Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HCR. xi. A shit sandwich is still a sandwich.

I toyed with the idea of joining the progressive backlash against the serious disappointment that is the health care reform legislation. However, the dead left center's reasoning prevails in my mind.

Though a shit sandwich, it's still a sandwich. We need to deliver a sandwich, or we lose all political momentum. Later, we can clear out the shit and put real meat in it. It's way easier to do that than to provide a sandwich from scratch later. That is the nature of politics.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Which is the true face of the police?

OC Weekly: Illegally Park-ed.

So if you live in Washington State, you've probably had the names of Mark Renninger, Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, Greg Richards, and Timothy Brenton etched in your mind. Well, if not, these are the names of five policemen recently assassinated in the Seattle area. The first four were gunned down in a coffee shop in Lakewood, WA on November 29 by a felon who decided he wanted to go out in a blaze of...something. The fifth was executed by a deranged former security guard with delusions of persecution.

I've had a hard time with the media saturation of these two events. Yes, sure, we are shocked by any murder in the Seattle area, as we have a low murder rate. Losing a parent, spouse, and friend so suddenly is, of course, awful when it happens to anyone. But, really, why is a death of a cop any more traumatic than the death of anyone else? I am sure these five were good cops and decent people--at least, if the truth were different, we'd never discover it now.

But given the generally poor behavior of police these days, it amazes me more that before Timothy Brenton, it had been thirty years since a cop was assassinated in this state. For example, take the case of this douchebag in Irvine, CA--David Park. He got caught stalking strippers and exchanging sexual favors in exchange for not citing them for speeding.

Given the cop's inevitable acquittal (because we are conditioned to adore cops and loathe strippers, apparently), I'm given to believe that this is far, far more commonplace than you hear about. Because what stripper is going to press charges against a cop and draw the rage of all of his buddies in blue if this is the kind of shit that happens?

What I want to know--and will never be allowed to find out: what is the ratio between the five cops murdered (ostensibly) and cops like David Park?

Also, young women, take note: This is yet another reason why it's not a very good idea to go into sex work. Cops pretty much have free reign to abuse you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ED. xviii./WTFF. xii. The true, true facts about Chuck Norris--

--he is fucking insane.

Chuck Norris: What if Mother Mary Had Obamacare?
Lastly, as we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington's wise men and women! Will Obamacare morph into Herodcare for the unborn?
Seriously, what the fucking fucking fuck?

The woman who reacted to news of her unbelievable pregnancy with "My soul doth magnify the Lord" probably isn't going to follow up with "by the way, where's the nearest abortion clinic."

Your fists may violate the laws of physics, Chuck: But you're still an Elephantine Douchebag.

Can't cut the minimum wage.

Paul Krugman: Would cutting the minimum wage raise employment?

Krugman ably demonstrates the strange calculus that governs large, complex economies. The basic argument goes like this:

1. If you cut minimum wage, the cost of offering goods and services will decrease, and prices will go down.

2. Employers will use the cost savings to hire more workers, lowering unemployment.

(This will happen even in above-minimum wage jobs, as many jobs are indexed to minimum wage in some fashion.)

Seems sensible, but the problem is:

1. Employers, being in a bad mood and scared, will probably not hire anyone anyway.

2. Because so many people are in debt, falling wages will make their debt burdens more painful.

3. Because most of their income will go to debt service, people will actually spend LESS.

4. It will increase the amount of labor available, reducing in even further depression of wages, leading to 1-3.

5. The local decline in prices will strengthen the dollar. This seems like a good thing because it will reduce energy prices, but it's actually bad as it makes debt burdens heavier.

Nope, apparently what you need to do instead is....RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE.

Economics is hard. But that's only because it is the study of a large group of people, each with their own contradictory desires.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Understanding what wealth, money, debt, and property really are, and why Austrian economists end up being nearly entirely wrong about everything.

Economics is difficult to understand because it's simply another area of human behavior. And human behavior is almost entirely impossible to understand, both in the individual and in the group. Patterns emerge, of course, but the patterns can lead you to horrifically wrong conclusions, both about what is really going wrong and what to do about it.

So, to the point:

What is wealth?
What is money?
What is debt?
What is property?

It turns out that all four are instances of the same type of thing: Social contracts. They are all social contracts. There is no "objective" standard for any of these things--they all depend on mutual understanding of social conventions. They do not, in fact, exist in the "real world". They exist only in the minds of people.

You might object, "but when I own a house, the house exists." And this is true--the house, as an object, exists. But your ownership exists only in your mind and the minds of others. It's a contract between you and other people. It's not really just one contract--it comprises a group of hundreds of other contracts, written and unwritten, some of them actually contradictory.

There is no first principle that looks at any model of social contract and proves "this is always right" and "this is always wrong", because the proof itself depends on yet more social contracts. The first principles of Austrian economics (or any Enlightenment discipline, in fact) are not first principles at all, but observations built upon other social contracts that people don't dare recognize as equivalent in type to all the others.

So now that I unloaded that on you, here is what I might suggest: What if what you learned about the nature of the these four expressions of social contracts is, in fact, a lie? What if the rules you had to live by concerning these things were different than they were for a chosen elite?

Wouldn't you be more than a little pissed off? Of course you would. And why do you think you can solve these things by saving and buying gold?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paul Volcker agrees: Financial sector gigantic parasite.

This is not just me talking out of my muck-raking ass. Paul freaking Volcker agrees.

An interesting trend.

Wikipedia: National debt by US Presidential terms.

When you hear the rightsphere complaining about Obama's "spend our way out" proposals, remember this chart.

When Republicans are President:

Debt levels (relative to GDP) INCREASE.
Income earned by the bottom 20% (relative to inflation) STAYS FLAT OR DECREASES.
Income earned by the top 1% MASSIVELY INCREASES.
Social spending DECREASES.

When Democrats are President:

Debt levels (relative to GDP) DECREASE.
Income earned by the bottom 20% generally INCREASES.
Income earned by the top 1% INCREASES to a lesser extent.
Social spending INCREASES.

The ONLY President to buck this trend is Eisenhower, who would probably be far too liberal to run as a Republican these days.

Obama will probably buck this trend because he was set up badly by his predecessor, but I guarantee that things will come close to matching if he is elected for a second term.

Invite your Republican acquaintances to explain this trend. If they can't, invite them to shut the fuck up and get out of the way.

GateGate. ii. Fox News: Fair. Balanced. Innumerate.

ThinkProgress caught Fox News claiming that 120% of people think scientists are lying about global warming.

Talk about irony.

Fuck yeah: Bankers' bonuses hit with gigantic tax surcharge in Great Britain.

Guardian: Bankers' bonuses hit with 50% super-tax in PBR

This post is going to make my friends who work in the financial sector sad, but I agree with Paul Krugman: The financial sector has proven to be nothing but a life-draining economic parasite.

Time to set tax policy accordingly. Of course, since even the Democratic Party is in the pocket of the bankers, this will never, ever happen in the USA. But, way to go Right Honourable Alistair Darling!

ED. xvii. This is the rightsphere.

Little Green Footballs: Hot Air Comments of the Day

Even though millions read his blog and almost no one reads mine, I feel kind of a kinship with Charles Johnson. It's getting silly--the last few days I've just been reblogging a lot of his stuff.

I wanted to cut down on that, but this is just too good to pass up.

Hot Air is a project started primarily by hate blogger Michelle Malkin, who is most infamous for her suggestions that the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during the Second World War was just peachy. She's also lately said that people who can't find jobs in the worst job market in 25 years are just lazy and looking for "government cheese." Given her campaigning against anything that looks like health-care reform, she also probably thinks the same thing of the sick.

In other words, she is a paragon of Elephantine Douchebaggery and currently the reigning Queen of the Rightsphere.

Both on her site and on her project Hot Air, the comments left by her fans are just fucking ridiculous, and Charles catalogs them in the previously referenced post. Read it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WTFF. xi. Who are going to buy these, exactly?

Apparently Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson has come up with the good idea of selling war bonds to finance our misadventures in southwest Asia.

Everything old is new again, it seems.

Or something.

What the fucking fuck?


Sixteenth in the "Elephantine Douchebaggery" series that explores the rightsphere* at its most pathetic and obnoxious.

Talking Points Memo: My God, I Love This Story

Where to start?

Some NASA employee must've read too much John Ringo and then claimed to the rightsphere* that he single-handedly stopped a Muslim hijacking. I mean, this is multiple lolwut per minute hijinx here. Of course, the rightsphere ate this up with a spoon.

Only one problem--the airline he flew on (AirTran) denies that the event took place. In fact, they can prove that Petruna wasn't even on the fucking plane. So, of course, the rightsphere now is wailing about the MASSIVE CONSPIRACY to cover up Petruna's "heroic" deeds.

You just can't make this stuff up. I'm sure the Democrats will find some way to lose seats in 2010, but stuff like this is generally encouraging.


*rightsphere = Neologism I just coined to capture the wingnut blogs, talk radio shows, RNC figureheads, and other collected morans.

Monday, December 7, 2009

GateGate. i. Peter Sinclair speaks out about the latest non-scandal scandal.

First in a series called "GateGate," an exploration of the non-scandal scandals stirred up by the right wing concerning things they don't like.

Here's Peter Sinclair breaking down the unbelievably stupid ClimateGate non-scandal scandal.

Hat tip: LGF

ED. xv. Their biggest friend turns his back.

Little Green Footballs: Why I Left the Right, Exhibit A

Charles Foster Johnson is the proprietor of Little Green Footballs, a site that was primarily a "rah-rah" blog for the War on Terror pretty much since September 12, 2001. Not being one of the "rah-rah" types myself, I followed the blog anyway because it was one of the better such warblogs, and I thought it would be interesting to see if any of the warbloggers could come up with something even resembling a decent argument. None of them did, of course, but if any of them came close, it was Johnson.

Of course, when he was in full rah-rah mode, the right wing loved him to death. He was frequently a guest of the right-wing talk set, and he was the 800-pound gorilla when it came to journalistic integrity concerning the War on Terror. Most famously, he uncovered the "Memogate" scandal that ruined the career of Dan Rather.

Since Obama got elected, and since he realized that nobody really likes "rah-rah" on the War on Terror anymore, he's gotten his head pretty much completely out of his ass. As a result, the right has totally turned on him. And he's returned the favor.

You should read most of what he's written lately. It's pretty reasonable. Of course, he can be occasionally obnoxious. Well, so can I.

However, whatever you do, don't read the comments. They will just piss you off.

Decoding my politics.

If you want to know what my politics really are without me saying words that scare you, here's a handy guide.

If it makes a member of the elite sad, I'm for it. A member of the elite could be a prominent businessman. Or a church leader. Or a powerful politician. A military contractor. Or a general. Entertainment celebrity. Professional sportsman. Investment banker. Doesn't matter--if it makes a member of this class of people upset, it's probably a great idea.

If it makes someone who is not part of the elite feel a little better, and the elite bear most of the cost, then I'm for it. These are things like universal health insurance, workers' rights, gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, approving stem-cell research, and junk like that.

Anything that undermines the ability of the "global economy" to stick it to the rest of us (that is, the non-elites) is awesome. Developments to make offshoring jobs untenable are great. Making it too expensive to set up sweatshops in the third world is great. Carbon taxes are awesome. And so forth.

And, of course, for completeness: anything that runs counter to the above sucks.

So, really, if you wonder where I'm coming from on these issues, this guide should help.

And, by the way, this is why I never vote for a Republican. This doesn't make me a Democrat--Democrats also run counter to these ideals more often than not. But Republicans run counter to them nearly 100% of the time (or even when they accidentally support one plank they obnoxiously undermine the other two). This is why I focus on them at this time. It's just a matter of damage control, really.

These are "palliative" ideas--that is, these guidelines are meant to contain the damage caused by our toxic culture. The "transformative" ideas I have are far too scary, so let's stick to these for now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ED: xiv. Maurice Clemmons, Huckabee's Willie Horton

The Background

A deranged ex-con named Maurice Clemmons (aka Clemens or Clements) walked into a Lakewood, WA coffee shop one fine Sunday morning and shot four cops to death. During the assassination, one of the cops got off a shot and hit him in the chest.

Clemmons' friends and family helped him evade the cops for nearly two days and tried to tend to his wound. While it was clear Clemmons was facing imminent death from his wound, the cops finally tracked him down to the corner of Kenyon Street and 44th Avenue in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood. When dealing with cop-killers, the policy is generally shoot-first and ask questions later, and that's exactly what happened.

Clemmons is dead, and about eight of his closest friends are going before The Man to answer for their aid of him.

The Twist

Clemmons is not from here, but from the land of my ancestors: Arkansas. He was a very bad man, committing several violent felonies and eventually finding himself in prison facing what effectively was a 108-year sentence.

Enter theocrat and douchebag-supreme Mike Huckabee, who was governor at the time. For some inexplicable reason, Huckabee went through the dregs of the criminal justice system and cut their sentences down dramatically. In the case of Clemmons, Huckabee reduced his sentence to approximately 46 years. Huckabee cited the fact that Clemmons was only 17 when he was sentenced and decided to give him one more chance. Since Clemmons had served 10 years at that point, he was eligible for what used to be called "parole," but is now called "community supervision."

Clemmons got his CS case transferred to Washington, and he moved to Tacoma a few years ago. He was supposed to be on CS until 2015. However, he kept screwing up, and eventually he was arrested on other charges. They offered him bail pending his revocation hearing, which he posted. Then he went out and shot four cops.

The Scurry

Huckabee, knowing he'd probably be held to account for his strange choice of clemency, fired a pre-emptive shot. He blames it on everyone he can blame it on--Arkansas prosecutors, Arkansas courts, Washington prosecutors and law-enforcement, Washington DOC, etc., etc. Everyone but himself.

One little problem--Larry Jegley, the Pulaski County, AR prosecutor who saw Clemmons locked up in the first place--was constantly on record objecting to Huckabee's decision. Oops.

Second little problem--Pierce County, WA sheriffs had done due diligence in locking him up.

Third little problem--DOC had, in fact, followed their due diligence in requesting a revocation hearing. The rules that applied to Clemmons (because of the date of his original crime) guaranteed him bail pending this hearing.

So, sorry Mike, the fingers all point back at you. He dug deeper anyway, releasing this little tantrum.

Not willing to give up the shovel, last night he went on Fox News to whine some more.

Nixon's Law

I call this little problem "Nixon's Law", which is:
Coverups and buck-passing always cost far more than apologies.
This is a reference to Watergate, of course. Had Nixon said, "Whoops, that was bad, and I've punished/fired the men responsible," he probably would've served two terms. Or at least finished his first one. But the heel-dragging and coverups and blame-passing ruined his Presidency.

So goes Huckabee's Presidential aspirations, we can hope.

Willie Horton

In case you don't know who Willie Horton is and why he was significant: Wikipedia.

We must not let Huckabee get out from under this. These four slayings should dog him for the rest of his political career and drown out his voice.

Gosh, that sounds kind of tacky. Unfortunately, this is what full-contact politics lead to. I didn't ask for this world, but if that's the way the right wants to play ball, then that's what they're going to get from me--a gigantic shit sandwich.