Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yes, They Are What You Don't Want to Think They Are

Yes, Indeed They Are

What you see above are "cookies." These are cookies that a kid brought to her second grade classroom as the weekly reward for her classmates' good work. Her mother made them for the class. Her feminist, insane mother. She told the teacher that she thought it would be a good teaching aid for the second graders to learn about vaginas. (No, I am not making this up. How could anybody make up such a thing?) You can read the whole story from the teacher's keyboard right here. Including and not to be missed, the email from the mom to the teacher after the nasty shouting incident in the classroom in front of all the second-graders in which the word "vagina" was used in a loud voice at least 987,000 times, according to the teacher. The email which ended "I hope you end up with an abusive husband that beats on you every night."

We are a doomed people.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Break a Leg!

Are you ready for this? Some guy in Portland, Oregon, had his leg broken in multiple places as the result of an altercation with employees of a Costco store. The dude, named Timothy Walls, is suing the story for $670,000. Apparently he took exception to an employee of the store grabbing his basket as he was leaving because he had not shown his sales receipt on his way out. (They do this at Sam's too, but with people who are so old they make me look young. One presumes it was the same in Portland, but we don't know from the news story.)  According to the report, another employee--not the one who performed the original stop--laid some sort of Ninja move that he learned in the military on Walls and that resulted in the multiple fractures to his leg. Walls claims the store did not have the right to detain him just because he had not shown his receipt.

I tell you this story not because it's surprising--who knows anymore in this country what can happen to you if you exhibit any kind of behavior outside the norm?--but because my sympathies are automatically with the shopper, and I wonder how you feel about it after reading the account.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Same Formula, Same Result

Sign is from six years ago; the sentiment is timeless

Our Nobel Peace Prize winning president has launched us into another war in the Middle East. I don't know how much more cockamamie the reasoning has to be before somebody with some sense in Congress or anywhere else stands up and hollers "This is bullshit!" All of it. Every last scrap. Haven't we learned anything from the past ten years of war? Here we are embarking on another crusade for truth, justice, and the American way against enemies we've characterized as more evil than Satan. Wasn't this what we said about the communists? Al Qaeda? Every enemy we've ever had?

Now here we are again: committing the country to a war to solve a problem that from the beginning the administration and the Pentagon both say there is no military solution for. In what universe does this make sense? We've been here, we've done this. We're not even fully extracted from the disaster that was the Afghanistan war. And of course you've noticed that the administration and the generals are all being very careful to tell us that this action will not be of short duration. It will take years.

My God. How many more billions are we going to sink into the business of killing? We are an insane people to put up with this while our own country is falling down around our ears.

Here are some links of people who are as distressed as I am: no military solution; apocalypse now; real reason we're bombing Syria.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cowardly Dissimulating Midgets

The wonderful phrase is James Kuntsler's from his angry blog this week entitled "Barbarism vs Stupidism" which begins thus: "In my lifetime, the USA has not blundered into a more incoherent, feckless, and unfavorable foreign policy quandary than we see today." Notice, he tells us, how the crisis in Ukraine has disappeared from the news and front pages. Why? Because:
The US-led campaign to tilt Ukraine to Euroland and NATO — and away from the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union — turned an “intelligence” fiasco into a strategic humiliation for the Obama White House. . . . So, the reason that all this has vanished from the news media is that it’s game-over in Ukraine. We busted it up, and can do more with it, and pretty soon the rump Ukraine region run out of Kiev will go crawling back to Russia begging for a little heating fuel.
And this before he sinks his teeth into the incredibly insane policy we've just initiated in Syria.
Does any tattoo-free American adult outside the Kardashian-NFL mass hypnosis matrix feel confident about the trajectory of US policy regarding the so-called Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL)? First, there is the astonishing humiliation that this ragtag band of psychopaths managed to undo ten years, 4,500 US battle deaths, and $1+ trillion worth of nation-building effort in Iraq in a matter of a few weeks this summer. The US public does not seem to have groked the damage to our honor, self-confidence, and international standing in this debacle. . . .
We’ll look back on these weirdly placid years after the 2008 train wreck with amazement. These are the rudderless years of no leadership, of cowardly dissimulating midgets. A people can only take so much of that.  
Although I agree almost totally with Kuntsler, particularly in his disgust for the imbecility that passes for leadership of this country, I'm not sure I agree that the NLF-saturated, smug, overfed gullible idiots who allow their government get away with so many monstrous lies and to perpetrate an unending stream of outrages on common sense without taking to the streets in dudgeon right now will one day be stirred enough to register some massive protest to these crimes. I agree with the general proposition that people can only take so much, but don't you see? We're past the point of doing anything about it. We've let things go too far to get anything changed without a blood bath ensuing. We'll be gunned down like dogs if the national security state decides that we finally get it. And half of us, at least, will be right there with the storm troopers applauding the final crushing of American constitutional democracy, not that we're not well on the road already.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Far Worse


"When I woke up today, I thought I knew roughly how much of a problem income inequality is in America. But then I saw this graph showing just how much the richest 1 percent make, and it shook me to my core so completely that I now realize everything I thought I knew is wrong: The bottom 70 percent of Americans are actually experiencing NEGATIVE growth since the year 2000. Down is really up! The richest 1 percent have tripled their money EVERY year since 2005." (Source)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tight vs. Not

Another Version of Red
Apologies for the cramped image. This was the best the software could arrange. You will find the source of this interesting view of the US here. (I should note here that the disappeared states of New Hampshire and Maine are the same color as their New England neighbors, i.e., not up tight.

"According to the study, states with strict regulations in their communities — such as dry counties, frequent death penalty sentences, strict school discipline and gay marriage bans — are "tight." Everything from the numbers of cops per capita to rates of substance use to the availability and access to booze, were considered when classifying some states as "tighter" — meaning "strongly enforced rules and little tolerance for deviance" — than their "loose" neighbors, in this case meaning states with "greater tolerance for deviance."

There's considerably more that went into it, and reading the source that is referenced above will give you a fuller picture. I cannot say I'm very surprised by this.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Neighborly Spirit in HI

I cannot believe stuff like this happens. I guess I'm just too old and naive. And she's got her little kid in the car. What's he going to turn out like? I cannot imagine acting like this in front of one of my kids under any circumstances. Lord help us all.


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Death of the Liberal Class

Chris Hedges talking about the main ideas of his book, The Death of the Liberal Class. The man makes a lot of sense.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Making the World Safe from Sanity

It turned out so great last time . . . LET'S DO IT AGAIN!
The president got on TV tonight to tell us we're going to war again. But, as if this were just the peachiest news possible, we're not going to employ any American ground forces. What we will do is aid the "moderate forces" in Syria and those Arab states who choose to participate in the ground proceedings with our bombs and our gee-gaa technology. I've made a one of my periodic dips onto Facebook and I'm astounded--no, not really--with the vehemence and certitude of all the good ole American people rattling their swords. Can their memories really be that short? Can they not remember how just two weeks ago they were firmly against any kind of long-term commitment to the madness in the Middle East? I read that 71 percent of Americans are behind the president in his call for action against this latest enemy to civilization whom it's our responsibility to confront and defeat. I note that this time too, the Washington establishment is careful to qualify its call to war with the warning that this will not be a short job. No, we're signing on to possible years of conflict yet. Can anything be more insane? Forgive me if wonder just what in hell people learned from our last Middle Eastern excursion into war . . . you know, the one in Libya, which has fallen apart as a country; the one in Iraq which has spawned IS and thousands of deaths and fragmentation of the "democracy" we helped set up there; and of course, the one in Afghanistan that's not even over yet.

I'm not being crass or unfeeling or in the least bit disrespectful of the pain inflicted on the families and friends of the two Americans who were brutally beheaded by the IS fanatics. But it's interesting how the entire country can fly into bellicose outrage at the execution of two innocent Americans, but doesn't bat an eyelash at the literally thousands of innocent civilian deaths we have caused all over the Middle East with our drones, bombs, and artillery.  

It bears repeating, often and loudly: we are a doomed people. We don't have the sense God gave a grasshopper.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Football is Fleecing All of Us

The country, most of it, is going nuts once again. Football is back. College and pro. It's no news that this country is beyond enamored with football, and I would argue overly so, because as Gregg Easterbrook, the author of a recent book The King of Sports:Football's Impact on America, argues, the game is ripping us off right and left. If you pay taxes, you're being fleeced, even if you don't ever go to a game. Even if you don't like football. It's another manifestation of the power billionaires and millionaires have to shape and frame things to their own benefit via an ignorant public and a corrupted political process. (That last part was mine.)

Below is an interview with Easterbrook, only about 8 minutes long or so in which he delivers several telling blows against the way football has muscled into the education dollars and the absurdity of a law that declares professional football a non-profit enterprise.

It's really hard to believe that intelligent people would put up with this kind of abuse, but we do . . . and we glory in it.
 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Freelancers Taking Over

 Ran across this interesting piece puttering around today.
A new report shows some 53 million Americans—or 34 percent of the U.S. workforce—are now working as freelancers in some capacity. "This is more than an economic change," asserts the report, a joint effort from the Freelancer's Union and freelance markeplaces oDesk and eLance. It's also "a cultural and social shift" that will "have major impacts on how Americans conceive of and organize their lives, their communities, and their economic power." 
That's more than a third of the workforce. I am one of these guys. I do freelance editing for a publishing house. And I fit easily into one of the demographics below. I don't need to do this work, but I like it, and it's nice it pays a little something in return. I'm not saying I'd do this without pay, but . . . well, you take my point.

Here's how the report breaks these 34 million people out:
  • Independent contractors (21 million). This group hews closest to our "traditional" idea of freelancing: individuals whose main source of employment involves working on a project-to-project basis in their field. They make up about 40 percent of freelancers.
  • Moonlighters (14.3 million). These are individuals who work regular full-time jobs and also do some amount of freelance work. This group includes 27 percent of freelancers. 
  • Diversified workers (9.3 million). These are our serious hustlers, the folks pulling in income from multiple sources, including traditional employment and freelance work. A diversified worker may have a 20-hour per week bartending or retail job and supplement her income with freelance graphic design work and some time as an Uber driver. This group makes up about 18 percent of freelancers. 
  • Temp workers (5.5 million). Temp workers are those working with a single employer, client, job, or project but on a temporary basis. This could be "a business strategy consultant working for one startup client" (the report's example) or a recent college graduate doing grunt or admin work for different companies each week through a temp agency. They make up about one-tenth of freelancers.
  • Freelance business owners (2.8 million). This group includes people employ between one and five others and who consider themselves both freelancers and business owners. They make up 5 percent of the freelance economy.
And there are some other observations:
  • 77 percent say they make as much or more money now than they did before becoming a freelancer
  • About half (53 percent) say going freelance was totally their preference; the rest say it was out of necessity. 
  • The main reason people take on freelance work is to earn extra money (68 percent), followed by the ability to have a flexible schedule (42 percent).
What the report doesn't address are the penetrating questions posed above, which all boil down basically to what's this doing to us? It's a major cultural and social shift, with major impacts, we're told. But you look in vein for what this might mean. Which upon reflection seems reasonable since analyzing and explaining major cultural shifts is something that gets done after they get done. Would be nice to know where we're headed though.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Always Wise

Richard Rohr is always wise:
C. S. Lewis believed it was undemocratic to give too much power to the present generation or one’s own times. He called this “chronological snobbery,” as if your own age was the superior age and the final result of evolution. I would say the same about one’s present level of consciousness. Our narcissism always tends to think our own present stage of consciousness is the ultimate stage! People normally cannot understand anybody at higher stages (they look heretical or dangerous) and they look upon all in the earlier stages as superstitious, stupid, or na├»ve. We each think we are the proper reference point for all reality. G. K. Chesterton stated: “Tradition is democracy extended through time.” And I would say that enlightenment is the ability to include, honor, and make use of every level of consciousness—both in yourself and in others. To be honest, such humility and patience is rather rare, yet it is at the heart of the mystery of forgiveness, inclusivity, and compassion.
I'm struck by the line about ourselves being the only acceptable reference point for all reality. What is that if not our core selfishness?

Friday, September 5, 2014

8 Facts . . .

The name of the piece is "8 facts that explain what's wrong with American health care." Wanna know what they are? My guess is, you already do know some of them, if you're a reasonably well-informed American . . . and if you're a knee-jerk reactionary or Tea Partier, you're going to deny the facts anyway. But then again what are the odds, unless you're a government snoop (and I have no doubt you're out there and I'm on a hundred watch lists), that you would be reading this subversive's screed?

So back to the point: 8 Facts that explain what's wrong with American health care. You should certainly read the entire piece. I've just hit some of the highlight language for you here. But the whole read is certainly worth your time.

1. Americans pay way, way more for it than anyone else.
"We spend $2.8 trillion on healthcare annually. That works out to about one-sixth of the total economy and more than $8,500 per person — and way more than any other country."
2. We pay doctors when they provide lots of health care, not when they provide good health care.
The best way for a doctor to make money in the United States right now is simple: prescribe treatments.The American health-care system by and large runs on what experts describe as a "fee-for-service" system. For every service a doctor provides — whether that's a primary care physician conducting an annual physical or an orthopedic surgeon replacing a knee — they typically get a lump sum of money. That's how most businesses work. Apple gets more money when it sells more iPads and the Ford gets more money when it sells more cars. But health care isn't like iPads or cars. Or, at least, it's not supposed to be.
 3. Half of the health care spending goes for five percent of the population.


 4. Our health insurance system is the product of random WWII-era tax provisions.

The health insurance tax break is the biggest in the federal budget; the government loses out on $260 billion annually by not taxing health benefits. The majority of non-elderly Americans get their health insurance at work, and with good reason: the tax-free dollar can buy a lot more medical care.
5. Insurance companies have small profit margins.

As to who makes the most money, it's mostly drug companies and device manufacturers — the people who make the things that insurance companies buy. They typically run profit margins around 20 percent. One reason the cost of American health care is so high is that insurers are so weak. Having hundreds of different carriers, for example, means no one insurer has lots of negotiating power — hence those high prices drug and device makers can charge.
6. Getting health care in the United States is dangerous.
We don't know exactly how many Americans are killed in hospitals each year, but we do know that it is a lot. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a seminal report titled To Err is Human, which estimated that at least 44,000 patients — and as many as 98,000 — die in hospitals each year as results of medical errors. Even using the lower-bound figure, that would mean medical errors in hospitals kill more people annually than "such feared threats as motor-vehicle wrecks, breast cancer, and AIDS." A follow-up study published in 2013 argued that the IOM numbers were a vast underestimate, and that medical errors contribute to the deaths of between 210,000 and 440,000 patients.
 7. One-third of health care spending isn't helping.
The United States spends $765 billion annually (about one third of our overall health care dollars) on things that do not make Americans any healthier. "I'm always amazed at these conversations I have with physicians," says Amitabh Chandra, a health economist at Harvard. "They'll openly say that about 50 percent of what happens in medicine is waste, but it's hard to always know which care was waste." Much of the waste in our system has to do with the fact that we run an inefficient health-care system, in which hundreds of health insurance plans all charge different prices for the same surgeries and scans. That requires lots of billing staff: for every three doctors in the United States, there are two administrative staff to handle all the paperwork. That's unique to the US system.


8.  Obamacare is not universal health care.
Obamacare doesn't eliminate [people without health insurance] in America; instead, it cuts the number of people lacking coverage about in half. Even after Obamacare is fully implemented, budget forecasters still expect that 31 million Americans will lack insurance coverage — a bigger group than the people buying coverage on the exchanges. Our uninsured rate will still be in the double digits, hovering around 11 percent.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

This is Why I Read "Some Assembly Required"


I don't miss "Some Assembly Required." Classy, very classy cynicism . . . oh, and truth.

================================

 Walks Like A Duck: US forces have begun conducting “military operations” against the al-Shabaab rebels in Somalia. To date the effort appears to be limited to air strikes, but you have to start somewhere.   
 Dollar Diplomacy: Facing economic threats from the US and UK, Israel has backed down from its plans to steal a thousand acres of land from Palestinians on the West Bank. It seems that taking Palestinian lives is acceptable, but taking their land is not.
 
Supersized: Climate scientists say there is a 50/50 chance for a 'megadrought' lasting 30 years to settle into the American Southwest, with an 80% likelihood of a 10-year 'extreme' drought. Currently over 80% of California is in 'extreme' drought and nearly 60% qualifies as 'exceptional'. Remember the good old days when the Central Valley fed the nation?

Noted: The US health-care system, taken by itself, would be the fifth largest economy in the world.

War Ware Where: The US is opening a drone base in the middle of nowhere the Sahara as a base for surveilling and attacking Islamic jihadists in North and West Africa. Attendance at weddings is expected to plunge dramatically. 
 
Fortune, Cookies: Now that low paid Chinese factory workers have dismantled US manufacturing and turned well paid workers into grab and run clerks, the Chinese assault on high skilled jobs is underway. Training programs for the newly unemployed are futile if there will be no jobs left in the country regardless of 'skills'. What part of 'race to the bottom' didn't you understand? Why do you keep falling for these damned 'trade agreements' that are nothing but suicide pacts?
 
If, Then: If you are one of 2.5 million homeowners who are facing an average $250 a month bump in your mortgage payment within the next 3 years, are you expecting a 10 – 15% pay raise, or are you going to stop eating?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You Learn Something New Every Day

But you don't learn something like this necessarily. It seems that all those galaxies we see around us are part of a so-called super cluster, which is but one of God knows how many super clusters comprising the known universe. Here is the picture of our super cluster, which is named Laniakea, and our galaxy's place in it. Way out on the fringe. 

Words Fail . . .
This is a short video, from which the still above is taken, will give you some conception of the miracle we're talking about here. My mind simply boggles at how the human brain is capable of figuring out such things. We didn't know this ten years ago . . . what will we learn in ten more?



Oh, and here's the article that explains all this: right here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hmmmmm

I'm 71 years old today. My God! This aging isn't anything like I thought it would be. I was trying to explain to my daughter today--or was it yesterday or the day before?--about why the little dizzy spells I've been having over the past 3 weeks are not that troublesome. People in the pink of their life, mid-40s, like her, can't relate to the miscellaneous pains, aches, bone creaks, mysterious discomforts, bowel irregularities, toothaches, and on and on that afflict the denizens of my age bracket. I was telling her you just get used to these various moments of hurt and go on because almost all of the time they don't mean anything serious. Just your body reminding you that "Hey, I've been on a job a frigging long time, and you should recognize the fact. So--and this it where it pokes you--"here I am!"

Fact of the matter is, you change, but you don't change. In countless ways I'm just the same person I was when I was in my 20s. Somehow I don't think we should count the teen years (mine were pretty miserable, btw, till I got off to college, and then they were just mindless). Exactly the same. But not exactly the same at all, because years of the experience of life change you. If you're lucky, you learn something, but even if you're not, you learn something. Problem is, the lessons are most of the time ambiguous. That's why when you're older you're much more likely to say "hmmmm...." when confronting a situation. While when you're younger, the "hmmmmm" likely comes after the hasty decision.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Some Perspective

From Kuntsler this morning:
The US claims to have interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. These nations are respectively 11,925, 11,129, 10,745, and 10,072, miles away from America — not exactly neighbors of ours. All of them, one way or another, and partly due to our exertions, are checking into the homeless shelter of failed statedom. Afghanistan was, shall we say, a special case, since it was being used thirteen years ago explicitly as a “base” (al Qaeda) for launching attacks on US soil. But that was then. No other war or “war” in US history has lasted as long. And it remains unclear whether our presence there yet today is a “nation-building” project or a mere occupation, in the absence of some better idea of what to do.
Got that? Ponder the "national interest" for the United States in all of the named countries. Remember Libya? Quick now . . . why did we overthrow Qaddafi again? Oh yeah, it was so we could turn that country into a seething caldron of Islamic militias with no government at all in the nation. James Kuntsler again:
How many educated, media-marinated professors in their Ivy League turrets can explain in one paragraph what the necessity of overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi was, exactly? Anyone remember? I suppose, like many actions in history, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. If the idea was to keep the oil and gas flowing to western nations — i.e. the “Carter Doctrine” —well, excuse me while I cough into my sleeve. Production is about one-eighth what it was before Mr. Gaddafi exited the scene. That really worked.