Archive

  • Words Have Power

    I'm downright intrigued by the new effort to paint the filibustering of judges as a broadside against Christians everywhere. Fascinating, fascinating stuff. Part of it, of course, is Bill Frist's understanding that his presidential hopes rely wholly on his reputation as a Christian crusader, a term I use carefully. Because that's what keep pinging my radar on all this -- more and more, you're seeing the Christian Right adopt a policy of confrontation and, indeed, aggression against the non-religious elements of American life. Culture, politics, even community -- the clash of civilization does seem to be in the offing, but it's not with the Islamists a world away, it's a homegrown conflict for the direction of the country. That was always the flaw in the Clash of Civilizations concept. The war between Shari'a and modernity was taking place in Islam's backyard, it was no worldwide conflict threatening to wash up on America's shores. No matter how many gaskets Hitchens blew on route to...
  • Always Low Wages. Always.

    Saying Wal-Mart is antiunion is slightly less shocking than calling Tom DeLay unethical, or noting that I have an elbow*. Nothing could be better known. But I think most are confused, like I was for a long time, over how Wal-Mart can actually stop the unions. So one day, I called up an organizer buddy of mine and asked. The answer was so simple that it barely qualified as an answer at all. If workers unionize, or threaten to unionize, or feint at unionizing, or think about unionizing, or see a union hall on their way to work one day, Wal-Mart shuts down the store. Oh. Nevertheless. it seemed a bit odd to me. Pretty drastic measure, knocking down a whole store because they formed a union, can they really do that? Indeedy-do, they can and they have. In fact, they just did it in Canada. The workers in Jonquiere, Quebec, signed the cards creating a union and, immediately thereafter, everyone lost their jobs and the town lost its Wal-Mart. Now the city's got deep divisions between those...
  • The Means-Based President

    While reading some post-mortems of the just passed Screw The Poor Bankruptcy Bill, I came across this sneaky little stat : "With 90% of bankruptcies attributable to job loss, divorce or excessive medical bills, it is clear that better economic policies, social services and affordable healthcare is the way to reduce bankruptcy," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) . Most of us already knew that about half of bankruptcies are precipitated by crushing medical emergency, though I'd no idea such innocuous and understandable trials as job loss and divorce made up for the rest. But isn't it weird that the answer to bankruptcy from medical bills and job loss was to make it, well, harder to declare bankruptcy? If the Bush administration had wanted to end bankruptcies, they could have offered federal reinsurance for catastrophic medical costs. You would've ended half the bankruptcies right there. If they'd wanted to do more, they could have instituted better unemployment insurance and...
  • The NBC Special Mini-Series Emergency

    Kevin Drum dismisses Kunstler's book The Long Emergency on the grounds that he tries to explain most everything through entropy. Well sure, the blatant misappropriation of physics concepts is one reason to dismiss the guy's post-apocalyptic predictions, but why stop at just one? How about the fact that Kunstler really isn't an oil expert? He was a staff writer for The Rolling Stone , published a string of (self-described) bad novels, and then wrote a few books on the crushing soullessness of suburban architecture. Hearing him confidently predict the end of civilization definitely has a crazy-guy-on-Venice feel to it. But no, you say, Rolling Stone published excerpts from the book, and if RS thinks they have merit, they probably do. Or at least they would, if Kunstler hadn't worked for RS, thus pulling that appearance into question. But maybe pseudo-physics and lack of credentials aren't enough for you. Maybe you still need one last piece of evidence that it's not quite time to head...
  • "Fundamentally Anti-Democratic"

    According to Jason Spitalnik, the House is planning 30 minutes of debate before passing the Bankruptcy Bill tomorrow. 30 minutes! I spend more than 30 minutes picking out movies at Blockbuster. I spend more than 30 minutes deciding on takeout with my friends. I spend more than 30 minutes on the treadmill. You're telling me I spend more time on the treadmill than the Senate spends debating major legislation? Jason calls this fundamentally anti-Democratic. True 'nuff. But it's also a basic affront to the idea of deliberative democracy. Good government is laying in the mud with the Republican Leadership's foot digging into its throat. and I'm sure it'd appreciate it if the press noticed, or if media populists like O'Reilly found a mere 30 minutes of debate on an anti-family bill half as deserving of airtime as some elementary school teacher saying a naughty thing about Bush. But we've reached a point in this country where the major offenses are too toweringly repugnant to wrap our minds...
  • Nepotism

    I keep trying to summon up some rage and bile over the practice of Congressmen employing their families, but I just can't. Businesses employ family members all the time. Politics is an all-consuming occupation. If families can find ways to involve the clan, all the better. Dana Rohrabacher paying his wife $40,000 to manage his campaigns doesn't bother me (and he's my congressmen, by the way). In fact, I'm glad he does it -- hopefully it makes the process a bit less grueling for him. Tom DeLay paying his wife and daughter $500,000 over 4 years also isn't too shocking, that's an average of $62,500 per year per family member which, assuming they actually did jobs, isn't particularly excessive. Now, if there are congresscritters paying their wives and children princely sums in return for occasionally decluttering the congressman's desk, I'll call for the guy's head. But simple nepotism at fair prices is too pervasive, too understandable, and too unthreatening to really raise my blood...
  • Peak Oil

    I realize you guys have been hearing about "peak oil" a lot lately -- kinda like when everyone began talking about Social Security bend points and wage-indexing and ZZZZzzzz. But though you might be bored, you don't have to be confused. At least, not if you go read this quick and dirty primner on the subject . Via The Oil Drum. Update : So long as I'm doing oil links, this tsunami analogy is pretty spot-on. As Grouch & Eligh would say: Time -- time is of the essence. Update 2 : I'm just going to condense today's oil-related posts into this thread, even though they're not all related. Matt, I think, misunderstands something in his piece on Cartel economics: if every OPEC member cut production by 20 percent they'd all be better off. But any given OPEC member would be even better off if the whole cartel agreed to cut production 20 percent, but then your country went around and cheated on the quota. So if you cut the quota, everyone will just cheat, and everything will stay the same...
  • Poverty-Reduction

    And this is why effective sex education and widespread access to birth control are overriding moral issue: Nationally, the teenage birth rate fell 30 percent from 1991 to 2002, the most recent year for which such statistics are available. If the rate had not dropped during the decade, 1.2 million more children would have been born to teenage mothers in the United States. Of those, 460,000 would have been living in poverty and 700,000 would have grown up in a single-parent household, according to the analysis. 460,000. Children. In. Poverty. That's a lot of misery and pain we've prevented, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars saved in emergency room visits and social programs and, frankly, crime prevention. This impoverished children would be the ones on the public dole and, for many of them, the ones in the public jails. We know that . Keeping young women from getting pregnant is one of the most cost-effective approaches to poverty-reduction, so what a shame that we're...
  • Why OPEC Needs America Fat and Happy

    Kevin's explanation of why oil prices are cause for severe concern is vintage Drum: informative, well-written, and containing a graph. Read it . But I think he gets something wrong in his evaluation of OPEC's incentives: OPEC has the capacity to supply about 30 mbd. Question: what incentive do they have to continue pumping this amount? Economically, they have very little. If they cut production by 20% (6 mbp), that would reduce global supply to 78 mbd. Prices would immediately double to around $100/barrel, maybe even higher, since there would be no other source to make up the shortfall. As a result, OPEC's revenues would skyrocket — not all at once, since most oil is delivered under futures contracts, but soon enough. In addition, most Middle Eastern fields are being overproduced right now, so cutting production would have beneficial long-term effects as well. Kevin goes on to argue that Saudi Arabia used to be a buffer against this because they could simply flood the market with...
  • Yip Yip Yip Yahoo!

    Rush Limbaugh, in his characteristically insane manner, commented today on Al Gore's new televisions station: When does he start up this stupid little network? August? Yip yip yip yahoo. You know what Gore said about this? It's going to be liberal. It's going to reflect the point of view of young people. What the hell is that, Al? What the hell is the point of view of young people? Blow jobs, that's what they're doing out there. They're out there getting oral sex all day long, that's what they're talking about. Yeah, it's a tough life, I gotta say. Why, just this morning I was all "If anyone gives me another blowjob, I'm going to scream!" But then I remembered that I'm getting blowjobs all day and really should just relax and go with it. Anyway, I'd like to stick around and talk about the oft-divorced Limbaugh's oral obsession, but there are blowjobs to be enjoyed.

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