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      As many have heard, John Tory, the mainstream right wing candidate, won convincingly in Toronto and Olivia Chow came in third place, even doing worse than Doug Ford (brother of the famous crack-smoking Rob Ford.)  Much hand wringing has ensued that progressive just can’t win elections in Toronto. While it’s true that Toronto is hard [...]
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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.

 

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

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

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

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

Allow me to speculate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{{sigh}}

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

Well, Duh

What motivates Republicans?  Winning.  That’s all they care about.  They play to win.

You can never turn your back on them.

The 2012 election may have illustrated where their high water mark is.  They may never be able to capture the popular vote again in their lifetime.  But they managed to gerrymander the House so it makes little difference anyway.

And why do they want to win soooooo badly?  Why does anyone want to win?  It’s power and control.  When you win, no one can make you pay taxes.  That’s the gist of it.  It doesn’t really matter what happens to the rest of the country and all of the pitiful sob stories of downtrodden workers and students indentured for the rest of their lives.  They don’t need to care about that as long as they got what they spent all that money to achieve and that is control.  Control over their lives, completely unfettered from the responsibilities towards others.  That is worth a small fortune.

So, the NYTimes seems a little baffled as to why the Democrats waited so long before explicitly spelling out what the sequester was going to mean to state and local governments.  The NYTimes is surprised that the Democrats underestimated and misunderstood the Republicans- again:

The White House released warningsfor every state on Sunday in the hope that angry voters would besiege Republican lawmakers like Mr. McConnell and the House speaker, John Boehner, to stop the $85 billion in cuts, known as a sequester. President Obama wants to replace the sequester with a mix of tax increases on the rich and less damaging spending reductions. Republicans say they won’t consider any proposal that isn’t all cuts, so the sequester is all but certain to begin this week.

The White House strategy on the sequester was built around a familiar miscalculation about Republicans. It assumed that, in the end, they would be reasonable and negotiate a realistic alternative to indiscriminate cuts. Because the reductions hurt defense programs long held sacrosanct by Republicans, the White House thought it had leverage that would reduce the damage to the domestic programs favored by Democrats.

It turns out, though, that the defense hawks in the party are outnumbered. More Republicans seem to care about reducing spending at all costs, and the prospect of damaging vital government programs does not seem to bother them. “Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11,” Representative Tom Cole, a Republican of Oklahoma, told The Times. “But the war in Iraq is over. Troops are coming home from Afghanistan, and we want to secure the cuts.”

[...]

The White House should have released these kinds of details months ago, when there was more time to make a strong case to the public against these cuts. Instead, administration officials failed to discuss the consequences, fearing political blame while confidently predicting the Republicans would cave. The result of that miscalculation — and of the Republican disdain for the health of the economy and those who depend on government services — will become clearer in just a few days.

Ok, hold the phone for a sec.  Isn’t it the mainstream press that is always encouraging, cajoling, mocking, screaming, insisting that the Democrats “compromise” in some mysterious “bipartisan” fashion with the Republicans??  Why is the NYTimes surprised that the Republicans insist on nothing but cuts?  Why is that a shock at all to the paper of record?  Hasn’t it been reading its own news?  This is what Republicans do.

Republicans have made no secret about the fact that they want to cut their way out of any kind of shackles to the rest of the country.  It’s been staring us in the face for decades now.

So, now they are going to force the president to cut.  Duh.

And he’s going to do it.  Because he’s not as smart as all the 25 year old male Democratic activist assholes thought he was.  Oh, sure, he’s academic smart, sort of, but he’s not politically smart.  He’s no Bill Clinton.

Oh, THAT’S right.  We’re not supposed to like politically gifted people.  I mean, why would we need a politician as president? That’s so 20th century.

And sure the public is going to get all mad and stuff at the cuts.  But they’re not going to get mad at Republicans.  Noooo, they’re going to get mad at Democrats.  They’re going to get mad because there’s a Democratic president in the White House and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.  The Republicans only own the House.  Even the dullest Joey Bagodonuts out there can freaking count.

But Republicans are going to step it up even more.  Yeah, they’re not stupid.  They’re going to let go of their resistance to marriage equality.  Of course they are.  That’s a no-brainer.  Sure their base is foaming at the mouth, offensively homophobic.  But their base is dying.  They only used their base so they could engineer as much power as they could in the form of the gerrymander.  They don’t need them now.

How does that make you feel, you so-called Christians?  How does it make you feel that you’ve compromised every Christian virtue and become the intolerant, vicious, judgmental, mean spirited, ugly people that the Republicans goaded you to become only to be discarded when the Republicans realized that you were a drag on them?

And now that they’ve embraced marriage equality for gay couples, that’s just going to highlight the problems that the Democrats have with women.  And they DO have a problem.  It’s massive.  Why do you think Hillary Clinton is still popular in spite of all efforts by the party (and it’s her own party that’s doing it) to crush her?  It’s because women are desperate for some kind of rational human being with ovaries to stand up for them.  So, we can confidently predict that the next candidate for the Democrats is going to be female.  But unless she’s Hillary, who already resisted the siren song of the financier class only to be publicly humiliated by them in 2008, the female Democratic candidate is going to be compromised by them.  We’ll probably end up with some Kathleen Sebellius type who will continue to act like the presidency is some student council position where the status quo prevails and rocking the boat is not allowed.

I don’t even want to think about what is going to happen next year when the ACA kicks in and a whole new class of people are pissed off about what a mess healthcare reform is without cost controls.  Not only that but I believe the the McKinsey report about employers using it as an excuse to lay people off.  In fact, just signing the law was an excuse to lay people off far enough in advance so that there will be no obvious correlation when workers are hired back as contractors responsible for their own damn healthcare.  It’s a corporate shareholder’s wet dream to go “weightless”.  How conveeeeenient that it all happens during an election year and Fox News is not dead yet.

This is what you get when you put a bunch of 25 year old male activists in charge of the party and have them enthralled to the Machiavellian power brokers and Republican carpetbagging financier donors of that party.  You get a president who doesn’t have a clue about how to play even one dimensional chess against the Republicans during the worst economic crisis in 80 years.

Thanks for nothing, guys.

Danger, Elizabeth Warren!

Here’s how Elizabeth Warren started her Senate career yesterday:

Now, I think these are good questions and she elicited some very uncomfortable responses.  Any of us could have asked those questions because we want to know.  Why are only ordinary people prosecuted and persecuted with the government playing the role of Javert ruining people’s lives for what may be minor infractions, like drug abuse or petty theft, while the bankers get away with murder?

The problem is I think her own party is setting her up.  That’s not to say she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing.  This is the kind of stuff we, the average citizens, like to see.  But because she is so prominent, right out of the gate, and such a threat to the right wing AND to the Democrats’ campaign warchests, she’s going to be put out there with enough rope to hang herself.

It’s hard for me to see exactly what angle Rush Limbaugh and the Glenn Beck types are going to use to neutralize her because there’s really nothing wrong with her line of questioning.  But I guarantee that she will become the next target of ridicule and misogyny before very long.  Both parties’ leadership want her out of the way.  They’ll do a Franken on her.

I hope she’s ready and that there are enough of us out here to push back the tide of nastiness headed her way.

Or at least that Paul Krugman can spare some time from his exhausting job tilting at windmills to put in a good word for her.

By the way, if banks are too big to fail or prosecute then the answer to our problems seems to be pretty simple- break them up first.  Voile!  We could prosecute them to our heart’s content.

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

Matt Taibbi has a review of Neil Barofsky’s book Bailout.  Taibbi focuses on the political gamesmanship and back stabbing aspect of Barofsky’s book while  I was shocked by the sheer amount of money we allowed the banks to have access to without any oversight.  Anyway, it’s all connected with what is about to fall down on Elizabeth Warren.

It’s the best $9.99 you’ll spend at Amazon this month (for the Kindle edition).

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