Music Monday: In “honor” of the Pope

It seems like everybody has at some point today said “I didn’t know the Pope could quit!” A lot of us remember John Paul II spending a lot of years being rather frail, so I am forced to wonder about Benedict XVI’s “health” issues.

Tim Minchin is hilariously funny, highly intelligent, a ridiculously good musician, and sometimes highly offensive. Not Safe For Work, Not Recommended For Catholics:


In Closing: this can’t be good; mood music for tortoises; how dare a government agency work in favor of the people; how to really help the middle class; McCain is a realist sometimes; college; on the post office; Reuters seems to misunderstand the term “liberal”.


When a Shorties Calls

P90X: Even when you do it half-assed, not using the schedule, not using the diet plan, it works. Or at least that’s what Professor Cedric X Bryant says.

Sir Patrick Stewart: On domestic violence.

Oh, the Economy: Dollar Stores.

Let’s see, your share comes to at least $319.50: Taypayers will be on the hook for a minimum of 4 times the foreclosure fraud whitewash settlement.

Well, she is a fighter: The Navy announces the USS Gabrielle Giffords.

A Sad Follow Up: The author of The Magic Room (recently reviewed here) has died today in a car wreck. My most comforting thoughts go out to his family.

Jill Often Has Good Observations: On the middle-class white guy’s quest for a scapegoat.

The Next Economic Bomb: Student Loans.

He can be eloquent every now and again: a quote.


International Women’s Day

Maybe I’m not the world’s best feminist. I believe that if I do the same work as a man to the same quality, there’s no way in hell I should earn less money than he does. I believe I should have the right to go where I please, do things that are legal, and manage my life without requiring the input or protection of a man. There are differences between men and women, and that doesn’t make either one superior. Nevertheless — despite my failure to stop shaving or do any other stereotypical radical feminist things — I couldn’t very well let the 100th International Women’s Day go by without any comment whatsoever. President Obama celebrated by making March Women’s History Month.

We’ve still got no woman President — nor even really a candidate I can vote for without serious reservations. This is despite the fact that many other developed nations have managed to have female rulers. Maybe next generation.

We’re still fighting and re-fighting very basic battles on women’s issues — and family issues! — as if the last 50 years never happened. Women‘s and worker‘s rights are being pushed back in some cases 100 years. All the things both men and women cherish — safe workplaces with sane hours, voting, control over our own persons, control over our finances — are under fire. Women may catch the worst of it, but men and women need to work together to overcome the class warfare that is actively trying to turn our nation into a haves and have nots society.

At least we can say women have it better here in the United States than in Afghanistan or Egypt.

In closing: ayatori; 4 Wall Street time bombs; Romneycare doesn’t work; probe Scott Walker good; bait and switch; if the Federal Budget is such a mess, start by defunding this crap!; resveratrol; and a delightful Chinese prospective on Charlie Sheen, reminding us that his father used to be the President. On TV, anyhow.

Too Mad to Write about Politics

Seriously. If I write about any of the crap spewing from Washington — whether from Congress, Timmy Geithner, or our gutless President who is more conservative than Nixon or Reagan — I’m likely to say something regrettable. So here’s what some other people have to say. As it is, I use a little more salty language than normal, so deal with it.

Here’s something on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. You know, the group of fatcat businessmen that President Obama was begging to create jobs? What a bunch of “greedy fucks.”

Here’s what an 11 year old girl has to say about Gitmo. Notice where she admits that some of her information may be biased? I have hope for the critical thinking skills of the next generation, somewhat less hope that the War on Terror will ever end.

There’s a lot to be said about Egypt today. How about we start with a picture:
Bill Day

But really, this sums up my thoughts well.

There’s really a lot to say about the Anti-Woman forces calling themselves “Pro-Life”, but I’ll let Nancy start the parade. Remember, HR3 has a much wider reach than most people know. That’s even before we start talking about conscience clauses that would allow ignorant ******* to turn people away whose pregnancies can kill them. That’s before we talk about the fact that if these ******** had their way, women whose “babies” would be born with fatal birth defects would be forced to carry that corpse to term, endure dozens of well meaning people asking “Is it a boy or a girl? Have you picked a name??”, go through all the complications of pregnancy including the possibility of death in labor, all so some ******** can pretend he — and I do mean HE — is preventing abortions. People who think that is acceptable can rot in hell. Republicans want to cut family planning too, so we know they don’t really give a damn about preventing abortions.

Here’s something on states declaring bankruptcy to get out of paying people the retirement funds they were promised — and remember, state employees pay no Social Security taxes, so those pensions may be all they’ve got.

Speaking of bankruptcy, here’s something on how the bankruptcy “reform” of a few years back contributed to the foreclosure mess.

Nobody seems to remember that almost all regulations are put in place to protect somebody. Of course it’s dumb to say that regulations are automatically “job killing.” If the people whining about “job killing” gave a shit about jobs, maybe they wouldn’t be trying to cut and gut jobs programs! Here’s an urgent message for our elected officials: JOBS are still the number one issue on Americans’ minds. Put people to work, and some of the other problems — national deficit, social security, foreclosures — might start to fix themselves.

But this one really makes me mad. Ornery has it right when he calls the move to cut emergency funding for heating in the middle of a colder than average winter “so fucking tone deaf it boggles my fucking mind.” Heaven forbid we should raise taxes on people making, say, a million dollars a year when we can just freeze Granny to death! Who needs a death panel when you’ve got a blizzard? Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot!

See how mad I am, and all I’m really doing is quoting other people? Over the weekend I promise to have something happier to say… about something.

In Closing: Kafka-san; tip of the iceberg?; junk fees and foreclosure; too lazy; secret air travel; pot of gold; is it snarky if it’s true?; the status quo is bad; on conservatives and the Bible; city-states; zero tolerance means zero thinking; vaccinate; the budget.

Looks Like Rain

Most people don’t carry around an umbrella unless they think there’s a good chance of rain.

That being said:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board approved interim guidelines to help clarify its procedures for liquidating complex financial firms [edit: that is, “too big to fail” firms] when they collapse, including permitting better treatment for some creditors when it benefits the estate or broader economy.


However, in the event of an impending implosion, the statute authorizes the FDIC to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to make partial payments to “healthy” counter-parties of the failing firm so that they wouldn’t go down with it. Once economic disaster is averted, the law requires the government to recoup the costs of the bailout by selling the bank’s assets and by collecting fees from big financial institutions with $50 billion or more in assets.

So then, the question as I see it is simple: which big bank does the FDIC expect to collapse? My money is on the one that declared last week that they were halting all foreclosures in all 50 states.

In closing: Mankiw is an idiot; what made them think that was a good idea??; I would rather take my chances with the slot machines; in denial; she can raise money but can she stop being crazy?; epilogue to cholesterol story; “I don’t know if he’s qualified to be on the Federal Reserve Board. He’s only got a Nobel Prize in Economics“; This Angry Season; and recovery.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Taken at Clark High School in Las Vegas.

In Closing: Foreclosure mess (update, Bank of America has halted all foreclosures nationwide); new 300 year old Vivaldi concerto; progressive agenda; we have to be better; I hope the FDIC bankrupts these [redacted]; always check your work; on Afghanistan; 30% of unemployed have been out of work for at least a year, and the number of jobs in the economy went down last month (no wonder bankruptcies are up); good idea; speaking of food stamps; “none of the above“; new style CPR; sometimes it’s how you say it; and cell phones don’t and can’t cause cancer (“physics shows that it is virtually impossible for cell phones to cause cancer”).

Oh and one more thing! Surf over to Vegas Video Network to see my new show later today!

Nice of him to notice, and Economic Bonus Round

I am glad to see someone with a high profile speaking out on this, and I sincerely hope other journalists start talking about it.

Now, about that economy.

The nicest thing I can say about the United States economy right now is that unemployment isn’t as bad as it is in much of Europe. Our economy lost jobs last month — and only partly because some of those temporary Census workers were let go — but the really awful part is that the number of workers went down. It isn’t that we had an abnormal number of people die or retire or anything like that, it’s just that over a half million people gave up on trying to find work. And that’s why the official unemployment rate went down.

Of course, if you just happen to have the right set of highly technical job skills, there are plenty of jobs. But — as Jill so ably points out — somehow or another businesses don’t think they should actually have to train employees to use very specialized equipment. I guess they are waiting for the “Qualified Employee Fairy” to stuff resumes under the door.

It’s also worth pointing out that the SBA is running out of money again, which means it will be even harder for small businesses to get money to ramp up operations and create jobs. I am no supporter of the SBA — everyone I’ve ever known that has ever talked to them has ended up with an application for a second mortgage — but this is crazy.

So when all is said and done, I think that more than being “still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession” and perhaps headed for a “double-dip recession,” it is more intellectually honest to say that from the standpoint of the typical American, there is no recovery: we still aren’t finding jobs, we still are having trouble paying the mortgage, we are still declaring bankruptcy at an alarming rate. Fine, maybe our largest corporations are still making plenty of money, but without the American consumer having money in pocket to buy goods and services, GDP growth can only be somewhere between shaky and an illusion.

In Closing: Uncle Shelby; turns out the kids are bored and not learning the things they should; on the newly revised dietary guidelines; fun with Google auto-complete; biggest banks in the world (and the ones that don’t exist anymore; and please, please drive safely this weekend.

Twofer Thursday: This is Your Economy and Warren Buffett Redux

This is Your Economy:

The ADP payroll report is out today. They’re the people who print paychecks, so they have a very good idea how many private sector jobs there are. And in May, they say there were 55,000 more private sector jobs. All the gains came from the “service” sector: jobs that often begin with “how can I help you” and end with “is there anything else” (or alternatively, “would you like fries with that”). No new manufacturing jobs; no new construction jobs; no jobs doing anything that won’t be gone or irrelevant in 6 months. Tomorrow the Bureau of Labor Statistics will come out with their own numbers, which include government jobs. And since there are roughly 400,000 extra Census workers on the job right now, they are expected to announce something like 540,000 new jobs. Because those Census workers will be unemployed by Christmas, we should really call this 140,000 new and possibly permanent jobs. Once more, we haven’t added enough jobs to account for people entering the workforce (sorry, class of 2010!) let alone put the unemployed to work.

Speaking of the unemployed, the percentage of them who have been out of work more than half a year is at record levels. Sadly, unemployment is higher among parents, who have families to feed. Let’s not forget that the biggest reason for unemployment benefits is that those kids didn’t do anything wrong and still deserve roof-over-head and dinner-on-the-table. And in an unconscionable move, at least one employer is advertising that they won’t consider your application if you are unemployed! On what planet is it desirable to hire people who you know will jump ship for a better gig, when there are thousands of unemployed people desperate to work for you? Even without the public relations nightmare unfolding, how can this possibly be good business?

No wonder personal bankruptcy filings are up.

This is your economy. And now, in the face of a consumer revolt that threatens to turn into a voter revolt, Congress is actually considering doing something about the people who got us here. It sure sounds like too little too late, if it happens at all.

Warren Buffett Redux (a follow up):

Yesterday was the big day for the Oracle of Omaha. He had to sit down in front of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and explain how the 3rd richest man in the world let a ratings agency he had partial ownership of overlook the real estate bubble. Well, he didn’t want to “look foolish” by sounding the alarm. After all, everybody was trying to make a buck in real estate. Nobody could have seen it coming, especially the company that was paid to see it coming. Which is it: he didn’t want to be the first to say anything, or nobody could have foreseen it?

Kind of unimpressive testimony. It’s almost like he was trying to invoke his right to remain silent.

In Closing: Androids don’t play Tetris; Wal-Mart’s lawyers warned the company not to be misogynist prigs in 1995; obligatory Gulf of Mexico oil spill items; Congressional slap-fight may make it hard to buy a home anywhere floods are a remote risk; Driving While Black (I feel certain that “brown” is close enough in many areas); cooking is hard; health insurance limbo; vaccine refusal puts everyone at risk; National Association of Evangelicals might actually be ready to face reality, that birth control prevents abortions; farewell Mercury; the 50 year “anomaly”; Governor Gibbons made the Real ID Zombie walk again, but the ACLU’s got a boomstick; and Star Trek insignia. Yes, I do try to always make the last item fun.

Low Hanging Fruit on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

This is a special post for Blog Against Theocracy Weekend. Yesterday’s post was a repost of my 2007 offering.

Nobody is harmed by the fact that “In God We Trust” appears on our money.

Most of us can ignore public prayers at a public school event —  or compose our own alternate prayers and meditations in our minds.

Some of us held our noses when considering the political implications of who was chosen to offer prayers at President Obama’s inauguration, but nobody died as a result.

But church meddling in our newly passed Health Insurance Reform bill may well cause harm and perhaps even death to some people. However, since those people are women, some people don’t care. Moreover, church meddling in civil law may well bring harm to the poor in Washington DC.

It is of course the low hanging fruit: the Catholic Church.

In a petulant fit of pique, Catholic Charities threatened to cut off services to Washington DC if they actually made it legal for gay people to marry. When they realized that they could not in fact do that without legal repercussions, they instead decided to deny benefits to all new employee partners, gay or straight. Further, they demanded that new employees sign a statement that they won’t violate the tenets of the Church!

Remove the plank from thine own eye, Catholic Church!

If there were ever a stronger case for a public safety net rather than depending on the fickleness of charitable organizations deciding that this issue is important and this not, I am not familiar with it. As much as we all appreciate the work that charities do, it is simply not acceptable to pick up your ball (or shelter, or food kitchen) and threaten to go home if you don’t get your way. And pressuring new employees into signing documents regarding their private lives is just a little onerous, particularly in the middle of a recession where the only new jobs really being created are temp positions with the Census. Denying partners health insurance within weeks of a law being signed requiring mandatory insurance in a few years? Just twist the knife already in the new employee’s back.

Of course, it is now well known how the Catholic Bishops meddled in the Health Insurance Reform Bill, even over the objections of the Catholic Nuns — who for all their own faults aren’t accused of covering up dozens of priests who committed sexual crimes against thousands of minors under the age of consent. There. I didn’t call them pedophiles, but what they did is criminal and should be prosecuted. Since there was a clear conspiracy, no statute of limitations applies.

So then, when something tragic happens to a woman in your life and she must make the terrible decision to abort an embryo or fetus, remember that it would have been covered under her mandated health insurance policy if it weren’t for these meddling kid-molesters. If she finds it difficult to find a provider who will help her, remember that it is Catholic groups that have hounded doctors out of the business. And remember, not a single one of these Bishops will ever get pregnant, will ever have a wife who might get pregnant, will ever have a daughter who might get pregnant. Talk about no skin in the game.

As easy as it is to lob shots at the Catholic Church right now, I don’t want to overlook another serious threat to the separation of Church and State. Susie Madrak has pointed out that there is now an investigation by CREW into whether the shadowy religious group known as “The Fellowship” or “The Family” has been breaking the law by providing below market rents to the Congressmen who live in their C Street residence. Rep. Stupak and Sen. Ensign both could have [additional] problems as a result. Since it is relatively well documented that the purpose of this group is to put control of Congress in “godly” handstheir narrow definition of godly, of course — this investigation is necessary and overdue.

In Closing: They don’t make recoveries like they used to; job creation looks even worse compared to population growth; huh, I guess it is possible to teach a large number of students at once; I’ll say it again on the 19th, but this is what Militias are about; You can’t talk bad about your boss!; bankruptcy filings up you say? Well, as long as they aren’t spiking!; it’s surely a sign of Armageddon for me to link to Politico, but Banking Hypocrisy; melanoma may be more complicated than staying out in the sun too long (which never seemed to hurt our great grandparents much); and no, you should not laugh out loud if you see somebody drowning.

Paging Dr. Dynasaur!

For the benefit of younger readers: Back in the old days before cell phones, there were pagers. And before that, there was the overhead paging system. Not that many years ago, it was normal to hear things like “Dr. Jones to 4B nursing station, please” on the hospital public address system.

Ok. It’s law now. It looks like the health insurance reform bill that got passed and signed into law was neither as bad as it could be nor as good as it should be. There’s some benefits, and some stuff that’s absolutely odious. However, it is only a first step. At least two crucial things are missing.

First and probably most important is a non-profit health insurance option. The law, as it stands, requires us to all buy health insurance by 2014, which forces us to do business with the very same companies that got us into this mess. The best answer to this problem by far is Alan Grayson’s Medicare-For-Anybody bill, which has 80 co-sponsors so far (click here to sign the petition to demand a vote!). Howard Dean has even endorsed Rep. Grayson at least partly as a result. You remember Howard? The doctor who became a Governor and managed to get health insurance for almost every kid in his state despite the fact that they don’t vote? This bill is revenue neutral for the Government — it won’t raise the deficit a cent because it says the premiums will be set at what it costs to provide the insurance. Bringing this thing to a vote puts the opposition in a tough spot: if Medicare is good enough for Grandma, why isn’t it good enough for me?

The other thing it needs is a program I like to call MediKids. Regular readers have heard me beat this drum before, but we have a system where most health insurance is purchased by employers. And most kids don’t have employers. The existence of an automatic enrollment health insurance program for kids under 18 (and in my ideal dream world, any full time student under 25) would help almost every family in America. It would of course have a disproportionate effect on low income families that are likely to have inadequate insurance for themselves and their kids, if they have insurance at all. Moreover, by keeping our kids healthy, it would improve schools and the quality of our future workforce. Even if there were a modest premium associated with the program like there is for Vermont’s Dr. Dynasaur program, it would be worthwhile.

In Closing: Why aren’t you in school, you lazy bastards?; stupid banker tricks; three times more Chapter 7 than Chapter 13 bankruptcies; air worship is like air guitar for shrine visits (maybe the Catholics could try this? Then it doesn’t matter if the priest is a pedophile); as fast as financial reform made it through committee, I must wonder what political favors are embedded in it; and let Mr. Otis get you high. I mean, like to the 20th floor.