15 December 2022

You just gotta call on me

Santa Games online Advent Calendar. You can start from December first.

"Why America's Railroads Refuse to Give Their Workers Paid Leave: For months, the world's largest economy has been teetering on the brink of collapse because America's latter-day robber barons can't comprehend that workers sometimes get sick. Or so the behavior of major U.S. rail companies seems to suggest. [...] Unlike nearly 80 percent of U.S. laborers, railroad employees are not currently guaranteed a single paid sick day. Rather, if such workers wish to recuperate from an illness or make time to see a doctor about a nagging complaint, they need to use vacation time, which must be requested days in advance. In other words, if a worker wants to take time off to recover from the flu, they need to notify their employer of this days before actually catching the virus. Given that workers' contracts do not include paid psychic benefits, this is a tall order. [...] All of which invites the question: Why do these rail barons hate paid leave so much? Why would a company have no problem handing out 24 percent raises, $1,000 bonuses, and caps on health-care premiums but draw the line on providing a benefit as standard and ubiquitous throughout modern industry as paid sick days? The answer, in short, is 'P.S.R.' — or precision-scheduled railroading." More on that subject from Reich, "The one thing you need to know about the railroads: It's not that a rail strike would be bad for the economy."

Warnock beats Walker in Georgia, 51.4-48.6, giving Dems a real 51st vote. For whatever that's worth.

Oh, wait! "Sinema switches to independent, shaking up the Senate [...] In a 45-minute interview, the first-term senator told POLITICO that she will not caucus with Republicans and suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate. 'Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,' she said."

"Five power substations attacked in Pacific northwest similar to strike that caused outages in North Carolina: The FBI is investigating at least five attacks on electricity substations in the Pacific northwest similar to one that caused widespread power outages in North Carolina. Representatives from Puget Sound Energy, the Cowlitz County Public Utility District and Bonneville Power Administration confirmed the attacks took place in November, although the FBI declined to confirm the investigations and it's not clear whether any of the damage resulted in service disruptions, reported the Seattle Times."

From The Toledo Blade, "Debt program a model: Toledo and Lucas County have combined to turn $1.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds into as much as $200 million of medical debt relief. In the process, our community has created a best practice that other cities and counties will be able to emulate for their own citizens. Toledo City Council voted Wednesday 7-5 to approve $800,000 in ARPA funds for the program with RIP Medical Debt, creators of the charity that buys bad debt from hospitals and discharges the liability."

This could be good news: "D.C. Council Wants To Make Metrobus Fares Free In The District, Expand Service Overnight: The D.C. Council wants to make WMATA bus service fare-free in the District next year. If approved, D.C. would become one of the largest and most prominent cities in the country to make the bus free at the fare box."

Helaine Olen in the WaPo, "Medicare Advantage? More like Medicare Disadvantage: When the annual enrollment period for Medicare ends on Dec. 7, analysts expect that, for the first time, more seniors will receive their 2023 health-care coverage from Medicare Advantage than the traditional program. That's not a good thing for either elderly Americans or federal coffers. And while seniors are well advised to approach these plans with caution, we should all be paying attention to what's going on. Medicare Advantage plans, which are private insurance plans for seniors paid for with federal dollars, originated as a government savings strategy, on the theory that the private sector could improve on government performance at a lower cost. But over the past two decades, it has become clear that Medicare Advantage does not result in improved care for less money. Instead, it will come as no surprise to Americans familiar with the health insurance industry that insurers found a way to turn it into yet another profit center, while putting bureaucratic roadblocks in the way of patients."

RIP: "Stax Records Founder Jim Stewart Dead At 92 [...] The early Satellite Records were not successful, but Stewart eventually borrowed money from his sister Estelle Axton, who mortgaged her home so that Stewart could buy an Ampex tape recorder. (The name Stax is a combination of Stewart and Axton's last names.) Stax Records moved into the former Capitol Theater in a Black neighborhood in South Memphis, and the label had its first success in 1960, when Memphis entertainer Rufus Thomas recorded 'Cause I Love You,' a duet with his teenage daughter Carla. [...] After Chips Moman left Stax, the interracial instrumental group Booker T. & The MGs became the Stax house band, and the label had huge success with Southern soul artists like Otis Redding, the Bar-Kays, and Sam & Dave."

RIP: "Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie dies at age 79." All I have to say is that I saw them on the Rumors tour and they were spectacular.

I meant to post this when it came out in October but I got distracted, but I still want to have the link for every idiot who tries to tell me a six week pregnancy has it's own heartbeat. No, it doesn't, there's no heart that early. "What a pregnancy actually looks like before 10 weeks – in pictures [...] Sometimes, patients want to see the tissue after an abortion. 'They are stunned by what it actually looks like,' says Fleischman. 'That's when I realized how much the imagery on the internet and on placards – showing human-like qualities at this early stage of development – has really permeated the culture. People almost don't believe this is what comes out.'" Pass it on.

"Distracting People from the Material Conditions of Our Society: A New York Times Specialty [...] It's almost as if the epidemic of homelessness in the U.S. appeared out of nowhere for no reason. Houseless people must be taken as a given—we must manage their thefts of bicycles with handcuffs, armed bureaucrats, and cages, but we certainly can't ask why they do not have a place to live. Reporting like this carries water for the people in our society who own things, and it confuses multitudes of low-information readers who never develop a strong sense of the root causes of the solvable problems they keep reading about in the news every day. It also depoliticizes people by obfuscating the political and economic battles that actually determine the course of people's lives."

Long read: "The Contest on Corporate Purpose: Why Lynn Stout was Right and Milton Friedman was Wrong: It is now 50 years since Milton Friedman set out his doctrine that 'The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.' This paper seeks to add fresh and compelling new evidence of why Lynn Stout was correct in her resolute critique of the thesis of shareholder primacy at the heart of the Friedman doctrine, and how this doctrine remains profoundly damaging to the corporations that continue to uphold this belief."

So, I'm not sure who this is, but they've done pilot programs of the four-day work week, and say that, "63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4 day week." And that, "78% of employees with 4 day weeks are happier and less stressed."

Dean Baker, "OMG, a Right-Wing Jerk Can Buy Twitter! Media Concentration Matters: It's more than a bit bizarre that until Elon Musk bought Twitter, most policy types apparently did not see a risk that huge platforms like Facebook and Twitter could be controlled by people with a clear political agenda. While just about everyone had some complaints about the moderation of these and other commonly used platforms, they clearly were not pushing Fox News-style nonsense. With Elon Musk in charge, that may no longer be true. Musk has indicated his fondness for racists and anti-Semites, and made it clear that they are welcome on his new toy. He also is apparently good with right-wing kooks making up stories about everything from Paul Pelosi to Covid vaccines. (Remember, with Section 230 protection, Musk cannot be sued for defaming individuals and companies by mass-marketing lies, only the originators face any legal liability.)" Shortly after posting this, Baker's Twitter account was "permanently" shut down — only to be reopened a couple of hours later. I blame the bots.

"Another Hyped 'Hunter Biden Laptop' Reveal Flops: Elon Musk and Matt Taibbi said the 'Twitter Files' would show a political scandal, but the information itself did the opposite." I thought this was a fair assessment except that I have no idea how the word "hacked" is being used.

From Diane Ravitch's education blog, "William Phillis: Charters Are a Step Backward in Ohio: William Phillis, former deputy state superintendent of education in Ohio, is appalled by the waste and corruption in the charter sector. The state constitution requires a common school system, and charter schools and vouchers violate the state constitution. Ohio has had some of the biggest financial scandals in charter world (think ECOT), yet the Republican legislature continues to demand more funding for charters and vouchers. In this post, he likens charters to the one-room schools that were closed down long ago. He also notes that half of the 600 charters authorized in Ohio have closed."

Handy chart: "Historical Highest Marginal Income Tax Rates"

A nice piece of writing from Richard J. Eskow last year, "American Ozymandias: Part 1, The Obama Center in Chicago [...] In Chicago, something that resembles a glass-and-stone temple is about to displace much of the local community, at an expected price tag of $1.6 billion. But the Obama Presidential Center isn't a temple. It's more like a tomb – not for the ex-president, but for the dreams and hopes of the millions who voted for him. The main building's vaguely sarcophagus-like shape is reminiscent of pharaonic burial sites, which were also built by their rulers as a tribute to their own greatness."

From 2012 and still green: "Pope Paul VI's Error on Birth Control: After conservative U.S. Catholic Bishops sued the Obama administration over its health-insurance requirement for contraceptives, many assumed the Bishops were upholding settled doctrine. But Catholic theologian Paul Surlis says Pope Paul VI incorrectly removed the issue from the Second Vatican Council in 1965."

What caused the New York City bankruptcy crisis? Right-wingers say it was too much spending, but that doesn't explain a thing. "A Crisis Without Keynes: the 1975 New York City Fiscal Crisis Revisited [...] As we can see, city debt to revenue ratios were twice as high in the 1960s as they were in the 1970s. In 1966 when the city faced a much-overlooked fiscal crisis, deficits were on the order of $6 billion, when incoming revenue was about $3 billion. These numbers reveal not only the importance of deficits through much of the Keynesian period of the 1960s, but they also raise questions about the scale and significance of the 1975 fiscal crisis and the need for austerity." The short answer is that Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand caused the crisis.

"China Mieville on Why Capitalism Deserves Our Burning Hatred: If you feel a burning hatred toward our unjust social order, writes China Mieville, don't run from it. Such hate for a system that immiserates vast swaths of humanity is just and necessary."

Atrios (following a useful quote), "Endless Demands For Sister Souljah Moments [...] Your favorite centrists are always demanding that Democrats address the supposed "legitimate concerns" of voters. In this latest cycle it was "suburban moms concerned about trans athletes" or similar nonsense. And as is always the case, they go silent when you press them for details: what should they say, what policy should they support? Are you really asking them to demonize 15-year-old kids who want to play field hockey? Advocate for a national ban? Just some "feel your pain" speeches? WHAT????? Every cycle has an "other," and every cycle has the same group of centrists demanding Democrats somehow join in with the bashing, without specifying how, because that's what they "the voters" want."

"This Artist Is Giving Lesbian Couples The Retro, Pinup Treatment: Jenifer Prince's dreamy illustrations put queer women front in center in comics and pulp illustrations."

2022 Hayao Miyazaki Comics Advent Calendar -- The One With 24 Little Doors
Cider Advent Calendar
Guardians of the Galaxy Advent Calendar 2022 LEGO Marvel 76231
Crystal Ore Advent Calendar

The Beatles, "All I've Got To Do" — Man, that guy's drumming!

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