Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Update: It Wasn't a Joke. It Should Have Been.

Congratulations to the Republican party, for screwing the pooch so thoroughly that even the worst debate performance in modern American history (and a lingering depression) couldn't get you the White House.

Sincere congratulations to America, meanwhile, for making sure that they DIDN'T get the White House. Wasn't sure you had it in you. Sure, the Republicans still have the House, but one thing at a time, right?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ryan? Is this some sort of joke?

Oh, I had to come back for THIS.

Paul Ryan is Romney's running mate? You've gotta be kidding me. Really, this must be a joke. 

This whole election is about concentration of wealth. It's about how the "one percent" (really the zero-point-zero-zero-one percent, but who's counting) are screwing over the rest of America, if not the rest of the world. It's about how the middle class, working class, and lumpenproletariat are finally starting to wake up to the reality that they've been screwed over for going on thirty years now. It's not even just Occupy: that's what the Tea Party was really about, even if the poor bastards were completely co-opted by the handmaidens of wealth.  Everybody's already pissed, and they're getting more pissed by the day.

With Romney as the Republican nominee, that's the only way it COULD have gone. That's why the Republicans were so desperate to nominate somebody else: Romney's the worst possible choice for a candidate in a situation where Americans are already starting to light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks. Obama's people don't need to be political experts to realize how to take advantage of the situation, and Romney's played into it quite nicely with the tax issue.

So why the fuck would you pick Ryan as the running mate?

Literally the only thing that he has to sell himself is his budget plan. There's nothing else to the guy. Sure, you could sell him as a wonk and a thinker, but Romney doesn't NEED one of those. They aren't going to appeal to Republicans and independents in the first place.  He's a good looking youngish guy, but he's not going to match Obama on that, and he's not going to carry states.

No, it's all about the budget proposal. And that budget is the worst possible thing for Romney to be running on. Not only is it utterly dishonest bullshit—Paul Krugman must be licking his chops at the prospect of carving Ryan up on a weekly basis—but it's a direct attack on both medicare and the middle class on behalf of the wealthy minority that Romney and Ryan both represent. That budget isn't going to defuse Romney's negatives. It'll MAXIMIZE them.

The only thing Ryan has going for him is the whole "DEFICIT! DEBT! DEFICIT! DEBT!" hysteria. That hasn't been the defining issue in American politics since 2010, not since all that supposed hyperinflation failed to materialize. There are bigger issues now. The effect that global warming is going to have on food prices are going to be more important than that.

Seniors will hate this choice.  The middle class will hate this choice. Minorities will hate this choice. Women will hate this choice. Independents will hate this choice. The only people who will endorse this choice are the exact same wealthy white men that Romney already has in his pocket.

Sure, he might still win. If he does, though, he'll do it in SPITE of Ryan. Ryan's a loser. What a ridiculous choice.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Roberts Court After All?

May have been a bit too fast on that "Scalia Court" last month. Who knew that Roberts was going to show some self-awareness? Who knew that he'd realize that going along with the Scalia Faction would finally nail down people's nascent realization that the Supreme Court is in the tank for the Republicans?

Don't get it wrong. He still did solid wingnut work. He's opened the door to all sorts of plump challenges to Commerce Clause stuff, and that Medicare expansion funding thing is going to be exploited by every Republican-owned state in the Union. We should also all remember that Citizen's United was a more vicious attack on individuals' rights and freedoms than striking down ACA could ever be.

But, hell, at least Americans' health care won't be quite as embarrassing as it has been. That's something to take comfort in.

(At least until we find out just how badly global warming has fucked the price of food.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Walker Won Wisconsin

Well, what were you expecting after Citizens United? Walker outraised Barrett by eight to one, with most of that money coming from outside anti-union moneymen. It would have been shocking if Walker HADN'T won.

The Scalia Court won this recall vote. Nobody else.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Job Creators"

Yes, this point in ThinkProgress about how small businesses wouldn't be affected by the Buffet rule is an important one. Useful, too, since it highlights just how disconnected Republicans are with actual small business.

It's still important to remember that we are the job creators, not them. Capital allocation is important, but without labor and without consumers, you can't have a functioning economy! Somebody needs to do the work. Somebody needs to buy the product. If you don't have either of those, the best capital can do is sink the money into real estate or even more speculative nonsense. That never works for long.

There is no functional economy without laborers who can live off their work, and there is no  economy whatsoever without consumers. The smartest and wisest of the ultra-wealthy are already coming around to that realization. People like Gates and Buffet are saying "tax me" for a reason. It's the dumb, shortsighted, and ideologically blinkered ones that are bankrolling the Republicans.  The Kochs and Scaifes and whatnot, who got their fortunes through oil or luck. They don't know jack, and they ain't worth listening to.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Progressive Bloggers and Whatzisname

Huh. I'd been keeping an eye on this nonsense going on with the Canadian "progressive bloggers" list—quasi-summary here by "Doctor Dawg"—but wasn't expecting to be dropped in the middle of it by Antonia Zerbisias. Zerbisias has a point. Whatzisname didn't exactly cover himself with glory. But it's odd to see this come up again.

Funny thing is, I'd mellowed out towards ol' Kinsella over the years. I don't think he's changed, but his weird idiosyncratic issues about pseudonymity doesn't strike me as relevant anymore. Canada's got bigger issues, just as America does, and his holdout position against pseudonyms just isn't shared by too many people these days.

I also think he's right about how the Liberals and the NDP need to get together. Yes, some Liberals may break away. So? Screw 'em. Liberals have far more in common with social democrats than hard-right conservatives. If they defect to the Conservative party of Stephen Harper (of all people!) they weren't liberals to begin with.

That's the issue. Words like "liberal" and "progressive" and "conservative" actually have to mean something. You really do have to draw lines, and you can't let everybody in. That's one of the reasons why the American political parties don't use labels like that, and call themselves "Democrats" and "Republicans". You can have conservative Democrats and progressive Republicans and still get all the benefits of partisan unity.

(Not that that's entirely the case, the Republicans are conservative to a man, but that's the general idea.)

If you have to draw lines, you're going to have people going over the line. That's what happened with the progbloggers, where a few progressive-in-name-only-bloggers went over the line on women's rights to choose, and were justifiably shredded for it by the real progressives. The real progressives questioned whether the fake progressives had any right to the name. They went to the admins, and the admins freaked out, because they forgot that WORDS MEAN THINGS.

Then Kinsella comes charging in and just makes it worse. His claims are ridiculous. Fern Hill's clearly just pointing out that "even the Dominion nuts hate being spied on". It makes sense! I hate being spied on too! Kinsella's being awfully silent on that side of it. He talks about the "what" but never the "why" when the "why" is critical. Doesn't seem to mention the whole abortion thing, either. Not sure what that means.

But I have to ask: what's the POINT of it? He wants the Liberals and NDPers to merge or align or whatever. Does he really think that this sort of thing is going to help? Does he really think that that new party isn't going to have lines that can't be crossed? Does he really think that any sort of progressive movement worth the name is going to invite anybody and everybody that doesn't call themselves "conservative"? Does he realize WHY all this is happening? What is he THINKING?

He's supposed to be a clever political strategist. I think there's something to that. I did pay attention to that last election in the Canadian province of Ontario that he was involved in, where it looked like he managed to help turn back a serious and potentially disastrous Conservative surge and keep a basically progressive Liberal government in power. He knows how these sorts of things work.

So I'm honestly baffled at the angle here. Both the Fern thing and the Zerbisias thing are bad opinion journalism and bad politics. It makes the merger he's advocating far less likely, and it's far more likely to push people away from the "Progressive Bloggers" than anything else.  It's only helping Harper. It just doesn't make sense.

(Edit: Oh, one more thing. Changing the text of Zerbisias' blog comments was just plain silly. I haven't the foggiest about the legal side, but the dumb is unquestionable.)

(Re-Edit: Fixed Zerbisias' name. Sorry, Antonia.)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Hope You're Having a Good Easter

The Republic isn't seeing its best days. So it's good to take your positive moments when you get them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What the Hell is WRONG with California?

Libraries? You're seriously cutting state funding for PUBLIC LIBRARIES?

Granted, this is a problem across all of America, as ignorant legislators assume that because their kids can afford iPads, everybody else in America doesn't need public sources of information. (Or trained professionals to help them find it.) But, honestly, CALIFORNIA? The heart of the information revolution SHOULD DAMNED WELL KNOW HOW IMPORTANT PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION IS.

The worst part is that the same worthless wingnut shitheels that always complain about too-high taxes will also be the ones complaining about the unemployment, underemployment, and piss-poor test scores that come from this. An educated populace is the foundation of a modern economy, and California appears to be doing its level best to make sure that they don't have those.

But, hey! At least your property taxes won't go up!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Upward Jobs Tick

Apologies for the lack of updates. Been occupied (heh) of late.

Not quite sure if I buy that the latest upward tick in the jobs numbers is a good thing or not. Certainly it's a good thing for the newly employed. No-one would deny that. But any sort of improvement is going to be seen as a reason to lay off on low interest rate policies, to deny any further need of stimulus, and even to avoid changing anything at all about US economic policy.

That's not a good thing. America still has the same problems. It still has manufacturing jobs moving to other countries, especially China: not because of low wages, but because of the ease of access to suppliers and appropriate human capital. That's why Apple's there, that's why everybody else is there, and that is NOT something that Indiana is going to solve by nuking public-sector unions.  It requires a sophisticated understanding of the role of public investment. Those Chinese factories didn't spring up out of nowhere. Read the story: the Chinese government had a hand in it. As long as America is still led by people who think that government is the enemy of success, America won't have success.

America also still has the problem of financialization, and the fallout from that sector's dominance. Matt Taibbi's right that it's good that the foreclosure scandal hasn't been completely buried...but considering it was one of the biggest and more prevalent scams in U.S. history, the fact that it came as close as it DID is a problem.  Smart people are still moving out of the real world and into Wall Street chasing the big financial dollars, or simply trying to find a decent job as other sectors empty out. That's not right. That's not sustainable. And it's nothing to build an economy on.

But, mostly, America is STILL behind on one of the most important trends in the 21st century: renewable energy. Look at this story on India: the price of solar panels is absolutely crashing there. That story in the New Scientist quoted analysts as saying that solar could as cheap as grid energy across half of the globe by 2015. That's three years from now. This will absolutely revolutionize how the world looks at energy...and what is the United States doing? FRACKING! Jamming toxic chemicals into the earth to extract more hydrocarbons, possibly causing honest-to-goodness earthquakes, while the increasingly-inaccurately-named "developing world" says "heck with it" and just builds cheap solar panels! Panels that they may soon produce without any sort of American help whatsoever!

So, yes, this is good news. But it doesn't address the underlying problems.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Credit where credit's due. Obama and the Dems faced the Republicans down, got a big win, made them look like chumps, and demonstrated a bit of stones for a change.

Heck, look at this:
Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer reached out to the White House early in the standoff to convey their view: They can win without giving an inch. The White House agreed, giving way to a no-compromise strategy championed internally by senior adviser David Plouffe, who, like the president, was in a fighting mood, according to multiple sources.

Their thinking, according to White House and congressional aides: Obama and Senate Democrats already negotiated through McConnell. They made concessions. Eighty-nine senators, in a rare moment of overwhelming bipartisanship, approved the deal. And the public, according to polls, was on their side. Case closed.

“We were resolved to hold the line on this from the moment the speaker’s office indicated they were going to cave to the pressures from the fringe element of their caucus,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “We felt we had such a resounding vote in the Senate that they were going to be trapped. It was going to be impossible for the Senate Republicans to walk away from it. They were doomed to be divided because of that.”
I don't even think that the Senate unanimity had much to do with it. The Republicans have been more than successful without it in the past. The simple truth here is that fighting for legislation that is publicly popular works. Yes, you need to be smart and canny about how you do it, and I was impressed by the full-court press the White House executed to get this thing passed. The lesson's still clear. With any luck at all, they'll remember that going forward into 2012.

This is a bit bittersweet, though. You can't help but wonder about how different the world would be if the White House had been willing to do this from the beginning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So Time Magazine's Person of the Year is "The Protester"

Yep. See it for yourself. Well, at least it's not Zuckerberg again. Or Paul Ryan, which was apparently a serious possibility.

Sure, it's logical enough. The Arab Spring changed the middle east, the Occupiers changed the American discourse on wealth, and a lot of expectations about the utility of protest were upended. The biggest thing that seemed to jump out of these protests is that having a dedicated structure and organization almost seems like a liability; if there are no faces, there's no way to muck about and find ways to discredit them.

That's the whole "Anonymous" lesson that people keep on forgetting. The whole reason they were able to take on the Church of Scientology was because their structure made it damned hard for the CoS to try to respond. The Occupiers picked this up from Anonymous—witness all the Anonymous masks at the protests—and that's helped them remain relevant. There's been attempts to try to discredit them by attacking their "leaders", but it just doesn't stick. The only thing that's come even close to working is just straight-up violence.

The violence is the part that Time doesn't talk about, by the by. One of the odder bits in the piece was the claim that Occupiers didn't stand to get "beat up or shot" like their middle-eastern counterparts. The "shot" part, I'll grant, though I'd wager that that has more to do with the general peaceability of occupiers than anything else, but stating that they haven't been beaten is just ludicrous. They have. Often. Quite savagely at times, and that's not even getting into just how bad pepper-spraying really is. Were the Time editors unaware of this? Or did they just not really care, since it was their countrymen doing the spraying and beating?

Still, I think that they've missed the real story here. The real story is about the tension between the public and the elites. That's what the 99% vs. 1% thing is really about: it's not about wealth, per se, but about a relatively small elite that call the shots without even pausing to consider the wishes or interests of the rest of the population. As Lawrence Lessig pointed out on The Daily Show last night, that 1% thing is a bit misleading: it's actually only about 0.05% of the public that have access to lawmakers—that really have any say at all.

And the elites are fighting back. Nevermind the cops being sent to beat up protesters. Look at Europe. Look at what's happened in Italy and Greece. Look at the appointed economic "experts" that have been brought in to supposedly "fix" things by gutting the public service and social services. They're taking money from the 99% to pay off debts owed to the 1%. They won't even consider anything that might increase aggregate demand by putting money in the hands of the vast majority of people who would really use it. They believe in price stability over all else, and are willing to drive unemployment into the ground in order to do it, even though all the pressures right now are DEFLATIONARY pressures. And they weren't even elected. They were imposed.

Look what's going on with this supposed deal to save the Euro. As Paul Krugman, Felix Salmon, and loads of others keep on pointing out, this whole thing is profoundly misguided. They're pretending that a balance-of-trade problem is somehow a sovereign debt problem. Countries like Ireland and Spain weren't awash in sovereign debt before the crisis. Quite the opposite.  Yet instead of solving the real problem, the Eurozone is going to put straightjackets on member governments attempting enact counter-cyclical policies and get their economies back on track.  Unemployment in every Euro country whose name doesn't end in "many" will keep going up, social spending will keep going down, and the lives of the 99% will become more and more nightmarish.

What are people supposed to do in that case? They have no access, because access costs money. They have no votes; Italy, Greece, and the new move towards fiscal unity prove that policy is now imposed from above, instead of elected from below. They have no say. The elites are calling the shots, despite the elites' bungling incompetence being proven over, and over, and over, and OVER again throughout the last half-decade.

They find themselves with only two choices: take to the streets, or take to the hills. They're choosing the former. Good on 'em. But I don't think we should ever, ever forget that in this cold war between the public and the elites, they can always decide to choose the latter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You're Killing Your Grandchildren, You Idiots

So Arctic methane's being released faster than anybody had expected, thanks to the melting of polar ice. Methane's an even worse greenhouse gas than CO2, by an order of magnitude, and it was responsible for at least one big extinction event in history: the Permian-Triassic extinction event.

You hear that word? "Extinction"? It means "everybody's dead". Not just you, but your kids, and your grandkids, and every other generation that would have come of that. It means that your life was pointless, because everything you did, and everything you made, is wiped out, along with everybody else who might have remembered you.

But go ahead and keep on babbling about "hoaxes" so that you can keep driving that sweet SUV. I'm sure your progeny will understand. Or, well, would have understood.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This is How Bad It's Gotten

Watch this video. Right now.

This is what America has sunk to.

No, let me amend that. America has always treated its minorities this way when they get "out of line". The police have been defending their own privilege using overly violent means for years.

This is something different. This was a cold, calculating, pointless assault on these protesters. There was no move to arrest or detain, and certainly none of the violent resistance that pepper spray is supposed to be used to deter. This doesn't fit any sane rules of engagement for police, and yet the officer didn't even do this furtively, afraid of being caught. He calmly walked up and used a burning, blinding chemical weapon on these kids' faces.

What's worse is that they aren't even defending their own privilege. Cops aren't wealthy. They aren't powerful...not really. They sure as hell aren't part of the 1% of wealthy Americans that are at the center of this, nor will any of them ever be part of that group.  Their own pensions are being raided to pay for the bailouts; their own children are facing a lifetime of un- and underemployment. Their own family members are out of work, and may never find work again.  They're defending the privilege of a tiny mob that they will never, ever belong to: a mob that created the intolerable future that America now faces.

Yet here we are, with a police officer betraying everything his badge and his country stands for, in order to protect people who neither acknowledge nor appreciate it. People who are, frankly, being utter douchebags about the whole thing.

Edit: One of the protester chants sums it up pretty well. They shout, repeatedly: "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?"

Good question. In fact, it's the only question that matters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Congratulations, Mayor Bloomberg!

No, really. We should give the guy a hand. He's given the order for the cops to clear Zucotti in the middle of the night, and he's accomplished a lot of things in doing so!

-He's confirming every negative thing that Occupy has ever said about the attitudes and behavior of the ultra wealthy elite that he belongs to;

-He's going to radicalize absolutely everybody who has come anywhere near that park by sending in riot cops with batons and pepper spray, meaning that a lot of potentially-reasonable people are now going to be both furiously angry and rigidly defiant; and

-He's going to make sure that the clearout is a big story, by preventing the media from sending helicopters overhead to show what's going on, and by (allegedly) having his officers take the press credentials away from people. Not that that'll stop people from seeing what's going on: there's a nice live feed going on right here on UStream, and everybody in that park is going to be furiously recording every minute action of the police. What it will do, though, is give the media the opportunity to talk about its absolute favorite subject: itself.

As I type this, they're saying that the people in the kitchen are being tear gassed. TEAR GASSED. How the hell can you justify that? What kind of idiot would write rules of engagement that even considered that?

I'm not sure. I do know what kind of idiot gives the order though. So take a bow, Bloomberg. You just made yourself a parkful of martyrs.

Edit: And now there's video out of them roughing up protestors. And here's video of them using tear gas.

Friday, October 28, 2011

OWS: "Screw the Pundits". Good on 'em.

One of the best parts about the "Occupy" movement? The fact that it baffles and enrages television and print pundits. Not all are as incoherent as, say, Canada's Andrew Coyne, who thinks that poor people should shut up because they have microwaves and color televisions(!), but it's pretty universal.

As Dalia Lithwick points out in Slate, that may be part of the point:

I feel it’s time to explain something: Occupy Wall Street may not have laid out all of its demands in a perfectly cogent one-sentence bumper sticker for you, Mr. Pundit, but it knows precisely what it doesn’t want. It doesn’t want you.
What the movement clearly doesn’t want is to have to explain itself through corporate television. To which I answer, Hallelujah. You can’t talk down to a movement that won’t talk back to you...

...Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.

Think, for just a moment, about the irony. We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.
They don't necessarily trust the Internet, either, though they surely trust it more than they trust the cable networks. Is it really any wonder, though? Television news is basically rich people talking to rich people about rich people's problems. Someone like Andrew Coyne doesn't have the foggiest idea how the 99% live, or what their issues are. It's an academic, abstract issue to him, which is almost certainly why he fell back to "what are they complaining about? Color televisions, people! COLOR!" These people want simple solutions to the problem of poverty because isn't their problem. They just want it to go away and stop bothering them with the minimum amount of hassle. 

People might have been willing to go along with that when the Great and the Good were benefiting their lives. Those days are over. The 99% are now of the opinion that they've been scammed by the pundits and their cronies, and they're PISSED. That's the message. What they're planning on doing about it isn't quite certain yet. But that's the message.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Krugman's Take on OWS: "Panicked Plutocrats"

The Brooks twaddle I just mentioned makes a bit more sense when you read Paul Krugman's piece about "Panicked Plutocrats".

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.
Okay, fine, that last link was my addition. Times columnists aren't technically allowed to take shots at each other, though everybody knows that Krugman spends a fair bit of time tearing apart Brooks' arguments, even if he can't actually name the man. Only fair to fill in the gap on his behalf.

The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is...

...What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.
And now we've reached the point where people like David Brooks are so terrified on behalf of their tiny sliver of plutocrats that they're already throwing the words "anti-Semitic" around.  The man must be absolutely shitting himself at the thought of what OWS represents.

David Brooks Went From Zero to "OWS are Anti-Semites" in Four Paragraphs

This has to be a new record.

Sure, the piece itself is ridiculous nonsense. He bandies about that raising the income taxes on people making "between 1 and 10 million" would only cut 1% of the national debt, completely ignoring that it's the national deficit that matters, that salaried income aren't their only (or even principal) source of wealth, or that extreme concentration might mean that people making more than ten million might be part of the problem. It certainly doesn't help that he's sourcing some right-wing think tank instead of a reputable source, either, nor that he won't acknowledge just how concentrated wealth is.

There's also a great wealth of bullshit about how dividing up the country is "self-limiting", when the whole point of the OWS movement is that the country is already divided.  But, hey, never mind that,the whole point of his sort is to make the rest of us identify more with this wealthy "sliver" (in his words) than with each other.

But, accusing them of anti-semitism? That's a new low.

Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.
 Wow. Brooks is actually arguing that the only thing that Adbusters is known for is this seven-year-old article about supposedly "nefarious Jews", and therefore is not only anti-semitic but has rendered OWS anti-semitic as well.  This despite the fact that Adbusters has been around for decades, and is hardly the only or principal reason why OWS started.

Never mind that this is insulting and quite possibly libelous. Is it really a good idea to try to discredit a movement decrying wealth concentration by calling it anti-semitic? Doesn't that sorta internalize the absurd notion that Jewish people are all wealthy bankers and movie moguls and whatnot, instead of just being, well, Americans? The vast, vast majority of Jewish-Americans are part of the 99%, just like anybody else; so why the hell is Brooks trying to build up this notion of a connection between extreme wealth and Judaism? It is poisonous and destructive. Why on earth would he DO that?

Well, okay, we all know why. He wanted to get a cheap shot in, and didn't think of the connotations or the consequences. He didn't realize that this is about to absolutely enrage pretty much every Jewish-American who is tired of these stereotypes, along with any who would resent being so cynically exploited.

(It's also going to do nothing to affect OWS. If anything it'll embolden them: this is such an obvious and pathetic cheap shot that it could hardly do otherwise.)

I'm sure he'll get away with it. Those who truck in stereotypes and myth to defend the interests of that "sliver" get enough cover to get by. But it's a useful lesson for any of you who think that Brooks is some sort of "moderate". He isn't. He may not give a shit about social issues...but when it comes to defending the interests of his precious sliver against the interests of the rest of the world, he will say ANYTHING. No matter how odious.

Edit: The Jewish magazine Tablet has much the same take.  And I missed the lovely bit where Brooks said that OWS has nothing to say about "wage stagnation or polarization". That's pretty comical, considering that's the entire damned point of the exercise.

As Dean Baker reminds us, he's little more than "the bard of the 1%". He's just there to make them feel better about themselves, which is probably why his hateful little scrawling attempts to call OWS "ineffective" and "milquetoast". It's wishful thinking by the bucketload.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street"

I had thought it would fizzle out. It hasn't. It's getting bigger, it's getting more coherent, and it's finding a winning narrative with this "we are the 99%" line.

Mainstream media ignore it at their peril. This could be bigger than the tea party.

Edit: People keep asking "what do they want?"

Isn't it obvious? They want want Lincoln talked about: they want "government of the people, by the people, for the people".  They know that isn't the case. Not all of them can articulate it, but they all know somewhere that the American government—and, in fact, pretty much all modern governments—act at the behest of corporations. These corporations are given the same rights as actual citizens, and carry outsized weight due to their enormous economic power...and as they are generally owned by a tiny minority of people, they provide an outsized voice to that tiny minority.

That's why there's all this talk about the "99%" and the "1%". The 99% have no real voice. The only voices that are listened to are those of the corps, and the corps are overwhelmingly owned by that tiny minority. Even if members that tiny minority wanted to help the rest, they can't, because the corporations that act on their behalf are (somehow) legally obligated to fight anything and anybody that threatens the income of that minority.

(That's what corporations are for, after all. They make money. That's it.)

People get that this situation cannot continue. They get that this isn't working properly. They aren't yet quite sure why, or how to get out of it, but they KNOW that things are broken. They're looking for someone to fix it. If someone doesn't, they'll do it themselves.

Re-Edit: The truly bizarre part is that even people on Wall Street know that the current system is broken.  They don't like being blamed, true, but they know the problem. The issue is that the people with actual power and influence won't believe it for ideological reasons.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The ISI and the Kabul Attacks

Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency communicated with Afghan insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in central Kabul last week and appear to have provided them with equipment, according to U.S. military officers and former officials.

Communications gear used by the insurgents "implicated" the directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan's spy service, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday. The equipment was found in a 14-story building under construction that the attackers used to lay siege to the embassy compound for 19 hours on Sept. 13, according to the official, who would not describe the equipment recovered.Bruce Riedel, a former White House advisor on Pakistan and a retired senior CIA official, said administration officials told him that "very firm intelligence" linked the Pakistani spy agency to the embassy attack, which killed at least nine Afghans.

"There are [communications] intercepts and the attackers were in cellphone contact back to Pakistan," he said.

In a dramatic appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the insurgents had received "ISI support" not only for the attack on America's most prominent diplomatic and military symbols in the Afghan capital, but also for a massive truck bomb assault this month on a U.S. combat outpost in Wardak province west of Kabul that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers.

Pakistan's government angrily denied any involvement. But Mullen's comments are the most direct, and most explosive, accusations by a senior U.S. official of direct complicity by Pakistan's chief intelligence agency in attacks on American facilities and military personnel.
Not any sort of surprise that they would deny it. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been strained for a while, and this is likely to seal their fate.

It's almost certainly true, though, and it's difficult to say what it'll mean. Pakistan's a nuclear power, so any sort of direct action is impossible even if it weren't a bad idea, but the United States will have to do something to make it clear that the ISI cannot be allowed to continue supporting this sort of action.

What's likely, then, is that the American government will take this as a go-ahead for continued drone attacks in Pakistan on the Haqqani network that was behind this attack.  It keeps Americans out of harm's way, and they're insulated from Pakistani objections by the fact that the ISI is partially responsible for this in the first place. It won't solve the problem, but it's the only plausible action that presents itself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Orwell on Unemployment

From Wigan Pier:
But there is no doubt about the deadening, debilitating effect of unemployment upon everybody, married or single, and upon men more than upon women. The best intellects will not stand up against it. Once or twice it has happened to me to meet unemployed men of genuine literary ability; there are others whom I haven’t met but whose work I occasionally see in the magazines. Now and again, at long intervals, these men will produce an article or a short story which is quite obviously better than most of the stuff that gets whooped up by the blurb-reviewers. Why, then, do they make so little use of their talents? They have all the leisure in the world; why don’t they sit down and write books? Because to write books you need not only comfort and solitude—and solitude is never easy to obtain in a working class home—you also need peace of mind. You can’t settle to anything, you can’t command the spirit of hope in which everything has got to be created, with that dull evil cloud of unemployment hanging over you.
Welcome to America's future, ladies and gentlemen. The longer this nonsense lasts, the worse it gets. And with the choice of a Democratic president that—according to Suskind's latest—doesn't understand the central importance of aggregate demand on the economy vs. a Republican opposition that devoutly wishes that the long-term unemployed would just crawl into a hole and die quietly, it's likely to be getting worse for a good long time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Krauthammer's Tiger Rock

All these years, and Charles Krauthammer is still insisting that the lack of a second AQ attack proved that the War on Terror worked.

Of course, you could just as plausibly argue for the release of Alice Cooper's Dragontown  as the reason why there was no second attack.

What's really funny is that he's pretending that two "hot wars" in the War on Terror didn't cost a truckload of money because it was only a little more than a trillion dollars. Apparently a fair percentage of THE YEARLY DOMESTIC PRODUCT OF THE UNITED STATES isn't a big deal to him.

"Entitlements" are a big deal to him. Of course. They usually are to wealthy apologists for the ultra-rich, especially ones like Krauthammer that haven't the faintest clue how any of this works, and are just mouthing the words they're told to say by their handlers and sponsors. Social Security and Medicare, unlike the botched conflicts that he advocates and apologizes for, actually help people. Krauthammer wouldn't know what "helping people" was like if you gave him diagrams.

It isn't as bad as the spectacle of a Bush-admin neoconservative trying to take credit for the Arab Spring, like Michael Gerson. That goes beyond wrong to simply nauseating. But it still shows us exactly why America is in the fix it is: because people like this are given newspaper columns, fame, and power... instead of people with ideas, insights, track records and a positive outlook.

One of the lessons of the last decade is really simple: never trust neoconservatives. They cannot govern countries, they cannot fight wars, they cannot budget responsibly, and they cannot be trusted to provide advice about anything.   Mock them, deride them, and dismiss them if you want...just never, ever trust them. Their ideas are poison and their doctrines corrupt.

They were wrong. They were ALWAYS wrong. They always will be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So. It's the 9/11/2001 Anniversary. It's really bad now. There's still hope.

Ten years.  It's been ten years since Osama Bin Laden's people attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Ten years since the United States discovered that it was vulnerable. I don't think America has gotten over that, not really. As was constantly pointed out at the time, America hadn't had a real attack on mainland soil since the Civil War. Nobody knew what to expect. Nobody knew how they'd react. They found out.  It was shock, horror, dread, and confusion. There was also a bit of disbelief.  Everybody—including myself—felt like it was something out of a movie. It wasn't real. Things like that don't happen for real.

Ten years since America went slightly mad. No, really. How else can you explain the "War on Terror"? It was always a bad idea. It was always somewhat incoherent. It's pretty much over now, and the consensus is that it was never properly thought out or worked that well.  Attacking Afghanistan robbed Al Qaeda of their home base, but botching the occupation gave Al Qaeda's Taliban allies renewed strength, and the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban was a big issue for years; quite rightly, as it turns out, since Osama was hiding out in Pakistan. It wasn't until the War on Terror ended that 9/11's chief architect was found and killed. If anything repudiates it, that would.  Well, anything except IRAQ.

It's been ten years since a group of mad delusional idiots that call themselves "neoconservatives"—a group that's always been obsessed with Iraq—seized control of the levers of American foreign and defense policy, and proceded to drive it into the ground. Almost all the goodwill that America received after the attack was burned away by these fools and their obsession with Iraqi conquest. Almost all the advantages gained in bloody Afghanistan combat were bled away by the Iraq misadventure, and pretty much every ally of note that helped America in Afghanistan walked away in shock and disgust. Almost all of America's credibility as an international voice, as an exemplar, and as a friend to democracy ended thanks to the neoconservatives' Iraq adventure.

The worst thing about it isn't even the invasion, not really. The worst part was the botched occupation. America treated its Iraqi subjects terribly, inflicting the worst sort of horrible right-wing bullshit on them at the hands of the worst sort of Republican apparatchiks. One need only read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City to see just how badly the "Green Zone" was run, and how ruinous the Republicans have been.

And, yes, it's been ten years since the foundations were set for the current economic crisis. Sure, the regulatory changes that opened the door for the excesses of Wall Street were made back in the 1990s. But absent all this adventurism, America's fiscal situation would be very, very different, and the Republicans wouldn't have been able to wave the flag in order to silence critics of their broken, oligarchic economic policy. Hell, Bush would have probably have been kicked out of the White House in short order. What a better world it would be.

He should have been kicked out. All this happened on HIS watch. There's more than enough evidence that the ideological fervor of his administration helped blind them to the threat posed by Al Qaeda. Republicans are very good, though, at making people think that they're good at both economics and security when they're utterly terrible at anything but punishing the poor and striking macho poses.  They didn't deserve it, but they got it anyway.

So, ten years later, how is America? America is broke. America is dispirited. America's workers are unemployed, underemployed, or massively overworked. America had to win its "war" only by giving up the idea that it's a "war" at all. America's poor leadership and deluded right-wing economists helped drag down the entire world, to the point of threatening the very existence of the European project.  America's corporations and a tiny ultra-rich minority are doing quite nicely, but nobody else is; America's sinking into the sort of inequality and oligarchy that's normally associated with third-world dictatorships.

Worst of all, ten years later, America's governing plutocrats still won't even pay all of the medical bills of the brave men and women that risked their lives helping people to survive this horrible attack.

Yet there is hope. This has been a terrible decade,  but there is still hope. I still remember how people drew together after the attack. I remember people lining up to give blood to any survivors. I remember the strong national resolve to keep going, and to show that people would not be intimidated by extremist thugs, no matter how they dress. I still remember the times when Americans came together—most recently back in 2008—to say that they wanted a better country. I remember how people bust their asses to try to improve their life and station, and still believe in the American dream of prosperity despite every single piece of evidence in the world telling them otherwise.

Americans should remember that the solution to the current malaise isn't difficult.  Despite the anti-worker rhetoric, it isn't about Americans being lazy or stupid or unskilled. The current recession and stagnation is just the side-effect of a lack of aggregate demand. That's it. It's eminently fixable, too. If Americans come together to rebuild and and improve the infrastructure that lies at the foundation of their economy; if they help their friends, relatives, and neighbours that are currently unemployed; and if they realize that AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE THE JOB-CREATORS, not the plutocrats that have been mismanaging their money, they can bring their country back.

It'll mean that some Americans will need to set aside certain assumptions. "Conservative" doesn't mean "prudent". A government's finances are not that of a household. "Belt-tightening" is not the way to fix an economy. "Stimulus" doesn't mean bank bailouts. You should identify with your fellow citizens, instead of the wealthy plutocrats that are sucking the country dry and sending the wealth offshore. Privacy and civil rights aren't negotiable, no matter how many times someone says the word "War". And, for the love of God, everybody needs to remember that Republican ideologues are terrible at governing and always will be. 

If that can happen, though, then America can move forward. Americans can look back on this horrible past decade as a cautionary tale, and teach their children the lessons they need to learn so that it never, ever happens again. EVER.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Chait's Comedy Gold

So, yeah, Jonathan Chait wrote a howler in the New York Times, where he brought the rank rightish apologias of the National ReviewNew Republic to the Times. It's a typical Chaitesque piece where he talks about how horrible the "Left" is and how they're all delusional and about how everybody that "mattered" thought that Obama's stimulus was huuuuge.

(Yep. That's right. To Chait, Paul Krugman doesn't matter.) The funniest bit, though, comes later. It isn't the bit where he studiously ignores everything that Bush succeeded in pushing through Congress to focus on Social Security, the one bit where he didn't. It wasn't even the bit where he treated Colin Freakin' Powell as some sort of nonpartisan barometer of opinion, when he was one of Bush's Cabinet members. No, the funniest bit has to be the part where he says "In the position of choosing between the agenda he came into office hoping to enact and the short-term imperative of economic rescue, he picked the former."

You may ask "When the hell did he do that? He didn't succeed in winning any Republicans over for health care, and every other significant bit of his agenda either didn't pass or was so watered down as to be unrecognizable." And that's just it: he doesn't say. He did mention cap-and-trade and financial reform, but both are examples that liberals are right about this: his "capital banking" was absolutely useless and unnecessary, because it didn't buy him a damned thing when it came to the point when he started trying to actually pass his agenda. Never mind the Republicans; even his own party members treated him like a supplicant, instead of the leader of their party and the damned President of the United States.

Bush was never, ever treated that way by Republicans, even when they disagreed with him. They weren't that dumb. Tthey knew very well that Bush's people would PUNISH them if they fell out of line. DINOs never had to worry about that. Why would they? The only people that Obama ever punished were the very progressives that Chait so thoroughly and utterly despises.  So the DINOs stomped all over this "agenda", again and again and again, with progressives getting more and more convinced that Obama was either powerless or a closet Republican. Progressives feel that they've been had. Progressives know that they've been had.

It's funny, yes, but it's also somewhat sad.  This isn't the only misrepresentation of progressives' criticism. The whole article is absolutely littered with them. It's a stack of strawmen built so high that satellites may crash into the top layer. Yet I can't help but think that these cartoonish versions of progressives are how Chait actually views us. Everything he writes just reconfirms it, including his submission to the biggest newspaper in America.

I wonder whether it's even his fault. When Washington is so thoroughly, utterly hostile to progressives, when it's a town so thoroughly dominated by the Republicans and their conservative-movement owners, how could he possibly resist it? He probably never even meets progressives. I suspect that, at this point, he just knows us from the stereotypes that he inherits from the Republicans and DINOs around him.

So we get articles like this, where he knocks down strawmen and hopes that nobody notices. It'd be funny...if it weren't so sad.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day

With any luck, more people will be able to call themselves laborers by this time next year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kristof Asks "Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment"?


Maybe if you'd been addressing it as often as your fellow columnist Paul Krugman has, instead of talking about almost every other issue under the sun, people would get the severity of the situation. No such luck.

This has been another "simple answer to stupid questions."

(Edit: And, no, admitting you're "an offender" for asking the wrong question at a Twitter thing doesn't cut it. You've been offensive on this issue for a long, long time.) 

Stay Safe, East Coasters

It looks like Irene got downgraded to a tropical storm, but it's still no joke.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rebels in Tripoli's Central Square

From Al Jazeera:

Euphoric Libyan rebels have moved into the centre of the capital, Tripoli, as Muammar Gaddafi's defenders melted away and thousands of jubilant civilians rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with fighters shooting in the air.

The rebels' surprising and speedy leap forward, after six months of largely deadlocked civil war, was packed into just a few dramatic hours. By nightfall on Sunday, they had advanced more than 32km to Tripoli.

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said from the Green Square: "There's a party in the Libyan capital tonight. The people are in charge of the city. They've decided the square is now called Martyr's Square, the original name. They're shouting 'we're free' and shooting at a poster of Gaddafi."

Green Square had been the site of night rallies by Gaddafi supporters throughout the uprising.

Earlier, the rebel leadership said on Sunday that Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, was arrested in a tourist village in western Tripoli. There was no word on the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself.

US President Barak Obama said Gaddafi must "acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all".

In a statement issued from Martha's Vineyard, where he's vacationing, Obama said: "The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people." He promised to work in close coordination with the rebels and said the US will "continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected."

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed Seif al-Islam had been detained and said the ICC would speak to the rebel National Transitional Council about his transfer to the Hague.

Seif al-Islam, his father and Libya's intelligence chief were indicted earlier this year for allegedly ordering, planning and participating in illegal attacks on civilians in the early days of the violent crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi's eldest son, Mohammed, surrendered to rebel forces and spoke to Al Jazeera shortly afterwards.

In the interview, he took an apologetic tone and said it was a lack of wisdom that caused the revolution and crisis in Libya.

"I've never been a government or security official, however I can tell you the absence of wisdom and foresight is what brought us to here today. Our differences could have been solved easily," he said.

As he spoke though, his house was attacked and shot at and the interview ended with the sound of gunfire.

"I'm being attacked right now," he said. "This is gunfire inside my house, they're inside my house. There is no God but Allah - no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

However, the head of the National Transitional Council later told Al Jazeera that Mohammed was not hurt.

"Neither Mohamed Muammar Gaddafi nor any one of his family was harmed," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. "He will remain in his house, and I guarantee his safety."

There were no confirmed reports about the fate or whereabouts of other members of the Gaddafi family...

...The rebels said they had entered the Green Square near the compound of Gaddafi where his supporters gathered nightly throughout the uprising to rally for their leader of more than 40 years.

Our correspondent said the rebels met little resistance as they moved from the western outskirts into the capital in a dramatic turning of the tides in the six-month-old Libyan civil war.

"Hundreds are on the street, and most of them are armed. Most of these are fighters who came down from the mountains in western areas of Libya. They entered the capital a few hours ago and with the opposition inside the capital, have managed to liberate the city from the government's control," our correspondent said.

"Everyone we have been talking to in Libya say that they want to Gaddafi and his son to pay for their action and for what they accuse them as crimes against humanity.

"People are worried about sleeper cells but cleaning up operations are underway to make sure there are no snipers in the buildings nearby.

"For the people here, Tripoli has fallen and they are in control ... and this is what they have been telling us: 'For years we could not speak, prevented from any sort of freedom whatsoever’.

"People are confident that the government has fallen and they are in control."
Stunning, stunning news.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Google Plus's "Nymwars"

I'm not on Google Plus, for reasons that should be quickly obvious: I use a pseudonym here, I'm very open about using a pseudonym here, and I have no interest in having my blog suspended or worse because of how Google wants to manage their new social networking thing.

But what I'm reading about these "nymwars" is very alarming, because I'm suspecting more and more that it's going to affect Blogger. If it does, then I'll just change the pseudonym to "Demosthenes Jones" or "Demosthenes Smith" or something of the like. I shouldn't have to, though. Pseudonymity is vital.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ehrenreich: "On Turning Poverty into an American Crime"

Barbara Ehrenreich updates Nickled and Dimed for 2011. It's horrifying.

You want to know what America really is? It's stuffing poor people into small apartments like sardines because they can't afford their own space. It's suicide help lines swamped with calls, and suicide rates spiking with those who couldn't be helped. It's people selling raccoon carcasses on the side of the road because it's the only source of food for people in the area. (The guy selling them recommends "marinating them in vinegar and spices") It's people killing squirrels for meat in places where they can't even afford the raccoons.

America is injured workers that can't go on disability because disability insists on an MRI they can't afford. It's people on food stamps only because welfare is now impossible to get, post-Clinton. It's TANF recipients being fingerprinted and interrogated as to the parentage of their children by hostile social workers.

As Ehrenreich said, though, America is mostly about criminalizing the destitute and impoverished, hating and blaming them for their own misery. That hatred motivates the constant suspicions of drug use in low-wage employment. That hatred motivates a legal system that drags ordained ministers out of shelters for the crime of being homeless. That hatred gets homeless activists arrested for feeding "indigents", and pushes places like Phoenix, Arizona to try to use zoning laws to stop churches from serving breakfasts to the desperate.

America is, yes, also about debtor's prisons. It's not called that, of course. But if you can't pay a fine, or if your creditor leans on a judge to get you declared "in contempt of court"? Off you go to jail. If you're a minority, you might not even have to wait until you're in debt, either; your communities have their public funding cut at the same time as law enforcement is redoubled:

In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement. Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too.

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world. Today, exactly the same number of Americans -- 2.3 million -- reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.
Worst of all, as Ehrenreich points out, is that many states are making prisoners pay for their own incarceration, shifting the burden of a broken justice system onto its desperate victims.

Meanwhile, America's richest 1% are wealthier and more powerful than they've ever been in the history of the Republic, and thanks to Citizen's United, they're going to make damned sure that the only voice that voters hear is theirs.

That's your America. Unless you damned well DO something about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Most American's Can't Afford a $1000 Emergency (Plus Bonus Buffet)

From CNNMoney:

When the unexpected strikes, most Americans aren't prepared to pay for it.

A majority, or 64%, of Americans don't have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.

Only 36% said they would tap their rainy day funds for an emergency. The rest of the 2,700 people polled said that they would have to go to other extremes to cover an unexpected expense, such as borrowing money or taking out a cash advance on a credit card.

"It's alarming," said Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the Washington, DC-based non-profit. "For consumers who live paycheck to paycheck -- having spent tomorrow's money -- an unplanned expense can truly put them in financial distress," she noted.

That's the case for Allyson Curtis, 35. "I think about it every day," she said.

Curtis was unemployed for only three months last year, but in that time she accumulated $5,000 in credit card debt that she's now struggling to pay down. In the case of an emergency, Curtis said she would likely postpone other payments and pile on additional debt.

She is already putting off $450 in dental work and a car inspection due to a crack in her windshield, which will cost $300 to replace, she said.
Budgeting for an emergency fund

Many respondents, 17%, said they would borrow money from friends or family. Another 17% said they would neglect other financial obligations -- like a credit card bill or mortgage payment -- in order to free up some funds.

Alternatively, 12% of the respondents said they would have to sell or pawn some assets to come up with $1,000 and 9% said they would need to take out a loan. Another 9% said they would get a cash advance from a credit card, according to the NFCC.

Cunningham finds that particularly troubling. Neglecting other debt obligations -- or worse piling on more debt -- "really exacerbates the problem," she said.

An earlier study by the same organization found that 30% of Americans have zero dollars in non-retirement savings. A separate study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 50% of Americans would struggle to come up with $2,000 in a pinch.
So people are a minor emergency away from financial doom. Good to know.

But, hey, at least the richest people are happy, right? Well, no. Warren Buffett wrote a big ol' piece in the Times talking about how he thinks the current situation is nonsense as well.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent...

...I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.
Many, yes. The problem is that the ones who aren't decent—like, say, the arch-conservative Koch brothers, the Coors family, and Scaife—are expending a ton of time, effort, and money into supporting a whole system of bullshit "free market" think tanks, institutes, media outlets, and other organizations that exist solely to screw the middle class and apologize for their billionaire backers.

Warren, if you want things to change, stop writing Op-Eds and start underwriting groups that counter the destructive influence of your far-right counterparts. Start making sure that progressives have the same sort of influence and reach that conservatives do. Start ensuring that Grover freakin' Norquist isn't the only voice that matters in Washington.

Talk is cheap. You have loads of money, and this is all ABOUT money. You can afford more. So do something about it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


So the Republicans have made their picks, and not surprisingly, they're all nutbar right-wingers:

For the House, it's Jeb Hensarling, Dave Camp, and Fred Upton. For the Senate, it's Jon Kyl, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey.

So how nutty are they? Well, Toomey wants to privatize social security, Henserling called Social Security "a cruel ponzi scheme", Camp wants higher taxes on the poor, and Portman wants to get rid of the Department of Education.

Yep. Jon Kyl is the "not intended to be a factual statement" guy, too.

Meanwhile, Reid's sent in John Kerry, Patty Murray, and Max "DINO" Baucus. All of whom are more than willing to carve up "entitlements" that they have no personal need for or familiarity with.

So, yeah, America's fucked. I just wish it had a President. That'd be nice, wouldn't it?