Tag: Mendacity

The Only Good Thing is that it’s Friday; Out of My Mind for 12 June 2009

This may well be me:

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. — Plato

There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness. — Friedrich Nietzsche

The irrelevance of wingnuts who see the light: far too little, far too late.

Nicholas Sarkozy is still an asshole so….

There is no justification for any of these people.

Read a preview of Obama’s health reforms here. Hint: He’ll make the carriers happier.

Eliot Spitzer explains himself and why he did. The explanation is sad and true (or at least has the sound of truth).

Gee wasn’t MicroSoft’s defense at the huge antitrust trial that IE couldn’t be separated from the OS? What changed??

The latest failures of Obama: Complete surrender on Gitmo. Torture photos to remain hidden (except for those already in the wild). Health care reform.

I’m still curious who are all the Jews Jeremiah Wright’s referring to. Seriously.

Is the Republican so toxic and will it be a kiss of death in 2010?


By James W. von Brunn

Another Liberal Failure: Bobby Jindal

Damn that Abe Lincoln. When Louisiana and Mississippi seceded from the Union, a sensible president would have sent them a box of chocolates with a note, “Goodbye and good riddance.”

Tonight, following Barack Obama’s budget presentation to Congress, effectively the president’s first State of the Union Address, the Republicans chose to give their party’s response, the governor of the state that wanted to leave the Union, to Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.

Jindal’s told us that Barack Obama is a terrible President who passed a stimulus bill “larded with wasteful spending.” Where’s the lard? All week, Jindal has been screeching that Obama wants to require states such as Louisiana to extend unemployment insurance to — get this — the unemployed! (Technically, the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of reforming Louisiana’s and Mississippi’s Scrooge-sized benefit requirements.)

Jindal, and some other Republican governors, notably Haley Barbour of Mississippi, are actually turning down millions in federal funds for their own state’s unemployed out of fear that, four years from now, they may have to maintain full unemployment insurance like the rest of America.

Barbour’s excuse, parroted by Jindal, is that the Obama payments to the unemployed of their states would mean, when the economy returns to expansion, that their state would have to increase unemployment insurance taxes and payments to the U.S. average, scaring away new employers. “I mean, we want more jobs,” says Barbour. Um, this is the Governor of MISSISSIPPI talking. Exactly what new “jobs” is he talking about? Is Microsoft based in Gulfport? Is Genentech opening its new headquarters in Bogalusa?

As an economist, I can tell you that the only industry Mississippi leads in is deep-fried chicken-dog manufacturing. I will admit that Louisiana and Mississippi can boast of growing employment at several casinos and cathouses spilling across what the locals charmingly call the “Coon-ass Riviera.” Jindal’s Louisiana is, after all, the state that solved its unemployment problem by sending its unemployed to Texas in FEMA trailers.

And it’s true that Jindal’s and Barbour’s states do lead the nation in a few indicators. Such as poverty: Mississippi has America’s highest poverty rate. Louisiana is 3rd-worst in America.

How about their commitment to education? Louisiana ranks 5th and Mississippi 2nd worst in school kids’ math scores. As Randy Newman notes about the Gulf States’ education policies, “good ol’ boys… from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb, too.”

Jindal himself is a product of a more advanced culture: His parents are Democrats. The Jindals are Hindus who come from the Punjab in India, a state known for its welfare safety net. Jindal, turning away from the successful example of his parents’ politics and culture, has gone native, becoming a born-again Christian Republican who doesn’t accept Darwinian evolution nor Keynesian economics. (I hear he may complete his redneck makeover next week by marrying his cousin at a tractor pull.)

For over a century, Louisiana and Mississippi have been trying to attract employers by changing their economy from one based on involuntary servitude to one based on voluntary servitude, selling their citizens to the lowest bidder. The results are blindingly visible: Mississippi and Louisiana have, under the Barbour/Jindal Republican regime, maintained the lowest per-capita incomes in the nation (50th and 46th respectively). Louisiana and Mississippi infant mortality rates (1st and 3rd in deaths in the USA) would shame Costa Rica.

Years back, when I worked as an economic consultant to New Orleans, the Louisiana State Legislature was about to require that schools teach evolution as merely a theory equal to the Bible’s literal creation myth. When asked if this would harm big employers’ views of the state, I said, “Not at all: most national employers think of Louisiana as a state filled with Bible-thumping, dumb-bell rednecks. You won’t have to worry about changing that impression.”

OK, it’s easy to make jokes about America’s own Third World states. And before I get a zillion complaints, I’ll be the first one to note that Louisiana has birthed the extraordinary, including the greatest of America’s investigative journalists, the late Ron Ridenhour, jazz, Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse, and gris-gris. And it was Louisiana that long ago led the nation in social reform, whose governor in 1932 led the national fight to create a program now known as “unemployment insurance.” Really.

Nevertheless, Jindal’s rejection of funds for his state’s own unemployed simply follows a history of local Republican plantation-mentality cruelty. After Hurricane Katrina, I met a young man, Stephen Smith, who was stranded with a family on Highway 10 for four days while George Bush photo-strafed him from overhead. An elderly man with Stephen died of dehydration after giving his grandchildren his last bottle of water.

I investigated the drowning of New Orleans and the “let’m drown” rescue plans of the Bush Administration. What I found was sickening, heartless, and Republican. Marie Antoinette at least offered cake.

Now, once again, the Republican Party, by making Jindal the party’s official spokesman, is adopting the Barbourous refusal to reach out a saving hand to Americans drowning in this economy.

So, let me make a suggestion for Governors Jindal and Barbour. If you cannot join America in accepting our President’s call to arms against disaster, if you reject our President’s State of the Union — then leave the Union.

As the prescient Phil Ochs sang,

And here’s to the government of Mississippi

In the swamp of their bureaucracy they’re always bogging down…

…And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of

Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of



Flash! The Wingnuts Have an Excellent Plan for Health Insurance Reform

But first: If hospitals, medical facilities and, oh, yeah, medical personnel are getting less (and doctors replaced with nurses and physician assistants), why, year after year, does health insurance expenses grow faster than inflation?

Some wingnut has a solution:

Why do Democrats push preventative health care as a cost savings measure at every turn? If you want to save the healthcare system money, drop dead of a heart attack at 50. Living to 88 on the other hand — that’s expensive.

Financial Tip: Unlike Big Finance, Homeowners Underwater Must Pay Their Debts on Worthless Property

These are the same geniuses who in a tanking economy tack on myriad fees. Gee, maybe if they managed their businesses with any intelligence neither they nor we nor the world would be where we are now….

A far more knowledgeable man than I (Sandy Weil’s ex-protege!) says:

Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank received $25 billion in bailout funds from the government, refused to tell CNBC anchor Melissa Francis how the bank is performing this quarter.

“Can you tell me how this quarter is doing for JPMorgan?” Francis asked.

Dimon’s brief response: “I can’t.”


But he took a tough attitude towards home owners behind on their payments:

“I don’t think just because someone’s underwater they say I don’t have to stay there. But they’re supposed to pay the mortgage, and we should teach the American people, you’re supposed to meet your obligations, not run from them. Because you have a mortgage doesn’t mean you should run away as it goes down.”

The GOP Got the Leader it Deserves: An Utter, Demented Idiot


The latest from RNC Chair Michael Steele: “Not in the history of mankind has thegovernment ever created a job.”

This is such transparent nonsense it’s hard to know where to start; but I guess it builds on the DeMint nonsense. Has Steele ever heard of government road building? Defense spending? NASA? We don’t even need to get into the many ways that government spending on many things has spin-off effects in terms of heightened economic productivity either because of technological innovation or transportation efficiencies, or whatever. How we doing on the spending on research and initial deployment that created the Internet?

Actually, he is what the GOP wants: the party of out of touch whackos like Sarah Palin.

A Really Stupid and Ignorant Smart Guy

Boing Boing:

As I begin my second week here as a guest blogger, I’m going to risk venturing into a couple of contentious political areas. My aim is not to provoke dissent; I simply feel that some stories are not being told.

The picture above is of me, finishing my shift at the world’s largest retailer. How did I move from being a senior writer at Wired magazine to an entry-level position in a company that is reviled by almost all living journalists?

It started when I read Nickel and Dimed, in which Atlantic contributor Barbara Ehrenreich denounces the exploitation of minimum-wage workers in America. Somehow her book didn’t ring true to me, and I wondered to what extent a preconceived agenda might have biased her reporting. Hence my application for a job at the nearest Wal-Mart.

Getting in was not easy, as more than 100 applicants were competing for fewer than 10 job openings. Still, I made it through a very clever screening quiz, then through a series of three interviews, followed by two days of training. I felt ambivalent about taking advantage of the company’s resources in this way, but I was certainly willing to do my part by working hard at the store, at least for a limited period.

The job was as dull as I expected, but I was stunned to discover how benign the workplace turned out to be. My supervisor was friendly, decent, and treated me as an equal. Wal-Mart allowed a liberal dress code. The company explained precisely what it expected from its employees, and adhered to this policy in every detail. I was unfailingly reminded to take paid rest breaks, and was also encouraged to take fully paid time, whenever I felt like it, to study topics such as job safety and customer relations via a series of well-produced interactive courses on computers in a room at the back of the store. Each successfully completed course added an increment to my hourly wage, a policy which Barbara Ehrenreich somehow forgot to mention in her book.

My standard equipment included a handheld bar-code scanner which revealed the in-store stock and nearest warehouse stock of every item on the shelves, and its profit margin. At the branch where I worked, all the lowest-level employees were allowed this information and were encouraged to make individual decisions about inventory. One of the secrets to Wal-Mart’s success is that it delegates many judgment calls to the sales-floor level, where employees know first-hand what sells, what doesn’t, and (most important) what customers are asking for.

Several of my co-workers had relocated from other areas, where they had worked at other Wal-Marts. They wanted more of the same. Everyone agreed that Wal-Mart was preferable to the local Target, where the hourly pay was lower and workers were said to be treated with less respect (an opinion which I was unable to verify). Most of all, my coworkers wanted to avoid those “mom-and-pop” stores beloved by social commentators where, I was told, employees had to deal with quixotic management policies, while lacking the opportunities for promotion that exist in a large corporation.

Of course, I was not well paid, but Wal-Mart is hardly unique in paying a low hourly rate to entry-level retail staff. The answer to this problem seems elusive to Barbara Ehrenreich, yet is obvious to any teenager who enrolls in a vocational institute. In a labor market, employees are valued partly according to their abilities. To earn a higher hourly rate, you need to acquire some relevant skills.

As for all those Wal-Mart horror stories—when I went home and checked the web sites that attack the company, I found that many of them are subsidized with union money. walmartwatch.com, for instance, is partnered with the Service Employees International Union; wakeupwalmart.com is copyright by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Why are unions so obsessed with Wal-Mart? I’m guessing that if the more-than-a-million Wal-Mart employees could be unionized, they would be compelled to contribute at least half a billion dollars per year in union dues.

Subsequently I considered writing about my brief experience, but a book defending a company that has been demonized does not have a large potential audience, and the writer tends to be dismissed as either hopelessly naive or bribed by corporate America.

Similar factors result in someone such as Adam Shepard remaining relatively obscure.

If you haven’t heard of Adam Shepard, this illustrates my point. His remarkable bookScratch Beginnings, now being promoted through www.scratchbeginnings.com, describes how he went through an experience far more gruelling than my brief flirtation with low-paying work. He placed himself in a homeless shelter with $25 in his pocket, found a job as a day laborer, then worked for a moving company, and after 10 months had a pickup truck, an apartment, and $2,500 in savings. His conclusion: People can still make it in the United States if they are willing to live carefully on a budget and work hard.

Somehow that kind of news is never as popular as denunciations of the free market written by professional handwringers such as Barbara Ehrenreich.