Sunday, October 20, 2013

Greedy, sadistic, or both?

Two pieces came to my attention yesterday. Matt Taibbi's July examination of price-fixing by the rating agencies:
"Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at," writes one Standard & Poor's executive. "As you know, I had difficulties explaining 'HOW' we got to those numbers since there is no science behind it," confesses a high-ranking S&P analyst. "If we are just going to make it up in order to rate deals, then quants [quantitative analysts] are of precious little value," complains another senior S&P man. "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card[s] falters," ruminates one more. [...]
40 percent of the world's wealth was wiped out in the aftermath of the mortgage bubble, according to some estimates. 2008 was to the American economy what 9/11 was to national security. Yet while 9/11 prompted the U.S. government to tear up half the Constitution in the name of public safety, after 2008, authorities went in the other direction. If you can imagine a post-9/11 scenario where there were no metal detectors at airports and people could walk on carrying chain saws and meat cleavers, you get a rough idea of what was done to reform the ratings process.
And Charles Simic on the sadistic bastards of the GOP:
Bettering the lives of anyone but the wealthy, as we know, has ceased to be a concern of the Republican Party. But millions of Americans are on the brink of buying affordable health insurance and freeing themselves from a worry that makes their lives utter misery; the concerted effort backed by some of the richest men in this country to deprive them of that chance may be without precedent for sheer malice. Indifference to the plight and suffering of human beings of one class or another by some segment of the population is a universal phenomenon, but spending millions of dollars to deepen the misery of one’s fellow citizens and enlisting members of one political party to help you do so is downright vile. It must be motivated as much by sadism as by the political calculation that if these uninsured were to get insurance, they would give the Democratic Party a governing majority simply out of gratitude for letting them see a doctor.
These are not precisely the same behaviors but they are definitely connected.

UPDATE: Michael Tomasky calls the GOP stance on the ACA "indisputably the most strenuous effort at policy sabotage we’ve ever seen in the modern history of this country."
Republicans did not do this to Social Security. Majorities of Republicans voted in favor of Social Security. About half of Republicans also voted for Medicare. A group of senators sought to defund the Vietnam War, but that group was bipartisan. No, there’s never been an effort quite like this. It’s truly astonishing to step back and think about it. The great uniting cause of the Republican Party of the Obama era, the one thing they’re spent more time and energy on than any other, is preventing uninsured Americans from obtaining insurance.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I had no idea Roger Simon was this good

No kidding, the whole article is this good:
Boehner does not bend to the will of his Kamikaze Caucus because he is an evil man. He does so because he is a weak man. To borrow a line from Theodore Roosevelt, I could carve a better man out of a banana.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I want to remember this forever, perhaps tattoo it on my body

Bill Maher:
There is a big difference between a disappointing friend and a deadly enemy. Of course the Democrats are disappointing---that's what makes them Democrats. If they were any more frustrating they'd be your relatives. But in this country they are all that stands between you and darkest night. You know why their symbol is the letter 'D'? Because it's a grade that means 'good enough, but just barely.' You know why the Republican symbol is 'R'? Because it's the noise a pirate makes when he robs you and feeds you to a shark.
[Everyone else seems to have already read this quote. Can't find the original source, so no citation. h/t Bill in Portland Maine]

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The corporate takeover: Chris Hedges says "Rise Up or Die"

I can't believe I missed this sobering piece back in May:
Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power. [. . .] 
There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace.
[Emphasis mine.] He notes that we can't vote our way out of this situation nor rely on the courts. The only way out? Radical mass movements. And if, like the Pequod's crew in Moby Dick, we fail to rise up through "habit, cowardice, and hubris," we will slide into serfdom.

And I'm pretty sure that rising up is not in the cards.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Everything I ever wanted to say about the media during the Bush years

...was said by Charles Pierce the other day, after watching the press fawn over Bush and his new library:
The coverage of the opening of this vast temple to prevarication and ruin is not about bricks and mortar. It's about an attempt by the courtier press to absolve itself of a dereliction of duty that rivaled even that of the president in question while New Orleans drowned, and while the economy was bubbling toward disaster. (That dereliction of duty, it should be noted, now and forever, began with the coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign, and the disgraceful performance of the elite political press corps towards Al Gore.) It's about their efforts to help the country absolve itself from the immense damage it brought upon itself by electing, and then re-electing, a half-bright dry drunk who wrecked nearly everything he touched, and who now is trying to rehabilitate himself by explaining that he hasn't ruined anything else since he left office, and doesn't that make him a swell fella. The elite press is dedicating an entire day of coverage to the perpetuation of a monstrous public lie. Electing George W. Bush twice was a monumental act of democratic self-destruction from which the country has yet to recover. Celebrating him celebrating himself is simply to pour battery acid into the still-open wounds. I will take theories about dinosaurs in ancient China over the notion that George W. Bush was a good man confronted by insurmountable problems dropped on him by an implacable universe of chance. He was a career fk-up, from start to finish, and he finally found himself in a job where Daddy's money and Daddy's lawyers couldn't bail him out.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Goodbye, Old Yeller

I'm late to the updating party. But inspired by the ease of navigating and posting to my new blog, I realized it was past due time to update this one. So farewell, old Erratic:

I will miss your yellow simplicity but not the html code in your bowels.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Media disservice

ProgressiveLiberal was making a different point but I choose to focus on this paragraph:

The ten poorest states in our country are Red States. Moreover, Red States are mostly welfare states as they receive more from the federal government than they pay in. That the media does not cover this fact is a disservice to the entire American population. If America knew what policies worked throughout the nation it would be impossible for the GOP to continue to hold middle class policies hostage to a failed ideology.
Emphasis added. And do read Eric Boehlert today in which he revisits the greatest media failure in half a century.

Update: Chris Hedges names our sellout intellectuals.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Well, at least we're #1 in one thing

Where the U.S. stands among the World Economic Forum's ranking of 144 countries:
  • GDP: 1
  • life expectancy: 34
  • infant mortality: 41
  • quality of primary education: 38
  • primary education enrollment rate: 58
  • quality of math and science education: 47
  • ethical behavior of firms: 29
  • soundness of banks: 80
  • internet access in schools: 24
  • quality of overall infrastructure: 25
Offered without comment. 

Except for this one from the American Medical Association: "Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations."