"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Today's Must Read

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Reality) on reductions to Social Security. It's a Q&A, but here's the lead-in:

The Koch brothers, Pete Peterson and other billionaires are spending huge amounts of money trying to cut Social Security and other vitally important federal programs. As part of this campaign, an enormous amount of misinformation is floating around. Let me try to set the record straight by answering a few of the questions that people are asking my office.

And in case you were wondering, no, SS is not going broke.

My Senators don't have that many balls between them.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marriage News Watch, October 28, 2012

Busy week:

Something To Think About

As we head into winter, when the days get short and the sun can be absent for a week or more:

Residents of a remote village nestled in a steep-sided valley in southern Norway are about to enjoy winter sunlight for the first time ever thanks to giant mirrors.

The mountains that surround the village of Rjukan are far from Himalayan, but they are high enough to deprive its 3,500 inhabitants of direct sunlight for six months a year.

That was before a century-old idea, as old as Rjukan itself, was brought to life: to install mirrors on a 400-metre (437-yard) high peak to deflect sunrays towards the central square.

“The idea was a little crazy, but madness is our middle name,” said Oeystein Haugan, a local project coordinator.

I don't know about the crazy part -- it sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Here, of course, Paul Ryan would be demanding tax cuts for mirror manufacturers to pay for it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Culture Break

I couldn't decide between two versions of this, but either way, it's guaranteed to wake you up.

People do strange things with the staging of Wagner -- I'm not sure why. There was the Bayreuth production of the Ring a few years ago in which Das Rheingold took place in front of a hydroelectric dam. This was at the Met, conducted by Pierre Boulez.

This version's rather more contemporary, and somewhat shorter. And a lot more biting in concept:

Another Note on Obamacare

Aside from the fact that that name for the ACA is going to backfire on the GOP, big-time -- they'd hoped to tie him to a disaster (remember "Benghazi-gate"?), and it's starting to look like it's going to be immensely successful. One of the reasons shows up in this anecdote, from a reader at TPM:

Anyway, you may have seen in the past couple of days how some insurers are being forced to drop thousands of individual policies because they're not ACA-compliant. My current policy is among those, so I've looked for a new policy with my insurer (Anthem). And, thanks to the ACA, I can finally get a more traditional policy because the insurer has to offer ACA-compliant plans and can't exclude for preexisting conditions. As a result, I'm switching to a Silver level plan with a $2,000 deductible, free preventive care, reasonable co-pays ($30-$45) for doctors' visits pre-deductible and reasonable co-insurance (25%) post-deductible, all for a premium that's only $20 than what I was paying. Significantly better coverage, in other words, for about $240 more per year.

He's not alone -- I've been seeing comments like this at various places. And that, of course, is the whole point of the program.

Read the whole thing -- it's short, and very instructive, and sort of gives the lie to the Boehner/Cruz/Ryan mantra that the whole thing is an unmitigated disaster. As does this.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Today in "Christian" Love

This is quite possibly one of the more outrageous stories I've run across about so-called "Christians" -- you know, the ones whose "Christianity" is firmly grounded in Leviticus.

A 20-year-old waiter provided exemplary service at an Overland Park Italian restaurant, but his anti-gay customers refused to tip him because of his sexual orientation. . . .

The man works at the Carrabba's Italian Grill near 107th Street and Metcalf Avenue. His mother also works as a hostess and she was very upset by what was written on the back of the check earlier this week after he waited on a couple.

"Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. (Homosexual slur) do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours," the customer wrote. "We hope you will see the tip your (homosexual slur) choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for GOD's love, but none shall be spared for (homosexual slur). May GOD have mercy on you."

I suppose they think they're being gracious for thanking him.

I think the only appropriate response to them is "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin."

The incident has gone viral over social media, and the server has gotten overwhelming support from the community -- and from total strangers. As for the couple:

"This does not represent Christianity. I called them Pharisees," [Dr. Marvin Baker] said. "God really loves us. And God does not advertise or promote hate. That is not love."

Something to keep in mind the next time you hear some "Christian" hate-group leader claiming to "love homosexuals."

Via Towleroad.

Today in Word Salad

Via Digby, the teabagger view of chained CPI:

The president’s proposal for chained CPI, which would reduce future Social Security benefits – what’s your view of that?

It’s classic government – it’s classic big government, so I think that it’s stealing from the American people…the government borrows money with no intentions of paying it back, and so how they – the way they deal with it is they allow the money to inflate…Without a gold standard or any real standard upon which – with just fiat money, the government is free to do that almost without any limitation. I say all that to say the CPI is just one more gimmick that the government has, a tool that they have at their disposal to sort of deal with…unintended consequences of big spending, deficit spending. That’s how they deal with it…It’s reprehensible…They’re perpetuating this establishment inertia, and it’s disgusting…

When you say “stealing from the American people,” are you referring to the Social Security program itself, or to proposal to change the CPI?

No. The effect that the changes to the CPI would have on the cost of living increases …It’s a one-off way to address the cost of living allowance increases in Social Security. So it’s an indirect way of addressing that problem which hurts so many people who are dependent on Social Security…

That’s what big government does. That’s why we’ve got to attack big government, that’s the enemy here. They’re trying to give all these things away, and they can’t afford it, and so they come back to try to address the unaffordability with things like that…

Digby calls it "gibberish." That's a pretty accurate take. If you read the whole interview -- well, I couldn't find a real thought in it, but maybe you can unearth something.

I'm not sure I agree with Digby's assessment -- she thinks people like Halvorson are too stupid to do that much harm, but if that idiot gets elected to Congress -- and we've already seen equally incoherent far-right candidates not only win primaries but win elections -- he's in a position to do some real damage.

Blast From the Past

I don't quite believe that I'm sitting here listening to Ace of Base, an ABBA clone from the '90s.

Previews of Coming Attractions

This one looks good -- the Captain America sequel, due out in April, 2014:

Of course it's on my must-see list -- Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Guess It's Too Easy For the Teabaggers To Figure Out

Digby has a good summary of the forecasts on Social Security from way back when, and makes a couple of good points.

This is one I hadn't thought of:

Current projections show that we might have a shortfall in a couple of decades. That is not because they failed to plan properly. It's because something unexpected happened in our economy:
The SS payroll tax currently applies only to income below $110,100 a year, while any dollar an individual makes over that amount is not subject to the tax. So the growth in inequality since the late 1970s has pushed ever more income out of the reach of the payroll tax. When the formula for setting the cap was reformed in 1983, only 10 percent of earnings in the country escaped the tax. By 2008, that had grown to 16 percent...

As fewer and fewer people command more and more of the income, the amount subject to the payroll tax shrinks. Which, for any logical thinker, leads to a very simple solution:

The rest of that [shortfall] could easily be made up by raising the amount the high earners pay in beyond what it would have been.

In other words, raise the cap on payroll taxes.

David Atkins has an observation that I think is germane, embedded in a post about the deficit queens/anti-Obamacare militants, but I think offering an insight into the psychology of the whole camp:

It works because most of the deficit fetishists never actually cared about the deficit, per se. The deficit is just a symbol to them of a moral laxitude about a culture of dependency that can only be fixed by slashing social spending and forcing people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. It's a social, moralistic fetish, not a regretted position based on actuarial review.

Obamacare makes real people's lives a little easier, and makes insurance company CEO's lives a little bit harder. The deficit fetishists don't actually care whether it saves the country money. Morally, it feels wrong to them that the poor aren't suffering more. It never was about the deficit in the first place.

Of course, for these jerks, everything is a moral issue. It's a real shame they have no moral foundation themselves. They sort of typify what I think Pope Francis meant by this:
At last Thursday’s mass, the Pope said that “when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people,” Pope Francis I said. “But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

Because scratch a teabagger and you'll uncover a "Christian."

A Breather

Via Digby, a look at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. I like this one:

There aren't any car graveyards around here, but it's the sort of thing you might stumble across in the city.  I once had sparrows nesting on a window ledge under an air conditioner.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marriage News Watch, October 21, 2013

With, as always, Matt Baume:

With a late-breaking update: The State of New Jersey has dropped its appeal. Cue the buzzwords:

“Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the Court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law. The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”

Um, excuse me, Gov. Christie? Judicial review is part of the constitutional process. Your marriage law is unconstitutional. Get it? (Oh, and get the part about the law being "dictated" by the Supreme Court. Gotta get those teabaggers frothing at the mount, y'know.)

Footnote: There is litigation in progress in 20 states.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Culture Break: Akhenaten, "The Window of Appearances"

I may make this a regular feature. It's amazing what you can find on YouTube.

Any rate, Akhenaten is probably my favorite opera by Philip Glass, or by anyone, for that matter, and this is one of the most beautiful parts. The video quality isn't perfect, but the sound is good,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Role Models

Boy Scout leaders. In Utah:

A group of Boy Scout leaders is potentially facing felony charges for destroying a rock formation nearly 200 million years old.

The trio of men was adventuring in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park when they decided to film themselves knocking over one of the formations, known as "goblins."

One man can be seen leveraging himself against a nearby rock and pushing a formation over.

"We have now modified Goblin Valley," the cameraman crows. "A new Goblin Valley exists with, uh, this boulder down here on the bottom. Muscles here pushed it off."

The three laugh, cheer and high five each other.

"Savin' lives is what we're about"? I think any rational personal would call it "vandalism."

Assholes. I hope the authorities stick them with massive fines.

I had to repost this

From a commenter at AmericaBlog:

It pushes all my buttons.

Number Fourteen (Updated)

New Jersey. In case you missed it yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court has declined to grant a stay on the order of the Superior Court that marriages begin on Monday, 10/21, although it will hear arguments in January. The decision, which doesn't leave a lot of room for speculation on how the Court will ultimately rule, is a slap in the face as Chris Christie, although it does enable him to campaign during the 2016 primaries on the "activist judges" mantra. From the opinion:

The State presents three arguments to show that its appeal has a reasonable probability of success. First, the State claims that plaintiffs “will not be able to overcome the highest presumption of constitutional validity that attaches to statutory enactments.” Once again, Judge Jacobson did not strike down a statute. The Civil Union Act, while it may not see much use in the coming months, remains available for people who choose to use it. Even more important, though, the statute was presumptively valid “so long as” it provided full and equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples. Lewis, supra, 188 N.J. at 423. Based on recent events, the Civil Union Act no longer achieves that purpose.

Second, the State argues that plaintiffs’ “claims fail on federalism grounds.” Underlying part of this argument is the State’s interpretation of Windsor, which, as noted above, is at odds with the practice of the federal government. Although the State claims that the federal government must “defer to the states in matters concerning domestic relations,” federal agency rulings are following New Jersey’s rule about who may marry.

Third, the State claims that plaintiffs’ equal protection claim must fail because “the State’s action is not legally cognizable.” The State argues that it has followed Lewis and provided “same-sex couples with all State marriage benefits,” and that it cannot be responsible for “federal bureaucrats that … refused to extend federal benefits.”

Lewis is not limited in that way. The decision recognized that it could not alter federal law, Lewis, supra, 188 N.J. at 459 n.25, yet at the same time directed the State to provide same-sex couples “the full rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples,” id. at 463 (emphasis added) Lewis left it to the Legislature to revise State law in a way that satisfied the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Id. at 457-62. And the State acted in response. It enacted the Civil Union Act and created a structure that allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil union but not to marry. See N.J.S.A. 37:1-28 to -36. That structure today provides the framework for decisions by federal authorities. The State’s statutory scheme effectively denies committed same-sex partners in New Jersey the ability to receive federal benefits now afforded to married partners. The trial court therefore correctly found cognizable action by the State.

We conclude that the State has not shown a reasonable probability or likelihood of success on the merits.
Emphasis added.

Translation: Gov. Christie, stop wasting everyone's time with this.

Here's the full decision:

GSE v. Dow - Supreme Court Opinion on Stay Motion

And right on cue, here's Brian Brown foaming at the mouth about "activist judges." Here's the part that demonstrates that not only does Brown not understand the American system of government, he doesn't like it:

The definition of marriage is something that should be decided by the people of New Jersey themselves, not by any judge or court. New Jerseyans should have the right to vote on this issue just as voters in nearly three dozen other states have done.

Sorry, Brian -- who ever told you that the majority has the right to vote on the fundamental rights of minorities? It doesn't, and never did. Which is why all the referendums passed in those "nearly three dozen" states are going to be going down the toilet in short order -- they have no validity when measured against the Constitution. You've heard of the Constitution? That's where you find the Bill of Rights.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sleep Is Good For You

I love things like this, on a couple of levels: first, these are studies that confirm what we already knew, which is nice. I like it even better when they don't, but you take what you can get.

Second, I like it when they show how what we already knew actually works.
The latest work, led by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center, adds fresh evidence to a long-standing view: When we close our eyes, our brains go on a cleaning spree.

The team previously found a plumbing network in mouse brains that flushes out cellular waste. For the new study, the scientists injected the brains of mice with beta-amyloid, a substance that builds up in Alzheimer's disease, and followed its movement. They determined that it was removed faster from the brains of sleeping mice than awake mice.

The team also noticed that brain cells tend to shrink during sleep, which widens the space between the cells. This allows waste to pass through that space more easily.

Housecleaning, painlessly. I love it.

The Shutdown

OK -- it's over. Until January 15. Everybody's claiming victory. Y'know what? Everybody lost. Shutting down the government is a no-win situation, always has been, always will be.

The President's saying it won't happen again. The teabaggers are ready to come right back with more impossible demands. (I mean, how many times does a bill to repeal the ACA have to fail before they get the message?) Every time I see Ted Cruz, he looks creepier, more beady-eyed.

Buncha bullshit, right down the line. We should just throw everyone out and start over again. One new requirement for congresscritters: net worth must be less than $500,000. (And I'm being generous.)

Culture Break: Bizet with Beefcake (Updated)

Courtesy of Aksarbent, we have this wonderful video for you, of "Au fond du temple saint" from The Pearl Fishers, featuring William Burden and Nathan Gunn:

And yes, there really is a website devoted to hunky baritones, called, appropriately enough, Barihunks.

Update: I realized I only have Pearl Fishers on LP, so I ordered a CD. And spent some time yesterday listening to Carmen.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

And On the Other Side of the Coin

There's Louie Gohmert (R-Wonderland):

Follow the logic? See, if the House refuses to do its Constitutionally mandated duty and raise the debt limit, that's grounds for impeaching the President. Because everything is grounds for impeaching the President. Because it worked so well the last time.

Boy Wonder

What would you say if I told you that a fifteen year-old had come up with a way to diagnose pancreatic cancer in its early stages? Well, one did. His name is Jack Andraka, he's now sixteen, and he shows no signs of slowing down:

Oh, by the way -- although it's not mentioned in the video, he also happens to be gay.

Question for the Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, the American Catholic bishops, Brian Brown and all the "will bash for cash" crowd: what have you done lately to save people's lives?

And a stray thought: I doubt anyone has done a survey for this information, but I wonder what proportion of doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers -- those in the helping professions, as they're called -- are gay, as opposed to the proportion who are evangelical "Christians."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Marriage News Watch, October 14, 2013

Cliff hangers this week.

Fed Up

Me and most of the country. Just a few shorts from the recent news to highlight what a mess we're dealing with.

First, some background: before they were teabaggers, they were already crazy. This piece by Adam Gopnick lays out the latest stage in the longevity of the loony right:

As it happens, I’ve been doing some reading about John Kennedy, and what I find startling, and even surprising, is how absolutely consistent and unchanged the ideology of the extreme American right has been over the past fifty years, from father to son and now, presumably, on to son from father again. The real analogue to today’s unhinged right wing in America is yesterday’s unhinged right wing in America. This really is your grandfather’s right, if not, to be sure, your grandfather’s Republican Party. Half a century ago, the type was much more evenly distributed between the die-hard, neo-Confederate wing of the Democratic Party and the Goldwater wing of the Republicans, an equitable division of loonies that would begin to end after J.F.K.’s death. (A year later, the Civil Rights Act passed, Goldwater ran, Reagan emerged, and we began the permanent sorting out of our factions into what would be called, anywhere but here, a party of the center right and a party of the extreme right.)

Reading through the literature on the hysterias of 1963, the continuity of beliefs is plain: Now, as then, there is said to be a conspiracy in the highest places to end American Constitutional rule and replace it with a Marxist dictatorship, evidenced by a plan in which your family doctor will be replaced by a federal bureaucrat—mostly for unnamable purposes, but somehow involving the gleeful killing off of the aged. There is also the conviction, in both eras, that only a handful of Congressmen and polemicists (then mostly in newspapers; now on TV) stand between honest Americans and the apocalypse, and that the man presiding over that plan is not just a dupe but personally depraved, an active collaborator with our enemies, a secret something or other, and any necessary means to bring about the end of his reign are justified and appropriate. And fifty years ago, as today, groups with these beliefs, far from being banished to the fringe of political life, were closely entangled and intertwined with Senators and Congressmen and right-wing multi-millionaires.

Via Anne Laurie, Balloon Juice.

From Birchers to this isn't such a big step:
I guess Larry Klayman couldn't wait until November 16, his own self-imposed deadline date for the President to "voluntarily" leave the White House, because he showed up at today's wingnut soireƩ, demanding that President Obama "put the Koran down" and "come out with his hands up."

This isn't new for Klayman, whose reputation stretches all the way back to the Clinton years. But in recent months, he's been ramping up the rhetoric and stoking up those people who want a reason to believe that President Obama does not hold his office legitimately.

In July, he called for the military to overthrow him.

In September, he vowed to force the "evil tyrant Obama" from office by November 16th. Then he slid the date to November 19th.

Just last week, he sadly announced that he believed violent revolution was imminent.

This is the Larry Klayman whom Ed Brayton calls "the stupidest lawyer in America whose name isn't Orly Taitz or Mat Staver." He's not only stupid, he's crazy.

And another priceless bit, this time from the teabaggers' darling of the week (hey, he may even last the whole month), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Canada):

On Sunday, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz converged on Washington, D.C., to co-headline a protest against the federal government's closure of the World War II Memorial. It is perhaps not surprising that one of the more cynical and patently ridiculous statements made by a politician during the shutdown emerged out of that occasion. (It IS mildly surprising that Sarah Palin didnt say it.) Cruz, the junior senator from Texas asked the crowd "a simple question" that in fact included a very complex layer of sophisty. "Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?”

Noreen Malone unpacks this one at New Republic.

And speak of the devil (and his henchman):

Makes me want to puke. If there were the slightest indication that either of them were honest, I might feel differently, but Cruz, at least, is like a secular Tony Perkins -- cynical con man.

That protest, by the way, was a real triumph -- complete with Confederate flags and racist epithets. (Oh, and in case you think the racism charge is too easy, Paul Krugman has an insight on that. Warning: he's not trying to be polite.)

And it occurs to me that this echoes something I've seen in the professional gay bashers lately, in an even more obvious form: when you're losing the fight (and the GOP does not like the recent poll numbers), focus on picking nits. Vets at the WWII memorial? The freakin' Statue of Liberty is closed because you assholes shut down the government. WIC programs across the country are running out of money, the NIH has had to stop taking new patients for clinical trials on cancer drugs, and you're worried about a cheap barricade in Washington?

The bottom line is they put their foot it in, the country really hates them right now, but Oh! Looky there at the bright sparkly things!

Does anyone wonder why I'm really into escapism these days?

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Actually, I probably could have, but this way, I don't have to.
See, you live in what is, despite recent appearances, a modern civilized society with a functioning government. And what government does is that it takes your money and spends it on services for everyone in the society. Remember the You Are Dumb Official Retort To Glibertarians:

Taxation is not theft. It's the cover charge to get into civilization.

My dentist, of all people, started carrying on about taxes -- in the vein of "Don't we pay too much in taxes?", to which I replied "For which we get roads and bridges, stop lights, firefighters, schools and teachers, and a whole bunch of other things."

He dropped the subject.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Marriage News Watch, October 7, 2013

Busy week.

Who Told You Science Had All the Answers?

I love this paper and the responses, mostly because it really points up what science is all about -- asking questions and testing hypotheses.
Chalk up one more disagreement to one of the most contentious issues in human prehistory: the question of who settled the Americas. A decade ago, intellectual battles raged over a bold synthesis of linguistic, genetic, and dental data named after co-creator Joseph Greenberg, a Stanford University linguist. The Greenberg theory suggested that the first Americans arrived from Asia in at least three separate waves, each wave giving rise to one of three linguistic groups. Linguists opposed putting the diverse languages of most native Americans into one "Amerind" group, but the theory fit dental and genetic evidence from several labs, including Wallace's.

But now the pillar of support from genetics is showing cracks, thanks to new data from Merriwether and others, including a European team whose review is published in the October issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics. Additional DNA samples and better resolution show that native Americans aa diverse as the Eskimos of Alaska and the Kraho and Yanomami of Brazil share more gene types than previously thought, which suggest that they are descended from the same founding populations in Asia-and that their ancestors entered North America in only one or two migratory waves, says Oxford University evolutionary geneticist Ryk Ward. Scientists are already searching for those ancestors' closest kin in Siberia and Mongolia.

It gets better. (Or worse, I guess, depending on your attitude toward linguistics, genetics, and paleoanthropology.)

Aside from the tempest in an academic teapot, I think this illustrates something very important about the problems that some conservatives have with science: they expect it to provide answers, preferably carved in stone. The problem is that science can't do that, both because of the way it's structured, and because the universe itself doesn't seem to operate on absolutes -- every answer we've come up with in science, except for broad, general theories, seems to be either temporary or a special case. ("Ah hah!" you say, "What about the speed of light?" To which I reply, "What's the speed of the light generated by a neutron star or a black hole?" And try pinning down the bases for human behaviors.)

I chalk it up to the way our whole way of thinking has been conditioned by authority-based religion.

But then, I usually do.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Compare and Contrast

John Cole's lead says it all about this story:

“I don’t think that the government should be involved in health care or health insurance,” says Greg Collett, a 41-year-old software developer in Caldwell, Idaho, who would rather pay the fine for now -- $95 the first year -- than signup.

“I calculated it out and it is cheaper for me for the next four years to pay the fine rather than get coverage,” Collett said. “At some point where it would make financial sense to pay for insurance rather than pay fines, I will make the decision from a financial standpoint.”

And what if he gets sick?

But his children are covered:

Collett, who is married and has 10 children, says the kids are covered by Medicaid, the joint state-federal health insurance plan for people with low income and children who are not covered.

But it’s “absolutely not okay,” that they are, Collett says quickly. “There are a lot of people out there that’ll cry foul."

Collett, whose children are home-schooled, likens taking Medicaid to sending children to public school. He also does not approve of government-funded public schools. “The government is taking your money. They are spending it on things they shouldn’t be,” he says. “Trying to get whatever you can back -- I have nothing against that. You have to at some point try and get your tax dollars back.”

It's absolutely not OK, but he's doing it anyway. This is what we're up against in this country. Read the article -- there's more.

And on the other hand, there's this:
Switzerland will hold a vote on whether to introduce a basic income for all adults, in a further sign of growing public activism over pay inequality since the financial crisis.

A grassroots committee is calling for all adults in Switzerland to receive an unconditional income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) per month from the state, with the aim of providing a financial safety net for the population.

Switzerland has also imposed strict limits on executive pay.

I'm reminded of the fact that Germany weathered the meltdown in 2008-2009 much better than most other countries, largely because it has a very strong social safety net, including adequate unemployment insurance -- money that went right back into the economy. Of course, I also remember that Germany was campaigning for other countries to cut their spending -- on things like social safety nets.

But on the whole, Europe, at least the parts of it with their collective heads screwed on straight (I'm not counting Britain, which behaved very stupidly with its "austerity" budgets), when faced with things like gross income disparity, faltering consumer demand, and the like, does something about it.

How's that for getting some of your tax dollars back?

Saturday, October 05, 2013


Here's a choice video of Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Lipton's) confronting a Park ranger at the WWII memorial. She keeps her cool.

Notice how he cuts and runs when someone in the crowd confronts him over his hypocrisy.

And the comments at YouTube are scathing.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Time For a Change

For some reason, it entered my head this morning to listen to Tummel's Payback Time. You've probably never heard of Tummel, unless you are fortunate enough to live in Sweden, or at least nearby. I had the good fortune to receive a copy of the album for review several years ago. It was quite an experience.

"Banghri-La" is one of the more -- um, restrained offerings on the album:

I recommend you check out their YouTube channel. It's bound to lift your mood.

And it doesn't have anything to do with the government shut-down or Obamacare.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Words Fail Me

In any language. This story provided the perfect hook for catching up on the week. And this strikes me as the perfect summation:

I don't know what universe Perino lives in -- although I could make a couple of guesses -- but let me explain something. I live in Chicago, and like other major cities in this country (and probably just about any other country), it's pretty cosmopolitan. I am likely to hear three or four languages being spoken while riding the bus, including a couple of West African languages. The county hospital has notices posted in English, Spanish, and Polish, and interpreters available in a number of other languages. The county Board of Election Commissioners sends out mailings in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Hindi. (Those are the ones I recognize.) The guy who cleans here is Russian; I help him with his English.

So, ACA help in 150 languages? That sounds about right.

What's obvious to me, if not to Perino and the Fox News gaggle, is that the ACA is proving to be overwhelmingly popular -- their biggest nightmare come to life. Since they can't really address the response, they're reduced to picking at irrelevancies, with an added perk: they get to throw some red meat to their racist, insular base, who are, if anything, even more ignorant than they are.

Oh, and for the shutdown -- how's that working out for you teabaggers in Congress?

Republicans insisted they wanted to shut down the nation's 3-year-old health care overhaul, not the government. They got the opposite, and now struggle to convince the public that responsibility for partial closure of the federal establishment lies with President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

There's ample evidence otherwise, beginning with Speaker John Boehner's refusal to permit the House to vote on Senate-passed legislation devoted solely to reopening the government.

The public overwhelmingly blames the Republicans for the shutdown.

Digby has a good post on the coverage of the mess -- at the local level. I've discovered that local coverage on national events is usually better than the national sources -- like, they're still committing journalism in the local papers and TV stations.

There's still a lot of speculation in the press and the blogsphere, of the "where do we go to from here?" variety, including a lot of "who's going to blink?", up to and including the proposition that the teabaggers are delighted and fully intend to shut down the government permanently. We'll see how far that goes. So far, in spite of their attempts, they're not managing to pin the mess on Obama. What they don't seem to have figured out is that most Americans are smarter than their base. Maybe that's because they only listen to their base.

Josh Marshall has a good comment:

The down and outs have hijacked the school bus and taken the kids captive. But now the cops have shown up. They're surrounded. It's pretty clear our heroes are not getting the million dollars in unmarked bills or the plane to Cuba or Shangri-La or ThreeTimeLoserStan. So now they're fidgety and angry, a mix of desperate and threatening. They're not even sure what they want or perhaps more candidly, what they can get. But they better get something!

It gets better: cue the terrorists.

CRUZ: If the Senate cooperates, we could get this passed by the end of the day. We could respond to the national security threat these two gentlemens [sic] have laid out. The only impediment to doing so is the prospects that Majority Leader Harry Reid would object to doing so. If, God forbid, we see an attack on the United States because the intelligence community was not adequately funded, every member of the committee would be horrified. So I hope issues of partisan politics can be set aside and we can all come together and pass, right now by the end of the day, a continuing resolution to fully fund the Department of Defense and intelligence community.

The story points out one salient fact, in case anyone has forgotten:

What Cruz did not mention during his speech was that the he is the reason a separate bill would be needed at all. For weeks, he and his allies in the House and Senate have insisted that any continuing resolution that fund the government past Sept. 30 would have to remove funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Unintended consequences, anyone?