Friday, August 31, 2012

The Medicare Killers By PAUL KRUGMAN

This from Prof. Paul Krugman  --  read carefully - then vote for anyone other than Romney and Ryan

Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless.
Some of his fibs were trivial but telling, like his suggestion that President Obama is responsible for a closed auto plant in his hometown, even though the plant closed before Mr. Obama took office. Others were infuriating, like his sanctimonious declaration that “the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” This from a man proposing savage cuts in Medicaid, which would cause tens of millions of vulnerable Americans to lose health coverage.
And Mr. Ryan — who has proposed $4.3 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, versus only about $1.7 trillion in specific spending cuts — is still posing as a deficit hawk.
But Mr. Ryan’s big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was his claim that “a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare.” Actually, it would kill the program.
Before I get there, let me just mention that Mr. Ryan has now gone all-in on the party line that the president’s plan to trim Medicare expenses by around $700 billion over the next decade — savings achieved by paying less to insurance companies and hospitals, not by reducing benefits — is a terrible, terrible thing. Yet, just a few days ago, Mr. Ryan was still touting his own budget plan, which included those very same savings.
But back to the big lie. The Republican Party is now firmly committed to replacing Medicare with what we might call Vouchercare. The government would no longer pay your major medical bills; instead, it would give you a voucher that could be applied to the purchase of private insurance. And, if the voucher proved insufficient to buy decent coverage, hey, that would be your problem.
Moreover, the vouchers almost certainly would be inadequate; their value would be set by a formula taking no account of likely increases in health care costs.
Why would anyone think that this was a good idea? The G.O.P. platform says that it “will empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Indeed. Because those of us too young for Medicare just feel so personally empowered, you know, when dealing with insurance companies.
Still, wouldn’t private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? No. All, and I mean all, the evidence says that public systems like Medicare and Medicaid, which have less bureaucracy than private insurers (if you can’t believe this, you’ve never had to deal with an insurance company) and greater bargaining power, are better than the private sector at controlling costs.
I know this flies in the face of free-market dogma, but it’s just a fact. You can see this fact in the history of Medicare Advantage, which is run through private insurers and has consistently had higher costs than traditional Medicare. You can see it from comparisons between Medicaid and private insurance: Medicaid costs much less. And you can see it in international comparisons: The United States has the most privatized health system in the advanced world and, by far, the highest health costs.
So Vouchercare would mean higher costs and lower benefits for seniors. Over time, the Republican plan wouldn’t just end Medicare as we know it, it would kill the thing Medicare is supposed to provide: universal access to essential care. Seniors who couldn’t afford to top up their vouchers with a lot of additional money would just be out of luck.
Still, the G.O.P. promises to maintain Medicare as we know it for those currently over 55. Should everyone born before 1957 feel safe? Again, no.
For one thing, repeal of Obamacare would cause older Americans to lose a number of significant benefits that the law provides, including the way it closes the “doughnut hole” in drug coverage and the way it protects early retirees.
Beyond that, the promise of unchanged benefits for Americans of a certain age just isn’t credible. Think about the political dynamics that would arise once someone born in 1956 still received full Medicare while someone born in 1959 couldn’t afford decent coverage. Do you really think that would be a stable situation? For sure, it would unleash political warfare between the cohorts — and the odds are high that older cohorts would soon find their alleged guarantees snatched away.
The question now is whether voters will understand what’s really going on (which depends to a large extent on whether the news media do their jobs). Mr. Ryan and his party are betting that they can bluster their way through this, pretending that they are the real defenders of Medicare even as they work to kill it. Will they get away with it?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This From "The Economic Populist" - by Robert Oak

 14.8% of America is on Food Stamps

Think things are getting better? Think again. Food stamp usage is actually up from the latest data. As of May 2012, 46,496,788 people are on food stamps in the United States. That's 14.8% or over 1 in 7. The United States population in May 2012 was 313,878,000 and this figure includes everyone, including people overseas. Food stamp usage increased 2.4% from May 2011 and 0.5% from April 2012.
snap 5/12
Since October 2007, food stamp usage has increased 72.2%. Population has increased 3.7% during the same time period. That is how badly America is hurting.
Below is the yearly percent change in food stamp usage per state. As we can see with the recession claimed to be over in July 2009, we still are seeing more people going on food stamps. Population increased only 0.7% from May 2011 to May 2012.
food stamp state 5/12
There are over 6 million whose only income is food stamps. That means they are living on the streets with absolutely nothing else.
This is an update to our popular post overviewing food stamp usage from last year.

How Romney Keeps Lying Through His Big White Teeth

From Robert Reich

How Romney Keeps Lying Through His Big White Teeth

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

A half dozen fact-checking organizations and websites have refuted Romney’s claims that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law and will cut Medicare benefits by $716 billion.

Last Sunday’s New York Times even reported on its front page that Romney has been “falsely charging” President Obama with removing the work requirement. Those are strong words from the venerable Times. Yet Romney is still making the false charge. Ads containing it continue to be aired.

Presumably the Romney campaign continues its false claims because they’re effective. But this raises a more basic question: How can they remain effective when they’ve been so overwhelmingly discredited by the media?

The answer is the Republican Party has developed three means of bypassing the mainstream media and its fact-checkers.

The first is by repeating big lies so often in TV spots – financed by a mountain of campaign money – that the public can no longer recall (if it ever knew) that the mainstream media and its fact-checkers have found them to be lies.
A series of court decisions and regulatory changes, beginning with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission, opened the floodgates to big money. Fully a quarter of the $350 million amassed by Super PACs through the end of July came from just ten donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks such spending.
And through political front groups masquerading as nonprofits charitable, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, corporations and Wall Street banks are making secret contributions — without even their own shareholders knowing.

The second means the GOP has developed to protect its lies is by discrediting the mainstream media – asserting it’s run by “liberal elites” that can’t be trusted to tell the truth. “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Newt Gingrich charged at a Republican debate last January, in what’s become a standard GOP attack line.
To be sure, the mainstream media hasn’t always called it correctly. Initially it bought the Bush administration’s claim there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. But the mainstream media is at least committed to professional standards that separate truth from fiction, seek objective facts, correct errors, and disseminate the truth.

The third mechanism is by using its own misinformation outlets – led by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and his yell-radio imitators, book publisher Regnery, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, along with a right-wing blogosphere – to spread the lies, or at least spread doubt about what’s true.

Together, these three mechanisms are creating a parallel Republican universe of Orwellian dimension – where anything can be asserted, where pollsters and political advisers are free to create whatever concoction of lies will help elect their candidate, and where “fact-checkers” are as irrelevant and intrusive as is the truth.

Democracy cannot thrive in such a place. To the contrary, history teaches that this is where demagogues take root.

The Romney campaign has decided it won’t be dictated by fact-checkers. But a society without trusted arbiters of what is true and what is false is vulnerable to every lie imaginable.

A Visit To Some Assembly Required

Follow link to original..

Let Me Count the Ways Lies: The R's claim: That Obama said individuals do not build their own businesses. That Obama gutted Medicare. That Obama abolished the work rules in welfare. That Ryan's plan will balance the budget. That Romney has a plan for economic recovery. Not a one of these is true.

Précis: Ann Romney took the podium to announce that some of her best friends are middle class. And she shops at Costco, too.

 Vaccine: The Republicans go happily on their way, making up stuff – which they can do because their ideology insulates them from any contact with reality.

 Convenience: Behind the podium in Tampa there's a giant debt clock so folks can see the continuing effects of the Bush tax cuts, the Bush wars of aggression, the Bush TARP stimulus spending. It does not include the added deficit that would be caused by the trillions in additional tax cuts Romney/Ryan promise to inflict on the country. Remember, the Republicans inherited a budget surplus from Clinton.

 Future, Tense: “[B]y the mid-2020s, even with the most optimistic assumptions about economic growth, current trends indicate that the average American’s wages will drop about 20 percent.”

Monkey Business: Romney's Victory Council – those who have raised at least $1 million for The Mitten – held a party on a 150-foot luxury yacht that flies the flag of the Cayman Islands.

The Empire Strikes Out: The financial burden that will bankrupt the US is not Social Security or Medicare, it is the world-wide overreach of the American military empire.

There's a lot more  --  go there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republican Platform Will Feature End of Medicare as We Know It By: David Dayen Tuesday August 28, 2012 11:45 am

Another post direct from "FireDogLake"  --  again, follow link to original

The Republican National Convention has been gaveled into order, and an already-hoarse RNC Chair Reince Priebus has begun the proceedings. The first day will include the roll call to formally nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for President and Vice President. What may have been an uncomfortable floor fight over the seating of delegates appears to have been averted, with a deal between Mitt Romney and the Texas delegation (LATE UPDATE: or perhaps not).
Also, in a couple hours’ time, the RNC will formally adopt the party platform. Republicans aren’t really interested in having anyone read that platform, but it offers plenty of clues into the policy trends of one of the major parties in America. We’ve heard about the abortion plank, calling for a ban on the procedure with no exceptions. There are planks that support African nations that persecute members of the LGBT community, planks supporting the establishment of a commission to study the return of the US to the gold standard, planks that draw a red line on Iran’s nuclear program at a weapon “capability” instead of a weapon itself, even planks recommitting to a forceful prosecution of pornography.
But perhaps the most important plank in the platform, considering the prominence of the nation’s fiscal debate, is the plank on Medicare, which spells out quite directly the GOP plan for the future of the program.
The text details the privatization policy that GOP lawmakers have supported for years, and that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are selling as necessary to “save” Medicare. But in an unusual twist, it addresses the specific aspect of the proposal that makes it a departure from what Americans know as “Medicare.”
“The first step is to move the two programs [Medicare and Medicaid] away from their current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model,” the draft platform reads. “While retaining the option of traditional Medicare in competition with private plans, we call for a transition to a premium-support model for Medicare, with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice. This model will include private health insurance plans that provide catastrophic protection, to ensure the continuation of doctor-patient relationships.”
The platform will also reportedly support increasing the Medicare eligibility age.
Fact-checking organizations who have mistakenly called the proposition that Republicans would “end Medicare as we know it” a lie must pay attention to that paragraph. Simply put, Republicans want to, well, end Medicare as we know it, from a defined benefit, a government-run insurance program for all seniors, which pays medical bills like any other insurance program, to a defined contribution, where seniors instead get a coupon to purchase their own insurance on the private market but the contribution likely won’t keep up with rising costs and premiums. The menu of options may include a government-run alternative, but it too would be a defined contribution rather than a defined benefit.
Republicans call the defined benefit plan unsustainable. But private competition, which is the method that they prefer for lowering costs, has never worked to do so in any test you can muster. Medicare is far better at containing costs on health care in the United States than private insurance. Every advanced country in the world, with their more coherent and less fragmented health care system, has lower costs than this country. The only thing a premium support plan would do is to offload those higher costs onto individuals as the higher costs exceed the “defined contribution.” In the name of keeping providers fat and happy with higher reimbursements, Republicans would throw seniors into the vicissitudes of the marketplace, which has not worked for individuals.
Let’s not overlook the part of that language that supports the block-granting of Medicaid, which would make massive cuts, shoulder costs onto beneficiaries, and lower the enrollment of the program.
The final platform language will not be made public until after the vote, a sign that Republicans don’t really want anyone to know about it. But these are basically the programs for Medicare that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have supported.

Methane Showing Up in Water Contaminated By Fracking By: David Dayen Tuesday August 28, 2012 12:26 pm

THANK GOD fracking presents "no danger" to our water supply  --  the fact it has a record of danger to wells, streams, etc. seems totally ignored  --  oh well, this from "FireDogLake"  --  please follow link to original

The biggest reason for the decline in greenhouse gas emissions over the past couple years is the replacement of dirty coal with natural gas to generate electricity. But this will not last if the fracking that has unlocked so much natural gas leads to the release of underground methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Among all the other pollutants we’re seeing in the water supply of areas with a high frequency of fracking, we’re starting to see lots of methane out there.
Mike and Nancy Leighton’s problems began on May 19, just as Mike was settling in to watch the Preakness Stakes. A neighbor in Leroy Township, Pa., called Mike and told him to check the water well located just outside his front door.
Down the road, Ted and Gale Franklin’s water well had gone dry. When water started coming out later that week, the liquid was “black as coal,” according to Gale.
Since then, both families have been dealing with methane-contaminated water supplies, as well as dozens of mysterious, flammable gas puddles bubbling up on their properties.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection blames a nearby hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation. It says methane gas has leaked out of the well, which is operated by Chesapeake Energy, and into the Leightons’ and Franklins’ water supplies.
The danger goes beyond contaminated water. In a letter to both families detailing test results and preliminary findings, state regulators wrote that “there is a physical danger of fire or explosion due to the migration of natural gas water wells.” Chesapeake has installed ventilation systems at the two water wells, but the letter warns, “it is not possible to completely eliminate the hazards of having natural gas in your water supply by simply venting your well.”
In addition to the contaminated water and the possibility of explosions (and seismic activity, actually), you have the impact of the release of methane. I don’t know that this is totally being measured at this point, but leaking wells can easily act as a way to flow methane to the surface along with the natural gas. Geologist David Yoxtheimer calls this a “methane gas express elevator.” The margins of reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from fracking will drop significantly if this comes to pass. And the more sloppily frackers build their wells, the more of a problem this becomes.

Fact checking for thee, but not for me

This from "The Washington Post"  --  ANYONE who votes Republican should be disqualified from voting for lack of reading comprehension, low intelligence, total lack of citizenship, lack of critical thinking faculties, etc., etc., etc.
Follow link to original

Fact checking for thee, but not for me

Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint.
This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.
As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:
“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”...
The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed.
“Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.
That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:
“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”
The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.
By the way, this isn’t the first time the Romney camp has insisted that it is not beholden to the standards it expects the Obama campaign to follow. For the better part of a year, Romney has hammered Obama over the “net” jobs lost on his watch, to paint him as a job destroyer, a metric that factors the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost at the start of Obama’s term, before his policies took effect. Yet Romney advisers have argued, with no apparent sense of irony, that his own record should not be judged by one net jobs number.
In this sense, the Romney campaign continues to pose a test to the news media and our political system. What happens when one campaign has decided there is literally no set of boundaries that it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of its assertions? The Romney campaign is betting that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed about the disputes that are central to the campaign, in the face of the sheer scope and volume of dishonesty it uncorks daily.
Paul Krugman’s question continues to remain relevant: “Has there ever been a candidacy this cynical?”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Anti-gay pastor Grant Storms convicted of masturbating in New Orleans park The Rev. Grant Storms, a fiery anti-gay New Orleans preacher, has been convicted of masturbating in a public park in 2011, telling authorities that the sex act was a ‘thrill’ and a ‘fantasy.’

From "The New York Daily News" - please follow link to original.  Gee-golly-gosh, what is wrong with these "men of God"?  Are they all PERVS?     YES!!

An anti-gay pastor in New Orleans was convicted of masturbating in a public park last year, telling authorities in his confession that the sex act was a "thrill" and a "fantasy."
Grant Storms, who gained notoriety by leading a raucous march against homosexuals during New Orleans' annual gay-oriented Southern Decadence festival, was found guilty of obscenity on Wednesday for the Feb. 25, 2011, incident.
Storms was busted in Lafreniere Park in suburban Metairie after a nanny spotted him behind the wheel of his parked van with his penis out and a hat partially covering his face.
After he was arrested, the 55-year-old preacher admitted to cops that it was the third time that week he had pleasured himself in the park, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
During his confession, Storms told police he was cutting some grass in the park when he took a break to drink a beer and became "horny," the newspaper reported.
"Why do you go to the park and do this, as far as masturbating,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kevin Balser asked Storms during the interview, according to the Times-Picayune.
"I don't know," Storms said. "I guess a thrill."
"So it's a thrill-slash-fantasy for you?" Balser said.
"Yes," Storms said.
After the arrest, Storms was accused of being a pedophile because he had been busted near a park where children often play.
But prosecutors said there was no evidence that Storms was sexually aroused by children.
A search of his cell phone and computer didn't find any child porn, the newspaper reported.
Storms did not comment after the conviction.
The firebrand preacher became a national figure for his anti-gay protests during Southern Decadence, a three-day gay festival in the French Quarter held every year around Labor Day.
Carrying signs and a bullhorn, Storms slammed the event as "depraved" and called The Big Easy a "prostitute" for hosting it.
Storms was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to recieve psychological treatment.

CALIFORNIA: Prop 8 Supporter & Anti-Gay Activist Charged With Molesting Boys

This from Joe.My.God  --  follow link to original. 

Back To Stonewall reports that a donor to Protect Marriage has been charged with multiple counts of molesting boys during outings with his notoriously anti-gay church.
A longtime anti-gay activist, California Prop 8 donor, and elementary school teacher was taken into custody on August 17th after admitting inappropriate contact with young boys. Caleb Douglas Hesse, a teacher for the Morongo Unified School District since 1987 (most recently, he was teaching first grade at Friendly Hills Elementary School in Joshua Tree) and a longtime youth volunteer with the virulently homophobic Evangelical Free Church of Yucca Valley, has confessed to sexually abusing “numerous underage boys,” with authorities believe the crimes occurred between the early 1980’s and as recently as a week ago.”

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore "Father Of Prop 8" Cordileone Busted For Drunk Driving

From Joe.My.God.  --  follow link to original.  A drunken homophobe as Archbishop of San Francisco  --  what can possibly go wrong?

The brand new Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has been arrested for drunk driving. Cordileone is widely considered the "father of Proposition 8."
Police in San Diego say Bishop Salvatore Cordileone was arrested over the weekend for driving under the influence. Police say it happened in San Diego's College District just before 12:30 Saturday morning. Bishop Cordileone is currently bishop of Oakland -- a post he's held since 2009. Last month Pope Benedict chose Bishop Cordileone to become archbishop of San Francisco -- replacing retiring Archbishop George Niederaur. He's scheduled to assume the new post in October.

Army soldiers bought $87K worth of weapons to kill Obama

From "Raw Story"  --  more good, law-abiding, "warriors", protecting America.  NOT!!

Prosecutors alleged Monday that four Army soldiers arrested for killing a former soldier and his girlfriend were plotting to assassinate the President and overthrow the government.
The Associated Press reported that the four soldiers, part of a Georgia-based militia called Forever Enduring Always Ready (FEAR), had spent at least $87,000 on guns and bomb components.
“This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk,” prosecutor Isabel Pauley said. “Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”
The militia planned to take over Fort Stewart in Georgia as well as bomb a number of targets, including a dam in Washington state. The plot was uncovered during a murder case involving the killing of former Army soldier Michael Roark and his girlfriend Tiffany York in December.
Pfc. Michael Burnett said in court that the former soldier and his girlfriend were executed after the militia feared Roark had betrayed them. Burnett has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Burnett and the other defendants — Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon — have been charged with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony.

Romney’s and Ryan’s Economic Plan

From Robert Reich

George W. Bush as Hurricane Isaac

This from Robert Reich - follow link to original.

George W. Bush as Hurricane Isaac

Monday, August 27, 2012
There is nothing Republicans would rather the American people forget more than George W. Bush, who doesn’t even have a bit-part at the GOP convention opening in Tampa.
But W’s ghost may be there, anyway.
The National Weather Service says tropical storm Isaac is now heading for New Orleans, and Isaac is projected to become a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall  late Monday or early Tuesday.
Isaac is very likely to revive memories of the Bush administration’s monumental incompetence in dealing with the needs of Americans caught in Hurricane Katrina.
And if the public remembers the Bush administration’s incompetence with Katrina, they may also recall the Bush administration’s incompetence and its lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — which led us into that devastating war.
And the public may recall how George W. Bush took the $5 trillion surplus Bill Clinton bequeathed to him and turned it into a $6 trillion budget deficit by slashing taxes, mostly on the rich, and by creating an expensive new Medicare drug benefit that helped drug companies more than it helped seniors.
The public might even recall how the Bush administration tried not to see what Wall Street was up to when the Street went on a rampage of risky bets, and then, when Wall Street was about to melt down, pushed Congress into approving a no-strings bailout — both of which cost the nation billions more.
Indeed, we’re still living with George W. Bush’s legacy — the last Republican to occupy the White House — which is a truth that Romney is desperate to put out of our minds. He wants to blame the bad economy, and most of everything else, on Obama.
The GOP was intent on not even bringing up Bush’s name at the GOP convention, because the former president might also remind Americans how little the Republicans care about average Americans, like those caught in Hurricane Katrina, and how much they care about top corporate and Wall Street executives, like those being entertained in Tampa.
But Hurricane Isaac seems likely to remind Americans anyway.
Let us hope and pray Isaac doesn’t cause the disaster of Katrina. We can at least be confident that the Obama administration will respond as the Bush administration didn’t.
But the split screen on the TV newscasts — part GOP convention, part Hurricane Isaac bashing into the Gulf Coast — may nonetheless pose a public-relations disaster for the GOP.

Possible Plot To Assassinate Obama

Yep, there's nothing to worry about from the right-wing.  They're just "patriots" working to "improve" America  --  and I'm a 22 year old insanely beautiful beauty queen hungry for any male attention.  Oh yeah, by the way, I have this bridge here I'd like to sell you .................

Count Basie - Red Bank Boogie

Count Basie - Blues For Joe Turner

Count Basie (piano);
Milt Jackson (vibraphone);
Joe Pass (guitar);
John Heard (bass);
Louis Bellson (drums)

Big Joe Turner: Shake Rattle and Roll

Sonny Criss Quartet 1975 ~ Cry Me A River


Sonny Criss - Blue Sunset (1969)

Sonny Criss - Blues In My Heart

JOHNNY GRIFFIN QUARTET - Blues for Harvey - Inspirational drum solo - Rare live recording

Johnny Griffin - Sax
Ronnie Matthews - Piano
Ray Drummond - Bass
Kenny Washington - Drums

Sonny Criss - Paris Blues (1967)

Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton - Layla

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Louis Armstrong - Beale Street Blues

Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton - Corrine, Corrina

Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton - Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Recado Bossa Nova by Roy Eldridge

After you've gone. JATP - Bird, Pres, Maggie...

JATP 1946
Charlie Parker, Willie Smith-as; Howard McGhee, Al Killian-trp; Lester Young-ts; Billy Hardnutt-b; Lee Young-d
Solos: Bird, Maggie, Pres, Smith, Killian

Charlie Parker & Lester Young - Embraceable You

Jazz At The Philharmonic 1949.  Opening trumpet solo Roy Eldridge

Lester Young, Count Basie - INDIANA

Count Basie - Sweet Georgia Brown

Count Basie - Good Time Blues

350 Greek Tragedies in Athens in June Alone

This from "The Automatic Earth"  --  please follow link to original

You know, we can write and read and research all we want, and till we're deep dark blue in the face, about Angela Merkel and Tim Geithner and Mario Draghi or Monti and Greek heroes Samaras and Venizelos, about what they say and do from day to day, driven by political pressure and mundane issues such as bond yields. And we will continue to write, read and research these things; that's not going to stop.
But as soon as any of us take a step back and try to see things from another perspective than that of the proverbial and iconic child with her nose pressed against the display window of the candy store, there's none of us with a grain of self-respect left who can maintain that what we see unfold is about Angela, Timothy and the Mario's. And that is what we will increasingly, and I mean all of us, need to add to our writing and reading: We will have failed miserably if we haven't paid attention to the people most affected by what rabbits the various leaderships decide to conjure up out of their high hats.
And not just because if misery in the streets reaches a critical mass, that will be where the direction of politics will be decided. It's not a macro picture. We ourselves are not a macro picture; we all of us live human micro lives. We therefore need to pay attention to the plight of the victims of the crisis, because they are people like us, because they can function as a mirror to who we are, and strive to be, and as a mirror for our futures. It is no use to be well-off yourself if you don't have a functioning society to be well-off in. And don't worry, I don't expect the majority of you to understand. I fully expect most people to hit the wall running.
Money has no value in and of itself; it derives that value from the world it rolls in. Take away that world, and you take away the value.
Yes, financial markets are doing relatively well, and if they don't, central banks will throw more of your cash at the banks. The problem is that they don't throw that cash at the people. Many of whom could really do with some. According to the present paradigm, banks are more important than people, and people, if I understand it well, can only be saved if banks are saved first (with the people's money). This paradigm is the sort of insanity only economists and bankers can come up with. The life of a person, whether rich or poor, is infinitely more important than the life of a bank. No contest. You would think.
What got me started on all of this is a great - great in its sadness - little tale from today's Spiegel, by Barbara Hardinghaus and Julia Amalia Heyer, on what happens with real people. Either we deal with issues such as this, or we don't. And if we don't, the issues will deal with us. Down the line, whatever happens to others happens to us too. We are after all social animals, that's not something we can alter at will. But we still try hard, don't we?

Greece has always had one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but its economic crisis has triggered a disturbing increase in the number of people killing themselves. Are the deaths the result of personal desperation or are people making a political statement with the only thing they have left to sacrifice?
On July 16, a businessman and father of three hanged himself in his shop on the island of Crete. A 49-year-old man from Patras was found by his son. He had also hanged himself. On July 25, a 79-year-old man on the southern Peloponnese peninsula hanged himself with a cable tied to an olive tree. On August 3, a 31-year-old man shot himself to death at his home near Olympia. On August 5, a 15-year-old boy hanged himself in Pieria. And, on August 6, a 60-year-old former footballer self-immolated in Chalcis.
These are also reports from Greece, reports that, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with the economy. They come together to form a grim statistic, raising questions of what is triggering the suicides and whether the high incidence is merely a coincidence.
Or do people see suicide as a way out of the crisis that has taken hold of their country and their lives? Are they bowing out before things get even worse? Germany and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are opposed to a new bailout package for Athens. The country faces a shortfall of at least €40 billion ($49 billion). Greece could very well be officially bankrupt by the fall.
Greece, a country whose Orthodox Church does not condone suicide, has always had one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe. But now, there were 350 suicide attempts and 50 deaths in Athens in June alone. Most of the suicides were among members of the middle class and, in many cases, the act itself was carried out in public, almost as if it were a theatrical performance.

Desperate for Dignity
On April 4, shortly after 9 a.m., a 77-year-old pharmacist shot himself to death on Syntagma Square in downtown Athens. Dimitris Christoulas, a short man, stood against one of the large trees on the square, held a pistol to his temple and pulled the trigger.
"My father was a political person, a fighter," says his daughter, Emmy Christoulas. Weeks after her father's death, she is sitting in her living room in Chalandri, a northern suburb of Athens. She is a slim 42-year-old wearing oversized jeans, her short black hair streaked with gray.
Her father was politically active, a member of the "We Won't Pay" movement. He repeatedly called for an international review of Greece's national debt because he was convinced that it wasn't the fault of the people. He had come to beleaguered downtown Athens every day last summer to take part in rallies and to lend a hand, usually in the Red Cross tent.
When he went to Syntagma Square for the last time, on April 4, he sent his daughter a text message consisting of one short sentence: "This is the end." Then he switched off his cell phone. "It was at exactly 8:31 a.m.," says Emmy, pulling a cigarillo from a crumpled pack. When she was unable to reach her father by phone after receiving the text message, she and two friends drove to his apartment.
She heard a news report on the radio that someone had shot and killed himself under a tree on Syntagma Square. "First the text message, and then that report," she says. "I was sure it was him."

Since her father's death, Emmy Christoulas has taken the subway to the square, nine stops from her apartment, many times. She visits the memorial to her father two or three times a week, usually in the evening. When she does, she stands a short distance away from the tree.
It's become quiet in the square, where a band is playing and the sound of guitar music is wafting through the warm air. Christoulas crosses her arms over her chest and looks at the people who stop at the memorial. It consists of wreaths and a few stuffed animals leaning against the tree, as well as notes pinned to the trunk. "Don't walk like a robot! Open your spirit!" one note written in red letters on a piece of cardboard reads. The lines that Dimitris Christoulas wrote in a suicide note are engraved into a marble plaque.

The government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid into for 35 years with no help from the state. I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so that I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance.

The words "Dimitris' gesture cannot be repeated" are written on a piece of paper above the plaque. But his gesture is repeating itself on an almost daily basis. The newspaper Ta Nea describes the mood among Greeks as a "society on the verge of a nervous breakdown." [..]

On the morning of April 4, Dimitris Christoulas put on his light-colored trench coat, stuck his pistol in one pocket and the farewell letter in the other, and set out for the square, as he had done so many times before, and wrote the last text message to his daughter.
On the day after the memorial service for her father, Emmy Christoulas drove her father's body 13 hours to Bulgaria to have him cremated. The Greek Orthodox Church denies church burials to people who have committed suicide. Her father had left her the money for the trip. [..]
Nikiforos Angelopoulos, an Athens psychiatrist, has kept track of suicides and, with each new death, he has become more afraid. He tries to see each act as the failure of an individual, confused person. The 60-year-old did his doctoral dissertation on the subject of "hostility." Suicide is a disorder, he says, a form of hostility -- a person's hostility against him- or herself. [..]
The 90-year-old woman who fell to her death from a rooftop terrace on Vathi Square jumped together with her son. But the truth is that she didn't jump at all. Her son pushed her. Then he waited three minutes and followed his mother. It was a 15-meter (49-foot) drop to the pavement below. His name was Anthony Perris, a musician and writer, a quiet, 60-year-old man.
The spot where he hit the ground is three kilometers from Syntagma Square, next to the building where he lived with his mother. Perris had cared for his mother, who had Alzheimer's and cancer, for 20 years. He took her for a short walk in the small park outside every day. On the evening before the suicide, he closed the blinds in the apartment. The next morning, he took his mother into the elevator and up to the roof terrace above the sixth floor.
Perris also left a suicide note, placing it on the kitchen table. "My life has become a constant tragedy," he wrote. He tried to sell his house, but no one had the money to buy it. He owned a house, a boat and a moped.
"What's the use of owning things when you don't have any money to buy food?" Perris asked in his suicide note.

Everything that the papers are saying about the rash of suicides is "misleading and dangerous," says Angelopoulos, the psychiatrist. People who commit suicide, he notes, are not political fighters, even if the public turns them into heroes.
The pharmacist who shot himself to death on Syntagma Square was a desperate individual, just like all the others, says Angelopoulos, who sounds a little desperate himself. He is fighting a lonely battle. All the same, the Greek Ministry for Health set up a suicide hotline a few weeks ago. Despite all the budget cuts and austerity measures, it feels the expense is justified. [..]
On the morning after our visit with Christoulas, the Athens police received another emergency call. A 61-year-old man has hanged himself from a tree on a hill in Aghios Philippos Park, not far from his house. He was a sailor who had recently lost his job. He had a wife, a son, a daughter and a dog. His body was removed by the afternoon, a few hours after his death.
The red-and-white strip of crime scene tape is still hanging between two trees, fluttering in the wind above the big city.

Romney’s Lying Machine

From Robert reich - follow link to original

Romney’s Lying Machine

Friday, August 24, 2012
I’ve been struck by the baldness of Romney’s repetitive lies about Obama — that Obama ended the work requirement under welfare, for example, or that Obama’s Affordable Care Act cuts $716 billion from Medicare benefits.
The mainstream media along with a half-dozen independent fact-checking organizations and sites have called Romney on these whoppers, but to no avail. He keeps making these assertions.
Every campaign is guilty of exaggerations, embellishments, distortions, and half-truths. But this is another thing altogether. I’ve been directly involved in seven presidential campaigns, and I don’t recall a presidential candidate lying with such audacity, over and over again. Why does he do it, and how can he get away with it?
The obvious answer is such lies are effective. Polls show voters are starting to believe them, especially in swing states where they’re being repeated constantly in media spots financed by Romney’s super PAC or ancillary PACs and so-called “social welfare” organizations (political fronts disguised as charities, such as Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have set up).
Romney’s lying machine is extraordinarily well financed. By August, according to Jane Mayer in her recent New Yorker article, at least 33 billionaires had each donated a quarter of a million dollars or more to groups aiming to defeat Obama – with most of it flooding into attack ads in swing states.
In early August, “Americans for Prosperity,” one of the nonprofit front groups masquerading as a charity, and founded in part by billionaire right-wingers Charles and David Koch, bought some $27 million in ad time on spots now airing in eleven swing states.
So Romney’s lying machine is working.
But what does all this tell us about the man who is running this lying machine? (Or if Romney’s not running it, what does it tell us about a man who would select the people who are?)
We knew he was a cypher — that he’ll say and do whatever is expedient, change positions like a chameleon, eschew any core principles.
Yet resorting to outright lies — and organizing a presidential campaign around a series of lies — reveals a whole new level of cynicism, a profound disdain for what remains of civility in public life, and a disrespect of the democratic process.
The question is whether someone who is willing to resort to such calculated lies, and build a campaign machine around them, can be worthy of the public’s trust with the most powerful office in the world.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Francisco d’Anconia on Money

Here's an interesting post from Dr. Krugman's blog on that noted thinker  --  Paul Ryan.  Please follow link to original

Francisco d’Anconia on Money

Dave Weigel made a great catch the other day: he notes that Paul Ryan has said that his views on monetary policy are based on Francisco d’Anconia’s speech in Atlas Shrugged.
Aside from revealing just how much of a Rand fanboy Ryan is — urban legend, my foot — this is interesting because that 23 paragraph speech isn’t just a call for the gold standard; it’s a call for eliminating paper money and going back to gold coins.
This had me wondering: when was the last time the economy actually ran on specie, rather than notes?
Bear in mind that paper money has been in widespread use for a long, long time. Originally these were often notes from private banks, like the $10 (“dix”) note from the Citizen’s Bank of Louisiana that may have given rise to the term “Dixie” for the south. There’s an extensive, mostly positive discussion of bank notes in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. But when did the notes become dominant over coin?
Well, the Millennial Edition of Historical Statistics of the United States (subscription required) has some data. As I read it, as of 1813 there was only $7 million worth of coins in the hands of the U.S. public, versus $52 million in bank notes. So even two centuries ago, we were already a paper-money economy.
And this means that Ryan wants to turn the clock back two centuries, not one.

Evidence vs. Ideology in the Medicare Debate

this from "Economix" by Prof. LAURA D'ANDREA TYSON.  Please follow link to original.

Laura D’Andrea Tyson is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and served as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton.
When formulating public policy, evidence should be accorded more weight than ideology, and facts should matter more than shibboleths. The Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare reform depends on assertions that are ideologically consistent. But the Republicans plan is not supported by the evidence and does not survive serious scrutiny.
Perhaps that’s why the Romney campaign has been deliberately misrepresenting President Obama’s Medicare record.
Mitt Romney characterizes the $716 billion of Medicare savings over the next 10 years, contained in the Affordable Care Act, as President Obama’s “raid” on the Medicare program to pay for his health care program. This fear-mongering is simply untrue. These savings result from reforms to slow the growth of Medicare spending per enrollee – there are no cuts in Medicare benefits.
The reforms include both voluntary and mandatory changes in how providers deliver health care to promote better care coordination at lower cost, reward the quality and outcomes of services rather than their volume and reduce fraud and abuse.
For example, the law fosters the creation of accountable-care organizations, i.e., groups of providers willing to accept a flat fee for the integrated care provided to their Medicare patients. Accountable-care organizations represent a major step away from the unsustainable fee-for-service model that rewards the number of procedures rather than the quality of care.
Health experts believe that these organizations will significantly improve care and lower costs not just in Medicare but throughout the health care system. This belief is based on evidence, not ideology.
Medicare beneficiaries will also benefit from reforms that penalize hospitals for preventable re-admissions reflecting complications from previous procedures and that require hospitals to post their rates of medical errors, with penalties for those with the highest rates.
Both Governor Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and with it the reforms behind the $716 billion in Medicare savings (although Mr. Ryan duplicitously counts the savings from these reforms in his deficit-reduction plan). Medicare beneficiaries would be the losers. They would lose the benefits of better care at lower cost. They would lose the plan’s expanded Medicare coverage for prevention benefits and prescription drugs, and they would be forced to pay higher premiums and co-pays as a result of faster growth in Medicare costs.
President Obama’s health care plan is not a raid on Medicare; it is an investment in a stronger system. If the Affordable Care Act had not met this standard, the AARP would not have endorsed it.
The plan adds eight years to the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund while reducing the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years and by about a half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, or about $1 trillion from 2023 through 2032. This is according to the Congressional Budget Office, a trusted nonpartisan arbiter in federal budgetary matters.
In contrast, the last major health legislation, the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, added about $400 billion to the 10-year deficit. Mr. Ryan, the self-described deficit firebrand, supported this bill, without a single dollar in savings or additional revenue to offset its costs.
Now Mr. Ryan has espoused – and Governor Romney has embraced — a proposal to transform Medicare into a premium support system. This is part of the Romney-Ryan plan to reduce the federal deficit while cutting taxes, especially for high-income earners, and slashing spending on Medicare and other government programs.
Among commentators, fiscal responsibility is often equated with imposing some of the burden of deficit reduction on Medicare beneficiaries. This is a meretricious gauge of fiscal “seriousness.”
Representative Ryan has won praise from many deficit hawks for his advocacy of premium support, but this praise is unwarranted. There is no evidence that such a system would control Medicare spending more effectively than the current Medicare program strengthened by Affordable Care Act reforms. Indeed, the evidence points decisively in the opposite direction.
In Mr. Ryan’s latest premium-support proposal, the government would provide a subsidy to Medicare beneficiaries to choose among competing insurance plans, including the traditional fee-for-service Medicare plan. Starting for 65-year-olds in 2022, insurance plans would take part in an annual bidding process to compete for Medicare beneficiaries. The bids would reflect the actual growth of health-care costs and would determine the size of the federal subsidy.
Advocates of premium support argue that competition would encourage more cost-sensitive behavior by beneficiaries, providers and insurers. The facts do not support this.
Just consider that despite competition and choice, private insurance premiums per enrollee for comparable coverage have increased more rapidly than Medicare spending per enrollee for more than 30 years. Medicare’s superior performance is all the more remarkable since its elderly beneficiaries include a sizable share of the sickest individuals who are the largest consumers of health care services. And Medicare’s cost advantage is likely to continue into the future.
According to a recent study, with implementation of the Affordable Care Act reforms, Medicare spending per enrollee is likely to grow by 3.1 percent during the next 10 years, about the same as the projected growth rate for G.D.P. per capita, while private insurance per enrollee is likely to grow by 5 percent.
What explains Medicare’s sustained cost advantage over private insurance? Medicare has much lower administrative costs than private insurance. And Medicare has considerable negotiating leverage with providers as a result of its huge enrollment. The new law strengthens this leverage. Private insurance plans have been unwilling or unable to drive reforms to reduce provider costs, preferring instead to pass rising costs on to consumers through higher premiums, relying on Medicare to spearhead efficiency-enhancing reforms.
As I explained in a previous Economix post, this is why the C.B.O. has consistently refused to recognize large potential savings in health care costs from reforms that merely increase competition among private insurance plans.
Indeed, the C.B.O. has concluded that replacing traditional Medicare with competition among such plans would drive up total health-care spending per Medicare beneficiary. Which is why Representative Ryan was compelled to place an arbitrary growth cap on the size of the subsidy in his premium support proposal.
That was the only way he could secure C.B.O.-scored budgetary savings. But imposing such a cap separates the growth of the subsidy from the growth of health care costs and transforms the premium-support system into a voucher system.
A voucher system would do little to control the growth of health care costs, but it would shift their burden onto Medicare beneficiaries in the form of higher premiums and reduced care. Cost-shifting should not be confused with cost containment.
Mr. Ryan asserts that the 1998 bipartisan Medicare Commission proposed premium support as a solution to Medicare’s financing challenges. But he fails to mention that all of the commission members appointed by President Clinton, including me, voted against this idea.
Since then, the evidence has confirmed that competition among private insurance plans would not yield Medicare savings without harming beneficiaries. To achieve this goal, enforceable payment and cost-containment reforms like those in the Affordable Care Act are necessary.
A “serious” deficit hawk committed to saving and strengthening Medicare, not one whose primary goals are repealing health-care reform and cutting taxes for the wealthy, would base his Medicare plan on the evidence. Mr. Ryan and his running mate can’t be serious.

The Crackpot Caucus By TIMOTHY EGAN

This from "The New York Times" by Timothy Egan  --  please follow link  to original

The tutorial in 8th grade biology that Republicans got after one of their members of Congress went public with something from the wackosphere was instructive, and not just because it offered female anatomy lessons to those who get their science from the Bible.
Take a look around key committees of the House and you’ll find a governing body stocked with crackpots whose views on major issues are as removed from reality as Missouri’s Representative Todd Akin’s take on the sperm-killing powers of a woman who’s been raped.
On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.
Let’s take a quick tour of the crazies in the House. Their war on critical thinking explains a lot about why the United States is laughed at on the global stage, and why no real solutions to our problems emerge from that broken legislative body.

Clockwise, from top left: Representatives John Shimkus of Illinois, Joe Barton of Texas, Jack Kingston of Georgia, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Todd Akin of Missouri and Paul Broun of GeorgiaClockwise, from top left: Seth Perlman/Associated Press; Manuel Balce Ceneta, via Associated Press; Stephen Morton, via Getty Images; Daniel Acker for The New York Times; Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press; Paul Morigi, via Getty Images for OvationClockwise, from top left: Representatives John Shimkus of Illinois, Joe Barton of Texas, Jack Kingston of Georgia, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Todd Akin of Missouri and Paul Broun of Georgia

We’re currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, a siege of wildfires, and the hottest temperatures since records were kept.  But to Republicans in Congress, it’s all a big hoax. The chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change,  Representative John Shimkus of Illinois is —  you guessed it  — a climate-change denier.

At a 2009 hearing, Shimkus said not to worry about a fatally dyspeptic planet: the biblical signs have yet to properly align. “The earth will end only when God declares it to be over,” he said, and then he went on to quote Genesis at some length.  It’s worth repeating: This guy is the chairman.
On the same committee is an oil-company tool and 27-year veteran of Congress, Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas.  You may remember Barton as the politician who apologized to the head of BP in 2010 after the government dared to insist that the company pay for those whose livelihoods were ruined by the gulf oil spill.
Barton cited the Almighty in questioning energy from wind turbines. Careful, he warned, “wind is God’s way of balancing heat.”  Clean energy, he said,  “would slow the winds down” and thus could make it hotter. You never know.
“You can’t regulate God!” Barton barked at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the midst of discussion on measures to curb global warming.
The Catholic Church long ago made its peace with evolution, but the same cannot be said of House Republicans.  Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House,  is an evolution denier, apparently because he can’t see the indent where his ancestors’ monkey tail used to be. “Where’s the missing link?” he said in 2011. “I just want to know what it is.” He serves on a committee that oversees education.
In his party, Kingston is in the mainstream. A Gallup poll in June found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years —  a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary.
Another Georgia congressman, Paul Broun,  introduced the so-called personhood legislation in the House — backed by Akin and Representative Paul Ryan — that would have given a fertilized egg the same constitutional protections as a fully developed human being.
Broun is on the same science, space and technology committee that Akin is. Yes, science is part of their purview.
Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing.
Remember the crazy statement that helped to kill the presidential aspirations of  Michele Bachmann?  A vaccine, designed to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer, could cause mental retardation, she proclaimed. Bachmann knew this, she insisted, because some random lady told her so at a campaign event.  Fearful of the genuine damage Bachmann’s assertion could do to public health, the American Academy of Pediatrics promptly rushed out a notice, saying,  “there is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”
Nor is there is reputable scientific validity to those who deny that the globe’s climate is changing for the worst. But Bachmann calls that authoritative consensus a hoax, and faces no censure from her party.
It’s encouraging that Republican heavyweights have since told Akin that uttering scientific nonsense about sex and rape is not good for the party’s image. But where are these fact-enforcers on the other idiocies professed by elected representatives of their party?
Akin, if he stays in the race, may still win the Senate seat in Missouri.  Bachmann, who makes things up on a regular basis, is a leader of the Tea Party caucus in Congress and, in an unintended joke, a member of the Committee on Intelligence.  None of these folks are without power; they govern, and have significant followings.
A handful of Republicans have tried to fight the know-nothings. “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” said Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, during his ill-fated run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Call me crazy.”
And in an on-air plea for sanity,  Joe Scarborough, the former G.O.P. congressman and MSNBC host, said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the stupid party.”  I feel for him.  But don’t expect the reality chorus to grow. For if intelligence were contagious, his party would be giving out vaccines for it.

"Galt, Gold and God"

Prof. Dr. Dr. Krugamn's latest column from "The New York Times"  --  please follow link to original

So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas, which would ordinarily be a good thing.
In his case, however, most of those ideas appear to come from works of fiction, specifically Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
For those who somehow missed it when growing up, “Atlas Shrugged” is a fantasy in which the world’s productive people — the “job creators,” if you like — withdraw their services from an ungrateful society. The novel’s centerpiece is a 64-page speech by John Galt, the angry elite’s ringleader; even Friedrich Hayek admitted that he never made it through that part. Yet the book is a perennial favorite among adolescent boys. Most boys eventually outgrow it. Some, however, remain devotees for life.
And Mr. Ryan is one of those devotees. True, in recent years, he has tried to downplay his Randism, calling it an “urban legend.” It’s not hard to see why: Rand’s fervent atheism — not to mention her declaration that “abortion is a moral right” — isn’t what the G.O.P. base wants to hear.
But Mr. Ryan is being disingenuous. In 2005, he told the Atlas Society, which is devoted to promoting Rand’s ideas, that she inspired his political career: “If I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He also declared that Rand’s work was required reading for his staff and interns.
And the Ryan fiscal program clearly reflects Randian notions. As I documented in my last column, Mr. Ryan’s reputation for being serious about the budget deficit is completely undeserved; his policies would actually increase the deficit. But he is deadly serious about cutting taxes on the rich and slashing aid to the poor, very much in line with Rand’s worship of the successful and contempt for “moochers.”
This last point is important. In pushing for draconian cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid the needy, Mr. Ryan isn’t just looking for ways to save money. He’s also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor — for their own good. In March, explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, he declared, “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”
Somehow, I doubt that Americans forced to rely on unemployment benefits and food stamps in a depressed economy feel that they’re living in a comfortable hammock.
But wait, there’s more: “Atlas Shrugged” apparently shaped Mr. Ryan’s views on monetary policy, views that he clings to despite having been repeatedly, completely wrong in his predictions.
In early 2011, Mr. Ryan, newly installed as the chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, a hard time over his expansionary policies. Rising commodity prices and long-term interest rates, he asserted, were harbingers of high inflation to come; “There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens,” he intoned, “than debase its currency.”
Since then, inflation has remained quiescent while long-term rates have plunged — and the U.S. economy would surely be in much worse shape than it is if Mr. Bernanke had allowed himself to be bullied into monetary tightening. But Mr. Ryan seems undaunted in his monetary views. Why?
Well, it’s right there in that 2005 speech to the Atlas Society, in which he declared that he always goes back to “Francisco d’Anconia’s speech on money” when thinking about monetary policy. Who? Never mind. That speech (which clocks in at a mere 23 paragraphs) is a case of hard-money obsession gone ballistic. Not only does the character in question, a Galt sidekick, call for a return to the gold standard, he denounces the notion of paper money and demands a return to gold coins.
For the record, the U.S. currency supply has consisted overwhelmingly of paper money, not gold and silver coins, since the early 1800s. So if Mr. Ryan really thinks that Francisco d’Anconia had it right, he wants to turn the clock back not one but two centuries.
Does any of this matter? Well, if the Republican ticket wins, Mr. Ryan will surely be an influential force in the next administration — and bear in mind, too, that he would, as the cliché goes, be a heartbeat away from the presidency. So it should worry us that Mr. Ryan holds monetary views that would, if put into practice, go a long way toward recreating the Great Depression.
And, beyond that, consider the fact that Mr. Ryan is considered the modern G.O.P.’s big thinker. What does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels?

From The Republican Weirdness Files

This from "Echidne Of The snakes"  --  please follow link to original.

From The Republican Weirdness Files 

I don't usually do this kind of writing but it seems deserved,  what with the recent Republican platform's Personhood Amendment (which, to me, appears to have the power to ban abortion even when the aquarium pregnant woman will die if the pregnancy is continued) and that National Review story (see post below) about how cruel age is to women and how cruel not being allowed to be the boss is to men and how the value of a man is in how many sons he sires and how daughters are truly icky and a sign that a man is not a Real Alpha Male.

But given the way all this seems to have turned our public conversation on that Pesky Woman Question into ponderings about whether a raped woman can ever conceive and whether Rapists' Fatherhood Rights are also going to be on the Republican Platform, I think it's time to cast a sharp light on some other aspects of the fringes of that party.  Though it does appear, these days, to consist mostly of weird fringe elements, rich old white men being one of those (though of course the one in power).

So here it goes:  The weirder news about Republicans in this country.

First,  in New Hampshire a  Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Sheriff Frank Szabo promises to use lethal force against doctors who perform abortions.  To uphold the Constitution, you know:

In the face of criticism from both New Hampshire Democrats and high-ranking members of his own party, Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Sheriff Frank Szabo is not backing off his comments that deadly force is an appropriate means to prevent abortion.
"Just because a law is on the books does not mean that it's lawful," said Szabo. "I talk about the difference of 'legal' and 'lawful.' It used to be legal to own slaves, but that didn't make it lawful. It used to be legal to restrict someone of color to the back of bus ... Just because a piece of legislation says it's legal to murder the unborn doesn't make it lawful."
Szabo contends it's the responsibility of the sheriff to protect the lives, property and citizens of the country and the state.
"The big issue here is the sheriff is supposed to protect all of its citizens," he said. "Just because a person is not born yet doesn't mean he or she shouldn't have same level of protection. Someone needs to stand up and tell federal and state officials they're wrong if it's in the best interest of citizens ... but my main point is deadly force is always a last resort."

Some Republican leaders, at least, have disowned Frank Zabo.

Second, in Lubbock County, Texas, a judge called Tom Head  worries about how he is going to cope with the violent revolution which would inevitably result if Obama gets a second term:

Judge Tom Head and Commissioner Mark Heinrich told the station this week that a 1.7 cent tax increase for the next fiscal year was necessary to prepare for many contingencies, including Obama's re-election. He also mentioned to the station that the county needs a pay increase is needed for the district attorney's office and more funds to pay for more sheriff's office deputies.
"He's going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the (United Nations), and what is going to happen when that happens?," Head asked the station during a Monday interview. "I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."

Third, and this is really below the belt, a  masturbation story having to do with an anti-gay Republican pastor in New Orleans.  This story matters, because the pastor, Grant Storms, disapproves of the consensual sexuality of gays and lesbians:

A prominent Louisiana-based Christian pastor known for his anti-gay stance was convicted of obscenity yesterday after being caught masturbating at a public park near a children's playground last year.
As reports, Rev. Grant Storm was sentenced to three years' probation after the incident in Lafreniere Park. Storm is quoted as calling public masturbation "a thrill" in his confession. However, despite an eyewitness account cited by the New Orleans Times-Picayune which stated that 55-year-old pastor had been "looking at the playground area that contained children playing, with his zipper down" at the time of his arrest, authorities denied any suspicions that he was a pedophile.

I could go on.  These are low-hanging fruit, true, and I almost always leave them alone.  But when the higher fruit consist of Akin and Ryan and their other brothers-of-heart there's not that much difference in what I pick.

Any point to this post?  Perhaps to show you that I could do this.  But mostly to point out that it's someone else who sets the topics for public debates in this country, and that someone else is far too often a Republican game lord.  Thus we now discuss whether women who have been raped should have the right to an abortion if they so wish.  We actually discuss which exceptions to the abortion bans are possible!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Fanatical GOP

The latest from Robert Reich - follow link to original.

The Fanatical GOP

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
We’re witnessing the capture by fanatics of what was once a great and important American political party.
The Republican Party platform committee now includes a provision calling for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, without an exception for rape or incest. This is basically Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s position. (At least the GOP platform doesn’t assert that women’s bodies automatically reject “legitimate” rapists’ sperm.)
Paul Ryan, Romney’s selection for vice president, has co-sponsored 38 anti-abortion measures while in the House of Representatives, including several containing no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

But the GOP’s fanaticism goes far beyond the its growing absolutism about abortion.
Ryan’s proposed budget, approved by almost all House Republicans, is also an exercise in fanaticism. It replaces Medicare with vouchers that won’t possibly keep up with rising healthcare costs — thereby shifting costs directly on to the elderly. 
That budget also harms the poor and rewards the rich, but does little or nothing to reduce the federal budget deficit. Over 60 percent of its spending cuts come out of programs for lower-income Americans. Its tax cuts for the rich reduce revenues by $4.6 trillion over the decade while saving the typical millionaire hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The GOP’s looniness doesn’t even stop there. Republicans remain unwaivering in their support of state laws allowing or encouraging the profiling of Latinos. And unrelenting in their war against gay rights.
It’s not just women, seniors, budget hawks, the poor, Latinos, and gays who are catching on to the Republicans’ extremism. Americans who don’t fall into one of these categories are becoming alarmed, too — as they should.

Although the GOP lurch to the right-wing margin of America may bode well for Democrats this coming Election Day, it bodes ill for America. The capture of one of our great parties by fanatics is nothing to celebrate. A democracy needs at least two sane political parties.

economics and #occupywallstreet

Tampa Gay Sex Workers Ready for GOP Boom [Video]

Tampa Gay Sex Workers Ready for GOP Boom [Video]

A visit to "Some Assembly Required"

Please follow link to original

Long Ago... Once upon a time when politicians got caught lying in their campaign ads, they would pull the ad and, maybe, issue a limp apology. Not now. Not Romney. He's lying when he says Obama is “gutting welfare reform.” Everyone – Ds, Rs, MSM editors and journalists, policy wonks, probably even FOX – knows for a fact that Romney's blatantly lying. It is as demonstrably false as any claim ever aired by a major-party presidential candidate, which certainly qualifies Romney for the office.

Guilty As Accused: Todd Akin, Republican candidate for the senate from Missouri, will not back down on his rape/pregnancy comment because his “creator God” wants him to spread the message, which is – some say - backed up by Nazi death camp experiments. And besides, sometimes that's God's way of getting you pregnant, according to another Republican troglodyte. Are there any R's running who are actually fit to govern?

Prioritization: Ideology trumps electability in the abortion plank of the Republican platform, which calls for a total ban on abortion – with no exceptions - and establishing the 'personhood' of zygotes and fetuses in an amendment to the Constitution (supported by both Ryan and the now infamous Rep. Akin). This would criminalize IUDs, oral contraceptives, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research. It would place the US in the exclusive “no exceptions” club with Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

Another Twist: Perhaps it is not the income and foreign accounts and such that keeps Romney from releasing more tax returns, maybe it's because he claimed he lived with his son in a Massachusetts basement, not out of state (as he apparently did). Which would open him to charges of voter fraud. 

Spiraling:Pretty much Italy is doing everything wrong. It has a high debt to GDP ratio and is pushing austerity measures to bring down the debt level, but the austerity cuts will result in GDP falling 2.3% this year and 1.4% next. The economic slowdown in Europe has not skipped Italy, where rising unemployment has led to falling consumption. To raise more money to narrow the debt, the government has raised taxes on consumption (leading to less consumption leading to lower tax revenues and so on). Is Italy going to follow Spain down the drain? Who can save them, Germany? Note that this is what the R's want to do to the US. Who's gonna save us?

there's more - go there