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?

Sep 11

That’s not what my hedge fund manager told me

A Decade With No Income Gains

The typical American household made less money last year than the typical household made a full decade ago.

To me, that’s the big news from the Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health insurance, which was released this morning. Median household fell to $50,303 last year, from $52,163 in 2007. In 1998, median income was $51,295. All these numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Progress!

Jul 25

Authoritarianism

The Gates kerfluffle is silly, but this is the takeaway: in today’s America, you can be arrested for sassing police officers. Correction: arrested and/or tasered.

The historical sweep of the last 20 years, with the Bush era as a particular catalyst, combined with the advent of technological marvels that can subdue people without leaving marks has us hurtling toward an authoritarian state faster than I thought it possible.

Shorter version: small men in power + culture of fear + tasers == police state.

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 24

Wingnut Tawana Brawley

Of course it was a fake

A campaign worker who claimed she was the victim of a politically-motivated attack in which she was beaten, kicked and cut, now admits that she made the whole story up.

According to Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard, Ashley Todd, 20, told investigators today that she “was not robbed and there was no 6’4″ black male attacker.”

Todd initially told police that she was robbed at an ATM in Bloomfield Wednesday night and that the suspect began beating her after seeing a John McCain bumper sticker on her car.

Todd claimed that the mugger even cut a backwards letter “B” in her check.

But today investigators say Todd confessed that the attack never happened.

At a news conference this afternoon, officials said they believe that Todd’s injuries were self-inflicted.

What a dumbass. A dumbass with issues. Get some therapy before you waste the world’s time again.

Update: Dude. I was totally first.

Update 2
: Peter Feldman is the new Al Sharpton.

John McCain’s Pennsylvania communications director told reporters in the state an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts of the case were known or established — and even told reporters outright that the “B” carved into the victim’s cheek stood for “Barack,” according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

I can’t believe the McCain campaign was pushing this turd of a story that didn’t pass the sniff test from the get go. Wait, what am I saying? Of course they pushed the story!

Oct 09

Eastwood’s lost it

or he’s thinking with another brain

CLINT Eastwood made it clear who won last week’s vice-presidential debate in an interview he did Saturday as part of The New Yorker Festival with the magazine’s legendary Lillian Ross.

“One of the candidates the other night seemed more prone to telling the truth than the other,” Eastwood said. The cheese-and-Chardonnay crowd laughed, presumably because they thought he meant Joe Biden.

But the laughs among the 300 worshipful movie buffs at the Directors Guild theater dried up when Ross interjected, “I liked her, too!”

Eastwood went on to talk about how well “she” did, although he stopped short of a ringing endorsement.

Yes, I know he’s a Republican, but he’s generally been a straight shooter in the past. Palin is a pathological liar on a grander scale than BushMcCain and equal to Cheney. She’s an empty suit with no morals, ethics, integrity, or grasp of the english language. Maybe that’s it. Maybe she’s just so idiotic that she doesn’t realize lying does not make the words become true.

Jul 26

McCain, 2006

Standing in front of the class gave a speech:

Madam President, there is an old line about those of us who ignored the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. Afghanistan is the classic example of what could happen in Iraq. After years and years of incredible assistance to those who were seeking freedom from the then-Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan, the Russians were driven out. Then, incredibly, the United States of America totally disengaged from Iraq. I recommend to my colleagues the reading of a book called “Ghost Wars” by Steven Cole, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Of course, came the Taliban. The Taliban then obviously was not only a terribly oppressive, brutal, cruel regime, but it also became a hotbed of training for terror today. A failed state in Iraq would pose a clear, present, and enduring danger to the security of our country.

Furthermore, Hitler, bananas, and a three-legged pony. … San Dimas High School Football Rules!

Jul 25

Tell me again

why Wesley Clark isn’t the already-named veep (or candidate for that matter).

Screw those professional concern trolls and hanky-waving media McSame enablers, Clark needs to be out there.

Side note: I can’t believe this passes for “confusing” to the media or what we consider “high level discourse” today. JFC, how is it not patently obvious that each person argues for the “best solution” relative to their position X, and when someone says I understand, but my concerns are Y (some superset of X) that they are acknowledging this? Let me rephrase to the msnbc host: if you don’t understand that executives need to make decisions while balancing competing interests, you need to be paid less until you do understand.

Apr 10

War Criminals

The Bush Admnistration was directly involved in the method, extent, and forms of torture used against captured persons of (possible) interest.

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of “combined” interrogation techniques — using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time — on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The fact that these people are still (mostly) running our government instead of being behind bars is probably the most accurate snapshot, and indictment, of our country today. Ruled by a clutch of undemocratic totalitarians, the America I grew up with is gone and our moral authority with it.

Mar 22

The Worst Thing You’re Going to See or Hear All Week

I’m scarred for life. Ergo, I must share it with you so we can live our scarred codependent lives together properly.

As parody, it’s half-assed. As candidate promotion it is among the strongest reasons possible as to why you should not, under any circumstances, vote for McCain.

I don’t know who created this, but my money’s on Al Qaeda.