Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, July 26, 2012 8:53 pm

“This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.”

Filed under: Evil,Religion — Lex @ 8:53 pm
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From my friend Rabbi Fred Guttman, originally posted on Facebook, via my friend John Graham:

Food Stamps – Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill which slashes $16 billion from one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our nation, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. At the same time, the overall cost of the bill does not go down but adds an additional $9.5 billion over 10 years for an entirely new agribusiness subsidy under the guise of crop insurance. A cut of this magnitude means that at least 2 million families will lose access to the program. All told, about 1 billion fewer meals will be available to low-income families each year—meals that are a bargain for taxpayers at about a $1.60 a meal—as well as a basic responsibility for our society. 85 percent of those receiving Food Stamps are living on incomes below the federal poverty line of $23,350 for a family of four. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated that each dollar of supplemental nutrition assistance benefits create $1.79 in increased economic activity. America’s “hunger bill”—the cost of avoidable illness due to poor nutrition and poor education outcomes due to hunger—is already over $165 billion.

Three points:

Here in Greensboro, both Conservative and Liberal congregations support the very needed and I would say holy work of the Greensboro Urban Minsitry. The leadership at GUM is extremely concerned about such proposed cuts.

Second, I cannot see how this is not class warfare, an example of taking from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Finally, I leave you with a small piece of rabbinical teaching from the time of Jesus himself. “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17)

(Some additional context, from the News & Record.)

A presumably well-meaning but misguided friend of mine took issue with this point, suggesting that government anti-poverty efforts have been both inefficient and wasteful:

Now let me be clear, I don’t object to poor people getting help. My problem is a government throwing money at programs that clearly aren’t working. Consider this: All this welfare spending adds up to $20,610 for every poor man, woman and child in the country.

For a poor family of three, that’s nearly $62,000 dollars. The poverty line for that family is just $18,500. With this kind of spending, poverty should be wiped out – instead it’s growing.

Today, one in seven Americans is living in poverty. The most in almost two decades. All the while spending is soaring.

And, welfare spending for the last four decades — adjusted for inflation? Up, up, up. How can we spend all this money, and see so little progress? …

… we should be stopping the taxes and bloated regulations that hold back economic growth and job creation. People need work, not handouts.

Unfortunately the only solution the president sees is throwing more money at the problem. More government, instead of less. More dependency instead of empowerment.

Leaving aside for a moment the “up, up, up” argument, whether or not adjusted for inflation, and whether or not more properly calculated on a per-capita basis or as a percentage of GDP, that was an awful lot of both factual and contextual inaccuracy in just a few lines. I responded:

You know what, [friend's name]? First of all, don’t change the subject. Second of all, I can sleep a lot better at night if govt money is being wasted so that people don’t go hungry than I can if it’s being wasted blowing sh*t up in an illegal war or bailing out criminal banksters.

Poverty is growing because the government hasn’t done enough direct economic stimulus to stimulate demand enough to lead businesses, which are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, to create jobs. And it hasn’t done enough because Republicans LIKE having American workers poor and desperate.

Deficits are soaring primarily because of 1) our broken health care system, the least efficient in the Western world, which the ACA at least goes some way toward fixing; 2) two wars, both of which Obama put back on budget after Bush ran them off-budget, and a defense budget unnecessarily sized at bigger than those of the next 26 largest combined, most of whom are our allies; and 3) the fact that federal taxation is at its lowest rate as a % of GDP in 60 years AND that top marginal rates on the wealthy are at their lowest rate in longer than that.

And why is that? Because of GOP obstructionism, aided and abetted by a few badly confused and/or corrupt Democrats.

You want to make excuses for screwing over poor people? Fine; go do it on your own page.

All most religions ask of us is basically that we not be dicks. And stealing food from the mouths of the hungry to give it to large corporations is being a dick.

 

 

Sorry, but, yes, the 2008 bank bailouts really were as much of a reaming of the American taxpayer as we thought at the time

Another crappy “both-sides-do-it” column: Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers write at Bloomberg that our current political debate on the economy is a “sham” because leading economists unanimously agree that  the bailouts helped the unemployment situation. But economist Dean Baker provides the missing context: While that claim might be technically true, the bailouts could have been structured far more constructively than they were, both to address then-current problems and to help prevent the recurrence of similar problems:

The Wall Street banks were on life support in the fall of 2008. Without trillions of dollars of government loans and guarantees (much more came from the Fed than the TARP money that went through the Treasury), they would be dead, deceased, pushing up daisies, out of business. The boys and girls getting those huge paychecks on Wall Street were at Uncle Sam’s doorstep pleading for help. There was no one else to save them from destitution.

In this context there were three main choices. One was to drag out Mitt Romney and give them a lecture about the free market and tell them the government is not about giving people stuff. In this case the banks go under leading to a full-fledged financial melt-down. In this story, the economy certainly takes a bigger immediate hit, but the advantage is that we have a Wall Street free world. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and the rest would be history. They are in receivership, waiting to broken up and sold off. This parasitic sector that has led to so much waste, corruption and inequality is no longer a drag on the economy. Consider this short-term pain for long-term gain. (Just kidding about the Romney part, he supported the bailout.)

The second choice is hand over the money, which is the route we took. Oh yeah, Congress did put conditions on the money, but we know that was just for show. One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in my years in Washington were the excellent stories on how executive compensation was treated in the TARP that the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal ran after the TARP passed.

Both articles featured comments from compensation expert Graeff Crystal who explained that the government could have changed compensation patterns on Wall Street forever (the Wall Street boys needed the money), but Congress instead took a pass. It would have been great if Crystal’s views were part of the public debate before the bill was passed.

This brings up option number 3, hand the money over but with real conditions. Congress could have said that banks that got TARP money, funds through the Fed’s special lending facilities, or benefited from the various Treasury and FDIC insurance commitments had to:

a) strictly limit all pay in all forms for the next five years;

b) set up a clear, legally enforceable plan for writing down underwater mortgages on their books;

c) agree to a breakup schedule that would get them below “too big to fail” size by a set date.

To my mind, option #3 was clearly the best route since it would fix the financial industry and avoid the crash that would result from going cold turkey in option #1. But let’s say that the choice is just the full crash in option #1 or the handout in option #2. In order to seriously decide between these we need some basis for assessing the size of the downturn. Saying that the short-term impact would have been worse in option #2 doesn’t tell us anything about the proper policy choice. We pay short-term costs for long-term benefits all the time. We need the terms of the trade-off.

In ths respect, the commonly claimed “second Great Depression”scenario is, to use a technical economic term, “crap.”  The first Great Depression, by which I mean a decade of double-digit unemployment was not locked in stone by the mistakes made at its onset. There was nothing that would have prevented the government from having the sort of massive stimulus spending that eventually got us back to full employment (a.k.a. World War II) in 1931 instead of 1941 and without the war. The fact that we remained in a depression for more than a decade was due to inadequate policy response.

In this respect, to claim that if we let the banks collapse we would have been destined to suffer a decade of double digit unemployment is absurd. That would only be the result if we continued to have bad policy, not just in 2008, but in 2010, in 2012, right through to 2018.

The serious question is how bad could we reasonably expect the downturn to have been if we had gone the cold turkey route. The place to look for insight on this question is Argentina, which went the financial collapse route in December of 2001. This was the real deal. Banks shut, no access to ATMs, no one knowing when they could get their money out of their bank, if they ever could.

This collapse led to a plunge in GDP for three months, followed by three months in which the economy stabilized and then six years of robust growth. It took the country a year and a half to make up the output lost following the crisis.

While there is no guarantee that the Bernanke-Geithner team would be as competent as Argentina’s crew [indeed, subsequent events have shown that they are not -- Lex], if we assume for the moment they are, then the relevant question would be if it is worth this sort of downturn to clean up the financial sector once and for all. I’m inclined to say yes, but I certainly could understand that others may view the situation differently.

Anyhow, this is the debate that we should have had the time and at least be acknowledging in retrospect.

We had the bastards down in the fall of 2008, and we didn’t hit them with the chair. A century from now that failure will be considered the key turning point in the transition of the U.S. from a democratic republic to a full-on oligarchy.

Twenty years ago last night …

Filed under: Braves,Fun — Lex @ 8:20 pm
Tags: ,

… when it was far from clear that the Braves would repeat as NL champs, let alone go on to their amazing record of success during the ’90s, Otis Nixon made what might have been the greatest catch in the long history of one of baseball’s oldest franchises.

(h/t: @tommytomlinson)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:13 pm

Today’s lesson in bad PR: Chick-Fil-A

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Evil,Religion — Lex @ 8:13 pm

And the lesson is: Things are never, ever so bad that you can’t make them worse. Congratulations, Chick-Fil-A. In the space of a week, you have crapped on your own brand — in this case, by trying to protect a “Christian” brand with serial violations of the Ninth Commandment and the Second Great Commandment — more thoroughly than anyone this side of Komen.

You really didn’t build that.

Not by yourself, anyway, says John Scalzi:

I am financially successful now; I pay a lot of taxes. I don’t mind because I know how taxes helped me to get to the fortunate position I am in today. I hope the taxes I pay will help some military wife give birth, a mother who needs help feed her child, help another child learn and fall in love with the written word, and help still another get through college. Likewise, I am in a socially advantageous position now, where I can help promote the work of others here and in other places. I do it because I can, because I think I should and because I remember those who helped me. It honors them and it sets the example for those I help to help those who follow them.

I know what I have been given and what I have taken. I know to whom I owe. I know that what work I have done and what I have achieved doesn’t exist in a vacuum or outside of a larger context, or without the work and investment of other people, both within the immediate scope of my life and outside of it. I like the idea that I pay it forward, both with the people I can help personally and with those who will never know that some small portion of their own hopefully good fortune is made possible by me.

So much of how their lives will be depends on them, of course, just as so much of how my life is has depended on my own actions. We all have to be the primary actors in our own lives. But so much of their lives will depend on others, too, people near and far. We all have to ask ourselves what role we play in the lives of others — in the lives of loved ones, in the lives of our community, in the life of our nation and in the life of our world. I know my own answer for this. It echoes the answer of those before me, who helped to get me where I am.

DIAF, Wall Street Journal

Filed under: Evil,Journalism — Lex @ 5:58 am
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Well, we know one thing, Jim: They were worthier than you. Jackass.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 8:52 pm

Rigged game, part MMXII; or, Too much is never enough

If you want proof that America’s economics and finances are in the hands of people who couldn’t give less of a shit about the common good, look no further than Caterpillar, the maker of bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

The company made $4.9 billion in profits last year — about $39,000 per employee — and projects an even better 2012.  So how is it rewarding its workers? By insisting that they agree to a six-year wage freeze and a freeze on pensions as well, and demanding that they contribute up to $1,900 per year more for health care than they already are. This move comes, the Times reports, as the company netted almost $1.6 billion in the first quarter of this year and “has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits.”

The workers said, in effect, “[Bleep] this noise,” and went on strike. Good for them.

The company argues that its wages make it less competitive in the marketplace, but the boost in compensation for its executives gives that game away. Its top six executives alone got cash and stock worth almost $40 million last year. Sure, you can make a case that Caterpillar is a well-managed company and they should be properly compensated. But the U.S. wage market has been artificially distorted in the past few decades to overcompensate a few at the top for outcomes that, when favorable, are as much the work of their much-lower-paid minions as of themselves. There’s a strong argument that reversing that trend would benefit the economy as a whole, which, other than plain selfishness, might well be part of the reason why these sociopaths oppose it.

Rose Bain, a striker, grows impatient with such arguments [that Caterpillar's demands are fair]. Earning $15 an hour after two years, she said she could not afford a six-year freeze and did not trust Caterpillar to follow through with [a] hinted raise for lower-paid workers.

“We’re the people who busted our butts to help them make record profits,” she said. “We shouldn’t be treated like this.”

Exactly. And the fact that we’re even having to have this conversation shows how incredibly out of touch with reality our Galtian overlords have gotten. Worse, some of the same kinds of people who run Caterpillar want us to run the country the same way. I think Charlie Pierce speaks for anyone who has a lick of sense:

Jesus God, is there anyone — A-N-Y-O-N-E — out there beyond the Beltway who still believes that the CEO’s of American corporations have any inclination to act in the general national interest? Is there anyone — A-N-Y-O-N-E — out there beyond the Beltway who’d still trust [J.P. Morgan Chase CEO] Jamie Dimon to park his car? … I never thought I’d see the living definition of bleeding a country with leeches, but this comes awfully close.

UPDATE: Missing words restored 7/25.

Memo to fans of Joe Paterno

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:33 pm
Tags: ,

From Amanda Mahaffey on Facebook, via my friend Rob Campany: “To everyone mad about Joe Paterno’s statue being taken down — just look the other way and pretend it’s not happening.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012 8:33 pm

Happy 90th, George McGovern. And, um, sorry.

Filed under: America. It was a really good idea — Lex @ 8:33 pm
Tags:

All you need to know about McGovern is  that Bobby Kennedy, the last politician with national ambitions who truly gave a damn about the least of us, called him “the most decent man in the Senate.” I’m trying to finish a class project, so I’ll outsource this to Charlie Pierce and Hunter Thompson.

Pierce: “The worst thing that ever happened to the Democratic party in this country is that, when McGovern lost so big to history’s yard waste in 1972, the rest of the party was complicit in turning him — and the politics he represented — into a punchline for the next 20 years. He was the template. He was the first war-hero Democrat — you don’t fly 35 missions in a B-24 and come away with a DFC without a big clanging pair of brass ones, kids — who was accused of being a wimp by a flock of chickenhawks.”

Thompson: ” The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes … understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.”

Actually, I’ll let one of Pierce’s commenters, Barry Friedman, have the last word: “Forget the birthday greetings. This country owes him an apology.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 10:17 pm

Somewhere tonight, a conservative blog intern is thanking FSM that Connie Schultz is a better human being than I.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Fun — Lex @ 10:17 pm
Tags: ,

Southern Beale at First Draft:

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. On her Facebook page she posted the following:

Email from conservative blogger, dated July 9, 2012:

Dear Ms. Shultz,

We are doing an expose on journalists in the elite media who socialize with elected officials they are assigned to cover. We have found numerous photos of you with Sen. Sherrod Brown. In one of them, you appear to be hugging him.

Care to comment?

———————–

Response, dated July 10, 2012:

Dear Mr. [Name Deleted]:

I am surprised you did not find a photo of me kissing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown so hard he passes out from lack of oxygen. He’s really cute.

He’s also my husband.

You know that, right?

Connie Schultz

Schultz goes on to say in the comments on the Facebook post that she basically deleted the writer’s name and withheld the name of his publication because he’s an intern and she wants him to learn the right lessons from this without having his career prematurely ruined. Given the unprofessional tone of the correspondence, if it’d been me, I might not have been so forgiving.

We already know what Mitt Romney’s problems are. Now let’s talk about Bain Capital’s.

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:06 pm
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It is a truism that the duty of a corporation’s directors is to maximize shareholder value. However, different directors and corporations and, yes, takeover artists and “turnaround specialists” define that duty in different ways. To offer an example that is simple bordering on crude, does that mean maximize next quarter’s dividend, or does that mean maximize earnings over the long haul while remaining financially healthy and competitive? Because, although they need not, these two definitions often clash.

And because they do, “turnaround specialist” can be someone who actually does return a troubled company to financial health — or someone who wrecks a company’s long-term stability for the sake of short-term profit, which may or may not actually go to shareholders, or to all shareholders in proportion to their holdings.

Guest poster Bernard Finel at Balloon Juice explains:

“Troubled” companies have a particular meaning on Wall Street. Sure, sometimes they refer to companies that are just muddled, have over-expanded, and are badly managed. But more often, what they are talking about is companies that do not seem to providing a large enough return to shareholders—a stagnating stock price in particular. But that does not mean a company is “troubled.” It can be quite profitable, have productive and loyal employees, have satisfied customers, and cash on hand.

What players like Bain do is enforce a Wall Street preference. There is a bias against companies that seek a “quiet life.” They are shunned by institutional investors, which depresses stock prices and makes these companies “troubled” in the first place. It isn’t that they are not profitable, but rather than institutional investors don’t like them, and as a result they trade at dramatically lower P/E ratios. Indeed, it isn’t even clear that takeover targets do have weaker stock performance if you lookat total returns, including dividends.

Once a company goes public, it is essentially subject to “disciplinary” takeovers if it fails to act in accordance with financial sector preferences. This is often phrased as “poorly performing managers,” but what does that really mean? That is really just about enforcing a certain conventional wisdom about what a company ought to do. But these preferences are socially problematic. Consider some of the things that seem to contribute to being a takeover target: slow growth, stable revenues, cash on hand rather than debt, generous employee compensation, conservatively-funded pension or insurance plans. (Again caveats abound. There is no simply model of predicting takeover targets.)

So, in a sense, Bain, and other buyout specialists, serve to enforce a particular type of corporate behavior that focus on expansion at the expense of predictability, risk acceptance in terms of contractual obligations to employees, and a ruthless focus on cost controls at the expense of employee loyalty and stability.

As a practical matter, it is not clear that this sort of approach is conducive to more rapid economic growth. Certainly the rise of this consensus and expansion of “disciplinary” takeovers since the 1980s has not resulted in any noticeable improvement in U.S. macroeconomic performance. And furthermore, the evidence on whether takeover targets overperform or underperform after being bought is mixed.

But what has happened is that as firms accept these practices, they become more dependent on the financial sector. They borrow more, become more active in raising money through equity sales, they run leaner by hedging through derivatives, and so on. In each case, they pay a cut to financial firms. The result has been that the financial sector’s share of corporate profits has risen dramaticallysince the 1980s.

Some of these companies will now be more successful, but many that move toward debt-fueled expansion will crash and burn. The financial sector wins either way. But it isn’t clear to me that corporate America in general win, and certainly workers whose pensions gets looted, and unions busted, and ride the boom and bust cycles of overtime and layoff do quite poorly.

I’m sure this is something of a problem with privately held companies as well. But the publicly traded ones are out there where everyone can see them. The example with which I’m most familiar is the newspaper industry. During the latter half of the 20th century, most privately held U.S. papers were bought by publicly traded chains (e.g., Gannett, Knight Ridder, Media General, Tribune, etc.). The cash from selling stock was useful for expansion, but it was a devil’s bargain: With it came short-term bottom line pressure. Perhaps the best example was Eugene Roberts, who took over as executive editor of Knight Ridder’s  money-losing Philadelphia Inquirer in 1972 and led it to both profitability and excellence in local, national and global journalism, including 17 Pulitzer Prizes in 18 years. Roberts was forced out in 1990 for  resisting budget cuts. At the time, the paper’s profit margin was around 8 percent — low for newspapers in that local-monopoly, pre-Internet era but a margin a lot of businesses would kill for, then and now.

I am not going to argue, particularly in light of Knight Ridder’s ultimate fate, that the Inquirer would be healthier today with Roberts at the helm. But I will argue that the biggest flaw in this scenario is not Roberts or the Inquirer or Knight Ridder management or even the whole newspaper industry’s lethal slowness to understand what the Internet was going to do to it. No, the biggest flaw, one merely illustrated by Romney’s exploits at Bain Capital, is that our current ethos of governance for publicly traded companies in any industry doesn’t just make it somewhere between difficult and impossible for even creative companies to survive long-term (which the odds are against in any business regardless of governance). In fact, that ethos, in many cases, is functionally indistinguishable from putting a loaded gun to your head and pulling the trigger. People call it “vulture capitalism,” but that’s an insult to vultures, which typically neither attack healthy animals nor redefine “healthy” to justify their predatory scavenging.

UPDATE: Just today, economist Dean Baker makes a related and very important point: Running a private-equity firm is much more about profiting from tax dodges than it is about making companies more efficient.

Memo to Simpson-Bowles fanboys/-girls, the New America Foundation, Paul Ryan groupies and everybody else who thinks the deficit is our biggest current problem:

You cannot slash taxes AND slash spending AND still reduce the deficit. It’s mathematically impossible. You can no more reduce the deficit this way than you can walk to the moon or skin-dive the Marianas Trench.

And if you try it, we’ll be in another recession in a heartbeat. Hell, with three straight months of falling consumer spending, we might be heading into another one even if you don’t.

This really is the era of lowered expectations. I used to pray for deliverance from extremist ideologues. Now I just pray for deliverance from people who can’t count.

Monday, July 9, 2012 10:30 pm

Projection: Mark Halperin edition

Good Christ, I have never seen a more worthless waste of a carbon-based life form, let alone a job in journalism:

Once again, we have an incumbent running in an environment so brutal that he can’t win an up-or-down referendum on his term.

Your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen.

Thus, Obama, like Bush, has to make the election a choice between two options and disqualify the other option.

We are in a radically different politico-media age than we were just eight years ago, so the metrics for measuring whether such an effort is working have been transformed. Still, there are some aspects of the Swift Boating that don’t seem to be present for the Democrats, at least not yet.

The Swift Boat line of attack went along the info-news conveyor belt from some limited paid media and a book, to right-leaning earned media, to cable news, to the broadcast networks and major print publications. So far, that hasn’t happened with the Obama attack. New media allows the Democrats on their own to spread the message through literally hundreds of platforms, but that doesn’t mean it will take over big-time earned media and dominate the campaign discourse, the way Swift Boats did.

Well, that’s a fascinating bit of horse-race speculation, which is to say it’s both wrong AND worthless. And here’s the tell on where Halperin’s loyalties really lie (as if there were any doubt):

(I should make clear: this post is about the politics of bringing down a rival. It is NOT meant to adjudicate the accuracy, relevance, or fairness of the two attacks.)

Of course not. Because 1) that would be actual, you know, journalism, which Mark Halperin simply Does Not Do; and 2) the conclusion inevitably resulting from such an adjudication would leave Romney screwed. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that he would be, if I may quote one of America’s foremost pundits, “running in an environment so brutal that he can’t win an up-or-down referendum.”

 

Letter from Greece

Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice datelines his post from the Lion Gate of Mycenae, where no little bloodletting began and ended (internal links copied from elsewhere in Tom’s post for clarity):

Wars are not Homeric poems, which is something Homer himself clearly understood, if Odysseus’s conversations with the heroes who preceded him into Hades offer any hint.  They wreck people, and not simply those who are obviously war’s casualties. I’m not going to belabor that thought in this forum, because so many here know this as well or better than I.

So: idiots will be with us always, and two otherwise utterly inconsequential folks like Messrs. Nicholson and Davis—barely public figures at all—aren’t worth the spit it would take to express my true opinion.

No: what matters is that this kind of talk can’t take place without the tacit permission of actual leaders—informal ones, like Limbaugh, and the actual political actors on the right, figures like Boehner, McConnell, Cohen, Ryan, McCain, whoever.  First among them, of course, is the man who would be president, Mitt Romney.

Leaders shape the frame of argument.  They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition.  They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.  When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.

Greece is a good place from which to think about this.  You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory—the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed.  Words matter here, and have for millennia.

So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable.  The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die.  It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.

But … but … but … Rev. Wright!!111!!1eleventy

IOKIYAR.

Saturday, July 7, 2012 3:41 pm

Our cat is missing; or, Come home, Tracy Lee Kelly, all is forgiven

Filed under: Housekeeping,Sad — Lex @ 3:41 pm
Tags: , ,

UPDATE, 11:25 p.m. 7/10: He just showed up, in good shape but very skinny and hungry. Now he’s fed, and we’re breaking a general rule tonight and letting him sleep with us. Ahhhhh …

UPDATE: I’ve made this post sticky for a bit. Newer content begins below.

Tracy, our 3-year-old, neutered male orange tabby, is missing.

He was last seen last Saturday evening, June 30, in our fenced back yard on South College Park Drive. He weighs about 10-11 pounds and has prominent stripes and a small, healed notch in his right ear. He’s sociable enough to walk right into your house, but at the time he had no collar on and could be mistaken for a stray. Anyone who sees him, please get in touch. We want him to come home! You can email me at lex dot alexander [at] gmail dot com.

UPDATE: I’ve made this post sticky for a bit. Newer content begins below.

Friday, July 6, 2012 9:15 pm

Our current national politics in a nutshell

I’ve got tons of homework to do  in a houseful of boxes, so take it away, Charlie Pierce:

It was about midway through the completely predictable impeachment of Bill Clinton when I decided that the most fundamentally obsolete question that could be asked concerning anything in American politics any more was, “They really couldn’t do that, could they?” This has held me in good stead ever since, especially while observing the behavior of conservative lawmakers. I watched the entire country turn against them in public revulsion during the prolonged Terri Schiavo fiasco and knew good and well that they were going to chase that “issue” right over the cliff. So, as this whole pursuit of Eric Holder has gathered speed, I had no doubt in my mind at all that, sooner or later, he was going to be the first cabinet official ever held in contempt of Congress, and that it didn’t matter that the cheapjack grifter Darrell Issa already has said he doesn’t think that any crimes were committed, or that the White House was in any way involved, or that Fortune magazine pretty much blew up the raison d’etre for the whole business over the weekend. I just assumed, based on long experience, that, once they opened the ball on Eric Holder, they weren’t going to stop until they got at least a piece of what they wanted. This isn’t because they’re reckless partisans. It’s because they’re f—ing vandals who have the votes. …

Out in front of the capitol, assistant Democratic leader Jim Clyburn had just finished saying, “This is not about oversight. This is about overkill. This is about this committee honoring its precedent of what happens no matter which Republican is chairing it. This is Dan Burton, who was going after Ron Brown because of stuff he made up. Now it’s Chairman Issa, going after Attorney General Holder over stuff he made up.”

You will note that Clyburn didn’t cite Bill Clinton, Burton’s major target back in the day, but the late Ron Brown, another African-American cabinet member. Clyburn’s meaning could not have been clearer.

Because Barack Obama got elected president, see, so we live in a postracial society and nothing is about race anymore.

Here at this end of the I-85/95 corridor, I had hoped Pat McCrory might be different. But his determination to continue working for a politically connected law firm — not as a lawyer, mind — for what seems like an awful lot of money for a nonlawyer job and without telling us what he’s doing for that money, stinks to high heaven. And the more I hear of him, the less likely I think he is to even try to stand up to the sociopaths in the legislature who couldn’t be bothered to compensate the people we illegally castrated not so horribly long ago (and that, of course, was not about race, either), let alone push policies that really will enhance the general welfare. Even if he isn’t a fundamentalist whackjob — and I realize this may come as a shock to some folks from outside North Carolina, but not all Republicans here are — he probably is going to support the decades-old campaign by the GOP to transfer and concentrate wealth upward. That’s brought us double-digit unemployment nationally, even more so here in the Old North State, and that shit has to stop.

Sunday, July 1, 2012 5:03 pm

Moving sucks, especially in this heat …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 5:03 pm

… but at least Tracy is helping us organize the clutter:

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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