Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The old creed no longer leads to redemption

American Dreams - The Nation
There is no comfortable role in American iconography for the poor. The myth of inevitable mobility leaves little room for acknowledging the existence of the dispossessed. Poverty is shrugged off like foreignness when you step off the boat and sashay down the golden bricks of Main Street. We Americans believe in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, but in case you've never tried it, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps pitches you forward, flat onto your face. As our industrial base moves offshore and our fruited plains are taken over by agribusiness, the trope of the blissful drone inspired by promises of phantasmagorical wealth is revealed as unsustainable. The creed by which we profess ourselves a classless society no longer leads to redemption.
Americans are the hardest workers among industrialized nations. We grind ourselves down with the longest workweek and the fewest social protections. No pint in the pub, no rest for the weary. The very idea of being "weary" has been displaced by images of the relentlessly able-bodied bionic economic man who never stops until the body is genuinely and visibly broken. Disability checks come only when you have the marks to prove it--a bit like the way the Bush administration defines torture.
And so I think it's time we consciously craft new prayer totems. If I were to bring an offering to the altar of the American Dream, I'd haul in an electric tram, two intercity railroad cars and a bouquet of bicycles. I'd garnish them with copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I'd hand out praise songs for the concept of human dignity and for economic rights. We ought to recognize the basic need for sustenance as a right, not bury the larger question in the vexed vocabulary of "bailouts" and "handouts." We the people have a right to a home, to healthcare, to untainted food, clean water, a living wage and time to rest, time to develop the personal ties and social engagements that sustain the best and most pleasurable parts of a civilization.


Some good news from Chicago

Labor Victory in Chicago - The Nation

Depression update

An offer you should refuse

Too Little, Too Late: The Health Insurance Industry Unveils a New Plan to Reform Health Care -

We are not making this up:
Selling Insurance Against Their Own Bad Practices -

How can I say this tactfully? We. Told. You. So.

A Message for America's Ruling Class: We Told You So - AlterNet

Actions Have Consequences -

But those Blagojevich tapes sure are disgusting, aren't they?

Senate Report Links Bush to Detainee Homicides; Media Yawns - Salon

Rumsfeld Responsible for Torture, Report Says - CommonDreams/AP

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Unions aren't the problem. They're the solution

Unions Aren’t the Problem - TruthOut
Strip away the financial mumbo jumbo and the credit crisis comes down to this: For decades, as wages and benefits for working and middle-class people stagnated or fell, the only way for them to purchase the goods that make the economy hum was through credit. This was true whether the item purchased was a home, a car—or all the unnecessary gizmos that retailers have been more than happy to tell consumers were the must-haves of the day. Until we understand that we are in the midst of two crises—one the short-term credit crisis and one the longer-term crisis in the failure to pay workers what they need to sustain themselves—we are doomed to repeat this horror.
“If you are a man with only a high school education ... your chances of making a wage or salary as good as what your father was making in the late 1970s are not good,” says Gary Gerstle, a Vanderbilt University historian. “We are looking at a deterioration in their life opportunities and living standards, at the same time that an enormous amount of wealth has accumulated at the top of the income ladder.”
It is true that some individuals were reckless in taking on debt. But it is equally valid that American workers simply haven’t been paid what it takes for them to spend enough to keep the American economy growing. “The economy needed levels of expenditure and consumption that most Americans literally could not afford,” Gerstle says.
What do unions have to do with this? To start with, unionized workers make about $200 more per week than do nonunion workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The great expansion of the American middle class and an unprecedented rise in living standards occurred between the end of World War II and the 1970s—when unions were far more common and powerful than they are today. Beginning in the 1980s, an ideology of deregulation and anti-unionism took hold, with free-market capitalists arguing that no intervention in the markets—including labor’s intervention—was ever beneficial.
“The promise of deregulation was that this would create so much energy and dynamism at the top that it would all trickle down,” Gerstle says. “Not only would people on Wall Street make all kinds of money, but people on Main Street would find that there would be more dynamism in their lives, more opportunity, more wages.”
Well, people on Wall Street did make all kinds of money. People on Main Street got depressed wages, the demise of guaranteed pensions and 401(k)s that crashed with the stock market. They got health insurance that is barely affordable, if they’ve got insurance at all.


Cutting Wages Won't Solve Big Three's Problems - Labor Notes

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terrorism: an analysis

The chasm between pay and worth

Unhealthy Incomes - The Guardian

Monday, November 24, 2008

Those unconscionably big bonuses may also be counterproductive

What’s the Value of a Big Bonus? - The New York Times

Two more strong arguments for universal health care

U.S. Trails Other Nations in Chronic Illness Care - Reuters

Would Passing Universal Health Care Kill the GOP? - AlterNet

Right-wing radio: behind the rancid curtain

Secrets of Talk Radio - Milwaukee Magazine

Maybe we should all send the White House a case of Excedrin

LATE ADDITION: Starving for Change - TruthDig

Obama's picks: deep experience or deep disappointment?

And just how do you combine the experience we need with the change we want?

The largely delighted:

The largely disgusted:

In short, no one knows what it all amounts to, and neither to I. Under the circumstances, I think the shrewedest observation comes from Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher:
[T]he proof will be in what [Obama] actually does....
[F]or people who convinced themselves that Obama was the second coming of Saul Alinsky -- wake up. He never was. He may, however, be the most progressive person we could have possibly hoped to elect as President of the United States.
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to help keep the obstructionists off his back and push him to fulfill his campaign promises to end the war, pass health care legislation and the Employee Free Choice Act, clean up the environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, repair our infrastructure, create good jobs and restore the middle class.
That's what he promised us, and while I'm obviously not wild about the dearth of progressives in his administration..., I'm less concerned with who he chooses to implement his policies than with his ability to ultimately do so.

Barack Obama, Honeymoon Killer? - Salon

Ghettoization & The Difference Between Politics & Policy -

A Market-Oriented Economic Team - Washington Post

Obama Assigns Centrists to Make Radical Economic Moves - LA Times

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Alien autopsy

The Anatomy of Conservative Self-Deception - TPM Cafe

Kilgore nails the conservatives' core political problem dead-on: they believe a majority of Americans actually agree with their agenda.
[C]onservatives don't seem to have internalized the fact that every major conservative assault on the heart of the New Deal/Great Society legacy (Ronald Reagan's and George W. Bush's efforts to "reform" Social Security, and Newt Gingrich's drive to "contain costs" in Medicare) has failed dismally in the court of public opinion.

[Moreover], during both the Reagan and Bush years, public support for conservative efforts to make the tax system more regressive has declined steadily once the free-lunch assumptions of supply-side economics proved to be a fraud. And there has never, for a moment, been anything like a popular majority supporting the sort of broad-scale reductions in government services that could eliminate the fiscal problems associated with the conservative tax-cutting agenda. There's a reason John McCain's campaign based his fiscal-discipline message on the small but symbolic issue of appropriations earmarks, rather than the big-ticket "entitlement reform" that virtually all movement conservatives support. And for that matter, George W. Bush's "Big Government Conservatism," like its Reaganite predecessor, was an accommodation to public opinion rather than a gratuitous betrayal of conservative principle.

If today's conservatives succeed in convincing each other to embrace a more forthright message assaulting entitlements, progressive taxation, public education, regulation of corporations and Wall Street, just to cite a few domestic policy examples, they are almost certainly cruising for more electoral bruising.

In the same vein, these same conservatives have convinced themselves that an ideologically rigid and reactionary candidate like Sarah Palin is their ticket to victory -- a belief that's so far removed from reality that you'd expect it to be a prominent symptom in the DSM IV. Palin in 2012? Bring it on! Please! Poor delusional bastards.

All work and no play makes Jack a sick boy

All Work, No Play - In These Times

Curing two birds with one stone, part deux

Senate Staffers Begin Mulling Health Care Reform As Part Of Stimulus Package - TPM Cafe

Turning the crazy up to 11

What Doesn't Kill The Far-Right Only Makes Them Crazier - The Huffington Post

Deeper into the pit

College Loan Slavery: Student Debt Is Getting Way Out of Hand - AlterNet

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Slippery maneuver restores lucrative tax shelter

A Quiet Windfall For U.S. Banks - Washington Post

Election underscores the South's self marginalization

For South, a Waning Hold on Politics - The New York Times

And that's why, for government, silence on religion is golden

From Tiny Sect, Weighty Issue for Justices - The New York Times

LATE ADDITION: A Case of Religious Discrimination - The New York Times

Boom, bubble, crash

Tax Cuts: The B.S. and the Facts - AlterNet

It's never too early to say goodbye

Goodbye and Good Riddance - The American Prospect

LATE ADDITION: The EPA's Stalin Era - Salon

Board: Pentagon budget must be scaled back

Pentagon Board Says Cuts Essential - Boston Globe

The right wants to hold on to its anger

Entertainingly (for the rest of us), their enemy is fictitious.

Right-wing Media Feeds Its Post-Election Anger - LA Times

In this trek, Obama should go boldly

Bold Is Good - Washington Post

Franklin Delano Obama? - The New York Times

LATE ADDITION: Go For It - The New Republic

Obama poised to undo Bush blunders

We're rediscovering who we are

It Still Felt Good the Morning After - The New York Times

A yearning to be citizens

Activism, Involvement and a Pursuit of the Common Good - That's the Key - The Guardian

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nicely done

In case you missed it....

Who are these people?

I was reading an article in today's NYT about undecided voters. As a political junkie, I've always been baffled by them -- particularly in years like this one, where there are such sharp contrasts between the candidates, and when the party in power has made such a patently spectacular mess of things.

Before reading the article, I rather tongue-in-cheekishly characterized the thought process of the undecideds this way: either they had no guiding principles regarding the proper role and responsibilities of government, or they were incapable of ascertaining which party (hence which candidate) best matches those principles. Hence they were forced into overreliance on the meaningless, contradictory sturm und drang of the political ads and TV pundits.

This year, I thought, it could be boiled down even further: either they have been unconscious for the entirety of the current Administration, or they are incapable of recognizing the flamingly obvious: that it is the Republicans who have screwed things up so badly, and therefore it would be a very bad idea to put them in charge again.

But after reading the article, I think the problem is as much a symptom of the present tendency in the culture to overpersonalize and overpsychologize. Call it the cult of celebrity, or the Oprahtization of the culture, or classic American hyperindividualism. Whatever it is, people tend to forget that a president is enmeshed in, and exercises power within, a system -- that, to achieve his or her goals, the executive must work with allies in Congress and elsewhere. In practice, this means that party principles and priorities tend to be as or more determinative than the individual leader's personality and preferences -- the very characteristics around which many voters' choices pivot (and, after all, that leader chose his party for a reason; the choice is a telling one).

This doesn't mean one ought to be an unthinking straight-ticket voter. But it does mean that party, and the bigger picture, count for more than many people -- particularly the undecideds -- tend to recognize.

Just give us your cash and shut up

Wall Street Banks in $70bn Staff Payout - The Guardian

Banks Take The Money And Sit - Forbes

I really enjoyed reading the Brits' comments after the Guardian article. It always seems that Europeans are much more skeptical, and much less naive, than many Americans about the motives and machinations of the financial Masters of the Universe. I think it has much to do with the fact that European political life is far better balanced than ours, inasmuch as they have an active and vocal left to audibly contradict the conservative narrative (which is substantively the only story Americans have been told for the past 28 years, even during the Clinton '90s -- an interregnum that merely embodied the squishy, pro-corporate centrism of the DLC).

LATE ADDITION: A Question for A.I.G.: Where Did the Cash Go? - The New York Times

No, not McSame -- McWorse

Imagine the unerring economic savvy of Herbert Hoover combined with the sensible foreign-policy instincts of Curtis LeMay.

John McCain: Not More of the Same - The American Prospect

The big job begins Nov. 5th

Obama's Winning Argument - Salon

Keating Five leak investigations pointed to McCain

McCain First, Second, And Always - The New Republic

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We may even learn some compassion for each other

How Universal Health Care Changes Everything -
In the conservative era, America's hypercompetitive society has been very quick to throw away people who haven't made the cut in some way—people without money, connections, or education; people with disabilities that make them economically less viable; people who come from the wrong racial or religious group or the wrong part of the country. You only deserve what you, personally, are capable of earning. If you're badly equipped to do that, it's your own damned fault. If you can't afford health care, you deserve to die. In no case is it the taxpayers' job to step in and make it right.

Nicely observed. It's precisely this conscience-cleansing and ego-enforcing contempt for frailty, for human fallibility, for the inability of some to fit the narrow norms or meet the high demands of well-paid work, that our nation needs to abandon to become a more civilized place.

The party is the problem

The Republican Shipwreck - Salon

Pop quiz for big business: of the past 16 years, in which eight did you do better?

Big Biz Still For GOP - Slate

A testament to the failure of the profession

Greenspan Says, 'Who Could Have Known?' - CommonDreams

The truth doesn't sound as good on the stump

He's Not Robin Hood - Slate

Ronald Reagan, socialist

A Perverted Idea of Fairness - Credo Action

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where the buck bangs loudest (and least)

Economic Effects of Various Stimulus Provisions -

It's the old "na-na-na-can't-hear-you" argument

Conservatives, Despite Their Own Message, Pretend Election Isn't Referendum On Conservatism -

Howard Fineman Joins the Village Freakout -

For Republicans, the difference between capitalism and socialism is 4.6%

...i.e., a 4.6% higher top marginal tax rate for the richest 2% of the population. The same rate that prevailed during the prosperous '90s. Shocking! The next thing you know, we'll all realize that living in a society that models itself after "The Lord of the Flies," that makes life as burdensome as possible for as many as possible, is a bad idea. Likewise, we'll see that the imperceptible dip in the height of Thurston Howell's horde is no burden at all.

And that's what they're really afraid of.

Like, Socialism - The New Yorker

LATE ADDITIONS: Banking On a Confederacy of Dunces - Credo Action

John McCain Is Barack Obama's New Deal Mandate-Maker -

Saturday, October 25, 2008

When McCain was sane

Or at least honest. From a 2000 town-hall meeting:

(A shorter answer to this spoiled girl might be, "Because we live in a society." Or how about that long-recognized reality of democracy, summarized nicely by David Bromwich: "that stupendous inequalities of wealth produce an undemocratic inequality of power." On the other hand, she's probably not interested in a serious answer; she's just sulking because her daddy blames taxes for not buying her the really nice Porsche.)

LATE ADDITION: Remembering When McCain Was Accused of Class Warfare - Mother Jones

Isn't it nice when crises come together?

Crises on Many Fronts - The New York Times

There's no recovery from moral bankruptcy

Here's some nice observations from Tim Rutten's LA Times column today:
What Greenspan and the rest of the aiders-and-abettors of Wall Street's greed spree don't want to admit is that there's something wrong in the economy and financial system that new regulations on trading and disclosure won't correct. Long before the financial system melted down, American business' share of the social compact melted completely away. The corrosion didn't begin at the top but at the bottom -- with the renunciation of any corporate loyalty toward working men and women. For nearly as long as Greenspan has hovered in the financial stratosphere, U.S. companies have been encouraged to treat their workers like any other "expense." Wall Street has rewarded -- indeed, lionized -- companies "tough enough" to treat workers like the electric bill. Presto! Layoffs became "cost management."....
Societies in which the few are allowed to fatten themselves without limit on the labor of many are not just; they aren't even particularly productive for very long. Countries -- like companies -- that cling to notions that allow some to pursue their own interests by behaving indecently toward others come to bad ends.

Yes, indeedy.

McCain 6.0

The Making (and Remaking) of McCain - The New York Times

Sad hoax highlights the ugly side of the right

Taxes are your friend

Why I Love Taxes -- And Why Most Americans Do, Too - CommonDreams

Trading union cards for Master Cards

Union Card or Master Card -- How a Nation of Workers Became a Nation of Debtors - AlterNet

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More evidence that privatizing Social Security is a really stupid idea

Market Downturn Shatters Faith in Stocks - LA Times

The referees were in league with the players

Credit Rating Exec: "We Sold Our Souls to the Devil" - Mother Jones

Report: economic inequality and social mobility are inversely proportional

Rich-Poor Divide Worst Among Rich Countries - IPS News

Building a better b.s. detector

What Is Happening to GOP Electoral Tactics? - Salon

LATE ADDITIONS: After Hardball - The Nation

"Whose Side Are You On, Comrade" - The New Republic

That's the problem--they're blowing all their money on shelter and baby food

You damn kids, stay off my lawn

Bob the Banker Speaks Out - Salon

Vote for Obama, get a $13,000 raise!

Your Salary in 2016 - Washington Monthly

Perhaps this prediction is too optimistic. Still, it's fair to say that an Obama victory, plus the projected Democratic (super)majority in Congress, will mean less financial struggle for the average American. Given the present trajectory of things, even that will be a welcome relief.

If we don't "spread the wealth," the system will not survive

Let's see -- a life that is meager for most of us, but in which a handful of Paris Hiltons have the "freedom" to buy all gold-plated fingernails they want. Wonderful. Seriously, how self-indulgent, self-absorbed, and just plain selfish must one be to think that this is our best alternative as a society? (We're not there yet -- quite -- but it's definitely the direction the last eight years have pointed us.)

The alternatives are not, as some would have us believe, a stifling socialism versus a free-market free-for-all. We are constantly touting the "freedom of opportunity" America offers when we have so much less of it than other advanced nations -- nations whose citizens aren't sidelined by illnesses they can't afford to treat, whose workers have greater job security and benefits, and whose children follow an educational path determined by their drive and ability, not by the size of their parents' bank accounts. These countries have found an intelligent and moral middle ground. Why can't we?

The answer, in large part, is g-r-e-e-d, along with the relentless conservative p.r. campaign that reinforces and endorses it. (Note that, from the 1930s on, this country was making great strides toward decency until Reagan's barbarity promotion program largely halted our progress.)

Incidentally, in my darker moments, I really do suspect that the average conservative's vision of utopia is an America comprised of 12 mega-multi-billionaires (a group in which they inevitably imagine themselves) and 300 million peasants begging them for food and dying on the sidewalk at their feet. The chance to tell people who have no hope of landing a job (or, in this scenario, of living through the day) to get a job/life/heart transplant really gives them a self-righteous thrill.

Maybe the Rich are the Problem - Toronto Star

Spreading the Wealth Around? Why Not? - CommonDreams

LATE ADDITION: Obama the Philosopher - The Nation

Their profit is our bankruptcy, our untreated pain, our early death

Note that this sick fraudfest is at the heart of McCain's health-care "solution." While Obama's plan also relies too much on the private sector, his at least includes a sane, humane, government-funded option.

An Eroding Model for Health Insurance - LA Times

I Vote for Universal Healthcare - The Guardian

LATE ADDITION: Americans See Health Care as a Right -

Monday, October 20, 2008

Get ready for the pushback

Here Comes the Onslaught -

LATE ADDITION: Heads They Win, Tails You Lose: For the Beltway Media, Even Democratic Victories Prove the Country is Conservative - The Huffington Post
[W]hen Republicans win, we're told that Democrats need to move to the center, because the country is too conservative for them. When Democrats win, on the other hand, we're told that... Democrats need to move to the center. Their victory must have been some kind of accident -- it couldn't have been because the public actually agreed with what they want to do....
[A] look at the issue terrain at the moment shows a public firmly in the progressive camp. On foreign policy, on economic policy, on social policy, on just about everything, it's the progressive position that is more popular. The median voter in 2008 is pro-choice, supports civil unions for gay Americans (a position that seemed insanely radical only a decade ago), rejects the Bush foreign policy, supported the recent increase in the minimum wage, wants strong environmental protections, favors reasonable restrictions on gun sales, thinks the wealthy and corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes, and wants the government to guarantee universal health coverage. Does that sound conservative to you?

The party of working plutocrats

The Real Plumbers of Ohio - The New York Times

They only serve the market

The Idiots Who Rule America - TruthDig

McCain's socialist-baiting is offensive -- to socialists

Socialists: Obama No Socialist - Chicago Tribune

‘Spreading the Wealth’ as Both Accusation and Prescription - The New York Times

Not that there's anything wrong with that: "Socialist" Is Not an Epithet - The Nation

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why is the GOP losing? Because their self-serving, counterfactual, insanely bad ideas have screwed up the country, perhaps? Nahhhh

GOP Terrified of American Voters - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Powell endorses Obama

Not only is the general right on McCain, he also appears to be the last Republican living who understands that, as a fundamental right, "freedom of religion" applies to everyone, not simply to Christians (or the mythical "Judeo-Christians"), to theists, or to whoever happens to be in the majority this week.
I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.
But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be President?
Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

A Devastating Blow to John McCain - Salon

Colin Powell Condemns the Ugliness of the Republican Party - Salon

And of course let's not forget the Sunday gasbags:
Unease in the Conservative Commentariat - The New York Times

LATE ADDITION: Powell’s Endorsement Puts Spotlight on His Legacy - The New York Times

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This misdirected blame is just misdirection

Poor Homeowners, Good Loans - The New York Times

How Wall Street's Scam Artists Turned Home Mortgages Into Economic WMDs - AlterNet

Fortunately, the next round of crap is even more amusingly ludicrous

The Right's Final Attack: Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire - Mother Jones

For the Administration, freedom of religion trumps freedom from discrimination

Bush Aides Say Religious Hiring Doesn’t Bar Aid - The New York Times

Insufficent military spending is not one of our problems

The Coming Military Spending Surge - The American Prospect

O Joe, deliver us from failure

McCain's Search for Salvation - The New Republic

White House memos OK'd torture

CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos - Washington Post

Haven't you people done enough harm already?

The End of Libertarianism - Slate

Guided by an Invisible Hand - New Statesman

Like many other economists, Greenspan misunderstood humans

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Financial Boom, Financial Bust: What Happened? - LA Times

Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy - The New York Times

What Went Wrong - Washington Post

See? It's the psychology, stupid: We Forgot Everything Keynes Taught Us - Washington Post

A little levity

Some laughs before the final push....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Addressing the side of the crisis that Republicans always ignore

Dr. Paulson's Magic Potion - The Nation

Note to McCain: NOTHING TRICKLES DOWN (not that you actually want it to)

McCain Is Not Bush? - The Failed Economics of Reagan, Bush and McCain - The Huffington Post

The Nation's Eric Alterman also offers us this historical review:
The supply-side experience taught conservatives they could create their own reality. They never admitted that their fly-by-night doctrine had anything to do with the deficits it created and continued to pummel liberals as fiscally irresponsible. Even after David Stockman revealed to William Greider that the entire exercise had been a hoax designed to cut taxes on the wealthy and spending for the poor and the middle class, the charade continued uninterrupted. (The Reagan administration even concocted a separate lie--that story about the president taking Stockman to "the woodshed" when the first lie was discovered--and that worked just as well.)

We should all cry for 45 minutes -- at the least

Unacceptable GOP Mailing Projects Racist Stereotypes on Obama - AlterNet/Think Progress

The new flavor of finance

The Case for Plain Vanilla - The American Prospect

The old gray smears, they ain't what they used to be

Waiting for the Barbarians - The Nation

Old Time Religion - The Nation

The man who wrote the playbook: The Lee Atwater Story: Meet the Man Responsible for Karl Rove and the GOP's Hate-Driven Politics - AlterNet

You're wrong, Joe

In an interesting follow-up interview today, ABC's Diane Sawyer asks Joe Wurzelbacher -- a.k.a., "Joe the Plumber" -- about his response to last night's debate and his thoughts on the tax issue he raised with Obama. In his remarks, Wurzelbacher repeated a common conservative trope, that it's "wrong" to tax higher-earners at higher rates "for being more successful."

Well, Joe, you're wrong on both counts. High earners aren't being taxed more "for being successful;" nor, more generally, it is wrong to charge a higher rate. Indeed, this kind of progressive taxation is eminently just, for two reasons. First is that these folks have benefited more from the American system. You can't on the one hand praise America as the "land of opportunity" and on the other hand say -- however hard you may have worked for your success -- that you did it all yourself. The system obviously contributed. Otherwise why single out America? (Incidentally, people have been achieving great wealth here at tax rates far higher than exist today, or at the fractionally higher rates for a few that Obama proposes.)

The second reason it's just is that the wealthy use more of the system's "goods" that the rest of us: the businesses that generate the money make more use of the public infrastructure (roads, sewer, water), police and fire protection, the public schools to train workers, and the court system to enforce contracts (the vast majority of civil court activity is business to business), among other public resources. I don't think Joe and those who agree with him necessarily want a free (or reduced-rate) ride -- but that's what they'd be getting if they didn't pay their fair share in full.

A side note: if you include local taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, etc., the overall tax system is actually quite flat -- perhaps unfairly so.

Is Joe the Plumber the Same as Joe Six-pack? - The New Republic

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why did the answer have to come from London?

Could it be...ideology?
Gordon Does Good - The New York Times

Let's also give the K-man a hearty round of applause for his well-deserved Nobel. I think I've got a couple of those in the cupboard somewhere....

He's not an Arab! He's a decent family man!

Being an Arab is No Slur - The Progressive

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The virtual parliament's misrule

Anti-Democratic Nature of US Capitalism is Being Exposed - Irish Times

The Free Market Preachers Have Long Practised State Welfare for the Rich - The Guardian

Striking a new balance between market and government

Reversal of Fortune - Vanity Fair

More on Palin's wingnut "pals"

Meet Sarah Palin's Radical Right-Wing Pals - Salon

And here's an interesting observation from today's Frank Rich column in the NYT:
No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was “regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.” In the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

Of course I don't condone this. But I understand it. Yes, I do

Richard Fuld Punched in Face in Lehman Brothers Gym - The Telegraph

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Voting has consequences

The Mask Slips - The New York Times
[T]here are two things I find remarkable about the G.O.P., and especially its more conservative wing, which is now about all there is.
The first is how wrong conservative Republicans have been on so many profoundly important matters for so many years. The second is how the G.O.P. has nevertheless been able to persuade so many voters of modest means that its wrongheaded, favor-the-rich, country-be-damned approach was not only good for working Americans, but was the patriotic way to go.

Exactly. Voting Republican is like choosing the world's worst surgeon just to spite the good ones, what with their fancy medical degrees and competence and all. Not to mention some of them have Arab-sounding names -- and you know what that means. Hell, one of 'em was even born in Hawaii, which is right next to Iraq*. You probably didn't know that. Think about it.
*if you draw a straight line through the Earth

Heck, if you could reach all the way back there, you'd do the operation yourself. You're a Self-Made Man (sorry, parents)! You don't need other people! You sure as hell don't need those terrorist-loving, taxpayer-supported commie paramedics taking away your freedoms!

Just be sure you question everybody's patriotism as they fix you up. And refuse that socialist Medicare coverage! Too bad your private insurance dropped you 10 years ago for the sprain you got flipping Clinton the bird.

"Troopergate" report: Palin abused her powers

Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers - The New York Times

Friday, October 10, 2008

A modest proposal

I'm well aware of the dangers and of the sordid history of imposing any kind of "test" as a qualification to vote. At the same time, it is absolutely unacceptable that the votes of these people count as much as the votes of those who actually know things. So here is my proposal: everyone who votes takes a current-affairs quiz. The votes of those who pass it count double. It's the only sane solution.

Parenthetically--don't these people have Google? Are they so lazy, intellectually or physically, that they can't look this stuff up? Of course, factual knowledge isn't really the issue here. For most of these goons, "Arab" and "terrorist" are just more socially acceptable ways of saying the "n" word.

Even McCain can't control these idiots

I don't know if the bad press was getting to him or if he was overcome by an unaccustomed bout of conscience, but McCain did finally make an effort today to calm his rabid, wildly misinformed followers. Of course, this comes after an extensive effort by the McCain camp to lather them up and misinform them. The irony is, it didn't work. The attack dogs have tasted blood, and the trainer has lost control.

McCain Booed After Trying to Calm Anti-Obama Crowd - The Examiner

Significantly, my sense of alarm and disgust is shared by many on the GOP side:
Republican Frank Schaeffer:
John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.
Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.
John McCain, you're walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out "Terrorist" or "Kill him," history will hold you responsible for all that follows.
John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. You are doing this in wartime. You are doing this as our economy collapses. You are doing this in a country with a history of assassinations.
Change the atmosphere of your campaign. Talk about the issues at hand. Make your case. But stop stirring up the lunatic fringe of haters, or risk suffering the judgment of history and the loathing of the American people - forever.
We will hold you responsible.
Andrew Sullivan:
McCain and Palin have decided to stoke this rage, to foment it, to encourage paranoid notions that somehow Obama is a "secret" terrorist or Islamist or foreigner. These are base emotions in both sense of the word.
But they are also very very dangerous. This is a moment of maximal physical danger for the young Democratic nominee. And McCain is playing with fire. If he really wants to put country first, he will attack Obama on his policies - not on these inflammatory, personal, creepy grounds. This is getting close to the atmosphere stoked by the Israeli far right before the assassination of Rabin.
For God's sake, McCain, stop it. For once in this campaign, put your country first.

Bipartisan Concern About the Dangers of McPalin’s Hate-Mongering - AlterNet/Firedoglake

On the up side, this could be a vicious strategy's death rattle

The GOP Goes Back to Its Ugly Roots - Salon

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We're mad. They're a mob. There's a difference

You know how I keep harping on the claim that liberals are just more decent people than conservatives? You're probably tempted to argue that such a claim is simplistic, painting a large and diverse group of people with too broad and partisan a brush. Which is an eminently reasonable response--for which reason I'm eminently tempted to agree with it, and to withdraw my overstatement. But then certain...things...happen, and I can't help but believe that Democrats would never act this way. It's as if we libs are the grown ups of the polity, and conservatives are the self-centered, emotionally volatile, low-information teens -- not to overgeneralize.

LATE ADDITION: Dan Balz’s Corrupted Journalistic “Balance” - Salon

People don’t panic in the sunshine. They panic in the dark

The Rationality of Panic - The New Yorker

Sure, we can trust 'em

Exclusive: Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans - ABC News

LATE ADDITION: Citizen Terrorists Deleted - The New York Times

"Business ethics:" still an oxymoron

AIG Fiddles While Wall Street Burns - LA Times

For Insensitivity, Wachovia Refuses to be Outdone - LA Times

Fixing the Financial Mess Would Be Easier if We Weren't Dealing with the World's Worst Scumbags - AlterNet

Don't forget the Court

How McCain Could Tilt the Supreme Court - Salon

Who are the undecided voters?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

So close to garbage, so far from language

Verbage - The New Yorker

Disposing of a toxic ideology

9/11 Was Big. This Is Bigger - Washington Post

End of an Error - The New Republic
The Depression--as my colleague John B. Judis put it in The Paradox of American Democracy--"destroyed in one stroke the edifice of wisdom and invincibility that businessmen had erected for themselves."

In critical theory, it's called "reification" -- getting people to think of an invented, abstract idea as a fact of nature. The intended consequence of reification is to make opposition to the idea -- laissez-faire economics, let's say -- appear as ridiculous and futile as opposing the laws of thermodynamics or the effects of gravity. The act of revealing the idea as an idea, and not as an inevitability -- that is, revealing it as changeable -- is called "demystification." I think it's fair to say that, over the past few weeks, laissez-faire has been pretty well demystified.

Who are these America-haters that the Palins are pallin' around with?

The Palins' Un-American Activities - Salon

Work was not enough

A Fool’s Paradise - The New York Times

An "association" that actually matters

Keating Economics: John McCain & The Making of a Financial Crisis

Positively affecting the impacts

Monday, October 6, 2008

Economists fail

The McCain plan would do for health care what deregulation has done for banking

Health Care Destruction - The New York Times

John McCain's 'Underwear Gnome' Health Care Plan Will Leave You Feeling Naked - AlterNet

And I'm quite sick of hearing, by the way, the McPalin campaign's B.S. about Obama's so-called "government-run" health plan. The closest Obama's plan comes to "socialized medicine" or government "control" is a Medicare-like option in which government would act as the insurance company. The primary difference between this plan and traditional private insurance is that the public plan won't be motivated to turn away sick people and deny valid claims to maximize profit. Undoubtedly this is why the McCainiacs object--Obama's plan has an actual shot at helping people. And helping people is the last thing Republicans want government to do.

LATE ADDITION: Obama Versus McCain: "Fundamental Difference" on Health Care - The Nation

Past is prologue

Bread Line During the Louisville Flood, Kentucky, 1937

"Putting Country Me First:" the birth and death of the fictional Mr. Straight Talk

Extremely hard-hitting piece--a must-read.

Make-Believe Maverick - Rolling Stone

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Complete sentences, incomplete thoughts

She Still Knows Nothing - Slate

Biden Teaches Palin the Meaning of "Maverick" - The Nation

Not to belabor the point...

The Omen In My Mail - Washington Post

...but again I'm forced to point out that, while our team's angry whackos may want to whip out some crystals and purify your "aura," conservative whackos want to whip out a .44 Magnum and blow your brains out. It's hard not to conclude that one of the things that separate liberals and conservatives is that liberals are just more decent human beings.

Before the debate

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

The most partisan of reasons

Vindication for Fired U.S. Attorney - LA Times

Look at it this way: business got what it wanted

Wrecking, Wrecking, Wrecked - The Huffington Post

A plainly inferior plan

Wash Post's Pearlstein: Anyone Opposing the Bailout is Ignorant - Salon

Hey, Rick, don't forget the objections of bailout critic/ignoramus Joseph Stiglitz. I understand he also won a certain prize.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When freedom's just another word for someone else's pain

The Communist Manifesto Hits 160 - Barbara's Blog

Meet the real middle

The Misrepresented Middle Class - The American Prospect

Find, prosecute, imprison

Bring Wall Street Crooks to Justice - Credo Action

As part of the prosecutorial effort, investigators may want to pose these questions, raised by the NYT's David Cay Johnston:
--Why was the CEO of Goldman Sachs in the room when government officials decided to bailout the insurer AIG, especially since Goldman has about $20 billion, half of its shareholder equity, at risk on AIG? Keep in mind that Treasury Secretary Paulson is the immediate former CEO of Goldman.
--Why was Lehman Brothers, a Goldman competitor, the only Wall Street firm in trouble so far left to collapse on its own? The Wall Street Journal reports today that it was the collapse of Lehman (which because of its structure may not have been an attractive firm for purchase) that "triggered cash crunch around the globe."

Hmmm. Hmmmmm.

And while Johnston and Salon's Glenn Greenwald rightly celebrate the emergence of ACTUAL DEMOCRACY in Monday's rejection of the bailout bill, it's worth noting that an almost identical rescue package will likely pass the House on Friday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Count the hypocrisies

Saving the Wealthy With Socialism, Conservative-Style - Baltimore Sun

I want out

For Wall Street, Greed Wasn’t Good Enough - The New York Times

A realistic alternative

How Positive Thinking Wrecked the Economy - Barbara's Blog

The worst cause

'Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency' by Barton Gellman' - LA Times
On the question of the war in Iraq and why Cheney pushed for it as he did, Gellman adds critical insight. Whether the vice president believed that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction is an open question, though it is clear that he knowingly lied about U.S. intelligence in this regard. What he did believe was that the war was winnable and, therefore, would make a valuable "demonstration" of U.S. power that would deter any other hostile nation from allowing itself to become a "nexus" of common purpose with the Islamic extremists who attacked New York and suburban Washington, D.C., on 9/11. The possibility of such a "nexus" was, in Cheney's view, the great threat to American security. He embraced the neo-conservatives' notion of the U.S. as liberator, bringing democratic regime change to the Mideast, as a convenient rhetorical counterweight to Jihadist propaganda. Personally, he doubted democracy even was possible in the Middle East.

Mistaking magic for science

Wiz Bucks - The New Yorker

Monday, September 22, 2008

He approved this message. As far as he knows

If this is how people choose a brain surgeon, then all my questions are answered

My Candidate, Myself - Salon

LATE ADDITION: Ringing Untrue, Again and Again - The New York Times

Manufacturing consensus

The Complete (Though Ever-Changing) Elite Consensus Over the Financial Collapse - Salon
What is more intrinsically corrupt than allowing people to engage in high-reward/no-risk capitalism -- where they reap tens of millions of dollars and more every year while their reckless gambles are paying off only to then have the Government shift their losses to the citizenry at large once their schemes collapse? We've retroactively created a win-only system where the wealthiest corporations and their shareholders are free to gamble for as long as they win and then force others who have no upside to pay for their losses. Watching Wall St. erupt with an orgy of celebration on Friday after it became clear the Government (i.e., you) would pay for their disaster was literally nauseating, as the very people who wreaked this havoc are now being rewarded.

More amazingly, they're free to walk away without having to disgorge their gains; at worst, they're just "forced" to walk away without any further stake in the gamble. How can these bailouts not at least be categorically conditioned on the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from those who are responsible? The mere fact that shareholders might lose their stake going forward doesn't resolve that concern; why should those who so fantastically profited from these schemes they couldn't support walk away with their gains? This is "redistribution of wealth" and "government takeover of industry" on the grandest scale imaginable -- the buzzphrases that have been thrown around for decades to represent all that is evil and bad in the world. That's all this is; it's not an "investment" by the Government in any real sense but just a magical transfer of losses away from those who are responsible for these losses to those who aren't.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

If this is a "mental" recession, can't we just give these companies a mental bailout?

Speaking of mental....

Truthiness Stages A Comeback - The New York Times

Will the free-market fanatics please shut up?

The Corporate Financiers Are Wrong - Salon

LATE ADDITION: Free Market Ideology Is Far From Finished - The Guardian
During boom times, it's profitable to preach laissez faire, because an absentee government allows speculative bubbles to inflate. When those bubbles burst, the ideology becomes a hindrance, and it goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue. But rest assured: the ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis that will be the rationalisation for deep cuts to social programmes, and for a renewed push to privatise what is left of the public sector. We will also be told that our hopes for a green future are, sadly, too costly.

What we don't know is how the public will respond. Consider that in North America, everybody under the age of 40 grew up being told that the government can't intervene to improve our lives, that government is the problem not the solution, that laissez faire was the only option. Now, we are suddenly seeing an extremely activist, intensely interventionist government, seemingly willing to do whatever it takes to save investors from themselves.

This spectacle necessarily raises the question: if the state can intervene to save corporations that took reckless risks in the housing markets, why can't it intervene to prevent millions of Americans from imminent foreclosure? By the same token, if $85bn can be made instantly available to buy the insurance giant AIG, why is single-payer health care – which would protect Americans from the predatory practices of health-care insurance companies – seemingly such an unattainable dream?

All good questions. And Klein's right, of course. The free-market fundies will never give up, no matter how great a catastrophe they create. They are the Energizer bunnies of sociopathy. There's still more money to be stolen, after all!

Meanwhile, once the smoke has cleared, a learning-impaired public will be all too willing to let it happen again. Perhaps one useful new branch for a reinvigorated government would be a department of institutional memory. Then, the next time Americans start falling prey to these self-serving robber barons and their attractive propagandists, there will someone standing by to say, "Cue the 9/08 tape, Charlie. Okay now, people, remember this. This is what they do."