Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keep on Turnin'

Bernie Sanders and Harry Reid have sent a letter, co-signed by 27 other US Senators, saying they oppose any cuts in Social Security to future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package. (Don't know what the qualifier is at the end for.) Here's the letter. Look for your Senators' signatures. If they signed it, thank them. If they didn't, let them know you won't be voting for them unless you see their signature there.

"Support the undeserving poor" is a post well worth reading, although it leaves out the fact that giving "the undeserving poor" money also means they will be spending money, which means creating demand and thus creating jobs. I also liked this comment from the ensuing thread:

A point not made often enough is that "finding a job" isn't like "hunting a deer" or "planting a garden."

Finding a job actually consists of persuading an entity (another person or a corporation) to give you money in exchange for some effort on your part. There are things you can do to increase your chances, but in the end it isn't your decision. If the effort you have to offer is of no interest to such an entity, you're out of luck.

In addition, if the only entities who are hiring have decided to offer their employees a wage less than what they need to survive, or (nearly as bad,) a wage less than the lifetime needs of their workers (which is roughly 2x the cost of immediate needs) then to work for them is to effectively sell your "stock", your effort, below cost.

No business which is forced to sell below cost can survive, so why would anyone expect people to do so?

When charities and governments step in to make up the gap, through food banks and other supports, this is a subsidy to business. Not a metaphor, a real subsidy.


(This made me think about that idea of "running government like a business", too: What business would refuse to use it's purchasing power for negotiating prices on an enormous buy like Medicare Part D?)

It's possible that even Kevin Drum is beginning to suspect that we won't get "the other half of 'Simpson-Bowles'", since he's actually asking the question at all. Of course, you know the answer already, but just in case, Atrios spells it out.
And a word from the wise: "As I've said before, I used to be a bit more optimistic about the government giving goodies to older people, as older people vote and the baby boomers are hitting that age. I was worried about privatization, as that's something which could've been successfully marketed long enough to ram it through, but otherwise I thought things would be fine. Dean Baker offers an explanation for why the hell the Democrats aren't running on a plan to double or triple Social Security benefits. Might be true. Still, they'd better consider doing it or the other party might get the idea to do it. Running on a plan to do it doesn't mean actually doing it, of course, but....

Papantonio, "Merck Puts Profits Over Patient Safety: "The pharmaceutical industry has one of the scariest business models of any corporation. Before they release a drug to the American public, they found out how many people could potentially be harmed from that drug, and how much they will have to pay out in lawsuits. And as long as the profits of that company would exceed the losses from lawsuits, they will happily release harmful drugs to consumers. Mike Papantonio talks about a few examples of some of the most dangerous drugs on the market today with Martha Rosenberg, author of the new book Born With a Junk Food Deficiency."

Black Agenda Report
Harold Green: "African Americans have lost a great deal in the last four years: more Black household wealth has vanished than at any time in history, for example. Even more disastrously, Black America may have lost its moral and political moorings. 'With Barack Obama at the helm, we seem not to be concerned about continuing our legacy of resistance and fighting for justice.' We risk becoming complicit in the most heinous crimes against humanity."
Jamel Mims, "Stop-and-Frisk Should be on Trial, Not Us."
Bruce Dixon, "The War Against 'Excessive Pensions' For Govt Workers Is War Against Black Families, Prosecuted by Our Black Elite."
Glen Ford, "Obama and Romney: Brothers of the Same Imperial Lodge"

What I still want to know about these curious documents was why they were found in a meth house.

Empty chairs and missing signs in Ohio.

Good gosh, this looks like it might be a real presidential debate.
You gotta wonder how Romney was ever elected in Massachusetts.

This is just MoveOn being partisan, but it's still lots of fun - A Message from The Greatest Generation - audio is definitely not work-safe. (via)

"The Island Where People Forget to Die" - I read stuff like this and want to live there, even though I know I'd get bored really fast. But it does seem like a lovely way to live.

Bellflower, Part One - celebrating 10 years of the 'Verse. (via)

Ike & Tina Turner, "Proud Mary", 1971


  1. Hi Avedon. Lambert's had the 12 word platform on his sidebar for a while now, and the jobs guarantee part gets at Noni's point. If government guaranteed a job at a living wage then businesses would have some real competition.

    And in any event, businesses don't want to have employees in the first place; they are necessary evils. So if the field of employment is left entirely to the private sector there will be a perpetual race to the bottom on wages/conditions. Having a public option (to coin a phrase) may be the only effective bulwark against that.

    Thanks for the link too!

  2. I guess I'll have to get on my senior senator, John Kerry, for that.

    Mitt Romney & Campbell's soup: Mm, Mm, Dumb.

  3. For anyone who ever thought Dick Cavett was a happening dude. (Three years earlier.)

    1. I don't know if I ever thought Dick Cavett was 'happening', but he was a pretty damned intelligent guy and a good interviewer, and I'd take him over just about anyone on television during the past 20 years.

      Still, yeah, Tina Turner has always been somethin' else.

  4. It has to be said that Papantonio makes a living by suing pharma companies.

    Every medicine has a down side. Even water, taken in inappropriate quantities, can kill you. So pharmaceutics is necessarily a balance between therapeutic effects and side effects.

    So, Merck and Fosamax: Failure to disclose a side effect is obviously bad. Some side effects don't emerge for many years down the road and simply can't be predicted. Some side effects are rare enough that researchers aren't sure whether it's an side effect or a random effect.

    According to Wikipedia:

    A population based study in Germany identified more than 300 cases of osteonecrosis of the jaw, 97% occurring in cancer patients (on high-dose intravenous bisphosphonates), and 3 cases in 780,000 patients with osteoporosis for an incidence of 0.00038%... Most cases (73%) were precipitated by dental extractions.

    Is Wikipedia right? I don't know. I do know that 3.8 cases out of 10,000 is so infrequent that it would not be picked up in normal clinical studies and that if the dental extraction is the cause, then it would only result in a warning. So, if that statistic is correct, then Papantonio is exaggerating. And there's plenty of reason to believe that drugs like Fosamax prevent hip fractures and do not aggravate them, as Papantonio claims. Quoting WebMD:

    "We concluded that if you treat 1,000 women with osteoporosis for three years, these drugs would prevent 100 fractures, including 11 hip fractures," Dennis M. Black, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, tells WebMD. "And even if you posit a threefold increase in fracture risk from these drugs, only one of those 1,000 women would have an upper thigh fracture."

    I hate being in the position of defending Big Pharma. There are huge problems with how medicine is done nowadays. It would be much better if the clinical trials were run completely independently. But Papantonio is the wrong person to listen to on these issues.

  5. lurv the pumpkins. the moveon ad was cute, even if i abhor the goal that is behind it. i too would enjoy learning more about that meth house document dump. i doubt i ever will, tho.

  6. I'm not sure how it came up but at one point, during the October 23 [Link] A to Z public affairs show, Jay A. made the comment that in 1850 there was no American middle-class, rather that Americans back then were living in a dumb bell economy, one in which most members of the population were in either the upper or the lower class with but a narrow segment of the population making up any in-between class. Stuart Z. responded that whether or not there was a middle class there was certainly no consumer culture back then in America.

    Perhaps it's useful to get have a sense of the difference between what the late Joe Bageant said academics would refer to as a "calorie based economy," one which he insisted provided sustenance in abundance from colonial days through the end of WWII for the inhabitants of the region of the country where he, himself, grew up and a "money based economy." Among the several types of money based economies, there was the coastal merchant/inland peddler and tradesmen/artisan form of capitalism, which preceded modern industrial capitalism, itself-- the type of capitalism which by the 1840s had begun to profoundly transform America.

    (There's some latter day confusion about the type of capitalism that Adam Smith was writing about because, as a way to illustrate the usefulness of the division [and specialization] of labor in producing wealth, the Scotsman opened The Wealth of Nations [1776] with his well-known [at least to all professional and wannabe lay economists] discussion of the pin factory and its astounding for its day level of productivity which was the result of the factory owner arranging for each worker to perform a separate task in the overall process required for making straight pins from wire. Examples of the factory system, however, were quite rare in Smith's time, an economy dominated by factory production was not, at all, what he envisioned. Smith was laying out an argument for an economic system wherein the control of the means of production would not be in the hands of the few who, because of their inherited wealth or government grants of monopoly, financial subsidies, or other priveleges, would be the only people who could afford the start up costs for major industry.)

    In that same A to Z show, if I understand what he was saying, SZ wondered if religious fundamentalists could become part of the left in America or, at least, align themselves with the left in certain political battles. That happens to be yet another question for which I have too much copy to paste. But first back to the matter of America in 1850, here's some of what Chapter 1: The United States at Midcentury says in James McPherson's supreb one volume history of the American Civil War era, Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) [Link]:

    1. [Indent]>>>>> [p.6] The hallmark of the United States has been growth. Americans have typically defined this process in quantitative terms. Never was that more true than in the first half of the nineteenth century, when an unparalleled rate of growth took place in three dimensions: population, territory, and economy. In 1850, Zachery Taylor-- the last president born before the Constitution-- could look back on vast changes during his adult life. The population of the United States had doubled and then doubled again. Pushing relentlessly westward and southward, Americans had similarly quadrupled the size of their country by settling, conquering, annexing, or purchasing territory that had been occupied for millennia by Indians and claimed by France, Spain, Britain, and Mexico. During the same half-century the gross national product increased sevenfold. No other nation in that era could match even a single component of its explosive growth. The combination of all three made America the Wunderkind of the nineteenth century....

      [Paragraph 2 discusses the situation "Indians" and Afro-Americans were facing amidst this expansion.]

      >>>[p.7] Even for white Americans, economic growth did not necessarily mean unalloyed progress. Although per capita income doubled during the half-century, not all sectors of society shared equally in the abundance. While both rich and poor enjoyed rising incomes, their inequality of wealth widened significantly. As the population began to move from farm to city, farmers increasingly specialized in the production of crops for market rather than for home consumption. The manufacture of cloth, clothing, leather goods, tools, and other products shifted from home to shop and from shop to factory. In the process many women experienced a change in roles from producers to consumers with a consequent transformation in status. Some craftsmen suffered debasement of their skills as the division of labor and power-driven machinery eroded the traditional handicraft methods of production and transformed them from self-employed artisans to wage laborers. The resulting potential for class conflict threatened the social fabric of this brave new republic....

      The generation that fought the Revolution abolished slavery in states north of the Mason-Dixon line, the new states north of the Ohio River came into the Union without bondage. South

      >>>[p. 8] of those boundaries, however, slavery became essential to the region's economy and culture.

      Meanwhile, a wave of Protestant revivals known as the Second Great Awakening swept the coutnry during the first third of the nineteenth century. In New England, upstate New York, and those portions of the Old Northwest above the 41st parallel populated by the descendants of New England Yankees, this evangelical enthusiasm generated a host of moral and cultural reforms. The most dynamic and divisive of these was abolitionism....

      >>>[p.9] Although the United States remained pedominantly rural in this period, the urban population (defined as those living in towns or cities with 2,500 or more people) grew three times as faster than the rural population from 1810 to 1860, going from 6 percent to 20 percent of the total. This was the highest rate of urbanization in American hisotry. During those same decades the percentarge of the labor force engaged in non-agricultrual pursuits grew from 21 to 45 percent. Meanwhile the rate of natural increase of the American population, while remaing higher than Europe's, began to slow as parents, desiring to provide their children with more nurture and education, decided to have fewer of them. From 1800 to 1850 the American birth rate declined by 23 percent...


    2. [Indent]>>>>>[p. 10] [U]ntil the early nineteenth century economic growth was "extensive"-- virtually the same as population growth. At some point after the War of 1812-- probably following the recovery from the depression of 1819-23 --the economy began to grow faster than the population, producing an estimated per capita increase of national output and income averaging 1.7 percent annually from 1820 to 1860. The fastest rates of growth occurred in the 1830s and 1850s, interrupted by a major depression from 1837 to 1842 and a lesser one in 1857-58.

      Although most Americans benefited from this rise of income, those at the top benefited more than those at the bottom. While average income rose 102 percent, real wages for workers increased by somewhere between 40 and 65 percent. This widening disparity between rich and poor appears to have characterized most capitalist economies during their early decades of instensive growth and industrialization. American workers probably fared better in this respect than those of most European countries. Indeed, a debate still rages over whether British workers suffered an absolute decline of real wages during the first half-century of the industrial revolution. <<<<<[/Indent]

    3. Here are partial transcripts from two interviews featuring the late Joe Bagent which were conducted and broadcast in Australia.

      Bageant was a writer turned author of two books which focused on a particular segment of the American working class, Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War (2007) [Link] and Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir (2010) [Link].

      The interviewer on both occasions was Richard Fidler, the host of a long running radio show Down Under who, by the way, made a living as a member of a musical comedy trio for ten years in his earliest incarnation as a performer.

      From the November 5, 2007 Conversations with Richard Fidler [Link]:

      [Indent]>>>>>[9:52] Fidler: Is it a deeply religious district where you're from, Winchester[, Virginia]?

      Bageant: It's a deeply Christian nation.

      Fidler: And this is the heart of the Bible Belt though-- isn't it, Winchester?

      Bageant: Uhm, not really. That's another thing, see, from the outside, yes there are more Southerners who are Christian. The Bible Belt used to be true, but it's not true anymore. The Midwest is very Christian. The fact of the matter is, one out of three Americans have a "born again" experience in their life, which makes them a fundamentalist Christian. That was true in eighteen-two, that was true in nineteen-two, and it's true today. We've had, I think it's six "born again" presidents but you just don't hear about it.

      [10:38] The difference is though, that fundamentalist Christianity has its own media, it has 1100 radio outlets I know of and I don't know how many [television] broadcasting networks and its proximity to politics is what's made it really different now. But, yes, it is more or less a religious country because maybe a third are fundamentalists but half are pretty much Christian.<<<<<[/Indent]

    4. From the September 1, 2010 Conversations With Richard Fidler [Link]:

      [Indent]>>>>>22:12 Fidler: I want to quote you from your book here "A community with no memory of its dead is no real community because it has no human connectivity grounded in time, just interaction. It's merely a location populated by dissociated beings." How was this community, that you grew up in, uprooted?

      Bageant: It sort of, the abrasiveness of the money economy slowly wore it away. Now there's still people there, I go there, I almost get tears in my eyes, I see their old faces. And they know and I know what we know-- the guy who taught me to squirrel hunt is still there, the graves of my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather are still there. The fields I walked are not there now, they're grown up with trees now which is really a strange thing to see, that they're that big and could have grown up in your lifetime means you're getting old, buddy.

      But it mostly was worn away and yet there are a few key families that, oh, maybe the daughter becomes the school teacher. There's nobody farming in any real way because they've all been crowded out, there's no way to make money at it. They still keep a few cows and cut hay because it's a habit you can't stop. They got to get out there in the summer and cut that damn hay because it's so old, it's in their bones, been in there since England.

      Fidler: Meanwhile, what was going on around that area- like what's happening in China today, rural communities, people leaving them behind, attracted to the city and the work that's there...

      Bageant: [Yes.]

      Fidler: So that had the effect of uprooting a lot of the Scots-Irish of your part of town. What happened when they came to the big city to look for this kind of job?

      [23:57] Bageant: Well they didn't just say, "I'm taking my squirrel gun and going to Philly, honey." It didn't work like that. It was kind of like you had to move on down the road, closer to a place to work and rent a house because it wasn't any work [where you were] and it started costing real money just to sit on your farm and live- new things you never knew [you needed] you had to pay for. Plus, if you don't have the manpower you can't do half the stuff you used to do to sustain ya.

      And so they tended to be guys who became truck drivers or worked on [loading] docks and to do that you had to be in a fairly good sized town and so they kind of kept moving down the road, twenty miles, fifty miles, a hundred miles, and finally they end in cities and other cities far away.

      But the minute they did that they needed money for rent, they needed a car to get to work, they now needed money for utilities, bills and so on so instantly they were in the money economy, they just came out of a labor economy where the calorie was the medium of exchange and, I guess, the bad part about it was they never succeeded because, on the average, they had a sixth grade education. 22.2 million people, the ones- you know you only needed a fourth grade education to qualify as literate to get into the army, at that time. And 22 million people who didn't particularly want to move.

      Surveys taken in the Army, everyone of them was headed home and Roosevelt didn't like that much because it wouldn't create an industry, an economy. But they didn't do well. Of course they didn't do well. You hear all this crap about the G.I. Bill, yeah the city boys did that because they went to decent high schools. Nobody where I grew up was going past the sixth grade because the school didn't go past the sixth grade, the one room school houses and stuff. And so their fate was not all that good, they became America's cheap labor force.


    5. [Indent]>>>>>[Bageant discusses the opposition to government and unions at this point but I'll skip ahead.]

      [34:29] Fidler: Religion's a big thing. The Ulster Protestants were escaping religious persecution from the Church of England to begin with, then they went to the Ulster Plantation fighting Catholics, then there they are in the Appalachians, your part of the United States. Tell me about your own family and the role the church as it was, the church in your area had in your family, how important church life was to your family.

      [34:49] Bageant: Well, when I was a kid, things were a little bit different. I mean fundamentalism, one third of Americans have always been fundamentalists since the earliest time since they could even do a count which was 1810. People forget, we've had nine "born again" presidents, just nobody advertises it. And- like Andrew Jackson and so on

      Fidler: Jimmy Carter, too.

      Bageant: Yeah. And the thing of it is-- that the reason we pay --when I was a kid it was very, very important. It was-- there's a chapter in the book, there's a chapter of going to Bible school and learning that Jesus is always watching you and all this stuff and it was the moral code without a doubt. But it changed, it hardened during the, I'm going to say the eighties because it didn't happen all at once, and two things happened; 1) fundamentalism got its own media, the Christian Broadcasting Network, you had Falwell, you had...

      Fidler: Pat Robertson.


  7. [Indent]>>>>>Bageant: Pat Robertson, yeah. They made billions. And hundreds, thousands, it still has like a thousand radio stations and hundreds of T.V. stations. You don't really realize that when you're over here [in Australia].

    And so it crystallized things, and the hardest core, the worst of the worst, were right there on that screen and had-- people were being exposed to a harsher, harsher form than they were in. I mean, I went to Baptist churches and Pentecostal churches and they may speak in tongues and they may do a lot of things but they were not mean, they were not mean. They simply followed God's word and believed He was the ultimate law over government and everything else but they did not mean to hurt or force anybody else to be anything.

    After the advent of the broadcasting things change. First off, I think people got the impression that's what you're supposed to be, that's what most others were but before they were isolated. All fundamentalism is, is a series of cults and the cults are self-contained in many ways in your church community and so on.

    And then when-- most of America was pretty much laughing at it, we all laughed at it, but then it gained a proximity to politics, the very thing the Founding Fathers didn't want. And it started right around Reagan, the Republicans will stoop to no length(sic), will do anything-- the hard core ones had sense enough to ask for the church [membership] lists.

    Well they had never been asked for before and neither one of them raised a question that it was against the Constitution and once they had the lists of all these fundamentalist church memberships there were many, many things you could do.

    You could organize gatherings, you could get the word to preachers. Really in the fundamentalist community in America most of them could give a rat's bum about a stem cell, they don't know what one is; abortion; yada, yada. They're just not going to get one [themselves] but there's the preacher and the mega-churches and, even the small ones, the Amen choir, those nine people in the front row that are affiliated with the- everything from the Republican party because it's about power, it's about power and it's about access to power so these guys can deliver votes to the Republicans and that's what it's all about.

    But for the average person, they're not, you know, they're trying to make a truck payment for God's sake, they're trying to make sure their teenage daughter don't get pregnant. You know, they're busy.


    1. [Indent]>>>>>Fidler: I think one thing I got from you book Joe is the appeal some of the Pentecostal churches have for a lot of these 22 million displaced poor white underclass types. If they're displaced from their ancestral communities up there in the Appalachians, they have little education, America seems bewildering and they can't get a toe hold, they have no sense of community there's the church, there it is, it is offering them some kind of community.

      [39:20] Bageant: Well, yeah. Well, the 22 million that were the first real white underclass, they're all dead, they're my parents age, they're old, they're not around. But two more generations runs it up to 64 million now, right? And they're out there in the heartland where there are no more farms, only big industrial farms and a few hippies raising expensive strawberries-- the so-called organic movement (and it's real, it's real). Instead now, these people are the guys that are the carpenters and dragging the coaxial cable underneath the high-rises.

      Fidler: Delivering pizza.

      Bageant: Well, there are a lot of working people, they are people who work with their hands, they make the world go around and they drive the UPS truck, they're still making the world go 'round, nobody else knows how anything works but them because they have to crawl under it and fix it.

      And so you're talking about a different bunch of people, they live in places that look like suburbs, they're big cheap housing developments that all got blown away in the mortgage collapse. They got their cheap Wal-mart Dockers, they're bass boats, their this that and the other, they don't look the same but, like I told somebody last night, the echoes, the reverberations of their values are the values of the heartland. All the stuff between the cities is still there and it still rings inside them. It's the only thing they know.

      [A discussion about race follows at this point.] <<<<<[/Indent]