Saturday, November 30, 2013

Deep Tweets

Kind of the anti-Zen. Nothing peaceful in this image yet thought provoking. Awe inspiring in the truest sense of the word.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Southern California. [Marc Adamus photo]

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pass on the Popcorn

The whole Presidential pardoning of the turkey tradition usually generates some comical photos. This one feels more cosmic. Reminds me of when they were calling Obama the Light Giver back in 2008. [White House photo]



[video here]

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Thanksgiving in the retail Earth

By Capt. Fogg

Stopped for gas yesterday, the kind of magnificent, glorious day that makes your heart sing and your body forget its age.  74 degrees, with a few little clouds, the bright sun shining off the newly waxed red convertible, air as fresh as it is anywhere wafting like the smell of jasmine off the blue Atlantic. 

The advertising sign on the gas pump has a picture of bundled up people on a toboggan and snow. My neighbors have begun to put up fake icicles, fake frost, chrome caribou and sleds festooned with lights and  other reminders that Christmas, a month away, is really a pastiche of ancient Northern European winter celebrations.  It's jarring, a disturbing denial of reality as though all the world were northern. It's jarring like wearing a wool suit and wing tip shoes on the beach.

It's in the teens up North where I used to live and when I say live I mean huddle in the dark waiting for Spring, leaving for work in the dark, returning in the dark, spending hours each week shoveling snow in subzero temperatures, but you can't have Christmas without archaic imagery and the more modern but strictly above the 40th parallel iconography as given to us by such bards as the Coca Cola company, Montgomery Wards and all the commercial interests that have latched on to the holiday. The plastic fat men, robed in plastic furs -- the descendants of  a skinny Nikolaos of Myra, will bloom on manicured green lawns bordered by bougainvillea and hibiscus and not an iota of irony will spoil the spirit unless the polystyrene saint is shattered by a falling coconut.

But right on schedule, as it seems, it's cold today, probably won't be more than 70 although with the southern sun it will feel warmer. Wool wrapped people will wait outside Wal-Mart for the retail rampage to begin and driving to dinner with my few remaining family members I may wear one of my old leather jackets and if I can find one, a pair of long pants. It's Thanksgiving in this formerly Spanish bit of the tropics.  Florida where the flowers still bloom, where oranges and bananas and lemons ripen behind the house; Florida where the "pilgrims" never came and the Puritan ventureth not nor did the Europeans ever sit down to dinner with the natives.

But never mind the latitude, it's about the attitude. It's about tradition. It's about a fictional past from far away and as people do, we'll make up our own reality even though it's nowhere as good as the one nature provides and I'll sit indoors eating things I shouldn't instead of sitting by the pool or at a restaurant by the water listening to steel drums and  being thankful for where and what and who I am.


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Happy holiday

Thankful for all of you who have stuck with me at this little blog for all these years. Wishing your day is filled with good food, warm company and much laughter. [graphic via Danbury News Times]

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Economy class seating on a Pan Am flight in the late 1960s.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shameless GOPers

So I see our coke sniffing Republican Congressman Trey Radel is doing his rehab penance at some high class detox joint. He says he's feeling harrassed when all he's trying to do is to wait out the news cycle so he can skulk back to DC -- er -- focus on his family. Which is not say I think he should resign because of a drug problem. It's not like he was caught selling drugs to kids. I haven't heard it was affecting his job. He was only hurting himself.

But that's not why I'm flagging this news. The real lede should have been Gov Rick Scott's incredible hypocrisy.
"I agree with the party chairman,” Scott told reporters, as quoted by the Fort Myers News-Press. “Trey is going through a tough time. My prayers and my wife's prayers are with his family. But we have to hold all of our elected officials to the highest standards.”
The guy whose company paid a $600 million fine to the government for defrauding Medicare and ultimately paid more than $2 billion to settle all the claims for damages caused while Scott was Chairman and CEO has the nerve to lecture Radel about holding to high standards? Maybe somebody should blood test the Governor to see what drugs he's taking. I hear he owns a company that provides that service.

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Dan Rather was robbed

Wondering if Logan and McClellan are being paid while they're away.
Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of '"60 Minutes," informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine's discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.

Fager's memo and findings of an internal review [are at the link.]
Always thought Rather was set up to take that fall. CBS caved to wingnut's invented outrage. Certainly Rather's investigation was not so thoroughly disgraced at this Benghazi hoax, or should we call it a paean to wingnut conspiracy blather. Yet he was fired and he was blackballed from appearing on air during their JFK anniversary coverage just days ago. At the very least Dan Rather is owed a huge apology.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Can't spell conservative without the con

And by con I mean lying, dissembling, inhumane ideologues who put politics above the public health and safety. In particular, I'm talking about today's alleged scoop by Tucker Carlson's vanity project, The Daily Crapper which breathlessly announced  Cleveland Clinic is cutting staff because Obamacare:
The Cleveland Clinic, which is ranked among the top four U.S. hospitals, is making layoffs and cutting its budget more than $100 million as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act, the Daily Caller has learned.

“The cuts for 2014, about half of those are related to the Affordable Care Act…We anticipate a reduction in workforce,” Cleveland Clinic executive director of communications Eileen Sheil said in an interview with TheDC.
The funny thing about that "scoop" is this was already reported on Sept 18th by numerous news organizations. Furthermore, as analyzed on Oct 11th, the cuts aren't a direct result of Obamacare. It's not that Obamacare didn't alter the reimbursement schedule. It did, but the overall program was designed to lower federal reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid which would have been balanced by increased coverage under Medicaid and additional insurance subscribers who would sign up for affordable polices, thus cancelling out the unpaid debts that previously plagued hospital budgets.

All the parts were designed to work together and probably would have until the Republicans started screwing around with dismantling the balance points like actively discouraging younger, healthier people from signing up at all and GOP governors refusing to expand the Medicaid coverage after the cons on SCOTUS decided providing health care for poor people shouldn't be mandatory in a civil society.

The weird thing is, after the GOP majority in Ohio's state legislature refused to expand Medicaid coverage, Governor Kasich issued an executive order to do it anyway.

This should have solved the much of the lost revenue problem, except crackpot cons sued to keep the poor from getting Medicaid. They won an expedited hearing just recently.
The procedural ruling was a victory for the six Republican members of the Ohio House and two local Right to Life chapters who filed suit after a legislative-spending oversight panel approved the expenditure last week of $2.56 billion in federal aid provided under the Affordable Care Act. The Controlling Board acted at the request of Gov. John Kasich, who took administrative action to expand Medicaid after the Republican-controlled General Assembly refused to approve it.
Which would have been a big win for both Cleveland Clinic and the state coffers.
Expanding coverage to all Ohioans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — just under $16,000 a year for an individual — is expected to bring $13 billion in federal money to the state during the next seven years.
In other words, it's a great deal for the states. Of course common sense and humanity are not words in the crackpot Republican  lexicon. Nothing is more important than punishing the poor. They'll fight to the death of every last one of "those people" whom they judge to be undeserving in their relentless attempt to win policy concessions they didn't earn at the ballot box.

Cleveland Clinic should be fine in Ohio, if the governor prevails, but they have bigger problems. Thanks to hospital consolidation over the years, they own hospitals in other GOP controlled states where Republicans are determined to sabotage Obamacare. So in effect, they're not cutting staff because of Obamacare. Once again, the onus rests rather firmly on the crackpot cons of Republican party.

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Your moment of Zen

The entire alphabet as found on butterfly wings. [Kjell Bloch Sanved photo via My modern Met and M. Hush]

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why Mitch McConnell really hates Obamacare

The propaganda doesn't sell as well once the people start signing up in droves for Obamacare. Like in Kentucky:
But in a state where the rollout has gone smoothly, and in a county that is one of the poorest and unhealthiest in the country, Courtney Lively has been busy signing people up: cashiers from the IGA grocery, clerks from the dollar store, workers from the lock factory, call-center agents, laid-off coal miners, KFC cooks, Chinese green-card holders in town to teach Appalachian students.
Not only that, but the rubes are discovering the GOPers have been lying to them.
Although she once had to dispel a rumor that enrolling involved planting a microchip in your arm, and though she avoids calling the new law “Obamacare” in a red state, most people need little persuading.
One person signs up successfully and tell their friends and family. The governor went all in on making the program work well. He clearly understands a healthier population saves the state money and it's just the humane thing to do. Now 60 year old people who have never had health insurance their entire lives are covered. Waiting for the tipping point where the lies just won't sell at all anymore and the GOPers start trying to take credit for the program. Only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, it will be too late for McConnell either way. He's led the vanguard against health care for his own constituents, so the newly covered rubes who once believed the lies won't vote for him now and the angry cons who won't ever sign up because, Dimmocrats invented it, won't vote for him because he signed off on a compromise or two. He's pretty well screwed.

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No nukes for Iran

By now you've heard about the Iran nuclear arms agreement with the US and five other countries. If not, the basic terms are Iran agrees to curtail its nuke enrichment programs in return for an easing of the crippling international sanctions they've been living under for what seems like forever. Seems like a pretty good deal to me. It offers some relief to the Iranian people who suffer the most under sanctions and the beautiful country of Iran doesn't get bombed into glass ashtrays.

Of course, all the people who thought bombing Iraq was the most brilliant idea ever, namely neo-cons and Republicans hate this deal. They're carrying on like it's the end of the world as we know it. One imagines they would have liked it better if a Republican administration had brokered it, but maybe not. Those warmongers never lose their taste for blood shed by other people.

I would have preferred Iran end its quest for nuclear energy generation as well. But then I would prefer that for everybody, especially the US. In any event, it's only a six month trial period. That will go by fast but I'll take a few months of  peace over imminent war any time.

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Just ask the axis



I've been meaning to post this for a while. I'm told it won't be available for free forever. If you're a fan of the 60s music scene or the man, this PBS Jimi Hendrix documentary is well worth a couple hours of your time.

Note: At some point it stopped and said that the end of the excerpt but I just clicked through the popups and it started up again where it left off. [photo via The Guardian]

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Suddenly, it's 1963 again

Bit late to this but can't stop thinking about it. Of all the iconic images of the dreadful day of Jack Kennedy's assassination, this is one that burns the most vividly in my memory. I saw this unfold live on the television as an 11 year old who loved my President and the First Family and was struggling to make sense of this shocking event.
Jackie in that blood stained suit she refused to change. I'll never forget how she was so clearly emotionally wounded yet so bravely carried on the duties of her position with such grace and dignity. Her strength in those moments was heartbreaking and awe inspiring at once.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Your moment of Zen

St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. [image via]

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GOP melts down under nuclear option

I'm seeing speculation that the GOPers forced Harry Reid's hand as part of some eleventy dimensional liar's poker move. Maybe it's true that McConnell thinks Harry changing the rules slightly to get governance moving again is going to give him some kind of great cover if he ever gets the Senate gavel back and proceeds to immediately annihilate the filibuster altogether. Of course that assumes McConnell will survive to see that day. Looking at his current re-election chances, that's not necessarily a sure bet.

Whatever sort of devious GOP plot this might be, for the moment their playbook calls for much overwrought indignation, strained analogies to Obamacare and pathetic wailing. Why poor little Rand Paul feels bullied. Witness that mean old bully Harry Reid. [via Roll Call]



Again, you should full text of Reid's remarks because it was actually a good speech but his delivery is so awful. But I'm posting the video because Mitch McConnell is so hilarious. I'm still laughing over the line about how the GOPers have been more than fair to President Obama.

Meanwhile you need fishing waders to slough through the knee deep remains of the crackpot cons' exploded heads on the internets. Trolls are crawling out from every rock to join what passes for the GOP establishment to hurl impotent threats of vengeance. What are they going to do? Obstruct every single damn bill in the Senate out of spite?

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Fifty years ago

We called the village Camelot.



And then, on this date a half a century ago, everything changed.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Deep tweets

I never get into internet spats but I was in a mood today. When my waste of a Senator, Richard Burr, started spewing the GOP talking points about Harry's big move I tweeted him like mad. He actually responded to me today for the very first time on the twitter. It doesn't show on the ticker so you have to go to my twitter page to see it. And then you have to click on the convo to see the whole exchange. But the upshot was he tried to nail me with the stale quote random Democrats from 2005 trick. To which I replied, oh Im sorry, I forgot to tell you I was quoting Mitch. Then I hit him with Harry's vine.

And this:
I think I won the round.

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Reid shuts down Republican obstruction

It was a good day for democratic governance. Admit I didn't think he'd go through with it. Happy to be wrong. Harry Reid made history today.
After years of threats and warnings, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and his Democratic majority on Thursday executed the "nuclear option" to eliminate the filibuster for executive branch and judicial nominees, except for the Supreme Court.
Of course, everybody has an opinion but it's probably not going to restore the Senate to a functional body.
The "Reid Rule," as supporters are calling it, does not affect the minority party's ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees or legislation.
GOPers will still block every bill and I don't think they should ever abolish the filibuster on SCOTUS nominees. Still this is a pretty BFD. By tradition, in the interests of responsible governance and Senate comity, the winner of the election gets to pick his own team and he gets to fill the vacancies on the bench. Thus does our government reflect the will of the voters.

You can read the full text of Reid's reasons for the rule change. This was the most important:
There are currently 75 executive branch nominees ready to be confirmed by the Senate that have been waiting an average of 140 days for confirmation. One executive nominee to the agency that safeguards the water our children and grandchildren drink and the air they breathe has waited more than 800 days for confirmation.

We agreed in July that the Senate should be confirming nominees to ensure the proper functioning of government. But consistent and unprecedented obstruction by the Republican Caucus has turned “advise and consent” into “deny and obstruct.”
Yes, both sides filibustered nominees, but for stated cause. Republicans don't even bother to pretend they have a good reason anymore. Why should they when BigMedia treats it as normal procedure? It's at the point where every filibuster is an attempt to extort policy concessions Republicans didn't win a mandate for at the ballot box. Somebody had to end the madness. Good for Harry for finally giving the Republicans some hell.

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Your moment of Zen

Flamingos. [photographer unknown]

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Deep tweets



My timeline: sequester murdering scientific progress, millions going hungry because SNAP cuts, Pentagon "lost track" of billions of dollars and BigMedia still arguing over exact appropriate analogy for Obamacare rollout.

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Democrats fight back on Obamacare

This is a good sign. Granted it's not all their fault but the biggest obstacle to the successful implentation of the ACA has clearly been the ongoing GOP sabotage of the rollout. Our POTUS was too polite to call it that but Obama called out the GOP in his own mild way at his inquistion before the WSJ CEO judges panel:
Addressing a gathering of business executives, Obama acknowledged that the health-care rollout “has been rough, to say the least,” and he lamented the government’s archaic information-technology procurement system.

Obama said that fixes to the HealthCare.gov Web portal are underway and that the exchange will function for a majority of people by the end of November. But the president said staunch opposition from congressional Republicans is inhibiting the law’s implementation.

“One of the problems we’ve had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure,” Obama said at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council meeting in Washington. “We obviously are going to have to remarket and rebrand, and that will be challenging in this political environment.”
This is also encouraging. It appears our Democratic party found a winning rescue strategy:
I’m told the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to launch a new campaign designed to refocus the debate on the Republican position on health care, which Dems will widely label as ”Cruz Care.”

“The polls all show that when you shift the conversation from `support or oppose’ to ‘fix versus repeal,’ Democrats have the advantage,” Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC, tells me. Regular readers know I broadly agree polls show disapproval of the law does not equal support for the GOP position of repeal.
As I've been saying, it never made sense for Dems to try to run from reform. Their ownership of ACA is set in stone. Their only practical choice is to stand up and fight for it with everything they've got. When GOPers wail repeal, they respond with repair. The problems aren't insurmountable and the GOP's "plan" is to revert to the former status quo. Dems could be reminding the public every day that before ACA junk policies were being cancelled at will by insurers just when they were needed the most. And sticker shock? People forget how fast the premiums were rising and benefits were being cut even in relatively affordable employer based polices. Could only help to remind them.

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Mitch McConnell's losing battle

The GOP's greatest fear is the success of Obamacare. Make no mistake, it will succeed over time. Indeed it's already surpassing expectations in the states where Democratic governors are actively trying to make it work. In fact, one of the biggest success stories so far is Kentucky, which brings us to Mitch McConnell's Obamacare nightmare:
As minority leader, and an in-cycle candidate with a primary challenger, he has to be leading the vanguard of Affordable Care Act opposition. But as a Kentucky senator, and a candidate with a general election opponent, he will soon be running on a platform of taking insurance away from tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of his own constituents.
Republicans went all in on anti-Obamacare arglebargle bullshit. Now they're racing the clock, working like mad to sabotage it before the electorate realizes they're better off with Obamacare than no reform at all. The GOP have pinned their strategy on raw hate and scurrilous lies. Thanks to a compliant insider press desperate for daily outrage, (real or invented), GOPers have been winning the day but even the rubes are beginning to see through their perfidy. We may actually live to see McConnell lose his cozy sinecure. Wouldn't that be something?

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A life for a life

By Capt. Fogg

summa awilum in mar awilim uhtappid insu uhappadu
-Code of Hammurabi-

If a man has destroyed the sight of another man's son, they shall poke out his eye.

It's no secret that I think the execution of criminals is not a power that should be given a government. Reenacting a murder, repeating the act of violence whether quietly with a needle or loudly with a squad of rifles serves no purpose other than to dignify anger, hatred and blood lust.

The State of Missouri killed serial killer and white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin yesterday, in a little room and in front of witnesses. It took the mechanism of institutional homicide over 30 years to exhaust all appeals and procedures and last minute delays before strapping him to a table and running phenobarbital into his veins. 

Franklin has been convicted of 8 racially motivated murders and has confessed to a dozen more. He is thought to have committed over 20 in Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Ohio. He has confessed to shooting publisher Larry Flynt, paralyzing him permanently and to wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan.  Using a 'deer rifle' he killed two young cousins Dante Brown and Darrell Lane in Cincinnati because they were African American and fully 18 years later was given a life sentence for it, but of course that was moot since he had already been given a death sentence for the similar sniper shooting of Gerald Gordon outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. He fired 5 shots into a group of Jewish worshipers, killing Gordon and wounding two others.  God gave him this mission, he said.

So I'm not in mourning for Franklin.  Given the chance to stop his 'divine' calling to kill Blacks and Jews, I would not have hesitated to use lethal force, nor chastised anyone else for doing so,  but of course his mission was long over when they killed him.  Larry Flynt will never walk again nor will those  killed be restored to life. The lives diminished by grief  will not likely be restored to happiness. 

"I hate him for destroying my life, for taking away something precious to me, a life that I brought into this world,"

 said  Abbie Evans Clark, Dante Brown's mother. I hate him too and it wasn't my son he killed. She will likely always hate him.

 "It's devastating. It's a void. You never get over it."

 I'm sure she's right. She feels no forgiveness, she says, and although she knows it won't bring the two boys back,

 "It lets you know that justice will be done for the senseless murders of two innocent boys."

Justice.  One has to ask: what is justice if it's not the undoing of wrong? What is justice if it changes nothing, restores nothing?  



If a man dieth -- doth he revive?
-Job 14:14- 

What is justice if it's inspired by hate and why then is it called justice if hate itself is not justice?  Children are not fungible, not property that can be replaced, like money that can be repaid, like debits and credits on a balance sheet. The death of a murderer does not repay a mother for the loss of her son nor can his life be restored to him. Even El could not restore Job's murdered family to him but only a substitute. Those he once loved are gone forever.


Lex Talionis is what we often call reciprocal punishment. In it's favor, we can say that it determines the limits of punishment -- only one eye for one eye. We talk about repayment, but some crimes cannot be payed back  nor is the victim's sight restored when someone else's is taken away.  Indeed can we talk about justice at all when we admit we want someone dead or worse that God wants someone dead and we need to fulfill his divine will?

I'm glad Joseph Paul Franklin is dead.  I hate him down to the bottom of my soul, but I do not love my hatred. I do not ennoble it. I do not justify it or try to reconcile it with my reverence for life. I feel no better and am no better now that he's dead. I don't think we are safer. I don't think we are any closer to fulfilling that longing for harmony in all things we've likely had since our beginning. I don't think we reach it in our various faiths -- neither in the laws of Missouri or the law codes of Ur-Nammu or Hammurabi or edicts of Telepinu or the Hebrew Halacha.

Some things cannot be made right nor losses recovered and when we act out of hate, when we justify hatred,  perhaps only hate itself is served or preserved.

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Your moment of Zen

Manhattan, 11-10-13. [Eric Boehlert photo]

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Deep tweets

This may become a regular feature at irregular times. Some tweets just resonate for reasons unnecessary to explain.


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Just do it Harry

When last we heard from our intrepid Senate leader he was strongly considering the nuclear option but was giving the feckless Republicans one last chance because he just couldn't believe they would keep blocking votse on critical judicial nominations. Of course, those of us outside of the "greatest legislative body in the world" knew that was a fool's hope. So now having given the GOP yet more time to jam the works of responsible governance we get yet another sternly worded threat from Harry Reid.
“I’m at the point where we need to do something to allow government to function,” Reid said when asked if he would consider using the so-called nuclear option, a controversial procedural tactic for changing Senate rules. “I’m considering looking at the rules.”

Reid said he will insist that Republicans allow up-or-down votes on all three of Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: Patricia Millet, Cornelia Pillard and Robert Wilkins.
He will insist? What, he wasn't insisting months ago? He was just suggesting? Enough of the wimpy threats Harry. Stop flailing and do it to them before they bamboozle their way into control again and do it to you. Do it now, while there's still time to repair some of the damage.

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Beat the distressed

This thuggish state Rep. in Hawaii is a real piece of work. He decided to show the homeless in his district who's boss, with a fucking sledgehammer. He patrols his district and destroying the meager belongings of the downtrodden.
Brower has waged this campaign for two weeks, estimating that he’s smashed about 30 shopping carts in the process.
You have to watch the video at the link to truly appreciate how creepy he is but it gets worse. Tom Brower is considering physical confrontation next.
...I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets," he said.

"I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them. I also create a situation where those carts can't be pushed around the city. I think it's a good thing," he said.

"I don't want to be threatening to anybody," Brower said. "I think it's threatening to steal things and then walk around with them like it's their own."

Brower said he has yet to take a cart from a homeless person who's pushing it, but that may be coming. He supports other efforts to remove abandoned property. The sledgehammer approach is his way of pitching in.
If you watched the video, he doesn't actually remove them. He smashes them with the sledge and leaves them piled up for the city to remove. Which is about the meanest, most cost ineffective way to deal with abandoned carts. For one thing the carts he smashed all looked perfectly operable. He could just return them to the stores. Those carts are expensive. I'm sure they would be happy to get them back. Furthermore, stealing shopping carts has been long been the practice among the homeless. By destroying the one they already have, it just encourages them to steal a fresh one.

And how does this help the homeless get off the street anyway? Maybe he could spent some energy on finding solutions to homelessness instead of working out his frustrations with a sledgehammer. Austin, TX has a homeless problem too. They're not vandalizing property there. They're building a self-sustained Community Village for the homeless outside of downtown.

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Your moment of Zen

Tallulah Gorge, Georgia. [photographer unknown]

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Just Van Damme

Not being a fan of the action genre, I don't think I've seen a single Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. Apparently he's aged a lot but hasn't lost his moves. This commercial is so great, I watched it twice and I watched the pre-production video where Van Damme is discussing the stunt. Shoe in for a CLIO.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

And so it begins

Unlikely to end well.

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Money changes everything



Kevin Drum tells some very serious people are becoming concerned about income inequality.
This argument follows a simple causal chain: unequal growth concentrates wealth in the hands of a tiny slice of consumers who can only spend so much money. In turn, the vast majority of earners are left with little extra cash for goods and services. Resulting weak demand undermines growth. Low growth makes everyone poorer than they otherwise might be, including those who own the means of production. Inequality produces other bad economic outcomes, too, such as the underutilization of the nation's human capital, inadequate public investment in both human and physical capital, and social ills that are costly to address, diverting away resources from investment.
Of course, us unserious hippies and some shrill professional pundits have been saying this for years but nobody listened to us. Nonetheless, good to see the VSPs finally acknowleging what has been painfully obvious (emphasis on the pain) to most of America for far too long. [graphic via Progress Illinois]

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Give me that old time populism

Just when I despair of the possible rehabilitation of the Democratic party, Elizabeth Warren delivers a speech on the Senate floor in which she calls for increased Social Security benefits:
“The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

“Over the past generation, working families have been hacked at, chipped, and hammered. If we want a real middle class — a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country — then we must take the retirement crisis seriously. Seniors have worked their entire lives and have paid into the system, but right now, more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire — and the numbers continue to get worse.

“That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits — not cutting them. Senator Harkin from Iowa, Senator Begich from Alaska, Senator Sanders from Vermont, and others have been pushing hard in that direction. Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.”
Bigger excerpt at the link. No, she won't be running in 2016 and that's a good thing. She can do a lot more good in the Senate right now. And we need to vote in more progressive Dems to help her in 2014.

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No really, Obamacare is a big success

Shocking news. Obamacare rollout working well in states that aren't run by GOP thugs determined to sabotage it.
In our states — Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut — the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is working. Tens of thousands of our residents have enrolled in affordable health-care coverage. Many of them could not get insurance before the law was enacted.

People keep asking us why our states have been successful. Here’s a hint: It’s not about our Web sites.

The Affordable Care Act has been successful in our states because our political and community leaders grasped the importance of expanding health-care coverage and have avoided the temptation to use health-care reform as a political football.
BigMedia hasn't been telling this story. For every economically secure whiner they're trotted out to wail about cancelled policies and raised premiums, there are dozens of success stories on the internets about people who found coverage on the exchanges. Some are getting better policies and saving thousands a year. Some are able to afford health insurance for the very first time. And how about those small businesses the GOPers are claiming will have to fire people because they can't meet the new requirements? Well there's this responsible employer.
Since Howard Stovall opened his sign and graphics business in Lexington, Ky., in 1998, he has paid half the cost of health insurance for his eight employees. With the help of Stovall’s longtime insurance agent and Kentucky’s health exchange, Kynect, Stovall’s employees are saving 5 percent to 40 percent each on new health insurance plans with better benefits. Stovall can afford to provide additional employee benefits, including full disability coverage and part of the cost of vision and dental plans, while still saving the business 50 percent compared with the old plans.
And something to think about. The majority of success stories are coming from states with Democratic governors. When's the last time you saw a feature on any of them on the BigMedia? A bit surprised this op-ed made the cut in WaPo but they made up for it in the related links at the bottom of the piece:
Kathleen Parker: Obamacare is sinking

Charles Krauthammer: Why liberals are panicked about Obamacare

Ruth Marcus: Obama’s political malpractice

The Post’s View: A prescription for fixing Obamacare glitches

Dana Milbank: Obama makes a desperate sales pitch
Clickbait journalism at its finest. This is why we can't have an informed electorate.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Your moment of Zen

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. [photo via Google Earth Pics]

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Today in inane analogies

For reasons unknown, BigMedia lapsed into the worn out "Obamacare is Obama's Katrina" mania today. With predictable results. News flash: comparing the rugged launch of a major social safety program to the bodies of Americans floating in a drowned city is always going to be really offensive. But I suspect that was the point. Trolling for outrage. It worked.

I have nothing to add to this. It pretty much captures the day perfectly.

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House passes Protect Predatory Insurers Act

John Boehner's House of Dysfunction passed a bill protecting junk health insurance with a convenient side effect of slow motion undermining the very core of health insurance reform. House GOPers rejected an amendment to protect consumers brought forward by the Democrats. They objected to this language as not being germane to their bill.
The amendment proposed in the motion to recommit in pertinent part requires state insurance commissioners to examine notices of health insurance cancellations or conversions. It also addresses the regulation of health insurance rates, specifically the amendment delineates what would constitute inadequate notice of cancellation or conversions of health insurance coverage and directs state insurance commissioners to investigate such cases of inadequate notice. Additionally, it permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services or the relevant state insurance regulator to take corrective actions if health insurance rates are determined to be excessive, unjustified, or discriminatory….
Translated: If insurance corporations are allowed to sell junk policies, there have to submit to regulatory review if they cancel the policies when people actually get sick and they won't be allowed to indiscriminately price gouge. You'll recall President's Obama's fix also required the insurers to clearly state the limits of the policies and make the consumer aware they had other options on public exchanges.

Well the Republicans won't stand for that. It completely ruins their plan to destroy all and any reforms that interfere with insurance corporation's profits. Even more depressing, 39 Democrats crossed over and voted for the GOP's malicious fakery in a vain attempt to dodge Republican attack ads. As if the dark money frontmen of the GOP won't still pour millions into taking their seats.

A word to those 39 spineless idiots. If you have "D" after your name, you own Obamacare. The good and the bad. The rubes in your district aren't going to be impressed by your cowardly caving into the GOPers thuggery. They'll only respect you if you stand up and fight. Every Democrat should be refusing to countenance the GOP's trickery and holding press conferences on the Capitol steps every day blasting the GOP's perfidy instead of kowtowing to Republican demagoguery.

[Big thanks to Michael J.W. Stickings of The Reaction (Twitter: @mjwstickings) for kindly linking in at Mike's Blog Round Up]

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Your moment of Zen

Rice Terraces Of Northeast Vietnam. [Image Credit : Sarawut Intarob via Milky Way Scientists]

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Your move Big Insurance Republicans

Dizzy from trying to follow all the media spin on Obama's fix for Obamacare. It's bold. It's desperate. It's smart. It's incredibly stupid. It's a trap. It's a trick. It's dictatorial. It's weak. It's generational theft, dammit. Me, I think it was rather brilliant solution. Shorter Obama: You fools like getting ripped off for junk policies? Fine. You can keep 'em. Let the insurance gougers explain why they don't want to give them back to you.

Shockingly, the insurers are unhappy with this fix. They can't blame Obamacare for cancelling insurance policies now.
The idea isn’t to retroactively fulfill the promise he made to everyone whose plans have been canceled, but to demonstrate to the public that there’s now nothing in the law requiring carriers to dump policyholders or uphold their cancellation notices, so that the public takes its concerns and grievances directly to the carriers. That would alleviate pressure on Democratic lawmakers to vote under duress for legislation that would undermine the Affordable Care Act more dramatically.
Republicans are pissed at being upstaged. I already see the new talking point being tweeted out. Apparently the directive is: Howl about how this doesn't help at all. And the conservative insider media hounds can't be thrilled about losing their favorite "keep yer plan" chew toy. But they still have the glitchy website and Issa's tomfoolery to obsess about -- so there's that.

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Your moment of Zen

Abandoned City Hall Subway Station, NYC. [photo via Jeremy Duns and Expatina]

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rhinos eradicated for profit

So heartbreaking. Black Rhinos are gone. Extinct. An ugly word befitting such a hideous outcome.


[South African Animal Rights Activists Community photo]

It didn't have to happen. Greedy, evil, vicious, self-absorbed humans with black holes for souls did this. I won't wish them equal evil though. I trust the universe will deal with them in its own time.

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Keep the reforms, help the people sign up for Obamacare

Have no idea what Big Dog was thinking when he started spewing  GOP talking points. Maybe he was hitting the sauce. Maybe it was some incomprehensible eleventy dimension chess move to help Hillary in 2016 but Bill Clinton has never been so wrong. Letting people keep crap insurance polices is a terrible idea. The whole point of reform is those policies offered no real protection. It would screw up the implementation of the reforms even more than a glitchy website.

Reading the wailing and watching the garment rending over the website reminds me of how spoiled and impatient we've become on the internets. If it doesn't load instantly we're out of there. But that's a problem for the tech savvy. I keep thinking about a tweet I saw showing long lines for signups at a health insurance fair in Sacramento. There are millions of Americans who either don't have good access to the internet or the technical savvy to negotiate the website even if it is working. Seems to me the administrators need to have more events like this especially in states run by GOPers who are sabotaging the rollout. It's clear people want health insurance but many need one on one help with the process.

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Your moment of Zen

A forest path in Bavaria, Germany. [photo via Paisajes Geographic and Charles Johnson]

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Brave-ery in Cobb County

I'm late to this flap over moving the Atlanta Braves out of a perfectly good park, but it's worth mentioning if only for how brazen Republicans have become in their bigotry.
Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party, says that he has two conditions for supporting the Braves' proposed move (h/t Jim Galloway):

1.) That Cobb County citizens won't have to pay higher taxes as a result, and
2.) “It is absolutely necessary the (transportation) solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta."
And by people, he means "those" people who can't afford to live in Cobb and wouldn't be welcome even if they could because... wrong hue. But whatever you do, don't call it racist. I'm sure Mr. Dendy has a very good friend of a different color.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Koch brothers aim to kill college kids

Okay, so the Koch boys aren't hiring snipers to murder young people, but they may as well be randomly shooting them dead. The billionaire brothers new front group invented Creepy Uncle Sam to convince them to opt out of health care. Worth clicking to see the rest of the photos at the link.


On Saturday, Generation Opportunity, a group in part funded by billionaire activists Charles and David Koch, threw a tailgate party with College Republicans outside the University of Miami football game to advocate against signing up for the insurance plans.
What a humanitarian plan. Okay kids, everybody party like you're never going to get sick or die. Who would have thought drunken 20 year olds would sign a pledge against accepting nearly free health care?

Oh and that's not all. As Chris Moody tweeted, "I want to point out that this anti-Obamacare tailgate party had free Godfather's Pizza. Because Herman Cain."

Of course it did. Koch boys have to look out for their brother from another mother, don't they?

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Your moment of Zen

New York City, 45th Street, 1954: [Andreas Feininger photo via BechlossDC and hudsonette]

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Word salad, dummy, dummy

Breaking my personal embargo on 2016 speculation and any mention whatsoever of Klondike Blarbie because this is too delicious not to share.  It's clear our Griftzilla of the Frozen North is testing the waters for her next big grift. She's in Iowa. She's at the fundie confabs. She's dishing up her special brand of bizarre word salad on the Today Show. When asked to explain her alternative proposal for Obamacare, she spewed this out:
"The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there's more competition, there's less tort reform threat, there's less trajectory of the cost increases, and those plans have been proposed over and over again," Palin said.

"And what thwarts those plans? It's the far left," she said "It's President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care."
And now I have this song in my head:

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Your moment of Zen

The village of Bibury, England. [photo via Earth Pix]

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Breaking: Space junk falling to Earth

We've come to the point of space exploitation where these things are rarely mentioned. I don't recall any big buzz when this launched but now that this satellite is about to sort of crash to Earth within the hour it's slightly bigger news. Also too, it's an exceptional unit.


[video at CNN]
The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer -- a European Space Agency satellite known shorthand as GOCE -- was barely a dozen miles above the scientifically recognized edge of space as its orbit decayed, the ESA announced shortly before midnight Sunday (6 p.m. ET). GOCE is expected to nose into the atmosphere and break up sometime before 8 p.m. ET, the agency projected. [...]

"At an altitude of less than 120 km (75 miles), the spacecraft is -- against expectations -- still functional," the ESA said. The craft's "most probable" path for re-entry takes it mainly over the Pacific and the Indian oceans, and controllers have all but ruled out any chance that the spacecraft would come down over Europe, it said. (GOCE's orbit can be tracked via an ESA website.)

The 5-meter (16-foot) satellite was launched in 2009 to map variations in the Earth's gravity in 3-D, provide ocean circulation patterns and make other measurements. Powered by solar panels and not-your-average lithium-ion battery, it lasted more than three times its expected lifespan before running out of juice on October 21.

In March 2011, the ESA added another role -- as the "first seismometer in orbit" -- when GOCE detected sound waves from the massive earthquake that struck Japan.
Good technology will likely evolve from the demise of this old piece of hardware.

According to this guy, this satellite was one of 1071 operational satellites in orbit around the Earth. And those are just a small fraction of the 21K larger inoperational items and 500K smallish bits of space junk orbiting the Earth. I'm too lazy to fact check his numbers but there's no doubt our planet is encircled by some amount of space junk. Maybe some day we'll accumulate enough of it to have a ring, like Saturn. That would be cool.

Meanwhile, I still really miss the toolbag in space.

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Gun thuggery in Texas


[photo via Moms Demand Action]

Because nothing says responsible gun owner like terrifying unarmed mall shoppers, open carry crackpots choose to intimidate mothers and innocent bystanders.
On Saturday, nearly 40 armed men, women, and children waited outside a Dallas, Texas area restaurant to protest a membership meeting for the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun safety advocacy group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

According to a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action (MDA), the moms were inside the Blue Mesa Grill when members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) — an open carry advocacy group — “pull[ed] up in the parking lot and start[ed] getting guns out of their trunks.” The group then waited in the parking lot for the four MDA members to come out. The spokeswoman said that the restaurant manager did not want to call 911, for fear of “inciting a riot” and waited for the gun advocates to leave. The group moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours.

[photo via Alec MacGillis]

Have to wonder if the Hooter servers posed for the cause, the tips, or were being held hostage.
MDA later released a statement calling OCT “gun bullies” who “disagree[d] with our goal of changing America’s gun laws and policies to protect our children and families.” The statement added that the members and restaurant customers were “terrified by what appeared to be an armed ambush.” A member of OCT responded by tweeting, “I guess I’m a #gunbullies #Comeandtakeit.”

[photo via Moms Demand Action]

Willing to bet that tweet was sent by that charmer in the red shirt. He seems so nice.

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Virginia GOP rigs the recount

The result of the Virgina AG race is still outstanding pending a recount. Apparently not at concerned about winning votes honestly, the Republicans intend to rig the recount to get their man into office.
The Daily Press of Newport News, Va. reported Friday that Republican candidate Mark Obenshain had an unofficial lead of just under 1,300 votes over Democratic challenger Mark Herring. That tally did not include full provisional ballot totals, and as of Saturday, a fresh rule change was complicating matters.
The beauty of this scam is they only changed the rule for one county, that being Fairfax, which I'm told is a Democratic stronghold. Unsurprisingly the rule change was made by an elections board dominated by Republicans. The after the fact "modification affects hundreds of voters." Willing to bet most of them are Democrats. Adding to the weirdness, for some unexplained reason, the number of returned absentee ballots was suspiciously low in Fairfax as well.
The Fairfax County Electoral Board met Saturday morning and released an official statement later in the day on the provisional ballot totals in question. Final results show that tabulation issues led to an error affecting approximately 3,200 votes, the board said.

With Friday's state rule change in place, the board added that final results are expected on Tuesday Nov. 12, with a midnight deadline in place. NBC Washington also notes that any voter who cast a provisional ballot now has to contact or visit their local Board of Election office by then to have their say count.
How convenient. That won't affect the count at all, will it? In light of similar voter suppression in every GOP dominated state in our country since they made their decision, I'd like to thank the GOP majority on SCOTUS for gutting the Voting Rights Act on the grounds that Republicans stopped cheating the voters ages ago. It's working out so well. For crackpot conservatives. How do these people look at themselves in the mirror? [graphic via]

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Your moment of Zen

Lovely downtown Noho. [Bill Dwight photo]

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

I do not count the time

The clock in my car is always wrong. By always, I mean every single car I've ever owned. By wrong, I mean inconsistently. It's not always by the same amount of minutes in any single car in any given week. I don't find it a problem. It's all relative.

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Austerity politics proving fatal to recovery

If you missed it this week, Dr. Krugman consulted with the experts and their diagnosis for our future is grim. Good news is they've identifited the cause. Austerity is killing our economy.
What’s more, the authors — one of whom is the Federal Reserve Board’s director of research and statistics, so we’re not talking about obscure academics — put a number to these effects, and it’s terrifying. They suggest that economic weakness has already reduced America’s economic potential by around 7 percent, which means that it makes us poorer to the tune of more than $1 trillion a year. And we’re not talking about just one year’s losses, we’re talking about long-term damage: $1 trillion a year for multiple years.

True, debt can indirectly make us poorer if deficits drive up interest rates and thereby discourage productive investment. But that hasn’t been happening. Instead, investment is low because of the economy’s weakness. And one of the main things keeping the economy weak is the depressing effect of cutbacks in public spending — especially, by the way, cuts in public investment — all justified in the name of protecting the future from the wildly exaggerated threat of excessive debt.
The bad news is, austerity fiends still infect our policies and the cure requires political courage. Presently, there's a severe shortage of that inside The Bubble. Unfortunately, due to sequester cuts the Dept of Public Health will be unable to resupply the serum for some time.

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Simple fixes: Raise the minimum wage

One bright spot in our blithering national debate is this new push to raise the minimum wage. The right people are finally talking about it.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Business owners applauded President Obama in backing a federal minimum wage increase to at least $10 an hour. "The American Dream needs a minimum wage increase," said Lew Prince, CEO and co-owner of Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis, the Midwest's largest independent music store. "The current minimum wage is too low for workers to live on and too low to sustain the consumer demand that businesses need to survive and thrive."

"We can't build a strong economy on a minimum wage from 1950, which is equivalent to today's $7.25 minimum wage, after adjusting for inflation," said Holly Sklar, Director of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. "The minimum wage has lost a third of its buying power since 1968, undermining working families, businesses and our economy."
Math so simple, even I can do it my head. Give the working people more money. They'll spend it right here in the good ole USA. Which will raise demand. Which will create more jobs and pump more money into the economy. Which will raise revenue for the government. Which will help eliminate the dreaded debt. The only people who don't get this are the "true" conservatives who are pretty sure if Dimmocrats like it and poor people don't suffer, then it must be some kind of commie, socialist, facsist, Kenyan plot. So they're agin it.

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Your moment of Zen

Valley of Flowers National Park, West Himalaya. [photo via]

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Nuke the filibuster already

I've long resisted the calls to kill the filibuster but I no longer have any doubt if the Republicans ever manage to bamboozle the electorate into giving them back a majority in the Senate, the very first thing they'll do is abolish it. So if Democrats could nuke the filibuster please. It's not that I don't appreciate this sort of chatter:
From young newbies to the old guards, Democratic senators are clamoring for filibuster reform, and insist that a mass Republican blockade of three judges to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals may be the final straw before going nuclear.

"It would mean they've totally gone back on what they said when there was a Republican president," Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the longest-serving member of the chamber, told TPM. "It would be such a reversal that I think there'd be overwhelming pressure to change the rules."
It's just that Democrats have been making the threat for so long it's no longer credible. The GOPers mock it. Shrug it off. As John Mccain said, "Someday Republicans will be in the majority, and if they set this precedent, they may not like the result. What goes around comes around in this town."

Republicans won't need any precedent to ramrod through their corporatist agenda. They've proven many times over, they have no honor. They have no scruples. They're unencumbered by ethics. Republicans will kill the filibuster out of the gate so Democrats can't use their own dirty dealing, obstruction tactics against them.

Democrats have to do it now while there's still time to accomplish something of value. And nothing is more valuable than striking a balance on the D.C. Circuit court. If you missed it last week, Brian Beutler already explained why the GOP are blocking judicial nominations
First, let me stipulate that I believe the Senate rules give the minority way too much power, not just over nominations, but over legislation as well. I think Democrats made an error in 2005 by “capitulating,” instead of allowing Republicans to go nuclear over President Bush’s judicial nominees. And whatever dilatory mechanisms senators want to erect to prevent the Senate from becoming too much like the House, the supermajority cloture era is anti-democratic and unsustainable in a polarized system like ours. [...]

But the trick Senate Republicans are playing this year — the power they’re exerting over both the executive and the judiciary — is new, and disjoined from the question of whether individual nominees deserve to serve in either branch of government. They’re denying (or threatening to deny) confirmation to any nominees in order to nullify laws, stymie legitimate policymaking, and “reverse court pack” — keep liberal judges off of one key appellate court in order to preserve its conservative balance for as long as possible.
That court is poised to destroy decades worth of hard fought for socially responsible progress. By intent and tradition, for the last 200+ years empty seats on the benches have been filled by the winners of the election so as to reflect the will of the people. As was passing legislation without requiring a super majority for every single bill. Republicans have overturned all of that outside the electoral process. The crackpot conservatives have transformed the Senate Gentlemen's Club into a frat house. That precedent certainly can't stand. So stop them. At this point, Democrats have nothing to lose by nuking the filibuster first, except excuses for inaction.

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Down by the river in the Happy Valley. [Bill Dwight photo]

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Commodity Central

I didn't know this. Clearly a family of high achievers and the holiday gatherings must be interesting. One can imagine the conversations around the dinner table ...

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Your moment of Zen

It's always sunset somewhere. [Kenny Mars photo, via Jay]

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Wall St. Recovery floats only big boats

The Wall Street Recovery has been very good for the casino capitalists and the mega-corporations they call people. The investor class is swimming in cash and it keeps pouring in. Dow closed at an all time high just this very afternoon. Meanwhile, the majority of America is trying to stay afloat from month to month. So how did this titanic economic disaster happen?
How are companies managing to earn so much money in a sluggish economy? And why aren't their profits goosing the economy?

For starters, weak job growth has held down pay. And since the recession struck six years ago, businesses have been relentless in cutting costs. They've also stockpiled cash rather than build new products or lines of business. And they've been earning larger chunks of their profits overseas.

All of which is a recipe for solid profits and tepid economic growth. The economy grew at a meager annual rate of just 1.8 percent in the first half of 2013. The unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, far above the 5 percent to 6 percent considered healthy.

Even so, corporate profits equaled 12.5 percent of the economy in the April-June quarter, just below a 60-year high reached two years ago. Profits of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 have nearly doubled since June 2009. Earnings appear to have risen again in the July-September quarter.
Rising tide lifts all ships was a lie. Anything smaller than  luxury yachts gets swamped in their wake and slowly sinks. Time to bail out the people barely clinging to the life rafts. [charterworld.com photo]

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Reading the tea leaves

Well we had a bunch of elections yesterday. In the little corners of the world that I follow, outside of NJ's folly, it was a pretty good day for Democrats. Whole lot of progressives in small towns were elected. The tea party guy in Alamaba was trounced by the establishment GOPer in a primary. Minimum wage was raised to $8.25 in New Jersey and to $15 in a suburb of Seattle which apparently is good news for workers at Sea Tac. Portland, Maine legalized marijuana. Of course, there's always something weird.  Six counties in Colorada voted to secede from something. Not clear on what the long term plan was if they actually succeeded.

You already know about all the big races. Only nailbiter left is the AG in Virginia which I'm hearing may be headed for a recount.What does it all mean? My magic 8 ball says "repy hazy, ask again later" but there's plenty of tea leaf readers on the internets who are willing to tell you exactly what to think about it.

For myself, I agree with Ed Kilgore. Let's not get caught up in the expectations game. Otherwise, the only really shocking results was 31% of self-described liberals voted for Christie? The same Governor Blowhard who vetoed or otherwise tried to crush, every progressive gain that managed to pass through the NJ legislature despite his relentless thuggery? WTF were you so-called liberals thinking?

But to end on a brighter note, and you probably have to live here to realize just how huge this was -- way to go Watauga Dems. Some of you may have seen their story on Maddow. They overcame the dirtiest of voter suppression trickery from an absolutely malevolent local election board and won it all. They give me hope for the future.

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Your moment of Zen

Magic Lantern slide, 1860. View from the Moon. [Graphic from Georges Melies exhibition at the Caixa Forum in Madrid, via Matthew Sweet]

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Give the people what they want

The maths are not my strong suit but this not hard arithmetic. Our national economy is 70% dependent on consumer spending. You know who spends all their money in Murika? Poor people. They don't go anywhere. They don't have offshore accounts to hide their obscene corporate and casino capitalist profits. They spend their money in the local stores. You know -- small businesses. So my dear befuddled Democrats. Listen to Sherrod Brown. When GOPers say cut Social Security, you say screw that. Increase Social Security payments.
Brown argues that if Republicans push for Social Security benefits cuts as part of any deal, Dems should counter with the Harkin proposal to shift the terms of the debate in a Democratic direction. Democratic priorities, he said, should be centered on the idea that declining pensions and wages (and savings) are undermining retirement security, and added that the public strongly opposed gutting social insurance.

“The situation for seniors is only going to get worse, because the assault on pensions and wages is making it more and more difficult for a worker to save for the future,” Brown said. “Why are we having a debate over how much we are going to hurt seniors? The debate should be over how we should structure a pension for seniors that will help them. Why would we play on their playing field? Democrats need to play offense here. Force Republicans to say what it is they really want to do. Republicans just don’t like social insurance.”
All over the "Christian" Nation of Murika, we have old people standing in line at the grocery store counting out loose change at the end of the month to buy a box of biscuit mix to get them through until the next check comes in. The cost of living never goes down. So how are they supposed to live on less money? Seriously, what then? Rooting in the trash bins out back to get enough food to last a month? An extra $50 a month would make a big difference.

Call me a dreamer but I have a feeling the party that came out strong for giving the real builders of America a few extra bucks, instead of taking it away, would be popular. They might even win all the elections.

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Don't blame Obamacare

I never expected to find myself in agreement with Juan Williams today but he's absolutely right. Quit yer bitching about Obamacare and blame the damn insurance corporations.
It baffles me that people are directing their anger at the ACA which rights these terrible wrongs. [...]

The Hartford Courant newspaper reports that the CEO of Aetna insurance made $36 million last year plus several millions more in stock options.

They also report that the CEO of Cigna cleared a cool $12.5 Million plus stock options.

The American health insurance industry is one of the most profitable in the history of the world. Before the ACA, they made money by finding any excuse, any loophole to deny coverage to the sickest and most vulnerable people in our society.
As Juan says, the damn insurers should be grateful they weren't cut out of the skimming business altogether by Medicare for All, which might have been a thing if professional concern troll Joe Lieberman hadn't killed it dead in utero on the Senate floor. They should be competing in the free market they're always railing about by offering an honest, affordable policy instead of pulling these desperate last minute scams on the consumer trying to squeeze the last drop of blood money out of the system before the public discovers Obamacare isn't to blame after all.

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What if Obamacare was repealed

For all the carping about the flaws in Obamacare, and granted there are some big ones, the bigger question is would we better off without it? The answer is no. For the naysayers, Ericka does the maths at the link and this is a conservative estimate. :
The GOP has gleefully jumped on media reports about Americans having their health insurance plans nixed because of Obamacare. "Obama lied. My health plan died," conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote in September, referring to President Barack Obama's promise that people who liked their health insurance plans could keep them. But how many Americans' health plans would receive some form of cancelation notice if GOP hard-liners got their wish and repealed Obamacare? Probably at least 137 million. [...]

"[R]ight now the media are paying the most attention to people who are [getting cancellation notices]," Jost says. "Bad news sells better than good." But ACA benefits have kicked in already, and others will be coming online soon. So imagine the fury if Republicans repeal the law and 137 million Americans get cancelation notices. Then the media might have a real scandal to report.
Right now BigTV is fully invested in their lazy "Obama lied about keeping your plan" which wouldn't be quite so annoying if they showed the same interest in playing syntax police on the GOPers as well. But the bigger media malpractice is they could be using their time to explain the exchanges. Especially since every one of their "Obamacare cancelled my fabulous policy" stories has fallen apart under scrutiny. One of the so-called victims has since recanted her complaints and now calls her cancelled policy a blessing in disguise. Can't fail to notice, that isn't getting play on the TV news. And as Brian Beutler points out, BigMedia look like bigger idiots every time they post a new so-called victim that turns off to better off with a crap policy.

Of course, BigMedia could be spending their time explaining the exchanges and interviewing success stories but screw the facts. Informing the public is so old business model. Must generate phony outrage. Clickbait journalism demands it and their big fat salaries depend on it. Hell of a way to make a living.

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Your moment of Zen

A 125 year old Rhododendron Tree in Ladysmith, Canada. [photo via TwistedSifter]

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Monday, November 04, 2013

The trouble with Obamacare

As I said before the fatal flaw in Obamacare has always been its dependence on BigInsurance to act responsibly in being allowed to remain as the middlemen to health care. I don't think they have any great obligation to inform their policy holders about the competition but the scary cancellation letters forcing consumers to opt out of being flim flammed into high priced products shouldn't be legal. If we had a functioning Congress, they would fix that oversight. But we don't, and many will be cheated.

Which brings us to the second chronic flaw. Confused consumers. The exchanges are complicated. There's a multitude of choices. Guessing a majority of those who need them the most don't have the educational or technical skills to navigate the system. Even among those who do, one anticipates the wade through the process with the same joyous anticipation normally reserved for root canals. Repairing the website won't change that.

Obamacare is far from perfect. We knew that from the beginning. It barely loosens one finger of the chokehold the insurance brokers have on our health care. But it's still better than the status quo. Many people will be breathing easier with health care security.
Millions of people could qualify for federal subsidies that will pay the entire monthly cost of some health care plans being offered in the online marketplaces set up under President Obama's health care law, ...
Far too many will likely fall through the cracks that won't be repaired until the Crackpot Caucus is deposed. That will take a little more time. Everything changes. At its own pace. Sometimes for the better.

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Scumbag insurance corporations scamming their policy holders

Building a bit on the last post, TPM investigates and finds insurance companies lying about Obamacare to their policy holders.
Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they'd identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she'd be covered.
Of course she would be paying $300 a month more for the pleasure of staying with a plan she "liked." But Donna is no fool. She shopped around on the Obamacare exchanges.
If Donna had done nothing, she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more a month for insurance than she will now that she went to the marketplace, picked the best plan for her family and accessed tax credits at the heart of the health care reform law.

"The info that we were sent by LifeWise was totally bogus. Why the heck did they try to screw us?" Donna said. "People who are afraid of the ACA should be much more afraid of the insurance companies who will exploit their fear and end up overcharging them."

Donna is not alone.
It's happening in many states. More than a few insurers are doing it, but some are more blatantly swindling consumers than others.
The insurance companies argue that it's simply capitalism at work. But regulators don't see it that way. By warning customers that their health insurance plans are being canceled as a result of Obamacare and urging them to secure new insurance plans before the Obamacare launched on Oct. 1, these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces.
This was always the fatal flaw in Obamacare. Its success depended on the greedy insurance mega-corporations to be honest in their dealings. We knew that was never going to happen. But at least it's more difficult for them to get away with it now. So there's that. Still, caveat emptor.

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Blame the damn insurance corporations

If you needed further proof of the total failure of our Fourth Estate you need look no further than the media's frenzied search for alleged Obamacare victims. Today the (once proud and now useless bird cage liner) Wall St. Journal delivers up cancer victim Edie Sundby whose losing one of her insurers. What the op-ed doesn't tell you is she would lost that coverage anyway because United Healthcare long planned to drop all individual policies. It seems they can't compete in the individual market in California because of selective tax breaks being given to only some insurers, of which they were not one.

But there's a lot more Ms. Sundby didn't tell us in her lament for lost health care. Steve M. does some digging and discovers the Edie's is a  poor little rich girl tale. Leaving aside the discrepancies in her stories, (she's been featured in various media more than once), few cancer patients have this luxury:
Whenever Edie suffered a setback, she took what she calls "a spirit quest" into the wilderness. Weary from chemo in the summer of 2009, she and Dale traveled by camper van through national parks in the West. "The wilderness helps me forget everything," Edie explains. "I don't think about cancer; I feel healthy there." Twice more they headed out on camping trips, the last time in 2011 when the cancer returned.
So they both could take months off from work and travel as far afield as Alaska and Fiji. And they clearly have resources or at least connections among the the venture captial crowd. Edie was looking forward to launching a new line of beauty products this year. It may well be that Edie will be inconvenienced by Obamacare but she is far from the typical insurance consumer. Clearly it won't ruin her life to rework her policies whereas living without any health care at all would literally kill millions of Americans who will now have access to affordable coverage.

So the question for all the journos who are jumping on the "Obama lied because these people say they like their insurance" is, did it never occur to you that maybe the alleged victims are lying because they hate Obama, or liberals or Democrats, or poor people and they want to help Republicans kill Obamacare because it only helps millions of uninsured and doesn't do anything for them? Crazy idea I know. That never happens.

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