Friday, September 28

Romney cites Massachusetts health care law as sign of his empathy, proceeds to cry bleeding heart liberal crocodile tears

"Mitt Romney on Wednesday cited his record in shepherding through the Massachusetts health care law as a sign of his empathy for all people, talking far more openly than usual about a controversial plan that has caused him so much strife with conservative Republicans. 
"'Don’t forget -- I got everybody in my state insured,' Romney told NBC late Wednesday afternoon. 'One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.' 
"Romney made the comments just before going on stage in Toledo, for a rally in which Romney used President Obama’s health care law as a chief example of what’s wrong with the current administration. The dichotomy of his statements further illustrated the tightrope Romney has had to walk in pledging to repeal President Obama’s federal law, while simultaneously trying to take credit for the state-level plan he signed into law in Massachusetts." Mitt for universal health care or against it? Did he convert to a liberal this week? Talk about a campaign with an identify crisis...

Link (Boston Globe)

Thursday, September 27

Slavery Still Exists

"Around the world human traffickers trick many people into slavery by false promises of good jobs or good education, only to find themselves forced to work without pay, under the threat of violence. Trapped by phony debt, these slaves are hunted by local police and private security guards if they try to escape. Sometimes slaves don't even understand that they're enslaved, despite people working 16 or 17 hours a day with no pay. They're simply used to it as something they've been doing their whole lives. Their bodies grow weak and vulnerable to disease, but they have nothing to compare their experience to."
Slavery Still Exists: Photographs of human trafficking and enslavement around the world (The Atlantic)

Tuesday, September 25

Obama: "I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so."

Worth repeating, worth memorializing: Obama's comments on the video being blamed for being the catalyst for the recent violence in Libya:
"I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with. 
"We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect."
Full Text of Obama’s Remarks to United Nations (Wall Street Journal)

Monday, September 24

"America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves."

"America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register. 
"Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves."
From Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. 

Saturday, September 22

Some Rough Thoughts on Globalization, and the Most Likely Types of Businesses to Thrive in a Local Economy

In general, globalization presents a massive challenge to the health of local economies everywhere. If we could balance a global economy for high-value products with a local economy for basic needs/wants, that would be ideal. Unfortunately, global companies dominate both high-value products (think Apple and Honda) AND basic needs/wants (think Wal-Mart and Home Depot). This strips the teeth out of local economy--local businesses that are actually manageable by 'normal folks' like grocery and hardware stores cannot compete with the behemoths. Not everyone has the expertise and education to create a global company, but in every town there are at least a few people who can run a grocery or hardware store.

Yay, global Apple and Honda. Boo, global Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Friday, September 21

"The problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence."

From President Bill Clinton's appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
"If I come to you and I say we have this terrible national debt and here's my opening gambit. First thing I want to do is increase it by $5 trillion over a decade by doing another round of tax cuts that mostly benefit the people we benefited in the last decade, even thought it didn't produce jobs. Now we're in a really deep hole, much bigger than this clock I just showed you. Now let me tell you how we're going to get out of it. Well, what about the details? See me about that after the election.
"So I wanted to try to explain that in very simple terms. No one else would do that; no one . Unless you were being driven by ideology instead of by evidence. This is a practical country. We have ideals. We have philosophies. But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you've already decided you've got to have. It doesn't work that way. Building an economy; rebuilding an economy is hard, practical nuts and bolts work."
Daily Kos

Friday, September 14

The Stock Market Likes Obama Very Much

Are we better off than four years ago? I was thinking about this, and so I asked my good friend, the S&P 500 index. And, lo, he said unto me, "Yes, Jason, you idiot, we’re at 172% of where we were when Obama took over!" So it looks as if Mr. S&P 500 is voting for Obama. (Mr. Dow Jones Industrial Average and Ms. NASDAQ Composite are also voting for him.)

On a side note, if Obama is a Socialist, he's the worst Socialist the world has ever seen.

Wednesday, September 12

The Perverse Incentive to Keep Our Prisons Full

As a society, we should be working to reduce the number of inmates in our prisons. The current trend toward prison privatization, however, seems to be creating an 'inverted incentive' to keep prisons full.
"At a time when states are struggling to reduce bloated prison populations and tight budgets, a private prison management company is offering to buy prisons in exchange for various considerations, including a controversial guarantee that the governments maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years. 
"The $250 million proposal, circulated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to prison officials in 48 states, has been blasted by some state officials who suggest such a program could pressure criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the contractually required occupancy rates. 
"'You don't want a prison system operating with the goal of maximizing profits,' says Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and advocate for reducing prison populations through less costly diversion programs. 'The only thing worse is that this seeks to take advantage of some states' troubled financial position.'"
 Private purchasing of prisons locks in occupancy rates (USA Today)

Tuesday, September 11

The bottom 90 percent of U.S. households hold just 23.4 percent of all wealth (and other stories)

The State of Working America is an ongoing analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, and includes a wide variety of data on income, unemployment, wealth, and poverty. Here are a few key recent statistics:

  • In 2000, median family income was $66,259. In 2010, it was 6 percent lower ($62,301), constituting a “lost decade” for income growth. African American and Hispanic families had substantially lower incomes.
  • Incomes for middle-class households and families are not likely to reach their 2000 levels until 2018.
  • In 1962, the wealthiest 1 percent had 125 times the wealth of a median household. In 2010, the ratio was 288-to-1.
  • In 2010, the top 1 percent of households received 17.2 percent of all income in the economy, in addition to holding 35.4 percent of all wealth.
  • In 2010, the bottom 90 percent received only 55.5 percent of all income and held just 23.3 percent of all wealth.

At the State of Working America website, you can find more statistics on incomewealth, poverty and upward mobility, along with a host of additional information.

Monday, September 10

98% of August 2012 donations to the Obama campaign were for $250 or less

"The Obama campaign said on Twitter that 98 percent of donations in August were for $250 or less. The Republican effort raised about $34.6 million in donations of less than $250, the campaign said, about a third of the total..."
I wonder which candidate's message resonates more with the middle class?

Obama Campaign Says It Beat Romney in Fund-Raising for August (New York Times)

Friday, September 7

Tom Morello: 'Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against'

In case you missed Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello's fantastic op-ed in Rolling Stone a few weeks ago:
"Paul Ryan's love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn't understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn't understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine." ... 
"I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings! 
"Don't mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta 'rage' in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he's not raging against is the privileged elite he's groveling in front of for campaign contributions."
Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against (Rolling Stone). Thanks to rixi for the reminder.

Thursday, September 6

Costco Founder Says Obama Better For Business Than Romney

"Companies need 'a president who takes the long view and makes the tough decisions,' said Sinegal, who remained on the board of the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain after retiring as its chief executive officer in January. 'That’s why I am here tonight supporting President Obama, a president making an economy built to last.'"
Link (Bloomberg)

Wednesday, September 5

Isaac Asimov on Anti-Intellectualism

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"

Tuesday, September 4

You Can Vote, As Long As the GOP Approves of Your Race, Class and Social Status

Republicans have been working very hard to make it more difficult and costly for the young, the elderly, minorities, union members and single and elderly women to cast a vote for Barack Obama. Bill Blum writes:
"According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since the start of 2011, 16 states—accounting for 214 electoral votes—have passed restrictive voting laws. Each law is different, with states such as Florida seeking to curb voter registration drives and others such as South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania imposing new requirements on voters to produce government-issued photo IDs at the polls." ... 
"...the scope of the suppression movement and its potential impact are staggering. The Brennan Center reports that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters—roughly 21 million Americans—lack current, unexpired government-issued photo IDs. The percentages are even higher among seniors, African-Americans and other minorities, the working poor, the disabled and students—constituencies that traditionally skew Democratic and whose disenfranchisement could prove decisive in any election." ... 
"With the anticipated triumph of voter suppression, the American right will finally achieve the new political order it has long craved—a trifecta of institutionalized class domination in which (1) the poor, the elderly and minorities in large numbers are denied the right to vote; (2) labor unions are crippled; and (3) massive corporations—considered “people” under the law and set free to spend unlimited sums to rig the outcome of elections—have become the only 'people' who matter."
Voter Suppression and John Roberts’ New World Order (TruthDig)