Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Eostre shrine

I've made an informal study of comparative religions over the course of my rather long life. Pretty sure this was left in Atlanta's Grant Park as part of a nature based religious practice. (That's a rabbit in a carrot car by the way.) We don't know why it's there. Thinking it's a shrine to welcome spring and mourn the lost tree.



[Stephen H Banks photo. Click the link. Buy his metaphysical mystery novel. It's a great read.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

This is your future with the KXL pipeline

The Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline hasn't been authorized yet, but the filthy tar sands oil is already streaming through the heartland in existing pipes that have been retrofitted by Big Oil, in this case our old friend Exxon-Mobil. The unfortunate residents of this neighborhood in Arkansas got a hard lesson on what that means this weekend, when the pipeline sprung a leak.


[photo via]

Imagine walking out your door and discovering this.



The town evacuated the neighborhood and shut down sections of highways because a single spark could blow up the whole damn place. Not to mention the toxic fumes are not conducive to breathing.

No one knows exactly how much oil spewed into lovely Mayflower, AK before they managed to shut the line down. I've seen some claims of hundreds of thousands of gallons but surely it was a lot:
Exxon Mobil said it's investigating the cause and working with local authorities in clean-up efforts. The company added that the breach was in a pipeline that originates in Illinois and carries tar sands oil to the Texas Gulf Coast.

In 2009, Exxon modified the capacity of the Pegasus pipeline, increasing the capacity to transport Canadian tar sands oil by 50 percent, or about 30,000 barrels per day. In a 2012 report, Bloomberg News reported the pipeline daily capacity to be 96,000 barrels of oil per day.
There's 42 gallons in a barrel of oil. Considering how far the spill reached before they contained it, it's a safe bet we're talking thousands of barrels. Worse yet, according to this (unverified) video at least one homeowner had no idea the pipeline was so close to his home.

Just this little leak is being classified as a serious incident. The KXL would be a much bigger pipeline, snaking across our entire country, including over major aquifers and agricultural land. A rupture in a KXL pipe could be a major disaster for the entire nation.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Moses, don't get lost

Working on clearing out the archives on quiet Sunday afternoon. This seems like the perfect time to post this video. John Davis And The Georgia Sea Island Singers:

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Happy Easter

In case you were wondering what to do with all those hard boiled eggs...



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Addendum: Also too, WaPo's annual peeps diorama contest.
Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Everything I know, I learned from Mayberry

Don't often pass on facebook memes and I'm reasonably sure that is not Opie in the photoshop but this is, as the cool kidz say, well played.

Bookmark and Share

Sweet charity

I didn't find this at all surprising. Anybody who has ever worked in the restaurant/hospitality industry knows the rich are tightwads. Indeed the richer the are, the stingier they are with tips. So it goes with charitable giving.
One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
It's not that rich don't donate at all, but they do it mainly for self-interested reasons. Like tax breaks. This is especially true of conservatives. Something that was made perfectly clear after the fiscal cliff farce of 2012 finally concluded and Ari Fleischer tweeted this threat.



The super wealthy also do it for prestige. Billionaires will donate hundreds of millions to museums and universities and other cultural insitutions that cater mainly to their social class to either get things named after them, or to advance academic work that suits their personal agenda. You won't see the Kochs endowing a chair in civil rights studies or labor law. Nor will you likely see the Waltons donating to Planned Parenthood even as Walmart's business practices create the welfare clients who desperately need the affordable health care.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

NC GOP attacks voting rights

Suppressing the (Democratic) vote has been an ongoing effort since the idiot GOPers took over our statehouse and they're not letting up for a minute. Not content to trust their extreme gerrymandering of the districts, which went as far as to split a college campus down the middle, the GOP's latest assault on voting rights is going for the ALEC approved attack on voting access. They're double teaming this one:
Senate Bill 428, filed by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, would cut the early voting period from two weeks to one and would eliminate same-day voter registration.

House Bill 451, filed by Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, goes even further. In addition to cutting early voting and same-day registration, it would also outlaw early voting on Sunday and straight-ticket voting.
You know for balance. And the Sunday voting ban has nothing to do with the long standing tradition of black churches "Souls to the Polls" voting drives. Of course not, it's all about the keeping the Sabbath holy.
"I think Sundays just should be – some things you just shouldn't do on Sundays, so I am just opposed to voting on Sunday," Starnes said.
However, you can bet you won't find him filing any bills to end Sunday retail sales or alcohol vending or holding NASCAR races and other sports events on a Sunday. Only voting by possible Democrats offends his God.

Not sure how much difference it even makes. The shameless gerrymandering NC GOPers pushed through gives them a ridiculous advantage already. I'd be willing to bet that was a big part of the reason why Obama didn't win this state again in 2012. Sadly, this isn't the worst thing they're ramming through the legislatures very much against the will of the people. One can only hope the deluded voters who put them into office will remember the GOP's betrayals at the next election.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Moon hovers near Chrysler Building at sunrise. Inga Sarda-Sorenson photo: 12-30-12.



[Click to embiggen]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 29, 2013

The true cost of the Iraq war

James Fallows reminds us George W. Bush fired anybody who dared suggest the true cost of Iraq war. Before the invasion the Bush administration falsely claimed it would be over in a few months, with few troops and cost a couple of billion dollars because as Paul Wolfowitz put it, "the invasion would be largely 'self-financing' via Iraq's oil." Of course, it didn't happen that way at all. Not even close.

Furthermore, according to a new study done at the the Kennedy School at Harvard, we've only just begun to pay and the real costs look more like this:
The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history - totaling somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion.
Mother Jones created a set of cost charts about this as well. You'll notice the greatest cost driver is the interest. Never let them forget, the Bush administration borrowed a ton of money to pay for this folly.



And then there's the hidden costs which were mostly not covered in appropriations at the time. Taking care of the troops that survived and came home damaged. That was the double edge sword of improved battlefield care of the injured. It kept the death count relatively low compared to previous wars, but now we have an obligation to take care of these veterans for the rest of their lives. Considering how young they were when they were deployed, those costs will survive longer than those who started this abomination will live themselves. Our children, and quite possibly our grandchildren, will be paying this war off until they reach old age.

Funny, you never hear the austerity addicts talking about that spending.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

A garden in Sammamish, WA.



[Photos are better if you click to embiggen]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Armed and dangerous idiots

This is the stuff that makes me want to break crockery. Assholes with loaded weapons crash a gun law reform rally.



This is not responsible gun ownership. These guys didn't have to crash this event. They had to know there would be kids there. In the wake of the school murders, just seeing the guns would likely frighten the children. And in the light of the daily accidental discharges, it's fucking dangerous. If they want to strut around acting like dicks, they could hold their own damn event at a different time.

And these asshats are all about their free speech rights, but you don't have to be Einstein to figure out they're not interested in protecting anybody else's right to disagree. Clearly, their objective is to intimidate and it's working.
A member of Moms Demand Action said that she felt unsettled by their presence and said that the organizers would have to think twice before holding another event, particularly one where children could be present.
Seriously. Not that hard to imagine some idiot dropping a loaded gun that goes off and kills an innocent bystander. These are the people who should not be allowed to own guns at all. [video at the link]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Look at all the hungry people

Wall St. Journal is concern trolling about the rise in use of the food assistance. Some well fed genius is appalled to learn the number of enrollees aren't falling along with the unemployment rate. Well you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. There's a simple answer:
There are record numbers of Americans on food stamps today because there are record numbers of Americans in poverty (records begin in 1959.)

As of 2011, there were 46.2 million men, women, and children living below the U.S. poverty line. There isn't much reason to believe that the last year of mediocre job growth has dented that number. And until it plunges, the food stamp rolls are going to stay full -- plain and simple.
The jobs being created are minimum wage positions that often only offer part time hours. Minimum wage in this state is $7.25 and most of the jobs in that range won't give any one person more than 24 hours of work in a week. The price of everything from food, to fuel, to clothing to shelter has risen far faster than wages, which we already know have been basically flat for over a decade. Every private food bank is seeing an astronomical rise in clients who were formerly secure in the middle class.

Furthermore the vast majority of the weath that's been created during this stubbornly slow recovery is being sucked up by the already wealthy 1% at the top. But sure, let's demonize the poors. You know, you give those people too many free ramen noodles and they'll never want get off the dole. Better we should let their kids starve than ask the wealthy to kick in a few more tax dollars to help them out. [graphic via Class Wars]

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

GOP plans to fight Obamacare forever

Bit of buzz today about the "secret Republican plan" to kill Obamacare. After at least 37 failed attempts, they're not willing to give up the fight yet. Their secret weapon is Mitch McConnell.

Steve Benen already has the details down:
The "secret Republican plan" really isn't much of a secret. Hell, it's not really much of a plan, either. McConnell's idea is apparently to have Republicans win a bunch of elections and then destroy the law through the reconciliation process so Democrats can't filibuster the GOP's anti-Obamacare crusade.

That's roughly the same plan Republicans came up with last year, right before the electorate re-elected President Obama and expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate.

But as is the case with so many issues -- taxes, deficit reduction, Planned Parenthood, Paul Ryan's budget, etc. -- GOP officials are determined to pretend 2012 didn't happen and the will of the voters is irrelevant.
They really thought they were going to sweep the elections in 2012. That they actually lost by a rather large margin doesn't really figure into their version of reality. As Mitch said:
“We were prepared to do that had we had the votes to do it after the election. Well, the election didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,” McConnell told National Journal in an interview. “The monstrosity has ... begun to be implemented and we’re not giving up the fight.” [...]

But, in the next two years, Republicans are looking to bring the issue back in a big way. And they’ll start by trying to brand the law as one that costs too much and is not working as promised.
This part of the plan is already happening. My idiot GOP Senator is tweeting this sort of anti-Obamacare propaganda daily. It could work over time I suppose, but for the moment, I'm seeing more pushback by liberals than support from the local cons in the responses. So there's that... [graphic via]

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Once in a blue moon. Santa Fe, New Mexico.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to build a big gun with a 3D printer

Should probably have titled this one, "Smart kid kills the world" because this kid seems a little crazy to me. But that aside I've been trying to visualize how this 3D printer thing works. I've seen dozens of stories about how they're using this technology to build everything from spare body parts to automatic weaponry. Now thanks to Roger Ebert at least I understand, "How to print out a firearm in the comfort of your own home."



Calling it printing is somewhat deceiving. It's more like you design it in 3D and then build the model from the specs with a fairly simple machine. They're using plastic in this video. Not sure how that would work with metal. Would think you need a much different setup to build that. And I'm still mystified on how they would build body parts. I mean what do they use for the human tissue in the construction? Nonetheless, rather astounding technology.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

All the dope on DOMA

Day two of marriage equality at SCOTUS. Today my Senator Kay Hagan came out in support for equality. I appreciate her courage. Even given my longstanding belief that red state Dems should act like real Democrats and forget the Blue Dog GOP lite positions, it was just less than a year ago an anti-equality measure passed in this state. Don't blame her for hestitating.

Other than that, I don't have much to say about today's arguments. For one thing I'm superstitious about predictions and as I said before, think it's pointless to even try. SCOTUS has surprised me more often than not. But there's loads of earnest analysis on the internets if you go for that sort of thing. Me, I'll just leave you with my hopes and Tom Toles perfect toon.



And one last side note, Greg Sargent reminds us Boehner's Congress is spending big bucks on defending DOMA. Funny you don't hear any complaints from the austerity crowd about that wasteful spending. Last I heard House Republicans sank well over a million bucks into this dopey case. No surprise they don't want to talk about it at all.

Of course, when they hired the guy to defend DOMA, the GOPers were feeling all powerful and mandated by some illusionary silent majority. Which leaves them in something of a quandry now. How do they convince everyone else they really care about "teh ghey" after all and placate their crackpot base who want a theocracy and want it now dammit at the same time?

As John McCain might say, "You can't do it my friends."

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Tweets from space. From Cmdr Hadfield on the ISS - farms in Brazil.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Smart kid saves the oceans

Saw it on the internet. Don't know anything about this website, but I really hope this Ocean Cleanup Array is real and that it works.


19-year-old Boyan Slat has unveiled plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from plankton, filtered and stored for recycling.[...]

It is estimated that the clean-up process would take about five years, and it could greatly increase awareness about the world’s plastic garbage patches.
The process would make the patches visible. Hard to believe it could happen that fast but the kid is organized. He also started up The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization which is responsible for the development of his proposed technologies. Wish the nightly news would be investigating this instead of obsessing on the latest drama in the Amanda Knox case.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

The invisible victims of casino capitalism

I may as well have titled this "expendable people." Those would be the millions struggling to cope with having lost everything that formerly defined their comfortable lives. They live among us, nearly unnoticed by the throngs of the still secure who stride confidently down sidewalks to their next appointment or linger in cafes absorbed in their mobile devices. In the vast halls of our policy makers, they only exist as random numbers on charts and spreadsheets. The political overlords do not see their faces. They're too far removed from the reality of the invisibles' existence to have even the faintest understanding of their misery.

The luckier invisibles can still afford tenuous shelter in cheap motels but there is little hope they will find a way to return to any semblance of the middle class comfort they once enjoyed. Once the jobs they performed were essential to the creation of wealth for the investor class. Casino capitalism changed all that. Workers are expendable, a negative expense to be eliminated from the balance sheets lest they interfere with the profit margins.

Most of the invisible newly poor played by the rules. They worked hard to build decent lives. They were cheated out of everything, in one way or another, by the investor class. The end of their road looks like some version of this.



No one thinks it could happen to them before they get there. Truth is, it could happen to anyone.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

SCOTUS fever

The most amusing thing about every time SCOTUS gets to oral arguments is, everybody is either an expert on the case law or has discovered their inner mindreader and is certain they know what the Justice's questions really mean.

Me, I stopped trying to divine the future years ago. We won't know for a few more months how it all shakes out. What is most interesting about this particular round is how many politicians have been inspired to come out in favor of equal marriage rights. Clearly they're opportunists for the most part, but I welcome them all. Even if they're "coming out" for the wrong reasons, every voice raised in support helps move the public mood towards tolerance. That can only be a good thing.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Shadow of an adventurer. Sky Sutton photo.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 25, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Tabula rasa. This morning at the Library of Congress, Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va. Guessing it's just about melted by now.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Phil Griffin is going to kill news journalism

Interesting profile of MSNBC Chief Phil Griffin in TNR. Also disturbing. The shorter would be: Fuck delivering the news, I just want to beat Roger Ailes -- hard -- in the ratings. To be fair, he comes off as a pretty cool guy, but here's the scary part:
But even if MSNBC doesn’t surpass its main rival in the next year or the next five, Phil Griffin has managed an unprecedented feat. He has created a thriving and lucrative liberal TV business, the long-sought answer to Fox News and conservative talk radio. Above all a businessman, though, Griffin understands that people’s tastes change, so even now, at the height of MSNBC’s power, he’s talking about “evolving” the network. He wants it to become more of a lifestyle brand than a political hub. Which means that the biggest threat to MSNBC’s position as a liberal oasis may not be a newly invigorated CNN or Fox News; it may be the man who shaped the network into what it is today. [...]

... “It’s a mistake for us to limit ourselves to news,” he says. He wants to build something he calls “the MSNBC lifestyle,” and so he’s spending a lot of time figuring out what works for Bravo and USA, two hugely lucrative cable properties also owned by Comcast. “We may find that they can teach us more about how to find our audience than CNN or NBC News can,” he says.
In other words, he wants MSNBC to "evolve" into the televised version of a tabloid in the supermarket checkout aisle. Which also appears to be the plan of his newly installed rival at CNN, Jeff Zucker. That sound you hear is the gurgling death rattle of hard news journalism, becoming just a little louder as the profession inches ever closer to its demise. [image via]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Congress launches futile search for Michele Bachmann's ethics

They just loaded a bunch of new charges on to the barge of fail that was Michele Bachmann's loser campaign for President.
The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.
Of course, despite the boatload of law suits currently on file against the Queen of Congressional Crazies, nothing is going to happen to her. A few of her cohorts may ultimately pay some legal price but she will just plead stupidity and ignorance. Who's going to argue with that? Besides, the woman is coated with more teflon than Ronald Reagan. She gets re-elected over and over again, despite this "honor."
Bachmann holds the distinction of having a higher percentage of statements analyzed by PolitiFact determined to be outright lies—or “Pants on Fire”—than any other politician, according to a survey by The Daily Beast.
And only in John Boehner's Crackpot Congress could Bachmann also be a long standing member of the House Intelligence Committee. In a sane world she would have been involuntarily committed to a locked psyche ward years ago.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Those little town blues

By Capt. Fogg

Small town newspapers.  When I first moved here over 11 years ago, Little Boots was in the white house and although the fear machine was running on afterburner and everyone was in the process of never forgetting and sending money to Taiwan manufacturers of plastic automobile flag holders, you still had headlines declaring that some local fisherman had caught a record Snook or irate letters about litter in the park.  Now it's outrage.  Every day. Even the fish are angry.

Printed opprobrium grew over the Bush years, at least those quasi-literate, misspelled, cliche-ridden  letters to the editor written in impotent rage at Mexican farm workers, people on food stamps, Liberals, immigrants, ethnic minorities, liberals, Muslims, atheists, Jews, Democrats -- did I mention Liberals?  Yes, sure, I and a few others sometimes wrote ( brilliantly, I must admit) alternate opinons, much to the further wrath of the toothless unwashed, but it's a small town as I said, and word gets around and  I really don't want to carry a gun in my bathing suit or they may think I'm happy to see them.   Discretion, valor and all that.

Of course it's hardly new.  I remember, back in the mid 60's, living in long hair and sandals in the tiny, rural, University town of Hamilton New York.  I remember when the school had an open symposium on Communism, and the good, go-to-church and keep-Christ-in-Christmas locals flooded the opinion page with demands to bomb the bastards back to the stone age - now.  Small town newspapers.  I wish I could believe that they didn't represent America, that they weren't just some boil on the ass of an otherwise great nation.

Take the Lincoln Journal, of Lincoln County, West Virginia.  Seems public sentiment supported the termination of a teacher for fear she would "turn her students gay."  Faced with a reader's  voice mail (I used reader loosely here)  asserting that

 “We were really glad to hear that School Board is getting rid of them queers, The next thing is we need to get rid of all the niggers, the spics, the kikes and the wops.”

they decided to print it.  I don't fault them. Such people should be heard so we know what we're dealing with -- and where they are.  Now my local paper would probably not have, and it doesn't have a voice-mail line for illiterates.  Most of us here after all, come from elsewhere where literacy of a certain minimal level is fairly common, but those sentiments aren't exactly rare with the locals either.

“You know even them Catholics, they are wrong as baby eaters. We need to clear them people out and have good, white, God fearing Christians and everybody else needs to be put to death for their abominations. We’ll keep Lincoln County white and right. Thank you. "

You're welcome. White and Right indeed. I hope you do just that and perhaps building a wall will help the local economy for a while.  In fact I hope everyone like you moves to Lincoln County. It would be nice to have all y'all in one place and  I hope there's room. I'd hate to have to use up more than one of our precious nukes, but as for the stone age -- are you sure you're ready for that big an upgrade?

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tea Party turns on Fox News

If your March Madness bracket is broken or you just didn't care about basketball in any case, here's some amusing reading for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Loving this one. Tea Party types are boycotting Fox because it's too liberal now.

Funniest sentence in the whole piece:
“We have seen FOX suddenly get very loud about Benghazi after the 1st boycott, but conservatives are conservative because they are not stupid,” the website reads.
And actually, I guess they're not entirely imbeciles. Another guy had this to say:
“The more I research into Fox—I saw that they donate more to Democratic candidates than conservative or Republican candidates—I was like holy cow! Maybe they are just trying to snatch our pockets. Maybe they are just talking the talk, because it sure doesn’t look like they are walking the walk.”
This apparently is their second boycott and they're just certain that they scared the bejeebers out of the Fox the first time, so this one is going to work even better. Besides, they have such reasonable demands.
Among the demands the protesters have is that Fox News “be the right-wing CBS News: to break stories, to break information, and to do what news organizations have always done with such stories: break politicians,” that the network have at least one segment on Benghazi every night on two of its prime-time shows; that Fox similarly devote investigative resources to discovering the truth of Obama’s birth certificate; and that the network cease striving to be “fair and balanced.”
Meanwhile, these stalwart guardians of conservative values are going to the real news sources, Breitbart, Drudge and Glenn Beck. Because it's not real news if it disagrees with their world view. Surprisingly, Fox declined comment.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Will you still need me, when I'm 54

This piece was written by a woman of relative privilege. She's not worried about where her next meal is coming from, or how to keep a roof over her head. But these grafs could apply to anyone who lost good paying jobs after the crash of 08. Thing is, with unemployment still too high and advancing technology allowing big employers to wring greater productivity out of fewer workers, "leaning in" is a cruel joke on 50something women:
Leaning in isn’t really an option for women like Marie and me, because frankly, it’s not even that easy to get someone to take our calls. In a world where newly minted JDs can’t get jobs, and college graduates are willing to take extended unpaid internships, very few employers have an interest in a 50-something-year-old woman who has been out of the workforce for 15 years and would now like a paying job. Hiring managers, facing a wave of thousands of well-qualified candidates, are going to toss out ones that try to substitute PTA executive board skills for work experience (and that’s assuming the resume even makes it through the computer algorithms that select a handful to be perused by a real person). Reading Sandberg’s prescriptions — get a mentor, don’t ever exclude options, lose your shyness and be assertive, negotiate like a man, marry a man willing to change diapers — I feel like I’m listening to a well-meaning yet clueless relative.

Women over 55 are generally ignored if they don’t have good jobs, lots of money, social standing, or powerful husbands. While this so-called “invisibility” problem has been well documented (just google “invisibility older women” and you’ll find a host of articles and blogs), today’s world seems fixated on youth, good looks and viral fame. Older women generally don’t elicit a second glance – we seem to have a sell by date and after that we’re pretty disposable – and to me, that lack of interest coupled with a resume that might have some blank spots, spells trouble if you’re trying to lean in.
The author of that piece will be okay no matter what happens, but for millons of women of lesser social standing, the desperate trade-off is between abject poverty and part time, minimum wage jobs in the service industry. Their economic security will never recover and even the employment they can find won't pay all the bills.

And it's not just women of a certain age who suffer in the age of austerity madness. Young people are finding it impossible to make ends meet as well:
“I never thought that I would be struggling as much as I have this year,” said Horton, whose already-stretched income dropped abruptly when her hours were cut at the disability services agency where she works.
The article doesn't say, but one can assume that agency almost surely depends on government grants to operate. The current mania to slash spending, mainly perpetrated by Beltway overlords who themselves enjoy income security, leads to this sort of downsizing. Which in turn leads to further economic contraction, which will lead to more downsizing in the private sector.

I've been mocked for saying this before, but I don't care. It's difficult to see this as anything less than slow motion genocide of the poors and the olds. These people are struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves and their families. Health care doesn't even enter the picture. The lack of proper nutrition, preventative health care and adding in the stress of living with permanent insecurity can only lead to many early deaths. So what else can you call it? [photo via]

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Oh that smell. Intoxicating.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Rich are different

The old saw has never been more true. The rich not only have more money, but clearly, they are different because the rich only care about themselves. And at this point, they have enough money to buy their own priorites inside the Beltway bubble.

We're not even talking the filthy rich here, these are just your ordinary 1%ers, with an average worth of $14 million. Granted this was a small study in one city, but willing to bet these priorities would be the same in a nationwide survey:
On policy, it wasn't just their ranking of budget deficits as the biggest concern that put wealthy respondents out of step with other Americans. They were also much less likely to favor raising taxes on high-income people, instead advocating that entitlement programs like Social Security and healthcare be cut to balance the budget.

While the wealthy favored more government spending on infrastructure, scientific research and aid to education, they leaned toward cutting nearly everything else. Even with education, they opposed things that most Americans favor, including spending to ensure that all children have access to good-quality public schools, expanding government programs to ensure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so, and investing more in worker retraining and education.

The wealthy opposed — while most Americans favor — instituting a system of national health insurance, raising the minimum wage to above poverty levels, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and providing a "decent standard of living" for the unemployed. They were also against the federal government helping with or providing jobs for those who cannot find private employment.

Unlike most Americans, wealthy respondents opposed increased regulation of large corporations and raising the "cap" that exempts income above $113,700 from the FICA payroll tax. And unlike most Americans, they oppose relying heavily on corporate taxes to raise revenue and oppose taxing the rich to redistribute wealth.
Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it buys power and that's apparently good enough for those who wallow in self-delusion, smugly convinced they're self-made millionaires. To be sure there are exceptions, known to me personally, but generally, money kills compassion. There isn't even the barest modicum of empathy in these priorites. [graphic via]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

From Paul Shoul's excellent travelogue on South Korea. Heart and Seoul.



[Paul Shoul photo via Korea Tourism Bd]

[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 22, 2013

Me and my hero

My Dad was kind of gruff man on the outside but he had a heart of gold. I've never met a kinder man than him in my life. He was my hero from day one. Of the few photos I have of him, this is the one I treasure the most.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]
Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

[Celebrating Life]



Today would have been my Dad's 85th birthday. Second one since he died. Still really missing him. He would have liked these flowers. Guessing they're some variety of forget-me-nots since it looks like such a damp spot. Seems like the perfect flower to mark the occasion.

[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Freedom ain't free and neither is Iraq

I've been suffering a bad case of PTSD this week and I wasn't ever deployed to that hell hole. Just following the news and trying to rally an outcry to make it stop was as much trauma as I could stand. But with the 10th anniversary retrospects, it's coming back to me in waves of recollection. Don't think I'm the only one.

Thinking we need to make the warmongers live the motto they used to perpetrate that atrocity. Never forget. Starting with the true cost of the Iraq war.


That's just the measurable costs and I doubt it includes all of them. It doesn't count the human toll. Neither the hundreds of thousands who died, nor the role the occupation played in the deterioration of civil society here and in Iraq is quantified by the number crunchers. Not sure any one of us could bear to fully comprehend the entire scope of this failure at once.

Worse yet the innocent Iraqi people are still paying the price. I'm told at least 65 people died there this week in sectarian fighting. For the Iraqis, the war George W Bush started may never end. Certainly it won't before the millions of U.S. dollars worth of paint peels off all those school houses.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

House Republicans cave on government shutdown

It seems the House GOPers didn't see a large enough ransom potential in a government shutdown at this time and decided not to take the economy hostage. Instead the House easily passed a bill to keep the government running, at least in the short term.
The House gave final approval Thursday, in a bipartisan 318 to 109 vote, to a continuing funding resolution that outlines spending through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. It assures that the government will stay open when the current funding measure expires March 27. The House vote came a day after the Senate approved the bill. It now goes to President Obama for his signature, ending a relatively smooth and drama-free process for a Congress that has repeatedly deadlocked on spending issues. But it only covers the next six months.
Haven't seen a breakdown on the vote but feel safe in assuming most of the 109 nays were Republicans indebted to a largely crackpot con base.

But that's not all. They were busy at John Boehner's place this week. House Republicans also endorsed Paul Ryan's vision to starve granny and kill off the excess poors.
Just this morning, House Republicans passed this year’s version of Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which — if implemented — would defund the Affordable Care Act, slash tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, slash spending on social programs, and radically restructure the nation’s retirement programs. The measure won support from the vast majority of House Republicans, passing with 221 votes, with all Democrats in opposition.
Ten Republicans joined House Democrats in opposing the Ryan budget measure.
Six of the 10 said the Wisconsin Republican’s budget didn’t cut spending fast enough, while four said it cut spending too steeply or in the wrong areas.

The other four are in more vulnerable districts, where those lawmakers could conceivably lose to a strong Democratic challenger.
Meanwhile, the effects of the sequester cuts are trickling out into the states and cities like toxic fracking waste seeping into the water table, slowly eroding vital public services. Sadly not seeing much BigMedia reminders that this is happening because the GOP refused to raise an extra dime's worth of revenue from the investor class -- a/k/a the only people who benefited from the recovery so far.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

A happy pepper.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Voters support stimulus spending for job creation

More proof nobody cares about the deficit. When it gets down to specific policy voters support "government spending" to create jobs. Even Republican voters:
Americans widely support each of three job creation proposals, including offering tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in the U.S. and a program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repair projects. Support for these programs is only slightly lower in a variant of the question that asks respondents if they are in favor of spending government money to pay for the programs.
Greg breaks out the figures:
* 72 percent support a “federal government program that would spend government money to put people to work on urgent infrastructure repairs.” This is also backed by 71 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans.

* 72 percent support a “federal jobs creation law that would spend government money for a program designed to create more than 1 million new jobs.” This is backed by 69 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans.
So why does the polling always show deificit concern in the abstract you ask? It's all that other spending that's wasteful.
More than two-thirds of Americans think the budget deficit is largely a result of waste and fraud? But wait! It's all explained by a deeper dive into the poll results:

A more detailed look at which programs were named by Democrats and by Republicans suggests that for many, waste is indeed defined as "money spent on some government program I don't like."
It has always been so. Voters like spending when the money goes to their priorities. I believe this is called "enlightened self-interest" by conservatives and glibertarians. An old liberal like me calls it selfishness and quite often greed. Doesn't help that we have an entire political/corporate/media system dedicated to promoting that mindset as an appropriate definition of morality.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

All eyes on South Carolina Congressional race

There's just so much to love about the SC special election. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford took the first step on the comeback from the Appallachian Trail and won the first round of the Republican primary. His chances look good for winning the subsequent run-off.

Meanwhile:
The eventual Republican candidate will square off in the May 7 general election against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. She won the Democratic primary for the seat, handily defeating perennial candidate Ben Frasier.
Her bro has already announced he's willing to risk his comedy career to help her. Shaping up to be a fun contest. Something to look forward to in the future. [photo via]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Whatever the weather is saying outside your window, the wheel of time turned and the vernal equinox happened this morning.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Senate keeps assault weapons safe

Lots of pissed off leftys on the interwebs this afternoon when news got out that Harry Reid won't bring the assault weapons ban to the floor. Me, I've been preparing for that disappointment from the beginning. No way he was going to find 60 votes. He says they can't even get 40 because of all the Dem defections.

Shouldn't be a big surprise. Look at the what DiFi's bill would do:
Feinstein's bill would impose a ban on the sale and manufacture of more than 150 types of semi-automatic weapons with military-style features. Her measure was one of four bills approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the last two weeks.
You're not just fighting the NRA here, it's a battle against the entire gun industry lobby. I do think they should try to add it as an amendment though and require a roll call so every single one of the bought off Senators has to go on record with a yes or no vote. No, not holding the breath for it.

Meanwhile, all is not lost. There's some good reforms that could very well pass.
The three other gun control bills approved by Judiciary are: a measure requiring universal background checks, a measure aimed at increasing security at schools, and a bill cracking down on the illegal trafficking and straw purchasing of firearms.
Not that keen on the school security thing. Figuring it's about as effective a protection as TSA at the airport. That one will probably pass though, because the parents need some security theater. And if we can come out of this with the background checks and cracking down on straw purchases, it would be big win. I'm be happy to get that much myself. [graphic via]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Iraq - ten years after



Ten years ago the Bush administration launched the Iraq invasion. They promised us we woud be welcomed as liberators and showered with flowers and sweets. Didn't quite work out that way. And on this grim anniversary, the violence in Iraq is still ongoing:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than a dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore through Shi'ite Muslim districts in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other areas on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda are regaining ground in Iraq, invigorated by the war next door in Syria and have stepped up attacks on Shi'ite targets in an attempt to provoke a wider sectarian confrontation.
Ten long years of horror for the Iraqi people and nothing has really changed. I almost couldn't bear to look at the historic photo galleries at Time and Reuters, especially knowing they only cover a few pages in that long sad story.

I'm also reminded that this is the 10th anniversary of when I became a blogger. My first blog post ever was about the demonstration against the Iraq War that sprung up outside my office. I left work and joined it. The archives are muddled, so I'll just reprint it. It was a fleeting moment of hope in a long and tortuous decade:
RETRO-ACTIVISM and HOMELAND INSECURITY

There was an anti-war demonstration in my town yesterday. I had a perfect view from my second floor office window. There were at least 400 people and fully half of them took over the major intersection downtown. Some of them lay down on the pavement in a *die-in* and the rest formed a circle to protect them from the oncoming law enforcement. In the end 42 police officers arrived to arrest about 30 people, including two elderly women in wheelchairs. The remaining protesters chanted from the four street corners.

"Tell me what democracy looks like" rises from one corner to the beat of the Revolutionary Drum Corps.

"This is what democracy looks like" thunders back from the other three.

The crowd was deliciously mixed. The American Friends crowd has been demonstrating on that corner every Saturday since the US imposed sanctions on Iraq so many years ago. The college kids were also to be expected but the number of high school and even middle school kids was more suprising. The crowd swelled however with those who would not usually be there. Families with young children and old activists from the 60s who have, over the years, become respected business owners downtown. The latter poured out of the adjoining establishments, along with their employees, to reinforce the numbers. I met my own boss on the corner. He gave me a NO WAR pin someone had just handed to him.

We all stood there shivering in an increasingly chill wind for another 20 minutes in this moment of spontaneous consensus. Those who had not planned to be there stood mostly silent, looking as bemused as I felt, pondering our own role if this is indeed what democracy looks like, now.

For myself, I found it heartening to see the positive energy of the crowd and the planning of the organizers. It was a non-violent action in the name of peace. There was no vandalism and the only blood was of the fake sort that the *dead* had painted on their tshirts. I was not the only one in the 60s contingent who remarked on how the scene evoked memories of our own demonstrations.

However, as my photographer friend remarked, "It's the cool thing to do right now". He's been covering a lot of the protests and notes they are growing. The question in my mind is whether that energy will translate to the ballot box. It's clear they are willing to march, but are they willing to vote? Will they take the time to get politically involved outside of what one has to admit is at least partly a fun social event? I hope so because there are a lot more wars going on right now than just Iraq.
That night, after work, I spent hours on a bar stool explaining to drunken Republicans why the invasion was such a big mistake. I didn't change any minds. I didn't stop the war. But I tried. My conscience is clear. So there's that. [photo via]

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Rhapsody in blue. Very rare blue poppies (Meconopsis 'Lingholm') at Longwood Gardens.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Banksters have gone well and truly crazy - Updated

This bank bailout in Cypress is insane. You can get the wonky details here, which include Russian mobsters, but the shorter is: The major bank in Cypress is nationalized. The bank fucked up. They intend to bail out the bank by taking between almost 7% to 10% of the depositor's money.

Unsurprisingly this has already led to a run on the ATM machines that ran them dry. Suspect they haven't refilled them. Meanwhile, the bank holiday that was supposed end tomorrow has been extended to Thursday to give the Banksters time to legalize the thievery.

I'll be surprised if this doesn't backfire. It brings to mind this quote from an old but still timely Atlantic piece, The Silent Coup: "But inevitably, emerging-market oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and ... look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large."

Update: The Cypriot Parliament rejected the Bankster's bailout deal. No way they're going to take depositor's cash. Can't blame them for wanting to avoid the torches and pitchforks. Don't understand this scam well enough to predict what the Banksters will do next but I'll be surprised if people don't take their money out of that bank anyway, if it ever opens its doors again.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

The GOP autopsy


That's not my term. It's what the media is calling the new 100 page report delivered by the RNC that resulted from months of study on the causes of their trouncing in 2012. I'm told this a good summary of the RNC's post-mortem. Didn't read it myself. I'm not that interested in Republican navel gazing.

Besides, I can tell the GOP what its problem is in a few sentences. They can't win without the crackpot con base vote but they can't win by supporting the crackpot agenda either. The wedge issues near and dear to the activist base are now causing internal rifts within the party and uniting the general electorate against them.

Scanning the commentary tells me the RNC's grand plan is to cut the crackpot candidates out of the process. Good luck with that. The fatal flaw in that plan is a whole industry of grifters has grown up around the crackpot movement. Some of them have become very wealthy. Don't think they're going to give up that gravy train without a fight. Meanwhile, the already wealthy who funded the "grass roots" movement became more powerful. And you know what they say about power.

[Original artwork: Angry Johnny]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Everything changes for same sex marriage

Everything changes. Always. In the case of equal marriage rights for same gender couples, support for gay marriage has grown almost miraculously quickly.
Support for gay marriage reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, marking a dramatic change in public attitudes on the subject across the past decade. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to wed.

That number has grown sharply in ABC News/Washington Post polls, from a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, advancing to a narrow majority for the first time only two years ago, and now up again to a significant majority for the first time.
In 2004 same gender marriage was one of the biggest wedge issues. Social conservatives showed up in droves to make it illegal in their states. Arguably, it was this single wedge issue that pushed George Bush over the top in 2004 and allowed him inflict four more miserable years of his administration on us.

One might speculate the reason Democrats did better than expected in 2012 is at least partly because they took the opposite tack. That's definitely a change for the better.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

All in the family

The family business is a time honored tradition in the United States, but when that business is politics, the grift is built in:
Thirty-two members of Congress dispensed more than $2 million in campaign funds to pay relatives' salaries during the 2012 election cycle, a USA TODAY analysis of the most recent campaign records shows.

Lawmakers have hired their children, spouses, aunts, parents and in-laws as consultants, accountants and record keepers, the examination shows. In some cases, multiple members of the family joined the payroll.
It's entirely possible that some of these family members are well qualified to do the work. Equally possible, that many of them aren't doing much of anything to draw those paychecks. The system invites cheating. On the bright side at least they're just fleecing the rubes who donate to them and not using the taxpayers' money to do it.

Also this is one of the few times that it's actually true -- both sides do it.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

They might be giants. The Appennine Colossus, just north of Florence, Italy



[Recommend clicking to embiggen for full appreciation.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tom Terrific

Posting this because I read something yesterday that reminded how very much I love Manfred the Wonder Dog.

Bookmark and Share

Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell: Unnatural alliance



There's a reason they invented that old saw, politics make strange bedfellows. Rand and Mitch are natural born enemies. Mitch worked actively to shut Rand out but once his erstwhile opponent won, Mitch made Rand his frenemy because, good politics. As Mitch said himself after Rand's grandstanding filibuster, the kid understands the inside game.

This unholy alliance begets such mutual beneficence as this:
"What Rand was doing last week brought back a lot of memories of the early part of my career,” McConnell, 71, said yesterday in a telephone interview, recalling a 1994 filibuster he led that derailed campaign finance legislation. ...

Paul’s alliance with McConnell gives him access to wealthy donors who are usually essential to mounting a national campaign. ...

Five days after he praised Paul’s filibuster, McConnell e- mailed supporters urging them to donate to his Senate re- election campaign and to sign a petition declaring that they too “stand with Rand and Mitch.” ...

“We don’t agree on every issue but we agree on a lot of issues,” McConnell said. ...

For instance, McConnell has voted for Rand's cockamamie budget plan more than once. Not like there was any danger it would pass but good optics for the rubes back home. Which brings us to Mitch McConnell's biggest fear.
If the local Tea Party groups recruit a primary challenger, Paul said he will stand by his Washington colleague. “I am supporting Senator McConnell,” he said.
Rand's tea party creds are his strength in this ungodly pact. The true 'Murkins are unlikely to be pleased. Will be interesting to see how this bit of palace intrique plays out in real time.

[photo: Tom Eblen/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT]

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

The grand bargain is dead

May it rest in peace forever. The damn grand bargain that so obsesses our POTUS is neither grand, nor a bargain. Never understood why he keeps trying for a deal that is the effective equivalent of political suicide. In any event, doubt we have to worry about that much. I don't think Corker means what Think Progess does. They're billing it as his being open to increasing revenue, but that's not what I read in this:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) believes Senate Republicans would be open to increasing revenue through tax reform as part of a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit.

Chris, I think Republicans — if they saw true entitlement reform — would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues. And that doesn’t mean increasing rates, that means closing loopholes. That also means arranging our tax system so that we have economic growth. And I think we’ve been saying that from day one.
By "true entitlement reform" Republicans mean transforming Medicare and Social Security into something that has no resemblance to programs as we know them now. And by "arranging our tax system so that we have economic growth" Corker means, perhaps closing loopholes in order to further lower the tax contributions of the super wealthy. Maybe to zero. Zero would be good for them.

But even if Senate GOPers really are amenable to some sort of deal, Boehner made clear any revenue raisers are D.O.A. in the House.
Said Boehner: "The president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people. We're not going to get very far. The president got his tax hikes on January 1. The talk about raising revenue is over. It's time to deal with the spending problem."
More interesting, is this admission our hapless Speaker made on the Sunday bobblehead show.
“We do not have an immediate debt crisis – but we all know that we have one looming,” he said. “And we have one looming because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They’re going to go bankrupt.” [via}
Too bad Republicans couldn't muster the same concern about the looming disaster of climate change. They're perfectly willing to roll the dice on destroying the planet by ignoring that. And this was a curious aside in Boehner's interview.
Boehner reiterated his trust in the president, despite a relationship defined by legislative deals that have fallen apart.

“Absolutely, there’s no issue,” he said.
Can only assume Boehner believes the base doesn't watch the bobbleheads to admit that out loud. Feel rather certain he'll be wailing about Obama dealing in bad faith and moving goalposts and such the next time he's forced to try to bring something to the floor -- and fails -- because he has no control of the crackpot caucus.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

CPAC poll: The untold story of the other

To no one's suprise, Rand Paul won the CPAC straw poll. It was Rand Paul's crowd. Inherited from his Dad. I hear his tshirt giveaway was very popular. People love free tshirts. But so what? CPAC has become a meaningless spectacle.

The twitter tells me Santorum's speech bombed. He came in fourth after Rand and Rubio. Meanwhile, Grifterella wowed the crowd with her Big Gulp and boob jokes, one of which actually about her boobs. She came in a distant last in the straw poll.

At this point you may be thinking, wait -- who was third? Well, that's the real story here and all the media, new and old, appear to be ignoring it. Look at this graph.



"Other" came in third, well above the rest of the field. So who is other? Apparently it was some combination of the rest of the field of 23 choices and some 44 write-in candidates. Somehow I think if CPAC was an event about the Democratic party, all the headlines would be reading: Democrats in Disarray.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Happy St Paddy's Day

My favorite holiday. Not so much into the drinking thing anymore, but I do still love leprechauns and all the wearing of the green.



Labels:

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Federal court strikes down National Security Letters

Everyone is obsessed with the CPAC clown show on my intertoobz, so this isn't making nearly as big a splash as it should be. Great news from a federal district court:
Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” said Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a challenge to NSLs on behalf of an unknown telecom that received an NSL in 2011. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”
Not sure it's entirely fair to call it "the Obama administration’s surveillance practices." Obama's White House didn't invent the damn practice, but it's true Obama admin is still using it, albeit about half as much as the Bush administration. Furthermore Obama's DOJ is the one defending this case under the rather frightening premise that merely challenging the NSLs is breaking the odious law. So thrilled to see this ruling.

I have no doubt it will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit which at one time would have comforted me. This court used to be really good in ruling for civil rights. Lately not so much, so not popping the champagne until we see how it plays out. Still, it's better than nothing, so there's that.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

My blue heaven ~Weinheim, Germany.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wimpy GOP weasels out of fiscal responsibility

I have to agree with Charlie Pierce. I think Brian Beutler missed the mark a little in this piece about GOPers dealing with sequester cuts in their own districts. You should, of course, read Charlie's post because he's smarter and more eloquent than me. But I'll add this much.

Brian is right that Republicans love spending cuts. Their base loves spending cuts. Everybody loves spending cuts as long as they're happening somewhere else. Because their government handouts are necessary. It's all those other people who are wasting the taxpayers' money.

But as Charlie says, it's no given the blame will fall on the Republicans. It's not like they're going to take any responsibility. Take for example:
“My bill will require the Office of Management and Budget to submit a plan to Congress that implements the President’s cuts without harming our civilian employee’s ability to keep pace with their demands and provide for their families,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX). “In the district I represent, the civilian employees of Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi (NASCC) could be furloughed for up to 22 days. Our local airport towers in Corpus Christi and Victoria might also face extreme cuts. Those reductions in force are unacceptable.”
Catch that? "The President’s cuts." Obviously implying Obama is picking and choosing to punish GOP districts with the sequester and the same thing isn't happening in Democratic districts. The base will believe it because they don't get real news, they watch Fox. Neither will they find out Blake's bill is a sham solely designed to reinforce the fiction they're being singled out.

There are millions of people in America who have no clue the sequester was purposely designed to be a chainsaw massacre on the budget of every agency, so indiscriminately murderous that no sane person with a milligram of compassion would be willing to pull the starting cord to inflict the mayhem. Nearly the entire GOP pulled that damn cord in unison and threw it into the innocent crowd.

The alleged neutral observers of BigMedia aren't going to tell the underinformed that 80% or more of what Republicans say is a big fat lie. Doesn't fit the business model. Besides, they're already fully vested in the Obama invented the sequester meme, premised on the flimsiest technicality. Which I guess is good enough for anti-government work -- at least when a Democrat is in charge. [graphic credit]

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Con Con comes to town

Yes, it's that time of year again. The annual CPAC confab, or as I like to call it the Cirque du Crackpots, has come to DC. Or rather to some outpost in Maryland that is sort of in the greater DC area. Can't get that interested in it myself. Every year it gets a little less amusing, like an aging comedian who keeps repeating the same stale jokes.

The most interesting thing that's happened so far is the reception they gave Mittens. Politico boldly announced this morning, Mitt Romney gets B-list treatment at CPAC, claiming the crowd was indifferent to his arrival. He gave his speech this afternoon and the twitters proclaimed he got the best ovation of the show. Crowd loved him. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what that says about the state of our insider media.

And the Beltway media's obsession with the event continues to astound. Here, via Chris Geidner is what the media pen looked like yesterday.



Assume a lot of them are crackpot bloggers but mixed in that crowd is every major media org inside the Beltway. You can't buy that kind of coverage for a lefty event. Yet the myth of the liberal media will never die.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

I come not to mock Rob Portman

This is the big news of the morning. Republican Senator Rob Portman now supports gay marriage because he found out his own son is teh ghey.
Portman, an Ohio Republican, made the stunning revelation just a week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on a 1996 federal law asserting that gay marriage is not legal, a measure that Portman co-sponsored as a member of the U.S. House.
This, of course, unleashed a tsunami of snark on the intertoobz. Me, I'm not willing to give the man any huge huzzahs for coming out as it were because I agree the timing is just a little too convenient. Also, it's not exactly a full-throated endorsement for equal marriage rights:
But like former President Bill Clinton, who signed the law, Portman now wants Congress to invalidate the law’s declaration that marriage is between a man and a woman. Instead, Portman said he would prefer that it be left to the states to decide the definition of marriage.
Sure leaving it up to the states now run by crackpot conservatives is going to be a big game changer.

Nonetheless, I'm not willing to criticize him too much because it does help over the long term. This is how society changes. I remember when it was absolutely scandalous for a man and woman to cohabitate outside of holy matrimony. Still recall the first couple I heard about who did it. It was spoken of in whispers, only among the closest family and friends. It was a huge deal that they put both their names on the mailbox. Even divorce was a big taboo only 50 years ago.

Took a generation or two before these things became socially acceptable. It happens in exactly this way. One preachy moralist at a time finding a path to tolerance. And that first step is almost always taken because it happens in the family. So, while I don't feel much like lauding Portman, neither will I mock him. No matter what his motivation, it's not an easy thing for him to do and every little bit really does help over time.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SCOTUS is not amused by sequester cuts

Didn't expect this to happen. SCOTUS Justices beg Congress for more money:
The cuts to the court system from sequestration are “simply unsustainable,” Justice Anthony Kennedy warned Thursday.

The judicial branch is subject to a 5 percent cut under sequestration. The Supreme Court and lower courts throughout the country wouldn't be able to carry out their duties if those cuts stay in place for more than a few months, Kennedy said.

"If it's for any long term, it will be inconsistent with the constitutional obligation of the Congress to fund the courts," Kennedy said.
Maybe our Honorable Justices didn't get the memo. According to a duly elected Oklahoma Congressman, (who was probably helped by dark money enabled by the Citizen's United decision), SCOTUS doesn't get to decide what's constitutional anymore.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

John Boehner just wants Dems to do his job for him

Is that too much to ask? Our hapless sad sack Speaker of the House, John Boehner has a new lament published today, disguised as a WaPo op-ed. Don't bother reading it, he doesn't say anything new.

The shorter is always the same: If only President Obama and the Democrats would destroy the social safety net so the GOPers could pretend it's not their heart's desire and run against them on it in future elections, then for sure Mr. Boehner get his crackpot cons to follow him in bringing up the rear to pass a grand bargain, as long it doesn't include requiring the ultra-wealthy to pay one extra dime in taxes.

No one in BigMedia will say this is batshit crazy but they will be happy to tell you at great length how horrified everyone in the Beltway bubble is about those cancelled White House tours.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Zen

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Obama schools the GOP

President Obama took a stroll over to the Hill and addressed the House GOPers today. How it went depends on who you ask. The interpretations "according to unnamed sources close to the proceedings" ranged from the Drudge baiting Tense meeting between President Obama, House GOP (broken into 3 page clicks for your inconvenience) to ABC's Jon Karl who heard President Obama got two standing ovations.

Jon Karl had the best report on the questions. This one was the most important:
Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, asked if Obama and Republicans agreed on some entitlement reforms (specifically, means-testing for Medicare and reducing annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security), why couldn’t those things be done now? The president said he would agree to those reforms only if Republicans agreed to raise tax revenues by closing loopholes, because we have to ask “everybody to sacrifice.”
Wrong answer Mr. President. Adding to my earlier post, this is why Obama's numbers are slipping. Yes, everybody needs to share the sacrifice but the working class has already sacrificed more than enough for the last five years. They don't want Obama to kiss the crackpots' ass for some dismal grand bargain, they want him to kick their ass.

Obama has walked back his tough talk one too many times. I see the future and unless Obama walks his campaign talk this time, I see 2010 happening all over again in 2014.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

A gentleman's agreement requires actual gentlemen

Who could have known that trusting Mitch McConnell to keep a promise to stop abusing the filibuster would be a disaster? Besides everyone except Harry Reid and a few senior Senators who have clearly been holding onto their seats well into dotage. So now we all pay the price for Harry Reid's gullibility on filibuster reform.

On the bright side, they're talking about it again:
Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed.

“The general agreement was that Republicans would only filibuster nominees in the case of extraordinary circumstances, and once again Republicans are expanding the definition of that term to make it entirely meaningless,” the aide said.
That 20/20 hindsight and five bucks will get you a latte at Starbucks. They're never going to get 60 votes to change it through regular order now, so we're stuck with this dysfunction until the next session. One can only hope that next year, should Dems be lucky enough to keep their hold on the chamber, they'll do a better job on reforms. If GOPers recapture the gavel, it's a pretty safe bet they won't be afraid to just eliminate it altogether so they can ramrod their agenda through without any impediments. [photo via]

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Why Obama's approval is sinking

I truly hate when the internets make me talk about polling but I've seen this pushed for long enough that it's worth addressing. The usual suspects are harping on their tired refrain about Obama's failure to reach out to GOPers. That's not the reason. Nobody outside the Beltway bubble gives a flying leap about whether Obama makes nice with the crackpots. Rather the opposite. It's because instead of standing firm on the platform he won the election on, he's back to trying to cajole concessions by giving into their demands.

Greg Sargent, in an especially good morning round-up, nails down Obama's real problem in this one graf:
To summarize: People say they agree with the GOP about spending cuts in the abstract. But when you get specific, solid majorities disapprove of the sequester cuts and think they’ll harm the economy — rejecting the conservative argument about the relationship between the economy and spending cuts. Solid majorities oppose replacing the sequester cuts with cuts to major social programs the poor and elderly rely upon — rejecting the conservative argument about the safety net. (In fairness, Obama is also prepared to cut entitlement benefits as part of a grand bargain, but more judiciously.) Solid majorities support asking for more revenues from the rich, rather than cutting social programs, to replace the cuts — rejecting the conservative argument about taxes.
Bold is mine and let's review that sentence again. "In fairness, Obama is also prepared to cut entitlement benefits as part of a grand bargain, but more judiciously."

Judicious or not, this is at the core of Obama's sinking approval. It breaks a very specific promise he made on the campaign trail. I would go as far as to say it was the most important promise he made. The mainly unengaged voters aren't following the nuance. They don't care about grand bargains. All they hear is "Social Security cuts" and all they feel is betrayed in their trust.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share