Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Is Michele Bachmann Right After All?

World Net Daily (always fascinating) reports Michele Bachmann blames/thanks Obama for triggering the End Times. Hooray! Now Jesus will come!

A priest on FoxNews says we can't trust our "atheist president" because he isn't afraid of eternal damnation.

The Dallas Morning News reports Texas Governor Abbott has called out the National Guard to keep watch on U.S. Military maneuvers which he thinks are a secret plan to take over the state of Texas.

(This is from way last year) Tom Delay, unseated corrupt Republican Speaker of the House, explains how God wrote the U.S. Constitution.

In Kansas, a new law permits prosecutors to put teachers in jail for assigning books they disapprove of.

In Texas, the state has approved a new history textbook for schools which includes Moses as one of our Founding Fathers.

The Guardian makes an interesting observation: in most American cities police can be put in jail for shooting animals, but not for shooting people.

Speaking of the Baltimore riots, New York Magazine published this interesting list of times white people have rioted, burned and looted over stupid things like basketball teams winning games.

On Fox'N'Friends a black woman put in a leadership post in the Miami police raises fears she might be a dangerous Muslim terrorist.

…maybe these are the End Times.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Are Workers Expendable?

Efficiency is measured by corporate economists as revenue minus expenses. Profit is created the same way. Profit therefore equals Efficiency. Profit is the ultimate good and the only obligation, an obligation only paid upward. What’s the expense economists are most eager to eliminate? The cost of labor.

Workers present downward obligations and such obligations are a burden. They are, by definition, inefficient, because obligations owed to workers are always counted as a negative. Corporations don’t feel obligations to plants and machines. Plants and machines don’t make them feel angry or guilty or deprived of profit. They can be bought and sold and don't need to be paid. They do as they're told. They can be insured and depreciated. They can be replaced with more efficient machines and don't require severance or unemployment or a pension or healthcare.

Keynes thought the unending march toward greater efficiency and greater productivity would pay a dividend to everyone in the form of leisure. He didn’t think that leisure would be unemployment and poverty. This is the looming likelihood nobody wants to discuss. We all have mixed feelings. Our retirements hinge upon the profitability of the companies in our retirement portfolios, which hinge upon the suppression of labor costs, and our retirement portfolios are purchased with wages we are paid for the work we do.

People who work for a living have a conundrum that people who own for a living never have to worry about. We’ve always been a country that worships hard work, but that god has been replaced with Profit, a higher god that believes work should be as poorly rewarded as possible. The god Profit likes the fruits of work but believes those fruits belong in the profit column. Profits belong to those who own for a living.

It would all be much easier if all work could be done by machines which don’t need to be paid, which can be depreciated and sold and moved almost like slaves. Welcome to the age of the robot.

Even China, with its endless and captive labor force, is falling in love with robots. How will this unfold? In China every human being is expendable. (The New York Times reports.)

Look at this map of most common jobs per state over the past 40 years. It’s also a map of mostly very expendable jobs, jobs that are being relentlessly robotized.

Did you notice how many states employ more truck drivers than any other kind of worker? Read this article about the replacability of human drivers.


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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Poor Pay. The Rich Don't.

"Johnny is a cheating teacher on a train traveling 80 mph west, to jail. Charlie is a cheating Wall Street executive on a train traveling 40 mph…. I'm kidding, it's a helicopter and he's going to a party where a giant ice sculpture of David is peeing vodka." ~Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart examines with his usual sharp wit and perceptiveness how the rich get away with everything.

The working stiff pays for his crime by doing time. The rich are given a pass… Heck, they’re rich and therefore not culpable.

You may remember this story about the rich kid excused for killing someone with his car while driving drunk because he was also driving while rich. Wealth was the excuse.

We have high-end crime in America because they are rich enough to ignore the law. For them Crime Pays.

In Scandinavia they can at least wipe that smug look off their faces. (The Atlantic reports)

This demonstrates again that the biggest force in the economy is something no news story will report on and no news anchor ever mentions.


The more advantages you have the more they leverage every other advantage you have.

The more disadvantaged you are the more those disadvantages leverage other disadvantages to keep you down.

The rich defy gravity. The poor sink.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kiss Up. Kick Down.

Here's an Alternet story about how the U.S. leads the world in child poverty. Should we be proud? (USA! USA! USA!)

If the system is rigged, who's doing the rigging? And how is it rigged? (Here's an article about this very thing.) We expect the poor and vulnerable to outwit their predators, but somehow those of us who are comfortably off and less vulnerable expect full and vigorous protection. How is that fair?

This story from VOX describes how the U.S. bars the poor from safe places to put their earnings and transact their business, leaving them at the mercy of predatory operators like payday loan shops to cash their paychecks. We have an entire class of people unprotected from abusive practices.

In America the motto is Kiss Up and Kick Down. Worship and protect the rich, while abusing and blaming the poor.

How is the Republican Paradise of Kansas treating the poor? Exactly like the Daily Show says they are.

I know. “Don’t worry. I’m doing fine. I have a job. I’m OK. It’s those lazy poor folks causing all the problems.”

Is it? OK, we've covered the Kick Down part where all of us are beating up on the poor. What about the Kiss Up part? I'll let my favorite think tank explain.

Who exactly is offloading their tax burden onto you? Who’s letting you pay for their obligations, infrastructure-wise? Why do we let them get away with it?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

College Dystopia

How do you define "dystopia"? OK, it's the opposite of utopia. What if some of the people living in it think it is utopia, perfect as far as they're concerned.

What would American colleges look like in a dystopian model? Like this:

Elite students are jetted around the country by colleges and given luxury living while enrolled…

(The Guardian posted an article about that very thing. All students are equal, but some students are more equal than others, as Orwell would have put it.)

Meanwhile professors work at adjunct level and live on public assistance...

(SLATE posted a story today describing how many working professors and instructors at college level, college graduates in other words, with degrees and abilities, are actually living in poverty.)

A few decades ago such a picture would have made us sick. But we just file it with all of the other stories about the dystopia America has become.

There are many ironies here. The most profound irony is that the party that hates elites has dedicated itself to creating them and insulating them. That would be the Republican Party. Irony evolved into hypocrisy some time ago.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Financial House Doesn't Actually Need A Roof

I read a New York Times piece this morning about the insurance business. You should read it. You wouldn't believe the kinds of tricks and schemes they get away with. I've learned some new terms for trickery. "Captive Reinsurance" for example. "Hollow Assets" is another. Some of the names of these shell companies will make you laugh. "Tapioca View." Is that a company you'd trust with your money? Insurers used to be the most careful people in the world, but they've changed. Fast and Loose makes bigger profits, at least in the short term...

Imagine paying for the insurance policy on your house with shingles from your roof?

When it isn’t raining, insurance companies think their financial structures don’t need a roof. As long as the sun shines and the premiums pour in they don’t need to have a functioning brain.

They’ve behaved the same way about climate change and the enormous risks––beyond enormous risks––sea level rises present to insured coastal properties and port facilities. "If it’s not happening now it will never happen” seems to be the bizarre logic of insurance giants.

“What me worry?"

How can they be so foolish? Because foolishness earns more in the short run. And the more a division earns this quarter the more important it is. And the more colossal the foolishness the likelier the government will bail them out. Insurance companies used to be more careful and responsible than that.

Well, a few of them are beginning to come around and behave responsibly. Finally.

Why did it take them so long? I suspect it’s because the big insurers have changed from thinking of themselves as insurance companies into thinking of themselves as investment companies. The side of the company that invested the premiums became sexier and more profitable. Also, low interest rates made secure, safe investments like bond funds less profitable and therefore less sexy. Life threatening risks might be bringing their attention back to their jobs. Is it in time?

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

"Whatever It Is, I'm Against It"

What do you call it when a person or a party refuses to believe facts because they dislike the person who presents them? Bloodymindedness is one word. Damnfoolish will also work.

In two states now, Florida and now Wisconsin, Republican governors have forbidden state employees to acknowledge climate change in any way. They are required to ignore science––in other words they're told to lie. (Bloomberg reports this story)

The Republican Party has a policy of putting polluters of the environment in the job of protecting the environment. Polluters are not good at cutting or regulating pollution….and that is the whole point. Walker is doing this in Wisconsin, or trying to. (Associated Press)

The Republican Party prefers to advance peace by dropping bombs. Does this have anything to do with the massive support they get from the armaments industry? Not only is this corrupt, it’s also deranged and dangerous. The latest cheerleader for war is Tom Cotton of Arkansas. The same guy who wrote the Iranians and told them not to sign a treaty on nuclear disarmament. "Give War a Chance" (NPR reporting)

Where does this insanity come from? What causes this dangerously disordered way of thinking. If it were a person you'd look at the home. What's wrong there. Here it's about the party culture. The Republican Party is the party of ugly bullying and deep corruption. Why is the GOP this way? Because it wins for them. (Here is a sad example from Missouri politics. Again, reported by NPR)

There are a lot of deep old hatreds in the Republican culture. Hatred of other races and religions and of women. Hatred comes from fear and suspicion. It dates back as far as Nixon, a singularly hateful and suspicious man. Was it all about his manhood? (Here's an interesting story from VOX.)

Hatred of “the Other” means all terrorism is Muslim or Communist and foreign born. Homegrown Christian terrorists are not terrorists. (Salon has a short list of the Christian terrorist groups we're supposed to ignore.)

The Republican Party is a machine to serve the 1%, but they get votes from a lot of working people too. Mostly white. Having a black president has confused them. It has at least supplied a worry the 1% can exploit. Working class Republicans find it easier to follow the instructions of the 1%, the gilded rich, who tell them who to hate and who to oppose, rather than make an alliance with other working people who have shared interests and grievances. It’s the old divide-and-conquer strategy of Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The values are deeply Confederate too: keep the other races down and hate the federal government. (Politico reports on the South's devotion to Confederate principles. Which we never got around to calling treason.)

This is a recipe for dysfunction. But the small group of wealthy people who own the Republican Party aren’t concerned. They would rather the United States were more like Mexico or some banana republic where the elite ruled the impoverished majority. (Salon has a story from a former Republican who got sick of it.)

Despite presiding over a rebellious kindergarten of a Republican Congress, Obama has succeeded pretty well. (FactCheck has the numbers on Obama. They're good to great, but you'd hardly know it from how much half of America hates him.)

So they hate him even more. It’s like the Groucho Marx song:

Your proposition may be good,
But let's have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
And even when you've changed it or condensed it,
I'm against it.

(Here again is that Washington Post article about how the Republican Party is organized around the idea of making sure we fail as badly under Obama as we did under their guy.)

What do you call it when a person or a party wants the United States to fail?

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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Give War A Chance

This Iran deal has Republicans upset. The point seems not to be whether it’s a good deal or a wise deal but that it’s a deal reached by a Democrat. And a black Democrat at that.

Scott Walker promises to blow up the deal, no matter what our allies think. (Washington Post)

But even the very conservative Chicago Tribune has these treaty-haters figured out, explaining they'd hate anything Obama did.

The less exciting but more rational experts are also weighing in, saying it’s a better deal than they’d dared hope for. (Mother Jones has links to all of them)

The consensus among experts who didn't plan the War in Iraq is that the deal is a good one.



All the rightside pundits are alarmed. Is it because an Iran deal would decrease the likelihood of another profitable war? Apparently.

(Peggy Noonan)

Of course Ms. Noonan’s hero and former boss, Ronald Reagan, did business with Iran. He did business with them, cut a deal with them, even before he was president. He arranged that Iran would hold the American’s hostage until he was sworn into office. Clever move. It probably got Reagan elected. (Reagan's Secret Help-The-Hostage-Takers Deal from 1979)

But Reagan didn’t stop there. He later sold the Iranians weapons to arm their mideast terrorist allies. He did it secretly, and used the proceeds to arm our own terrorists in Central America. Again, secretly, because it was illegal to do so. (Iran-Contra)

Those involved were criminals. But they were pardoned. And many of them are now criticizing Obama’s nuclear disarmament deal with Iran. They seem to like arming Iran, but don’t like disarming Iran.

Former congresswoman Bachmann is ever ready with the inapt comparison. Such an unfortunate mouth on that woman. (Mrs. Bachmann compares Obama to a psychopathic mass murderer)

On this Easter weekend you have to wonder if the superChristians in the superpatriotic Republican Party are disappointed because the Middle East might not deliver the full scale global war that prophecy has promised them. You know, the one that means that Jesus is coming again to sort out the dead.

Republicans don’t like peace. They don’t like calm prosperity. They like ructions and chaos and financial collapse. Why? Because it’s more profitable of course. Profitable for their clients. Profitable for their chums who’ve bought short positions on the U.S. and the world. The calamatists who’ve been squirreling away all that gold expecting it to zoom up when the edifice collapses again. They love a nice spectacular collapse. They know how to profit from collapse. When things go really really bad, they're clients will still get rich selling weapons.

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