Saturday, November 17, 2012

My city was gone

David Cay Johnston was on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd about how companies gouge and steal from government and individuals alike by out-and-out cheating and lying.

Here's an illustrative story for one of the things Jay and David talked about: "Why Cell Phones Went Dead After Hurricane Sandy".

Over in Seattle, a Socialist candidate scored 28% of the vote in a State House race - which is no small thing!

Occupy Debt: Occupy's Rolling Jubilee buys $100,000 worth of medical debt - to tear up the IOUs.

Sam Seder interviewed David Graeber on The Majority Report, Occupy Debt.

It would appear that unions are putting the pressure on to try to protect social insurance from our party leaderships. (Also: Jesus but Rahm Emanuel is a creep!)

Just before the election I was talking to an ordinary confused voter about the standard deduction, and realized that he didn't know what it was. My friend is a tax-payer, he's an American who has worked for many years and filled out his forms, but he didn't know that the line where he gets to subtract a little money from his income before he has to calculate what he owes the government is called "the standard deduction" and means he's allowed to make that amount of money before he has to start paying taxes on the rest. Maybe this is something you should talk to your friends about. I remember asking a few years ago what the current standard deduction was and got no answer, and now I wonder if anyone knew what I was talking about. I had to google around to find my answer. But maybe I should have explained when I was talking about it before. Wikipedia: "When Congress enacted Section 151 of the Internal Revenue Code, it did so believing that a certain level of income, 'personal exemptions', should not be subject to the federal income tax. Congress reasoned that the level of income insulated from taxation under §151 should roughly correspond to the minimal amount of money someone would need to get by at a subsistence level (i.e., enough money for food, clothes, shelter, etc.)." In 1913, that amount was calculated to be $3,000, equivalent to $57,000 in 2005 dollars. The current standard exemption is $3,800, which is, you know, $3,800 in 2012 dollars, not even remotely enough to live on.

I spent the morning bringing myself down over at Ian Welsh's place, where I found him, among other things, predicting - with horrible believability - the future we are facing, in two articles, "The Left Wing Case Against Obama and Obama's Next Term, written pre-election, and his post-election "Reality about America's Future". I think he's right and I hope others will take heed: Just aside from wrecking what's left of our economy, Obama's Grand Bargain will not only revive the GOP but pretty much destroy the Democratic Party as an institution that can even pretend to have any relevance to We, the People.
Ian also mentions the response critics made to Matt Stoller's "The Progressive Case Against Obama" and to Matt's response to those critics in "Why is the left defending Obama?" In the second piece, Matt refers to detractors who evade his arguments, and links (as an aside) to one piece by Glenn Greenwald in which we see details of, well, the reason you don't see me linking to Balloon Juice much. It's in one of Glenn's "Various items" posts, so there are a number of other subjects mentioned, one of which is a talk he gave on the idea that some wars are "just" wars because they are fought for "humanitarian reasons". In that talk, Glenn points out that this excuse always accompanies calls to war.

You know things are bad if I'm citing Matt Bai, but: "Will Obama Agree to Entitlement Cuts? He Already Has."

Meanwhile, Robert Reich indulges a fantasy of Obama doing right by the country, but he's not dreaming big enough, and anyway, Obama doesn't want to save the American economy, so he won't pay any attention whatsoever.

Fiscal Cliff Scare Talk Follows Shock Doctrine Script

Naomi Klein on Bill Moyers: Hurricanes, Capitalism & Democracy

Yes, Virginia, There are Poorhouses, and Scrooge Would be Proud of Them

Since I don't watch a lot of this stuff on TV, I hadn't realized how ridiculous Petreus looked. Maybe it doesn't startle you like it does me, but it really does look weird to me. Meanwhile, Jeremy Scahill says, "The problem with Petraeus isn't what he did with Paula Broadwell." And, of course the real story is right here.

Our hearts were broken by the story of how Savita Halappanavar died in an Irish hospital because the doctors refused to take the action that would save her life. Roz Kaveney wrote a "Sonnet for Savita".

Saw Harry Shearer on Have I Got News For You the other night, which delighted me. Then KS put the link in comments for Harry Shearer's B-Rock's Grand Bargain Barn! And for his interview with Stephanie Kelton of the Levy Institute. Great stuff.
"HARRY SHEARER: (laughs) The other half of that. What's happening to our grandchildren? Who's doing what to our grandchildren?
STEPHANIE KELTON: Well, we're not doing them any favors at the moment, that's for sure. Cutting education, laying off teachers, letting our infrastructure fall into disrepair to the tune of, you know, $2.2 trillion, and a D rating overall. I mean, we're not leaving them a whole lot to be proud of., in energy and environment and any number of things, and a, you know, retirement system, Social Security, the cuts that they - the programs that may not be there for them when they need them and so forth. So we make all of these choices and the excuse is always, 'Well, we'd love to do better but we can't afford it.' Because we don't understand our own monetary system. We think the dollar comes from China.

The Democratic governor of my state is a neoliberal nitwit.

Game of Thrones [Food Trucks]: Chicago's Mobile Vendors in an Epic Food Fight

If you didn't watch it before, watch The Final Presidential Debate: Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.

American Extremists: "How does a racist bill pass?"

Five photos that sparked body image debates

I've always found it slightly bizarre that this song is theme to Rush Limbaugh's show. Can't help the feeling he wouldn't much get along with Chrissie Hynde.


  1. On understanding taxes -- talking to about five politically active friends of the "we have to keep voting for Democrats" variety, I said that everybody pays taxes and that Republicans are successful in demonizing the working poor because everyone thinks it's some other people who aren't paying taxes; they see the FICA deductions from their own pay, and think it's income tax. This is a pretty common observation, and I think a mainstream Democratic talking point. None of the five understood what FICA was. They thought "payroll" tax meant a tax on your pay, so that's income tax! These are actually bright, knowledgeable people, who simply haven't paid attention to the details of tax jargon.

    Mass politics fail when it all becomes about technical details of the law rather than continued pushing for decent outcomes.

  2. The odd history of that song, Ms. Hynde, and RL.

    I knew from the standard deduction--I've taken it every year--but I hadn't realized it was pegged to 1913 prices. That wouldn't cover my rent.

  3. A clarification about taxes: The standard deduction and the personal exemption are two different things.

    On a regular Form 1040 for tax year 2011 (the one filed in April 2012), the standard deduction is taken on line 40. It's $5800 for a single person and $11,600 for a couple filing jointly. The personal exemption is taken on line 42 and is $3700 per person. That's oversimplified because there are various particular cases, but it's to make the point they are two different things and two different amounts and yes, you take both - so a single person gets $9500 taken off their income with a couple gets $19,000.

    1. And if there are dependents in your household, you get additional personal exemptions for them as well. Thus a married couple with two children get $26,400.

    2. True. None of this, of course, contradicts Avedon's original point that the deductions available to ordinary taxpayers have not kept up with inflation, only that the difference isn't as bad as may have appeared.

  4. Greetings from Chuck County, Maryland, Avedon! Jet lagged as I am, my entire family sleeping, I even have time to read the news.

    Anyway, I recommend Ian's

    1. (ks until I saw that I could be confused with the ks posting comments at Ian Welsh)

      I like Jeff Faux's attitude better - realistic but ready for a fight.

      Terrorized by the prospect of a complete takeover of the U.S. government by right-wing reactionaries—progressive Democrats swallowed their unhappiness with Barack Obama throughout the campaign. They gamely defended his policies on the economy, health care, budget priorities and other issues on which they felt betrayed in his first term. We’ve now dodged the bullet of a Mitt Romney White House, so let’s get back to reality.
      If this time is to be different, progressive Democrats must start mobilizing their own agenda now. And the first step is to face the truth about the record of the president we have just re-elected. Here’s an initial reality check:
      The stakes for Democrats are also high. Obama’s victory has reinforced the widespread notion among pundits that the projected future increase in the non-white voting population and the party’s advantage with women already makes it the favorite for 2016 and beyond. But it is precisely these constituencies that economic stagnation has hit the hardest. Whatever the demographic changes, if the Democratic Party produces another four years like the last four, it can kiss goodbye to the next election and probably several after that.

      I think it was unnecessary and demoralizing for union bosses and bloggers like Dave Johnson & Digby to devote their megaphones to partisan hating on Romney instead of simply making an honest case for voting for an awful incumbent, but they did, and progressives have to deal with it without giving in to despair.

  5. It struck me as weird, pre-election, when the claim came up about US Citizens who didn't pay Income Tax. I know the systems differ in the USA and the UK, but all I could figure was that the rich were trying to pull a fast one, by not talking about the system of deductions from wages, and setting up the conditions to "do a Galt" and get away with it.

    It is said that bank robbers rob banks "because that's where the money is". The same principle applies to taxing the rich. And they want us to think that we are not paying income tax. And a lot of people don't seem to understand the most basic elements. I think the scum like that ignorance.

    We in the UK did have some crazy maximum rates of tax, back in the 1960s. If ordinary people managed the steal the billions in tax that are legally avoided, personal and corporate, they'd never be let out of jail. Looking at the last year or so, can any of us honestly claim that the jail is not creeping out of the prisons to encompass us all?

  6. as a person with a great deal of experience in the food industry, i find the food truck arguments fascinating. i can see both sides, frankly. it probably isn't totally 'fair' to make a B&M food dispensary pay 10 or 20x in fees and taxes what a food dispensary on wheels pays to deliver the same or similar product. otoh, food trucks didn't destroy the B&M establishments in any city where they've popped up, including the small one i just left.

    a truly free market can probably contain both. there are times when a customer wants shade, the ability to plant her ass in the cool/warmth of a building, and buy an alcoholic drink. there are also times when a consumer wants fast food, but not the poisoned garbage that currently serves as fast "food" and is available in busy markets. i for one like knowing i can go to a food truck taqueria instead of "taco bell" and get more and better food for almost the same low price and speed of service.

    anyway, that youtube is brilliant, in terms of design and marketing. i hope hbo doesn't get all up in their shit about it.

  7. predictably, the body image article was mostly about naked white women. ironically the only dood in it was the one with one leg removed; phallus symbolism anyone? yes, these images shocked people like my mother. meanwhile, zillions of much more shocking, and emotionally and psychologically significant images are traded daily, by billions, via the internet.

    that essay is a study in how the dead tree/establishment media fails to understand how little influence it really has and how that is shrinking by the minute.

  8. From SFGate:

    Nicole Derse, who managed [San Francisco Supervisor Eric] Mar's campaign, has signed on with Team Obama to put pressure on California's House members to stand behind whatever plan the president ultimately picks.

    It's going to be just like health care.