10/02/2013 archive

The Five Minute Rule

Over at Esquire’s Politics Blog, resident curmudgeon, Charles Pierce reminds us of his “five minute rule” with this little snippet:

If you listen to Crazy Uncle Liberty (!), Senator Aqua Buddha, or their disciples for five minutes, you find yourself nodding in agreement with almost everything they say. At precisely the 5:01 mark, however, the person to whom you’re listening will say something that detaches the entire conversation from the plane of physical reality and sends it sailing off into the ether.

As an example of the stupid that abounds, he presented a link to this video at a Rand Paul supporter’s web site.

I suppose those who signed the petition didn’t see the tee shirt. Sheesh.

The Affordable Care Act is a very flawed bill that lines the pockets of insurance companies by forcing people to purchase junk insurance that even if the premiums are low, the high out of pocket deductibles and co-pays make care unaffordable. Nor are the insured guaranteed access the treatment and medications they may need, since the bean counters can deny permission and referrals. These are facts that the government and media aren’t telling you

The only reason the right wing is trying to defund/repeal this law, which they can’t, is because they have nothing left to draw attention to themselves and try to scare people into believing that President Barack Obama is a socialist, even though has given the right wing and corporations nearly everything they’ve wanted, including the ACA. The war on the 99% continues from both sides of the aisle.

Cheaters 4 x 4

Bill Black: Why do Conservatives Oppose Prosecuting Elite Corporate Frauds?

William K Black, Naked Capitalism

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

There are at least four principles that virtually all conservatives purport to support – except when the potential defendant is socially elite. I have written previously about two of these principles on several occasions – the need for accountability and “broken windows” theory that calls for the prosecutors to make the prosecution of even minor street crimes a high priority if they have, even indirectly, a material effect on the community.

The third principle is that it is vital to punish in order to deter crime. Gary Becker, the very conservative Nobel laureate in economics, emphasized this point (again, in the context of street crime). Under Becker’s theory of crime our current practices of allowing elite banksters to become wealthy through leading the “sure thing” of accounting control fraud with immunity from the criminal laws will predictably lead to new, larger epidemics of fraud that will continue to cause our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. It is rare, however, to find a prominent conservative who is demanding a priority effort to prosecute the elite bank officers who ran those frauds. I know of no conservative member of Congress publicly making that demand today. Senator Chuck Grassley has previously criticized the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute elite bankers.

The fourth principle, the one this column addresses, is the conservative love of “creative destruction” – a concept made famous by the economist Joseph Schumpeter. I have a simple proposition – there is no more creative destruction than putting a control fraud out of business through a prosecution, receivership, or enforcement action. I have never met personally a conservative, however, who agrees with that proposition in the context of a large, elite corporation. When blue collar workers complain that their clothing manufacturing firm was put out of business by a rival firm that locates its plants in Bangladesh and is able to charge less for their goods because they pay their workers a pittance and “save” money by building factories that are death traps the conservative answer is to tell the U.S. workers to stop whining and light a candle on the altar devoted to the worship of capitalism celebrating the “creative destruction” of their jobs.

Conservatives should view control frauds as the supreme evil that they will devote their lives to eradicating. Control frauds are the ultimate betrayal of capitalism. First, they are the elite face of capitalism that gives capitalism a terrible name. They become wealthy not because they are skilled, innovative, or willing to take risk but because they cheat.

Second, control fraud harms not only the primary intended victim, e.g., the bank’s creditors and shareholders, but also honest firms by creating a “Gresham’s” dynamic in which bad ethics can drive good ethics out of the markets. George Akerlof was the first modern economist to explain this point in his famous 1970 article on anti-purchaser control frauds (“lemons”) that led to him becoming a Nobel laureate.

Third, control frauds are the agents of crony capitalism. Their CEOs may spout Randian sayings, but they are ultimate moochers who delight in translating their immense economic power into dominant political power that they use to defraud with impunity. Control frauds betray and destroy capitalism. If they are not stopped by the regulators and prosecutors (the “cops on the beat”) they destroy capitalism and democracy.

I urge conservatives to lead the charge for the creative destruction of the elite control frauds. This is one of the many critical areas in which people of different political views should be able to find common cause.

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 thea Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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Ana Marie Cox: GOP DWI? Otherwise I can’t account for Republicans forcing a shutdown

With the ‘no compromise’ fringe at the wheel, this government shutdown can only be a political car crash for Republicans

It is difficult to write rationally about the shutdown of the US government, because it is not a rational act. [..]

The GOP’s intransigence over these political stands, whatever you think of them as ideological positions, stems from simple political debts and selfish political goals. Conversely, policy positions that stem mostly from ideology or even practical knowledge of the problem at hand have some inherent flexibility; you can reason with people who have arrived at their position through reason. If your main goal is to solve a real-world problem, you can make concessions based on new real-world data. When policy goals are held largely for political reasons, only political arguments can move you.

Zoë Carpenter : Government Shutdown Will Hit Federal Workers, Poor Americans

The economic impact of a shutdown depends on how long it lasts, but workers and the poor are likely to be hit the hardest. About 800,000 of 2.1 million federal employees will be furloughed, with no guarantee of retroactive pay. “Essential” employees like active-duty service members, scientists posted to the International Space Station, mine inspectors for the Department of Labor, and Secret Service agents will continue to work, many without pay. The members of Congress creating the mess are considered essential, and will receive their paychecks.

Low-income women and children, on the other hand, may not be able to access food and health care. That’s because federal funds will not be available for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food benefits and clinical services. States may have enough cash to continue operations for a few days, but even federal contingency funds “would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October,” according to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Food stamp recipients would still receive their benefits through the SNAP program, but other nutritional programs would shut down.

Amanda Marcotte: Guys and guns, boys and toys

With America roamed by angry white dudes for whom firearms are a prop for lost power, what sort of message are kids getting?

America has a free-for-all gun culture, which, unsurprisingly, means that America also has a problem with children getting accidentally killed by guns. Specifically, America has a problem with boys in particular getting into accidents with guns, as reported by the New York Times. In its review of the data, the Times found that male shooters fired nearly all guns that were accidentally fired and killed a child. Boys made up 80% of the victims of accidental gun deaths of children. Reporters Michael Luo and Mike McIntire described boys as having a “magnetic attraction of firearms”, and added this:

   Time and again, boys could not resist handling a gun, disregarding repeated warnings by adults and, sometimes, their own sense that they were doing something wrong.

So, what is it with boys and guns? Presumably, the same thing that defines the relationship of grown men and guns.

Maureen Dowd: That’s Not Amore

John Boehner wakes up in his English basement apartment on Capitol Hill, his head still in a merlot fog.

It’s a glorious autumn morning, but Boehner doesn’t want to open his baby blues. He lies there, in his “Man of the House” T-shirt and Augusta National gym shorts.

He wishes he didn’t have to go to work. He reaches for his Camel Ultra Lights in his supposedly smoke-free apartment.

“Oh, Lord,” he growls. “How did I become that idiot Newt?”

Sarah Jane Stratford: The latest message to women: ‘Lean In’ at work, but ‘get retro’ at home

For all the glass ceilings women are breaking, we can’t get away from antiquated notions of how to be perfect housewives

2013 started out with a lot of “you go, girl” news. The US elections sent a record number of women to Congress, including 20 in the senate – a whole fifth – a harbinger of change not experienced since the 1970s. Then Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was published and despite some controversy, it brought modern women’s lives to the forefront of the national – and international – discussion. Women were encouraged to openly discuss their goals and ambitions and network with each other to achieve them.

But for all the “lean in” rallies and glass ceilings women are breaking, we can’t seem to get away from antiquated notions of how women must first and foremost be perfect wives. Women might be told to lean in at work, but the message is still, too often, “get retro” at home.

Robyn Greene: It’s Official: NSA Wants to Suck up All Americans’ Phone Records

The NSA has officially stopped sugar coating the fact that it wants to spy on every American.

At last Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on FISA legislation, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) asked NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander, whether his spy agency should be collecting all Americans’ phone records. Gen. Alexander, in a shockingly forthcoming response, admitted that he “believes] it is in the nation’s best interest to [put all the phone records into a lockbox that we can search when the nation needs it.” He also explained that “there is no upper limit” to the number of Americans’ phone records that the NSA can collect.

This admission is particularly unnerving in light of the last few months’ revelations of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of Americans’ communications under programs authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. And Sens. Wyden (D-Ore.) and Udall made it crystal clear that in spite of all that we have learned about these programs since the NSA leaks began, there may still be a lot that we don’t know – and as they’ve been warning since 2011, they think we deserve to find out.

On This Day In History October 2

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.

October 2 is the 275th day of the year (276th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 90 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, “The Twilight Zone” premiered on CBS television.

The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising plot twist and was usually brought to closure with some sort of message. The series was also notable for featuring both established stars (e.g. Cliff Robertson, Ann Blyth, Jack Klugman) and younger actors who would later became famous (e.g. Robert Redford, William Shatner, Mariette Hartley, Shelley Fabares). Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host, delivering on- or off-screen monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. During the first season, except for the season’s final episode, Serling’s narrations were off-camera voiceovers; he only appeared on-camera at the end of each show to promote the next episode (footage that was removed from syndicated versions but restored for DVD release, although some of these promotions exist today only in audio format).

The “twilight zone” itself is not presented as being a tangible plane, but rather a metaphor for the strange circumstances befalling the protagonists. Serling’s opening and closing narrations usually summarized the episode’s events in tones ranging from cryptic to pithy to eloquent to unsympathetic, encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had “entered the Twilight Zone”.

Let the Debate Continue

The Work of a Generation

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s words were entered as testimony at the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee in Brussels on Monday.

Jesselyn Radack of the US Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a former whistleblower and ethics adviser to the US Department of Justice, read Snowden’s statement into the record.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Transcript can be read here.

2013 Senior League Wild Card Sudden Death: Reds @ Pirates

Argh Mateys.  This be Cap’n Hank Bloodbeard and for the first time in a long, long time the Pirates be ready to pillage and plunder the Senior Circuit.  If’n it helps ye hate on the scurvy Reds remember they be the team o’ Pete Rose, a cut throat player who turned out to be so corrupt a Cap’n he’d bet agin’ his own side.

No Hall for you.  Ever.

The Reds be takin’ the field first behind Johnny Cueto (5 – 2, 2.82 ERA R).  He be better than he look, 8 – 2 at PNC Park, 7 – 2 with a 1.43 ERA in his last 12 starts agin’ the Pirates.

They be puttin’ up Francisco Liriano (16 – 8, 3.02 ERA L) who be vulnerable.  Liriano went 0-3 in four starts against the Reds this season though lack of run support be a significant factor.  But this be his home field, 8 – 1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 starts at PNC Park. And the Pirates keelhauled Cincinnati on the final weekend of the season.

The Pirates be in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.  They have 20 straight losing seasons, longest among the four major professional sports.  The Pirates went 50-31 at PNC Park this season 5 – 4 against the Reds.

The Reds be in the playoffs it for the third time in four years and are 13 – 7 against the Pirates in the postseason.  They also took two of three at PNC Park in their last series there Sept. 20 – 22.

And ye think this not be a grudge match between ’em they plunked 28 batsmen this season.

The format o’ the game be rightly called… Sudden Death.