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      Scientists have warned of an October surprise, in which, despite insufficient data, the president could instruct the FDA to issue an Emergency Use Authorization, circumventing the normal approval process for vaccines for the sake of political expediency. https://t.co/ZwNtGxdjUi — The Nation (@thenation) August 2, 2020
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Mike Check for President 2012

OFA on the way to a campaign rally!

President Obama got Mic Checked in New Hampshire last week and, well, this just about says it all:

Republicans who have been urging the Occupy movement to protest President Barack Obama finally got their wish Tuesday.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire, the president waited patiently as he was “mic checked” by a group of protesters.

“Mic check!” they shouted. “Mr. President, over 4,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested. While bankers continue to destroy the American economy. You must stop the assault on our First Amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable. Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.”  

But the rest of their message was quickly drowned out by Obama supporters chanting, “Fired up, ready to go!” and “Obama!”

Ahh, yes, the “Fired up! Ready to go!” crap from the Obama Fan Base.  Why am I not surprised that the milk bar droogs from the Obama campaign were just waiting to drown out the 99%?  How does this differ from Karl Rove’s response to a mic check when he asked the occupiers “Who gave you the right to occupy America?!”

Shall we see a return of Hope n’Change next?

What is it with those aggressive assholes anyway?  Do they drink berserker juice before they brutally dash the dreams of millions of Americans who are not frat boys from Ivy League schools?  I wouldn’t count on the OFA to get the upper hand for long. The occupiers are a clever lot.  They’ll think of something to even the score.  Besides, 99% is a lot of people and the OFA may be very loud but it’s also very tiny.

So, after the milk bar droogs for Obama (MBDfO) quashed the Occupation, Obama went on to tell them to listen to him because he understands that they are frustrated.  No, no, no.  The chant says nothing about frustration.  The one you’re thinking of goes like this:

“Furious?  Furious?  You’re goddamned right we’re furious!”

Big difference.  The head patting and dropping the rhetoric to the level of a fourth grader is not going to work this time around, Barry.  And the Fired up! thing just comes off like a bunch of bullies kicking the 99% in the nutz with the tips of their hobnailed shoes.

You know what I think would send a message?  If Obama loses the Iowa caucuses to Mike Check.  And maybe New Hampshire too.  That kind of election result tends to get people’s attention.  And we have precedent…

 

(name that tune)

Wednesday: Collateral damage

Even the GOP can't attack the lunch program. Or can they?

The NYTimes reports today that the number of children on the reduced cost school lunch program has spiked recently due to layoffs and homelessness in the family.

That’s just great.

On a related note, Nicolas Kristoff wrote a post last Sunday on how we’re being too hard on Obama.  He’s worried that the recent elections in Spain and other European countries under pressure demonstrate impatience with socialist and other more liberal political parties.  Why that should affect Obama is a mystery.  He doesn’t appear to have a liberal bone in his body.  Then Kristoff goes through the presidential campaign talking points:

In this economic crisis, Obama will face the same headwinds. That should provide a bracing warning to grumbling Democrats: If you don’t like the way things are going right now, just wait.

President Obama came into office with expectations that Superman couldn’t have met. Many on the left believed what the right feared: that Obama was an old-fashioned liberal. But the president’s cautious centrism soured the left without reassuring the right.

Like many, I have disappointments with Obama. He badly underestimated the length of this economic crisis, and for a man with a spectacular gift at public speaking, he has been surprisingly inept at communicating.

But as we approach an election year, it is important to acknowledge the larger context: Obama has done better than many critics on the left or the right give him credit for.

He took office in the worst recession in more than half a century, amid fears of a complete economic implosion. As The Onion, the satirical news organization, described his election at the time: “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.”

The administration helped tug us back from the brink of economic ruin. Obama oversaw an economic stimulus that, while too small, was far larger than the one House Democrats had proposed. He rescued the auto industry and achieved health care reform that presidents have been seeking since the time of Theodore Roosevelt.

{{rolling eyes}}

I noticed that Kristoff was careful to say that Obama signed a fair pay act into law.  That must mean that they have discovered that women are onto the Lilly Ledbetter maneuver.  Raise your hands, ladies, if you feel like your pay with your male colleagues has been equalized.  Don’t worry that you don’t know what their salaries are.  Everything can be quantified.  Compare the cars you have, the houses you live in, working spouse or stay at home, how many kids you have.  Are your male colleagues living your lifestyle?

Then there are things Obama has actually made worse.  Like, setting an example in the White House for the way the Old Boys Network works and then not holding anyone accountable for it.  Don’t think there aren’t guys out there who are now comfortable screwing with their female colleagues’ career in order to get ahead. It happens ALL THE TIME.  Obama is a master of it.  It’s part of the reason why he won the nomination in 2008.  We witnessed it.  Maybe Kristoff doesn’t think this is important.  I notice that he spends a commendable amount of time detailing sex slavery in the developing world.  But what would he find close to home if he started to delve into gender inequality at work?  Nick?  You want to take that on?  Or do you just want to wring your hands in growing panic over Obama’s re-election prospects?  I suppose women are going to hear that their concerns are not that important now that the economy is falling.

Anyway, we’re not that impressed with Obama’s “achievements”.  By the way, Nick, did you know the COBRA subsidy that was to help those of us unemployed afford to cover our health insurance costs expired in September?  Yup.  Do you have any idea how much COBRA costs these days when all you get is unemployment?  Health care reform isn’t going to make those costs disappear, Nick.  There’s no fricking competition from a public option.  Oh, and while he was putting together that pathetic Affordable (you’ve GOT to be kidding) Care Act, he was busy ignoring the recommendation of his economic advisor Christina Romer to dedicate $100 billion to put the unemployed back to work.  Do you know how many scientists in NJ could be put back to work discovering new drugs on even 1% of that money?  And let’s talk about how he handled the termination of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy.  Oh, that’s right, he *didn’t* terminate them.  And he didn’t help families stay in their homes with HAMP.  And he didn’t arrest the bankers.  He didn’t appoint Elizabeth Warren to the agency that she created.  And he hasn’t helped protect womens’ reproductive rights.  Jeez, the list goes on and on.  Some of these things are fairly simple fixes and would have cost very little political capital.  But he didn’t do them anyway.  Why, Nick?  WHY??

Kristoff goes out of his way to blame the circumstances into which Obama’s presidency was born for his failure to really accomplish anything.  Oh, wait, doesn’t that contradict the rest of this column that lauds Obama’s achievements?  Whatever.  As I recall, Obama wanted this job bad.  He wanted it so badly that he was willing to abandon all scruples to get it.  The DNC put itself out for the money men so it could elect pliant, docile Democrats who would do as they were told.  But it was Obama who with a paltry 142 days on the job in Washington, DC decided that he was supremely qualified to be president in the aftermath of the disastrous Bush years.  And let us not be stupid about this, the collapse of the subprime market started to happen in 2007.  You didn’t have to be a Wall Street banker to know that the crash was going to happen.  You just needed to check the real estate section of the local paper.  There was no way in hell that wages were keeping pace with house prices.

But Obama had to have this job.  It’s not like we didn’t have options.  There was another candidate who was more suited to handle an economic catastrophe.  She got the shaft, along with the voters in the big, reliable Democratic states and Obama took the prize.  The Democrats should not be surprised that working class voters in swing states like Pennsylvania are not enthusiastic about voting for him.  They *had* their champion and she was stabbed in the back.  What did they get in return?  How has Obama improved their lives? He was supposed to be the better candidate, right?  Otherwise the party wouldn’t have nominated him, right?  You can’t really expect those voters to believe that now.

Presumably, Obama’s voters were convinced that he was the creme de la creme.  There wasn’t anyone better.  The Democratic party really pulled out the stops when it nominated Obama.  He is the most Democratic and bestest and excellence personified. It simply can not get better than Obama.  He is the most-ut.  If that’s the way they truly felt, they had an obligation to put as much pressure as they possibly could on him to get him to perform.  After all, they stomped all over Clinton voters and women practically screaming, “Shut up and DIE, you stupid, old, uneducated, working class idiots!”  Those Clinton voters were tossed aside and their concerns were ignored in the wake of Obama’s “historic” victory.  He ought to have paid more attention to them and his supporters should have stopped the funky-chicken-in-the-endzone back in 2008.  (Note to Kristoff google + commenters, one of the biggest problems Obama has to deal with is his own obnoxious supporters.  Drop the sarcastic “magic Hillary” remarks.  They’re in extremely poor taste or haven’t you learned anything yet.)

Giving him a pass and making excuses for his poor performance was not the best strategy for winning friends and influencing people.  Nor was writing the non-Obama voters off.  Or calling them racists, or stupid, or uneducated.  Instead of treating him with kid gloves, his supporters should have been whacking him like a piñata in 2009 to make him conform to Democratic party principles.  They would not and he didn’t.  Now, he can do pretty much anything he pleases and data mine the precincts, tweaking his message to squeak a teeny advantage here and there.  Will it be enough?  Does it matter if he doesn’t resemble the president you thought you voted for the first time?

I guess it’s our fault as voters that we do not appreciate him.  We shouldn’t have gotten ourselves unemployed and foreclosed.  We should have taken better care of his legacy.  But it’s a funny thing that happens when you lose everything.  Suddenly, someone else’s hyperbolic frenzy to retain power just doesn’t seem very important anymore. Maybe Obama should have been paying greater attention to the bottom layer of Maslow’s pyramid.  Oh, well, too late now.

Kristoff closes with:

I’m hoping the European elections will help shock Democrats out of their orneriness so that they accept the reality that we’ll be facing not a referendum, but a choice. For a couple of years, the left has joined the right in making Obama a piñata. That’s fair: it lets off steam, and it’s how we keep politicians in line.

But think back to 2000. Many Democrats and journalists alike, feeling grouchy, were dismissive of Al Gore and magnified his shortcomings. We forgot the context, prided ourselves on our disdainful superiority — and won eight years of George W. Bush.

This time, let’s do a better job of retaining perspective. If we turn Obama out of office a year from now, let’s make sure it is because the Republican nominee is preferable, not just out of grumpiness toward the incumbent during a difficult time.

I completely agree with Kristoff here.  There is a choice.  If the Democrats are starting to worry about their chances in November 2012, they could choose to change their lineup.  That would be the sensible, bold, leaderly thing to do.  We Democrats in Exile do not want four more years of Obama.  That is what those poll numbers are telling you, Democrats.  The party that wins next November is the one that has the most motivated voters.  Right now, the Republicans are chomping at the bit.  They’ll fall into line once they have a nominee.  That’s what Republicans do.  They’re good at following orders.

Democrats?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  Right now, I can’t think of one reason why I would voluntarily go to the polls to cast a vote for a guy who doesn’t take a firm stand for *anything* I believe in.  Do I want the Republicans to win?  Of course not.  But that assumes that the Democrats are not going to offer me a better choice next year.  And that infuriates me.  If they aren’t going to offer me a choice, they deserve to lose.  This is a no-brainer, guys.  The Democrats have to motivate the party and give the public options.  Take Obama out of the game and put in another player.  Obama is not the best you can do.  There are at least three candidates I can think of off the top of my head who would be better.  Choose one and stop the hand wringing.  Otherwise, I’m going to find a third party candidate and vote for that person.  I understand the strategic implications of this decision for the Democrats.  The question is, do the Democrats understand that I and millions of others are serious?  What’s important to them?  Maintaining power at any cost and risking it all if they lose or actually doing what is right?

This is not a game.  I’m getting sick of the psychological manipulation techniques and the guilt trips.  All I can see is the number of people I know who are out of work, including me, in a high technology industry that is being decimated by the same smug bonus class that forced Obama down our throats.  And that school lunch program applicant increase?

Disgraceful.

This should be an Olympic sport

You just never know where the next breathtaking display of beauty and athleticism will come from.

This one is even better.  There’s one move towards the end that’s amazing.

Tuesday: Exasperation

How to administer a dope slap

Update:  I didn’t know this but today is “Pay a Blogger” day.  Jeez, is it that time again?  It seems like it comes earlier and earlier each year.  We now have a button in the left sidebar but it may disappear and reappear randomly.  Zhat vay, ve vill train you to hit zhe bar vhen it appears.  Ve haff found zhat habituation leads to disinterest.  Yah?  Zo, hit zhe button vhen you zee it.  Proceeds will help me get to various events and will keep Katiebird in her technical manuals.

I haven’t criticized Paul Krugman for awhile now, and I don’t really like to do it.  I feel like we’re almost neighbors, what with Paul living just down the road a-spell and all.  Theoretically, I could run into him.  {{Paul shivvers at the thought of that and considers hiring body guards}}

It’s not that I disagree with him in any way.  In fact, I don’t.  But one of his latest blog posts bugs the stuffing out of me.  In Mission Not Accomplished, Krugman writes:

Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum say the right thing about revelations that big banks got very easy terms during the financial crisis: the real scandal isn’t so much that those banks got rescued as that the rest of the population didn’t.

For sure, the Fed and Treasury should have driven harder bargains. I think the political landscape would look different and better right now if the Obama administration had in fact taken at least one big bank into receivership. But in the crisis, money had to flow freely, and the truth is that the gifts bankers received are more a source of annoyance than a source of current problems.

What’s unforgivable is the way policymakers, both at the Fed and elsewhere, basically declared Mission Accomplished as soon as the panic in financial markets subsided and stocks were up again.

This is not news to any of us who have been paying attention.  It’s certainly not news to Krugman either because I read his blog and column pretty regularly.  No, what ticks me off is that we have another example of citing male bloggers as having had a great revelation, in this case Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum.  Kevin, Paul?  Kevin, “I trust Obama’s judgment because he’s smarter than I am” Drum?  Or Matt Yglesias, who snickered in 2008 that if only the Clinton voters knew how the party powerbrokers were setting things up they’d go with their second choice and stop wasting everyone’s time (but they won’t do that because they’re not that bright)?  Come to think of it, that post by Matt Yglesias in The Atlantic in 2008 has to be the most stunning example of what the Obama contingent was thinking when they decided to f^%& over the Clinton voters that I have ever seen.  Let me cite it for you because it really is that breathtaking:

After all, consider the situation in Pennsylvania. All indications are that a clear majority of Pennsylvania Democrats would prefer for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee than for Barack Obama to be the nominee. But there are few indications that they understand the real structure of the race — that a miracle Obama comeback in PA would mean that Democrats enter May with a nominee and a financial advantage, whereas a sizable Clinton win in PA may mean that Democrats don’t get a nominee until August and that that nominee, who’ll almost certainly be Barack Obama anyway, will have a much tougher time winning in November. I think if voters better-understood the situation, they’d be much more inclined to vote for their second-favorite Democrat in the race, much less eager to do volunteer work for Clinton, much less inclined to donate money to her campaign, etc. But people won’t understand the dynamic unless it’s explained to them by credible party leaders.

Did you catch that?  What Matt said was that he was talking to party movers and shakers and they told him that it didn’t matter if Clinton won Pennsylvania or any other state after that.  The party had already decided that she wasn’t going to be the nominee no matter how many people voted for her and that continuing to vote for her wasn’t going to change this outcome.  I cited this Yglesias post back in March 2008.  MARCH.

So, Yglesias and Drum haven’t had the best judgment in the world and they’re late to the “bailing out the banks was only part of the solution” party.  It doesn’t surprise me.  Neither one of them live in the middle class of the research worker that my friends and I live in.  They don’t know what it’s like to experience a devastation of their industry or see every one of their friends go through a layoff.  They don’t know what it’s like to be unable to find anything but contract work with no bennies in spite of degrees in the hard sciences.  Life is hard out here.  Three days after Thanksgiving, there is no one at the Mall and the parking lots are not full. I haven’t seen Central New Jersey’s retail sector look like this since 2008.  Matt and Kevin are somewhat insulated from that by what Elizabeth Bennett would call “their connexions”.  Why are guy bloggers so much more likely to have “connexions” that lead to jobs that pay?  Can you answer me that, Paul?  Greg?

By the way, in a couple of years, will we be reading Matt and Kevin’s posts that say, “Golly!  We don’t have a research infrastructure anymore.  The finance guys and MBAs with executive hair at all of our research companies gutted their R&D departments in order to extract “shareholder value” and big bonuses.  And now, there are no new therapeutic agents in the pipeline.  Dadgummit! Why didn’t I know this until now?  I thought President Obama, whose judgment I trust more than my own, said we needed more STEM workers.  Why are hundreds of thousands of them destitute or working for Wall Street?”

In any case, Elizabeth Warren was a proponent for bailing out the middle class way back in 2009 in that notorious interview that she had with Adam Davidson on Planet Money, an interview that we and other bloggers have cited on more than one occasion to make the same point that Yglesias and Drum are just now figuring out.  By the way, did you notice the dismissive contempt that Davidson had for Warren in that interview?  I wonder if guys realize they sound like this to those of us who know they are full of it. And if it is true that Matt and Kevin are suddenly discovering that, “Hey! We should have given money to people who weren’t rich so they could keep their jobs and pay their mortgages.  That way, we would have refilled our bank and treasury coffers from the bottom up!”, should Paul Krugman be using them as examples of bloggy enlightenment?  Putting aside whether female voices are underrepresented in the more prestigious online opinion journals, how do Slate and Mother Jones justify putting on their payrolls two people who have been so disastrously behind the zeitgeist, with histories of suspending their own judgments to adopt the clueless or malicious opinions of others, especially now that we know that our own judgment was correct and theirs was wrong?

Over and over again, we have seen male bloggers used as voices of authority in online opinion pieces.  Whether this is just a bad habit or preference doesn’t matter.  It could be that Paul Krugman is surrounded by sycophantic, toe licking, ego-massagers and these people just happen to be male grad student types and Yglesias and Drum seem familiar to him.   But if we want to make sure that voices like Christina Romer’s and Elizabeth Warren’s are not trampled on in meetings with the next president, we need to encourage Krugman and Sargent to go outside of their comfort zone.  We have to make sure that the public gets used to hearing opinions from people other than the toady male grad student types as authority figures at the grassroots level so that future presidents have a harder time ignoring and dismissing them.  Don’t whine about it three years later, Paul.

If Krugman is wondering why it took so long for the powers that be to realize that helping the middle class should have been a priority, he need look no further than Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum and Adam Davidson.

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

A little off topic: I found this clip of John Dominic Crossan, scholar of early Christianity, on the dangers of fundamentalism.  He sounds like what I have been trying to say about the malignant nature of fundamentalist Christianity.  I guess you need to live with it up close and personal to understand how dangerous it is.  When I say malignant, I am saying that fundamentalist Christianity spreads, it doesn’t contribute to the well being of society because it isn’t interested in the survival of that society, it’s harmful to other people that don’t follow its strict interpretation of scripture and the best you can do is suppress it and keep it in check.  You will never be able to eliminate it.  That’s why it has been such a disaster for the country to continue to treat fundamentalism so respectfully.  We must challenge it a lot more strenuously because it is dangerous if it gets out of control.

Monday: The instapaper queue

Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner? hmmm...

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving?  Did everyone get enough to eat?  I brought the desserts this year and much to my surprise, no one in my family likes Lemon Meringue but me.  I’m not complaining but I did find it weird when my sister told me that it was a summer pie and why didn’t I know that??  Not to fear, we had pumpkin as well.  And a custard fruit tart brought by someone else that was also delicious.  It went fast.

My sister and her husband are into this foodsaver gadget and they shrinkwrapped the leftovers into neat little packages.  I have to get one of those suckers.  They gave me a package of turkey (white meat, yummmm) to take home with me.  Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

Anyway, I have a lot to do today.  I need to finish reading some papers, return a coat I decided I could live without and basically take care of some other stuff that I’ve been putting off.  So, I thought I’d let you in on my instapaper queue.  For those of you not familiar with instapaper, it’s an app/utility that allows you to save links to interesting webpages so that you end up with something like your own frontpage.  It comes with a button that you put on your browser bar and when you see something you want to read later, you just click on “read later” and it saves it to your instapaper account.  Later, you can peruse your links at your leisure.  Highly recommended.  They even have a Browse section of recommended links of things you may be interested in reading based on your current selections.

So, here’s a few things in my instapaper queue:

How do you define who’s homeless during a recession?  The Atlantic

All the Angry People- The New Yorker

Estee Lauder Heirs Tax Strategies Typify Advantages for Weathy- The New York Times (I guess they don’t need my money after all.  Did you know that Estee Lauder owns Clinique, M.A.C., and Origins as well?)

Team Obama Gears Up for 2012 – The New York Times (This one is unsettling.  Milk Bars and droogs come to mind)

So, What did Lipitor do for Pfizer? Or its Shareholders?- In the Pipeline (Or, “How the finance MBA executive class screwed the pooch in pharma, destroyed research, set the shareholders up for HUGE losses later and made the entire world hate drug discovery’s guts”  It’s hard to believe a group of arrogant, hierarchical Ivy League educated individuals could botch things this badly but it’s become clear to me that the Democrats have been taking lessons from them.)

More Parents are Opting out of Vaccines – The Atlantic  (Did you know that Raold Dahl’s 7 year old daughter Olivia died from encephalitis because she was not vaccinated against measles?  True story.  It’s hard to believe there are selfish, ignorant and arrogant parents out there who would expose other very young children to that because they won’t vaccinate their own kids.  It’s immoral.)

The Branding of the Occupy Movement- The New York Times (There’s a better article on Kalle Lasn somewhere but I neglected to instapaper it.  Try The New Yorker, New York Magazine or The Atlantic)

Payroll Tax Cut will Top Political Theater- Roll Call (yes, Virginia, they *are* still playing games instead of raising taxes on the rich)

Iran: We’ll Fire 150,000 Missiles at Israel if attacked- YNet (and we’ll turn Iran into a smoking cinder if it does.  I think there was a cold war term for that)

Pakistanis burn Obama in Effigy and US Flag- Sky News Australia (Ok, now I think we know why we have marines stationed in Australia.)

Cozy Winter Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli– The Kitchn (Apartment Therapy)

Charge Separation in Molecules Consisting of Two Identical Atoms: Size Matters – Science Daily (For the hard core polarity fans)

Finally, here’s a video on Pittsburghese, which is a distinct American dialect.  The host of this video is fresh, energetic and cute, but her accent is not anywhere near as heavy as my cousins’.  Still, if you ever wondered what it meant to “red up your house”, pay attention.

She forgot to say “keller” when she really means “color”.  And is it “UM-brella” or “umBRELLa”?

Finally, “Physician, Heal Thyself”.  Digby is absolutely right about dehumanization but it’s really odd that she and the rest of the left had no problem with it when the 2008 elections made old, uneducated, unattractive, working class, racist, latently Republican, menopausal women out of Hillary Clinton voters.  I mean, when you think of them *that* way, no wonder the Obama hooligans piled on.  Who wants to sit at that lunch table?  Dehumanizing those voters made it a lot easier to ignore their votes and violate their delegates with harrassment and threats at the convention.  They almost deserved it. Right, Digby?  Right, Duncan?  Right, Jay?  If you don’t take your own side to task for acting like flaming assholes, then others might find your newfound concern with “dehumanization” a bit hypocritical.  It was an election with far-reaching consequences not only to the economy but to voting in general. (Didn’t you guys ever figure out why Obama is ignoring his voting base now?  The answer is that you let him get away with it in 2008 so he knows he can do it again.) You guys should have been a lot more vigilant.

(No, I am not going to get over it.  If it were Howard Dean’s voters who got the Hillary treatment, you’d be all over this for decades to come. “Oh, but they’re different”, you’ll say. Exactly.  I rest my case.  “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”.  Also, Karma is a bitch.)

Saturday: Mustard Seeds

A few days ago, a couple hundred economists signed their names to a letter of support of Occupy Wall Street.  Here’s a video the group Econ4 has produced that explains why they did it:

There are a couple of interesting things to note in this video.  First, it appears like there has been a sort of censorship going on in various academic economics departments around the world in an attempt to suppress  more Keynesian voices.  Paul Krugman has frequently made reference to a related controversy, the Fresh Water vs Salt Water economists. The Fresh Water economists have gained the upper hand in policy matters and appointments in the past several decades.  Then there are the endowed chairs in the various economics departments funded by the friends of the Koch brothers.

Secondly, the economists aren’t suggesting that we dump capitalism.  What they are concerned with is income disparity, the widening gulf between the extremely rich and everyone else, and the basic human rights of working people, of everyone really.  That may manifest itself in a new and improved form of capitalism or some set of rules that level the playing field. Who know, I am not an economist but I’m willing to learn.  They have a new video up on econ4.org.  Check it out.

And by leveling the playing field, I don’t think anyone is talking about communism.  But we must re-establish that work has value and it should be rewarded accordingly.  At the moment, we reward the accumulation of wealth, which may or may not be the result of work of some kind, and we penalize people who work to make an living.

For those of you who aren’t independently wealthy and are still kissing the whip, thinking that your extraordinary virtues are what lead to your continued prosperity, pay close attention: The only reason you walk around smugly with a superior little smirk on your face is because you can pay the masters of the universe who own your mortgage and health insurance policy.  If that job ever goes away, through no fault of your own, you will know what it is like to live somewhere between poor and destitute.  Unless you are making your income exclusively from your investments, you are vulnerable.  Your virtues will not protect you.  If you are old enough to be living on social security and actually believe that you are safe from the people who want to terminate benefits for your adult children, think again.  The people who would reneg on their promises to your children who have worked decades for those benefits they will not see, are not going to spare you.  They will not stop until they get everything they want.  Fraud that is not followed by accountability and punishment is fraud that is just waiting for an opportunity to repeat itself.

More video:

John Dominic Crossan wrote The Historical Jesus (highly recommended).  He gives lectures throughout North America to reintroduce Jesus to people who think they know him.  (For example, Crossan doesn’t think Jesus set out to start a new religion.  Go ahead and laugh but I think he’s right.)  In this video, which is really just audio, Crossan goes over the meaning of the parables and what their purpose was. By the way, I am not religious at all and I think Crossan isn’t making a strictly religious argument.  But even those of us who are not religious can learn something from his study of the “matrix” of 1st century Palestine where Jesus was born.

Crossan starts off with an explanation of apocalypse and eschatology and if you listen carefully, he tells his audience why people who are waiting for the second coming to annihilate the wicked are wasting their time.  In first century Judea, there were plenty of groups that latched on to a “messiah” who prophesied the annihilation of the wicked, expecting that God would rescue them when the going got tough.  But the Romans always massacred them anyway. The authorities made a point of murdering any leader of an apocalyptic group. This is why John the Baptist was captured and beheaded. In this day and age, the political factions simply try to co-opt them.  But that’s not really what this lecture is about.  This lecture is about parables and it’s about an hour long.  The good part is buried in the middle.

Happy Thanksgiving

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell

Jeez, it’s only 12:27pm and I already have a buzz.  I blame my sister.  She held me down and poured Jaegermeister shots down my throat.  Dang!  I have to peel potatoes in a moment.

Anyway, I hope you are all having a lovely Thanksgiving.  I’m in central PA.  It’s a beautiful day outside but we’re watching a football game and all of the NYTimes videos for preparing and carving the turkey.  OMG, the singer just forgot the words to the national anthem.  Disgraceful.

By the way, OWS is serving Thanksgiving Day dinner in Zuccotti Park:

This Thanksgiving, Occupy Wall Street is celebrating unity and community with an open feast at Liberty Square. From 2 to 6 p.m. at Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park) we will meet to share food, stories and inspiration. All members of our global community are invited to break bread with us.

“This is all about supporting the 99%,” said Megan Hayes, an organizer with the #OWS Kitchen working group, and a former high end chef. “So many people have given up so much to come and be a part of the movement because there is really that much dire need for community. We decided to take this holiday opportunity to provide just that – community.”

Wait, why does this story sound so familiar?  Damn do-gooders.  What kind of example will they set for the country by sharing?  It will only encourage the young to go into poverty.

Or, a lot of people will have dinner together.  Works for me.

Freedom from Want, Occupy Wall Street

Wednesday: Something old, something new

It looks like I missed the 400th Republican presidential debate again last night.  How did the audience disgrace itself this time?

David Frum and Jonathan Chait wrote separate columns in the New York Magazine criticizing their own side for being unreasonable.  David Frum’s makes more sense with his, “Whoa, when did you Tea Party people get to be so crazy?  That shit is fucked up and bullshit” disbelief at how off the rails his party has slid.  He never criticizes their expectations.  Just their overreach.  To Frum, it would have been easy for them to get everything they wanted out of Obama and the Democrats.  In fact, they pretty much have.  Frum is upset that now there is a universal mandate and other things the insurance companies don’t like written into law for health insurance and that will be hard to walk them back.  But he completely ignores how expensive and unattainable that insurance still is to those of us who no longer have those costs covered by our employers.  He doesn’t even offer any new ideas about how Republicans were supposed to make it more affordable.  He’s just pissed that they pushed so hard back when they didn’t really have to.  He makes a mistake about praising Obama’s eloquence and intelligence that is admired globally.  I think that might have been true at first but the honeymoon has been over for a long time.  Perhaps Frum is projecting his own admiration of Obama since it is precisely the Frums that Obama is trying to appeal to.  But in general, he’s right.  The Republicans have been so obstructive and so whipped up to heights of artificial fury by imaginary injury by the forces of right wing media that they don’t know when to declare victory and call it a day.

Chait?  {{sigh,  shakes heads, sighs again}}  Chait admits up front that he’s an Obama apologist.  Well, you can pretty much figure out what follows from that point onward.  Yes, once again, he chastises the left for actually expecting something.  It’s one big long revision of history of each of the past century’s Democratic presidents and how all of them come up short compared to Obama.  No president is spared.  Even Roosevelt, who Chait forgets to credit with, um, just about anything.  How many people are around to remember what Roosevelt did anyway?  Jeez, I don’t know but my Grandmother would have chewed your ear off if you’d criticized Roosevelt.  Sure, the guy wasn’t perfect.  What person is?  But let’s not pretend that the changes he put in place weren’t radical and transformative.  The Republicans have been fighting his programs since their inception and have been losing.  That’s an amazing accomplishment even if they had a rough start and didn’t cover everyone at first.  Clinton gets the same old, same old that we’ve been hearing from lefties for 4 years now.  What Chait conveniently glosses over is that the tactics the Republicans and the media used to discredit and bedevil Clinton throughout his two terms had never been seen before.  They were so new and notable that we came up with a phrase, the “vast right wing conspiracy”.  The difference between Obama and Clinton is that Clinton seems to have learned how to deal with his Republican opponents and drive them crazy.  Obama has not.  Obama has made it an art to drive his own base crazy.

Then Chait brings up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and I just had to walk away.  The Fair Pay Act was stalled in committee and never had a chance.  The Lilly Ledbetter act merely extends the period of time that women can sue for pay discrimination.  But first they have to prove that discrimination occurred, which they can now do by asking human resources for salary information of their colleagues.  And do you know what the likelihood of that is, Jonathan?  Somewhere between zero and less than zero.  If Obama had really wanted to score points with women and the world of work, he might have first lead by example and not acted like a patronizing head patter when his female appointees petitioned him for fair treatement.  And secondly, he could have developed a policy to  study, using quantitative analysis methods, workplaces where gender discrimination is alleged to take place.  That would have eliminated the he said/she said problems and smoked out a lot of bad behavior.  But Obama never did develop serious policies about womens’ issues.  He’s going to make his mouth move on the subject during the campaign but he insults our intelligence if he thinks rolling out Lilly Ledbetter is going to work in 2012.

Anyway, go read Chait’s monstrosity if you want to get a clue as to what the Democrats are going to throw at us.  Basically, it’s the same old guilt trip.  It’s YOUR fault if you expected anything from Obama.

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I’m starting to pick up vibrations in my tin-foil antenna that the Democrats are getting impatient with their voters.  For some reason, those damn people aren’t as enthusiastic about who is in power this year.  And more than one reader here has excoriated OWS for not supporting Democrats.  “If OWS doesn’t get behind the Democrats, the Republicans will win and that would negate everything OWS is trying to do.  Don’t you see??  If OWS wants a political solution, it has to work to defeat the Republicans.”  You can almost detect the note of contempt underneath the frustration.  It must be maddening to have to talk down to people who really should be getting it.

Gosh, didn’t we go through this in 2008?  And where did I read that Obama was having problem with less than enthusiastic voters in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio, three states he absolutely must win in 2012?  Wait!  Weren’t those the states he either insulted with his “bitter gun toters” shtick or whose votes he made irrelevant until his backers bought off enough superdelegates for him to score the nomination?  Yes, I think the were.  And then he botched his first term and made all the adult children of those seniors poor when he didn’t address unemployment.  Must suck for Obama and the Democrats to actually have to pander to the base voters since they did so well without us for 4 years.

I don’t know about the rest of OWS but I am unconcerned as to whether Democrats are going to have to work really hard for the next election cycle.  Urgency on their part does not constituted an emergency on mine.  My emergency happened when my company decided to layoff during the worst recession since the 1930s and the party who had all of the power decided not to do anything about it.

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By the way, did you know that those companies that have been sitting on all of the cash they have been withholding from the economy have been buying back their shares with it so they can give executives fat bonuses and lay off the research staff?  True.  Some of them realize this might not have been the best use of money from a business productivity point of view but oh, well.  Damage done.  Their bad.  This shouldn’t be news to anyone but all that crap about how unemployment reflects structural problems and globalization and too few STEM workers (don’t make me laugh) was just nonsense.  I have become acutely aware of what is at the bottom of the unemployment problem from my own experience and from talking to people in other industries and professions: there is no money.  That is not to say that there isn’t money to pay people.  It’s just that the people who have it are sitting on it.  And they’re going to continue sitting on it until someone makes them get off that damn pile and share it.

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Finally, something nice.  The NYTimes did a piece on online high schools including Stanford’s Online High School.  In Stanford Online High School Raises the Bar, the NYTimes profiles one of the most successful online high school programs in the country and points out that this is a growing trend while noting that not all online curriculum may be created equal.  Colleges have to be careful when they sign on to programs with for profit educational companies.  But Stanford’s OHS is different.  It is an offshoot of their original Educational Programs for Gifted Youth (EPGY).  Stanford OHS is the same online high school that the kid has been attending for two years now.  She only takes her English course at Stanford OHS but if I can sell enough blood, I’ll sign her up for her calculus course there as well next year.

I can’t say enough good things about Stanford OHS.  The only thing that would be better would be if these kinds of courses were held in person in the local school.  But even my school district, as good as it is with many AP level courses, can not provide this level of instruction to gifted and talented youth.  In fact, one of the reasons I enrolled the kid in Stanford OHS was because despite her test scores and SATs she took in 8th grade that showed her to be in the top 1% of students nationwide, she wasn’t recommended for advanced courses in English.  Stanford placed her two years ahead based on a placement test and her abilities, not compliance in class to a series of (to her) meaningless tasks.  It challenged her in ways she wasn’t being challenged in school.  Her class schedule is more like a college course. It meets twice a week for 90 minutes each session and has supplemental course lectures as well. This works for her because unlike our regular high school, the OHS teacher doesn’t fill up every night with busy work like annotating texts for no reason or filling out worksheets or requiring 5 different drafts of an essay.  A draft and a final copy seem to be sufficient.  That leaves time to really explore the material in depth.  The level of the material is daunting.  And yet, she keeps up with her assignments, makes sure to never turn in late assignments and her grades are pretty good.  She has an A so far in her AP literature course and she’s only a sophomore.  I don’t feel like they’re cutting her any slack.

Whatever they’re doing for these gifted students is addressing their needs in a way that the public schools can’t.  It’s like they actually got to know what makes gifted students tick and are using that knowledge to correct bad study habits and provoke them to think in complex ways.  They *care* about these kids when the average harried high school teacher either ignores them or, in some cases, deliberately humiliates them.  I’m glad we had Stanford OHS for the two years that she’s been in the program.  What we’re going to do next year is another question.  But if anyone out there has a gifted student who is just sitting out her days in class until graduation, I understand that Stanford OHS is expanding…

Update on Stanford OHS:  I’m really disturbed by the comment thread.  There are a lot of commenters who think of this program as “elite”.  For those of us with kids who are being shortchanged by the educational system, it’s not elite.  It’s a godsend.  We would have nowhere else to go without Stanford.  Unless you have one of these strange creatures in your house, you really can’t imagine what a pain in the ass it is to get them the educational resources they deserve.  You’d think that teachers would be falling all over themselves to teach minds like theirs.  I imagine that mechanics and car afficianados dream of cars with the capacity for speed and performance.  Didn’t you ever know a garage addict who loved to take apart and reassemble an engine to make it go faster or better?  You’d think that teachers would have the same attitude when they met a kid with high capacity neurons but you would be oh so wrong. I have met very few.  Most teachers and administrators make flowery claims about addressing the unique needs of every individual student but when it comes right down to it, they’re more interested in rigid definitions of performance and those definitions usually have something to do with compliance.

The truth is that a lot of gifted kids slip to the bottom of their classes.  I know some of those former kids in my own family and I didn’t want that to happen to my kid.  Paying for Stanford OHS is not trivial and I am not a parent with an elite income.  But for us, it’s not a choice.  Until we start to value these children and provide the resources they need, we parents will continue to cough up the bucks to make sure they graduate from high school and develop good study habits for college.  Right now, Stanford OHS is practically the only resource we have.

I found a comment for that article that says it all:

As a recent graduate of the Stanford Online High School (OHS), I am happy to see the school portrayed in a positive light. For its students, OHS is a God-send. Nearly all of us have a common thread in our journey to OHS. We struggled in traditional schools with lack of academic challenge, inflexible administration, and bullying and unacceptance from our peers. At OHS, we find refreshing challenges that push our minds beyond their limits, teachers and staff that support us above and beyond, and a peer group that is accepting and celebrates our individual achievements and collective endeavors.

OHS is not an isolating experience. Beyond the myriad of clubs in the school, the majority of students have an extremely active life outside OHS – participating in music, acting, dance, sports, volunteer work, scientific research – the list goes on. While being at home on a computer can be isolating, OHS students are high achieving both in and outside the classroom. I have met people in college who went to a brick-and-motor school and lack social skills because they didn’t talk to people in school and stayed at home after school. The experience is what you make it.

I am proud to be a graduate from OHS and will always regard the school as a role-model of secondary education.

Happy Birthday OWS Bat Signal

Courtesy of Marsha.  This one is pretty good.  It shows the Bat Signal team from Occupy Wall Street setting up the equipment and the reaction from on the bridge.

Sooo, good morning to you and happy birthday to me!

Enjoy.

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Glenn Greenwald has a pretty good piece up about how the Democratic party and its retainers are going to try to co-opt Occupy Wall Street.  And I know some Conflucians have expressed similar concerns.  I’ll get to those in a minute.  But I encourage you to go read Greenwald because I think he gets this movement in the same way that I do.  In particular, Greenwald is disturbed by the SEIU’s endorsement of Obama’s re-election the day before Occupy’s N17 Day of Action and explains why he thinks the SEIU will fail:

Having SEIU officials — fresh off endorsing the Obama re-election campaign — shape, fund, dictate and decree an anti-GOP, pro-Obama march is about as antithetical as one can imagine to what the Occupy movement has been. And pretending that the ongoing protests are grounded in the belief that the GOP is the party of the rich while the Democrats are the party of the working class is likely to fool just about nobody other than those fooled by that already. The strength and genius of OWS has been its steadfast refusal to (a) fall into the trap that ensnared the Tea Party of being exploited as a partisan tool and (b) integrate itself into the very political institutions which it’s scorning and protesting.

As I noted several weeks ago, WH-aligned groups such as the Center for American Progress have made explicitly clear that they are going to try to convert OWS into a vote-producing arm for the Obama 2012 campaign, and that’s what “Occupy Congress” is designed to achieve. I believed then and — having spent the last few weeks talking with many OWS protesters around the country — believe even more so now that these efforts will inevitably fail: those who have animated the Occupy movement are not motivated by partisan allegiance or an overarching desire to devote themselves to one of the two parties. In fact, one of the original Occupy groups — as opposed to partisan organizations swooping in to exploit it — has announced its own D.C. occupation to, in part, “demonstrate the failure of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to represent the views of the majority of people.”

For a long time, I have believed, and still do believe, that the way to get the financiers to behave and for the corporations to begin treating their employees as humans and not resources, is to change the rulemakers in Washington.  But I also realize that you can’t sweep politicians out of office unless the electorate wants that to happen.  And at this point in time, there is still a significant portion of the electorate that has lost its way.  It is confused by ubiquitous messaging from their elected officials and those officials’ mouthpieces.  And the Democrats failed to interrupt this messaging when it had a chance.  When it had a filibuster proof majority in the senate and majorities in the House and a president of its own party, it should have moved immediately to reinstating the “fairness doctrine” and cementing net neutrality into law and doing a myriad other things that would ensure that a different message from the harsh, mean-spirited, “money is everything” one we get non-stop message we get all day long would be heard.  But the Democrats didn’t do this.  Whether it was through malice or stupidity, it managed to turn down its own volume in the public sphere.

We should have known when it did nothing to curtail the right wing messaging that we were on our own.  Without a voice, we have no way to move each other or politicians to do what we want.  We are easily dismissed as dirty fucking hippies and liberals and no one wants to hear from us.

Before we can change our political system, we have to change hearts to make sure that we don’t keep beating up on each other.  We have to expose the way the socio-economic system is set up right now.  And we have to have a movement of people who are willing to walk away from the current setup that isn’t working for them and set up something new that does.  It’s only by turning our backs on the current political climate and working hard to have our own social safety net and economic system that works for us in the long term that we will be free and it won’t matter who is in power in Washington.

Why should we care who is in power in Washington?  Neither party seems to care to exercise its power for our benefit.  I’m not terribly concerned anymore whether Democrats hold the White House or Republicans hold the House.  They’ve made it clear that no matter who we vote for, the result will be pretty much the same. The same people will be entrenched in power and the rest of us will watch them slowly erode away our standard of living and use excuses to steal the money we put away for our own retirements.  I’m not apathetic.  I’m incensed by that.  Everyday, I wonder how it is they have the unmitigated gall to ignore us.  But that’s the way it is right now and I’m no longer going to tilt at electoral windmills.  I made my mind up in 2008 to only vote for politicians who share my values and aren’t afraid to say it.  It looks like I’m not the only one because loudmouth Elizabeth Warren seems to be doing extraordinarily well these days.

Occupy Wall Street was started by people who didn’t like the way things are going.  Those of us who weren’t in the planning stages but don’t like the way things are going either don’t necessarily have to share the same socio political philosophy.  When movements catch on, maybe it doesn’t matter how each unit of that movement does its business as long as they share a common morality.  And that is Occupy Wall Street’s strength.  It is at its core a moral movement.  It is not a political one.  That moral movement is about the vast majority wanting to correct the vast disperity of wealth that has developed in this country, to correct economic and social injustice,to uphold the dignity of working people, to re-establish a social safety net and economic system that works for everyone and to redefine the meaning of success.  That last one is very important.  The morality of success matters.  Does success mean making money at all costs or does it mean achieving goals of a more personal nature?  Right now, our morality is dictated by the marketplace and the people who run it.  And this movement is about changing that morality.  The way we go about changing that morality and withdrawing our support from a system that fails us is what Occupy Wall Street has yet to decide.  So, calls for it to make demands are premature.

The 1% is going to try hard to disrupt that decision making process.  It is going to try hard to prevent the critical mass from forming (although I think they may be losing that battle).  And it is going to try hard to co-opt.  But as long as the movement focuses on determining how to translate its morality into creating a new economy that works for everyone, the political class can wait.  It is not our job to serve the politicians.  It is their job to serve us.

Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

Ok, grab a beer.  What am I drinking?  Sierra Nevada Celebration.  It’s ok, I guess.  Probably a growler of something from Triumph in Princeton would be better but what the heck.

Anyways, I was watching something called Property Brothers on the HGTV site tonight.  Have you ever seen it?  This is the kind of mindless drivel I like to watch before I go to bed.  There’s nothing deep about it.  And yet….

So the concept of this show is that you get a married couple (somewhere in Canada) who want to move out of their (perfectly adequate, by my standards) little digs where each of their rugrats doesn’t have his or her own room to some kind of palatial McMansion. And for some strange reason, this youngish couple has something like $700K to spend on their new Taj.   These two tall dudes with perfect physiques and too many teeth take them to what they consider to be a perfect house for them.  It’s gorgeous, in their humble opinion.  It’s got a modern kitchen and a pool and a master suite to end all master suites with a multilevel 26 showerheaded steam cabinet and a Titanic sized soaking tub that fills itself from a faucet in the ceiling and chromo therapy.  It looks like a spa in Tucson meets the Bellagio in Vegas minus the Cirque de Soleil high hoop acrobats.

And the Smiths fall in love.  “Look, honey”, she coos, “I could have my office here”, about a room that is already set up as an office.

Then, the two toothy dudes hit them with L’addition.  It’s usually two times their budget and they get all offended and huffy and the wife says to the camera once toothy guys are out of earshot, “I don’t even know why they brought us here.  CLEARLY, this is way over our budget”.  Harummmmph, resentful look at the cameraman.

Then the dudes take them to some real fixer uppers.  You know, the kind where the grunge still lingers in the bathroom tile (note to self: clean bathroom tile tomorrow morning) and there is an inch of carbonized material in the oven (and start the self-cleaning cycle) and the carpet in the family room has pee stains from some animal or small human.  And the dudes tell them, “Remember that house you really, really liked but couldn’t afford?  Well, we can fix this one up for you!”.

And then this couple walk around the house that even *I* can see needs some new carpeting, a new paint job and a Smallbone kitchen and all they keep saying is stuff like, “I can’t live with that 70’s mirror” or “That color paint is hideous”.

At this point, I want to smack them, smack them very, very hard for being completely unable to imaginate anything other than what they see before them.  It makes me so mad when people are unable to envision even the teensiest things.  I want to throw something at the display and scream, “What’s WRONG with you people??  When it’s your house, you can do whatever you want with it.  Don’t like the baby diarrhea colored carpets?  CHANGE them!”

But they never hear me.

And then there is this obsession with privacy.  Is that a code word for something.  When the toothy dudes show them the backyard and say, “There is no one in the back of this lot, you have complete privacy”, are they really saying, “The minute the kids are asleep, you and the yoga instructor from the fitness center around the corner can have a threesome in the pool and no one will see you” or “You can do as many tokes over the line as you want.”  Because, you know, I do not have a lack of imagination and when those toothy guys are extolling the virtues of privacy, I try to picture that mousy looking couple doin’ it in the deep end.

Oh,wait.  Did I say that out loud?

Well, anyways, is it just me?