Quote of the moment: Ebenezer Scrooge, and darkness is cheap (still, in 2012)

December 25, 2012

Roberto Innocenti, Scrooge on a dark staircase

Ebenezer Scrooge, up a dark staircase; “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” Illustration by Roberto Innocenti, via HornRimmedMagpie

Quote of the moment (an encore post for the season, with a bit of context thrown in later):

Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Stave 1

I thought of that line of Dickens’s when, months ago,  I read of this celebration of darkness, ignorance and calumny. Although, with the recent renewing of Limbaugh’s contract, it may no longer be true that his particular brand of darkness is cheap.

Still, it remains dark.

John Leach, Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want

Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want, the products of his stinginess (drawing by John Leech, 1809-1870)

(More about the drawing below the fold)

Read the rest of this entry »


American tsunami

December 10, 2011

Alfredo Sabat on starvation in Africa, Lurie Award winner 2006

Alfredo Sabat on starvation in Africa, Lurie Award winner 2006

Remember this cartoon, from Sabat, in Brazil?  It was a commentary on the “tsunami” striking African children, who were not getting aid like victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami were getting.

Steve Benson, the genius cartoonist at the Arizona Republic, updated the idea.

Steve Benson on the increase in poverty and hunger in America, 2011

Steve Benson in the Arizona Republic, on the increase in poverty and hunger in America, 2011

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7 billion people on Earth?

October 25, 2011

Exponential growth’s potential to rapidly change the numbers of a situation tends to fall out of the thoughts of most people, who don’t see such things occur in daily life.

You should stop and think about this one for a minute:  World population will tip to over 7 billion people soon, maybe in the next week, but most assuredly by next spring.

A very large crowd in a stadium

Seven billion people? Really? Are the concessions adequate? The restrooms?

Joel E. Cohen wrote about the event in Sunday’s New York Times:

ONE week from today, the United Nations estimates, the world’s population will reach seven billion. Because censuses are infrequent and incomplete, no one knows the precise date — the Census Bureau puts it somewhere next March — but there can be no doubt that humanity is approaching a milestone.

The first billion people accumulated over a leisurely interval, from the origins of humans hundreds of thousands of years ago to the early 1800s. Adding the second took another 120 or so years. Then, in the last 50 years, humanity more than doubled, surging from three billion in 1959 to four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987 and six billion in 1998. This rate of population increase has no historical precedent.

Can the earth support seven billion now, and the three billion people who are expected to be added by the end of this century? Are the enormous increases in households, cities, material consumption and waste compatible with dignity, health, environmental quality and freedom from poverty?

(Joel E. Cohen, a mathematical biologist and the head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, is the author of “How Many People Can the Earth Support?”)

We’re in for some dramatic shifts in concentrations of people, if not shifts in how we think of the world (thinking is always slower than reality).

While the bulge in younger people, if they are educated, presents a potential “demographic dividend” for countries like Bangladesh and Brazil, the shrinking proportion of working-age people elsewhere may place a strain on governments and lead them to raise retirement ages and to encourage alternative job opportunities for older workers.

Even in the United States, the proportion of the gross domestic product spent on Social Security and Medicare is projected to rise to 14.5 percent in 2050, from 8.4 percent this year.

The Population Reference Bureau said that by 2050, Russia and Japan would be bumped from the 10 most populous countries by Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’m not ready, and neither are most other people, I’ll wager.  How about you?

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Class warfare and tax cuts for the rich

August 21, 2011

This claim that 51% of Americans don’t pay taxes — does anyone know where they fit in the economics scheme of things?

I wonder, partly because it’s mentioned over at Disaffected and It Feels So Good, and partly because in the light of what else is said over there, it’s relevant.

What is that blog saying?

The Heritage Foundation’s 2001 report proclaimed if the Bush tax cut legislation were to pass, it would:

1) Effectively pay off the federal debt;
2) Reduce the federal surplus by $1.4 trillion;
3) Substantially increase family income;
4) Save the entire Social Security surplus;
5) Increase personal savings;
6) Create more job opportunities.

Everyone of those claims did not happen and in fact the exact opposite occurred. But, what did happen was a massive transfer of wealth to the Ultra-Wealthy, which were the true goals of the Bush Tax Cuts.

Be sure to see the clip from Jon Stewart’s program about how America’s poor are really rich, and we could balance the budget on that demographic alone.

Who pays taxes, and is it fair?  Odd to me that the assumption is it’s the poor who don’t pay taxes, and that it’s unfair to the rich because the poor are living so high on the hog.

Evidence, anyone?


Barbara Ehrenreich wonders: What’s the real poverty rate in America?

August 10, 2011

Barbara Ehrenreich, “How America turned poverty into a crime,” Salon.com, August 9, 2011:

At the time I wrote “Nickel and Dimed,” I wasn’t sure how many people it directly applied to — only that the official definition of poverty was way off the mark, since it defined an individual earning $7 an hour, as I did on average, as well out of poverty. But three months after the book was published, the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., issued a report entitled “Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families,” which found an astounding 29 percent of American families living in what could be more reasonably defined as poverty, meaning that they earned less than a barebones budget covering housing, child care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes — though not, it should be noted, any entertainment, meals out, cable TV, Internet service, vacations, or holiday gifts. 29 percent is a minority, but not a reassuringly small one, and other studies in the early 2000s came up with similar figures.

The big question, 10 years later, is whether things have improved or worsened for those in the bottom third of the income distribution, the people who clean hotel rooms, work in warehouses, wash dishes in restaurants, care for the very young and very old, and keep the shelves stocked in our stores. The short answer is that things have gotten much worse, especially since the economic downturn that began in 2008.

Liberty does not flow to those who lack the money to eat, or keep warm.  We have strides to make to get to “liberty and justice for all.”

Libertarians, why do you oppose liberty for poor-but-working people?


Can public schools work? Texas Tribune’s interview with Michael Marder, Part II

June 11, 2011

From my earlier post on the Texas Tribune interview with Michael Marder, in which he questioned the assumptions that monkeying with teacher discipline, accountability, pay, training, vacations, or anything else, can produce better results in educating students, especially students from impoverished backgrounds.

Marder is the director of the University of Texas’s program to encourage much better prepared teachers, UTeach.

Michael Marder’s numbers show that it’s not the teachers’ fault that so many students are not ready for college, and not learning the stuff we think they should know.

Texas Tribune said:

In the popular 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee said, “But even in the toughest of neighborhoods and circumstances, children excel when the right adults are doing the right things for them.”

After looking at the data, Marder has yet to be convinced that any teaching solution has been found that can overcome the detrimental effects of poverty on a large scale — and that we may be looking for solutions in the wrong place.

[Reeve] Hamilton’s interview of Marder takes up three YouTube segments — you should watch all three.

Here’s Part 2:

Read the original introductory article at Texas Tribune.

For the record, Michelle Rhee is probably right:  In the toughest neighborhoods, children excel when the right adults do the right things for them.  But the right adults usually are parents, and the right things include reading to the children from about 12 months on, and pushing them to love learning and love books.  Teachers get the kids too late, generally, to bend those no-longer-twigs back to a proper inclination.  The government interventions required to boost school performance must come outside the classroom.  Michelle Rhee’s great failure — still — is in her tendency not to recognize that classroom performance of a student has its foundations and live roots in the homes and neighborhoods who send the children to school every day.


Fatal flaw in American politico-economic system, that schools could fix, but won’t

November 7, 2010

. . . unless we change them soon, and in a fashion much different from what Arne Duncan wants.

John Quiggin, again:

Contrary to the cherished beliefs of most Americans, the United States has less social mobility than any other developed country. As Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution have shown, 42 percent of American men with fathers in the bottom fifth of the income distribution remain there as compared to: Denmark, 25 percent; Sweden, 26 percent; Finland, 28 percent; Norway, 28 percent; and Britain, 30 percent. The American Dream is fast becoming a myth.

Tea Partiers, most of them, believe they have a vested interest in keeping things that way, to preserve their own modest economic achievement.  And those at the top?  They delight in a little bit of “Let’s You and Him Fight.”

Quiggin’s article at Foreign Policy introduces five of the ideas in his new book, Zombie Economics; well worth the read.


O, say! Does that woman’s lamp still burn beside the golden door?

September 12, 2010

Liberty stands gazing out at about 265 feet* above the water of New York Harbor, a fixture there since construction in the 1880s.

The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.

The Statue of Liberty has been a fixture in the U.S. and American psyche, too.  Excuse me, or join me, in wondering whether we have not lost something of our former dedication to the Statue of Liberty, and the reasons France and Americans joined to build it.

Poem-a-Day sent Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” out this morning (Poem-a-Day is a wonderful service of the American Academy of Poets — you may subscribe and I recommend it).  There it was, waiting for me in e-mail.   My students generally have not heard nor read the poem, I discover year after year –  some sort of Texas-wide failure in enculturation prompted by too-specific requirements of federal law and state law, combining to make a slatwork of culture taught in our classrooms with too many cracks into which culture actually falls, out of sight, out of mind; out of memory.  I fear it may be a nationwide failure as well.

Have you read the poem lately?  It once encouraged American school children to send pennies to build a home for the statue.  Today it wouldn’t get a majority of U.S. Congressmen to sign on to consponsor a reading of it.  Glenn Beck would contest its history, Rush Limbaugh would discount the politics of the “giveaways” in the poem, John Boehner would scoriate the victims in the poem for having missed his meeting of lobbyists (‘they just missed the right boat’), and Sarah Palin would complain about “an air-bridge to nowhere,” or complain that masses who huddle are probably up to no good (they might touch, you know).

Have you read it lately?

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde - Wikimedia Commons image

Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde - Wikimedia Commons image

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

AAP makes poems available for iPhones, too, and you can see how it appears, phrase by phrase.  “The New Colossus” takes on more of its power and majesty delivered that way.

Is the Academy of American Poets playing politics here?  It’s September 12.  Yesterday many Americans took part in ceremonies and service projects in remembrance of the victims of the attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001.  In much of the rest of America, there is an active movement to nail shut the “golden door,” to turn out a sign that would say “No tired, no poor nor huddled masses yearning to breathe free; especially no wretched refuse, no homeless, and let the tempest-tost stay in Guatemala and Pakistan.”

Would Americans bother to contribute to build a Statue of Liberty today?  Or would they protest against it?

Does that lamp still shine beside the golden door?

Stereoscopic image of the arm and torch of Liberty, at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia

Stereoscopic image of the arm and torch of Liberty, at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; Robert N. Dennis Collection, New York Public Library. The arm was displayed to encourage contributions to the fund to build a pedestal for the statue, from private donations.

_____________

*  I’m calculating Liberty’s gaze at about 40 feet below the tip of the torch, which is just over 305 feet above the base of the statue on the ground.  The base is probably 20 feet higher than the water, but this isn’t exact science we’re talking about here.


Jesus knocks on Dobson’s door: No room at the Dobson Inn

December 15, 2009

Dr. James Dobson profits from his image as a great Christian leader.  His campus of enterprises in Colorado Springs is one of the largest businesses in the city.

But this does not compute:  Colorado Springs has several hundred people homeless in the city, with no place to sleep but public parks and other public places.  There are more homeless than there are facilities to help them.

Colorado Springs officials consider a law to make it illegal to “camp” in a public place inside the city.  One person died from the cold recently.  Whole families are camping in some places.  [Good news before I hit the "send" button:  Colorado Springs decided to shelve action on the ordinance now, and work to find solutions instead, until February.]

Colorado Springs Salvation Army officials have a shelter,  but it can’t handle the homeless population.

Robert Moran, an advocate for the homeless, said the city this year has been doing a “great job” showing compassion toward homeless people. Among the examples is the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, he said. But the proposed no-camping law would take those efforts in a “completely opposite” direction, Moran said.

“It would be criminalizing homelessness,” he said. “People have the right to survive, and people that are homeless are part of our community as much as anybody else.”

The Salvation Army’s shelter only has 220 beds, he said.

“We have more people than that living in tents in the Springs,” he said.

James Dobson, you with that big campus of buildings:  What do you think Jesus would do in this situation?

Focus on the Family's visitor center in Colorado Springs - photo by David Shankbone - Wikimedia image

Focus on the Family's visitor center in Colorado Springs - photo by David Shankbone - Wikimedia image

Why are there hungry and homeless families freezing to death in the city where James Dobson has lots of space?  What about the other national religious organizations?

Other information:

Help in Colorado Springs

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Somebody’s knockin’; let ‘em in:

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MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad

August 22, 2009

I get e-mail.  In all the discouraging folderol on the health care debate, it’s nice to know that a few people are carrying the torch for democracy and good republican government like these ladies.

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009.  Image from MomsRising.com

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009. Image from MomsRising.com

Watch for the ladies in red capes.  Barney Frank won’t ask what planet they spend their time on, I’ll wager.

Note links to more information, or to join in their merriment, in the letter.

Faster than a toddler crawling toward an uncovered electrical outlet and more powerful than a teenager’s social networking skills, moms across the country have been fanning out to dispel the unfounded rumors, misconceptions, and lies about healthcare reform.

MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members, dressed in red capes, have been distributing powerful truth flyers across the nation to passersby to educate them about what healthcare reform will really do, and about how it will help to ensure the economic security of families across the country.

“I must admit that I don’t normally wear a cape in public, but it was oddly empowering.  We knew we were having an impact on the larger conversation about healthcare when a news camera starting following us around. I definitely recommend life as a superhero,” say Donna, a cape wearing SuperMom for Healthcare.

*Let’s give our caped myth-busting moms some “online backup” by Truth Tagging friends with healthcare reform myths & facts today–it’s a virtual distribution of the same facts that the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members are handing out in-person:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

It’s going to take thousands of super heroines speaking up in order to get the healthcare debate back on track. We can’t all be out on the streets in capes, so please take a moment now to spread the word and bust some myths via email to friends and family by clicking the link above.

Why’s this so important to moms right now? Over 46 million people in our nation don’t have any healthcare coverage at all, including millions of children. Not only are families struggling with getting children the healthcare coverage they need for a healthy start, but 7 out of 10 women are either uninsured, underinsured, or are in significant debt due to healthcare costs. In fact, a leading cause of bankruptcy is healthcare costs — and over 70% of those who do go bankrupt due to healthcare costs had insurance at the start of their illness. Clearly we need to fix our broken healthcare system!

Don’t forget to help put some more truth into the mix of the national dialogue on healthcare reform right now:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

Onward!
–Kristin, Joan, Donna, Ashley, Julia, Dionna, Katie, Anita, Sarah, Mary, and the entire MomsRising Team

P.S.  We’ve been hearing so much positive feedback about our caped crusading moms that it might be time to lead a giant march of moms on the National Capitol Mall.  Tell us what you think: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/bust-a-myth-tag-a-friend-with-the-truth-about-healthcare/

P.P.S.  Want to get more involved with the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members? Click here: http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/t/9251/signUp.jsp?key=4284

P.P.P.S. When you go to the Truth Squad Tag page, you can also see a video of our MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad in action wearing capes! http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4727

Here’s the video:


Think you have health insurance? Wrong

August 7, 2009

Baseline Scenario lays out the facts: People fear government reform of health care because they think it will interfere with their own health insurance.  Such people need to understand that they don’t have health insurance, and a broader government plan is the only saftey net they have to protect them from going naked against major health expenses.

Right now, it appears that the biggest barrier to health care reform is people who think that it will hurt them. According to a New York Times poll, “69 percent of respondents in the poll said they were concerned that the quality of their own care would decline if the government created a program that covers everyone.” Since most Americans currently have health insurance, they see reform as a poverty program – something that helps poor people and hurts them. If that’s what you think, then this post is for you.

You do not have health insurance. Let me repeat that. You do not have health insurance.

Just one more point in a series of misconceptions, misperceptions, and unwarranted listening to false claims about health care and legislation designed to save our tails.  James Kwak and others at The Baseline Scenario do a good job explaining economics in the U.S. today.  In this piece he makes the point that in terms of health care, we are all among “the poor” (save for those few of you who make more than $1 million a year and have done for the past decade).

Ask not for whom the health insurance reform bill tolls; it tolls for you.


India today, in photos

August 3, 2009

Geography teachers, get out your PowerPoints and Keynotes.

Photo of life in Delhi, India.  From a collection by Belgian photographer Frederik Buyckx, 2009

Photo of life in Delhi, India. From a collection by Belgian photographer Frederik Buyckx, 2009

Thought provoking, occasionally breath-taking photos from a 6:00 a.m. walkaround in Delhi, India; Belgian photographer Frederick Buyckx promises more photos from his recent trip to India and Pakistan, at his blog.

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Another way to tell Republicans and opponents of health care reform have lost their minds, or their hearts, or their conscience

August 1, 2009

Republicans and opponents of health care reform make Dave Barry look like the prophet Isaiah with greatly improved accuracy.  You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried, as Dave Barry often says.

I have the right to protection, pleads this innocent little boy, in a poster for the State of Arizona Crime Victims Services division of the Department of Public Safety.  The Heritage Foundation ridicules federal support for child abuse prevention programs as unnecessary federal intrusion.

Included in the massive health care reform bill is some extra money to help out states and communities that have had difficulty getting effective programs going to combat child abuse.  Pilot programs demonstrated that community health workers could provide a few parenting programs and dramatically reduce child abuse.

These are programs that prevent dead babies.

According to the text of H.R. 3200, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” starting on page 838 is a description of a program under which states and communities can get money to fight child abuse, if they have large populations of poor families, where child abuse is a problem, and where anti-child abuse programs need more money.  That’s pretty straightforward, no?  [That's a hefty .pdf file, by the way -- more than 1,000 pages.]

Parenting instruction and help can be offered, in private settings, and in homes where struggling parents need help most.

Money goes to states that want it and can demonstrate a need.  Parenting help programs are purely voluntary under H.R. 3200.

Who supports child abuse?  Who would not support spending some of the money in health care reform to save the saddest cases, the children who are beaten or starved or psychologically abused?

Is it not true that the prevention of child abuse would contribute to better health care for less money?

This is politics, you know.  Non-thinking conservatives pull out the stops in their desire to drive the health bill to oblivion, claiming that these anti-child abuse sections are socialism, liberty-depriving, and a threat to the designated hitter rule.  (I only exaggerate a little on the third point.)

This isn’t stripping liberties is it, we want someone else coming into our homes and telling us how to raise our children and live our lives.

This is right out of the Book 1984. If you had not read it I suggest it.

“Right out of 1984?”  Isn’t this a violation of  Godwin’s Law?

The Heritage Foundation appears to have taken a turn to radicalism, now advocating against fighting child abuse, and calling anti-child abuse programs a “stealth agenda.”

Have the Heritage Foundation, and these other people, lost their collective minds? They complain about the provisions of this bill because — this is their words:

One troublesome provision calls for a home visitation program that would bring state workers into the homes of young families to improve “the well-being, health, and development of children”.

Well, heaven forbid we should improve the well-being, health and development of children!

It is fair to conclude from this report that the Heritage Foundation does not want to prevent dead babies.

Years ago, when Father Reagan presided over the Conservative Church, one of the Heritage Foundation favorite deacons, a guy named Al Regnery, was appointed to be assistant attorney general over programs dealing with youth — juvenile delinquents, drug users, etc.  His chief qualifications for the job included that he was a faithful aide to Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt, and that he toed the party line on almost all issues, including shutting down federal funding for programs that might prevent juvenile delinquency, or treat it.

Republicans controlled the Judiciary Committee under Sen. Strom Thurmond, so Regnery’s confirmation was never doubted.  But as if to throw gasoline in the face of advocates of anti-delinquency programs, When Regnery drove up to the Senate office buildings for his nomination hearing, his car had a generally humorous bumper sticker.  “Have you hugged your kid today” showed on about 200 million of the 100 million cars in America at the time — it was a cliché.  To fight the cliché, Regnery had the anti-fuzzy bumper sticker, “Have you slugged your kid today.”

When the issue hit the news, Regnery backpedalled, and said it was just a joke sticker that he probably should have taken off his car under the circumstances, but he forgot — and Regnery disavowed the bumper sticker, as humorous or anything else.

Comes 2009, we discover that the Heritage Foundation wasn’t kidding — slugging your kid is acceptable behavior to them, and creating programs to fight child abuse, is evil — to the Heritage Foundation.

Ronald Reagan would be ashamed of them.  Somebody has to be ashamed — there appears to be no shame at Heritage Foundation offices.

One wouldn’t worry — surely common sense American citizens can see through these cheap deceptions –  except that Heritage has a massive public relations budget, and there is a corps of willing gullibles waiting to swallow as fact any fantasy Heritage dreams up — see this discussion board on ComCast, where the discussants accept Heritage claims at face value though anyone with even a dime-store excrement detector would be wary; or see this blogger who says he won’t let the feds “take away” his liberties (to beat his children, or the children of others?); or this forum, where some naif thinks the bill will create a federal behavior czarGlenn Beck, whose religion reveres children, can’t resist taking a cheap shot at Obama, even though doing so requires Beck to stand up for child abuse.

Beck falls into the worst category, spreading incredible falsehoods as if he understood the bill:

This doesn’t scare me! No way. Just the crazies like Winston Smith — you know, the main character from “1984.”

When did we go from being a nation that believed in hard work and picking yourself up by the bootstraps, to a nation that wants government to control everything from our light bulbs to our parenting techniques?

This bill has to be stopped.

Gee, Glenn — when did we go from a nation that thought government was for the people, as demonstrated by the Agricultural Extension Service, or the Air Traffic Control System, or the Tennessee Valley Authority, to a nation that fights to bring back Czarist Russian government in the U.S.?  Stopping this bill won’t resurrect Czar Nicholas, and it will kill at least a few hundred American kids.  Excuse me if I choose living American kids over fantasies of a new and oppressive monarchy.

These people are not journalists. Beck isn’t like Orwell — maybe more like Ezra Pound, in Italy.  These people are not commentators, or columnists.  These people are not editorial writers.  They are not, most of them, lobbyists who give out  information for money, having sold their souls away from the angels of serious public discourse.

They are crass propagandists. They should be regarded more like the guy Tom Lehrer warned us about, the old dope peddler in the park, who always has just a little bit of poison for the kids or anyone else.  (“Don’t worry; you won’t get hooked.”)

How many other provisions of the health reform act are being distorted by conservatives in a desperate attempt to keep President Obama from “looking good,” despite the costs to America’s children and families?

These attacks on the health reform bill fall out of the category of robust discussion.  They disgrace our polity, and they erode the dignity of our democratic system.

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Below the fold:  An example of the type of program Beck and Heritage call socialism, 1984-ish, and dangerous.

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Missouri Rep. Cynthia Davis: Poverty? Show me!

June 25, 2009

The story writes its own ending.  As I watched the story of Missouri State Rep. Cynthia Davis, I kept hearing the Muppet version of Scrooge, who, confronted by a plea for charity for orphans said:  “What?  Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?”

When I staffed the Senate, we prided ourselves on having people who knew a lot more than any reporter in town or any news organization with all its resources.  When I staffed the Utah legislature, the members made sure they knew their stuff before they called for change, generally.  Olberman, Stewart and Colbert sometimes appear to have corraled all the smart people outside of the White House.  But what in the hell is Davis’s excuse?

Update:  Welcome, visitors of July 2.  Obviously, you’re linking from somewhere else — but my systems have not picked it up.  Where are you coming from?  Somebody tell, in comments, please.


Reagan years: A contrarian’s view

June 4, 2009

California abandoned the memory of the guy who worked tirelessly to keep California in the Union during the Civil War, Unitarian Universalist preacher Starr King, replacing his statue in the U.S. Capitol’s pantheon of state heroes (two to a state) with a statue of Ronald Reagan.  June 4 marks the fifth anniversary of Reagan’s passing.

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Older son Kenny sent a note today, saying he now understands why I was so troubled by the Reagan years.  Some guy at The Free Speech Zone added it up — it has what AP history classes call a “point of view,” but calculate the serious factual error to fact ratio:

1) Treason: As a private citizen, and BEFORE the election, in contravention of both law and tradition, Reagan’s minions and handlers illegally negotiated with the Iranians to induce them hold the American Embassy hostages until after the elections,to embarrass President Carer and to prevent his successful negotiation of an “October Surprise.” Sent future VP George Bush, Sr., and future CIA chief William Casey to Paris to negotiate the deal.

2) Sent arms, including chemical weapons, to both Iraq and Iran during the decade-long Iran-Iraq war, making those two countries the two biggest US arms trading partners at precisely the time when it was illegal to trade with either due to both US and UN laws.

3) Iran/Contra: Used drug traffickers to transport illegal arms to Nicaragua, ignoring the contraband which was brought back on the return trip, creating  a massive and immediate increase in cocaine trade in urban California. Illegally used the CIA to mine harbors and ferry Contra troops in Nicaragua. Eventually, several administration staffers were convicted of crimes ranging from lying to Congress to conspiracy  to defraud the U.S. The scandal involved the administration selling arms  to  Iran and using proceeds from the sales to fund a guerrilla insurgent group in Nicaragua

4) Created alQaeda in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet puppet/occupation there

5) Sponsored right-wing, State terrorism in El Salvador,  Honduras, Haiti, and Guatemala against indigenous insurgents who were fighting the dictatorial, hereditary regimes there. Illegally invaded  and occupied Grenada, overthrowing the democratically elected President

6) Lied about ALL of this activity before Congress, and suborned his Secretary of Defense to perjury, as well.

7) Rescinded Carter policy that all US international financial support be based upon valid human rights records.

8) Took the world to the brink of nuclear war, putting nuclear weapons into Europe, violating the very provision that was the settlement to the Cuban missile crisis.

9) Instituted the so-called “Mexico City” doctrine, effectively barring recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a  method of family planning.

10) Instigated trickle-down/voodoo economics, which was the beginning of what has recently culminated in the crash of the bubbles. Here is a subset of his regime’s economic sins:

a) Within the first year of the policy, we were in a depression caused in large measure by the policy. The “historic” 27% tax-cut was skewed two to one in favor of those making over $200,000 per year, in percentages, and far more in real dollars. By the end of the second year, increases in state and local taxes more than replaced the cuts for the middle class. b) Wages throughout Reagan/Bush remained stagnant in real dollars for the next 12 years, the longest and worst growth performance in middle class wages in US history. Average national growth was the lowest since the early 30s.

c) Conspired with corpoRat and congressional allies to sustain spending by loosening credit, to replace the wages they were  not going to increase.

d) Named Ayn Rand acolyte and free-market apostle Alan Greenspan as Chief of the Federal Reserve.

11) The HUD/DoI Scandals: Samuel Pierce and his associates were found to have rewarded wealthy  contributors to the administration’s campaign with funding for low  income housing development without the customary background checks, and lobbyists, such as former Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt, were rewarded with huge lobbying  fees for assisting campaign contributors with receiving government loans and  guarantees. Sixteen  convictions were eventually handed down, including several members of the Reagan  administration.

12) Appointed some of the “worst” Federalist Society/strict constructionists to the federal bench, including Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor, ALL of whose votes were crucial in (illegally) installing GW Bush in the presidency in 2000, and named Rehnquist Chief Justice.

13) Ordered the revocation of the FCC regulation called “the Fairness Doctrine,” and opened up the Press to the rash of consolidations which has led, now, to a compromised, toothless, stenographic, lap-dog “Fourth Estate.”

14) Initiated the attack on labor unions by attacking PATCO, the Air Traffic Controllers union, creating a crisis in airport control towers nation-wide, and importantly, started the slow erosion of US worker wages and benefits.

15) Through the appointment of James Watt, who claimed that the environment was “expendable” since the “second coming of Christ was at hand,”, Reagan reduced clean water and air standards, reduced labor, mine, and industrial safety standards,and cut funding to supervisory and regulatory agencies charged with monitoring those industries.

16) Increased the defense budget to 240% previous levels.

17)  Systematically ignored the beginning of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, blaming the victims publically.

18)The S&L collapse: Reagan’s “elimination of loopholes” in the tax code included the elimination of  the “passive loss” provisions that subsidized rental housing. Because this was  removed retroactively, it bankrupted many real estate developments made with  this tax break as a premise. This with some other “deregulation” policies  ultimately led to the largest political and financial scandal in U.S. history:  The  Savings and Loan crisis. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD $150 billion, about $125 billion of which was consequently and directly subsidized by the U.S.  government, which contributed to the large  budget deficits of the  early 1990s.

19) Called ketchup a vegetable for the purposes of school-lunch funding and reduced early education and head-start funding.

20) Symbolically ripped the solar panels, installed by Pres. Carter, from the White House,and blamed trees for causing air pollution.

I had thought the savings and loan crisis more the result of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn’s doing, but the dates are right.  Nobel Economics Memorial Prize winner Paul Krugman offered some insight there, don’t miss Krugman’s column on our current economic woes.

He didn’t mention the killing of the program to wipe out measles, in the 1981 Budget Reconciliation.  Paltry program cost $3 million a year, should have been done by 1985.  Savings of about $12 million.  Without the program, measles roared back.  I could come up with a half dozen similar stories.

History teachers, got enough for a POV question on Reagan?

Scared yet?


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