November82012

Cue Massive Problem #2

For years I’ve argued there are two problems, so titanic, that they subsume all others:

1) Income inequality
2) Global warming

The 2012 Presidential election has begun the resolution of Problem 1. Taxes are going up on the rich. That’s a done deal. We’ve won that battle. Mr. Obama made it the essence of his candidacy. Credit where credit is due: The left-blogosphere helped channel inequality into mainstream consciousness. Come 2013 the Bush tax cuts will expire for the Romneys. Thus the healing begins. So treat yourself to something good for that victory.

Cue Massive Problem 2…
Be it resolved:

• Progressive blogs must now bang out posts on Global Warming. There is good news and bad news out there. Help ping it up the ladder of consciousness. Or survey the history of global warming with readers. For example, how many know what President Johnson said about Global Warming in 1965? When did the phrase “greenhouse gas” first appear? This is fascinating stuff. And there is a mega-audience for it. According to a recent Yale pole, 70% of Americans now anticipate the warming. I was shocked recently when at a dinner party, the whole table seemed to hang on my every word as I discussed the “facts” and “history” of global warming. People want to know more…

• Do not lend yourself to the malevolence of the right-wing denial-machine. Purge their comments. Climate Deniers free speech is plentifully protected and empowered by Koch money. They don’t need your blog to stand up for them too. Treat their comments with the same scorn you would give to someone using your site to sell tax-free cigarettes. Do not even pretend they are there for honest discourse.

• Here’s a companion idea to get the wave up-cresting. I’ve been wondering about this for years. Why doesn’t every progressive site have a CO2 widget on display in it’s margins? There’s a wonderful selection available here. It’s essential to get the current number tumbling around in various mind. It’s a vital anchoring point for any sort of credible policy discussion, and it makes the nebulous utterly tangible. All true. And yet, how many Americans know we are currently at 391 ppm? Did you even know?

Atmospheric CO2     Atmospheric CO2      Atmospheric CO2      Atmospheric CO2      Atmospheric CO2      Atmospheric CO2      Atmospheric CO2
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November62012

Hi Ho Silver into the future…

No one blogger seems to have grasped the full implications of Nate Silver’s election predictions. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the deeper meanings scattered about. I suspect that’s because the blogosphere, immersed as it is in the “battle for reality,” has a difficult time separating itself out and seeing things from the 10,000 foot level. This post seeks to climb high and chronicle the three massive changes secretly afoot…

section

Firstly the most mundane one: Mr. Silver’s numerical model versus the Main Stream Media’s traditional way of calling a horse race. To read Silver’s posts and compare then to the headlines on newspaper sites is to have one foot on shore and the other at sea. It’s a massive disconnect.

To accept Silver’s electoral math is to feel like an insider trader leveraging 10 million on a sure thing. Yes there is the danger of arrogance, but consider the other extreme: Those not even aware of Nate Silver’s blog. Those thusly ignorant were totally duped into accepting a few national poles as meaningful barometers of a race “pre-decided” by the electoral votes of a few key states.

Again, there is the danger of arrogance that comes with “being in the know”. One must guard against that. But there is this too: Since Mr. Silver’s 538 blog went viral, since everybody+everybody now reads him, should his model accurately predict the outcome, political punditry will never be the same. It corks the past. Everything changes immediately. The networks, the major online players, will be in the market for Nate Silver competitors. This is of course, a good thing…

Secondly, there is the right-wing pushback against Nate Silver’s “model”. No one has captured that pushback more vividly than Brad DeLong. This post of his, one in a series, is an absolute classic in multiple fisking: Today’s war on Nate Silver. Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum have also posted on the right’s 538 denialism.

There are actually four things going on here: 1) Loathing of the left’s numerical arrogance. 2) The Republican Party loathing of the NY Times. 3) The country is in battle for the control of its reality. The other side must reject Mr. Silver to insist on the reality of “Mittmentum”. 4) The Republican war against science is necessarily a war against probabilistic modeling.

Thirdly, let’s suppose Mr. Silver’s predictions go awry. One can absolutely be certain that this will energize the anti-scientism of the right. Models will have been shown to have flopped. And easy models at that. How much more complicated is global warming modeling? Orders of magnitude more complicated. A great cheer will go up, and the great tug-of-war for control of reality will shift in their favor a bit more.

Now instead imagine if Mr. Silver’s model proves deadly accurate. It’s nearly a complete emotional and rational reversal of fortunes. Not only will Mr. Obama be president again, but the validity of scientific modeling will get an enormous boost. It will be a huge moment for science and global warming models. Probably as stunning a moment as perhaps the prediction of an earthquake to the nearest day. An A+ accurate prediction will also provide a check against the possible stealing of future elections by electronic vote fraud.

In summary, I argue that this is a monster moment. A possible historical inflection point. All eyes are on Mr. Silver, his maths, and his model. It’s a huge dice roll for mankind. And as of the moment of this post, as I sit typing this instant on election night, the dice look to be summing to seven…

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October192012

Friday Random Quote Blogging

The quote below is Chapter 15 from Edward Bellamy’s 1897 novel Equality. This novel was a sequel to his 1887 novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887.

Both of Bellamy’s books are premised on the idea of chap who falls into a 113-year hypnotic sleep and wakes in the year 2000. Stunningly, America has become a socialist utopia. The crux of both novels is a whimsical look back at the follies of ancient capitalism.

It is easy to snort at Bellamy’s mislaid vision. After all with peak oil and global warming looming, we seem more fixated on crafting dystopias rather than imagining utopias. (Does anybody write utopian novels anymore? And if they do, does anybody read them?) Also of course Bellamy’s word socialism has been run to ground as irrelevant for the world’s greatest social species. It’s an idea that has no place in the modern mind. Indeed in 2012 we are united in our monotheism. There’s no dyad in sight. Market Capitalism is our god and its economists are our saints.

Yet I would not snort too loudly at Bellamy. The following stunning quote is 115 years old. It measures today’s pulse to the nearest millisecond and microdollar. It owns the ownership society to at least 6 decimal places. And it hints at something that I (apparently alone on this planet) believe in: The necessity of a cap on personal wealth. There has to be a point where enough is enough is enough. section

EdwardBellamy1Now, something I never saw mentioned in the books was the limit, for there must have been some limit fixed, to which one individual might appropriate the earth’s surface and resources, the means of production, and the products of labor.”

“There was no limit,” I replied.

“Do you mean,” exclaimed Edith, “that if a man were only clever and unscrupulous enough he might appropriate, say, the entire territory of a country and leave the people actually nothing to stand on unless by his consent?”

“Certainly,” I replied. “In fact, in many countries of the Old World individuals owned whole provinces, and in the United States even vaster tracts had passed and were passing into private and corporate hands. There was no limit whatever to the extent of land which one person might own, and of course this ownership implied the right to evict every human being from the territory unless the owner chose to let individuals remain on payment of tribute.”

“And how about other things besides land?” asked Edith.

“It was the same,” I said. “There was no limit to the extent to which an individual might acquire the exclusive ownership of all the factories, shops, mines, and means of industry, and commerce of every sort, so that no person could find an opportunity to earn a living except as the servant of the owner and on his terms.”

EdwardBellamy2

“If we are correctly informed,” said the doctor, “the concentration of the ownership of the machinery of production and distribution, trade and industry, had already, before you fell asleep, been carried to a point in the United States through trusts and syndicates which excited general alarm.”

“Certainly,” I replied. “It was then already in the power of a score of men in New York city to stop at will every car-wheel in the United States, and the combined action of a few other groups of capitalists would have sufficed practically to arrest the industries and commerce of the entire country, forbid employment to everybody, and starve the entire population. The self-interest of these capitalists in keeping business going on was the only ground of assurance the rest of the people had for their livelihood from day to day. Indeed, when the capitalists desired to compel the people to vote as they wished, it was their regular custom to threaten to stop the industries of the country and produce a business crisis if the election did not go to suit them.”

“Suppose, Julian, an individual or family or group of capitalists, having become sole owners of all the land and machinery of one nation, should wish to go on and acquire the sole ownership of all the land and economic means and machinery of the whole earth, would that have been inconsistent with your law of property?”

“Not at all. If one individual, as you suggest, through the effect of cunning and skill combined with inheritances, should obtain a legal title to the whole globe, it would be his to do what he pleased with as absolutely as if it were a garden patch, according to our law of property. Nor is your supposition about one person or family becoming owner of the whole earth a wholly fanciful one. There was, when I fell asleep, one family of European bankers whose world-wide power and resources were so vast and increasing at such a prodigious and accelerating rate that they had already an influence over the destinies of nations wider than perhaps any monarch ever exercised.”

EdwardBellamy3 “And if I understand your system, if they had gone on and attained the ownership of the globe to the lowest inch of standing room at low tide, it would have been the legal right of that family or single individual, in the name of the sacred right of property, to give the people of the human race legal notice to move off the earth, and in case of their failure to comply with the requirement of the notice, to call upon them in the name of the law to form themselves into sheriffs’ posses and evict themselves from the earth’s surface?”

“Unquestionably.”

“O father,” exclaimed Edith, “you and Julian are trying to make fun of us. You must think we will believe anything if you only keep straight faces. But you are going too far.”

“I do not wonder you think so,” said the doctor. “But you can easily satisfy yourself from the books that we have in no way exaggerated the possibilities of the old system of property. What was called under that system the right of property meant the unlimited right of anybody who was clever enough to deprive everybody else of any property whatever.”

“It would seem, then,” said Edith, “that the dream of world conquest by an individual, if ever realized, was more likely under the old regime to be realized by economic than by military means.”

EdwardBellamy4 “Very true,” said the doctor. “Alexander and Napoleon mistook their trade; they should have been bankers, not soldiers. But, indeed, the time was not in their day ripe for a world-wide money dynasty, such as we have been speaking of. Kings had a rude way of interfering with the so-called rights of property when they conflicted with royal prestige or produced dangerous popular discontent. Tyrants themselves, they did not willingly brook rival tyrants in their dominions. It was not till the kings had been shorn of power and the interregnum of sham democracy had set in, leaving no virile force in the state or the world to resist the money power, that the opportunity for a world wide plutocratic despotism arrived. Then, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, when international trade and financial relations had broken down national barriers and the world had become one field of economic enterprise, did the idea of a universally dominant and centralized money power become not only possible, but, as Julian has said, had already so far materialized itself as to cast its shadow before. If the Revolution had not come when it did, we can not doubt that something like this universal plutocratic dynasty or some highly centered oligarchy, based upon the complete monopoly of all property by a small body, would long before this time have become the government of the world. But of course the Revolution must have come when it did, so we need not talk of what would have happened if it had not come.”

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September82012

Tell me a story…

We all tell stories. We always have. Since before Homer. The little voice called “you” is always laying down stories. Your ego is a consistent story. Your long term memory is “stored” as stories. Your dreams are stories. Songs are stories. Novelists and directors make a living telling stories. Alzheimer’s is the taking away of one’s stories. Your obit is your condensed story…

The physicist Richard Feynman used to tell a succinct story that has slowly begun to seep into popular culture. It unwinds like this:

Feynman

 

"If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms-little particles that that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.

In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.”

 

What’s interesting about Feynman’s story is that it gets to an all-subsuming heart in just a few paces. So nimble is it to the deepest cut that I am surprised it has not been more often rephrased. Consider for example this recasting:

If, in some cataclysm, all knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of humans, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

I believe the answer is the storytelling hypothesis that all human knowledge and all human sociality is based on stories that perpetually jostle from one mind to another and from one generation to the next.

Condensed in that simple sentence are these ideas: That “story” is the ultimate hypernym. That religions are stories. That science is a shared and edited story. That language is not unique to humans, but using it to tell stories certainly appears to be.

And with a little bit of Feynman’s imagination and thinking it hints at perhaps the most interesting stories of all: The political stories that drive democracies.

Consider Ayn Rand’s novels…
Or Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia
Or Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Animal Farm.

Contained within those epics are hints of the narratives that influence today’s political parties. Narratives that attempt to influence the “great arc of history” or convince us that it’s “morning in America” again.

As we get even more granular about political storytelling, as we leave the fresnel lenses of the great political novels, and focus on the microworld of actual democracies, we are faced with a hard truth: Telling stories about specific public policies is probably the most difficult storytelling of all.

Medicaid and medicare? Budgets and the justifications for taxes and war? Are you kidding me? That’s beyond impossibly difficult to do well. You’d have better luck teaching calculus to a hungry poodle in estrus. Because with policy, the devil is in the hairy details and the details are gelled in mind-numbing counterfactuals. Here then is a conundrum all democracies face: The most seriously important stuff is nearly impossible to tell a compelling story about.

Clinton

And that’s why Bill Clinton’s speech to the 2012 Democratic Convention was pure masterful storytelling. Nothing I know of compares.

How do you make obtuse social policy intelligible without graphs and a chalkboard? How do you navigate shoals of counterfactuals? Watch Clinton. Watch him paint a canvas with numbers without drowning us in them. What was it Einstein said?

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.

Diabolically simple to say; nearly impossible to do. Refinement takes a ton of work. Clinton’s tale of policies and politics was polished to minute perfection. How many hours of practice did it take for him to make policy waltz? A lifetime of secret buffing and public practice. Clinton’s story was so masterful told — watch his hands, watch his facial clues, watch his pivots with gravity — that it will be analyzed by the astute for generations.

How do I know this?

Because in a democracy the future belongs to the party that tells the most compelling factual stories. And it was pretty obvious the way the Democrats organized their convention, the way one speaker’s memes melted into another, that someone deeply in charge, understands this fundamental human fact.

If the future belongs to the Democratic Party, and I think it does, it will not be because of the argument leveraging the future majority-minority demographics. It will be because at long last, someone near the top of the party, if not at the top, understands frames, themes, and cohesive, compelling storytelling. And they will be watching the Clinton video over and over again looking for clues…

Wouldn’t you?

~~~~~~Addenda~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

• Link to the 32 minute mark where he roasts Ryan and changes the story’s emotional tempo.

• Why Andrew Sullivan is the world’s best live blogger.
This, on the fly: He’s making it real. Have you lost count of the number of times he said, “Now, listen …” We are. He’s telling a story that Obama has so far failed to tell effectively.

• Reality bites. Good thing in a democracy you don’t have to pay attention to vote.
While researching this post, I snapped this top search result:

realitybites

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August52012

The Four Rules of Life…

In A Walk on the Wild Side, novelist Nelson Algren unleashed a sticky quote that will never leave us. Now known as the “three rules of life” it tickles our minds with its unique world-weary American wisdom:

“Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”

We are now nearly 56 years past that 1956 quote. We should be, if anything, more wise. And so I suggest we ask that quote to walk one more world-weary mile along the wild side:

“Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. And never vote for anybody who keeps a Swiss bank account."
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July202012

Hypermnesia: A Friday Memory Hole Revisted…

SmartestGuysInTheRoom

 

Let’s go back in time 12 years 8 months 15 days:
It is Friday Nov 5, 1999 again…

The big news that never mattered?
Microsoft was declared a monopoly.

The lesser news that changed the world?
Consider this item from the NYT:


CONGRESS PASSES WIDE-RANGING BILL EASING BANK LAWS

 

Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another’s businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

"Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,” Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. "This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy."

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation’s financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.

Today’s action followed a rich Congressional debate about the history of finance in America in this century, the causes of the banking crisis of the 1930’s, the globalization of banking and the future of the nation’s economy.

Administration officials and many Republicans and Democrats said the measure would save consumers billions of dollars and was necessary to keep up with trends in both domestic and international banking. Some institutions, like Citigroup, already have banking, insurance and securities arms but could have been forced to divest their insurance underwriting under existing law. Many foreign banks already enjoy the ability to enter the securities and insurance industries.

"The world changes, and we have to change with it," said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. "We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer."

Read the whole thing to be surprised at who got it right and who got it wrong. Check out this quote as an enticement:

"I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010," said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. "I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness."
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July42012

Independence Day 2012: Noted without comment

Big Brother is watching Facebook and Twitter
NewScientist, June 16-22, 2012:

2012June16June22"The military is even further along with such plans. In 2007, the US air force awarded defence giant Lockheed Martin a $27 million contract to develop the Web Information Spread Data Operations Module, or WISDOM, which analyses posts made to news forums, blogs and social media. Military analysts are already using it to monitor Central and South America and the Pacific region. Lockheed Martin is now upgrading WISDOM with a $9 million contract from the navy, which wants to "understand the latest regional trends and sentiment and predict threats from groups and individuals".

Other departments have similar plans - the FBI is talking to software vendors, and the Department of Homeland Security already has a monitoring system up and running.

How might such monitoring affect our online behaviour?

Imagine reading an article about US government policies and then wanting to post an angry comment. Would you pause if you knew the government would collect and store your comment and username? “This prevents people from speaking their minds,” says Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC. “It quells dissent.” One would hope government officials had such concerns in mind. It is difficult to say, however, because repeated attempts by New Scientist to obtain comments from the Department of State were met with silence.”

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June232012

Government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich

Is there anybody in America doing what Matt Taibbi does as well as Matt Taibbi does it? Probably not. No one else is exposing government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich with such hot focus and ferocious prose. His blog is now an essential read that is arcing towards Krugman’s level. Slowly, surely, Taibbi is growing great before our eyes…

I remember seeing Matt on video a year or so ago. He wasn’t oafish, but he wasn’t smooth either. And that is understandable, the Wall Street Mafia uses incredibly complicated schemes. Explaining them on a dime before a TV camera is high skill. It takes a ton of practice. And so Taibbi had a hard time yakking it up with verve. But that’s over now. Taibbi has found his verbal stride. He can explain Wall Street’s crime spree with punctuated alacrity. He has got the total package now.

The video below is stunning stuff. Bill Moyers, Matt Taibbi, and Yves Smith of naked capitalism expose the flim-flam financial boys who are rawhiding our world to ruin:

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June162012
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April202012

Friday Random Quote Blogging…

Oh what a Slaughter

"On the very day, October 12th, 2002, when I sat down to begin organizing my notes on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, there appeared in The New York Times a long piece by Emily Eakin about that long-ago event and the still continuing controversy it has engendered. Two new books have recently been published (Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets and Sally Denton’s American Massacre), and a third — which I understand will constitute a Mormon rebuttal — is now in the press.

Scarcely two weeks later the The New York Review of Books carried a thoughtful essay by Caroline Fraser about this same, much studied massacre. The Mormon historians who are doing the rebuttal will argue, yet again, that Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, did not order this massacre.

Mountain Meadows was again very much in the news, reinforcing my point that massacres, once exposed, just won’t go away. Of the six massacres I propose to study, Mountain Meadows is much the most complicated, and it is the only one in which there may have been a theocratic motive. Things just keep coming to light — 2,605 bones and bone fragments accidentally uncovered at the monument site in 1999, for example — suggesting that we are probably still a long way from having heard the last word about Mountain Meadows.”

Some links:
Wikipedia entry: “Mountain Meadows Massacre”
Wikipedia entry: “Mormon Blood Atonement”
Emily Eakin’s NYT’s piece cited by Larry McMurtry
Caroline Fraser’s piece also cited by Larry McMurtry
Why merely a “honorific designation” and not a full blown National Mounument?

Lastly, if you think think is a dead issue, read another McMurtry quote about those bones uncovered in 1999…

Read More

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March272012

Reclaiming Jesus

jesusOnaDonkey

True story:

On Christmas morning 2011, I padded to my desk. For a few hovering hours, the world on that morning is as quiet as an abbey. If cleanliness is next to godliness —and it is— then surely silence must be —and it is— godliness itself. Would that I were deaf…

Alas I still have ears. Thus I tend to bask in that Christmas quietness like a monk at hermitage. Gently I shuffled thru some folders. I am an inveterate newspaper clipper, and lo, there misplaced in a folder was an article I’d clipped from the Arizona Daily Star a few months prior: Americans struggle to get food to table.

So I read the article at high-tide Christmas morning, and my quieted mind did something strange with it. Automatically, without any self-direction, it replaced every instance of “Republican Party” with the “Party of Jesus”.

Here is what I read in the heart of that deep Christmas quietude:

Some 32 million low-income children get free or reduced-cost lunches through the federal National School Lunch Program. And a record 45 million-plus Americans received food stamps. Concannon said the rise in food-stamp enrollment is exactly what lawmakers envisioned during economic downturns and they, likewise, expect enrollment to decline as the economy strengthens.

But under the Party of Jesus budget plan passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year, the food-stamp program would be cut by 20 percent next year and converted to a block grant in 2015 that would cap program funding.

The Party of Jesus plan also cuts funding for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

Party of Jesus members say the cuts are necessary to curb unsustainable program growth.

Ever since then I’ve read articles with that substitution. I can’t seem to turn it off. And it is forever devastating: For what reads merely dissonantly for the Republican party reads disastrously for Jesus. This for me has become vivid fact: The son of God is being transmuted into a vile, mean-spirited, cold-shouldered, son-of-a-bitch.

How did American Christians allow the Republican Party to become the Party of Jesus and pollute Christ’s good name? Why have Christians — members of perhaps the noblest religion of all — allowed their Jesus to be filched, debauched, and defamed by overt torturers, war-mongers, earth-trashers, and the stingy rich? And how can we get that good Jesus back?

That last question is the most important. Getting that good Jesus back is absolutely essential for pulling this country out of its rich-getting-richer-and-poor-getting-poorer nose dive. Jesus’ values are the core ingredient. You and I may read economist Jared Bernstein’s technical argument on reducing poverty,— but that is written at college level. As such Bernstein is providing us with the analytical superstructure of where we need to go:

In this paper I present a simple model linking economic growth to poverty reduction, opportunity, and mobility. I then inject inequality into that chain and hypothesize about its impact. Inequality diverts growth from middle and low-income families, and under certain conditions—ones I show are present in the US economy over the past few decades—leads to higher poverty rates than would otherwise prevail and middle-class income stagnation. These developments lead, in turn, to less opportunity for certain groups, and that leads to diminished mobility.

By all means more of that please. But to tax the rich again at 1950-70s levels, to save Social Security and Medicare, it is going to take an ecumenical infrastructure based again on the teachings of Christ. But of course the Republicans have stolen and mutated that Christ.

And so we are at last up against the purpose of this post:

• The Democratic Party must initiate a national discussion on Jesus’ values.
• The Democratic Party must openly become the party of those values.
• Democratic Party leaders must actively promulgate their church attendance.

That is how you reclaim the high ground. That is how you strangulate resurgent Ayn Rand me-first, me-second and me-thirdism. That is how you make Americans think of themselves as a truly Christian-valued nation again. You can’t do it without church bells. And when was the last time you heard those ring out in your community?
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March162012

Best. Issue Writing. Period.

AARP Bulletin

I suspect there is no tougher audience to write for than the Aged. Just so every month, the AARP Bulletin tailors itself to fit elderly eyes. Their effort demands finely focused journalism. Every sentence is pared into relevancy. Nothing gets dumbed-down or doctored-up.

Even better, the AARP Bulletin gives clean prose on deliberately muddied subjects: Medicare, Social Security, and Health. I understand all these topics better because of their honed writing. But the AARP Bulletin isn’t unbiased. It is pointedly in favor of Social Security and Medicare because their readership is pointedly in favor of those same programs. And boy old boy, do AARP members howl in force should there be any hint of wobbling on these issues from above.

All of which of course creates a hole to be filled. The same sort of hole filled by both the Conservapedia, “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia” and “Fair and Balanced” Fox News. Yes indeed, there really is a “Better for you. Better for America” Conservative AARP. An organization that serves those seniors in favor of saving Social Security and Medicare by privatizing them out of existence. I suppose there is a senior-sucker born every minute, but let’s call “enough is enough” on that nonsense. And instead, let’s get back to the real world of pressing senior needs and the AARP that presses forward for all seniors. What follows are some examples of the AARP Bulletin’s most stellar recent work.

In November of 2011 the AARP Bulletin ran a Special Report: Myths and Truths About Social Security. It’s a classic. So good, I gave it a dedicated bookmark. This tidbit from it is stunning:

Myth No. 1: Social Security is going bankrupt. No, it’s not. Even in the unlikely event that nothing changes and the program’s entire surplus runs out in 2036, as projected, checks would keep coming. Payroll taxes at current rates would cover 77 percent of all the future benefits promised. That’s true for young and old alike, and includes inflation adjustments.

Read More

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March122012

Chilling in a “game over” sort of way

Absolutely must see video. After viewing you will agree with me that there are two kinds of people: Those that will fight to stop tar sands mining and those who simply don’t know any better. And you will understand why Jim Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said if this goes thru it is essentially game over for the climate.

Photographer Garth Lenz does not bury his lede. He begins:

The world’s largest and most devestating environmental industrial project is situated in the heart of the largest and most intact forest in the the world.

At the 12:20 mark Mr. Lenz shows a map of what is planned for 2015.
At 14:31 you will see the tar sands plan out to 2030.

This has got to be stopped.
Share this video with everyone you know as quickly as you can.

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March92012

A professional mooch runs for Congress

Republican State Sen. Frank Antenori is running to replace Gabrielle Giffords in AZ’s 8th District. The Antenori biography that follows is mostly drawn from a recent article in the Arizona Daily Star: Antenori would sever Social Security from Congress.

The punch line to this post is a direct quote from that newspaper article. But first I want to review Frank Antenori’s life in a very blunt economic away. The reason for this will become obvious when I introduce the quote. So let’s begin at near Antenori’s beginning:

MoochinMedals

After graduating from high school (books, buildings, and teachers all on the public dime) Antenori surveyed the marketplace and decided that his best bet was to hire himself out to the U. S. Army.

Thence for 20 years, every ribbon and medal, all Antenori’s clothes, every toilet he sat on, every flush of water, every meal, every experience, all his education, and every plane ride came on the public dime. He was paid well and received an excellent benefits package also at public expense.

Next Antenori went to work for Raytheon, southern Arizona’s largest employer, and the fifth largest military contractor in the world. Raytheon is Raytheon because of the public dime. In fact, Antenori oversees development of hybrid vehicles for the U.S. Military. So once again, every toilet flush, every car, house, and every piece of clothing comes to Mr. Antenori from a paycheck drawn from the public treasury.

But Antenori wasn’t done sponging yet. There were greener public pastures for grazing. And by that I mean the benefits and lucre that come from public office. In 2008 Antenori ran for Arizona’s 30th House District and won an election that *entitled* him to more money and benefits at taxpayer expense. Then in 2010 Governor Jan Brewer appointed him to fill a vacant State Senate seat; from which position, he continues on the public dole to this day.

So in short, Frank Antenori has never —in his life— had to market his skills against others in a fair marketplace. He has never had to sell himself to a true capitalistic corporation. He doesn’t know a thing about real competition. Antenori has been carried by taxpayers from birth.

Now for that newspaper quote:

His solution for creating more Southern Arizona jobs is less government. “It is my philosophy that government doesn’t create jobs; as a matter of fact, it seems government has done more to kill jobs and chase jobs overseas than it has creating jobs.”

What is interesting there is not that Antenori’s ridiculous ideology makes him look like he has gone thru life sleepwalking on stupid pills. Rigid adherence to ideology makes you dumb. Everyone knows that. That’s just Critical Thinking 101.

No what’s interesting here is the birth of a new kind of shameless and insufferable military mooch. Antenori is a fantastic example of what I’ve come to call the military-industrial entitlement culture. In fact, his whiny existence makes a strong argument for a return to conscription. I’ll have more on that later, and a video of this insufferable ideologue as well…

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March12012

"Right-wing bigot go away"

One less pile of dogshit on earth
May the Devil treat him fairly:

Update: 3/8/2012 For historical reason I am embedding Breitbart’s last planned attack video. It purports to show President Obama as some sort of a hate monger. Breitbart dropped dead before he could edit it so…

Just to be clear on one thing: Breitbart lived to destroy people. Particularly people of a different political position. He was willing to bend reality sideways to gain such purchase. At root, that is the core stuff of Nazism. It is why I wrote of him: “One less pile of dogshit on earth”.

It is sad that so many on the left thought it best (or perhaps safest), on news of his death, to praise his passion or his multitasking abilities. Bah-humbug on such mealy mouthisms. An asshole is an asshole is an asshole. And a dead asshole is even better…

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