Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stupid And Cowardly

David Horsey's cartoon and column on the sequester is a pretty solid piece of work.  While I think he's taking the "cost" of the sequester to the economy a little too seriously, he certainly does a fine job in outlining just what is driving the process.

 The delusions of tea party Republicans are about to create a lot of misery for America. The "sequester" -- the drastic set of budget cuts formerly known as the "fiscal cliff" -- seems very likely to go into effect at the end of this week due in no small part to the fact that hyper-conservative lawmakers, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, actually think it's a pretty swell idea.

Their obsessive and mistaken belief that the federal deficit is the greatest threat to the republic is leading them to block any compromise with Democrats that would delay or repeal the looming budget reductions.

They want government to get smaller and smaller, even if the cuts will come too quickly and slash too indiscriminately. The supreme absurdity of their position is that this could so damage the American economy that federal revenue will drop and deficit reduction will become even harder to achieve.

The tea party folks may be sincere, loyal citizens, but their notions about how the economy works are exactly that: mere notions. Their core notion is that government needs to do nothing more than get out of the way of business in order for the economy to boom and bloom. ...

Pete Peterson, President Nixon’s secretary of Commerce, has campaigned for years against rising deficits and has earned the ire of liberals who think his insistence on restructuring Social Security and Medicare is too extreme and unnecessary. Yet, even Peterson, in an interview on public radio's "Marketplace" on Tuesday, said many of his fellow Republicans are crazy to think the sequester cuts are a smart idea.

Peterson said the deficit problem is long-term and must be dealt with comprehensively through spending reductions, entitlement reforms and revenue increases, a.k.a. taxes.

What should not happen, Peterson insisted, is a governmental retreat from investing in America’s economic future through funding of things such as education, infrastructure and basic scientific research. Of course, to the tea party Republicans, such talk is heresy.

Now if even Pete Peterson thinks the sequester is bad policy, something is afoot.  It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out.

Horsey's main point, that the Tea Partiers are wrong in this scenario (as they are in every one I can think of), is what is driving more than half of the recalcitrance from the GOP.  Republicans are still scared to death of the Tea Party, even though the old party regulars are trying to shake their hold on the party loose.  I'm sure Boehner would love an opportunity to cut a deal with Obama, especially since Obama is certainly not the strongest negotiator in the world.  Unfortunately, his own Majority Leader stabs him in the back at every opportunity and Paul Ryan, the rising star, joins him.  As a result, the rest of the Republicans in the House and those in the Senate continue to kowtow to the whackaloons.

Why?  None of them want to be primaried in 2014 or 2016.  They don't want to lose, but they also don't want to have to spend precious campaign money in the primary and then face a Democratic challenger, even in safe districts or states.

It's too bad the Democrats dispensed with Howard Dean's 50-state strategy.  It might actually work at this juncture.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Today and tomorrow I predict a lot of popcorn consumption.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett  / Lexington Herald-Leader (February 25, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then c'mon back.)

Well, here we are, snug up against the sequester deadline, and there doesn't appear to be much movement by either side.  President Obama has taken his case to the public, the Republicans in the House have called on the Senate to get busy on the issue (even though budget bills are supposed to originate in the House), and the Republicans in the Senate are being, well, Republicans.

In his last two columns for the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus looked at the stupidity of the whole issue, noting that both sides are responsible for the issue.  On Sunday, he characterized the situation as stupid.

The sequester, those $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to hit the federal government on March 1, was designed to be stupid.

In 2011, when President Obama proposed the scheme and both parties in Congress embraced it, their thinking was: With a whole year to work on a deal, surely we can figure out a way to avoid a catastrophe.

What Washington did they think they were living in?

With no negotiations under way, it's virtually certain that on March 1, a long list of federal programs will get slashed. But at this point, the only thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the mandatory cuts will hurt the economy, the nation's security and the well-being of the American people.

So why has there been no serious negotiation to avoid the train wreck we all see coming? One reason is that both sides think the public will side with them and blame the other party...
In the end, there will be some kind of compromise, probably around March 27, when Congress has to pass a law to keep the government operating for the rest of the year. It will probably include spending cuts that approach what the sequester demands, but with more flexibility— and, if Democrats have their way, a longer delay before the cuts kick in.

Tax increases will be a sticking point, of course. Democrats want them; Republicans reject them. But the recent history of budget showdowns suggests the GOP will compromise at the last minute.   [Emphasis added]

McManus is even less sanguine in his Monday column.

The automatic cuts to federal spending don’t start until Friday, and even then their effects will only be gradual. But Washington is already in a frenzy over a crisis that the two parties have brought on themselves with a scheme that was -- as I noted in my Sunday column -- designed to be stupid. ... television appearances over the weekend, GOP leaders began to repeat their own best talking point. “Surely [Obama] can put forward a plan to cut 2-to-3% from a $3.5 trillion budget,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Rather than issuing last-minute press releases on cuts to first responders or troop training or airport security, he should propose smarter ways to cut Washington spending.”

McConnell has a point, of course. If the sequester’s cuts could be spread across the entire federal budget, they wouldn’t be so disastrous. That’s why Republicans are talking about modifying the sequester to give Obama more discretion on where to cut -- a change that would make him responsible for whatever reductions in government services he chose.

Democrats have already denounced that idea as a trap and declared that they won’t fall for it.  They point out that Obama has long offered to enact at least $930 billion in smart spending cuts, almost as much as the $1.2 trillion sequester. (The problem for Republicans, of course, is that Obama wants to pair those spending cuts with $680 billion in new tax revenues.)

And that’s why there’s no easy way out. ... 

So there you have it, folks.  Our government in action.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mental Health Day

I couldn't get it together last night and this morning to do any news reading, so I got nothing.

But plenty of other people do, and I suggest you check them out:

People like Jack,

Or Avedon,

Or Hecate,

Or Phoenix Woman and Charles,

Or, if you need a cartoon or two, there's always the crew led by Tom Tomorrow.

Hopefully something more substantive tomorrow.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Mr. Droney Has Friends

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (February 7, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our president is quite enamored with drones, especially as a weapon.  He allows the CIA to use them and he allows the Department of Defense to use them.  He also doesn't seem to mind much that they are being used domestically by local law enforcement agencies.  No one else in government seems to mind much either.  Mr. Droney has many friends.  Some surprising friends.

Last week, one of the trusty regulars at Eschaton posted a comment which linked to this article.

The government says you can’t know how many people U.S. drone strikes have killed, because that’s a state secret. But one of the most hawkish members of the U.S. Senate just said the strikes have killed 4,700 people. And his math raises questions.

That’s what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) approvingly told an Easley, South Carolina, Rotary Club on Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first public death toll provided by a U.S. government official for the signature method of killing in the U.S.’ sprawling, global counterterrorism campaign.

“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham said, according to an Easley website. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al-Qaida.” Graham did not evidently offer an estimate of how many innocent people the drones have killed. ...

...Graham’s disclosure underscores the extraordinary secrecy around the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism efforts — a military action in all but name, operated by an agency that need not explain to the public how it carries out the program. Even [Dianne] Feinstein, a big advocate of the CIA and its drones, acknowledged to Danger Room earlier this month that the CIA has a history of being deceitful with Congress about its other highly valued programs. And even after the CIA’s likely next director, John Brennan, acknowledged that the CIA performs such lethal strikes, the Justice Department still maintains that even the existence of its drone program is a state secret, so that it need not disclosure information about it in court. Whatever Graham’s intentions in stating a death toll — regardless of its accuracy — that secrecy is the most prominent, visible fact about the drones.   [Emphasis added]

 I decided to do a little checking around to see if any mainstream media were going to touch this story.  It didn't take long.  The Los Angeles Times reported essentially the same thing, but noted that not just the CIA was involved in ordering drone strikes.

The increase in Afghan drone strikes also has coincided with a greater U.S. military focus in the region on deterring Iran, which has put more demands on the Navy fighters flying off two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In the past, one of the carriers had focused on air operations over Afghanistan.

The U.S. military drone strikes in Afghanistan are separate from the CIA drone campaigns against suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen. In Afghanistan, analysts say, drones often are used to back up ground forces or for killing insurgents who are spotted trying to plant roadside bombs.

But another strike last year demonstrated that U.S. forces are also using drones for targeted killings, much as the CIA is in Pakistan and Yemen.   [Emphasis added]

No one in Congress is running around with their hair on fire over the issue, and, sadly,  with good reason.  Again, from the Los Angeles Times a day later:

The United Arab Emirates is close to purchasing Predator drones from a San Diego County defense contractor, sparking concern among arms control advocates.

Under the proposed sale, revealed this week at a defense conference in Abu Dhabi and confirmed Friday, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of Poway will sell an undisclosed number of the robotic aircraft to the UAE armed forces for $197 million.

The agreement would mark the first time a non-NATO country has obtained the American-made technology, which has reshaped modern warfare. The deal has drawn scrutiny from critics who worry about the technology falling into terrorists' hands or being used by governments against their own citizens. ...

The sale would still need the approval of Congress, and there are federal restrictions on selling large drones. But General Atomics, which builds the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer drones used by the U.S. Air Force and CIA, has designed a new unarmed version of the Predator that would qualify for export.

The remotely piloted aircraft, called the Predator XP, could be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, but will not be outfitted for weapons capability. The company did not say whether any cameras and sensor packages would be included.

But the drone has the same physical dimensions, altitude, speed and flight endurance — up to 35 hours — as the original unarmed version of the Predator drone first flown by the Air Force in 1995. ...

In its latest assessment of the industry, aerospace research firm Teal Group Corp. estimated that worldwide drone spending would almost double over the next decade, to $11.4 billion in 2022.

Anticipating the trend, the Congressional Research Service warned in a report last year that foreign competitors were getting a jump on U.S. firms.   [Emphasis added]

Now, we can't be having that, can we.  I mean, it's our technology of death.  We should reap all the benefits.

Like I said:  Mr. Droney has many friends.  Some of them in high places.

I'm thinking about going back to bed, covers drawn over my head, for good.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Audre Lorde

Who Said It Was Simple

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

--Audre Lorde

Sunday Funnies: 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution February 18, 2013.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

 (Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (February 20, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and to check out the newspaper headline.)


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Donkey

(Photograph by Klein-Hubert/Kimball Stock and published at National Geographic.  Click on image to enlarge.  Click on link to learn a bit about the bond between donkey mothers and their foals.)

Delusional Or Paid For

(Click on image to enlarge and then hustle right on back.  Please.)

Wow, I turn my back on David Horsey for a couple of days and he roars back with a pip of a column.  In this one he takes aim at the GOP, kicks some butt, and doesn't even bother with taking names.

Republicans make the claim that their party represents the concerns of average, hard-working, family-centered Americans. It is a curious claim, given that their party unfailingly opposes any measure that gives those average Americans a break.

Average Americans struggle to pay for their kids' college tuitions. Their incomes have stagnated. They have lost jobs. They have been screwed over by mortgage companies and banks. They have seen their 401(k) retirement savings decimated and pensions disappear.

Yet, the Republicans who claim to be their champions consistently side with the big banks and financial industry players who gambled with home mortgages, ransacked pension systems and nearly brought the economy to collapse. They side with unscrupulous business interests instead of powerless consumers. They limit financial aid to students and cut funding for higher education. They target unions that once were able to win decent incomes for workers, instead favoring corporations that cut wages, lay off employees and demand more work from those remaining on the job. They oppose extensions of unemployment compensation and fight against increases in the minimum wage.

In all situations, Republicans act as if their only motivation is to protect the interests of business owners, big corporations and Wall Street.    [Emphasis added]

David tries to play fair, suggesting that the Republicans simply have not learned that their current posture is like that of Calvin Coolidge:  the Free Market will cure everything.  They simply have forgotten what resulted from Coolidge's approach.  Me, I think that's only part of it.  I also think they've discovered that it pays to be delusional, and pays quite handsomely. 

Unfortunately for the rest of us, a lot of Democrats are operating with the same funds.  They just speak a better line.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Things That Make You Go Wow!

Every once in a while, a legislative body comes up with what is actually a good idea, something that will benefit someone other than the wealthy 1%.  The California state legislature did just that, and Michael Hiltzig took a look at it in his column earlier in the week.  The state will be putting in place a special program for low income workers to save money for their retirement.  It's no grandiose program, but it hopefully prove to be a useful supplement to Social Security.

In September, the state launched a plan to enable these workers to put aside about 3% of their wages a year for retirement. As enacted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the program's goals would be modest indeed.

The best thing about the plan is that it would allow workers to build up retirement stakes at low cost and low risk; their contributions would be pooled with other enrollees' for the purpose of making investments, which would cut down on fees. Workers would be signed up automatically, though they could opt out at any time. They'd be protected against the loss of their contributions and guaranteed a modest investment gain — say about 3% over inflation. When they retire, their nest eggs would be turned into annuities designed to last to the end of their lives, presumably at a conversion cost lower than they might incur in the commercial annuity market.

There would be no cost to state taxpayers. Employers with five or more workers would be required to offer the plan to their workforce and to allow contributions to be withheld through their payroll systems, as they do for taxes. They'd be free of any other legal or administrative burdens.

It's a great deal. It's also necessary, given the decades-long assault on employer-sponsored defined-benefit pensions, which were once an important pillar of retirement security for average Americans. "This could be a real model for the nation," Karen Friedman, policy director at the Pension Rights Center in Washington, told me.   [Emphasis added]

Unfortunately, there will be a substantial delay in implementing the program:

 But it's going to take at least two more years to get off the ground, which is ridiculous. That's chiefly because the legislation requires that a feasibility study be done first to determine the demand for such a plan and the best way to avoid sticking taxpayers with the costs of an investment guarantee, and a few other details. The kicker is that the feasibility study has to be financed from privately raised funds, and that takes time.   [Emphasis added]

In other words, to get the proposed bill passed and signed off by the governor the sponsors had to include language of delay.  While a feasibility study isn't a bad idea, having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from the private sector to get that done shows that even California Democrats can be foolish.

Still, it's an idea that shows thinking outside the box and might inspire other states to take a look at such an option.  At this point we can't count on the DC folks to be looking out for our interests.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eighth Blogoversary!

(Graphic snagged from this site.)

Yup, it's the Eighth Anniversary of Cab Drollery, and even I'm surprised at that.  I didn't imagine this joint would be open this long, yet here we are, over 5800 posts later (many of them by Ruth Calvo, who's now with Fire Dog Lake.)

Will I do it for another two years, a whole decade?

Hell, I don't know.  I briefly considered announcing the end today, primarily because I am tired of being disgusted and angry and cynical by all the news I read day in and day out.  I also am noticing a gradual impairment of my cognitive and memory processes.  The old head bone isn't as nimble as it used to be.

But then I ran into a homeless guy I hadn't seen for a while, a man I feared had died.  He had been living in his car, moving it as the cops rousted him, but always parking nearby so I saw him every day.  Sometimes, in the early morning he'd still be asleep.  Other times he'd be working for people in the neighborhood, doing yard work or minor repairs.  Then two days went by when he was still asleep mid-morning.  On the third day, he was gone, but so was his car.

Earlier in the week he showed up at Burger King (who let him do clean-up work each day for his food) to announce he had finally saved up enough  money to rent a room in San Gabriel.  He just dropped by to see how all his friends were doing.  I had a hard time hiding my tears and a couple of regulars kidded me about that.

It dawned on me that this guy kept plugging along against incredibly long odds.  The lesson struck a deep chord within me.

So I will continue for at least a while longer to churn out some electrons.  I may lighten up a bit more, maybe with more good news, maybe with book reviews not involving politics.  We'll see.

I hope you'll keep dropping by.  If you feel so inclined, you can encourage me.  Donations are always a sign of encouragement, but so are comments.

And, thanks.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mr. Droney

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman / Sacramento Bee (February 14, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

As I mentioned last week, President Obama's use of armed drones has had some unintended consequences, but all our senators were interested in talking about was their use against American citizens without some kind of check.  This week, the United Nations has decided to have a look-see and has issued a report on civilian deaths in Afghanistan caused by the use of drones.

The number of U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan jumped 72 percent in 2012, killing at least 16 civilians in a sharp increase from the previous year, the U.N. said Tuesday in a sign of the changing mission as international forces prepare to withdraw combat forces in less than two years. ...

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 506 weapons were released by drones last year, compared with 294 in 2011. Five incidents resulted in casualties last year, with 16 civilians killed and three wounded, up from just one incident in 2011.

Even as drone attacks increased, the U.N. reported an overall decrease in civilian deaths by airstrikes with the U.S.-led coalition implementing stricter measures to prevent innocent people from being killed.

The U.N. said most of the civilian casualties from drone strikes appear to be the result of weapons aimed directly at insurgents but some may have been targeting errors.

It called for a review of tactical and operational policy on targeting to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law "with the expansion of the use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles" in Afghanistan. Drones are highly effective but have strained relations between the U.S. and Pakistan as well as other nations where the strikes are carried out because civilians are sometimes killed alongside targeted terrorists.    [Emphasis added]

Of course, we don't need no steenkin' interational humanitarian law.  We're the USA! USA! USA!

Also, of course, we are setting ourselves up for decades of retribution from those countries and/or groups who don't take kindly to being bombed from the sky at the whim and whimsy of our leaders.

And, also, of course, some of us don't particularly like the domestic use of drones for "surveillance".  Even those of us who are law-abiding find that a nasty attack on our right to privacy.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

David Shows His Cynicism

Well, David Horsey has a cynical side.  His latest column certainly matches my mood of late, so I can't really blame him.  Unfortunately, I can't cheer him up either. 

In the movies, when humanity is faced with imminent doom, whether from a massive asteroid or an invasion of space monsters, the people of the world forget their differences, band together and save themselves. In the real world, such unanimity of purpose is far more rare. When it came time to help their fellow Americans whose lives were upended by Sandy, quite a few members of Congress balked, delayed and refused to let go of their compulsive quest to scale back government spending. Ideology trumped compassion. ...

If a gigantic asteroid were barreling toward impact with our planet, you can bet there would be at least a few members of Congress who would insist on leaving it alone, either because they would see it as a warning shot from the Almighty or because a mining company with a savvy team of lobbyists had laid claim to the big rock. Two minutes before Armageddon, somebody will still be trying to figure out how to make a quick buck off of it and he’ll have friends in Congress insisting that it’s the American way.


But, oh, so true.  As Horsey notes in the rest of the column, we are  seeing that play out in the climate change arena.  We should have been doing something a decade ago at least, but even now, when we are seeing the dramatic storms, the crippling droughts, the huge swings in temperatures, the climate change deniers, fueled by the dollars from the oil, gas, and coal companies have our congress critters on both sides of the aisle looking the other way.  Money today, even if (or especially because) catastrophe tomorrow.

We are so screwed.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

And Stay Out Of My Cab!

(Graphic found here.)

Ah, Little Tommy Friedman is at it again.  He has once again proven that he really earned the "One True Wanker of the Decade" award from Duncan Black.  He probably deserves a Granny Bird Award as well, but I don't want his chest to cave in from all the medals.

Here's part of what he said in his column yesterday:

Message: There is no doubt our economy is primarily being held back by the deleveraging and drop in demand that resulted from the 2008 financial crisis. But they are being reinforced today by uncertainty and worry that we do not have our political house in order and, therefore, our tax, regulatory, pension and entitlement frameworks are all in play. So businesses, investors and consumers all hold back just enough for us not to be able to move the growth and employment meters with any robust momentum. Sure, we’ll throw money into the stock market if the only alternative is zero interest from bonds or banks, but it is not being recirculated with confidence in the long term. It’s a tragedy. You can feel the economy wants to launch, but Washington is sitting on the national mood button. We the people still feel like children of permanently divorcing parents. ...

TO have any effect, though, the president can’t just say he is ready for “tough” decisions. He has to lead with his chin and put a concrete, comprehensive package on the table, encompassing three areas. First, new investments that would combine immediate jobs in infrastructure with some long-term growth-enablers like a massive build-out in the nation’s high-speed broadband capabilities. That would have to be married with a long-term fiscal restructuring, written into law, that slows the growth of both Social Security and Medicare entitlements, along with individual and corporate tax reform. ...

...We can’t protect both generations in full anymore, but we must not sacrifice one for the other — favoring nursing homes over nursery schools — and that’s what we’re on track to do.   [Emphasis added]

Of course we can, you moron.  That is the whole point of government, to promote the general welfare, not just the rich.  There is a reason Social Security and Medicare are called entitlements:  we are freakin' entitled to them after paying into them for nearly 40 years.  You can't tell me we can't afford protecting our elders and our children but we can afford bankster bailouts and tanks that the military doesn't even want. 

All it would take to shore up Social Security is to raise the payroll tax ceiling a bit.  All it would take to shore up Medicare (and Medicaid) would be to enforce cuts in duplicative testing and the other scams run by clinics and hospitals and to emphasize wellness programs.  Not  hard, Tommy.

And for those companies who have parked their money and their jobs overseas, and who are sitting on bundles of cash because they can, find a way to tax the hell out of them as well.

It's our turn now, and you can "Suck On That."

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks

A Penitent Considers Another Coming of Mary

For Reverend Theodore Richardson

If Mary came would Mary
Forgive, as Mothers may,
And sad and second Saviour
Furnish us today?

She would not shake her head and leave
This military air,
But ratify a modern hay,
And put her Baby there.

Mary would not punish men—
If Mary came again.
--Gwendolyn Brooks

Sunday Funnies: Another 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (February 13, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

 (Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (February 14, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Sloth

(Photo snagged from the Slog Sanctuary of Costa Rica.  Click on image to enlarge.  Click on link to learn more about sloths and this worthy project.)

H2 Uh-Oh

Poor Marco Rubio.  The shining light of the GOP, the one many hope will lead the party out of the desert, didn't fare so well in his delivery of the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address.  And for good reason (as David Horsey pointed out):  he was stuck of the old rhetoric, the one that cost them the 2012 election.

It is no wonder Florida Sen. Marco Rubio needed to grab a bottle of water in the middle of delivering the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. The speech he was given to recite was like a hunk of stale, dry sourdough and it surely caught in his throat.

For 30 years, Republican aspirants to the presidency have been giving variations of the same speech. It sounded fresh and bold when Ronald Reagan first spoke the words as a candidate in 1980. At that point, the liberal era that began with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 had pretty much run out of gas. Democrats had grown too comfortable with their seemingly permanent lock on the House of Representatives, while their ideas about the creative use of government had devolved into a system of doling out federal dollars to clamoring interest groups.

Reagan declared that government was the problem, not the solution, and that taxes were too high and regulations on business too onerous. It was a winning message and helped bring blue-collar men and the South firmly into the Republican fold.

Rubio spoke the same language on Tuesday night but it sounded like a talking-points memo left over from Mitt Romney’s losing campaign. Rather than looking like a young man with new ideas, Rubio looked like a novice with no thoughts of his own.   [Emphasis added]

As Horsey pointed out in the rest of his column, the country has changed since Reagan in all sorts of ways.  And the economy has changed in drastic and disheartening ways.  The problems and issues we face are real, yet the GOP is still quoting Reagan, and, sadly enough, the failed candidate Mitt Romney.

It's like I said earlier in the week.  The GOP is going with the "Lipstick On A Pig" approach.  That can't work much longer, even in the South.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Mental Health Day

I don't have much to say today, but that doesn't mean other people aren't saying good things.  Check out their blogs:

There's Digby,

Or Echidne,

Or Ronni

Or, for some fabulous photography.

Friday Cat Blogging will be up at 2:30 PM PST.

Oh, and enjoy the day.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Viewing Choice

(Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

David Horsey had a fun column on the dilemma faced by news outlets on Tuesday evening:  which news story to cover.

What appears to be the fiery finale to Christopher Dorner's violent rampage across Southern California nearly upstaged President Obama's State of the Union address. As the seconds ticked down to the start of the speech, it seemed as though Anderson Cooper and the folks at CNN were awfully reluctant to break away from the burning cabin near Big Bear where the disgruntled, unhinged ex-cop from the Los Angeles Police Department appeared to be holed up.

Nevertheless, the cable news organizations did their duty and switched from the sensational to the substantial. They were rewarded with an unusually news-making speech from Obama. As police officials appeared close to confirming that the deadly Dorner saga had ended, the president was confirming that he is just getting started on an aggressive agenda for the coming year. ...

Tuesday was a big night for news. One story was like a action-packed cop show straight from Hollywood, the other was a bit like a political melodrama we have seen many times before. Still, the president gave a good performance and earned whatever audience he was able to grab from the police showdown in the Southern California woods.

Embedded in the column was a little mini-poll asking readers which of the two events they watched.  As of last night, more than half reported watching local coverage of the Dorner story.  I suspect that nation wide, that poll might not hold up, if only because of access.  This was a big story for Southern California, involving an oft troubled police department.  Even so, that poll and the ongoing discussions I've heard and read today which dealt more with the Dorner story than the Obama speech (and responses from Rubio and Rand) are troubling.

It's as if there is a complete disconnect between the general population and its national government.  Local stories are more important than grandiose speeches -- that I could live with, I suppose -- but national plans, national issues and how to resolve them seem to be off the radar.

And that I find quite disquieting.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lipstick On A Pig

(Graphic snagged from

So the State of the Union address was delivered last night by President Obama, followed by 2 --count 'em, 2-- responses from the GOP.  I didn't watch/listen to any of it.  I was in a relatively good mood and didn't want to spoil it.  I imagine I'll have a few comments later in the week.

What I do want to comment on is the attempted "re-branding" of the Republican party, hence the graphic.  Leonard Pitts, Jr. had a pretty solid analysis of just what is going on with that alleged change in focus. 

Maybe the party is finally over.

Meaning not simply the Grand Old Party, but more specifically the bacchanal of the bizarre and carnival of crazy to which it has lately devolved. So obvious has this devolution become that even Republican stalwarts have been heard to decry the parody of a party the GOP has become.

Except now we see signs suggesting maybe a corner has been turned. There was, for example, that surprising bipartisan consensus on immigration reform, which one would have thought about as likely as a Ted Nugent concert on the White House lawn. And Politico reports Karl Rove has started a super PAC whose mission is to keep the more .?.?. ahem, colorful candidates from winning Republican primaries. Politico also quotes what it calls a high-profile strategist who said party leaders are now trying to "marginalize the cranks, haters and bigots" they until recently portrayed as courageous truth tellers. ...

So yes, signs are plentiful that something is afoot among the Republicans. But what does it mean? ...

 One might hope.

But one might be well-advised to gird that hope with wariness, given that this is the same party whose leaders, as reported on PBS' "Frontline," held a meeting in 2009 and chose obstructionism as a political strategy. Note that, even while repeating his "stupid party" admonition at a GOP meeting in Charlotte last month, Jindal assured his audience this did not mean rethinking or even moderating the party's hardcore - and frankly, out of touch - stands on issues such as abortion and marriage equality.

No, he explained, he's talking about changing the packaging - not what's in it. Putting lipstick on the proverbial pig, in other words.   [Emphasis added]


Evidence of that cosmetic change came yesterday when 22 GOP senators voted against the Violence Against Women Act.  We'll see what the House Republicans, many of them from the Tea Party wing, will do to it, probably by the end of the session.

Besides, as we liberals learned the hard way, hope is not a very good strategy.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

The big news the past couple of days has been the resignation of Pope Benedict because he feels too infirm to continue.  A resignation (retirement) from the papacy hasn't happened in about 600 years, so the attention in the press is certainly warranted.  The resignation becomes effective the end of February and a conclave of the cardinals to select his successor will be convened in March.

One cardinal who is probably grateful to heed the call to Rome is Roger Mahony.  He continues to be hammered by the Los Angeles Times for his role in hiding priests who were sexually abusive.  Here's the latest:

Pressed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to settle clergy sex abuse lawsuits, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony turned to one group of Catholics whose faith could not be shaken: the dead.

Under his leadership in 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles quietly appropriated $115 million from a cemetery maintenance fund and used it to help pay a landmark settlement with molestation victims.

The church did not inform relatives of the deceased that it had taken the money, which amounted to 88% of the fund. Families of those buried in church-owned cemeteries and interred in its mausoleums have contributed to a dedicated account for the perpetual care of graves, crypts and grounds since the 1890s.

Mahony and other church officials also did not mention the cemetery fund in numerous public statements about how the archdiocese planned to cover the $660-million abuse settlement. In detailed presentations to parish groups, the cardinal and his aides said they had cashed in substantial investments to pay the settlement, but they did not disclose that the main asset liquidated was cemetery money. ...

The church's use of fund money appears to be legal. State law prohibits private cemeteries from touching the principal of their perpetual care funds and bars them from using the interest on those funds for anything other than maintenance. Those laws, however, do not apply to cemeteries run by religious organizations.   [Emphasis added.]

While probably not illegal, the use of the funds without advising the families of those buried in Catholic cemeteries and failing to disclose the source of the settlement funds to the archdiocese for an appreciable period of time thereafter amounts to a cover-up, thereby compounding the sin.  Go read the entire article for more details.  I'm sure Cardinal Mahony will be happy to escape from the glare all these revelations are generating.

Kudos to the Los Angeles Times for their ongoing coverage of this issue.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unintended Consequences

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (February 6, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then hustle back.)

Doyle McManus took a look at the Senate confirmation hearings for the nominee to head the CIA and noted something I thought was quite interesting.  The first part of his op-ed piece dealt primarily with the issue of whether more oversight was needed when using drones to take out American citizens accused of being terrorists.  It's the latter part of the column that struck me.

Still, protecting the rights of U.S. citizens in Al Qaeda is only part of what is at stake; those cases are unusual. In the long run, a more important question may be whether the drone strikes, which have killed more than 3,000 people, are creating more enemies for the United States than they are eliminating.

Scholars who have studied the political effects of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen have argued that even well-targeted raids often claim innocent victims, and the result is a backlash against the U.S. Likewise, Hayden and retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, have warned that too many drone attacks — in Pakistan, for example, where the CIA uses "signature strikes" against suspected militants without identifying them individually — can be a bad thing.

"What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," McChrystal told the Reuters news agency last month. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."

During a hearing that lasted more than three hours, only one senator asked about that critical issue — a senior Republican, Susan Collins of Maine.

"If you looked at a map back in 2001, you would see that Al Qaeda was mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and if you look at a map today, you would see Al Qaeda in all sorts of countries," Collins said. "If the cancer of Al Qaeda is metastasizing, do we need a new treatment?" ...

...Collins shined a light on a question that can be debated in public: Are drone strikes effective in the long run, or are they creating more enemies than they kill? That's a worthy target for Senate and House committees to go after.   [Emphasis added]

Apparently all but Sen. Collins believe the use of drones, even against US citizens, is acceptable.  The only quibble has to do with Congress having more oversight when it comes to US citizens.  The implication is that the US public is OK with drone warfare, an implication borne out by some polls which finds a strong majority in favor of their use, presumably because it means fewer American troops on the ground.

But if, as Sen. Collins suggested, the use of drones against any suspected terrorist is creating far more terrorists in many more countries, then the policy just might be flawed, something no one seems willing to discuss.  A FISA court or congressional oversight committee isn't going to do much in any case.

When one adds to the mix the fact that more and more countries now have their own drones and are presumably willing to use them, we may just have opened a whole new kind of hell hole. 

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

--Maya Angelou

Sunday Funnies: A 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman and published 2/5/13 in the Sacramento Bee.  Click on image to enlarge)

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 2/7/13 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 09, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Pea Aphid

(Photo Credit to Jpeccoud and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to discover what this critter has in common with a cat.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The NFL? Really?

(Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

I don't know why I was so surprised by the fact that the NFL has  lobbyists, but I was.  This news brief from Open Secrets is quite interesting. (You'll have to scroll down a bit to find the article.)

...[T]he NFL spent $1.14 million on lobbying last year. That's down from its record $1.62 million in 2011, but the league has come a long way in its political influence since 1998, when it spent just $360,000 to lobby tax, gaming, and broadcasting issues, according to data.

Now the NFL has much more legislation to monitor. Last year, it lobbied TV programming and copyrights, human growth hormones, player safety and antitrust issues, sports betting and concussion legislation....

As Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington points out, the lobbying spike is largely in response to heightened congressional scrutiny of the league's hormone testing policies, treatment of retired players, procedures for dealing with concussions and, related to all of those, its disability policies. Concussions and their long-term consequences have created a particularly heated debate, as OpenSecrets has reported.  ...

The National Football Players Association isn't nearly as active as the NFL on K Street, just as players are far less likely to make campaign contributions than league and team managers. The NFLPA spent $120,000 lobbying in 2012 and $230,000 the year before, mostly to weight in on antitrust, labor and telecommunications issues on behalf of the union's players. The players' union doesn't have a PAC.   [Emphasis added]

I guess the anti-trust issues are at the top of the list of concerns the NFL owners are fussing over, and rightfully so.  Like other pro sports in this country, the NFL has been given a license to skate when it comes to monopolies and the like.  What intrigues me about the chart, however, is that when head injuries to football players really hit the news, the NFL really hit the lobbying trail, making certain Congress didn't look too hard on the issue, so hard that it might impair the league owners from continuing to make millions.

That the NFL players' union would get involved makes sense in light of that, although it isn't pouring the kind of money into the effort their owners are. 

Sound familiar?

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Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

First Class

(Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

It appears that the United States Post Office, an agency mandated by the Constitution, is on its way out.  This week the Post Office announced that it will be discontinuing Saturday mail delivery.  With that cut in service, the end appears in sight.  David Horsey considers how we got to this point, and I think he got it right.

Sure, most people have not mailed a real letter for months, if not years, and prefer to send messages via email or text. And, yes, companies such as UPS and FedEx have stolen the more lucrative shares of the market from the venerable old post office. But the USPS might be in less dire straits if Republicans in Congress were not trying to kill it outright.

In 2006, the GOP Congress passed a bill that required the Postal Service to fully fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and to accomplish this within a 10-year period. Republicans are always insisting that the USPS be run like a good capitalist enterprise, but few, if any, private businesses could bear the burden of funding three-quarters of a century of retired employees’ medical costs over just one decade.

In truth, the Republicans who crafted the bill were not interested in turning the Postal Service into a better business; they were seeking to run the post office out of business. With all those unionized employees working for a quasi-governmental operation that competes with private sector enterprises, the Postal Service is an affront to those who hate government, hate unions and hate to think that there is anything that government can do better than the private sector. The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction.

About the only thing that has saved the Postal Service is the fact that nobody else wants to serve rural areas. No one but the dutiful mail carriers deliver to America’s remote addresses because it is a money-losing proposition. The congressmen and senators who represent those rural constituents have fought against further cuts and may well block the elimination of Saturday delivery, as they have in the past.   [Emphasis added]

What is so maddening about this bit of chicanery by the GOP is that the USPS is cheaper by far than either FedEx and UPS for both domestic and international delivery.  A letter mailed first class across the country with the post office arrives (usually) within two days.  Does one day make a difference in most mail?  And what will UPS and FedEx charge to deliver to rural areas.  Will UPS and FedEx set up centers for people to register to vote?  To pick up income tax forms?  Change of address forms?  I doubt it.

David concludes his column by urging citizens to contact their congress critters and the White House and urge them to do whatever is necessary to save the office.  I would only add that we should demand that the law requiring the USPS to fully fund retiree benefits for 75 be repealed.


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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Granny Bird Award: CVS

This edition of the Granny Bird Award, given from time to time to those who go out of their way to harm the interests and benefits of elders, goes to CVS, the pharmacy chain which has gone into the Medicare business by offering a Part D benefit.  They roped in a lot of elders with their promises of lower prescription prices and then did a bait-and-switch on them.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a letter to CVS' SilverScript subsidiary that its inability to process prescriptions correctly "poses a serious threat to the health and safety of Medicare beneficiaries."

The federal agency blamed the problems on "widespread data system failures" that have "created disruptions in tens of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries' access to prescription medications."

SilverScript handles the drug requirements of about 4 million Medicare beneficiaries.

In Shapiro's case, she told me that she'd ordered a 90-day supply of an estrogen pill that was supposed to cost $85. Instead, SilverScript sent her a 30-day supply running $70.61.

Shapiro said she got the runaround from three separate CVS supervisors until a company representative finally insisted that she had to take what she was given and pay the amount CVS was demanding. ...

Medicare says it received 2,340 complaints about SilverScript in just the first two weeks of January — a rate four times greater than for all other Medicare-approved drug programs combined.   [Emphasis added]

Go read all of David Lazarus's column (link above) to see the lame excuses being offered.  Then write the White House and urge that they push to remove CVS from the approved list of Part D providers. 

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013


(Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

The big news in Los Angeles this past week has been the discipline the current Roman Catholic Archbishop has placed upon his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, for his protection of priests engaged in sexual abuse of members of their parishes, many of them children.  This was an extraordinary move by the Archbishop because in terms of the ecclesiastic hierarchy, Mahony as a Cardinal outranks Archbishop Gomez.  The move was occasioned by a court ruling that files on the issue be presented without redaction of any sort and those files are devastating.

David Horsey has a very temperate column up on the issue, one that I don't quite agree with.

For a decade now, the sex abuse scandal has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in city after city. The scandal in Los Angeles led to a settlement between the church and 500 abuse victims in 2007, but the archdiocese had resisted opening personnel files. Now, though, the files are wide open and the stark evidence of a cover-up has brought to disgrace one of the most powerful and admired men in the church, Cardinal Mahony. The good works of a lifetime are tainted by the fact that he saw evil, had the authority to stop it and, instead, tried to keep it in the darkness by giving offending priests out-of-state assignments and barring them from talking to therapists who might blow the whistle on their misdeeds.

It goes without saying that the Catholic hierarchy from Rome on down has long been engaged in a cynical effort to protect the institution of the church by hiding pedophile priests. Still, there is also an element of Christian idealism at work here. At the heart of the faith is the principle that any sinner, no matter how wicked, can be redeemed by God’s forgiveness. That goes for priests, too. In the context of church teaching, there is logic in allowing clergy to repent and ask forgiveness, rather than turning them over to the police. But it is a naïve logic that depends on a miracle cure for a disorder that even years of therapy cannot always remedy. ...

Of course, the files describe things that happened in the 1980s and the church insists steps have been taken to prevent such things from happening today. We all pray that is true. But, as they say in politics, the cover-up is more damaging than the crime, at least to the powerful men who try to keep terrible secrets. Cardinal Mahony is the latest to learn this lesson.   [Emphasis added]

It is hard for me to believe that "Christian idealism" was at work.  I think it was more a case of protecting the ecclesiastical authority of the church from top to bottom.  Priests who uttered a phrase deemed inconsistent with church teachings received a harsher punishment than those sexually abusing children (both boys and girls) and women.  The sexual abusers were just shuffled off to another parish, another state, with no warning to the parish, thereby enabling them to continue the behavior.  Roger Mahony just washed his hands of the problem, just as another authority did 2,000 years ago.

Jesus wept.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Try, Try Again

The Violence Against Women Act is being reintroduced into the Senate, hopefully this week.  The act was allowed to lapse in the last Congress because the House refused to move on it. 

From AP:

Senate Democrats worked toward picking up Republican allies Monday as they launched a new attempt to broaden a law protecting women from domestic abuse by expanding its provisions to cover gays, lesbians and Native Americans.

The legislation to renew the Violence Against Women Act appeared on a smooth path toward passage in the Senate, possibly by the end of this week. Monday's procedural vote to make the bill the next order of business was expected to easily clear the 60-vote threshold. ...

House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, say reauthorizing the 1994 act, which expired in 2011, is a priority. But resolving partisan differences remains an obstacle: last year both the House and Senate passed bills but the House would not go along with Senate provisions that single out gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders for protection and give tribal authorities more power to prosecute non-Indians who attack Indian partners on tribal lands.

As always, the devil is in the details, but given the trouncing the GOP in 2012 when it came to the women's vote, the Republicans just might be a little more circumspect and at least some form of the bill will make it through.  Unfortunately, I don't think the Republicans will be willing to expand the protection to include the gay community and Native American women.

What would be nice is having a law such as this one without a "sunset" provision.  Why should violence against women, especially in a domestic situation, ever be tolerable or tolerated?  Why should we have to renew the law every few years?  If it needs tinkering, then pass a bill which strengthens it by way of an amendment.

I guess that would be make it too difficult to keep women in line.


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Monday, February 04, 2013

Elder Belle's Blessing: Atrios

(Photograph by Patrice Carlton and published at National Geographic.)

This edition of Elder Belle's Blessing, an award given from time to time to those who enhance elders' rights and benefits, goes to Atrios, the proprietor of Eschaton, a lefty-blog.  Atrios (whose real name is Duncan Black) is an economist of the Keynesian School and he thinks that the very worst thing to do in this economy is to institute austerity measures.  Among his many suggestions for kick-starting things is lowering the age for Medicare and Social Security and increasing the benefits.  Here's his latest.

The pain caucus, austerity freaks, fix the debt assholes, the Washington Post editorial board, etc... basically exist to scare politicians away from actually promising (and maybe even delivering) nice things to voters. One would think it'd be a nobrainer for politicians, especially in certain parts of the country, to campaign on an immediate across the board 20% increase in Social Security benefits. Some people completely screwed by the great recession could really use it.   [Emphasis added]

 The post was written in response to this New York Times article

In the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to having been most injured. But the Labor Department’s latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath.

These Americans in their 50s and early 60s — those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security — have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company. ...

The share of older people applying for Social Security early spiked during the recession as people sought whatever income they could find. The penalty they will pay is permanent, as retirees who take benefits at age 62 — as Ms. Zimmerman did, to help make her mortgage payments — will receive 30 percent less in each month’s check for the rest of their lives than they would if they had waited until full retirement age (66 for those born after 1942).  [Emphasis added]

That's a pretty sizable loss. That's one good reason for raising the benefits just by itself.

Lowering the eligibility age for both Medicare and Social Security would also take the pressure of the elders, something which Atrios has also advocated.  The upside of both of his proposals would have a dual effect:  elders could remove themselves from the labor market (whether working three part-time jobs at much lower pay just to pay the mortgage or holding onto a job only because of the need for health insurance) and be able to exist more comfortably; their retiring also would free up some jobs for the rest of the labor market.

We don't need to cut Social Security and Medicare, we need to expand it.

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Langston Hughes

Let America Be America Again  

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Langston Hughes

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (January 31, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Cubera Snapper

(Photograph by Masa Ushioda, Photolibrary, and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this threatened critter.  Also, click on image to enlarge to check out its teeth!)

Too Much Success Is A Problem?

[Note:  I'm having some financial problems right now.  I know my timing is atrocious, given all the fund raisers lately, but if you can spare a little more, please donate to my "cat food for me and Home Boy" fund.  Thank you.]

When I saw this article earlier in the week, I chuckled.  Then I got to thinking about it and got a little annoyed.  The White House came up with what I thought was a terrific idea:  a place where people could go online and post a petition and if enough people signed the petition within 30 days, the White House would respond. A lot of other people thought it was a terrific idea as well, so much so that the White House has felt compelled to adjust upward the number of signatures required a couple of times.

No, the U.S. will not be building a Death Star. And no, President Barack Obama will not deport CNN's Piers Morgan or let Texas secede.

These are just a few of the wacky notions the White House has been compelled to formally address in recent weeks, part of an effort to put open government into action: the First Amendment right to petition your government, supercharged for the Internet age.

These are just a few of the wacky notions the White House has been compelled to formally address in recent weeks, part of an effort to put open government into action: the First Amendment right to petition your government, supercharged for the Internet age.

Now, as the Obama administration kicks off its second term, it's upping the threshold for responding to Americans' petitions from 25,000 signatures to 100,000, a reminder that government by the people can sometimes have unintended consequences. In this case, a wildly popular transparency initiative has spawned a headache of the administration's own making.

The idea, announced in 2011, was simple: Engage the public on a range of issues by creating an online platform to petition the White House. Any petition garnering 5,000 signatures within 30 days would get an official review and response, the White House said. Dubbed "We the People," the program was touted as an outgrowth of the "unprecedented level of openness in government" Obama vowed to create in a presidential memorandum issued on his first full day in office in 2009.

The response was overwhelming, and a month later, the Obama administration increased the threshold to 25,000 signatures, calling it "a good problem to have." The White House cautioned at the time that it might not be the last time the rules of the program would be changed. ...

Whether the petition initiative and the official responses will, in the long run, be deemed an effective use of White House resources remains to be seen. Another unknown is whether signing the petitions, aside from giving impassioned citizens a chance to be heard, has any effect on how Obama governs. Many petitions call for actions that Congress, not the president, would have to take.

While 5,000 signatures in 30 days may have been a somewhat low figure for this kind of set-up, 25,000 is not.  Sure, there will some silly suggestions (intentional or not), but the White House could have sloughed that off with good humor.  100,000 in 30 days seems impossibly high.  Yes, some issue with currency (the Connecticut Massacre) got that many signatures in just over a day, but if 25,000 people are concerned about an issue, the White House should take a look-see.  Staff can always refer the issue to Congress, if that is the appropriate venue and announce it is doing so, or it can put forth a reason why the issue will not/cannot be addressed.

The White House has taken a good idea, one that attracted a lot of attention, and bent it until it might very well now be broke.

And that's a shame.

By the way, the official site for this is here.

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

What A Surprise

[Note:  I'm having some financial problems right now.  I know my timing is atrocious, given all the fund raisers lately, but if you can spare a little more, please donate to my "cat food for me and Home Boy" fund.  Thank you.]

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman / Sacramento Bee (January 30, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

This headline caused me to blink:  "Wal-Mart limits ammunition sales as demand soars."  Naturally I read the article, and I was soon disabused of any misconception that Wal-Mart was showing some good citizenship.

A month after a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, demand for ammunition is so high that Wal-Mart is limiting sales to keep supply stable.

As of last week, customers nationwide will only be able to purchase three boxes a day from the mega-retailer because “supply is limited,” said spokeswoman Ashley Hardie.

She declined to speculate on the reasons behind the surge in interest, but said the company is “monitoring supply issues daily and working with suppliers to ship ammunition to stores.”

“We’re taking care of as many customers as possible,” Hardie said.   [Emphasis added]

Gotta keep those blue-light special shoppers happy, even if it does mean multiple trips to the store.  Who knows?  Maybe shoppers will pick up a few things besides bullets with each visit.

The business of America is business.

I knew that.

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