1. Overheard at the grocery store

    A young man, clearly the older brother to two energetic little girls, trying to get them to behave while their mother waited in the deli line:

    [sighing] “Man, I definitely do not want to be a dad.”

    [giggling] “Your beard is too small for you to be a dad!”

    "What? I don’t have a beard."

    [giggling] “You have a mustache!”

  2. Julian Fellowes doesn’t have even the slightest idea what socialism actually is, right?

  3. Ideological consistency, rational beliefs

    Let me get this straight. The war on poverty hasn’t completely eliminated poverty. According to conservatives, this means it’s an abject failure and we should abolish all anti-poverty programs.

    Yet the war on terror hasn’t completely eliminated terrorism and is unlikely (like most wars on concepts) to ever do so. According to conservatives, this means we just haven’t thrown enough resources (including human lives) at the problem and we should double down on our anti-terror efforts.

  4. image: Download

  5. …[O]ne major theme in popular literature is that we are about to face destruction from some terrible, awesome enemy. And at the last minute we are saved by a superhero or a super weapon…And there’s a sub-theme. It turns out this enemy, this horrible enemy that’s about to destroy us, is somebody we’re crushing.

    A large part of the population believes they just have to have them to protect themselves. From who?…We just have to have guns to protect ourselves….But in a country that’s not only at peace but has an unusual security and a great degree of freedom, that’s quite remarkable.

    …I think it’s, much of it is kind of just a recognition, at some level of the psyche, that if you’ve got your boot on somebody’s neck, there’s something wrong. And that the people you’re oppressing may rise up and defend themselves, and then you’re in trouble.

    — Noam Chomsky on American paranoia and gun culture
  6. Have we finally reached peak GOP?

  7. There are not enough WTF’s in the world to describe this situation.

    (h/t Lawyers, Guns, and Money)

  8. Context.

    Happy Presidents’ Day!

  9. Fuck you, Florida.

  10. "All for ourselves, and nothing for other People"

    One consequence of the globalization of the economy is the rise of new governing institutions to serve the interests of private transnational economic power. Another is the spread of the Third World social model, with islands of enormous privilege in a sea of misery and despair. A walk through any American city gives human form to the statistics on quality of life, distribution of wealth, poverty and employment…Increasingly, production can be shifted to high-repression, low-wage areas and directed to privileged sectors in the global economy. Large parts of the population thus become superfluous for production and perhaps even as a market, unlike the days when Henry Ford realized that he could not sell cars unless his workers were paid enough to buy cars themselves.

    Noam Chomsky, "Notes on NAFTA: ‘The Masters of Mankind’" (pdf) March 29, 1993 (my emphasis)

    Two recent pieces of evidence for Chomsky’s predictions:

    1. The Wall Street Journal quotes Marx (!):

    Lately, the U.S. recovery has been displaying some Marxian traits. Corporate profits are on a tear, and rising productivity has allowed companies to grow without doing much to reduce the vast ranks of the unemployed

    2. And hey, would ya look at that:

    The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

    In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995, the researchers found.

    Even more striking, the current recovery has been driven almost entirely by the upper crust, according to Mr. Fazzari and Mr. Cynamon. Since 2009, the year the recession ended, inflation-adjusted spending by this top echelon has risen 17 percent, compared with just 1 percent among the bottom 95 percent.

    Businesses that primarily serve lower- and middle-income people are feeling the pinch. Wal-mart, for example, has experienced a decrease in profits due to federal cutbacks in aid for the middle class (letting a temporary cut in payroll taxes expire) and the poor (cutting food stamps—about 20% of its customers use food stamp.)

    Millions of blue- and white-collar jobs have been shipped overseas for the past couple of decades. Now the middle class is shrinking as a market. The thing is, none of this was inevitable. It has mostly been the result of government policies that were designed by and cater to the interests of the 1%.

    I’ll end by quoting the first paragraph of Chomsky’s Nation article (my emphasis):

    Throughout history, Adam Smith observed, we find the workings of “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind:” “All for ourselves, and nothing for other People.” He had few illusions about the consequences. The invisible hand, he wrote, will destroy the possibility of a decent human existence “unless government takes pains to prevent” this outcome, as must be assured in “every improved and civilized society,” It will destroy community, the environment and human values generally and even the masters themselves
    How long, exactly, do you think the economy can grow based on the 1%’s appetite for luxury goods? How long until they destroy themselves with their own greed?
  11. The lightbulb moment

    So the workers at Volkswagen Chattanooga voted 712-626 against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) tonight. What was interesting about this case is that Volkswagen was interested in forming a German-style works-council with employees there. One condition of accomplishing that was instituting a union at the plant. 

    Republicans heard about what was going on and went berserk, even threatening to cut off subsidies to VW. That’s how anti-labor these shitheads are: they’d rather risk having the plant leave the state than allow workers to form a union.

    And yet:

    …[M]any of the plant’s workers are themselves conservatives — and have started to wonder why the politicians who represent them oppose their right to organize. John Wright, 43, is a test driver at the plant and identifies as a right-leaning independent. He says he makes between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, and supports a wife and three young daughters. When Corker — who takes more money from the securities and investment industry than any other — came back to Nashville to voice his opposition to the UAW, Wright was puzzled.

    It made me really start thinking about my position, when it comes to political parties, because I can’t for the life of me understand why the Republicans and big money are coming against us so bad. To me, they’re attacking the average worker," Wright said, in the hours before the election results were announced. "To have politicians think that there’s nothing more important than coming down and picking on the little guy because he wants a union, there’s a national debt we’ve got to control, we have foreign policy things that we elect them to go up there to do, but you have to fly home for an emergency meeting because I want a union?"

  12. 17:55

    Notes: 4

    Circuses, no bread

    Pay no attention to rightwing trolls like Tom “millionaire Kristallnacht” Perkins He recently made some more shitty and embarrassing statements about rich people.

    The coverage of Perkins’ latest statements by lefty websites and blogs mostly seems to miss the fact that Perkins is deliberately trolling us. It also misses that his trolling is meant to distract us from the fact that millionaires already get more votes than the rest of us thanks to the Citizens United ruling.

    This point about trolling applies to Fox News and most of the rightwing blogosphere as well as the Tea Party. They will say and do outrageous, stupid, and cruel things and fill up headlines.

    Meanwhile, their ‘moderate’ (not really) allies in the House and Senate and judiciary (not to mention state government) continue to slash at the social safety net, block Obama appointments, and otherwise ensure that our government does little/nothing to help poor, working and middle class people. But these things don’t get as much breathless attention because it’s more fun to marvel at the latest quixotic, apparently nutty thing teabaggers are doing.

    It’s all a sideshow. Billionaires aren’t spending millions on the Tea Party because they think they’ll actually get the Tea Party’s agenda passed. They’re funding them to provide a freakshow that will distract the press. And they’re funding them to gum up the works of government at the federal level. They’re funding them to distract us from the real damage that ‘moderate’ Republicans and Democrats are doing to our country.

  13. 18:58 12th Feb 2014

    Notes: 8

    Your daily dose of Republican class warfare

    Maine state troopers are reduced to feeding their families roadkill and gong without heating oil. One of those state troopers is enrolled in the state’s food stamps and Medicaid programs.

    In related news, Governor LePage hired 8 welfare fraud investigators who cost the state $700,000/year. They recently turned up a whopping total of 45 cases of suspected welfare fraud.

  14. 22:48 11th Feb 2014

    Notes: 7

    …“According to [philanthrocapitalist] ethics, the ruthless pursuit of profit is counteracted by charity: charity is part of the game, a humanitarian mask hiding the underlying economic exploitation. Developed countries are constantly ‘helping’ undeveloped ones…and so avoiding the key issue: their complicity in and responsibility for the miserable situation of the Third World.” Philanthocapitalism assumes the justice of a market distribution and thereby further legitimates the system.

    Philanthropy is also profoundly undemocratic. Social programs based in democratic principles work by creating a sense of shared concern for the poor and middle class. We’re all in this together. Like the early church, social democracy is premised on the idea “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” Philanthropy assumes a far different relationship between the rich and poor.

    Oscar Wilde writes, “Charity [the poor] feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives.”

    I once knew someone who passionately believed that the social welfare state was immoral and should be replaced by private charitable efforts. She walked the walk and gave some of her income away to charity. She was still full of shit. This article pretty much summarizes my arguments against her ideas.

    There’s also the fact that we’ve already tried her system before—basically most of U.S. history. It didn’t work. There were never enough philanthropic dollars to relieve poverty. When a great economic shock (like the Dust Bowl) happened, the ad hoc, private philanthropic/semi-public charitable system wasn’t equipped to deal with it. That’s why the New Deal was necessary.

    This is elementary stuff. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how  often conservatives will ignore historical facts that don’t support their worldview.

  15. 16:33

    Notes: 11

    Magical Thinking as the Remedy to Economic Hardship

    David Brooks tackles American geographic and economic mobility in his latest:

    …a big factor here is a loss in self-confidence. It takes faith to move. You are putting yourself through temporary expense and hardship because you have faith that over the long run you will slingshot forward. Many highly educated people, who are still moving in high numbers, have that long-term faith. Less-educated people often do not.

    Brooks seems to have confused “faith” and “self-confidence” with “money”.

    One of the oddities of the mobility that does exist is that people are not moving to low-unemployment/high-income areas. Instead they are moving to lower-income areas with cheap housing

    Yeah, it’s really perplexing that poor people lack the money to pay for
    housing in expensive real estate markets. If only they had more faith in

    Even accounting for cyclical changes, people are less likely to voluntarily vacate a job in search of a better one.

    Weren’t you guys just whining about how Obamacare sucks because it gives people the freedom to quit their jobs?

    The American Precariat seems more hunkered down, insecure, risk averse, relying on friends and family but without faith in American possibilities. This fatalism is historically uncharacteristic of America.

    "Why don’t you losers realize it’s been morning in America for the past 34 years?"

    So here, in a nutshell, is David Brooks’s plan for fixing the lack of geographic and economic mobility in this country:

    Step 1: Move to an expensive city. Have faith you’ll somehow magically come up with the rent money.

    Step 2: ???

    Step 3: Profit!

    It’s enough to make you think Brooks has traded weed for something more powerful.

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