Monday, December 26, 2011

Headlines - Monday December 26

In a Christmas Eve mass conducted in the Vatican Gift Shop, Pope Benedict decried the commercialization of Christmas. 
If God himself was behind the Denver Bronco's recent run, then He sent Tim Tebow a little message about humility yesterday.

Skippy's environmental news stories Sunday
Charles Pierce: America's Muddling Purpose, Circa Christmas 2011

The robber barons would be so proud.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Who says bipartisanship is dead? Senators from both sides of the aisle can still come together to make the lives of children more dangerous.  Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) are leading the charge to reject proposed Department of Labor regulations that would ban some child labor on our farms. What kind of odious government regulations are these? These new rules would attack the freedom of our children to mix noxious pesticides, climb tall ladders, and demolishing barns on farms that are not owned by their parents. If I can't force my 11 year old to mix pesticides, we might as well just live in Soviet Russia. Moreover, since so much farm labor is done by immigrants these days, these regulations are a clear attack on the white right to exploit brown people. I am truly outraged. My love of racism combined with my passion for child labor has led me to become a huge supporter of our next president, Newt Gingrich.

Let me tell you a story about the good old days, before a bunch of liberal do-gooders got in the way of the free market. In the late 19th century, sawmills used to have the problem of sawdust building up under the saws. Eventually the sawdust would get so high as to get in the way of the saw. Actually stopping the saws to clear the sawdust would be a clear violation of my rights as a capitalist. So my forefathers simply hired children to crawl under the saws and clean it out. While the saws were still running. If one took a sawblade in the head, well, those Finns all have 15 kids anyway. I can just hire another. And they have one less mouth to feed. A public service to all!

30 senators have signed on to this bill, including 4 Democrats.

Once corporations have taken over all the schools, the kids who can't afford pay-as-you-go elementary school will have to be put to work somewhere. It just makes sense.

The proper way to interpret repug pronouncements on Democrats, liberals, minorities and poor people is as confessions: whatever they accuse others of - voter fraud, fascism, criminal behavior and laziness - is what they themselves are guilty of.

The insistence that people who work minimum-wage jobs but need food stamps and other assistance must be lazy is particularly egregious. It has to be, to cover what repugs are trying to hide: that the real lazy parasites on society are the rich.

Scott Lemiuex at Lawyers, Guns and Money, on the values presented in some reality TV shows:

What I find particularly interesting is the vision they present of a desirable life. These programs cater to the wealth fantasies of their audiences, obviously, but they do so in a way that suggests that the epitome of the contemporary American Dream is to acquire either enough independent capital, or a sufficiently unlimited access to an income stream generated by someone else's labor, to allow one to do nothing - or more precisely, to do nothing but consume.

Indeed, despite the enormous differences in context, these shows remind me of nothing so much as Orwell's description of the world view of many a Victorian novelist, and in particular Dickens:


Orwell's essay is more than 70 years old, and it makes me wonder about the extent to which contemporary American society has returned, or regressed, to the rentier values that Dickens's novels uncritically reflect. The key to these programs is that no one, or least none of the central characters, ever does anything resembling work. The "housewives" don't have jobs, of course, but they are also almost never shown doing any parenting, let alone performing traditional domestic unpaid labor (all this has, as the expression goes, been outsourced). The Kardashian sisters are occasionally shown dabbling in things like launching a perfume line, but the point of their various shows is that they are 24/7 Party Girls. (For all I know turning your life into a reality TV show may be very hard work. The point here is not how much work the various Kardashians may do, but that their programs work very hard to represent them as people who do nothing).

And this isn't merely a matter of not working for income: the most striking aspect of these shows is the extent to which they portray a class of people who have no vocation, in the broadest sense, of any sort, or indeed even any serious interests, besides spending money while being on the equivalent of a perpetual vacation.


Still, one of the consequences of America's increasingly unabashed embrace of plutocracy over the last generation is that we now have a genuinely enormous class of social parasites, living off inherited capital, or the stupendous income stream of the one member of an extended family who has a job. (A vignette from the beginning of the previous century: The Duke of Somewhere or Another was passing through customs at Ellis Island. On the immigration form under "Occupation" he wrote "Peer of the Realm." The Irish-American cop who took the form crossed that out and wrote "Unemployed.").

Consider that the bottom threshold for the annual income of the richest .1% of American households is close to two million dollars (that's per year), and that there are approximately 120,000 such households, containing around 500,000 people. This suggests that well over one million Americans live in households with annual incomes of at least one million dollars per year. Of course some of these people are children, but a lot of them are fundamentally aimless adults who have nothing to do but spend money. So perhaps it's not surprising that, increasingly, we're seeing the celebration of a social class full of people who, as Orwell pointed out, are "just about as useful as so many tapeworms."


Paul Krugman:

Oh, by the way, you may have heard reports to the effect that Jon Huntsman is different. And he did indeed once say: "Conservation is conservative. I'm not ashamed to be a conservationist." Never mind: he, too, has been assimilated by the anti-environmental Borg, denouncing the E.P.A.'s "regulatory reign of terror," and predicting that the new rules will cause blackouts by next summer, which would be a neat trick considering that the rules won't even have taken effect yet.
Belly-up to the trough, boys - Another day, another lobbying group prepares to lobby bribe congress to lower corporate taxes. Everyone need to remember that corporations rarely pay the stated rate and needs to look at the actual rate. For instance, GE has a negative tax rate and the US Government owes them billions of dollars. (Reuters)
Looking at a brown Christmas ? Blame global warming.

"When a photo of a homecoming kiss between Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta kissing her 'partner', Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell went public on December 22, it set gay and lesbian hearts atwitter. What the predominantly heterosexual population thought of it was unreported. [snip] Gays and lesbians play on the inherent sense of fairness and tolerance that is a hallmark of American society. The result is that homosexuality is now widely represented in popular culture to the point of being accepted as 'normal.' It is not 'normal.' It is a sexual aberration involving a very small portion of the overall population, perhaps no more than four percent. Always was, always will be." - Alan Caruba, writing for Tea Party Nation.
She prayed to Jeebus and all of the woman's "missing parts" were instantly returned to her body. And then she got pregnant. Glory! Praise! Pay me!
Two States With No Open Gays In Office

The Victory Fund's Denis Dison notes:
Last week's news that Southhaven, Miss., Mayor Greg Davis informed a local newspaper that he is gay means just two U.S. states remain on the list of those with no openly LGBT elected officials–Alaska and South Dakota. That doesn't mean these states aren't served by LGBT elected officials, just that none have self-identified publicly either in speeches or in the media.


This shouldn't even be a point of discussion in 2011. The Confederacy committed treason against the United States 150 years ago. Give it up, South.

At an event in South Carolina yesterday, Newt Gingrich was asked by a town hall participant to offer his views regarding the state's decision to fly the Confederate flag at the statehouse in Columbia. The woman's question was met with a smattering of boos from the audience.

"I have a very strong opinion," Gingrich said, prefacing his weak response. "It's up to the people of South Carolina." (He then qualified his answer by assuring that he is opposed to segregation and slavery.)

There's something incestuous about using states' rights in defense of a flag that represented the bloodiest and conpletely racist failure of that idea in American history. And Gingrich uses the name "Lincoln" to inspire him during debates? The president who ultimately was murdered in his opposition to states' rights? That's rich.


A provision contained within the bill that put a tear in John Boehner's beer this week, the bill which includes a 2 month extension of payroll tax-cuts and unemployment benefits, is a provision that specifically prohibits the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and President Obama has issued a statement reiterating his opposition to this provision.

In this bill, the Congress has once again included provisions that would bar the use of appropriated funds for transfers of Guantanamo detainees into the United States (section 8119 of Division A), as well as transfers to the custody or effective control of foreign countries unless specified conditions are met (section 8120 of Division A). These provisions are similar to others found in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. My Administration has repeatedly communicated my objections to these provisions, including my view that they could, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. In approving this bill, I reiterate the objections my Administration has raised regarding these provisions, my intent to interpret and apply them in a manner that avoids constitutional conflicts, and the promise that my Administration will continue to work towards their repeal.

To recap:

- President Obama signed an executive order on the day he took office in 2009 to close Guantanamo Bay

- This is the fourth time since 2009 that Congress has voted to block the closure of Guantanamo Bay

- Congress has voted overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan fashion, each of those four times to block the closure of Guantanamo Bay

The good news is, there is one provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that grants the president the discretion to hold civilian trials for detainees. And while some would argue that it shouldn't be a matter of discretion, I would point out that having the discretion is better than having no choice other than military trials, which is what we have right now.


If you're at all curious at finding out which presidential candidate best matches your political beliefs, here's a little test you can take to find out.

The 2012 Candidate Match Game


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