• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    pm317 on Today is National Voter Regist…
    Ga6thDem on Today is National Voter Regist…
    eurobrat on Today is National Voter Regist…
    lililam on Walk to work music
    william on Today is National Voter Regist…
    jmac on Walk to work music
    pm317 on Today is National Voter Regist…
    pm317 on Republicans #notallRepublicans…
    Earlynerd on Republicans #notallRepublicans…
    Today is National Vo… on Today is National Voter Regist…
    william on Today is National Voter Regist…
    pm317 on Walk to work music
    jmac on Walk to work music
    pm317 on Walk to work music
    pm317 on Walk to work music
  • Categories


  • Tags

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

  • History

    February 2013
    S M T W T F S
    « Jan   Mar »
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    2425262728  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Of Course Ted Cruz Should Be Publicly Ostracized
      So, Ted Cruz and his family were surrounded in a Washington, DC restaurant and left. Much hand wringing ensues about civility. It’s bullshit. If you could have only one rule for creating a good society it would be the following: Elites must experience the consequences of their behaviour. The simplest reason the US is a […]
  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

This site supports teachers and their unions

Lord knows I have had my issues with teachers.  They can be pedantic, rigid, overly sensitive, autocratic and, occasionally, disrespectful to parents.  I assume this has something to do with having to spend all their day with developing human beings who need a firm hand and that they sometimes don’t know when to stop.

BUT

I could never do what they do.  I don’t have the patience or organizational skills.  I don’t have the passion or mysterious magical ingredient that would make me want to spend all of my working day in a classroom herding cats.

So, when I read about what Philadelphia is planning for negotiations with their teachers’ union, my blood boiled.

These are working people who earn a living.  Taking a 13% cut in pay is not an option.  In fact, reducing the power and wages of the teachers’ unions comes back to bite all of us in the ass.  We shouldn’t be pointing our fingers at them asking why their lives and wages are secure.  We should be asking ourselves how we can get what they have.  Not only that but the school systems of our nation should not be just another source for exploitative profit mining* for the well-connected.

It doesn’t serve American ingenuity or our future to have everyone stressed out to the max about where their next meal is coming from or how we’re going to pay hospital bills without go ing deeply into debt.  And when we start inflicting that kind of stress on our teachers, it’s going to affect performance in the classroom.  They’re human beings, not saints.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s up with Philadelphia’s finances.  Maybe this is all just a giant scare tactic to illustrate what’s going to happen if we fail to fund our governments and go through with sequesters.  But I’ve driven through parts of North Philadelphia and am shocked by the condition of the place.  Houses are falling apart and trash is strewn everywhere.  People LIVE there and it’s like a third world country.  Do we want to add to that destitution by depriving people of their ability to free their minds?  It’s disgraceful.  What’s next?  School fees like the kind they have in Africa where families have to decide which kid gets an education?

So, count me among the supporters of Philly’s teachers and teachers everywhere.

*Exploitative Profit Mining- the practice of seeking new profit streams from the exploitation of unprotected working people either through non-transparent financial transactions or privatization of public services.  Add it to your lexicon.

 

Advertisements

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.

Compare and Contrast: A little consistency

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

So, I read this the other day at Eschaton:

Obama Administration: Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

             BRIEF FOR THE UNITED STATES ON THE MERITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just askin’.

How you know the End is Nigh

We’ve been living with out of control capitalism, now in New Accelerated Format, for almost five years now.  It’s a quickened version of what’s been happening over the last 30 years.  Ever since Reagan, the media has bamboozled the public into giving the rich whatever they damn well please with the expectation that the rich will let us keep our jobs.  The evidence has shown that this does not work but you’ll have to read Krugman for the wonky stuff and teensy (or completely absent) labels on the x and y axises of his graphs.  I guess economists don’t need labels and units but it drives this chemist crazy.

I’m not here to talk about all the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing that has been going on since 1980, or the massive layoffs that have probably permanently impoverished my generation or the fact that all of this has happened with the complicity of an older generation of seniors who thought the whole world revolved around what happened between women’s legs.  No, I am here to talk about the end times.

In this case, it will be the period of time when the strip miners of Wall Street have taken the top off the mountain almost completely and there is very little wealth left to extract and more and more middle class people are waking up to discover that “we wuz robbed” and there’s just no THERE, there anymore.  Where will the excess gobs of cash come from then?  I mean, after the obscenely rich have cornered all of the disposable income, and then some, in their underground lairs surrounded by their faceless, nameless goons in cold and modern chic livery, do they sit around with their heads in their hands weeping like Alexander that there is no more money in the world to conquer?

Heck no!

NOW, they get in on the payday loan scam.  It’s fricking brilliant!

Major banks have quickly become behind-the-scenes allies of Internet-based payday lenders that offer short-term loans with interest rates sometimes exceeding 500 percent.

Subrina Baptiste of Brooklyn says JPMorgan Chase allowed payday lenders to seize child-support funds in her account.

With 15 states banning payday loans, a growing number of the lenders have set up online operations in more hospitable states or far-flung locales like Belize, Malta and the West Indies to more easily evade statewide caps on interest rates.

While the banks, which include giants like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, do not make the loans, they are a critical link for the lenders, enabling the lenders to withdraw payments automatically from borrowers’ bank accounts, even in states where the loans are banned entirely. In some cases, the banks allow lenders to tap checking accounts even after the customers have begged them to stop the withdrawals.

What are the chances that Barack Obama will look up from scheming with his 25 year old male senior advisors to “help” the Congress “win” in 2014 by focussing all of their PR efforts on a couple of distracting issues instead of fixing the problem of chronic unemployment and gross exploitation of average Americans, or directly challenging the Republicans with muscular Liberalism, and actually develop some sense of outrage that is strong enough to prod his justice department to actually, you know, DO something to the banks besides taking them to the back bedroom, closing the door and instructing them to wail loudly as he smacks the bed with his belt?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

By next year, when we’re all on Obamacare (sorry, Democrats, you’re going to have to own this one in an election year.  Hope you’re ready, but all indications are that you are not.) and trying to pay all of our bills on time, with a heaping side of gigantic health insurance thrown in for good measure, there will be an increasing number of us vulnerable to the siren song of the payday loan.  “Borrow now against your paycheck, pay 500% interest later!”  What could be more natural?

The big banks are investing in it heavily, wouldn’t you know.  So, this has to be one of the signs of the end.  Now that the MBAs have skillfully evolved the work place every two seconds in accordance to their bonus shortened attention span, AND severely crippled productivity by putting all the burden of getting things done on the shoulders of a few, and because they have so completely decoupled the cause and effect relationship of work with positive reinforcement, given the fruits of labor to the shareholders, closed the pension funds, and divested themselves of all responsibility to the people who, you know, WORK,  now that they’ve scraped every last penny out of every last bank account, it is now time to reserve all incoming pennies for their own purposes too.

All our monies are belong to them.

And then what?

I’m not sure but I suspect it ain’t going to be pretty.

Surprised? No. Depressed? Yes. … The Despicable M.D. Anderson

They’re a great hospital — they saved my mom’s life twice! But, my parents had (and still have) fantastic health insurance. They were never faced with this scenario. (Picture doctors walking around like gods, saving lives and graciously accepting thanks …. while clerks and secretaries screen the patients, sweeping the rabble from the door)

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.

Stephanie was then told by a billing clerk that the estimated cost of Sean’s visit — just to be examined for six days so a treatment plan could be devised — would be $48,900, due in advance. Stephanie got her mother to write her a check. “You do anything you can in a situation like that,” she says. The Recchis flew to Houston, leaving Stephanie’s mother to care for their two teenage children.

About a week later, Stephanie had to ask her mother for $35,000 more so Sean could begin the treatment the doctors had decided was urgent. His condition had worsened rapidly since he had arrived in Houston. He was “sweating and shaking with chills and pains,” Stephanie recalls. “He had a large mass in his chest that was … growing. He was panicked.”

There aren’t very many families that could scrape up $84,000 in cash like that. I guess the rest just have to drive back home with their tumors. Who comes up with a health care system like this?

(sigh)

Part One. Assuming I get the strength to read more of the article.

Oh My God! The problem is the 401K!!

Suddenly, there are bloggers and writers popping out of the woodwork claiming that there is something very wrong with a retirement system built around a 401K.  It’s like a collective light bulb going on.  How did they miss it when it was staring them in the face all along??

Yes, many of our problems, from insufficient retirement funds to lack of labor protection to massive layoffs to wildly irrational corporate greed and testosterone fueled gambling at the global casino by the finance industry leading to global market catastrophes can be traced back to the 401K.  I am not being hyperbolic here.  I’ve been writing about the 401K monstrosity for several years and have been highly suspicious about it for many years before that.  Here are just a few of the many, many posts I’ve done on the recklessness of the 401K.

Is the 401K system a Ponzi Scheme? Discuss.

And now for something Radical and Extreme: Get rid of the 401K 

Convergence: Reckless Endangerment, Can you afford to Retire?

By the way, although Atrios is right about increasing social security benefits, he is wrong about having people invest more of their money in 401Ks.  The 401K should not be an opt out default retirement account.  It should be stepped down and offered as a supplement to a regular boring pension.  It’s not that the politics of abolishing the 401K as a primary retirement fund is very difficult.  It’s that we don’t really have a choice if we want to reign in the runaway finance industry’s ability to carelessly destroy economies and people’s lives.  I mean, what does a banker care if he loses a billion here or there?  For one thing, the money will get replenished in the next payroll cycle and for another, the US government will frantically cover all loses in order to prevent nationwide insurrection.  Go ask Neil Barofsky about the trillions of dollars in government funds that banks have access to in order to cover their losses and make themselves look healthy.

But wait! There’s more!

You can’t touch your 401K before you’re almost 60 without a heavy excise tax.  Oh sure, there are some hardship exceptions but just paying your bills because you’ve been out of work or using the funds to start your own business (to buy hardware and software licenses for example), not possible.  Now, I suppose this is the benevolent governmental entities preventing you from spending your retirement before you retire and in normal economic circumstances, this would be perfectly understandable.

But these are not normal economic circumstances and with the House controlled by a bunch of hardass Republicans bent on a new Civil War against Americans using stinginess and closing the tap on the money supply to people who desperately need it, the fact that the finance industry is able to sit on our nest eggs and play with them to their heart’s content while there are people out here who are losing everything so they don’t have to pay a crazy excise tax, well, I’m sorry but that’s just immoral.  Sure, you can’t spend your pension in this manner but you know what you’re going to get at the end of 40 years of work with a pension.  With a 401K, the only people who are going to make out for sure are the financiers.  Why should the rest of us be paying for that?

401K’s are bad investments with insidious consequences.  They have to go.

See Jon Stewart’s interview with Helaine Olen on her book Pound Foolish for more about what havoc has been wrecked by the 401K.

Bullying beyond the classroom

Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, has written a book on cyberbullying, Sticks and Stones, and gave an interview to Terry Gross yesterday on Fresh Air.  One of the schools she talks about in her book that is a notorious bullying school is located in Connecticut.  She describes the school as being extremely competitive and that a culture of meanness thrives as a way of getting ahead.  In this school, you can get bullied simply for being not as economically well off as your peers.

The mother of one of the students who was targeted was less interested in curtailing online social media access than changing the culture of the school.  Bazelon says of the girls who bullied the other student:

“We want to think that empathy is this natural quality we all have, and in fact, almost everyone is capable of empathy. But there are these moments in adolescence where kids freeze out these feelings. I spent a lot of time with some of the girls who were bullying Monique [who is profiled in the book], and in moments it chilled me to listen to how dismissive they were in talking about her. But in other reflective moments they would say things like, ‘You know, I see that she’s walking down the hall with her head hanging down and really doesn’t have as many friends as she used to have.’ So it wasn’t that they were incapable of empathy, it was much more that they were in a culture in which they were being encouraged to be cruel to another kid to enhance their own status instead of really letting their feelings of empathy for her have an outlet.”

When I heard this part, I immediately thought of bankers and wondered just how many of them are living in Connecticut.