Monday, June 30, 2014

Republican Crazy Keeps on Truckin'

When a political party sells radical ideas as normal, builds it’s movement around enmity toward all difference, sells white, Christian victimhood without any irony, feeds on fear and greed with reckless abandon, rejects modern science and thrives on absurd conspiracy theories, it’s little wonder they draw the interest of a odd cornucopia of lunatics. And thus one shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that a recent loser of a GOP primary, Timothy Ray Murray has claimed his opponent is a robotic avatar of the real incumbent, Frank Lucas (R-OK), and that he will thus contest the result he lost 82.8 to 5.2 percent (Daily Kos).

Murray contends that Lucas was executed three years ago and that the robot-look-alike has been sitting in his place ever since. Given the reality that some might then pull up an old playground retort, Murray decided to quell any fears he himself is a body double: “I, Timothy Ray Murray, am a human, born in Oklahoma, and obtained and continue to fully meet the requirements to serve as U.S. Representative when honored to so. I will never use a look alike to replace my (The Office’s) message to you or to anyone else, as both the other Republican Challengers have.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Plutocrat Speaks Out

The Pitchforks Are Coming … For Us Plutocrats
This is, in other words, an economic approach that can unite left and right. Perhaps that’s one reason the right is beginning, inexorably, to wake up to this reality as well. Even Republicans as diverse as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum recently came out in favor of raising the minimum wage, in defiance of the Republicans in Congress.
One thing we can agree on—I’m sure of this—is that the change isn’t going to start in Washington. Thinking is stale, arguments even more so. On both sides.
But the way I see it, that’s all right. Most major social movements have seen their earliest victories at the state and municipal levels. The fight over the eight-hour workday, which ended in Washington, D.C., in 1938, began in places like Illinois and Massachusetts in the late 1800s. The movement for social security began in California in the 1930s. Even the Affordable Health Care Act—Obamacare—would have been hard to imagine without Mitt Romney’s model in Massachusetts to lead the way.
Sadly, no Republicans and few Democrats get this. President Obama doesn’t seem to either, though his heart is in the right place. In his State of the Union speech this year, he mentioned the need for a higher minimum wage but failed to make the case that less inequality and a renewed middle class would promote faster economic growth. Instead, the arguments we hear from most Democrats are the same old social-justice claims. The only reason to help workers is because we feel sorry for them. These fairness arguments feed right into every stereotype of Obama and the Democrats as bleeding hearts. Republicans say growth. Democrats say fairness—and lose every time.
But just because the two parties in Washington haven’t figured it out yet doesn’t mean we rich folks can just keep going. The conversation is already changing, even if the billionaires aren’t onto it. I know what you think: You think that Occupy Wall Street and all the other capitalism-is-the-problem protesters disappeared without a trace. But that’s not true. Of course, it’s hard to get people to sleep in a park in the cause of social justice. But the protests we had in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis really did help to change the debate in this country from death panels and debt ceilings to inequality.
It’s just that so many of you plutocrats didn’t get the message.
Dear 1%ers, many of our fellow citizens are starting to believe that capitalism itself is the problem. I disagree, and I’m sure you do too. Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter. That is why investments in the middle class work. And tax breaks for rich people like us don’t. Balancing the power of workers and billionaires by raising the minimum wage isn’t bad for capitalism. It’s an indispensable tool smart capitalists use to make capitalism stable and sustainable. And no one has a bigger stake in that than zillionaires like us.
The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power. The folks like us at the top have always told those at the bottom that our respective positions are righteous and good for all. Historically, we called that divine right. Today we have trickle-down economics.
What nonsense this is. Am I really such a superior person? Do I belong at the center of the moral as well as economic universe? Do you?
My family, the Hanauers, started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.
Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.
Read more: Politico

Friday, June 27, 2014

Good News for Coach Potatoes of the Future!

A new report, “Risky Business,” suggests that by the end of the century, climate change will make it difficult to even be outside for parts of the    year – across the Southern states and even in places like NYC, Chicago and Seattle (Reuters). "As temperatures rise, toward the end of the century, less than an hour of activity outdoors in the shade could cause a moderately fit individual to suffer heat stroke," said climatologist Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, lead scientific author of the report. "That's something that doesn't exist anywhere in the world today." This is due predominantly to the rise in humidity that is expected to only worsen as time goes on: "If it's humid you can't sweat, and if you can't sweat you can't maintain core body temperature in the heat, and you die," said Dr Al Sommer, dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and author of a chapter on health effects in the new report.

And while the right continues to claim global warming is a giant hoax perpetuated to help … hmm … Nobel Prize winning scientists I guess, we have just passed through the hottest May on record (according to NOAA). According to a report commissioned by Coca Cola, General Mills, other Fortune 500 companies and wealthy individuals like Michael Bloomberg, the economic damage coming our way is astronomical (the Economist). For example, if the sea level continues to rise, $66 to $105 billion worth of coastline property could be submerged as soon as 2050! A second area of serious concern is with crops and farming, as for example in North Dakota in 2006, when 10 percent of the state’s wheat crop was wiped out by a drought. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in fact, now argues that losses to cereals and other crops more sensitive to heat could wipe out the benefits of more arable land in the future. Finally, is a decline in productivity for workers outside – with farming, construction and other outside jobs seeing a drop of an hour a day per worker when the temperature rises above 37.8 celsius.

While these reports continue to proliferate, along with the evidence that global warming is a fact, and caused by human activity, the Supreme Court was quibbling with a part of Obama’s executive order forcing manufacturers to cut carbon emissions (while not affecting the overall program, it seems like a silly time to continue with these constant battles). Of course, this is good news for couch potatoes, who now have an excuse to stay in, even in the beach-calling summer months. And conservatives have little to worry about, as there is no such thing as global warming. Actually, maybe the country will finally shift leftward toward the end of the century, as skeptical conservatives drop dread across the U.S., unwilling to heed climatologists’ warnings.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Virginia GOP to Poor: FU!

The Republican Party has been trying to one-down each other for years now (I think one-up does them too much credit and decided to coin the term). And they are really good at it. In the latest example, the Virginia legislative decided to break into the Governor’s office to drop off legislation they hoped he thus wouldn’t sign before the deadline. The bill? To block Medicaid expansion for the poor. They really are a wonderful bunch of brutes, eh?

Tea Party Voters

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Three Bites and You're In?

Whoops, Uruguayan Luis Suarez has done it again. In a win or go out game for Uruguay against three time World Cup winners Italy, with time running out, Suarez put his head into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the box and then, inexplicably, bit him in the shoulder. It is an insane moment that reminds of the infamous Tyson bite of Evander Hollyfield’s ear. Actually, it reminds us of the two other times this exceptionally talented players has bitten an opponent, first during his time at Ajax and then against Chelsea defender Ivanovic. The first led to a 7-game suspension and the second a 10-game variety in the EPL, sandwiched around a third 8-game suspension for racial abuse.  

Yet this might be the most consequential of all the incidents. Suarez is already famous for a handball on the line as time was running out against Ghana four years ago, leading to a missed penalty and Uruguay advancing to the semis in the end. Now his bite occurred one minute before the header that won the game for Uruguay in the 81st minute – arguably affecting Italy’s top defender on the corner that cost Italy advancement.

Suarez is an incredible talent, single-handedly beating England in the second group game to give the South Americans a chance. But his lack of character in key moments now must be called into question. He had a relatively controversy-free year for Liverpool, almost leading them to the title after finishing his ban, and led the EPL in goals (winning Player of the Year honors). But it is clear that he cannot control himself. In my opinion, he should play no further part in the World Cup and serious questions have to be asked about his future (of course they won’t be). But in the end, Uruguay advance on a questionable red card and then lack of action on the Suarez incident. Italy will be apoplectic, but the world should be as well.

I suppose in a world where it’s getting harder to even find heroes who might eventually let us down, it’s little surprise that few athletes fit the bill. But players like Suarez, who make a fortune playing a game they love, after growing up poor – it’s too bad they can’t set a better example to a future generation that could really use some positive role models. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Boy Sued for Bullying ... in 4th Grade!

That’s right, a fourth grader is being sued by the parents of another fourth grader for bullying: CNN. While we shouldn’t be surprised in the most litigious society in the world, the issue does bring up some interesting questions: 1) Why is bullying on the rise? 2) Does it have anything to do with the Internet, videogames and the general nature of communication today (talking at, rather than to one another) 3) Could this, in fact, be a signal of the rising tide of sociopathic tendencies in American culture? 4) Why have bullying reduction programs done so little to stem the tide of this growing problem? 5) Even as these parents will probably be lambasted by the media, particularly the far right variety, is it a clever strategy to push the parents of bullies to actually do something about their kid’s behavior? The reality is that many parents treat their children like little princes that can do no wrong. Why are they failing in school? Obviously, it is the teacher’s fault. Why are they not doing their homework? It must be that it is boring. Why are they bullying the next door neighbor? I’m sure he deserves it. It could be that the courts are the last bastion of protection for kids who suffer emotion, psychological and often physical effects as the result of these insidious youngsters. So rather than adding my voice to those who will mercilessly bully these parents, I say good for you. Maybe Dems should consider doing the same to the Koch brothers?