Daily Archive: 03/27/2013

Mar 27 2013

Protecting Social Security from Inaccurate Accounting with an Agenda

I was asked to contribute to the Daily Kos Social Security blogathon today to draw attention to the neoliberal attack on it. I hope you visit and like my contribution.

I have referenced this before, but there hasn’t really been enough of a movement on the this issue, and it’s an important one. It’s specifically important right now when Washington DC is completely stuck on stupid in a self created crisis. This crisis started in 2010 when the debt ceiling was not secured in the Bush tax cut deal with Republicans by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Many of us predicted it would lead to the debt ceiling debacle in 2011 which in turn led to the fiscal cliff negotiations and the sequester that is now a reality.

However, it could end anytime with House Democratic Representative John Conyer’s bill to just repeal the sequester; that is, if he got proper support. I think that needs to be a goal along with forever protecting Social Security from neoliberal economics and the politicians that support it. After all, this sequester was a conscious bipartisan decision on their part to put Social Security in danger now that a 130 billion net cut within the chained(superlative) CPI is now on the White House’s website in its proposal to stand in place of the sequester.

What we are hearing to justify it are not only exaggerations and lies about Social Security being unsustainable, those lies are based on inaccurate accounting standards that have pervaded our entire government; the CBO, and yes, even the Social Security Trustees Board itself at times over the years. Let’s face it; the Social Security Trustees Board has a broad history of being overly pessimistic.

Mar 27 2013

Dick Durbin’s new Social Security reform commission

Have you heard about Dick Durbin’s proposal for a new Social Security reform commission?  It sounds remarkably like the failed Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission, complete with special rules that allow its recommendations, if approved by the commission, to take the express route to the floor of Congress for a vote with no amendments and limited debate.  

The number two Democrat in the Senate championing this bipartisan bill was asked if this new commission would be like the Greenspan commission of the 1980’s and he said that he prefers to refer to it as similar to Simpson-Bowles.  One of the most interesting things about it is that this time, the commission won’t be dissolved after it finishes its work.  It comes back to life every ten years.

So while we are very happy that the Senate rejected Chained CPI in the budget that they passed last week, the reason why it was rejected is most likely because a separate commission for “reforming” Social Security is on the way, and there are other reasons to use caution while considering the weight and effect of the Sanders amendment.

In a recent article, Dean Baker wonders why the media elites did not find the Sanders amendment to be newsworthy.  I agree with his points about the national media corruption on the subject, and that they have been pushing their favorable opinion on cuts, and how the facts and arguments against the cuts have been curiously absent in their reporting and their programs.

Senate Unanimously Votes Against Cuts to Social Security: Media Don’t Notice

This is why the vote on the Sanders amendment should have been newsworthy. Here was an opportunity for all the senators who have explicitly or implicitly supported the adoption of the chained CPI to step up and say why the switch to the chained CPI was a good and necessary measure. However, not one senator was prepared to stand up and argue the case. Not one member of the senate wanted to go on record in support of this cut to Social Security.

With all the Republicans who pronounce endlessly on the need to cut entitlement spending, there was not a single Republican senator who was prepared to say that switching the Social Security COLA to a chained CPI was a good idea. And even though President Obama has repeatedly stated as clearly as he could that he supported the switch to a chain CPI, there was not one Democratic senator who was prepared to stand up and speak in solidarity with the president.

But let’s not get complacent. There is nothing that the media elite and the proponents of Social Security cuts would like more than for us to let our guard down and say “phew, now we can relax because the Senate said they oppose chained CPI cuts to Social Security.”  In fact, it would not surprise me at all if the reason that this amendment was allowed to the Senate floor by the Democratic leadership was that it might calm down the grassroots left and organizations like AARP and give us a false sense of security, resulting in less organizing, less protesting, while they form a new commission prepare the way for the cuts that they are clearly determined to impose.  

The people in power who want to cut Social Security have been working at this for decades, with renewed fervor in recent years, some of them spending millions for astroturf groups, propaganda campaigns, and influence over elected officials.  One non-binding amendment in the Senate is no hurdle for them and if anything, I believe they will try to use it to their advantage.

Some other cautions about the Sanders amendment:  

1) The amendment was framed as opposition to using chained CPI for veterans benefits.

2) The amendment is non-binding.

3) While Sen. Sanders tried to get a roll call vote, he was persuaded by Sen. Murray to accept a voice vote, so none of the Senators, except the sponsors of the amendment, are on the record. The sponsors are: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  Four senators.

4) Sen. Burr of North Carolina is on the record as saying he “supported protecting veterans, but supported using chained CPI elsewhere”.

Mar 27 2013

Ham I Am

Boneless Ham

Slashed Ham with Crust a la Ma Mae

Mar 27 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is  Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The corporate ‘predator state’

Bipartisan agreement in Washington usually means citizens should hold on to their wallets or get ready for another threat to peace. In today’s politics, the bipartisan center usually applauds when entrenched interests and big money speak. Beneath all the partisan bickering, bipartisan majorities are solid for a trade policy run by and for multinationals, a health-care system serving insurance and drug companies, an energy policy for Big Oil and King Coal, and finance favoring banks that are too big to fail.

Economist James Galbraithcalls this the “predator state,” one in which large corporate interests rig the rules to protect their subsidies, tax dodges and monopolies. This isn’t the free market; it’s a rigged market.

Maureen Dowd: Courting Cowardice

As the arguments unfurled in Tuesday’s case on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court justices sounded more and more cranky.

Things were moving too fast for them.

How could the nine, cloistered behind velvety rose curtains, marble pillars and archaic customs, possibly assess the potential effects of gay marriage? They’re not psychics, after all.  [..]

While Justice Alito can’t see into the future, most Americans can. If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court.

Jessica Valente: What’s So Funny About Steubenville?

Feminists breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday when two young men in Steubenville, Ohio, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were found guilty of raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl. In a case where social media, texts and video painted a clear-as-day picture of the horrors that happened that night, anything other than a guilty verdict was unthinkable.

But the trial outcome doesn’t change the fact that these two men, along with a party of onlookers, didn’t think anything was wrong-or even out of the ordinary-about sexually violating someone. And as the media and public response to the trial demonstrated, it’s not just the rapists who believe penetrating an unconscious girl is little more than teenage party hijinks. The truth is that for all of our cultural bluster surrounding rape-how awful it is, how it must be stopped-we’re still a country that treats sexual assault as a joke.

Amanda Marcotte: What North Dakota and Mississippi Reveal About Anti-Choice NIMBYism and Hypocrisy

With the legal struggle in Mississippi working through what may be its last phases and North Dakota on the brink of closing down its last clinic through a TRAP law requiring unnecessarily that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals, it seems that the NIMBYism strategy of anti-choicers may finally have reached the end goal of completely eliminating access to legal abortion in some states. Beyond just the gross misogyny on display in these efforts, what we’re seeing here is the triumph of symbolic politics over real world issues such as realistic policy goal-setting and the health of the population. Not that this should be any surprise. Like fundamentalist hypocrites from the beginning of time, anti-choicers have always been more interested in putting up appearances than dealing with people’s lived realities.

Kristina Lapinski: Op-ed: The 6 Most Absurd Prop. 8 Briefs

The Supreme Court has managed to attract some of the most outlandish of arguments from some familiar antigay figures.

Nine U.S. Supreme Court justices hear arguments today in the Proposition 8 case and in the Defense of Marriage Act case on Wednesday. For the past few weeks briefs have flowed into the Supreme Court in an attempt to persuade the justices, from both sides of the issue. Gay U.S.A. The Movie has compiled a list of the most absurd amici briefs submitted by the anti-equality proponents: [..]

Under the Supreme Court’s rules, a brief from an amicus curiae, “friend of the Court,” is supposed to bring to the Court’s attention  “relevant matter not already brought to its attention by the parties.”  If a brief does not conform, then the rule adds, the document “burdens the Court, and its filing is not favored.”   While to some extent these absurd arguments may be unique, one can only wonder to what extent such garbage could impact the nine.

Joan Walsh: How not to seem like a racist

A tip for right-wingers angry about charges of racial bias: Try treating the Obama daughters with decency

Writing my piece on Andrew Breitbart and Tucker Carlson, I missed a huge example of overlap between their two sham-empires: the reporter who broke the Caller’s now-disgraced “scoop” about Sen. Robert Menendez patronizing prostitutes, Matthew Boyle, now works for Breitbart.com. And on Monday he penned the ridiculous story revealing the location of Malia and Sasha’s spring break vacation (which is now at the top of the Drudge Report).

On Twitter Monday and Tuesday, Breitbart fans attacked my focus on their hero’s bizarre racially driven crusades. They continue to insist that they’re being unfairly tarred with the charge of racism, when they’re the real “post-racialists” who just don’t like Barack Obama because he’s a liberal. I have some advice for right-wingers who don’t want it to seem like their anti-Obama animus is racial: Try treating his daughters with respect.

Mar 27 2013

On This Day In History March 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 27 is the 86th day of the year (87th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 279 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1939, March Madness is born.

The University of Oregon defeats The Ohio State University 46-33 on this day in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown exponentially in size and popularity since 1939. By 2005, college basketball had become the most popular sporting event among gamblers, after the Super Bowl. The majority of that betting takes place at tournament time, when Las Vegas, the internet and office pools around the country see action from sports enthusiasts and once-a-year gamblers alike.

For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. That number grew steadily until a 65-team tournament format was unveiled in 2001. After a “play-in” game between the 64th and 65th seeds, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.

March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March, especially those conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and various state high school associations. Fans began connecting the term to the NCAA tournament in the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who had worked for many years in Chicago before joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts. The phrase had not already become associated with the college tournament when an Illinois official wrote in 1939 that “A little March Madness [may] contribute to sanity.” March Madness is also a registered trademark, held jointly by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association. It was also the title of a book about the Illinois high school tournament written in 1977 by Jim Enright.

H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (and later a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame) was the first person to use March Madness to describe a basketball tournament. Porter published an essay named March Madness in 1939 and in 1942 used the phrase in a poem, “Basketball Ides of March.” Through the years the use of March Madness picked up steam, especially in Illinois, Indiana, and other parts of the Midwest. During this period the term was used almost exclusively in reference to state high school tournaments. In 1977 the IHSA published a book about its tournament titled March Madness.

Only in the 1990s did either the IHSA or NCAA think about trademarking the term, and by that time a small television production company named Intersport, Inc., had beaten them both to the punch. IHSA eventually bought the trademark rights from Intersport and then went after big game, suing GTE Vantage, Inc., an NCAA licensee that used the name March Madness for a computer game based on the college tournament. In a historic ruling, “Illinois High School Association v. GTE Vantage, Inc.” (1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit created the concept of a “dual-use trademark,” granting both the IHSA and NCAA the right to trademark the term for their own purposes.

Following the ruling, the NCAA and IHSA joined forces and created the March Madness Athletic Association to coordinate the licensing of the trademark and investigate possible trademark infringement. One such case involved a company that had obtained the Internet domain name marchmadness.com and was using it to post information about the NCAA tournament. After protracted litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in March Madness Athletic Association v. Netfire, Inc. (2003) that March Madness was not a generic term and ordered Netfire to relinquish the domain name. (This domain name is currently being used to redirect into the main NCAA.com web site.)

In recent years, the term “March Madness” has been expanded to include all conference tournaments in college basketball, with the term “The Big Dance” being used more frequently when specifically referring to the NCAA Tournament. March Madness has also has been used generally to describe all basketball tournaments across the country that occur in the month of March – high school and college, male and female.

The coverage and live blogging of all the 2011 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championship are happening here at The Stars Hollow Gazette.

Mar 27 2013

“You Need Something Bigger For Your Hairpin Trigger”

Actor and comedian Jim Carrey took on the right win gun nuts and the gun lobbyist organization, the National Rifle Assosciation.

Jim Carrey’s ‘Cold Dead Hand’ Music Video Spoofs Gun Enthusiasts Like Charlton Heston

The late Charlton Heston might be rolling in his grave today thanks to Jim Carrey, who debuted a new satirical song about gun enthusiasts appropriately titled, “Cold Dead Hand.”

The Funny Or Die music video features Carrey and alt-rock band Eels as “Lonesome Earl And The Clutterbusters,” a country band on a TV show set inspired by the classic variety show, “Hee Haw.” Carrey also portrays the aforementioned Heston, who is continuously mocked throughout the song for his NRA spokesman-ship. Carrey even implies that Heston and all other gun enthusiasts buy weapons to compensate for having, um, “diminished” sexual organs.

Carrey, who has openly supported gun control, said in a release: “I find the gun problem frustrating and ‘Cold Dead Hand’ is my fun little way of expressing that frustration.”

I think Jim Carrey says it all in this Tweet

And here is the video that set them off.

Priceless.

Mar 27 2013

Curing Capitalism

Economist Richard Wolff discusses how austerity is making economic problems worse and the cure for these economic woes.

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.



Full transcript here

   AMY GOODMAN: Professor Wolff, before we end, I want to turn back to the crisis in Cyprus and relate it to what’s happening here. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News warned his audience last week that Cyprus and other European countries are facing economic hardships because they’re so-called “nanny states.”

       BILL O’REILLY: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cyprus, all broke. And other European nations are close. Why? Because they’re nanny states, and there are not enough workers to support all the entitlements these progressive paradises are handing out.

   AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Richard?

   RICHARD WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economic professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as nanny states, then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier-Portugal, Spain and Italy; the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below 5 percent. Ours is pushing between 7 and 8 percent. So, please, get your facts right, Mr. O’Reilly.

   The nanny state, you call it, the program of countries like Germany and Scandinavia, who tax their people heavily, by all means, but who provide them with social services that would be the envy of the United States-a national health program that takes care of you, whether you’re employed or not, and gives you proper healthcare. In France, for example, the law says when you go to work, you get five weeks’ paid vacation. That’s not an option; that’s the law. You get support when you’re a new parent for your child care and so forth. They provide services. And they are successful in Germany and Scandinavia, much more than we are in the United States and much more than those countries in the south.

   So they’re not broken, the south, because they’re nanny states, since the nanny states, par excellence, are doing better than everyone. The actual truth of Mr. O’Reilly is the opposite of what he says. The more you do nanny state, the better off you are during a crisis and to minimize the cost of the crisis. That’s what the European economic situation actually teaches. He’s just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.

H/t Heather at Crooks and Liars

Capitalism efficient? We can do so much better

by Richard Wolff, The Guardian

For all its vaunted efficiency, capitalism has foisted wasteful inequality and environmental ruin on us. There is an alternative

What’s efficiency got to do with capitalism? The short answer is little or nothing. Economic and social collapses in Detroit, Cleveland and many other US cities did not happen because production was inefficient there. Efficiency problems did not cause the longer-term economic declines troubling the US and western Europe.

Capitalist corporations decided to relocate production: first, away from such cities, and now, away from those regions. It has done so to serve the priorities of their major shareholders and boards of directors. Higher profits, business growth, and market share drive those decisions. As I say, efficiency has little or nothing to do with it.

Many goods and services once made in the US and western Europe for those markets are now produced elsewhere and transported back to them. That wastes resources spent on the costly relocation and consequent return transportation. The pollution (of air, sea and soil) associated with vast transportation networks – and the eventual cleaning up of that pollution – only enlarges that waste.