Monthly Archives: October 2011

If only we’d sent the Marines in . . .

I honestly will never understand these people:

One of the problems I have with “leading from behind” is that when a day like this comes, we don’t have the infrastructure in place that we could have. I’m glad it ended the way it did. It took longer than it should have. If we could have kept American air power in the fight it would have been over quicker. Sixty-thousand Libyans have been wounded, 3,000 maimed, 25,000 killed. Let’s get in on the ground. There is a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya.  Lot of oil to be produced. Let’s get on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles.

Iraq was the model you know. And that worked so well.

Something our Civil War didn’t change . . .

In the 1860’s, the South had largely ignored the Industrial Revolution – they didn’t need all those fancy new machine things because they (the ruling class and aristocracy) owned many people to do the work. (And those poor whites? They were invisible.)

Then the slaves were freed – and the South found it was dirt poor. That was 150 years ago. But look . . .

Percentage of people in poverty in last 12 months

 

I like this place

Teh busy is easing up at last. Friday oldie is forthcoming (it’s Thursday, isn’t it. Yikes. Again.)

Meanwhile, a ‘like’ on my last post just led me to Psilomelane. Stop by for some fascinating miscellany. It’s fun. I especially liked this:

He’s not giving up.

Ever.

Anti-choice Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) just filed an anti-choice amendment to a bill related to agriculture, transportation, housing, and other programs. The DeMint amendment could bar discussion of abortion over the Internet and through videoconferencing, even if a woman’s health is at risk and if this kind of communication with her doctor is her best option to receive care.

Under this amendment, women would need a separate, segregated Internet just for talking about abortion care with their doctors.

Glad someone else noticed

I just heard eternal prom date Howard Fineman (doesn’t he always look so pleased and relieved just to be on camera?)  say that the debaters last night, specifically Romney and Perry, acted like they were in a boxing match.

That’s exactly the way CNN wanted it, so we can say they succeeded I guess.

Jared Bernstein in the Washington Post today had a harsh word for the hosts:

“. . . . the debate had a clear loser, and it was Anderson Cooper and CNN . . “

I think he’s too kind to CNN; Cooper didn’t chose himself to moderate the debate.

 

Ummm . . .

Where was Jon Hunstman?

CNN is a disgrace but here’s some live blogging, sorta

They’re cheapening the process of choosing nominees for the office of President of the United States perhaps beyond redemption.  It is now The Gladiator. Or perhaps The Running Man.

Nice job creeps.

UPDATE: Watching it now in spite of the irritating format . . . the fellows are very testy tonight and Michelle will build a big fence all the way around and she promises by golly to do it.  They’re doing a great job of tearing each other down. The Republican establishment, if it still exists, is surely having the vapors by now.

UPDATE 2: This is so strange a debate that Newt and Ron Paul coming acrross as the most sane.

UPDATE 3: Strangest of all? Perry appears to have finally taken his meds and is finishing his sentences. I still expect his battery to run down before 10pm.

UPDATE 4: Ohhh, Perry’s tossing out a bold new idea! The UN!!! Bad!!!

UPDATE 5: Gingrich just explained that it didn’t matter that Reagan negotiated (arms) for hostages because the Gipper said later that he didn’t know he’d done it. So, okay.

UPDATE 6: How does Romney get away with saying “having spent my life in the private sector” over and over again? Wasn’t he a Governor? Didn’t he run for Senate? I must mis-remember.

UPDATE 7: Perry/Romney facing off. I am so scared.

UPDATE 8: Newt decided there was some benefit (?) in scholding Anderson for fomenting bickering. Huh?

And it’s over. Yet again.

Entitlement my poptart . . . we paid for it!

Stipulated: The average American worker contributed to their Social Security and their employer did as well; that contribution totaled 15% of  income before taxes.

These figures below reflect the 49 years worked by the man who made these calculations. Punch in your own numbers.

  • If you averaged $30K/year over your working life, the 15% contribution is $4500 a year.
  • Over 49 years, that adds up to nearly $220,500 total cash contribution.
  • If you calculate the future value of $4,500 per year  at a simple 5%, after 49 years of working you’d have $892,919.98.
  • If you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last better than 30 years.

(h/t friend Ed)

Ahhh, remember the Masters of the Universe?

Such good times, eh Mitt?

Maher’s writers write signs

7 billion of us now. Better than 9 billion

This month, the population of Planet Earth will reach seven billion. That’s a lot of people. Here’s a quick look at recent history.

  • 1800     900 million
  • 1900     1.6 billion (added 700 million in 100 years)
  • 1950     2.4 billion (added 2 billion in 50 years)
  • 1980     5.1 4.4 billion (added 2 billion in 30 years)
  • 2000     6 billion (added 1.3 1.6 billion in 20 years )
  • 2011      7 billion (added 1 billion  in 11 years)

Until very recently we were headed for population Armageddon; in the 1970’s demographers began sounding an alarm about what they saw in their projections. And we very likely would have gotten to that awful place, but for one thing. Contraception. In the last 20 years, access has spread worldwide in spite of the religious resistance (from Christians here in the US and from large segments of the  Muslim world). Women embraced birth control; lower birth rates led to better nutrition, more education and ultimately increased prosperity, which itself is a factor in containing population growth.

Science. Good.

More Sunday funnies and still not funny.

Thanks Don in Mass

As it always was . . .

Just added these to my QUOTES page:

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a
shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.     John Adams

I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.                                                                                                                      Will Rogers

Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.                            Anonymous

There is no distinctly Native American criminal class…save Congress.                                                                                         Mark Twain

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.                                                                                                         Aesop

Sunday funnies, except not so funny

?? This.

THIS, THIS, THIS. (from Dependable Renegade)

A thousand times, this. From The Reformed Broker, a reality-based One Percenter:

In 2008, the American people were told that if they didn’t bail out the banks, their way of life would never be the same. In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it!

At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done.

The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen. But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The banks didn’t seize this opportunity, this second chance to re-enter society as a constructive agent of commerce. Instead, they went back to business as usual. With $20 billion in bonuses paid during 2009. Another $20 billion in bonuses paid in 2010. And they did this with the profits they earned from zero percent interest rates that actually acted as a tax on the rest of the economy.

Instead of coming back and working with this economy to get back on its feet, they hired lobbyists by the dozen to fight tooth and nail against any efforts whatsoever to bring common sense regulation to the financial industry. Instead of coming back and working with the people, they hired an army of robosigners to process millions of foreclosures. In many cases, without even having the proper paperwork to evict the homeowners.

. . .  but millions of Americans are in a living hell. This is why they’re enraged, this is why they’re assembling, this is why they hate you. Why for the first time in 50 years, the people are coming out in the streets and saying, “Enough.”

Friday oldie

Not unbloggy, just that this week has been chewing me up like bad scenery. A convergence of obligations that isn’t likely to slow down till the middle of next week. And Orhan is going to be traveling . . . ergo, blogging will remain light.

But Friday is Friday. After all. So here are the Teddy Bears; this one is kind of lame but has a place in musical history because one of the original Teddy Bears was Phil Spector, who went on to an outsize career as an R&R impressario. But that was before he shot his girlfriend. So Phil is singing in prison these days.

Zuccotti Park

POSTED BY ORHAN

Whatever happens now to the grand experiment in authentic democracy that is #OccupyWallStreet, much has been achieved.

For those who experienced the hierarchy-free and consensus-based direct democracy of the General Assemblies, saw and lived the little anarchist society, based on mutual aid rather than personal profit, built with love and sweat on a tiny strip of land–we no longer believe another world is possible, we know it. For us normal existence under capitalism–existence for the accumulation of wealth and power–no longer holds any fascination; like the mummy exposed to fresh air, it disintegrates, leaving only emptiness.

#OccupyWallStreet is under attack, and its physical manifestation will not stand. It is under attack by the Right; by the Liberal establishment–ostensibly Left–to whom #OWS is as dangerous as it is to the Right; by the political class, obsolete when a people think and decide for themselves; and most of all, by the corporate elites who stand above Left and Right, pulling the puppet-strings in the shadow-play called American politics.

So tomorrow, we keep going. Howard Zinn wrote the following lines for moments like these, and they never seemed more meaningful:

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.

The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Update: Friday morning from the NY Times:

The cleanup of the Lower Manhattan park that has been occupied by protesters for nearly a month was canceled Friday shortly before it was supposed to begin, averting a feared showdown between the police and demonstrators who had vowed to resist any efforts to evict them from their encampment.

The announcement was made by the Bloomberg administration around 6:20 a.m., about 40 minutes before workers were scheduled to enter Zuccotti Park, which has been the home base for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators angered by what they see as an unfair and corrupt financial system.

Lech Walesa: one of my heroes

Leading his 'mob'

The union organizer who led the movement that overthrew Soviet communism in his native Poland 30 years ago, whose actions signaled the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, is coming to New York to support Occupy Wall Street.

. . . to show his support for the  Occupy Wall Street protesters.

“How could I not respond,” Walesa told a  Polish newspaper Wednesday. “The thousands of people gathered near Wall Street  are worried about the fate of their future, the fate of their country. This is  something I understand.”

. . . Walesa said “capitalism is in  crisis” and not just in America.

“This is a worldwide problem,” he told  the Lublin-based Dziennik Wschodni newspaper. “The Wall Street protesters have  focused a magnifying glass on the problem.”

. . . A staunch anti-communist and former Polish president who helped steer his  country to a free market economy, Walesa . . .  has warned of a “worldwide  revolt against capitalism” if the Wall St. protests are ignored.

They are  protesting the “unfairness” of an economy that enriches a few and “throws the  people to the curb,” he said in a recent interview.

Oh. Great.

We really need this?

Pitch perfect

Tom Toles today in The Washington Post

Americans, bah! It’s not what the oligarchy wants

From Bloomberg:

More than two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say wealthier people should pay more in taxes to bring down the budget deficit, and even larger numbers think Medicare and Social Security benefits should be left alone. . . .

More than 8 out of 10 Americans say the middle class will have to make financial sacrifices to cut the federal deficit even as the public just as strongly opposes higher taxes on middle-income families, according to a Bloomberg-Washington Post national poll conducted Oct. 6-9.

“While Americans see sacrifice as inevitable for the middle-class, the only sacrifice to win majority support is a tax on those too wealthy to be considered middle-class,” says J. Ann Selzer, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which consults with Bloomberg News on polls.

By the way, tonight’s Republican debate will be broadcast only on Bloomberg.

Why I am going back to bed

I got two hours of sleep last night and I’m too old for that to be okay. So I was up much earlier than usual and at 6:00 am I turned on the TV for Morning Joe, which I rarely watch but what the hell else is on at 6am.

Cable box went out. I did the routine, unplugged, checked connections, gave it time, waited out the interminable Comcast reboot process. And the cable box went out.

Called Comcast. Spent 29 minutes (I timed it) on the phone (19 on hold). Their service reps are usually pretty good and even helpful, but the guy this morning must have been having a bad hair day. Eventually he sent a reset signal. And the cable box went out.  Need new box.This is the third time. All recordings will be lost. First service availability is Sunday; six days without service. Unacceptable. Comcast clearly hasn’t enough personnel to service their customers (and, I assume, really doesn’t care because in my area they’re all there is). I will rip the box from it’s hidey hole and carry it to Comcast. Where there will be a long line. I will try not to cry.

In my email this morning I find a dangerous dispute underway amongst my fellow Trustees (very local Endowment Trust). Beyond disagreement. This is not going to be pleasant and threatens to undo eight years of work. I will not think about it any more today. Tomorrow perhaps.

Also in my email this morning: Verizon tells me I’ve exceeded my monthly contract allowance on my cell and minutes are now being charged at a rate I’d rather not know about. But! But! “My account” at their website says no, no, not at all. Usage is in fact down. I must deal with Verizon. Which is best done in person and is possible because there’s a friendly store nearby. But I’m pissed anyway.

Am meeting my brother and his wife for lunch. Haven’t seen them since May, during which time I’ve lost quite a bit of weight which has made me feel great and look good! But we all know about odd family dynamics, right? When I got up this morning, I found that I’ve gained 20 pounds since last night.

And then. And then. Dear Elvis, and then I picked up my morning paper.

  • U.N. says Afghans torture detainees

KABUL, Afghanistan — Detainees are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, and in some cases their genitals are twisted until the prisoners lose consciousness at sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police, according to a United Nations report released here on Monday.

  • Gov. Scott targets university funding – not a disaster in itself; like most things it all ‘depends’. But:

Scott said that Rick Perry — the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate — planted higher education reform in the Florida governor’s mind when the two met shortly after Scott’s election.

“He said, ‘I’ve got this plan in Texas, you ought to look at it,’” Scott recalled.

Perry was referring to the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” policy paper created by Texas businessman Jeff Sandefer. A successful entrepreneur and energy investor, Sandefer also taught business classes part-time at the University of Texas until the school began hiring more full-time tenured professors.

Sandefer became an outspoken critic of state universities, particularly the system for promoting faculty. Tenure, critics say, places too much emphasis on research. To be promoted, faculty must publish original work. As a result, they spend less time in the classroom and often delegate teaching to graduate students.

(Ahhh. Inspiration from a State with the worst education record in the country. Way to go gov.)

  • Foreign plants and insects have slipped undetected into the US since 9/11, as customs agents were re-assigned to anti-terrorism, causing in some cases, devastating damage. It’s cost hundreds of millions – especially in CA and FL – in lost crops and higher grocery prices.

I don’t expect tomorrow will be any better.

Wonder if this will make the air?

FOX News poll here

#OccupyWallStreet – Alan Grayson schools P.J. O’Rourke

POSTED BY ORHAN
Grayson superbly summarizes the #OWS grievances. And O’Rourke summarizes what has become the mainstream criticism, from both Left and Right:

Before the day is over . . . happy birthday

Friend Shep reminded me . . . John Lennon would have been 71 today.

Not hippies. Not anarchists. People.

While most media focuses on the dirty f*cking hippies, here’s the emerging face of Occupy Wall Street as it spreads around the country. This is from Thursday, here in SW Florida (another is scheduled for Monday, the 10th).

London is gearing up for the 15th. That one is expected to pretty big. Some promotional posters (h/t David):

#OccupyWallStreet – Demands

POSTED BY ORHAN

The MSM continues to ridicule #OWS for not having a specific list of demands. The absence of demands, and consequent absence of a divide-and-conquer target, that’s driving the media into such a tizzy is not specifically a “tactic”, but, as far as I can tell, is a byproduct of the radical democratic process being practiced by the General Assemblies (nicely described by Matt Stoller).

Here is the closest thing I’ve found to an “official” statement on demands from The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a paper published and distributed by #OWS:

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

So it appears #OWS is specifically addressing the anger of the majority of Americans at the power, arrogance, and lack of accountability enjoyed by the coterie of the richest 1%, and the marginalization, disempowerment, and impoverishment of the remaining 99%–and doing it in a way that is “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based”, which most people–let alone members of the political class–find it almost impossible to wrap their heads around.

When I visited Zuccotti Park today, there were some very tense cops trying to keep everyone within the bounds of the metal pens they had set up, but the park is just too small for the number of people occupying it. A second Manhattan General Assembly was scheduled to meet in Washington Square Park this afternoon; I wonder how Mayor Bloomberg will deal with the growth.

He’s obviously expecting the onset of winter to disperse the crowds without police action, but if the “contagion” (as our pundits called the Arab occupations of public spaces) spreads, there will be more demand for him to take forceful action, even if he feels otherwise. What I find interesting about Bloomberg is that he’s a One Percenter with tremendous overt political power, who also owns and controls a massive media machine.

As I stood inside, the park was surrounded by gawkers and tourists slowly filing by. The cops were telling the passers-by, “Take your pictures and move on, there are other people behind you”. Now #OWS seems to be a tourist spot somewhat more popular than the new World Trade Center, two blocks due north.

Still rebuilding Iraq. The US can wait.

Those cranes would be welcome in my home town

Our ‘embassy’ in Baghdad opened in 2009. We call it an embassy, but it’s really a small city behind enormous blast walls and protected by thousands of troops and contractors. It’s entirely independent of Baghdad itself, and has its own power plants, water supply and waster water treatment facilities.  There are 21 stand alone buildings.

It is larger than Vatican City. It is larger than Disney World. And up to now security has been the responsiblity of the US Department of Defense.  That ends soon and all tasks, including security, are to be turned over to the US State Department.

The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military, throwing up buildings and marshalling contractors in its biggest overseas operation since the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.

While attention in Washington and Baghdad has centered on the number of U.S. troops that may remain in Iraq, they will be dwarfed by an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division.

I certainly understand that appearances matter – a diplomatic presence is less hostile than a military presence. It’s friendlier. And that’s a good thing.  But come on . . . !

The list of responsibilities the State Department will pick up from the military is daunting. It will have to provide security . . . in a country that is still rocked by daily bombings and assassinations. State is contracting a security force of about 5,000.

. . . The State Department will operate its own air service — the 46-aircraft Embassy Air Iraq — and its own hospitals . . .  4,600 contractors, mostly non-American, will provide cooking, cleaning, medical care and other services. Rounding out the civilian presence are about 4,600 people scattered over 10 or 11 outside sites.

I wonder what the budget is?

Krauthammer was good and I am not off my meds

In my paper this morning came a Charles Krauthammer column that at first made me laugh out loud. It’s an elegant and beautifully written (and felt) column about . . . neutrinos. He began with a joke that is circulating on the internet:

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” said the bartender.

A neutrino walks into a bar.

The column talks about the announcement by the European high-energy physics consortium, CERN, that they’d discovered a particle that travels faster-than-light.

. . . The implications of such a discovery are so mind-boggling, however, that these same scientists immediately requested that other labs around the world try to replicate the experiment. . . .

. . . But if quantum mechanics was a challenge to human sensibilities, this pesky Swiss-Italian neutrino is their undoing. It means that Einstein’s relativity — a theory of uncommon beauty upon which all of physics has been built for 100 years — is wrong . . . deeply, fundamentally, indescribably wrong.

It means that the “standard model” of subatomic particles that stands at the center of all modern physics is wrong. . .  This will not just overthrow physics. Astronomy and cosmology measure time and distance in the universe on the assumption of light speed as the cosmic limit. Their foundations will shake as well.

This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies.

Why? Because we can’t have neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered.

A brief and comprehensible read of what this means, for those who, like me, are scientifically illiterate.

(He didn’t mention that it could have been a US discovery had not the high particle accelerator under construction in Texas in the 90’s – which would have been the world’s largest – been cancelled by Congress in ’93. Too expensive you know. Who could afford $12billion – of which we’d already spent a few billion – when we needed a half a trillion to keep the old defense industry building already-outdated aircraft and weapons?)

God doesn’t hate just fags; seems he hates Steve Jobs too

That old Westboro Baptist Church gang are so amusing! But I do think it’s time we  start frisking them. And Margie? Whatcha wanna bet that middle name is Jesus?