• RSS
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Chernynkaya On August - 22 - 2011

You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

________________________________________

 

 

BUSINESS

 

Layoffs Sweep Wall Street, Along With Low Morale

In early summer, before layoffs began sweeping across Wall Street, billboard-sized photos of employees were plastered on the walls, pillars and elevator banks of Credit Suisse Group AG’s offices in the United States and abroad.

The museum-quality prints, depicting workers from administrative assistants to senior executives, were emblazoned with motivational words like “Proactive” and “Partner.” By mid-July, however, the photos disappeared and the Swiss banking giant began laying off 2,000 employees.

Security guards prevented employees from taking cell-phone pictures as the posters were stripped away, according to one employee who was present.

“It sent an entirely wrong message,” said an employee, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “Management literally threw away that kind of money on something so trivial, while planning to cut thousands of jobs.”

A bank spokeswoman declined to comment on the internal campaign or the employee’s comments.

Credit Suisse’s timing illustrates the unanticipated dangers of rampant job-cutting, which tend to run in cycles on Wall Street. Employee morale often plummets at a time when survivors are asked to pick up more responsibility and customer relations can suffer as service and relationships deteriorate.

CUTTING ‘MUSCLE AND BONE’

 

Bank of America Announces 3,500 Layoffs

 

AT&T, T-Mobile merger faces new criticism from Free Press

WaPo:

Media reform group Free Press sent a letter urging Democratic lawmakers to reconsider their position on the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile based on information revealed in an accidentally unredacted file uploaded to the Internet last week.

The file, an AT&T letter, revealed that the company estimates rolling out LTE to 97 percent of the county will cost $3.8 billion. The file, which was uploaded to the FCC docket without first being redacted for public view, has since been removed and resubmitted with the redactions in place.

Free Press said that this is a figure the company calculated before its proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile and invalidates the company’s claim that the deal will help rural America by making it viable to roll out the high-speed broadband to more of the country.

AT&T says that the $3.8 billion figure was calculated after the merger and that synergies between the two companies have brought down the cost of the rollout.

 

 

ECONOMY

 

Jobs Program? Here Are 3 Essential Ingredients

The New Republic:

Of course, whether that conversation on jobs leads to action on jobs is more a question of politics than policy. Republicans want no part of anything with Obama’s name on it and, until that changes, very little can pass Congress.

Still, the best policy conversations start with what we should do, not with what we can (or can’t) do. And it’s not like we have to think too hard about ways of boosting growth: Infrastructure projects, direct aid to the states, assistance for the unemployed, and other familiar remedies should work just fine. As Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute noted recently,

There are not many new and exciting policy levers that can be pulled by Congress and the president to solve today’s unemployment crisis. Fortunately, the old (and presumably boring) policy levers could reduce unemployment much more quickly if applied with enough force.

The key is finding the right mix of these ideas and getting the details right. With that in mind, here are three essential elements of a successful jobs agenda, based on conversations with a series of economists — mostly center to left — who can speak to this issue with way more authority than I can.

Size. This one can be said very simply. The jobs program should be big.

The most recent economic forecast from Mark Zandi, of Moody’s, suggests that gross domestic product will grow at an annualized rate of near 2 percent this year and 3 percent next year.  That’s not good. That rate of growth will create roughly enough jobs to keep up with population growth, but no more. And that’s not enough when more than 9 percent of the country is out of work, not including those who have stopped looking altogether. The goal should be putting those people back to work, not merely absorbing the latest comers to the workforce.

So how much faster do we want the economy to grow? One of the economists I consulted was Harvard’s Jeffrey Liebman, a former budget official in the Obama Administration. In his response, via e-mail, he started with Okun’s Law, a basic tenet of economics about the relationship between growth and unemployment:

Okun’s Law tells us that in order to reduce the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point, GDP needs to grow 2 percent faster than trend for a year. U.S. trend growth is around 2.5 percent. So we need real GDP to grow at 4.5 percent a year for two years to bring the unemployment rate below 7 percent. Achieving 4.5 percent growth for the next two years should be the goal of U.S. economic policy. It is hard to see this happening without additional fiscal stimulus of at least 2.5 percent of GDP in each year. What we need is a second stimulus bill as large as the Recovery Act, but this time the composition needs to be 100 percent stimulus. Ideally, this stimulus legislation would be paired with legislation resolving our medium-term deficit problem. Eliminating the uncertainty about how our fiscal imbalances will be corrected would raise confidence among economic actors and significantly increase the chance that we hit the 4.5 percent target for GDP growth.

What would that be in dollars? Over the next two years, GDP is projected to be between $15 and 16 trillion annually. Do the math, as Liebman suggests, and you’re getting to the neighborhood of $400 billion a year, depending on whether you account for extensions of unemployment insurance and the payroll tax break already in effect. And it could easily be more if, say, the current economic projections turn out to be optimistic.

Liebman was from from the only economist talking in those terms. Even more conservative estimates I heard amounted to hefty sums, at least by the standards of today’s fiscal debate. Here’s Dartmouth’sAndrew Samwick, who was a presidential adviser during the early years of the Bush Administration, via e-mail:

It really depends on what you spend it on. If you are going to do things that are temporary and don’t change people’s long-term expectations, then you will need to pump in more money. If instead you do things like spend $250 billion a year for four years, and spend it on closing our public infrastructure gap, then households and businesses will likely make complementary investments — because the public investments raise the returns to the private investments.

The point is not to get hung up on a specific number. The point is that whether it’s $300 billion, $400 billion, or more, we’re talking about a lot of money.

Speed: The economy needs help. And it needs help now.

That’s not necessarily an argument against measures with delayed impact. The sorry state of American infrastructure would call out for public investment even if the economy were growing rapidly. With interest rates as low as they are, it’s frankly stupid not to borrow money to build infrastructure. Besides, the way things are going, we’re going to need stimulus in 2012, and 2013, and maybe beyond.

But when it comes to putting people back to work right away, infrastructure programs, in particular, can be slow. The whole point of the infrastructure bank, for example, is to subject every proposal to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. That takes time. One way around this problem is to change some of the rules for public works – and, asGary Burtless of Brookings explains, applying some lessons the federal government learned after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California:

The feds learned a bitter lesson from San Francisco’s very slow spending of federal aid dollars after the World Series earthquake a few years earlier. Wanting to avoid a repetition of that fiasco, the federal gov’t told CA and L.A. that the U.S. earthquake relief dollars had to be spent within a specified period. It worked. L.A. repaired its wrecked freeways much faster than the Bay area fixed its wrecked highways and bridges.

Another answer is to focus on programs that can get up to speed quickly. Jared Bernstein, who also served in the Obama Administration and now works at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, continues to talk up the “FAST” proposal that would finance a burst of school repair and renovation projects around the country. I continue to think that’s a good idea, particularly since it’s labor intensive work and there’s quite a lot of it to be done. It turns out we have many schools that need work — a case of bad news being good news, at least if you’re trying to come up with policy ideas.

Of course, that also strengthens the case for other kinds of interventions that have quick effects. Extending unemployment insurance is one obvious policy initiative that satisfies this criteria, as Burtless points out:

Helping the long-term unemployed through direct transfers (unemployment benefits, generously subsidized health insurance) is sensible policy from the perspective of its anti-recession effects (the target population will spend the money faster than you or I) and from a humanitarian viewpoint.

It’s also a strong argument for direct assistance to local and state governments, which could use the cash immediately to plug budget holes – and stop laying off workers, the way they are doing now.

Smarts. Yes, I was trying for three “S”s, just to make this post a little more memorable. But it’s also a good principle. And I mean smart in the sense of fiscally smart.

Deficits aren’t a problem right now, notwithstanding what so many politicians and pundits have been saying. But they will be a problem in the future. That’s an argument for offsetting economic boosters with spending cuts and/or revenue increases in the future. Fortunately that is easy to do. All of the measures that are, or should be, under consideration would be temporary and relatively short-term. So it’s relatively easy paying those off over time.

But there’s another way to make these proposals smart: To make them expire when economic conditions improve. In an ideal world, extra unemployment insurance and aid to the states would act as truly “automatic” stabilizers, to borrow the economics lingo. In other words, they would start when the economy in bad shape and end when the economy has recovered, no longer requiring separate acts of Congress as each new emergency arises.

An easy way to do that is to link their duration explicitly to an economic indicator – and say, for example, that one or the other or both would end when unemployment declines below a reasonable threshold of 7 percent.

***

So there you have it. The ideal jobs package would inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy as quickly as possible – but in a way that paid for itself over the long run and, ideally, diminished automatically once a strong recovery is under way. The administration could do a portion of this on its own, whether by using Fannie Mae to help distressed homeowners or getting China to help U.S. exports by revaluing its currency. The Fed could obviously lend a hand, maybe a big hand, as well. But to meet these criteria, Congress would have to take some action.

Is there a chance Congress would do that? Not right now. Among the proposals circulating on Capitol Hill, the initiative from progressive House Democrats comes closest. Republicans, on the other hand, have very different ideas: They dismiss such proposals as “more failed stimulus.” And they can block legislation, given that they control the House and have enough votes to mount filibusters in the Senate.

But given the alarming news about the economy and Obama’s determination to press the issue this fall, there should be a chance to do something The closer it adheres to these principles, the better it will be.

Advice From a 105-Year-Old Banker

The Daily Beast:

The stock market is imploding, Europe is on the brink, and, if the doomsayers are to be believed, we could be headed for a double-dip recession.

None of that worries Irving Kahn, perhaps the world’s oldest working investment banker. “There are a lot of opportunities out there, and one shouldn’t complain, unless you don’t have good health,” says Kahn. At 105, he might well be the last man on earth who can speak authoritatively on both longevity and making money amid a historic market meltdown. In 1928, at the age of 23, he went to work on Wall Street as a stock analyst and brokerage clerk. By the tail end of the Great Depression, in 1939, he’d made enough money in the market to move his wife and two children out of public housing and into their own house in the suburbs.

Kahn is still in the game, waking every morning at 7 and going to work as chairman of Kahn Brothers, the small family investment firm he founded in 1978. Until a few years ago, he took the bus or walked the 20 blocks from his Upper East Side home to his midtownoffice. “For a 105-year-old guy, it’s pretty remarkable,” says Thomas Kahn, Irving’s 68-year-old son and the company’s president. “I get tired just thinking about it.”

Perhaps his closest rival for the title of oldest person working in the securities industry was the financier Roy Neuberger, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 107. But Neuberger had retired at 99. Two of Kahn’s older sons, both in their mid-70s, have likewise retired.

Small and gnomish, Kahn counsels patience in hard times as he holds forth on market distortions and the roots of economic unrest, which he pins on “a bunch of gamblers going crazy on the floor of the exchange.” “Wall Street,” he adds, “has always been a very poor judge of value.”

The depths of the Depression turned out to be a useful time to learn that lesson. At Columbia Business School, Kahn served as an assistant to economist Benjamin Graham, the value-investing guru whose principles of caution and defensive investing inspired a cadre of disciples that includes Warren Buffett. It’s an investment strategy born of the beating Graham had taken in ’29, and Kahn adopted it as his own. “I stopped wasting time on what people claimed a stock was worth and started looking at the numbers,” he says. “This may surprise you, but there were a large number of valuable buys during the Depression.”

MORE>>>

 

 

ENERGY

 

Infographic: What it would take to meet Obama’s 2035 clean energy goals?

Grist:

Obama wants 80 percent of America’s energy to come from clean and renewable sources by 2035. But what would that really take? Mostly, it means replacing 2/3 of our coal-fired power plants with power sources that don’t depend on fossil fuels. The scale of that ambition is difficult to comprehend — which is why it’s handy that Climate Central has created an interactive to walk you through what it really means. The image above is just a screengrab-run, don’t walk, to the original.)

 

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

 

 

How Climate Change Is Turning Plants and Animals into Refugees

Time:

Regardless of what Rick Perry and the rest of Republican presidential candidate field believe (except for you, Jon Huntsman), climate change is real and it’s happening. The questions for the 98% of climate researchers who accept the consensus on man-made global warming is how fast the climate is changing, and what impact it will have on humanity and the planet.

Here’s one effect of warming scientists are already seeing: plants and animals migrating to cooler climates to escape hotter temperatures. In a study published in the August 18 Science, researchers in Britain and Taiwan found that species are moving in response to global warming up to three times faster than previously believed. Analyzing studies covering over 2,000 responses from plants and animals, the scientists found that on average, species have moved to higher elevations to escape warmer temperatures at 40 ft per decade, and moved to higher latitudes (ie, further away from the equator) at 11 miles per decade.[…]

Scientists have seen evidence of species moving to escape higher temperatures before, but the Science analysis goes further, showing that species have moved furthest in the areas where temperatures have risen the most. That’s pretty strong evidence that global warming is a main driver of these shifts. And some species really moved—the comma butterfly has shifted 137 miles north in just two decades.

The bigger question is what this will mean for the animals and plants forced to hit the road. An influential 2004 paper in Nature estimated that up to 1/3 of the world’s plants and animals could be committed to extinction by 2050 because of climate change. But those conclusions have been disputed, and in any case, predicting extinction—and finding the cause—is extremely difficult. Being forced to move doesn’t automatically equal extinction—animals often shift their habitat ranges in response to predators, changing food patterns, even disease.

Video from TIME: Extinction Close Up

But there’s little doubt that wildlife is at serious risk from a number of different  threats—so much so that we may already be living through the sixth great extinction. Simply losing habitat—often thanks to manmade deforestation or development—is the most direct threat to the survival of wildlife, followed by the spread of invasive species, disease and outright hunting. The biggest worry other species on this planet have is us—as our numbers and demands grow, we’re taking up more space and more resources, leaving less of less for everything else.

There could be 9 billion human beings on the planet by 2050—a plant that will almost certainly be warmer, with a less stable climate. If do nothing to help them by that time, wildlife may have nowhere left to run.


HEALTH CARE

 

 

 

U.S. Scrambling to Ease Shortage of Vital Medicine

NYT:
Federal officials and lawmakers, along with the drug industry and doctors’ groups, are rushing to find remedies for critical shortages of drugs to treat a number of life-threatening illnesses, including bacterial infection and several forms ofcancer.

The proposed solutions, which include a national stockpile of cancer medicines and a nonprofit company that will import drugs and eventually make them, are still in the early or planning stages. But the sense of alarm is widespread.

“These shortages are just killing us,” said Dr. Michael Link, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the nation’s largest alliance of cancer doctors. “These drugs save lives, and it’s unconscionable that medicines that cost a couple of bucks a vial are unavailable.”

So far this year, at least 180 drugs that are crucial for treating childhood leukemia, breast and colon cancer, infections and other diseases have been declared in short supply — a record number.

Prices for some have risen as much as twentyfold, and clinical trials for some experimental cures have been delayed because the studies must also offer older medicines that cannot be reliably provided. […]

The Obama administration is considering creating a government stockpile of crucial cancer medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already stockpile antibiotics, antidotes and other drugs needed in the event of a terrorist attack or earthquake.

Under one plan, the government would store the dry ingredients for cancer drugs and, in the face of a shortage, distribute them to hospitals, where pharmacists could mix them into injectable compounds.

Dr. Richard Schilsky, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said the number of cancers diagnosed in a year was easy to predict. “So we ought to be able to make a pretty good estimate of the grams required to treat every patient in the country in any given year,” he said.

Legislation proposed in both the House and the Senate would give theFood and Drug Administration the power to demand that drug makers give early warnings of possible supply disruptions. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said the idea behind the bipartisan bill came after she found that the agency had prevented 38 shortages last year after getting early alerts of problems at drug makers.

“I can’t say the drug companies are excited” about the proposed legislation, she said in an interview. “But we need to give the F.D.A. more time.”

A group of leading oncologists has started a not-for-profit drug company that it hopes will soon be able to import supplies of some of the missing medicines. The company will eventually manufacture the drugs itself, according to Dr. George Tidmarsh, a pediatric oncologist and biotechnology entrepreneur who will lead it.

“We have a meeting with the F.D.A. next week,” Dr. Tidmarsh said. “This unfolding tragedy must stop, and right now.”

More than half the recent shortages have resulted because government or company inspectors found problems like microbial contamination that can be lethal on injection. Others have occurred because of capacity problems at drug plants or lack of interest because of low profits, according to the F.D.A. […]

Top government officials have held a blizzard of meetings in recent weeks to tackle the shortage issue, and more are expected over the next month — including a public advisory meeting at the F.D.A. and hearings in Congress.

A crucial problem is disconnection between the free market and required government regulation. Prices for many older medicines are low until the drugs are in short supply; then prices soar. But these higher prices do little to encourage more supply, because it can be difficult and expensive to overcome the technical and regulatory hurdles. And if supplies return to normal, prices plunge.

Executives at Premier, a hospital buying cooperative, said that in April and May its members received hundreds of offers from obscure drug wholesalers to sell drugs in short supply at vastly inflated prices. Of the 636 offers that included a price, 45 percent were at least 10 times the normal rate and 27 percent were at least 20 times normal.

Such sales offers are legal as long as suppliers prove that they bought the drugs appropriately. Some wholesalers buy certain drugs in large quantities because they are betting there will be a shortage. The excessive buying can help make their predictions come true. “We never like to see a situation where people can profit off of a national crisis and engage in price gouging,” Mike Alkire, Premier’s chief operating officer, said in an interview.

IMMIGRATION

 

 

 

 

Toward Immigration Sanity

NYT Editorial:

The White House has just taken a large step toward a more sensible and lawful policy on illegal immigration. The administration said that it would stop deporting illegal immigrants who pose no threat to public safety or national security so that it can focus on catching and expelling criminals who do.

The new policy ratifies an approach set forth in a recentmemo from the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, on the agency’s use of “prosecutorial discretion.” The memo suggested that immigration enforcement officers and lawyers should move more aggressively against drug dealers, gang members, and other flagrant violators than against illegal immigrants who pose no danger. That would include people with clean records, those who came to the United States as children, the elderly, pregnant women, veterans, service members and those with serious illnesses or disabilities.

The administration is not granting amnesty for any class of immigrants. It will review thousands of individual deportation cases, one by one, and suspend deportation proceedings in cases where a person is no threat.

The new approach acknowledges that this country is squandering law-enforcement resources on deporting tens of thousands of people who work hard, pay taxes and build families. Misplaced enforcement efforts have also been directed at another vital resource — students who arrived in this country as children, graduated from high school, and want to serve in the military or go to college. (The new policy should protect many young people who would qualify for legal status under the long-stalled Dream Act.)

Critics of sensible immigration policy are accusing the administration of a “back-door amnesty.” But they are living in a fictional world, believing that all immigrants are dangerous criminals and that harsher laws and a border fence will make our immigration problems disappear. With this new policy, the administration is rejecting inflexible deportation policies that solve nothing.

Though Immigration and Customs Enforcement is moving in the right direction, many states and local governments are not. Police are still rounding people up needlessly and legislatures are passing harsh laws to criminalize civil immigration violations. There is no question that the government needs to enforce immigration laws vigorously to protect the country from criminals and others who would do us harm. The new policy promises to do that.

L.A. Times: Rick Perry moves right on immigration

As governor of Texas, with its huge Latino population, he’s held a more moderate stance on the issue than many fellow Republicans. But recent actions indicate a shift.

 

 

MEDIA

 

On the home front, reminders of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq come in small doses

WaPo:

[…] After almost 10 years of fighting, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraqsurface on the home front in fleeting, sentimental and sanitized glimpses. Camouflage-clad soldiers lug rucksacks through civilian airports at the beginning and end of their leaves. Their service is celebrated in occasional television commercials, dutifully praised by political candidates and briefly cheered at sporting events.

Troops often question why more ­have not answered the call to duty and why their sacrifices are so poorly understood by the people they serve.

“For most Americans, the wars remain an abstraction,” then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last year. “A distant, unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally.”

In the fifth inning at Nationals Park, Courtney Knolle, a 40-year-old mother of three, was walking past the troops from Walter Reed. She locked eyes on Verra, who was watching the game from his wheelchair with his wife and two children.

A part-time tutor and former kindergarten teacher, Knolle noticed that Verra’s 9-year-old son looked to be about the same age as her eldest. She wondered how Verra had been hurt and how the soldier’s son was handling the injury. She was curious to know whether Verra and his fellow soldiers were getting the best care the country could afford. Like a growing number of Americans, she worried that the war inAfghanistan had become a “losing battle.”

She did not share any of those thoughts with Verra. Instead, Knolle approached Verra and touched his arm.

“Thank you for your service,” she said.

The expression has become commonplace, but Knolle felt good about saying it. Verra simply nodded. Knolle returned to her seat.

Later, Verra said he appreciated Knolle’s gesture. But he wondered, as he often does in such situations, how long she had stared at him before saying something. […]

Five days after President Obama announced his plan to pull 30,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, Byrne had no idea how many troops the United States had in the country and little sense of Obama’s plan to reduce their numbers. He acknowledged that he did not know much about the war.

“Even though it is still going on, it doesn’t feel top of mind,” he said of the Afghanistan conflict. “I imagine that coming home right now would be really tough, because people get confused. ‘Where were you? Afghanistan or Iraq? We got the bad guy, so why are we still there?’ There is not a clear-cut enemy or a clear sense of what we are doing. People just can’t get their head around it.”

Byrne’s 60-second interpretation of America at war would be seen by tens of millions of people.

MORE>>>

 

 Nivea’s Racist Ad “Re-civilizes” a Black Man


Nivea must have a serious lack of diversity on their marketing team, because there is no other explanation for why an ad like this got approved. The ad (see full image here) features a preppy, groomed black man holding the head of his former self, who’s sporting a beard, an afro, and a pissed-off expression. The words “Re-civilize Yourself” are scrawled across the image, with the smaller phrase “Look like you give a damn” on top. The message couldn’t be clearer: natural hair on a black man isn’t a style preference or a nod to afrocentrism—it’s straight-up uncivilized.

It occurred to us that there might be an entire campaign based around the tagline, “Re-civilize yourself.” No such luck. Although Nivea hasseveral other ads with the words “Look like you give a damn,” and onewhere a white guy is holding a long-haired mask, none of them mention anything about civilization. The fact is, the ad itself is still racist even if itis part of a larger campaign. A person flipping through a magazine won’t know the context. All they’ll think of is a vicious stereotype of black people that still endures, and all they’ll see is a black man trying to fit into a white world by shedding his former “uncivilized” self.

This isn’t the first time a company has blithely unveiled a bigoted ad campaign, only to be shocked when the public is outraged. How long will it take for companies to realize that racism is not only morally wrong but bad for business? Nivea is currently trending on Twitter, and some are calling for a boycott or for Rihanna to sever her spokeswoman contract. Let’s hope Nivea gets the message loud and clear.

UPDATE: Nivea has pulled the ad, and posted this apology on Facebook.

Tweet From Roger Ebert:

A no-bullshit, one-click alternative to Huff Post. I’m sick of playing guessing games with links and headlines. bit.ly/n29uAY

 

MILITARY

 

President Barack Obama has released a statement on the rebel advances in Libya:

August 21, 2011

Tonight, the momentum against the Qadhafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant. The Qadhafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.

The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Moammar Qadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end. Qadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all. Meanwhile, the United States has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya. At this pivotal and historic time, the TNC should continue to demonstrate the leadership that is necessary to steer the country through a transition by respecting the rights of the people of Libya, avoiding civilian casualties, protecting the institutions of the Libyan state, and pursuing a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya. A season of conflict must lead to one of peace.

The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. Going forward, the United States will continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected. And we will continue to work with our allies and partners in the international community to protect the people of Libya, and to support a peaceful transition to democracy.

Panetta Confirms Pentagon Considering Replacing Military Retirement With 401(k) Plan

TPM:

In a rare joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the National Defense University Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta confirmed a CBS News report that the Pentagon is considering a dramatic plan to overhaul the military’s once sacrosanct retirement plan.

According to CBS, the plan “would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they’d get a 401k-style plan with government contributions.”

Panetta largely confirmed the report, with a key caveat.

“That report came as the result of an advisory group that was asked by my predecessor Bob Gates to look at the retirement issue,” he said.

And they have put together some thoughts, they’re supposed to issue, actually, a more complete report the latter part of this month. No decisions have been made with regards to that issue…it’s the kind of thing you have to consider in terms of retirement reforms in the broad form, but you have to do it…in a way that doesn’t break faith, again, with our troops and with their families. If you’re going to do something like this you’ve got to think very seriously about grandfathering in order to protect the benefits that are there.

Under the plan, drafted by the Defense Business Board, retired service members would have to wait until standard retirement age before touching their pensions. It would reportedly save $250 billion over two decades.

The plan illustrates the extent to which the mad rush to cut budget deficits and the universal GOP opposition to any tax increases have put government obligations once thought untouchable on the chopping block. And it raises a host of questions: Would the military be able to retain troops for decades without the promise of an immediate, guaranteed benefit retirement plan? Is the current system, that provides no retirement guarantees for less experienced service members, unfair? Should reforms necessarily take the form of a defined contribution pensions?

The Pentagon is already preparing for over $350 billion in cuts over the next decade, a significant share of which is expected to come out of service member benefits.

POLITICS

 

Worth the full read: Obama Interview: The complete transcript

CBS News:

[…]Mason: This past week Congress’ popularity obviously is, they’re, it barely registers. But this past week your popularity hit a record low. What does that say to you?

President Obama: Well, what it says to me is I’m the President of the United States and when people aren’t happy with what’s happening in Washington, that I’m gonna be impacted just like Congress is. And you know I completely understand that, we expected that.

But when you look at how people feel about my approach to deficit reduction or when you look at how people feel about my belief that we’ve gotta continue to invest in education or medical research or making sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our seaports and our airports, when you look at how people feel about the agenda to rebuild America so that it’s competitive in the 21st century that I’ve been promoting over the last couple of years, it turns out that people are supportive of that.

What they’re frustrated right now is they want me to be able to wrangle Congress and get them moving. And you know, we’ve got this thing, separation of powers, and we don’t have a parliamentary system. And it means that there are times where Congress is gonna do things despite what I saw as opposed to because I think this is the right direction for the country.

And that, and that frustrates people understandably. And you’ve got an unemployment rate that is still too high, an economy that’s not growing fast enough. And for me to argue, ‘Look, we’ve actually made the right decisions, things would have been much worse has we not made those decisions,’ that’s not that satisfying if you don’t have a job right now. And I understand that and I expect to be judged a year from now on whether or not things have continued to get better.

[…]

President Obama: You know, I think it raises questions as I said as to whether the Speaker is able to move his caucus to take tough decisions. Because I know that I’m willing at least to go to my party, to go to my fellow Democrats and say to them, ‘You know what, even if there’s some things that you think aren’t good short-term politics, this is good for the country and we should be willing to go ahead and find the kinds of common ground and compromise that allows us to move the country forward.’ And if that’s happening on both sides, there no reason why we can’t solve problems.

Mason: This past week Congress’ popularity obviously is, they’re, it barely registers. But this past week your popularity hit a record low. What does that say to you?

President Obama: Well, what it says to me is I’m the President of the United States and when people aren’t happy with what’s happening in Washington, that I’m gonna be impacted just like Congress is. And you know I completely understand that, we expected that.

But when you look at how people feel about my approach to deficit reduction or when you look at how people feel about my belief that we’ve gotta continue to invest in education or medical research or making sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our seaports and our airports, when you look at how people feel about the agenda to rebuild America so that it’s competitive in the 21st century that I’ve been promoting over the last couple of years, it turns out that people are supportive of that.

What they’re frustrated right now is they want me to be able to wrangle Congress and get them moving. And you know, we’ve got this thing, separation of powers, and we don’t have a parliamentary system. And it means that there are times where Congress is gonna do things despite what I saw as opposed to because I think this is the right direction for the country.

And that, and that frustrates people understandably. And you’ve got an unemployment rate that is still too high, an economy that’s not growing fast enough. And for me to argue, ‘Look, we’ve actually made the right decisions, things would have been much worse has we not made those decisions,’ that’s not that satisfying if you don’t have a job right now. And I understand that and I expect to be judged a year from now on whether or not things have continued to get better

Read more: 

 

 

 

Weekly Address: Putting Country Ahead of Party

REPEAT BECAUSE IT’S MUST-SEE The Daily Show: World of Class Warfare

 

GOP Rep. Hultgren Mocked at Town Hall for Supporting a Bill That Would Ask the Rich to Pay More Taxes Voluntarily

 

 

How Obama Can Win The Fall

Andrew Sullivan:

I rather liked this tart assessment by the Economist’s Lexington columnist on what has just happened in American politics:

The president, it is true, did not lose the fight because he lost the argument. He lost because he was not willing to be as reckless as the Republicans.

And yet s/he notes that the appearance of losing even a skirmish is still damaging. The far right is busy piling on insult after insult, and blaming Obama for the downgrade and other idiocies. They sense blood in the water. But that they wielded the stability of the entire global economy for a petty, short-term adrenaline shot tells you all you need to know about their fitness to govern. They are unfit to run a lemonade stand.

But it seems also clear to me that the crucial fight – presaged by the debt ceiling nonsense – is still to be had in the next few months. This was a skirmish on which the president’s ideological opponents exhausted their heaviest leverage. Now, both sides are equal, and my worry is that Obama, advised by the same people who thought it was wise to duck the debt issue head on in the SOTU and budget, will let the Congress take (or not take) the lead again. Yes, the Congress needs to do this. But there is also an obvious way for Obama to use his bully pulpit to push the Super-Committee toward success. There’s a way to fuse his core messages: that he wants long-term fiscal reform that is balanced; that we can get past the red-blue culture war through pragmatism; and that we can and must restore confidence in the economy now.

The answer is tax reform. It’s clear that the GOP is resistant to any raising of taxes of the sort that is scheduled to occur in December 2012. And Obama, for reasons to do with keeping demand alive at all in this period, has conceded the logic that raising anyone’s tax rates in a de facto recession is risky. So change the subject to a positive proposal: Reagan-style tax reform that is revenue positive.

In my view, Obama should focus on this in stump speech after stump speech in the fall. Let the country know where he stands with a specific position that is good for all of us and very resonant with Independent voters and Obamacons. Here’s the gist:

We all know we have to tackle this deficit and this debt or it will keep on tackling us. But we need a balanced approach of more revenue and less spending to make anything like the progress we need. At the same time, we have a tax code of grotesque complexity, riddled with loopholes that allow the rich to get away with evasion, while working families struggle to make ends meet.

I propose a solution that slashes the debt, lowers tax rates, and sends the corporate lobbyists back under the rocks whence they came. By ending or phasing out all the loopholes and economic micro-management, we can reduce rates while we increase revenues. Reagan’s Grand Bargain is the model. I implore the GOP to come together, to keep tax rates low, while raising the revenues necessary to balance the budget. I am prepared to put entitlements on the table; the GOP must be prepared to put defense on the table; but together we can agree on tax reform in the great bipartisan tradition of Ronald Reagan.

Keep it simple; make it look like the deus ex machina that really does square our ideological circles (because it does!); frame it as a natural outcrop of your core 2008 message that we need both right and left to succeed as a country and this crisis demands shared sacrifice and compromise on both sides. Explain that there are some things we cannot avoid: the catastrophic legacy of Bush, the European sovereign debt crisis, the Fukushima disaster. But note what we can also now do. Decline is not a fate; it’s a choice. and radical reform of taxes will reduce the debt, undermine the lobbyist culture in DC, and level the taxation playing field between rich and poor. All the while reducing tax rates to improve the incentives for hard work that will create jobs. Cite Krauthammer in the red states.

Don’t muddy the issue. And keep it simple and repeat it again and again: tax reform, not tax rate hikes. In my view, that should have been the core of the last SOTU. In the greatest error of his presidency (apart from Libya), Obama played the Washington game. He was elected not to play that game. He was elected to tackle the profound challenges we face with practical solutions.

And to those who believe we can never break this cycle of partisan warfare and political gridlock, raise the banner once more, and repeat after me: Yes. We. Can.

 

 

 

Obama as Chess Master: ‘Think of Him as Bobby Fischer’

James Fallows, The Atlantic:

I’ve published a series of harsh assessments of the savvy and game plan that the Obama Administration brought to the debt-ceiling fight. For a change of tone, here is a reader’s argument today that such judgments are both hasty and unfair. In fact, by this view, we’re watching a master vision unfold. 

Worth considering in full. Some alternative views soon — I’ll save them for later because this is long enough as is and deserves its own space. The reader writes:

>>It’s pretty clear to me that Obama is the chessmaster. Stop looking at this politically – let’s look at policy. Obama has been a master of accomplishing things, even with the Tea Party Terrorists hell bent on shutting down the government and ruining the full faith and credit of the United States.

Look at this from liberal,conservative, and moderate perspectives.

Liberals: Obama will end two wars, ended DADT, created the CFPA, got $20b from BP in the face of strong opposition, saved Detroit, signed New START, and enacted universal healthcare – the defining goal of the liberal movement.

For conservatives: he finished the job successfully in two wars, sustainably entered Libya while ensuring our allies took the heavy burden, okayed two risky operations -one that killed pirates and the other killing Osama – and just did more to stabilize long term deficits than anyone since Ike.

And for moderates: he spearheaded the most successful education initiative since WWII with Race-to-the-Top, ended too big to fail with Dodd-Frank, boosted exports with free-trade agreements, advocated and done more for infrastructure than anybody since Ike, increased technological funding, including for NASA (while it may be an ill-defined future, it’s at least sustainable now), and gave birth to the space industry – in short, strengthened the long term economic outlook for this country. His only failure is a biggie – the stimulus. It was too small, and gave to businesses who invested in capital improvements rather than employment. And frankly, it failed.

Let’s also look at the policy critiques he faces from the left – no public option, no carbon tax or anything on climate change, no immigration reform, didn’t close Guantanomo, and the Bush tax cuts. He sacrificed the public option to pass universal health care as a whole. Think of him as Bobby Fischer – he sacrificed the queen to win the greatest game.

As far as the carbon tax and immigration, he tried and failed. It happens sometimes – but there really wasn’t much room for him to move any further to the left after Obamacare. And let’s face it, if he had moved any further to the right, liberals would have been pissed. He tried like the Dickens on Guantanomo, but by that time the Tea Party made it seem crazy to build a mosque in NY (cause God forbid the 1st Amendment be observed), and the liberal movement didn’t exactly come out to support him on that. And then finally, the Bush tax cuts – another major piece sacrificed. And in return, he got New START, strengthened the FDA, gave health insurance to 9/11 responders, signed an important Civil Rights legislation for black farmers, and ended DADT.

Granted, there are more critiques from the conservative side of the house, and less to be happy about. But after the latest economic crisis that conservatives have created, I have a hard time taking them seriously. And for those who say “then why should Obama have caved?” Did he really cave? He cut the long term deficit (which he’s wanted to do since sitting in the Senate), and has now put Republicans in a position where they need to come to the table or see their core values demolished. It’s either tax cuts or the end of the world’s greatest military. Does anybody really think Republicans won’t deal? Even if they don’t, it’s a pretty easy for Obama to make the case that the Republicans have been taken over by “Tea Party Terrorists,” who he tried to negotiate with in good faith. From a political and a policy standpoint, he’s pushed the Republicans so far to the right that they are called terrorists without humor by the national media.

How has he pushed them to the right? By taking the center.

 

Which is why there is a ton that moderates can be proud of him for. By putting this nation’s economy on a stronger footing for the long term than it has been since LBJ, he’s taken full control of the center – and is there anything more important in a chess game? He’s made tough decisions on popular programs, faced backlash, but all in all, invested in our long term future.

Even if politically he’s toast because of playing the long-game economically to the detriment of the short-game, his policies will not die overnight. The republican party may take back the White House, and even gain full control of the Congress – but there is no chance they take a super-majority in the Senate. And then, what can they do? Cut NASA, or kill the private space industry? Further ruin our nation’s infrastructure? (It’s already collapsing, literally). Good luck repealing Obamacare. Good luck re-instating DADT. Good luck sending troops back to Afghanistan and Iraq. They could ruin the repaired relationships with our allies. Even the Tea Party isn’t dumb enough to sabotage our free-trade agreements.

His policies will last, and that’s because they’ve been moderate. But that moderation also means they’ve engendered backlash on both sides. That moderation also means they’re going to be tough to get rid of. And the only thing left for him on the moderate side of the house are immigration reform, and finishing the job on education and infrastructure. Big tasks, no doubt (but tasks I also doubt anybody but Obama can accomplish). And I will not underrate his poor form on the short-term economy – that may cost him a second term, and is the most important problem facing America today.

But overall, he’s already the most accomplished president since FDR – and in only 3 years. And like FDR, his policies will be tough to get rid of. Barack Obama may lose the presidency, but as the Tea Party moves to the right, he has taken the center for the Democrats, and makes his policies that much harder to erase.

Stop thinking about 2012. In 2020, it’ll be obvious – Barack Obama gave Bobby Fischer a run for his money as the greatest of chessmasters.<<

 

 

 

Obama Must Get Bold, Tell Republicans ‘It’s On’

Jonathan Alter:

[…] Obama prides himself on being a clutch player. Although the election is still 15 months away, the speech is like a critical third-and-long in football. Victory doesn’t depend on conversion, but it sure would help. If fall brings no better news than summer, the president could enter 2012 trailing Texas Governor Rick Perry, a guy who thinks Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and that the chairman of the Federal Reserve is a traitor.

Obama must work on two tracks — one idealistic, the other practical. The moment calls for him to offer a big vision for how to fix the economy, even if it doesn’t have a prayer of passage. Then he should unveil smaller actions that could win congressional approval, plus a few imaginative executive orders that might let him move the needle on employment unilaterally.

The big revelation this week about the president’s strategy is that he will be specific about where he thinks the new special congressional committee should find the additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction called for in the debt-ceiling deal. I’m told by the White House that contrary to House Speaker John Boehner’s claims, Obama did send Boehner a short paper that detailed trillions in savings during their unsuccessful “grand bargain” negotiations in July, but it was never released publicly. This plan will be.

‘Jobs First’ Agenda

Most significantly, it will specify savings beyond the $1.5 trillion and use those extra billions for job creation. That would mean the president would “pay for” every dime of new stimulus. He won’t label it stimulus, of course. Stimulus has been stigmatized. If he’s smart he’ll call it a Jobs First agenda, or something else that shows he’s in touch with the average household.

At least the president is on task. After headlines about a pivot to jobs in December 2009, September 2010, January 2011, May 2011 and July 2011, he’s finally shifting the conversation to what Americans truly care about.

That is, if no crisis intervenes. Obama’s failure to drive home a jobs agenda is partly his fault (he thought until June that the economy was improving) and partly the consequence of the country’s attention being drawn to other stories, such as the Gulf oil spill and the Arab Spring.

This week’s bus tour across three Midwestern states seemed to refresh the president and improve his presentation. He began talking about “rebuilding America” instead of his old professorial references to an “infrastructure bank,” which is a good idea but tone deaf politically considering that many voters don’t really know what infrastructure means and despise banks.

Truman-Style Campaign

More important, Obama began sticking it to Congress, laying the groundwork for a 1948 Harry Truman-style campaign. Rebooting his presidency will require a bold plan that says to an obstructionist opposition: “It’s on, guys!”

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that nothing will pass because Republicans are committed above all else to depriving the president of any victories. They’ve flip-flopped on everything from the creation of a debt commission to comprehensive immigration reform to extending the payroll-tax holiday (tax cuts, for crying out loud!) just to stick it to him.

But polls that show Tea Party Republicans are currently less popular than atheists or Muslims could change their political calculation. Swaggering Republican honchos may find that they need to be seen as getting a few things done, even if it means the president gets a little credit, too.

Big Ideas

The specifics of Obama’s speech are secret, and many haven’t been worked out. But I hear that it will contain more than simple pleas to Congress to pass the economic agenda the president began offering this summer, which includes extending the payroll-tax holiday, approving public-works spending, enacting a patent bill, ratifying trade deals and extending unemployment insurance.

Don’t be surprised to see him also propose a major tax credit for hiring new workers, construction money for schools, an ambitious youth employment program (if he doesn’t hold a high percentage of the youth vote, he loses the election) and a fewof the other job-creation ideas he’s been demanding his Cabinet and staff cook up. Some of these ideas can be implemented without Congress, like providing debt relief for strapped homeowners.

I’m hoping he’ll also explore creative ideas like one offered by Cliff Sloan, a veteran of the Clinton White House. Under Sloan’s plan, the president would sign an executive order requiring that all new (or renewed) contracts with the federal government contain a job-creation clause requiring that in exchange for the privilege of doing business with Uncle Sam, corporations (which have plenty of cash on hand) must agree to a net increase in payroll of at least one percent for the duration of the contract. With thousands of new contracts signed every week, this would have an immediate effect even if compliance was spotty.

One good speech — or a hundred — will not solve the jobs crisis. But boldly confronting the Republicans with popular ideas that are hard to vote against will at least tell the country what Obama stands for, and it may even have the practical effect of putting some Americans back to work.

CUTTING THE CRAP ON “BOTH PARTIES ARE THE SAME” BS – CAMPAIGN FINANCE EDITION
The PCTC Blog (Please Cut the Crap):

[…] I am just plain sick of this meme that seems to be very popular among the far left “pundits,” that both parties are roughly the same, and are equally corrupt because they both receive money from large corporations.  The left wing idiot above, whose Twitter avatar actually depicts a sign reading “I (heart) critical thinking,” might try some, since I am prepared to show that the OpenSecrets.org site shows just the opposite.

What pisses me off about this crap is twofold. One, it poisons the debate, and it makes moderate voters actually think there’s really no difference between voting for a Republican and voting for a Democrat, which generally encourages them to stay home and not vote at all. When turnout is low, the right wing wins.

But more than that, the assertion is absolutely untrue, and lying to push what you perceive as a “progressive” agenda is just as bad as when the right wingnuts lie to push theirs. In fact, it’s actually worse, since they have to lie to make their agenda seem rational, and we have the truth on our side.

Since this person challenged me specifically on campaign contributions via the information at OpenSecrets.org, let’s take a look at some of the more common left wing bullshit stories that are floating around the blogosphere, shall we?

1.   Obama got a huge amount of money from Goldman Sachs and other beneficiaries of the financial services bailouts.

I know you’ve heard this one a lot; I hear it at least weekly. The funny thing about this assertion is that it can’t possibly be remotely true, even if you only look at the surface.

Obama for America ran the most incredible campaign financing apparatus I have ever seen, precisely because he raised such an incredible amount of money WITHOUT huge contributions from donors with an agenda. For some reason, facts have gotten lost in some quarters, but I’m happy to restore facts to the debate.

Check out this list of the top donors to the Obama campaign. As you look at it, consider that Obama raised more than $765 million, and he had more than $15 million left over after the election. How much pull do you think the million dollars from Goldman Sachs, which amounts to 0.13% of all Obama donations, had on the new president? If your boss at your $50,000 a year job gave you a $65 bonus at the end of the year (0.13% of your salary), would you call him a hero or a cheapskate?

But more importantly, if anyone would bother to read the page, instead of simply looking at the numbers, they would find this at the top of it. (Pay particular interest to the bold and red print, since that’s why they put it in bold and in red):

This table lists the top donors to this candidate in the 2008 election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization’s members or employees (and their families). The organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of donors – like EMILY’s List and Club for Growth – make for particularly big bundlers.

In other words, if you have EVER given money to a political campaign, you know that you have to list your employer on your donation. Your donation obviously isn’t coming from your employer, but on this list, it would look that way.

(By the way, I think bundling should be illegal. But even if the amount was bundled, which OpenSecrets.org is saying may or may not have happened, it’s not enough to influence much of anything.)

If you look at the summary of Obama’s 2008 contributions, you’ll note than 88% of contributions came from INDIVIDUALS. That dovetails nicely with the assertion above, that many of the Goldman Sachs contributions probably came from individuals who just happened to work for Goldman Sachs, and not Goldman Sachs themselves.

In other words, the assertion that ANY company gave Obama a shitload of money to buy some sort of influence is actually nicely refuted by the actual numbers.

 2.  Democrats and Republicans BOTH get a lot/most of their money from the same sources, thus making both parties corrupt.

The first problem with evaluating this is the same one we have above. You can’t simply look at “industries,” because these are the “industries” donors listed when they donated to a campaign. That means, a secretary who just happens to work at Goldman Sachs would be listed as a contribution from the “Securities and Investment” industry, even though she may only be working there to get herself through college, where she’s studying social work.

Critical thinkers would be able to figure this out. I could have just as easily gone to this chart, which compares the candidates’ top donors, but it’s essentially meaningless, because it simply refers to the companies donors work for, not the companies themselves.

So, let’s go to 2012, and see who the top donors are so far, and to which party they’re donating. If you can look at that chart and find much in the way of equivalence between the two parties, then you have no idea what you’re looking at. Yes, there are a few companies/industries that are hedging their bets,such as Comcast and General Electric. But look more closely. The only donors who areoverwhelmingly supporting Democrats are labor unions. On the other hand, the industries supporting the Republicans exclusively represent fossil fuels industries, especially the oil industry, the financial services industry and the insurance industry (gee, why would insurance companies love Republicans?) Even Berkshire Hathaway has given mostly to Republicans so far, which Warren Buffet might want to look at.

The list includes TRT Holdings, which is an oil industry lobbying group, Chartwell  Partners, which is an executive recruitment firm based in Texas both of which top the list, with 100% of the money going to the GOP, and  Koch Industries, which, though the left wing blogs obsess over them, sits at only #44 on the list.

 3.  Huge corporations have an inordinate financial influence over BOTH parties, making both parties corrupt.

This one is absurd.

Start by looking at this chart.  In the 2008 election cycle, the number one donor, by far, was the National Education Association (NEA), giving teachers far more influence than any other single company or industry in the country.  In fact, the only industry group to crack the top 10 was the National Association of Realtors, and the only companies to crack the top 20 were Pacific Gas & Electric at #13 and AT&T at #17. In an election cycle in which billions were spend, none of these numbers is frightening, anyway.

(Just as an aside, ActBlue came in at #10, with more than $23 million, and spent ALL of the money on national elections. This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the political system, as the way to build a progressive base is through small state elections first. This reminds me of the Green Party strategy, which was to start with the presidency and work down. That worked well, didn’t it?)

But if we’re to believe that money is the key to democracy (it’s not, really), then it’s clear from this chart that teachers and tribal casino operations have far more influence than anyone else, right?

Unions have a huge influence over the Democratic Party, as the chart I used in #3 showed, while the major influence over the Republican Party would seem to be the oil, insurance and financial services industries. These are not equal to me; are they equal to you? The greatest influence over the system, if we’re to believe this concept, is teachers, which actually explains why Republicans are always trying to undermine education.

But the absurdity of the concept that both parties are the same is just absolutely blown away by this chart at OpenSecrets.org, which shows who the heavy hitters are over the last 10 election cycles. Look at it closely, and realize that the people who are telling you we’ve become a corporatist state have NO idea what they’re talking about.

There’s a reason why Republicans are always union-busting, folks, and this chart shows why. Unions have a HUGE amount of influence over the campaign finance system, and most of their money goes to Democrats. Meanwhile, while a few corporations hedge their bets, supporting both parties equally, MOST of them lean toward the GOP with their contributions.  ExxonMobil, Chevron, Wal-Mart the NRA and Koch Industries give almost all of their contributions to Republicans, while  the NEA, Teamsters, IBEW and AFL-CIO give most of their contributions to Democrats.

Does that really seem the same to you?

If you’re going to claim you “heart” critical thinking, you might try some sometime.

 

 

Charles Koch: Warren Buffet is mean, government is too big, and get off my gold-plated lawn

Daily Kos:

It seems billionaire Charles Koch is peeved with billionaire Warren Buffett’s proposition that the rich really ought to be paying more taxes. In response, he apparently fired off a late-Friday-afternoon statement to National Review (well, if you can call two sentences a “statement”):

“Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.”

Wow, there’s just so much to parse there! Okay, not really, but let’s do it anyway.

“Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good”

Like what? Name something, Mr. Koch.

What, do you mean Medicare? Social Security? Defense? Food safety? Volcano monitoring? Throw us a bone here, and tell us what part of government you think should be eliminated. I realize it would require you to have added a whole additional sentence to your statement, or at least another phrase or two, but I think most of us would be quite interested in what parts of government you deem to do “more harm than good.”

“this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending.”

If by “particularly true” you mean “not true at all,” I suppose. The last several years have not seen a “massive uncontrolled increase in government spending” compared to past administrations—and whatever blip there has been because of the stimulus, you as businessman and investor should be down on your well-tailored knees thanking your lucky, platinum-plated stars, considering the alternatives.) Really, for a supposed captain of industry who spends all his time deciding how entire governments should or shouldn’t work, then allocating ridiculous quantities of money in attempts to bring about those views, it seems fairly shocking that you wouldn’t know the simple history of the things you are railing against. (Apparently, money does not imply knowledge, which itself fairly shatters the worldview the wealthy have of themselves, though we do not expect any of them will notice.)

It would have been grand, Mr. Koch, if you were as concerned about government spending in the last administration, when something could have been done about it, but at least you are not invoking the scary Deficit Monster, which stayed quiet during the entire Bush era only to pop back up in January of 2009. No, it’s just a straight-up lie of the simpler sort, because when you are a billionaire, you apparently get to make things up and pay people to pretend they are true.

“I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.”

Well, I will grant that “It’s my money and I’ll spend it how I want” is certainly an original argument, coming from ultra-wealthy elites. Wait, did I say “original”? I meant “painfully, excruciatingly overdone.” What Buffett and others have proposed is the rather shocking notion that people like you, Mr. Koch, should have to pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as the people who drive your coddled asses around all day; again, it would be wonderful if you would spend a spare few words refuting that with any argument other than the one-sentence billionaire equivalent of “get off my lawn, you damn kids.”
This is a particularly fascinating mini-statement, because while the duty of government is, at heart, “societal well-being”, Mr. Koch seems preferential to the conservative/libertarian theory that he, rather than government, should decide which members of society are worth saving, and which should go homeless, or hungry or sick. To summarize his view in the words of a better philosopher, Crow T. Robot: “I want to decide who lives and who dies.” Rather than give money to government to feed poor children, Mr. Koch will feed them when (or if) he gets around to it.

How wonderfully Dickensian. No, seriously: you could not ask for a better example of Victorian self-indulgent moralism, or a better summation of the eternal cry of the fantastically well-off. It is not the role of government to feed these pitiful slobs, or help them find work, or protect them if they get ill. It is up to my own philanthropy, and I shall decide whom to save, and how, and when, or whether to save none at all, and fuck you all very much if you think otherwise.

Before those nasty social programs instituted by the government, why were people homeless, sick or hungry in such large numbers? We have all seen the photos and read the statistics, but surely, the wealthy families of those past eras simply financed private efforts to care for all those poor, just as Koch himself has done (no doubt putting the majority of his time and efforts into philanthropic efforts, and not merely self-interested political ones). Before government rudely intervened indecades past with rules banning the indentured servitude of the working class, in railroads and mills and mines of our nation, surely the wealthy captains of industry treated those workers fairly, and with utmost regard for their safety, just as Mr. Koch does (no doubt himself a champion of workers’ rights, and not a man devoted to stripping those rights, crippling worker unions, and repealing regulations in an obsessive, all-encompassing effort to greedily squeeze every last penny of profits for himself and his companies at the expense of workers and even entire communities).

I see now why the crabby Mr. Koch, despite his vast fortune, does not spend much time advocating for his positions in public. He apparently does a gigantically piss-poor job of it, which is why he pays others handsomely to do it instead. It is class warfare by proxy: you can’t possibly expect the rich to fight their battles themselves, can you? That would be gauche.

I, however, would love if we could hear more from Koch. Much, much more, please. Throughout history, it has always been a fine idea for the royal class to lecture the peasants on how lucky the poor have it and how thankful they should be for whatever little scraps of food and attentiveness the nobility deigns to give them: nothing has ever gone wrong with this, and so I heartily encourage Mr. Koch to do it loudly and often.

 


Michegan:Robocall lies about petition signing

An anonymous robocall is being sent to voters in Michigan with an ominous and inaccurate warning: Signing petitions could result in identity theft.

Blogging for Michigan has the audio, and presents this transcript:

This is an identity theft alert. Petitions are being circulated door-to-door and at public locations throughout the county that require your name, your address and your signature. The State of Michigan does not require a license or bond for signature gatherers and anyone can collect signatures regardless of their police record.

Be very careful who you give your personal information to, particularly your signature. In many cases, copies of these petitions, with your signature, are sent overseas for processing. Be on the alert for fraudulent attempts to get your personal information.

While the call does not identify who paid for it, the number has been linked to Republican robo-call operations in Michigan and beyond. The identity of the owner of the line is unknown.

 

 

Romney plans to quadruple size of Calif. home

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who in June told voters that he was “also unemployed,” has applied for a permit to bulldoze his 3,000-square-foot, $12 million home in La Jolla, California, and replace it with one nearly four times its size. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the new home will be two stories and more than 11,000 square feet. Romney also owns a $10 million estate in New Hampshire. His campaign declined to comment on the renovation plans.

 

 

The Pledge of Allegiance


 

 

U.S. (Jewish) politicians Liberman and Cantor will be no-shows at Glenn Beck Jerusalem rally

Haaretz:

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman cannot attend due to ‘family commitment’, Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, currently in Israel, will be leaving on the day of the rally.

 

 

The Money Behind the Mediators:Profiles of the Debt Supercommittee

Open Secrets:

In August 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling of the United States and called for the creation of a new congressional committee tasked with producing legislation to reduce the national deficit by $1.5 trillion. This new group is officially known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Unofficially, it’s been dubbed the “super Congress” or “Supercommittee.” Whatever you call it, it’s going to be the target of a lobbying bonanza, as special interest groups work to keep their pet projects off the chopping block. Below, OpenSecrets.org helps you explore the money-in-politics connections that each of the 12 members of this Supercommittee bring to the table. And go here to learn more about the call for transparency in the supercommittee’s work. VIEW INTERACTIVE LISTS HERE.

Enough already with Dem wimps

The Political Carnival:

As I watch the punditiots on the Sunday Talkers, and I’m referring to both Democrats and Republicans, I’m growing more and more frustrated and even disheartened.

Yes, the economy is gasping for breath.

Yes, we are in wars that many of us want to end right now.

Yes, there is too much corporate influence on both Republicans and Democrats.

Yes, yes, yes, to those and all other concerns.

Now start educating viewers as to why those on the right will make things worse. Way worse.

As I watch the GOP drive home their usual inane/insane talking points, I also see very reasonable, soft-spoken Democrats try to make their case on the Tee Vee Machine, but they don’t seem to be succeeding. There’s no fire, no strength, very few hard-hitting rejoinders to the lies the Republican guests are spewing.

Some of this is due to the host’s perpetual lack of hardcore follow-up questions, some of it is the increasingly exasperating guest roster of conservaDems, and some of it is the lack of “oomph” from those with good intentions but inferior communication skills.

We simply cannot afford to lose the House, the Senate, and/or the White House. We must get the Blue Dogs and conservatives out, and get Progressives in.

And for godsake, we need to, at the very least, strut out a Dem pundit or twelve who can drive home a decent message simply, effectively.  Enough with wimps.

Come on, Dems, the GOP is on the wrong side of, well, everything. Be clear, be strong, be loud, and make the case.

And to those Progressive Congress members who have had the good sense to come outwith feasible plans to try to correct the mess we’re in, thank you. Now get out there and sell it, relentlessly.

As for us, the teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling, fed up voters, it’s up to us to help them.Call, write, scream, show up at town hall meetings, visit your representatives, volunteer, find candidates starting at the local level, become Precinct Committeemen.

Either we the people insist on– and explain clearly and succinctly– “real change” or we will suffer the consequences for generations. Are you listening, Democratic pundits and Congress members?

 

 

In Two Sentences Team Obama Shatters The Myth Of Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle

PoliticusUSA:

It took Robert Gibbs two sentences to destroy the myth of Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle today. On Meet The Press Gibbs pointed out that the larger employer in Texas is Ft. Hood, which is paid for by the federal government.

Here is the video from NBC News:

Transcript:

Guthrie: The president said this week he’d cut Rick Perry some slack. Will you? Was it appropriate for this candidate to suggest the president doesn’t love his country?

Gibbs: Two things come to mind. Rick Perry is the governor who two years ago openly talked about whether Texas should leave the union. I think for Rick Perry to have at one point talked about secession from the union as early as 2005. I think it’s good he’s professed his love for his country. I think the American people are tired of the politics where if you or I don’t agree on something, I question your love of country and patriotism. That’s not going to put this country back to work. It’s not going to make this country stronger. It’s quite frankly not what our country was founded on. We ought to be able to have honest political debates in this country about political divisions and ways we see the country moving without questioning people’s patriotism and love for country.

(Clip of Bachmann claiming that the White House fears her most)

Guthrie: Robert is this the candidate the white house most fears?

Gibbs: Look, I think that Republicans are going to do battle in this. We saw it last week in Iowa where — where Michele Bachmann scored an important win in the Iowa straw poll, but I think the American people are going to get a chance quite frankly to kick the tires a little bit and look under the hood. I think when it comes to somebody like Governor Rick Perry they’re going to wonder why — why a place like Texas has one of the worst education systems. They’re going to wonder why a guy who doesn’t like the government, the largest employer in Texas is Ft. Hood and the army base. $25 billion from Economic Recovery Act went to Texas and helped Rick Perry balance his budget. They’re going to wonder why, quite frankly, they’re 47th in wages just like they’re going to wonder why Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, was 47th in job creation.

Gibbs shredded the myth of Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle in two sentences. Rick Perry’s miracle would have never been possible without federal money. Perry is going to have a hard time in an election justifying his miracle when the largest employer in the state is the federal government, and he used federal money to balance the state’s budget. The mention of secession was a revival of the same strategy that LBJ used against Barry Goldwater in 1964. LBJ’s strategy was to contest the election on the basis of the two candidates’ personalities.

His campaign painted Goldwater as an impulsive extremist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dDTBnsqxZ3k

The “Daisy” strategy will likely be very effective for Obama against Perry or Bachmann, If 2012 follows the recent presidential election trend and becomes a personality contest, Obama and his high personal approval ratings will have a decided advantage.

Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle is going to continue to be debunked by the Obama campaign. The question is simple. If Rick Perry hates big government, why was his “miracle” so dependent on federal dollars? If big government is the problem, why did he use it as a solution?

The one thing that the Republicans still don’t get is just how good Obama’s campaign team is. They are the best around for a reason. It took Gibbs exactly two sentences to destroy Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle. The 2012 GOP field is like shooting fish in a barrel for Gibbs, Axelrod, Plouffe, and company.

The hypocrisies of the GOP field are big enough to drive a truck through, and that truck is going to going to have an Obama sticker on its bumper.

POLLS

 

 

Romney Holds Solid Lead in Florida

A new McLaughlin & Associates poll in Florida shows Mitt Romney with a double-digit lead over the rest of the GOP presidential field with 27%, followed by Rick Perry at 16%, and Michele Bachmann at 10%.

They are trailed by Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain who each have 5% support.

 

 

Obama Polls Poorly in Pennsylvania

A new Muhlenberg College poll finds President Obama’s approval rate has dropped to 35% in the key swing state of Pennsylvania.

“f there is any silver lining in the poll for Obama, it’s that 31% of Pennsylvanians say their vote in November 2012 will depend on who the Republican candidate is. And Obama still slightly edges out an anonymous GOP contender 36 percent to 31%.”

 

 

SCIENCE

 

 

Study: Black Researchers Receive Fewer NIH Grants 

A new study by the National Institutes of Health found a disturbing gap between the number of grants awarded to white scientists and those awarded to black scientists. Black scientists are significantly less likely than their white counterparts to win a research grant from the agency, according to the study, which was published on Friday in the journal Science.

NIH commissioned the study to determine if researchers with similar research records but different ethnicities had the same chance of getting investigator-led grants, known as RO1 grants. The team, led by Donna Ginther, a professor of economics at the University of Kansas, found that for every 100 white scientists that submitted grants, 29 were financed by the NIH. For every 100 black scientists that submitted an application, 16 were awarded grants.

NIH Director Francis Collins called the findings “unacceptable.”

“The results of this study are disturbing and disheartening, and we are committed to taking action,” he said in a statement.

He also said that while blacks make up 10.2 percent of the U.S. population, they represent only 1.2 percent of NIH investigators on research grants. That’s “well short of anything you could call representative in our organization,” he said.

It is unclear whether discrimination is at the source of the disparity. Raynard Kington, a study author and president of Grinnell College, initiated the study while serving as deputy director of the NIH.

“The single thing that was most surprising was that in essence, white scientists and black scientists who had a similar array of markers for excellence, somehow in the review weren’t weighted in the same way,” he said. “That big difference in success rate meant that something wasn’t happening right.”

The lion’s share of the problem, he said, lies in the system that produces and supports researchers. That includes everything from high school education and mentoring to pre- and post-doctoral training.

“We need to take a deep drilldown and figure out how we can do a better job and plug every leak,” Kington said. “We don’t want people who have the capacity to do well to leak out, when if they had support, they could do great things.”

Part of the problem could also lie in the system of review and how decisions are made. Unconscious bias is always a possibility.

Ginther agreed that the problem had one of two explanations and was probably a combination of both. “It’s either that black applicants aren’t writing competitive proposals or it’s something going on in the review process, or both.”

UNIONS

 

 

Verizon Workers Return To Work Without A Deal

AP:

Thousands of striking Verizon workers will return to work starting Monday night, though their contract dispute isn’t over yet.

Both the company and the union say they have agreed to narrow the issues in dispute and have set up a process to negotiate a new contract. But the talks are likely to be contentious. The two sides still disagree on touchy subjects such as health care benefits, pensions, and work rules.

About 45,000 employees went on strike on Aug. 7, after their previous contract expired. They work in the company’s landline division in nine states from Massachusetts to Virginia.

Verizon says that it needs to cut costs in the traditional landline phone business, which is in decline as more Americans switch to mobile phones. The company has proposed freezing its pension and switching union workers to its non-union health plan, which has higher costs for employees.

The unions counter that the landline business supports the growing wireless business and that Verizon, which earned about $3 billion in the first half of the year, can afford to maintain the benefits in the contract that expired on Aug. 6. They also say Verizon put too many proposals on the table.

Of the 45,000 striking workers, 35,000 are covered by the Communications Workers of America, while 10,000 are covered by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Jim Spellane, a spokesman for the IBEW, said the strike occurred because Verizon “came in with an extreme set of proposals and never really moved off of them.”

But after the 14-day strike, “I think they realized the unions are serious,” he said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to get back to work.”

Verizon spokesman Richard Young said that many of the benefits and work rules were put in place when Verizon faced much less competition in its landline business. “The contracts are not reflective of today’s marketplace,” he said.

Spellane said that much of the traditional phone network helps support the faster-growing wireless business. And many of the technicians that went on strike install and maintain the company’s new fiber optic network, FiOS, which provides Internet, video and phone services.

Verizon has 196,000 workers, with 135,000 of those non-union. The wireless division, which wasn’t affected by the strike, is mostly non-union.

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. homes have dropped landline phone service and rely on mobile phones only, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Verizon Wireless added 1.3 million wireless customers in the April-June quarter, for a total of 89.7 million. That growth has been helped by the addition of Apple Inc.’s iPhone in February. The company owns 55 percent of Verizon Wireless, with Britain’s Vodafone owning the rest.

 

 

WEDGE ISSUES

 

 

Major Funder For Glenn Beck’s Israel Rally Linked To Anti-Semitic Group

ThinkProgress:

Glenn Beck’s upcoming rally to “Restore Courage” has run into a snag after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the House Ethics Committee rejected the request by a number of House members to travel at the expense of the International Israel Allied Caucus Foundation to Beck’s rally in Jerusalem.

But political and religious leaders from “around the world” will be enjoying U.S. taxpayer subsidized — through non-taxable charitable contributions — travel to the rally. The travel will be paid for by WallBuilders, an organization founded by David Barton, a pseudo-historian and frequent Glenn Beck guest. Barton has a history of anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric, has spoken at events sponsored by anti-Semitic organizations,and promotes a revisionist history of the U.S. claiming that the “Church-state separation is a liberal myth.”

MORE:

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

 

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?

NYT:
Three men doing time in Israeli prisons recently appeared before a parole board consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker. The three prisoners had completed at least two-thirds of their sentences, but the parole board granted freedom to only one of them. Guess which one:

Case 1 (heard at 8:50 a.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

Case 2 (heard at 3:10 p.m.): A Jewish Israeli serving a 16-month sentence for assault.

Case 3 (heard at 4:25 p.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

There was a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it wasn’t related to the men’s ethnic backgrounds, crimes or sentences. It was all about timing, as researchers discovered by analyzing more than 1,100 decisions over the course of a year. Judges, who would hear the prisoners’ appeals and then get advice from the other members of the board, approved parole in about a third of the cases, but the probability of being paroled fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.

The odds favored the prisoner who appeared at 8:50 a.m. — and he did in fact receive parole. But even though the other Arab Israeli prisoner was serving the same sentence for the same crime — fraud — the odds were against him when he appeared (on a different day) at 4:25 in the afternoon. He was denied parole, as was the Jewish Israeli prisoner at 3:10 p.m, whose sentence was shorter than that of the man who was released. They were just asking for parole at the wrong time of day.

There was nothing malicious or even unusual about the judges’ behavior, which was reported earlier this year by Jonathan Levav of Stanford and Shai Danziger of Ben-Gurion University. The judges’ erratic judgment was due to the occupational hazard of being, as George W. Bush once put it, “the decider.” The mental work of ruling on case after case, whatever the individual merits, wore them down. This sort of decision fatigue can make quarterbacks prone to dubious choices late in the game and C.F.O.’s prone to disastrous dalliances late in the evening. It routinely warps the judgment of everyone, executive and nonexecutive, rich and poor — in fact, it can take a special toll on the poor. Yet few people are even aware of it, and researchers are only beginning to understand why it happens and how to counteract it.

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

Decision fatigue is the newest discovery involving a phenomenon called ego depletion, a term coined by the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister in homage to a Freudian hypothesis. Freud speculated that the self, or ego, depended on mental activities involving the transfer of energy. He was vague about the details, though, and quite wrong about some of them (like his idea that artists “sublimate” sexual energy into their work, which would imply that adultery should be especially rare at artists’ colonies). Freud’s energy model of the self was generally ignored until the end of the century, when Baumeister began studying mental discipline in a series of experiments, first at Case Western and then at Florida State University.

MORE>>>>

 

 

Food Fight: Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen Engage in War of Words
TIME:

In Friday’s New York Post, Paula Deen fought back against Anthony Bourdain’s stinging comments. Surprisingly, it’s a recipe that doesn’t include butter.

But her retort did involve plenty of roasting and skewering. After comments by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain left a bad taste in her mouth Thursday, Deen sounded off against her fellow foodie’s entitlement and elitism. “I have no idea what Anthony has done to contribute besides being irritable.”[…]

The argument stems from a Thursday TV Guide article in which Bourdain blasted some of his fellow TV chefs. (After all, his show is called No Reservations, and he certainly had none in his comments.) He picked on Guy Fieri, Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray, all current or former hosts on the Food Network. Bourdain had nary a nice word for any of them, but by far his harshest words drove a sharpened butcher’s knife into Paula Deen. “The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen,” Bourdain told TV Guide. “I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks.” To be sure, her Southern-style cooking involves myriad fried foods, and she’s often criticized for her incessant inclusion of butter.

Bourdain continued his rant on Twitter, defending his comments about Deen but clarifying that he meant she was Food Network’s “most destructive influence.” He even posted a link to one of Deen’s unhealthy dishes, a cheeseburger served between two donuts, called the “Lady’s Brunch Burger.” Unhealthy? Sure. But no matter your thoughts on either chef’s personality, we’d apply the standard cooking mantra here: follow the recipe you like best.

 

Tony on TV Guide:

PAULA DEEN
“The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen. She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you. If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks.”

GUY FIERI
“I look at Guy Fieri and I just think, ‘Jesus, I’m glad that’s not me.’ You work that hard and there’s not a single show of yours that you’d want to sit down and say, ‘Hey, I made that last week. Look at that camera work. It’s really good, huh?’ I’m proud of what I do.”

RACHAEL RAY
“Does she even cook anymore? I don’t know why she bothers. To her credit, she never said she was good at it. I feel bad that she still feels compelled to cook. Her [syndicated] talk show is doing well, and she does that well. I don’t watch, but I don’t run screaming from the room.”

SANDRA LEE
“There was an incident with Sandra Lee when I ran into her [after criticizing her publicly]. It was deeply terrible. Don’t mess with her. I rarely feel uncomfortable, but she has a powerful force. I hate her works on this planet, but she is not someone to be dismissed, clearly.”

 

 

TAKE ACTION

 

 

Tell the Department of Justice To Investigate Rupert Murdoch Now

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“You may be disappointed if you fail,
but you are doomed if you don’t try.” ~Beverly Sills

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

52 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. KQuark says:

    Guys I hope I don’t come across too negative on energy issues. I don’t mean to but troubleshooting technologies and process was just a big part of what I did. So that’s just how I think now. I just don’t wear a big political hat on energy issues and if you looked at heavy industry as a whole like I have it’s a big problem but only one environmental problem we have to maintain our modern standard of living. 90%+ of all our manufacturing processes are completely unsustainable. Any time something is manufactured you have raw materials (most times dwindling in supply) going in and waste coming out, often times toxic waste, just to make a shinny new product most of the time we don’t even need. Very very little is ever recycled.

    That’s why I even cringe a bit thinking about the growing middle class everyone wants here and is happening in the developing world. One thing it means is more people will have more money to buy more junk and pollute the planet more to make that junk.

    There is good news though. At least some people in industry are finally understanding the unsustainablility of our current industries. Especially on the clean energy front we’ve even gone beyond that and I literary see dozens of advances every week.

    • agrippa says:

      There is no simple way out of it. We started down this ‘road of progress’ and we do not want to go back to being ‘just another animal in the woods’. It is hard to be sustainable and stay out of the ‘world of necessity’.

      Sustainabilty may come down to the idea of ‘enough’.

      The irony of this is that those who live in the world of necessity do not really consider the idea of ‘enough’.

    • bito says:

      I understand completely KQ. If I asked who is against fertilizer used to grow the food you eat, most people wouldn’t be, yet when I worked in the processing plants I saw the ground, air, and water pollution that was created. The holes the created and woodlands they destroyed during the mining (and did minimal reclamation when done) is another problem. Yet who is against fertilizer?

      We can all go to the woods and build a log cabin, but someone needs to make the steel for the ax.

      • KQuark says:

        You might like this ditty going around the web.

        Obama took down Bin Laden and Qaddafi.

        Tea Baggers took down America.

        I know it’s not really true but still funny.

      • KQuark says:

        Exactly and that was one plant and one industry.

        This is just one case where people really can’t handle the truth.

        I just read a report that there are 500,000,000 cars on the road in the world (40% in the US). Someone get back to me in 15 years and 10 hours when you finish counting that number.

  2. ADONAI says:

    Total Surface Area Required to Fuel the World With Solar

    http://www.landartgenerator.org/blagi/archives/127

    [img][/img]

    • Emerald1943 says:

      This makes it look very doable! I was not aware that so little land would be necessary. Really interesting!

    • ADONAI says:

      This can be done quickly and cheaply. So why don’t we do it?

      [img][/img]

      Oh. right.

    • KQuark says:

      Good source. I hope they are right that there will be a 5,000-10,000% efficiency increase for photovoltanic cells though. The big thing hindering solar plants now is not the current technology but fear of the next big leap. What do you do with all the material used for the plants they plan in CA for example when 5 years from now cells are 1,000% more efficient? I assume they are going to create build these plants with a modular design so the panels can be replaced relatively easily but when they say they will keep only a dozen or so people operating this plants I wonder if they are looking ahead that far.

      I also fear another race to the bottom situation because China is already dumping tons and tons of SiCl4 toxic waste to be the world leader in solar energy. I could see states like TX now lowering their clean water standards to compete.

      Not saying solar is not one of the ways to go but just understand there is no magic bullet.

      Energy is an incredible complex issue. I just hope people who are doing the planning are approaching it via a portfolio approach. You’ve got to have short term, mid term and long term solutions. I see the right and middle America only looking at the short and mid term.

      • ADONAI says:

        What we are doing right now is a race to the bottom.

        Nothing worth doing is ever easy.

        • KQuark says:

          Yup saying just because we think of green energy as new clean technology doesn’t mean the global economy and it’s problems will go away. In other words it’s still going to be hard to maintain wages and benefits when these technologies are manufactured.

  3. KQuark says:

    Cher my favorite green energy website by far is http://www.earthtechling.com/. They have a decidedly progressive slant with an expert staff that posted articles on progressive sites but were tired of being pushed to the back pages. They have the most updated assembly of articles I’ve seen and Google Chrome and phone apps. They are a commercial site but only have ads for companies that sell products for green energy technology or education.

    • bito says:

      I don’t like any ‘green site’ if they don’t push on site geothermal. The clean low tech way to save 40-60% of heating and cooling costs anywhere in the US. 😉

      • KQuark says:

        They have many articles on geothermal and they really don’t push any specific green technology.

        Last site geothermal I saw on a documentary in Iceland ended up being buried in lava. The poor farmer and rancher lost everything. Not saying site geothermal does not work places but there are big risks.

        • bito says:

          KQ, I’m not talking about large geothermal plants from hot springs, I am talking about the natural/normal/constant temperature 6-8-10 feet under a yard or parking lot. A series of tubing and a heat pump can save any homeowner or business 40-60%. The way we heat and cool now we take the outside air and have to cool or heat it to our happy 72 degrees. Using geothermal under your backyard, instead of taking 90 degree air and cooling it to 72 you take the natural temp of the earth 60-70 degrees for your starting point. Not the outside air of -10 to 72 or 100 down to 72. No power grids, no turbines, it’s under your feet.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ajqiPe_9Ko
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5lzot4gxJY
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBHHqw6TRXk&feature=related

          • Emerald1943 says:

            Hey bito, I remember the old magazine “Mother Earth News”, way back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Chances are there will be a few people here that remember it too.

            Building homes partially underground was a big thing with the magazine. The point was that, within a range of 10 degrees or so, that underground temperature would be in the 55-60 degree range year round, making cooling and heating much easier. Passive solar was also used with windows exposed to obtain maximum solar gain for heating.

            You could also grow veggies on your roof! :-) That was a very cool magazine!

            • bito says:

              “Mother Earth News” is still alive and on line, (even though it was waay before my time 😉 ) I helped build a couple of underground/partially UG homes during that time and yes the heating and cooling costs for them was quite small. There are many building restrictions on them and are specialty homes while geothermal can be used in most places.

          • KQuark says:

            Gotcha. I completely misunderstood. 😳

            I’ll check out the links.

            I thought you were talking about taping into hot springs and such. My mind just didn’t grasp more ambient geothermal technologies. I can just say Earth Techling looks at the big and small picture. They even review solar back packs for personal devices. Don’t get me going on battery manufacture and the toxic waste involved. We have to think big and small.

            • bito says:

              I have MightyWoof for pointing me in the that direction. She said they were looking into it on a new home and like you I asked do they have hot springs in that part of Canada. I really like this concept because of it’s on-site capabilities. MW and I came up with the conclusion that it isn’t being pushed is because it’s not a big money maker for financial services. No money making bond sales for the banks and hedge funds like a power plant/new grid.
              BYW the #1 use of coal burning is used for the heating and cooling of buildings.

  4. Emerald1943 says:

    Cher,

    Every time I read about the Koch brothers, my blood pressure immediately goes up about 50 points. But when I read your comments and the article in “Think Progress” about these two polluter/criminals, the old B/P went to the moon!

    Here’s the entire article…there is something in here to piss off everyone, so I encourage reading all the way through, unless of course, you have a blood pressure problem worse than mine!

    —————————————-

    Koch Responds To Buffett: ‘My Business And Non-Profit Investments Are Much More Beneficial To Society’

    By Lee Fang on Aug 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    America’s current tax system forces people making $50,000 a year to pay a higher rate than hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour. Warren Buffett penned an op-ed last week declaring that America’s super-rich have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Lamenting the numerous tax loopholes and special breaks afforded to billionaire investors, Buffett noted that in his entire career, even when capital gains rates were as high as 39.9 percent, he never saw anyone “shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.”

    Charles Koch, head of the massive petrochemical, manufacturing, and commodity speculating Koch Industries corporation, has responded to Warren’s call for shared sacrifice: “No Thanks.” In a statement to right-wing media, Koch states:

    Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.

    Koch’s “non-profit investments” include the group founded by his brother David, “Americans for Prosperity” (formerly known as Citizens for a Sound Economy). As ThinkProgress first reported, AFP was one the first and most well-resourced drivers of the anti-Obama so-called “Tea Party” movement. Koch-funded Tea Party events have featured speakers comparing health reform to the Holocaust, and in some cases have sponsored rallies with leaders of the “birther” conspiracy theory.

    Among the Koch brothers’ other non-profit investments include far-right conservative think tanks dedicated to cheerleading the war in Iraq, spreading anti-science propaganda, and smears claiming that the poor do not really suffer. Koch has given money to educational initiatives, but in exchange for control over academic freedom that simply furthered Koch’s political beliefs. These “investments” at best advance Koch’s political ideology and at worst misinform American voters. Either way, they are hardly a replacement for “government spend[ing]” on things like food assistance and basic medical service.

    According to Forbes, the Koch brothers have seen their wealth rise $11 billion in recent years, making the Koch brother among the richest in the country by being worth around $22.5 billion each. Much of those profits, however, are due to soaring gas prices and the fact Koch Industries has avoided compensating the public for one hundred million tons of carbon pollution the company produces each year. Other Koch companies also receive significant taxpayer subsidies, despite Koch’s supposed opposition to government spending. This company is among the country’s top sources of carcinogenic chemicals and air pollutants.

    America has been good to Charles Koch, providing an environment where his family has made billions. But Koch doesn’t want to give back, especially through more taxation. His charitable foundation, which gives largely to right-wing organizations that support his politics and Koch Industries’ business interests, still only donates about $12 million a year — 0.05 percent of Koch’s net worth. If higher rates were imposed on the super-rich, would Koch retreat to the family’s fabulous mansions, like this one in the Hamptons, aboard its fleet of private jets in a John Galt-inspired temper tantrum? Or would they act like any respectable businessman, and continue to make a profit without complaining?

    ————————————————-

    A few days ago, I wrote a comment about the Koch brothers getting involved in the Wake County North Carolina School Board races and how they are attempting to re-segregate the schools! The article cites donations to “educational initiatives but in exchange for control over academic freedom that simply furthered Koch’s political beliefs.” In other words, put the blacks in “their place” and indoctrinate white children to accept the inequity of a separate (and unequal) educational system! Nothing could make me any angrier!

    I am a Southern white woman who came of age during the early years of integration. I saw the pain of African-Americans who were beaten, spit on, and denied every civil right! The process of integration took long hard work for both sides, white and black…but it was brilliantly successful as can be seen today in the Wake County schools.
    The thought that two “Yankee” billionaires want to come into my state to wipe out those hard-won successes is infuriating!

    The Koch brothers and their billions are not wanted here! I strongly suggest that they go home and leave (integrated) North Carolina alone! We’re doing just fine without them!

  5. ADONAI says:

    We put men on the fucking moon. THE MOON! You know how hard it is to do that? It’s almost impossible and we did it in one decade.

    So if Obama thinks we can switch 80% of our energy consumption over to clean energy in 20 years, I absolutely believe him cause I know we can.

    The entire energy grid needs to be redone anyways. We waste way too much energy. We don’t even need most of what we’re producing right now.

    So I know we can do it. Man on the moon. The moon. THEY WERE WALKING ON IT!

    • Chernynkaya says:

      AD--I agree with you! I didn’t think that Grist article was saying we couldn’t so it, just hat it’s a big undertaking and that we’d better get started. Plus, that chart supposes we’d do it by using only ONE different technology, which is silly. the full article is more balanced.

      • KQuark says:

        Gotta admit the graphic turned me off so I did’t read it.

      • ADONAI says:

        The graph did throw me off. Is anyone actually talking about only using one source?

        And I’m glad Obama is seriously pushing this. Much better than last year when he was on stage talking about “clean coal”. We all know that’s bullshit.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Yeah--clean coal was really dumb and it kinda spoiled his cred about he environment for a lot of people. I always shuddered whenever he said that.

          • KQuark says:

            CO2 sequestration is real and they already do it in other countries, especially with natural gas wells. It’s not like fracking because it’s not done under high pressure. Canada is building a plant now with zero emissions.

            Sorry there is no true clean coal yet but much cleaner coal is feasible for a cost. Just saying it’s not a bumper sticker issue one way or another.

            I’m not saying 50 years from now it’s the best technology but an intermediate gap filler.

  6. KQuark says:

    I think the Grist “Obama’s 2035 clean energy goals?” graphic fails to paint the true picture in two big ways. First no one is saying all these parts of the pie would be equal in size. Renewable energies will need to be much bigger pieces of pie. Second this graph assumes there will be ZERO technological advances in current technologies save for CO2 sequestration. Photovoltanic cells in solar panels are incredibly inefficient now, <1%. To assume they will still be that inefficient 25 years from is ridiculous.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      KQ, as I replied to Adonai above, I agree. I think the graphic shows a couple of things--that this is a huge undertaking and that it is unrealistic to think all of our energy can be totally clean. But your point about new technologies is Grist’s biggest failure.

  7. KQuark says:

    I’ve read a few people now who said you have to judge Obama based on two factors. First judge him on what he can do alone and second on what he’s been about to get Congress to enact.

    This should be rather obvious. On his own, like your summary says Cher change immigration policy to cover Dream Act eligible immigrants (I remember someone on the planet trying to tell me Obama did not support the Dream Act pffft). Obama set to not defend DOMA anymore, raise CO2 standards for vehicles, classify CO2 emissions as a toxic gas at all, get Bin Laden, decimate Al Qaeda, support Libyan rebels, open up stem cell research, bring science back to government, bailout GM and Chrysler, spend billions on renewable energy investments, interpret the ACA so states can opt to have PO’s and even Single Payer, not taken money from lobbyists, etc

    Sure many will criticize things he’s done on his own like expand our footprint in Afghanistan, expand offshore drilling, authorize loans for nuclear power plants, not prosecute Bush and increase predator strikes. Actually I back these policies but understand most progressives don’t. My biggest burr is I wish Obama’s administration would follow through much more on ending the drug war.

    But when Congress was involved more often that not things got watered down. Obama wanted the nationwide PO in the ACA and a balanced budget reduction deal for example. Probably the only legislation you can argue where Congress wanted more was on Finance reform.

    Like I’ve alluded to before closing Gitmo was a prime example of this. One of Obama’s first XO’s was to close Gitmo and try detainees in US courts. Overwhelmingly Congress said NO.

    Unfortunately Congress has the purse stings so the biggest initiatives that help create jobs are out of the president’s hands the most. We already see the GOP saying NO AGAIN on Obama’s jobs plan even though they don’t know the whole plan and it includes some tax cuts.

    • Emerald1943 says:

      KQ, this is a good way of looking at and judging the President’s performance. In fact, Rachel Maddow sometimes puts up the long list of his accomplishments which is really quite impressive.

      Perhaps it would be good for Rachel or someone else to make a list of the things that the President has NOT been able to do, but to also list the reasons why he was unsuccessful, such as GOP opposition to closing Gitmo, as you mentioned.

      The Bush tax cuts expiration was another issue cited by the President’s detractors. Only rarely are we told about why he agreed to extend those cuts for another two years. Essentially it was due to extortion by the GOP. That was the only deal he could make to get unemployment benefits extended for jobless people.

      Every time the President has “broken his promises” as the baggers like to say, there is a reason that is not well publicized. The people are not told the entire truth. The message is not controlled by the White House but instead, by the rethug smear machine.

      As he puts out his jobs plan in a couple of weeks, I hope that people will see the intransigence of the repubs. There is already grumbling in their ranks. I can just imagine how Fox will take the story and run with it! This time, I believe the American people are not in any mood to put up with their foolishness!

  8. funksands says:

    The campaign donation to President meme has always amused me.

    Obama was number one recipient of donations from:

    FedEx
    Greenpeace
    Goldman Sachs

    This means he is in thrall to Big Mail, Big Environment, and Big Wall Street.

    Seriously….

  9. PatsyT says:

    Hey Cher,
    Great line up!
    My kids are going to have hoot about Paula Dean and Bourdain!
    They have been making fun of her accent and B U T T E R for years now.

    Hey, have you run across this?
    I don’t know when this was filmed


    • Chernynkaya says:

      I also meant to add that we make fun of that BUTTER fetish too! We call her a Butterton, after that commercial “Meet the Buttertons!” I love Anthony Bourdain though.

      • PatsyT says:

        The ButtterTONS!
        The other one we can’t help but make fun of is that
        Semi-Homemade Sandra Lee
        Do I need anyone to tell my kids how to make Kraft Mac & Cheese?

      • Khirad says:

        I’m with Bourdain on this. Of course, how predictable that FOX & Friends would have her on to rail against those elitist food Nazis.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Hi Patsy--that video looks so familiar, but I can’t think of where. I think it’s from several years ago. Why this hasn’t been in the forefront stumps me and really worries me!


Leave your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Back to top
PlanetPOV Tweets
Ongoing Stories
Features