Thursday, May 19, 2011

I've Moved

Visit me at my new home at WordPress ....


I Already Hate WordPress

Blogger got buggered again yesterday and I'm so over it. Had to do a bunch of crap to my cookies to be able to access my dashboard. So I've started setting up a new home at WordPress but I can tell you all, I already hate it. Despise it. It's completely illogical, totally not Mac friendly. This was created by people who use PCs, I can already tell with their instructions to "right click" this and that.

I hate it.

I can't get my freaking blogroll set up, and frankly at this point it may never happen. So if you aren't on my new site when I go live it's not because I don't love you.

Also, the dog is farting up a storm from snacking on cicadas. Maybe the fumes are getting to me.

Visit me at my new home, tell me what you think of it ....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Americans Live Within Their Means & Other Wingnut Fantasies

Of all the tired, old bromides which have worked their way into our discourse, the old “American families have to live within a budget, and so should the federal government” meme is one of the most annoying. It's annoying because it's so easily debunked; the very people spouting this bullshit are the ones riding mountains of credit card debt, for crying out loud!

I’ve written about this before but my first response is always: No! No we don’t! Since when? American consumer debt, which doesn’t include mortgages, is $2.43 trillion as of March 2011. Total U.S. revolving debt, which is almost entirely credit card debt, was $796.1 billion, as of March 2011. In fact, in March U.S. credit card debt increased for the second time since 2008, which the Wall Street Journal presented as a good thing:
U.S. consumers in March increased their credit-card debt for the second time since the financial crisis flared, giving a sign of hope that consumer spending could boost an economic recovery that has lost some steam.

In its monthly report Friday on borrowing, the Federal Reserve also said overall consumer credit outstanding rose, up $6.02 billion to $2.426 trillion. The increase, the sixth in a row, was bigger than expected. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a $4.8-billion rise in consumer debt during March.

I’m not going to say whether this is bad or good, I’m just saying it completely debunks the ol’ “American families have to live within their means and so should the government” meme. No, we don’t! We never have! We have always been a country of consumers who satisfy their every need and whim with the swipe of plastic. We have well over a million people who declare bankruptcy every year. And our economy depends on this debt! Imagine if Americans did live within their means, paying cash as they go, never borrowing. Our entire economy would implode!

It just annoys me that no one ever calls the pundits and politicians on this shit when it’s so obviously wrong. So thank goodness Jared Bernstein writes about it on his new blog. Bernstein was Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Obama’s economic team before leaving the White House to become a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

He writes:

But there’s another fundamental way in which this family budget analogy gets misused.  Families borrow to make investments and to get over rough patches.  They run deficits too.  I went into pretty deep debt to finance college and grad school and I’m glad I did.

The whole credit system is based on the fact that if we had to pay cash-as-we-go for everything, we’d seriously underinvest.  And that’s true for families and governments—and yes, you can overdo the borrowing thing.  But to flip too far the other way is equally dangerous.

So, while it sounds good and has some merit, I’d use the “gov’t budget=family budget” argument with care and I’d discount those who want to use it as a hammer to insist on instant cuts.

American families borrow money to buy houses and cars and invest in their businesses. They run up credit card debt and take out loans to pay for college. Families default on their loans all the time. We don’t live within our means any more than anyone else does. So can we please retire this stupid analogy once and for all? I mean it's ridiculous, I hear people repeating it whom I know to have declared personal bankruptcy or have had their cars repo'd. It's like people don't even engage their brains before opening their mouths to repeat these tired old pieces of supposed conventional wisdom. Have they all been brainwashed?

How Dare Those Uppity Plebes Forget Their Place

When I first read Felix Salmon’s “Ben Stein's Top 10 Lines About DSK” I thought these were humorous “summaries” of Steins’ column defending Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

They were not. They were direct quotes.

And oh my God. Without further ado:
Was Riker's Island really the place to put him on the allegations of one human being? Hadn't he earned slightly better treatment than that?

No, he has not. Justice wears a blindfold.

If he is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn't he ever get charged until now?

I dunno, maybe because we have douchebags like Ben Stein telling mere “hotel maids” that they should keep their lips buttoned when the powerful elite assert their dominance in unpleasant ways?

The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn "forced" the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He's a short fat old man.

I have nothing to say to this except that Ben Stein is a horrible toad of a man. That comment alone should get him banned from the networks forever. Go talk to some rape victims, you asshole. Then you might learn something about how a woman can be forced.

People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid?

Ah yes. A mere hotel maid. That’s the crux of it. If the accuser were Countess Lady Gotsalot that would make all the difference, wouldn’t it?

You know, didn’t we fight a revolution to rid ourselves of attitudes like this? Wake up and smell the class warfare, people. Yesterday we read that Newt Gingrich ran up a $500,000 tab on his Tiffany’s credit card (in other news, Tiffany’s offers credit cards?) Well good for him, with three wives and Lord knows how many girlfriends he probably needs it. But don’t for a minute try to label my side of the political aisle “limousine liberals” and “out of touch” and “elites” and all the rest.

It’s really hard to present yourself as some kind of budget-conscious populist when you’re racking up the big debt on your Tiffany’s credit card. And it’s really hard to present your ideas as some kind of rational, pragmatic conservatism when you rally to the defense of a powerful French banker by attacking the victim.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I’ll Take Things It Shouldn’t Take 30 Years To Do, Alex

Waaaaay back in 1990 a law was passed that required the Dept. of Defense to get its books in order so we can do a full financial audit, and yet even though their deadline isn’t until 2017 it seems they won’t be making that deadline. That would be 27 years to do a financial audit of the Pentagon.

And they can’t do it.

Whew. Okie dokie, well thank goodness we have a bipartisan group of Senators who have a little problem with that :
“Based on the findings of today’s FIAR Plan, it appears unlikely that the Department of Defense will be able to meet that 2017 requirement,” they said in the statement, obtained by POLITICO.

“Today’s report by the DOD’s comptroller shows that while a few small agencies within the department have reached the required financial audit level, the vast majority of the department had not,” the statement said.

“Further, while the report shows that DOD has a fairly complete road-map of how the Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense agencies will each reach the auditability requirement by 2017, implementation of these goals faces major challenges.”

Past GAO reports have found a high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement at the Pentagon. The senators want their new GAO report in time for a hearing on the subject in July.

Okay I get that the Pentagon is huge and might need a little more time to get itself audit-ready than, say, your typical ice cream stand. But 27 years? Areyoukiddingme?

But don’t worry!

In the progress report submitted Monday, Defense Department comptroller Robert F. Hale said audit readiness has been a goal for many years but has been difficult to achieve because of the department’s size and complexity.

Hale said American taxpayers should understand that “although the department does not yet meet commercial audit standards, their tax dollars are being managed responsibly.”

Ha ha ha! Nothing to see here, move along! Don’t worry, be happy! Government should operate like a business! Blargeddy blargh!

For example, by all means do not investigate Darpa:

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) asked for the inquiry after news reports that Darpa handed out $1.75 million in contracts to a company owned in part by agency director Regina Dugan and her relatives. What’s more, Dugan is owed $250,000 by her family firm, RedXDefense. POGO wants to verify that Dugan had nothing to do with the contracts, and to determine if “any Darpa employee” dealing with the company knew of its connections to the woman at the top.

In a letter to the Pentagon inspector general written on Monday, Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, calls for an investigation that goes beyond Dugan, who recused herself from any dealings with RedXDefense upon becoming director.

Brian cites recent comments from Kaigham “Ken” Gabriel, Dugan’s deputy, calling financial conflicts “prevalent” at the agency, since Darpa’s highly technical work requires it to recruit talent from many of the firms and researchers who bid on its contracts.

“We urge the DoD IG to immediately pursue an audit to ensure that Darpa selects and awards grants and contracts with integrity,” Brian writes in the letter to Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell. Perhaps “more  stringent measures” are needed to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

POGO also questions just how closely the Pentagon oversees Darpa. The Pentagon inspector general’s office hasn’t audited the agency’s contracting methods since 1997.

I realize $1.75 million is small potatoes but it's also the tip of the iceberg. The point is: fraud and waste are endemic throughout the Pentagon, not just in things like $700 toilet seats and building fighter jet engines the Pentagon doesn't even want but some Senator needs the factory to stay open or they'll face a tough reelection campaign.

No, this is the kind of shit that goes on under our noses while everyone has hissy fits over the "Muslim Brotherhood" donating to NPR. I wonder if any Breitbart acolytes have considered dressing up as pimped-out Raytheon execs seeking research money to finish work on their invisibility cloak and time travel machine? Of course not! Because in right-wing land, every penny spent on the Pentagon is honorable. There’s never any such thing as “government waste” when the Dept. of Defense does it.

With that in mind, this bit from the Politico article amused me:

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are divided between those who want to include deep defense cuts in any debt reduction plan and those concerned about the impact of such cuts on national security.

That’s hilarious. Yeah, you know, when your country spends at least five times more on defense than any other nation in the world, I’d say you’ve got nothing to worry about.

I really find it hard to believe that any Republican doesn’t think there’s waste and corruption at the Dept. of Defense. There’s a vast river of tax money flowing through the Pentagon, and you can bet your sweet bippy there are greedy, corrupt assholes trying to get their hands on it. But since the Pentagon still isn’t audit-ready after 27 years, I guess we’ll never know.

Instead, let's talk about how the budget deficit is forcing us to kill Medicare and Social Security.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stressed Out And Grumpy

So, Nashville is in the throes of a 13-year cicada bloom, and normally these weird little critters wouldn’t bother me except my dogs love to eat them, and apparently they are 100% pure protein, which to a dog is like being on a five-day crack binge so I’m going nuts.

Just imagine: an 8-month-old pitbull on a five day crack binge. There simply are no words. Riley has been in timeout three times today.

I mean, Jesus.

I think I know how the parents of two-year-olds feel. Well, no, actually, I don’t. You can’t lock your toddler in a wire crate and grab a glass of wine while he howls in the other room.

Can you?

Republicans In Disarray!

Thank you, media Villagers, for bringing us constant, breathless reports from assclown Donald Trump, who -- wait for it -- has decided not to run for president.

Oh, I’m shocked! Shocked, I tells ya! Oh wait, I’m not.

Nothing illustrates the sheer uselessness of our Washington media elites more than the Donald Trump rabbit trail. I said Trump was the Balloon Boy of politics and I was right. Well, y’all got pwned, just like I said you would. Now please go away and do something useful, like basket weaving or crocheting or something. The grownups have important stuff to worry about.

So now, who do we have among Republicans for 2012? How about Gov. Chris Christie! The media keeps shoving him our collective face, too. Please run, Christie. With approval ratings like this you’ll be lucky to carry your own state:
By 5:1, NJ Voters Say Governor Christie Should Not Run for President in 2012: New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, beloved by some and despised by others for his bluntness, has a Minus 18 job approval today as speculation continues about whether Christie should run for President. 38% of NJ adults approve of the job Christie is doing, 56% disapprove.

I just have to wonder where the “Republicans in disarray!” storyline is. I mean, "Democrats in disarray" is such an oldie but a goodie, it’s always trotted out by the media around election time. But it’s the Republicans who can’t find their ass with both hands and a map.

Ah well, it’s always good news for Republicans.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Travel Plans

Mr. Beale and I are making our summer travel plans. We welcome any suggestions folks may have for fun things to do in Seattle, great places to eat, any neat clubs, etc. We're not into super touristy stuff but obviously if there's something that's a must-see the city is known for we will want to hit it. Space Needle? I dunno. We hate touristy crowds but might hit it in the early morning for the views. We only have a few days in Seattle before moving on.

Leave your suggestions in comments -- we'd appreciate it! We both love museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, stuff like that. We're old farts, probably won't be booking any rappelling expeditions. Ow, my hip! We will hit the Pike Place Market for sure, though.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who Thinks Like This?


Just looking at the comments I'm ... well, stunned. I simply don't understand people whose default position seems to be a fear that all of our nation's problems will be solved by calling in the law. Aren't you people the ones telling us the free hand of the market solves everything? Why do you assume the American people will call in the National Guard to fix every problem like, for example, a shortage of rural doctors? Why wouldn't your default position be that we'd reach for market-based solutions and incentives (which is what we've done?) Or perhaps reach for other government solutions, such as funding doctor recruitment programs at the National Health Services Corps? I mean, it's like your worldview is so narrow, you can only imagine the government as having a narrow police state enforcement function.

Again: what the fuck is wrong with you people?


The headline says it all: Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care. Yes Libertarians, please run on how health care is not a "right" and health insurance is completely necessary.


Rand Paul is a nutwagon. Via Digby, who transcribed his rant equating healthcare with slavery:
With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

Oh my God. Who thinks like this? Is he fucking nuts or what? No one is saying this at all. Free healthcare? Where? Where does he get this shit, from Aqua Buddha? Has someone been hitting the bong a little too hard lately?

What Rand Paul is really saying is: if you think you have a RIGHT to healthcare, that means you will FORCE ME TO TREAT YOU. You will HUNT ME DOWN and force me to be your monkey and give you glasses.

And trust me, I would not go near that guy, not if he were the last breathing optometrist or ophthalmologist or whatever the fuck brand of medicine it is he allegedly practices because swear to God the guy is crazy and I don’t want crazy treating me for anything. Dude you are the last physician I'd want touching me, I promise you. So put down the crack pipe, dude, and chillax. No one is forcing you to do anything.

Who the hell thinks this way?

You know what my problem with Libertarians is? They’re a bunch of whiny babies. Whaaaah! Because someone, somewhere, feels they should be allowed to access our healthcare system at the same fair price as everyone else without some insurance company flunky telling them they can’t, suddenly it’s all about Rand Paul being oppressed! His freedom has been infringed upon and the jackbooted liberal thugs are gonna come and force him to give people glasses.

Grow the fuck up, already. People are dying because of assholes like you, folks who harp on about your precious freedoms, like the freedom not to treat someone (anyone in particular, perhaps? Hey, based on your past comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it's a fair question.) Why dream up crazy-assed scenarios like the police breaking down your door forcing you to treat someone? What the hell is wrong with you? People are dying, do you even get that? That’s not an abstraction either, that’s called reality. If you don't want to do your job, fuck off, we'll find someone else who can. You're not the last physician on earth.

Get over your damn self. Jerk.

Here’s the video:

Friday, May 13, 2011


Apparently "regularly scheduled maintenance" Wednesday night gave Blogger a bellyache. I’m really tired of Blogger sucking. I’m going to have to move the blog somewhere else, I just don’t know where. I’m not that technical and it’s got to be super user-friendly. Idiot-proof, with a decent commenting system.

I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah, and all comments since Wednesday got deleted. Thanks, Blogger.