Monday, February 11, 2013

Remember, I'll always be true

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Digby, Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel), and Joan McCarter (McJoan). (For background reading, here's Marcy's article looking at that White Paper and suggesting it's pretty sneaky about where the alleged authority for the government to murder US citizens come from. And also that John Brennan says it's okay for the CIA to murder you.)

So, it turns out that the people who can't afford commercial insurance still can't afford commercial insurance. And some will be worse off than ever.

I really find the, "I trust our president to use these outrageous powers wisely" meme frightening. It was bad enough when it was crazy Republicans talking that way about Bush, but it's even worse, having been through that, to see people saying it as if we will never have a president they don't trust. (Not that I don't think it's insane to trust a president who wants such powers in the first place, let alone Barack "I Break All My Promises" Obama.)

Another thing I don't trust Obama on is his economic prescriptions, since he is apparently really proud of doing the opposite of what's needed, as Dean Baker can tell you.

And, of course, as Digby notes, "Who keeps bringing up 'entitlements'? One of the more interesting aspects of the coming sequestration talks is the absence of the Peterson contingent pushing to get "entitlement" cuts in the mix. I would have thought they'd be trying to replace the defense cuts with the Chained-CPI and a hike in the Medicare age. That's usually the formula. But it's largely absent from the conversation so far. Well, not entirely absent. There is one person who keeps bringing it up over and over again:" Barack Obama. That'd be the same Barack Obama who is in such a jocular mood at the very thought. Not that he doesn't have some help.

I don't trust Pelosi, either, but at least she told Fox viewers that raising the Medicare eligibility age doesn't save money.

The UK Comedy Central site won't let me see the extended interview with Michelle Rhee, but it's been a hot topic on some of the blogs, and I gather that her wonderful plan for "putting students first" involves making education less efficient in every conceivable way. She wants to change the revenue stream (to a more expensive one) and use a teacher-evaluation system that has been shown to be pointless, cut teachers out of the equation as much as possible, make teachers more insecure, and make the system even more vulnerable to political manipulation than it already is. In fact, there is absolutely nothing in her plan about optimizing outcomes for students - but, hey, why should that stop our glorious leaders from imposing this crap on kids?

I am resisting the urge to go into a long rant on the evils of monopolies, but I think it's a bad sign that people were so unaware of what it's all about that they thought it made sense to replace the Iron playing piece in the Monopoly game with a cat. Not that it's the first time it's happened, but it's the first time I've noticed it at the time it happened, and anyway, I already thought it was silly to worry about changing the place names for different localities when, you know, most American kids don't have a clue about street names in Atlantic City anyway, and most kids barely know the names of the streets in their own neighborhoods, and anyway, the names in the original game aren't even entirely accurate for Atlantic City. (I mean, seriously, what has the B&O got to do with Atlantic City?) None of which I should care that much about since I always preferred Parcheesi. What I do care about, of course, are the effects of monopolies and how they destroy not just true free markets (which is different from the libertoonian kind), but individual freedom.

"Listen to the Father of Fracking [...] Last summer Forbes magazine interviewed George Phydias Mitchell, who pioneered the fracking process in the 1990s. Mitchell said the government should tighten its regulation of fracking, not loosen it. He said, 'There's no excuse not to get it right,' and that if drillers 'do something wrong and dangerous ... (the government) should punish them.' The Father of Fracking, laying down the law. Perhaps if the government did the same a bit more often, ideas such as using [Mine Influenced Water] for frackwater wouldn't be so frightening."

Just a reminder of how well Democrats have protected your right to choose. Sorry, you can rant and rave all you want about the Republicans, but this doesn't happen without plenty of help from the "liberal" party.

Why Are Conservatives Trying to Destroy the Voting Rights Act?
Voting Rights Act at Risk?

Tax Cuts Are Theft

Dept. of The Cops Are The Most Dangerous People on the Streets:
"Denver police officers won't be charged in the 2009 Landau beating case [...] 'I feel like this is unjust. They beat me half to death and then just joked about it," he said. "I don't know if there is anything else I can do from here.'" If you can stomach it, the photos. (Via @RadleyBalko.)
This story managed to put me into jaw-hanging-open stasis for a full minute. And then there's this update where it turns out that they did it twice in the same pursuit. Lawlessness and buffoonery. Tea leaves say they won't even get a traffic ticket. Meanwhile, if you're in LA, don't be in a pick-up truck. (Although there's a rumor he switched vehicles somewhere....) Meanwhile, you might need one of these.

You know that famous Bill Cosby email blaming the world's problems on lazy poor people? Bill Cosby didn't write it.

From Nashville Public Radio, with Janis Ian on growing up to write "At Seventeen" (audio and transcript).

And...can it really have been that long ago?


  1. Krugman: Obama is so wonderful!

    Tbogg: Obama is so wonderful, just shut up, lieberals!!!

    A couple of posts that have stuck in my craw. You've linked to a fine set of answers (not that either of them will change their tunes).

  2. Replies
    1. Oh, same old thing, directing fellow readers' attentions to obvious centrist media bias:

      Also, this and this and this

      "As I had long-feared! Whilst I lay exhausted and asleep, the visigoths delivered me to the frozen tundra"

    2. Both because I appreciate, and like to share, what I think are excellent examples of simple, concise yet vivid descriptions of historic moments or, more impressively, historical eras, and because I wouldn't want any slumberer to construct their own night terrors without their being cognizant of the knowledge that there have been scarier, more vicious warriors than the marauding Visigoths, here's a passage from a Eugen Weber lecture.

      [As some background, not only did the Emperor Diocletian establish a second capital for the Roman Empire at Nicomedia, near Byzantium, where he would rule the Eastern Empire, Diocletian, who astoundingly would retire from his job to an east Adriatic sea coast palace in 305, also moved the capital of the Western Empire from the city of Rome to Mediolanum, modern day Milan, at the north central extremity of the Italian peninsula, so that any co-emperor would rule the Western Empire closer to the-- shall we say-- action threatening that end of civilization. In 402 the capital was moved again to Ravenna, near the east coast of the Italian peninsula, in order for it to be farther away from what, by then, was action approaching in unstoppable fashion.

      These re-locations of the capital in the West are mentioned to add some context to the following three events; the city of Rome was sacked for the first time in 800 years by the Visogoths in 410, by the Vandals in 455, and by the Ostrogoths in 546.]

      Lecture 13 with pictures and maps:


    3. [Indent]>>>[2:04] Pope Gregory [I, the Bishop of Rome from 590 until his death in 604,] believed the end of the world was near. After all, the Empire was staggering to its end so Judgement Day must be nigh....

      [3:15] Although Gregory was anxious to mitigate the suffering and still the turmoil around him, the main business of life in such circumstances was to prepare for death. In one of his sermons, Gregory looked back from the disorder and misery of his own age, "everywhere death, mourning, desolation" as he said in one of his sermons, to the material prosperity of earlier times when Christians were martyrs to their faith.

      In those days, in the beginning of the 2nd century when Trajan was Emperor [98-117], there was long life and health said Gregory, "material prosperity, growth of population, and the tranquility of daily peace. Yet, while the world was still flourishing in itself, [without Christ] in their hearts it had all ready withered."

      You might call Gregory's description of better days "sour grapes," but it does raise the question of how a prosperous, lawful, advanced society gave way to darkness and chaos. The first and obvious answer is that the Roman Empire of the second century was surrounded by darkness and chaos, by a host of backward, hungry, savage tribes across the Tyne, the Rhine, and the Danube Rivers, not to mention the mountains and deserts of Asia and Africa.

      As long as these tribes were held in check, they mostly fought each other. Individuals often trickled into the Empire to look for work or sign on as mercenaries, and some of them settled as immigrants do today and became Romanized. But when they could, they burst through over the border to raid and loot and ravage as a tribe and, when the opportunity offered, instead of turning back home with their plunder, they might even take over the better lands of the Empire itself and settle there-- until someone else came and pushed them off.

      [5:44] After 250 AD, or thereabouts, this process accelerated. The raids became invasions and the Emperors bent all their energy to stabilizing what was left and keeping the barbarians at bay, sometimes by hiring a group of barbarian mercenaries to fight on behalf of Rome. Better still, the Romans would try to persuade one tribe to fight another so that they would be too busy to threaten Rome.

      But around the year 214 before Christ, when the Chinese began to build a great wall to preserve their civilized world against barbarians, a federation of aggressive Mongol tribes had turned west. These were the people we call the Huns. As they traveled westward, over the course of several centuries, the Huns pushed before them other warlike tribes, the Goths and the Vandals, who were desperate to get away from them, which tells you just how awful the Huns must have been.

      In the late fourth century some of these fleeing peoples, notably the Goths, got into the Balkans which were among the richest provinces of the Empire, and from there into Italy. Then, around the year 406, many more Vandals crossed the frozen Rhine and ravaged Gaul. As one contemporary observer remarked, "Gaul smoked to heaven in one continuous pyre." And after Gaul was devastated they crossed into Spain and north Africa. In due course the Huns followed, carrying even worse destruction wherever they went.


    4. [Indent]>>>[7:50] After that, the West was a chaos of frightened Roman survivors and brawling savage tribes. It's difficult to exaggerate the horror and suffering all this involved for generations. It wasn't war as we understand it, but robbery and mayhem on a vast scale exercised on an almost defenseless population-- rather like an endless raid by motorcycle gangs. It meant the sack of cities, the massacre and enslavement of populations, and the devastation of open country.

      Attila the Hun, who led his people for twenty years in mid-fifth century, was known as the "Scourge of God." In 448 in the Balkans, Roman envoys to Attila found the once populous city of Naissus empty except for corpses. In Africa a few years earlier, if a city refused to surrender, the Vandals would march their captives up to the walls and butcher them en masse so that the stench of their corpses should make defense untenable....

      [9:44] So the question becomes, how did it happen? Why was Rome unable to defend itself?... <<<[End indent]

    5. Feudalism as a social organization and political-economy makes a hell of a lot of sense in the context of great migrations, CMike.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Actually, I think it's odd that in the wake of all the race mixing from those migrations that blood lines came to take on such importance. I wonder if that's ordinary human sociology reasserting itself after a long era of warrior meritocracy or, as I take it you believe, it was a practical reaction to centuries of turmoil. Thing is, you would think kings and other patrons would want to be aligned with the best fighters of their generation, not the descendants of those who were. (Then again, I guess noblemen tended to healthy individuals relative to the rest of the population, maybe that was enough to rely on.)

      A test of the theories will be to see if we explicitly revert to the honoring of blood lines in our own society without quite the dramatic course of events that occurred during the dark part of the Middle Ages prompting that reversion. A bellwether might be if this movement to deny U.S. citizenship to those who are born here, but to parents who are not citizens, starts gaining traction.

  3. I also love the new instance of this fucking blog. Content has been spectacular lately.

  4. It was always known that some people would remain uninsured under Obamacare. In Massachusetts, there are still 2% uninsured-- and Mass was starting from a population in which 93% were insured. So, I wouldn't declare it a disaster based on this.

    The bottom line in healthcare is costs. If costs come down, the number of insured will go up. Now, the mechanism by which Obamacare is supposed to deliver lower costs (reduction in cost shifting + best practices) is pretty fragile. Mass hasn't managed to get costs down, though I think they are on a better trajectory.

    I always thought single payer was the right way to go. But every person who has insurance is one set fewer of chronic fear and possible nightmares. Judge Obamacare by what happens over time... and work to do as Vermont is doing, namely include the state as one insurance option (aka public option).

  5. Conservative firebrand Cyril Blubberpuss makes an impassioned plea for his daughter Bertha on Valentine's Day.