democrat, I’d stop calling Republicans crazy.

Why there must be a shutdown

I’m back but still pretty busy.  Not a lot of time to unpack what’s really going on here so I’ll try to make this brief.

Here’s my take on both parties’ health care policies/bills:

Republicans= Sharp stick in the eye

Democrats= Better than a sharp stick in the eye

I’m both amused and frustrated at the way party loyalists sing the praises of Obamacare.  It’s NOT all that.  Basically, we are all at the mercy of a private insurance market and medical care industry that has zero incentive to keep costs down.  All we got out of Obamacare is the right to pay for outrageously expensive insurance if we have a pre-existing condition.  Oh, sure, there will be subsidies and tax credits and more medicaid in some states but I figure it will be like getting one of those coupons where the bargain is only marginally better than paying retail and has fine print that says “cannot be combined with any other offer”.

I look at Obamacare and then look at my 10 year old beat up car and realize that I will have to give up getting a new car to pay for the health insurance that I still have to foot the bill for.  A lot of people will be making this mental calculation in the next couple of months.  I think it *will* have an effect on the bottom line.  There is only so much you can squeeze out of people who have vastly reduced or stagnant wages.  Math will get us all in the end.

Nevertheless, it is the law.  It was cobbled together by industry lobbyists, watered down by Republicans, made all but useless by committees and obstructionists and hyper-religious nutcases who would easily agree to condemning a whole generation of Americans to the brink of poverty in order to romanticize the fetus, then voted on by both houses of Congress and signed by the president as his “signature accomplishment”.  He and his party are like gleeful children coming home from school with shiny stars on their chicken scratching artwork, insisting that we stick it on the refrigerator door forever.

But the Republicans have to shut down government over this meh bill because they are part of a cult and their followers are part of a cult.  I honestly believe this because I lived it when I was a kid.  The leaders know what they’re doing.  Ok, maybe they let it go a little farther than they intended to this time.  But the followers really don’t have a clue.  All they know is that the right wing noise machine and its spokesman gives them permission to entertain their secret desires.  Every time they get crazy and get away with it, they get validation that they’re right and good.

I’m reading the new book on Manson right now and I can’t help but see parallels in the way Manson brought forth what was within his followers and gave them permission to do whatever it was they felt like at the moment.  They lived in the now because the world was going to end soon and they would live through it by hiding in a hole in the ground in the desert.  When the dust settled, they would live as evolved beings in a paradise where they would rule forever.  So, what did it matter what they did in the present, especially if it accelerated the end of times?  Anything goes.

That was Susan Atkins’ philosophy when Sharon Tate begged for her life.  Atkins told Tate she had no mercy for her.   Michelle Bachman’s comments about shutting down the government last night has that familiar ring:

“We’re very excited,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”[...]

Lovely.  So much for Michelle’s mercy for the thousands and thousands of people who will be furloughed this week.

And there will be millions of people glued to Fox and right wing talk radio today where their reality will be shaped.  They will be in the world but not a part of it.  Their reality is not that of the 800,000 people whose livelihoods will be put on pause so Michelle Bachman can be excited.

It is time to face it that half the country is in the grips of a very powerful cult.  That’s not to say that Democrats wouldn’t use some lessons from the gurus to get what they want, like they did in 2008.  But for the most part, it is the Republican base that is following the leaders off a cliff.

If only the rest of us weren’t chained to them.

Things I learned this week and other stuff

If you're 5 and can read this sign...

If you’re 5 and can read this sign…

I went back to work full time this week after my prolonged involuntary sabbatical featuring periodic consulting work.  Here’s what I learned:

1.) Don’t park in Oakland.  Just don’t.  Fortunately, this is only temporary for the summer because I have to drop the kid off somewhere else and can’t take public transportation.  In the fall, I’m taking the bus that’s within walking distance from my house.  My brilliant plan to take public transportation will work perfectly.  Bwahahahahahahahahhhhh!**

2.) It’s easier to get up and get going at 6am than 9am.  Go figure.  I guess I really am a morning person. If I get up too late, I might as well bag the rest of the day.

3.) Don’t take the Parkway to work, especially if your route has to go through the Squirrel Hill tunnels.  Getting to work on time?  Nah-gah-happen.

4.) If you want to get to the South Side in the morning, do the counterintuitive route and go east and then north west.  Sounds bizarre but I cut a lot of time off my trip and the view of Pittsburgh in the morning as I’m flying over the bridges is spectacular. We were gobsmacked. It looks like some skyline poster from the early twentieth century and you can almost hear Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background. I need to get a dash mountable video camera.  Pittsburgh really is beautiful.  Buy real estate now because when the rest of the biotech industry decides to move here, the neighborhoods with the great views will be in high demand.  I almost feel like buying a fixer upper nearer to downtown to renovate.  (No, no, stop me before I buy again.  What am I thinking??)

5.) Another counterintuitive thing: There’s more variety and diversity in Pittsburgh than in suburban New Jersey.  What I mean to say is that the marketers haven’t really pinned down this city so there seems to be a lot of choice here where there’s virtually no choice in New Jersey.  I feel like I’ve been missing something for the past 20 years.

Last night, Brook, who is changing her look, bought something at Hot Topic and the kid running the cash register asked us where we were from.  We told her we were fugitives from New Jersey.IMG_1978

** What is with the conservatives’ hatred of public transportation and trains??  I don’t get it.  30 years ago, I got around Pittsburgh without a car because the bus system was excellent.  In the past few years, funding for the PAT bus system has been cut, as have many routes.  This is a real problem for the studdabuppas who never learned to drive and now find themselves stranded in their neighborhoods without the buses they used to rely on.  In my case, the bus will stop close to my house at 7:04am and I will have to transfer closer to town.  I used to be able to take the bus directly to my destination but someone decided that people in the east suburbs didn’t need as many buses so they cut back and changed the route.  That means more traffic gets dumped onto the Parkway and snarls local roads on the way downtown.  And this is the summer.  I can’t wait to see what it’s like in the fall when everyone is back from vacation.

One disturbing trend I’ve heard from a couple of my  40 something cousins is that they think it’s alarming when an employer has to pay benefits to new hires and I think that’s part of what’s behind the cutbacks in public transportation.  The PAT drivers are union and they get bennies.  So, if there are fewer buses and more complaints, maybe there will be more pressure on the unions to drop their demands for benefits. The public might be willing to chuck the bennies in exchange for more bus drivers who are new hires not covered by the old contracts.  Just speculation on my part as to what the politicians are thinking.  I think it’s going to be tough to convince a lot of the boomer generation though who grew up in a very union city where the buses ran great and who still think that there’s nothing wrong with benefits.

Pittsburgh could use more trains.  It’s depressing to walk through Oakmont, a lovely little town on the Allegheny not too far from me, and see the unused train tracks that run right through the center of town to downtown.  Now, that former commuter train area is a pretty landscaped park.  I’m not exactly sure why it can’t be prettily landscaped and functional but for some bizarre reason known only to the editorial columnists at the Wall Street Journal, the wealthy, powerful and Republican hate, Hate, HATE trains, even if it means that the minions can’t get to work on time with the least amount of trouble and expense.

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind this.  The wealthy and Republicans don’t need trains so no one can have them?  It’s perfectly ok to spend $150 million of public funds on a new sports facility because that’s what the wealthy want but not ok to spend the same amount of money on a better bus system because that’s what the not so wealthy want??  Who died and made them gods?  Where do they think they’re living? Rome?  Even Rome knew that it was a bad idea to skimp on the bread for the masses.  What’s really a bad idea is to party like there’s no tomorrow while the natives get restless and the barbarians are at the gate.

Friday Fast: American school kids are out for the summer. Who feeds them?

This about control.

Certain conservative and otherwise intelligent voters are resentful that someone might be leeching off of them.  They all know someone who won’t pull his weight and that person becomes the template for how they see all poor people. For some reason, it never occurs to them that it might be the assholes on Wall Street who got massive bailouts and bonuses and a blank check in perpetuity to our Treasury department even after they blew up the world’s economy who are the biggest leeches of our tax dollars.  THOSE are the people whose behavior we should be trying to control and who are selfishly hoarding more money, goods and stuff they didn’t earn.  But we don’t hear the Republicans going after them.

No, it’s much easier to pick on people below you who can’t defend themselves.  Sauron’s Mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck continue to feed a steady diet of resentment to Americans who are lucky enough to still have jobs and haven’t felt the full impact of the Little Depression- yet.

Let’s examine what they bought with those food stamps.  Let’s take whatever joy there is left in their world, the last bits of food security, and rip that away too because it feels really good when we accuse the parents of hungry children of being lazy, stupid losers.

Some voters need to graduate from fourth grade.

The rest of us can give up our lunch today and donate our lunch money to organizations that help feed Americans who are currently suffering from food insecurity.  That is especially important for growing school children.  Schools out for summer and if they aren’t getting a free or subsidized lunch, many of them are going hungry.

I don’t need Michelle Obama to lecture me on childhood obesity when so many kids can’t get enough to eat.  And having the Republicans selfishly and cruelly deprive these kids of food stamps is beyond evil.

Here’s the link to Feeding America.

Here’s the link to NoKidHungry.

Here’s the trailer for A Place at the Table:

How do Republican voters sleep at night??

House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps

Taking the food out of the mouths of children is immoral and evil.  You know this.  There are some things that you should never, never do.  You shouldn’t kill anyone, you shouldn’t steal from anyone, and you should never send a child to bed hungry, no matter what you think of their parents.  In this country, we pay farmers to not grow crops in order to support prices.  We have an abundance of food.  We eat too much.  It is disgusting that Republicans would deny food to anyone.

These representatives are YOUR fruit.  YOU voted for them.

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

BTW, I donate $25/month to Feeding America.  I don’t have a lot of money for charities so I had to pick one that had the most impact for good.   It’s not a lot of money but I never forget that there are families out there who can’t afford good, nourishing food, even with food stamps.  Consider making a donation.

Here’s the link.

Friday Fast tomorrow.  Give up your lunch money for someone who needs it to feed their kids.

 

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