Aug 01

The Death of the Middle Class

Many have been speaking about the death of the middle class for years, but hell, even the Financial Times is on the beat now.

Once upon a time this was called the American Dream. Nowadays it might be called America’s Fitful Reverie. Indeed, Mark spends large monthly sums renting a machine to treat his sleep apnea, which gives him insomnia. “If we lost our jobs, we would have about three weeks of savings to draw on before we hit the bone,” says Mark, who is sitting on his patio keeping an eye on the street and swigging from a bottle of Miller Lite. “We work day and night and try to save for our retirement. But we are never more than a pay check or two from the streets.”

The slow economic strangulation of the Freemans and millions of other middle-class Americans started long before the Great Recession, which merely exacerbated the “personal recession” that ordinary Americans had been suffering for years. Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the ­multiple is above 300.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French chronicler of early America, was once misquoted as having said: “America is the best country in the world to be poor.” That is no longer the case. Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.

emphasis added

I strongly believe that the death of unions due to the incessant war waged against them by the Haves after their hard-won victories (much like our country’s abortion and privacy rights, there was never a single victory by the business/right, but a series of tiny steps that decreased the power and scope of their target bit by bit until the target was eventually unrecognizable. See also, boiling frogs).

Setting aside the gross unfairness of massive income inequality, a huge problem with this setup is that it will invariably lead to social unrest (as you’re seeing bubble up somewhat with the idiotic Tea Party), which will lead, eventually, to blood (whether on domestic shores or foreign, I don’t know).

My generation is the first generation that will not have a higher standard of living than our parents. My generation has known this for a long time (I remember discussing this in undergrad). I think that sociologists and other commentators forget this factor when trying to question why Gen X and Y are such sarcastic, cynical bastards. The reason is – we know we’re on a hamster wheel going nowhere. What is there to look forward to?

Jan 21

Elections have consequences

… and 8 years of Bush == an end to what little democracy we have left. The essence of the case is an emasculation of representative democracy, an increase in corruption, the overturning of long-standing precedent, and an opening of the floodgates to direct, corporate participation in campaign spending. From the NYT:

A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the government may not ban political spending by corporations, labor unions or other organizations in elections. The court’s majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission swept aside a century-old doctrine in election law, ruling that the campaign finance restriction violated the First Amendment’s free speech principles. The dissenters said opening the floodgates to corporate money will corrupt democracy.

Well, I guess at least the corporate influence will be unmistakably obvious now. So we’ve got that. We’ve also got a near 0 probability of any reform candidate ever winning, and a near 1.0 probability of incumbent protection … leading to further ossification of our government and the strengthening of the oligarchy. On the other other hand, maybe this is outrageous enough to re-spur the reform movement … in another 100 years.

While I should add that I believe the definition of an “activist” judges is one who issues a decisions with which you disagree, this is an activist decision. There is nothing more “activist” than overturning a 100-year old precedent, which the Scalitothomasroberts group did. Thus, the Bush “minimalists” and “strict constructionists” and “originalists” are … activists.

Also, fuck you, Kennedy.

Mar 16

To Hell with AIG’s bonuses

Sign the petition.

There’s an easy way to not pay the bonuses, there is good legal footing to deny them. What is lacking is political will. Let’s help those spineless twerps in DC out.

I should note that there are rumors that if the bonuses aren’t paid, the managers (or the French, it’s unclear) will declare a default event and trigger hundreds of billions of dollars more to come due. To which I say to the AIG management: bullshit. Go ahead and try it and take your economic terrorism elsewhere. Go Galt on us, please, you worthless shitbags.

Team Obama needs to get out in front of this. It’s a position so easy to spot that even Bill Kristol can see it, and if Obama doesn’t deny the bonuses, then they just gave the GOP a 300 pound birthday cake. With balloons.

Feb 09

This is what the GOP stopping from being addressed

People are losing urgent health care and states are withering on the vines.

Nevada resident Margaret Frye-Jackman, 71, was diagnosed in August with ovarian cancer. She had two rounds of chemotherapy at University Medical Center, the only public hospital in the Las Vegas area.

Soon after, she and her daughter heard the news on TV: The hospital’s outpatient oncology services were closing because of state Medicaid cuts. Treatment for Frye-Jackman and hundreds of other cancer patients was eliminated.

You got that? Public services for urgent medical care are being cut … and still the GOP fiddles and argues for tax cuts. If ever there were a group of more amoral, corrupt, soulless bunch of shitheads outside of collapse-of-Rome, I just can’t imagine.

Feb 07

A Simple Solution

As the GOP is now playing partisan politics while the country tapdances on the edge of financial ruin for generations (quel surprise, non?), stating that the stimulus bill (weighing in at 1/4th of the Iraq debacle and 2/3rds of the 2001 Bush tax cuts) is “too expensive” I have a proposal for President Obama.

Instead of getting rolled and creating a “bipartisan” bill that the GOP is going to vote against anyway, why not, you know, be proactive and aggressive? The GOP will not support this bill because if it works, it’s Obama’s bill, and if it fails (which is what they are hoping for – who cares what happens to the country, their only path back to power is if we’re in the shitter in 2010 and 2012) they don’t want to have voted for it.

So here’s my proposal:

Obama to GOP: OK, the bill is too expensive? We’ll eliminate all the tax cuts. Now you’re down to a $500B stimulus package.

GOP to Obama: *head explodes*

The Democrats and Obama on this issue have been an embarrassment. Going from record high approvals, a clear mandate, and a tide of victory to getting their asses handed to them in parliamentary games and disappearing from the media during this entire debate is fucking ridiculous. The GOP is entirely controlling the narrative of this bill now – they own the media and are just slaughtering what we here still like to refer to as “reality” and “reason.” It’s like the past 8 years never happened.

The Dems are an absurd party fully of namby pambies with no spine. It’s infuriating. But at least they’re not Republicans.

In sum: tell the GOP to stuff it and do what’s right. It’s the best way forward.

Nov 18

Unfuckingbelievable

Democrats Let Lieberman Keep Committee Chair

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) easily won a vote to remain chairman of a key committee today and will stay in the Democratic caucus despite his high-profile criticism of President-elect Barack Obama and his support of Sen. John McCain during the presidential campaign.

To recap: Lieberman actively campaigns against the Democratic president, up to and including implications that he may be a terrorist, undermines the last Democratic president at every turn, is defeated in the Democratic primary and runs on an “independent” ticket, and is the #1 supporter of Bush on the “Democratic” side. Lieberman is also the head of one of the most important Senate committees around (Homeland Security), where he has yet to conduct a single investigation or question the administration.

Democrats win both houses of Congress and the Presidency in a landslide and do not need Lieberman’s vote.

Do the Democrats kick him from the Committee chair? Do they refuse to let him caucus with them?

No.

Lieberman retains everything.

Jesus fuck, Dems, can you possibly be any more of a collection of wimps? He actively attempted to destroy your party.

Lesson to be learned: senators hate the Left and outsiders far more than they hate being stabbed in the back.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for an actual party with some balls and the ability to enact progressive legislation.

Just fucking shameful.

Oct 28

Ever Notice

How all voter suppression activities stem from Republicans?

GOP suppression, again

A phony State Board of Elections flier advising Republicans to vote on Nov. 4 and Democrats on Nov. 5 is being circulated in several Hampton Roads localities, according to state elections officials.

This happens every cycle – some flier comes out in minority/black/poor neighborhoods either giving a wrong location, date, or threats of arrest/seizure/investigation should the darkies show up.

and remember, change means …. BLACK!!!!!

Oct 11

Cheney in a skirt! Cheney in a skirt!

Troopergate Friday document dump reveals…

Finding Number One

For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.

Heckuva choice there, McCain

See this summary for selected (and juicy) details

Sep 11

Life under Palin: charge sexual assault victims for their exams

Palin’s so awesome. If by awesome you mean troglodyte sociopath, that is.

Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill — signed into law by Knowles — that banned the practice statewide.

“There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla,” Knowles said

A May 23, 2000, article in Wasilla’s newspaper, The Frontiersman, noted that Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies regularly pay for such exams, which cost between $300 and $1,200 apiece.

“(But) the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests,” the newspaper reported.

It also quoted Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon objecting to the law. Fannon was appointed to his position by Palin after her dismissal of the previous police chief. He said it would cost Wasilla $5,000 to $14,000 a year if the city had to foot the bill for rape exams.

“In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims’ insurance company when possible,” Fannon told the newspaper. “I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer.”

Sep 10

Drill early, drill often

Your typical GOP governance

Government officials handling billions of dollars in oil royalties improperly engaged in sex with employees of energy companies they were dealing with and received numerous gifts from them, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The alleged transgressions involve 13 former and current Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington. Their alleged improprieties include rigging contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants, and having sexual relationships with _ and accepting golf and ski trips and dinners from _ oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

The investigations reveal a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by a small group of individuals “wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards,” wrote Inspector General Earl E. Devaney. Devaney’s office spent more than two years and $5.3 million on the investigations.

Sep 10

Palin Authoritarian Censorship Past

Look! Actual investigation!

To recap:
1. Palin, a hard core theocratic extremist and member of hard-right church with no qualms about dictating societal norms, is elected mayor of Wasilla, AK (pop. 9,000).
2. Palin shortly thereafter “inquires” of the town librarian how she would react “if” Palin asked her to remove some books from the library (alternatively, Palin inquires about the “procedure” for book removal. No threat there!)
3. Librarian says that the books were acquired properly and she will not remove any of them.
4. Librarian is fired.
(postscript: community is outraged, Librarian is reinstated shortly thereafter)

Nope, definitely no authoritarian Queen of Hearts correlation there.

Elections have consequences, and if these dipshits somehow convince enough people to vote against their own interests to be elected then get ready for a whole lot of Säuberung. Oh frabjous day!