Saturday, February 11, 2012

We Take Care of Our Own

The Boss' new video of his song, that the other boss is taking on the road for his reelection campaign.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Friday News Roundup

In the headlines: Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi takes on Steven Colbert and his superpac.

Michelle Obama Bests Jimmy Fallon in Tense Competition

 A new biography of Albert Einstein reveals the overrated science geek had to write out his theory of relativity on paper because he was too stupid to invent Microsoft Word. "He had to scrawl everything out by hand, like some dumbo. It's a wonder people could even make heads or tails out of it without simple bullet points and auto-numbering."

An Oklahoma lawmaker introduces a bill defining life at the moment of ejaculation.  "Every sperm is sacred."

And NASA scientists announce that Intelligent, Condescending Life Discovered In Distant Galaxy.  Vulcans probably.

Update: The Friday joke.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Circus Maximus Extremus

The dimensions of Mitt Richie Richney's defeats Tuesday became clearer on Wednesday, and they are big tent circus size.  He not only lost the total contests in Missouri and Minnesota (where he is supported by former Governor Tim Palenta), he lost every county in both states.  He lost in Colorado with 35% of the vote, where he won in 2008 with 60% of the vote.  And turnout was significantly down.

So Wednesday Rick Sanctimonious was in church talking up one of his big issues--he's against birth control.  Not just certain forms of birth control, or the government or insurance companies or employers paying for birth control, or birth control for minors,  He's against birth control.  And because he is against birth control on moral and religious grounds, he wants laws against it.

This is a nation where 99% of the women use birth control, including 98% of Catholic women (for whom it is technically a sin each time they use it, inviting eternal hellfire.)  These are not hyperbolic estimates--these are polling stats.  And here's another: 53% of the votes cast in 2008 were cast by women.   And although I expect the Obama Administration to at least try to find a formula acceptable to the Catholic Church hierarchy, their interpretation that all hospitals etc. including those run by religious institutions serving the general public are required to cover contraceptives in health care plans for employees is also supported by a majority of women, including Catholic women.

Meanwhile, in the ongoing circus called Congress, GOPers are getting themselves in a fight with themselves on this issue, but more to the point, they are again playing political games with the middle class tax cut extension.  After all the claims that they just wanted to get it done, once again they can't get it together.

Hardly surprising then that Congressional approval is at 11%.  Oh, wait, that's an outdated poll number.  It's not 11% anymore.  It's 10%.  When asked in another poll, 43% agreed that a Congress comprised of members selected at random from telephone books would do a better job.  An additional 19% "weren't sure."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Big Bang Theory

Little Ricky shows President Obama how he won three GOPer elections by using his amazing sanctimonious crap gun!  Well, actually it's President Obama visiting the White House Science Fair and getting a demonstration of the amazing marshmallow-shooting gun.  For a video of the gun in action, right here.

Three Ring Circus Sanctimonious

As a taste of primary/caucus nights to come, Tuesday bore results from GOPer presidential contests in three states--and in all three rings stood the same winner: Little Ricky Sanctimonious. 

And at least two of them weren't even close.  Litttle Ricky won Missouri by 30 points over Richney, with Ron St. Paul in third.  It was even worse for Richney in Minnesota where Sanctimonious won handily, and Richney was third--behind Ron St. Paul!  As of this moment, Ricky is also pulling away in Colorado, up by 5 points. 

Some pundits opine that a big loser was Casino Newt, because he didn't enter or campaign in these contests (where no delegates were directly at stake) and Little Ricky has supplanted him as the conservative favorite.  I don't really buy that--any time Richney loses, Gingles is happy: it denies Richney momentum and perhaps delegates.  It remains to be seen if Ricky can compete with Gingles in the southern Super Tues primaries next month. 

But there's no doubt that the biggest loser was Richney.  Mr. Inevitable failed to close the deal in three swing states with his GOPer base.  What that means for the general is debatable.  But what it means for the circus is--the clown shows continue, bigger and badder than before!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Richney Stratagem

How can Richie Richney keep moving farther and farther to the right, and expect to win Independents in a general election?  His favorables are tanking, and as the economy improves, he's losing his central argument.

The answer to the first is that he has to win the nomination to get into the Big Game of the general election.  And like any team getting into such a game, there's always a chance that something unforeseen will happen, and the weaker team will win.  But there's another reason as well.

That reason is Richney's access to money.  It's been estimated that some $18 million has already been spent in the GOPer primaries on negative ads, most of it by Richney.  That of course is more money than most people will see in a lifetime, or in several generations.  And it buys a lot of ads.  But it is insignificant in terms of the amount of wealth that the Richney class has to spend without pain, maybe even without noticing, if he gets into the Big Game. 

They can do it now through a number of ways, most of them involving Superpacs.  Yesterday the Obama campaign announced that it would no longer oppose contributions to Superpacs on its behalf. They see what's coming, and they know they have to be able to play defense.   They see what the Richney strategy is becoming: get into the general election whatever the cost to Richney's public image, and then throw hundreds of millions of dollars into negative ads to demonize Obama, so the only issue will be whether the American people will send Satan back to the White House, or elect the other guy, who they don't know much about but at least he's not Satan.

 Forget the economy, the environment, the non-Richneys, the returning troops, forget everything else except how much hate can be generated against Obama, especially in the last two weeks before the election.  The Richney Stratagem is the best financed hate machine in American history.

Austerity and Stupidity

Family budgets have to balance, at least eventually (the huge credit card debt that American families were carrying contributed to the Great Recession, though it wasn't the major cause.)  Families have few options when the bills are bigger than the paychecks.  Most can do very little about increasing the pay checks. So they have to cut back on spending.

We understand economics on larger scales with this in mind, but it is a flawed comparison in significant ways.  Businesses can increase prices a lot easier than people can increase their pay.  And government can raise taxes.  It's right and proper that citizens expect government to cut back spending if possible rather than raise their taxes.  But that's not really what the tax debate is about anymore, not even globally.

It's about the very rich, led by the banks and the institutions they control, vigorously fighting paying any taxes, let alone just and justifiable taxes, by buying officeholders and manipulating public opinion as well as by other means.  So the U.S. government is running deficits while cutting back spending, at precisely the time that this spending is most needed to stimulate the national economy.  And the same is true elsewhere.  And if this keeps on, we're all going to pay mightily.  Another recession so soon is going to mangle a fragile economy, and further wound government's ability to deal decisively with crisis.

What am I talking about?  Here in the U.S., the cutback in government spending has meant layoffs, which has kept the unemployment rate higher.  The U.S. has had almost two years of private sector job growth, but job losses particularly by state and local governments have continued.  The better but still low growth rate would be much higher if government wasn't slowing the economy down by not employing people, and not spending on infrastructure at even the normal replacement rate.  Employment means people are able to buy stuff, and it doesn't matter where the employment is.  Government jobs are often middle class jobs, and also often employ a fairer mix of races and genders.

  Austerity in this case is stupidity.  Not only does the economy require the multiplier effect of government investment in what we need done anyway, but the jobs that are being shed include police, firefighters and first responders--which hurts everyone in the present--and teachers as well as educational institutions, which hurts the future, and the ability of the country to prosper.  Failure to invest in infrastructure, emergency prepardedness, public health, are all bills that will come suddenly due in the worst possible circumstances.  Just in dollars alone, the Congressional Budget Office has calculated how the economy is going to be depressed by less government spending.

Why this austerity?  Politically, it has come down to a now very obvious protection racket for the rich.  All that is required, in many of the states as well as on the federal level, is fairer taxes of the very wealthy and the very very very wealthy.  Now a tax increase for less than 1% of the population would seem an easy decision for the 99% to make.  But that 1% owns the banks and major corporations, including the media.  It funds the economics departments and business schools, the sweet conferences and perks for academic economists, the outrageously paid speaking gigs for failed politicans, not to mention the lobbying public relations firms and think tanks, and now the Superpacs.

Austerity is out to destroy the U.S. economy and therefore its social cohesion in another way.  Right now Europe is going through its economic crisis, and the big banks that control that economy are insisting on government austerity.  So governments shed jobs and stop buying as much from the private sector, unemployment goes up, people have less money to spend, and the economy spirals down.  

And the situation is particularly bad in Greece.    "The Troika" -- the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the European Central Bank -are insisting on severe austerity, not only in government spending, but in the country, including slashing the minimum wage by 25%.  Greece is already reeling from past austerity measures.  This is the prescription by which the IMF and the World Bank has ruined economies throughout the world, increasing their debt.  These are the Shock Treatments that are central to the Shock Doctrine as N. Klein describes  it in her book.

But this time the shock is apt to be felt in North America.  Greece is facing another default crisis in March.  If the troika doesn't back off its ruinous austerity demands, the ripples will be quickly felt here, and the U.S. economic recovery could be over.  It's a moment very much like just before a war starts.  It's much easier to start a war than to stop one, as we've found to our considerable pain.  It's like that with a global economic crisis.  The default of Greece, or European crisis generally, is one of two predictable threats to American recovery (the other is war involving Iran.)  And like most tragedies, we're walking into this one with minds closed and eyes wide open.        

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Climes They Are A-Changin

The weather is fine.  Creepy fine.  Our North Coast rainy season so far has amounted to about a week, instead of 3 months.  Sunday in Arcata was as warm as it "normally" gets in summer, but sunnier. 

It's been like that elsewhere in the U.S., where winter hasn't happened.

Meanwhile in Europe it's unusually and in some cases catastrophically cold.  Italy is colder than "normal," the UK got a sudden big snowstorm, but the worst is central Europe.  The Ukraine has seen temps dip to 33 below, and more than 130 resulting deaths have so far been counted.

Some folks, even some in the media, have noticed that climate scientists predicted this kind of thing as a result of global heating. Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

But I'll bet some are also wondering what I'm wondering: if it's this warm in February, what's it going to be like in July?