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Archive for September, 2013

The Shutdown

[ 70 ] September 30, 2013 |

It’s happening, of course.

I turn the floor over to Drum:

The Republican Party is bending its entire will, staking its very soul, fighting to its last breath, in service of a crusade to….

Make sure that the working poor don’t have access to affordable health care.

The government shutdown and debt limit ransoms are very much in the tradition of filibusters to prevent civil rights legislation, although at least the segregationists were rationally trying to advance odious goals rather than making irrational, destructive gestures towards accomplishing odious goals. And these gestures are destructive — they will inflict plenty of economic suffering on a population that’s already seen far too much, thanks.

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Wall Street Looting Pensions

[ 83 ] September 30, 2013 |

Matt Taibbi has a comprehensive takedown on of how Wall Street has combined with irresponsible state politicians to steal public workers’ pensions. It’s the latest iteration of the Wall Street war to increase profits by undermining the working and middle classes. At the heart of it is former Enron billionaire John Arnold, the same man recorded bragging about manipulating energy prices in California during their corporate created energy crisis. Here’s the skinny.

So even if Pew’s numbers were right, the “unfunded liability” crisis had nothing to do with the systemic unsustainability of public pensions. Thanks to a deadly combination of unscrupulous states illegally borrowing from their pensioners, and unscrupulous banks whose mass sales of fraudulent toxic subprime products crashed the market, these funds were out some $930 billion. Yet the public was being told that the problem was state workers’ benefits were simply too expensive.

In a way, this was a repeat of a shell game with retirement finance that had been going on at the federal level since the Reagan years. The supposed impending collapse of Social Security, which actually should be running a surplus of trillions of dollars, is now repeated as a simple truth. But Social Security wouldn’t be “collapsing” at all had not three decades of presidents continually burgled the cash in the Social Security trust fund to pay for tax cuts, wars and God knows what else. Same with the alleged insolvencies of state pension programs. The money may not be there, but that’s not because the program is unsustainable: It’s because bankers and politicians stole the money.

Still, the public mostly bought the line being sold by Arnold, Pew and other anti-pension figures like the Koch brothers. To most, it didn’t matter who was to blame: What mattered is that the money was gone, and there seemed to be only two possible paths forward. One led to bankruptcy, a real-enough threat that had already ravaged places like Vallejo, California; Jefferson County, Alabama; and, this summer, Detroit. In Rhode Island, the tiny town of Central Falls went bust in 2011, and even after a court-ordered plan lifted the town out of bankruptcy in 2012, the “rescue” left pensions slashed as much as 55 percent. “You had guys who were living off $24,000, and now they’re getting $12,000,” says Day. Though Day and his fellow retirees are still fighting reform, he says other union workers might rather settle than file bankruptcy. Holding up an infamous local-newspaper picture of a retired Central Falls policeman in a praying posture, as though begging not to have his whole pension taken away, Day sighs. “Guys take one look at this picture and that’s it. They’re terrified.”

Such images chilled many public workers into accepting the second path – the kind of pension reform meagerly touted by one-percent-friendly politicians like Gina Raimondo. Anyone could see that “reform” meant giving up cash. But the other parts of these schemes were murkier. Most pension-reform proposals required that states must go after higher returns by seeking out “alternative investments,” which sounds harmless enough. But we are now finding out what that term actually means – and it’s a little north of harmless

The politician most complicit with this stealing of public pensions is Rhode Island treasurer Gina Raimondo, who has turned the state’s pension program into a giant feeding frenzy for Wall Street capitalists like Arnold. She’s the one Democratic politician in this country who is clearly worse than Andrew Cuomo. How bad is Raimondo? She was attacked from the left in the pages (or website anyway) of Forbes. Say that again. Forbes attacked her for being too beholden to Wall Street.

She is running for Rhode Island governor. To say the least, I hope she loses to Providence mayor Angel Taveras. Still, she has the name in this very Italian state and there’s a tremendous amount of dislike of public workers in this supposedly union-friendly state. So we shall see if the Ocean State rejects a politician so clearly supportive of the New Gilded Age.

Breaking Bad finale

[ 14 ] September 30, 2013 |

You’ll be able to read my review of “Felina” later today or tomorrow at … another place, because I’ve landed yet another gig. In the meantime, I have a question for you nerds:

You heard the TARDIS trying to land when Walter went back to his old house, didn’t you?

Because I certainly did.

UPDATE: If you can’t see that video, try here.

What’s This?

[ 16 ] September 30, 2013 |

Book has a cover.  Also a twitter feed and a Facebook page.  Of course.

The 30 greatest offensive seasons in baseball history

[ 166 ] September 30, 2013 |

Per Baseball Reference.

Rank Player (age that year) Offensive WAR Year Bats
1. Barry Bonds (36) 12.4 2001 L
2. Babe Ruth+ (26) 12.2 1921 L
Babe Ruth+ (28) 12.2 1923 L
4. Barry Bonds (37) 11.8 2002 L
Babe Ruth+ (25) 11.8 1920 L
6. Rogers Hornsby+ (28) 11.5 1924 R
7. Barry Bonds (39) 11.4 2004 L
Honus Wagner+ (34) 11.4 1908 R
9. Lou Gehrig+ (24) 11.3 1927 L
Mickey Mantle+ (25) 11.3 1957 B
11. Rogers Hornsby+ (26) 11.2 1922 R
Babe Ruth+ (32) 11.2 1927 L
13. Babe Ruth+ (31) 11.0 1926 L
14. Ted Williams+ (22) 10.9 1941 L
15. Babe Ruth+ (29) 10.8 1924 L
16. Mickey Mantle+ (24) 10.7 1956 B
Stan Musial+ (27) 10.7 1948 L
18. Ty Cobb+ (30) 10.6 1917 L
Mickey Mantle+ (29) 10.6 1961 B
20. Ted Williams+ (27) 10.5 1946 L
21. Babe Ruth+ (36) 10.4 1931 L
22. Ty Cobb+ (24) 10.2 1911 L
Lou Gehrig+ (31) 10.2 1934 L
Rogers Hornsby+ (29) 10.2 1925 R
25. Nap Lajoie+ (35) 10.1 1910 R
Ted Williams+ (23) 10.1 1942 L
27. Jimmie Foxx+ (24) 10.0 1932 R
Rogers Hornsby+ (32) 10.0 1928 R
Babe Ruth+ (35) 10.0 1930 L
Mike Trout (21) 10.0 2013 R

Comments:

PEDs must have been unusually beneficial in Bonds’ case.

Mickey Mantle is, oddly enough, one of the more under-rated hitters of all time.

Mike Trout is, in baseball terms, radically younger than anyone else on this list other than Ted Williams (in regard to projecting future performance, there’s an enormous difference between 21 and 24).

Not Raising the Debt Ceiling Means Obama Would Have to do Something Illegal

[ 99 ] September 30, 2013 |

This is a very important point:

Failure to raise the debt will force the president to break a law — the only question is which one.

The Constitution requires the president to spend what Congress has instructed him to spend, to raise only those taxes Congress has authorized him to impose and to borrow no more than Congress authorizes.

If President Obama spends what the law orders him to spend and collects the taxes Congress has authorized him to collect, then he must borrow more than Congress has authorized him to borrow. If the debt ceiling is not raised, he will have to violate one of these constitutional imperatives. Which should he choose?

I also agree with Aaron’s answer, which is that ignoring the debt ceiling is no legally worse than the other alternatives and would have by far the least bad consequences, so that’s what Obama should do.

Lawrence Goodwyn, RIP

[ 4 ] September 30, 2013 |

The great U.S. historian Lawrence Goodwyn has passed. The author of the single best book even written on the Populists, Democratic Promise, The Populist Movement in America (as well as the shorter version, The Populist Moment), Goodwyn made the concerns of these impoverished 19th century farmers central to the response and resistance to the rise of rapacious Gilded Age capitalism. He also helped shift the conversation about the Populists away from the condescension of Richard Hofstadter. Instead of a bunch of intolerant yokels, Goodwyn shows the Populists as the continuance of a working-class rural democratic culture challenging the overwhelming control and oppression of an intolerant and thieving time.

I’ve never read Goodwyn book on Poland’s Solidarity movement, but I respect someone who seeks to take their insights about democratic uprisings and compare them to movements abroad.

RIP.

Resisting Unpaid Internships

[ 28 ] September 30, 2013 |

It’s good to see Europeans following their American comrades and resisting unpaid internships. I thought this quote was a pretty good example of why internships need to be governed by conventional labor law.

Saxon Baird, 29, a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, says he has already completed six internships. “Only one internship really paid an amount that I could scrape by on,” Mr. Baird said: “In places like Vogue, I was getting paid $12 a day and working 25 to 30 hours a week. So, while that was technically a paid internship, it might as well not have been.”

He said that his internship at Vogue included some perks — like invites to celebrity parties and a few bylines — but he spent a large amount of time running errands, and acting as a substitute for a salaried employee.

But you know, a poor start up like Vogue magazine, how could they afford to pay minimum wage?

Today in False Equivalence

[ 37 ] September 30, 2013 |

Republicans in the House and Senate, in a series of actions unprecedented prior to the first time they did it in 2011, are threatening to blow up the world economy unless the president enacts an agenda that was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate just last year. How will this be spun as a case of Both Sides Do It (TM)? Nick Gillespie, in a technique I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of, argues that the whole hostage-taking idea was actually invented by Barack HUSSEIN Obama:

For his part, Obama is talking a good game:

No Congress before this one has ever, ever, in history been irresponsible enough to threaten default, to threaten an economic shutdown, to suggest America not pay its bills, just to try to blackmail a president into giving them some concessions on issues that have nothing to do with a budget.

Eh, maybe. Though let’s note that “House Republicans” doesn’t equal “Congress.” There’s that pesky other body, the Democratically controlled Senate, which Obama used to belong to. You know, when he was fond of saying stuff like this back in 2006:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. … I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

Gotcha! Only presumably Gillespie is hoping that his readers will forget who controlled both houses of Congress in 2006 (i.e. not Obama’s party.) In other words, when Obama said that he would “oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit” he meant “engage in some (admittedly inane) posturing and cast a symbolic vote against the debt ceiling that Senate Democrats would not attempt to obstruct in exchange for concessions.” So Obama’s actions in 2006 are exactly the same as Republican hostage-taking, except for the lack of hostage-taking.

But in the spirit of bipartisan comity, let’s agree that if Republicans stop trying to get their individually and collectively unpopular rejected agenda passed in exchange for not destroying the world, Gillespie-approved Ted Cruz is welcome to spend a whole day reading My Pet Goat and The Turner Diaries on the floor of the Senate in symbolic opposition before a clean debt ceiling increase passes. Apparently, that would be the same thing they’re doing now, so what’s the problem?

The rest of the post is also quality comedy; in particular, note that he concedes that most of the Republican ransom note has nothing to do with federal spending, but still this hostage-taking is about federal spending because Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget except that they did and…sorry, Poochie had to return to his home planet.

Forced Evictions for Victims of Domestic Violence

[ 57 ] September 30, 2013 |

Many of our benevolent local overlords have regulations that can cause victims of violence to lose their homes and provide incentives for landlords to violate the privacy of their tennants:

Lakisha Briggs was a 34-year-old single mom living in the suburbs of Philadelphia in subsidized rental housing. Her boyfriend had attacked her repeatedly in her home, and the police had been called on several occasions to intervene—10 times in the first five months of 2012 alone, according to her legal filings. But because an ordinance in Norristown, Pa., says that a tenant who makes three 911 calls within four months can be evicted and that tenant’s landlord could have his or her rental license suspended, Briggs did not call the police on the night of June 23, 2012, when the same boyfriend hit her in the head with a glass ashtray then stabbed her in the neck with a piece of broken glass. The police had already warned her that she was on her third strike after their last visit. So she didn’t make the call and—just before she passed out—Briggs begged a neighbor not to do so on her behalf.

The neighbor did call the cops, and Briggs was airlifted to a nearby trauma center. The boyfriend went to prison for the assault. Then police served Briggs’ landlord with a notice that said if she and her 3-year-old weren’t evicted within 10 days, he’d lose his rental license. Meet the new face of disorderly conduct.

I’m guessing that our federal courts will allow this to continue because, after all, getting the federal government out of things means freedom!

LGM Baseball Challenge Liberated!

[ 10 ] September 30, 2013 |

Sic Semper Tyrranis!

In a final day effort that can only be described as “epic,” the horrific regime of Free Leonard has finally been thrown down.

RK ENTRY, OWNER TOTAL PCT
1 War On Error, SouthSideFan773 8304 99.9
2 Free Leonard, mattricci 8295 99.9
3 Fbern, fbern06 7997 99.1
4 Hail To The Victorinos, cosmic_horror 7958 98.9
5 dsalmanson 1, dsalmanson 7947 98.8
6 Jersey Burkers, john theibault 7641 96.4
7 [random], FTAVII 7629 96.3
8 Welcome (Mat) Astros, kinestx 7610 96.1
9 boz’s q team, jboz1373 7595 96
10 The Rob Deer Hunter, Aaron Veenstra 7545 95.4

And the people celebrated!

Back in March I put out a bounty on Free Leonard. SouthsideFan773 should contact me ASAP (address on right sidebar) to collect.

With Notably Rare Exceptions

[ 67 ] September 29, 2013 |

So the Breaking Bad finale is over, and to decompress I turn to the Patriots/Falcons game on the DVR. This, regrettably, involves Cris Collinsworth saying things:

All Bill Belichick does is brings him in here and there hasn’t been one ounce of a problem…. ya know.. there’s something about when they come in and play for the Patriots, whatever their issues have been before, they disappear.

I know, just ask Odin Lloyd!

Look, Belichick is a great coach. Talib is an example of very good talent judgment. What Hernandez did isn’t Belichick’s fault. But shouldn’t this be the context that compels you to avoid turning good football management into a moral narrative?

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