Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do they know it's Christmas?

Here's Digby with the Cliff's Notes on what "the Bowles plan" really says, and of course it's still all about cutting national economic security insurance as a fake trade-off for raising the top marginal rate very slightly. Anyone who's talking about chained CPI and raising the Medicare eligibility age is (a) immoral and (b) fiscally irresponsible, so whatever he and his friends have to say should just get laughed out of the room - and that's if it's your intention to be polite. Atrios called raising the age for Medicare "The Worst Idea In The World", and he's not wrong:

Obviously the opinion of this righteous blogger is that we should have Medicare for all, or be incrementally lowering the eligibility age, but now it appears we're getting into the crazy season and the Very Serious People have decided that increasing the age is the appropriate punishment for the olds for being olds.

No one listens to me, but one thing people should consider is significant numbers of married couples have one spouse with decent employer-based insurance which covers them both. Also, significant numbers of married couples are separated by a few years, with the older spouse being the one with the employer-based insurance.This is an issue already, of course, but if you increase the eligibility age it becomes even more of an issue. How does that 57 year old spouse of a 67 year old retiree get health insurance?Yes the great and glorious era of Obamacare will (hopefully) improve the individual market for health insurance a bit. But it's still going to cost. A lot.

And anyone who would listen to someone like Erskine Bowles rather than that righteous blogger should also be laughed out of the room, Mr. President.

* * * * *

Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Joan McCarter (McJoan) were panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays and wondered if there's any way to make people like Carl Levin pay attention.

Sam Seder talked to Sarah Jaffe on The Majority Report about the fast-food workers' strike.

"Congress Betrays The U.S. STEM Worker Once Again: "The House of Representatives is out to destroy the American Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Professional. Republicans passed H.R. 6429 with the oxymoron title, STEM Jobs Act of 2012. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and this bill gives 55,000 foreigners a year who graduate from an American university with a Masters or PhD in these fields an employment sponsored green card. " They'd rather have guest workers rather than Americans in jobs.

Zach Carter has been Liveblogging The Rating Agencies Hearing: "Buffett just offered a standard defense of Corporate America that allows companies to do terrible things without any accountability. Buffett is the largest shareholder in Moody's. He says over and over again that he believes in due diligence-- making sure you understand what you invest in. But Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Phil Angelides pressed Buffett on whether he knew or should have known Moody's was doing terribly reckless things that endangered the global economy. Buffutt responded that he didn't know, and he couldn't be expected to know. Companies are complicated, and no shareholder can understand everything that a company is up to. This is an astonishing statement in a couple of respects. First, rating securities is the business Moody's is in, and they screwed up just about every aspect of that business they could have, from corporate debt to synthetic CDOs. This was not one employee somewhere misunderstanding one deal-- this was the entire company missing every aspect of its business. But here's the bigger question: shareholders are owners. If the largest shareholder doesn't know what a company is up to, and can't be expected to, how can you possibly expect that corporation to ever act in a responsible way?"

Dean Baker, reporting on the continuing decline in the quality of the conservative Washington Post and New York Times, notes that they've produced a front-page editorial on the deficit in which many assertions are made without facts to back them up (because there aren't any), as well as one that tells us we are about to have too few workers and too many workers.

"Why Isn't Austerity For The Greedy CEOs of Fix The Debt? [...] Show this to your relatives who still think this whole austerity "crisis" is real."

David Kay Johnston on "Bad Connections: SINCE 1974, when the Justice Department sued to break up the Ma Bell phone monopoly, Americans have been told that competition in telecommunications would produce innovation, better service and lower prices. What we've witnessed instead is low-quality service and prices that are higher than a truly competitive market would bring. After a brief fling with competition, ownership has reconcentrated into a stodgy duopoly of Bell Twins - AT&T and Verizon. Now, thanks to new government rules, each in effect has become the leader of its own cartel. [...] On average, for instance, a triple-play package that bundles Internet, telephone and television sells for $160 a month with taxes. In France the equivalent costs just $38. For that low price the French also get long distance to 70 foreign countries, not merely one; worldwide television, not just domestic; and an Internet that's 20 times faster uploading data and 10 times faster downloading it. [...] But the problem is more immediate for consumers. That's because both of these cartels are telling lawmakers that they need less regulation, not more. A lighter government hand, they say, will mean more competition and yield a better deal for consumers. In practice, though, deregulation has meant new regulations - written by corporations and for corporations - that have often thwarted competition and run roughshod over the customer. "

"How Cellphone Companies Have Resisted Rules for Disasters: In a natural disaster or other emergency, one of the first things you're likely to reach for is your cellphone. Landlines are disappearing. More than 30 percent of American households now rely exclusively on cellphones. Despite that, cell carriers have successfully pushed back against rules on what they have to do in a disaster. The carriers instead insist that emergency standards should be voluntary, an approach the Federal Communications Commission has gone along with. [...] 'Traditional carriers had reliability requirements, and reporting requirements,' says Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a former technology adviser to President Obama. 'We treat wireless and broadband much differently.'"

If I were Julian Assange and some nitwit interviewer was trying to turn a discussion of the security states and press freedom into an argument about the press freedom in the country that happened to be protecting me from being thrown into some sort of US gulag forever, I'd ask just what country has a pristine record on press freedom and transparency, and noting that this is precisely the point: the problem has become universal, and the reach of the worst offenders is long.

"Shorter Everybody: We must replace this economy killing deficit reduction plan with an economy killing deficit reduction plan." - Atrios

Marcy Wheeler, "The War on Drugs Other Countries' Ruthless Vicious Capitalists: "But both Blackwell and Hillary suffer from a definitional problem. As a commenter here recently noted, drug cartels are actually not cartels; that's part of why the competition between various gangs is so violent. So it can't be the 'cartel structures' that distinguishes gangs from other capitalist enterprises (many of which are much closer to cartels than drug gangs) that operate ruthlessly. And while most purportedly legitimate businesses don't kidnap (they leave that to the US government!), they do extort, though that usually takes the form of threats to take away market access. At some point, when you take the violence away, the drug networks look like a significant group of very respectable American capitalist enterprises that use vicious techniques - that at least should and probably are illegal - to make money. At some point in this stage of the war on drug capitalists, we're going to have to get a lot more specific about what makes these capitalists bad even though they use many of the same approaches the capitalists running our own country use." (via)

Some interesting stories are being told about how Obama won the election, but stories about how Obama got 140% of the vote are nothing but a load of myths based on a lack of simple arithmetic and language skills. For example, there is a significant difference between the meaning of "ballot pages" and "voters". (And while I'm over at The Bradblog, check out this exchange between the loathsome David Horowitz and Brad himself on a BTR show in which Horowitz supplies an anecdote which would in no way be solved by Voter ID, and which he refuses to back up - and has a temper tantrum when pressed to do so. Long-time readers will remember that Horowitz has a special place in my heart after his earlier, successful work of eliminating the civics curriculum in public schools.)

Will legalization of marijuana in individual state lead to wholesale border bleed?

Ian Welsh tells us to "Default to Kindness." Perhaps it is a companion piece to his "The Gaza Reminder". (He also has "Some Words on the Republican Party", and "Another note on Republicans".)

PNH on the Twinkie Hustle: "This story has been much circulated on Twitter and elsewhere, but if you actually look at it in detail -- even on a site as reflexively pro-business and anti-union as CNN Money -- several things are clear. First, this is a maneuver in a bankruptcy-court game of chicken. Second, it's a maneuver in an extended piece of union-busting. Third and most pertinent to the silly headlines being attached to this story, there is approximately 0.00% chance that this is actually the "end of the line" for venerable brands like Twinkies, Drake's Devil Dogs, and Wonder Bread. Appalling though these products are, their long-established popularity means that they own miles and miles of space in grocery-store planograms all over America. So someone is going to keep making these products under these brands. What's happening here is that the current ownership of Hostess Brands is trying to get the best deal it can in an ongoing bankruptcy proceeding, and is taking the opportunity to get a nice unions-spoil-everything narrative into the national media."

Editorial cartoon by Hurwitt.

How tall can a Lego tower get? I had no idea there was such a thing as a "certified Lego builder". And, of course, 'tis the season for the Lego Christmas tree. (Single shot here.) But that was last year at St. Pancras. This year, in Covent Garden, there's the Lego Advent Calendar. Also, of course, lights. Speaking of which, I was in Oxford Circus the other night, and this year's lights are pretty. (They had a big famous pop star turn those on.

Looks like I missed doing a post for Advent itself, but here's a song until I get around to the traditional Advent calendar haul.


  1. Hi Avedon. I'm doing my own little countdown to Christmas at Corrente (it's fund raising week!); here is today's.

    Over at my site there's a pretty good video.

  2. Ha! This year I got to the Hubble Space Telescope calendar and Chris Sims' Advent Calendar early!

    I can't believe I didn't know Boy George took part in Band Aid!

    I'm composing a letter about Social Security (all my reps are on my side, but it never hurts to reinforce that). It will probably mention my job prospects, my increasing frailness, the unsuitability of street life for the elderly, and the bad karma of condemning helpless old people to penury and death.

  3. I remember the time years ago my wife and I got to spend Christmas in England (literally, never got to Wales or Scotland that trip). We especially liked York - the lights were so elegantly understated. Nice memories.

  4. Here's Tom the Dancing Bug with his own comic-style Hostess advertisement.

  5. Lest we shed snow-boarders (doubtful) this "bleed" of which you speak is highly unlikely in Oregon. Weed is so readily available it is practically free. Indeed, I haven't paid for it in years.

    Funny thing happened on the way to the SSD office, medical records, specialists determinations, x-rays, MRIs and a general diagnosis of degenerative artritis throughout my back and hands clutched firmly in my one remaining servicable hand... they sent me a kyro... a pyro... an ostio... a fucking quack and miracle of miracles just like the Virgin Fucking Birth I'm cured! I'm not "disabled", wohoo!

    Didn't know Boy George was still us.

    1. Still with us. (if these phones are so dammed smary why don't they fox the typos?)

      Since I'm still here (on this damned "smart" phone)... Ot was Joseph who was of the "House of David", yet Jesus was born of dog, not of Joseph, hence Jesus does not meet the required criterion for "Messiah": of the House of David. That sure shoots the shit out of all those Templar Merovingoan Kings wive's tales.


  6. Here is some chilling speculation about those border "drug" gangs -

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