What IS this thing, anyway? It sounds scary and sinister, like maybe you should kill yourself off it via spectacular leap. Sounds … suicidal, actually. Which may not be far from the mark.

To understand this creature, we must begin at the beginning. Remember last August when there was a HUGE kerfuffle about the debt ceiling? Which, if the (idiotic, looney tune) Congress refused to raise the it, would push the US into this thing called “sovereign default”. “Sovereign default” is kind of like you, credit card user, suddenly deciding, “Hey! I’m gonna quit paying my credit card bill!” which, as most people know, is a bunch of small piles of owed cash bundled into one big pile by, say, Bank of America, who then pins you with one big debt because you signed the contract with them – right on the dotted line. If the whole COUNTRY blew off its debt and plunged into sovereign default, the government could stop abiding by the contracts it made with creditor nations, and possibly juggle the currency to alter the interest rates so they could negotiate to pay off some debts with reduced numbers of dollars. Of course, that would really piss off the creditor nations, who then might feel like declaring war or something. At the very least, there would have to be a big negotiation so the creditor nations could get something back for their investment, like have all the forests in Oregon cut down to satisfy the debt to China with raw lumber for Chinese lakeside dachas.

The other name for “sovereign default” is “debt restructuring”, which is a term we all should’ve heard in regard to such successful, high-power nations as Zimbabwe and Myanmar. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, who are big players in the debt-restructuring racket, are not super-popular with anyone except really rich international first-worlders. This is because  the World Bank and IMF are actually corporate enforcers, except that instead of busting your kneecaps, they just manipulate money to screw people in less fortunate parts of the world, and even in Canada.

Okay, so in exchange for NOT going into sovereign default, Obama signed this thing called the Budget Control Act, back in 2011, when the Tea Party was farting its way across the national stage. At the signing, the President said “”Is this the deal I would have preferred? No. But this compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need, and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year.”

So Obama figured that the tradeoff was worth it – the rest of the planet wasn’t going to bitch-slap us right out of town because we managed to avoid defaulting on them. And then, he also counted on the House of Representatives somehow miraculously becoming thinking human beings by now, instead of a bunch of raw-nerved, pouty, angry dogmatists  (eight seats fewer than there were, yet still too many) but NOOOOOOO…… and presto! Here we are!

So, where’s “here”? The mighty Fiscal Cliff, that’s where!

The FC is a combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board government spending cuts scheduled to become effective Dec. 31, 2012.

The concept behind the FC was that if the federal government allowed these two things to happen, it might not be good. Predictions mention a detrimental effect on an already shaky economy, possibly sending us back into an official recession as it cuts household incomes, increased unemployment rates and undermined consumer and investor confidence.

But at the same time, there’s a supposed silver lining: going over the FC would significantly reduce the federal budget deficit, because that’s where all the money would go that was formerly your tax deductions for your mortgage, charitable giving, etc., not to mention Medicare, food stamps, public works like road repair, and other benefits you earned for being a productive citizen of the United States. Yes! It’s true! Your Congressional representatives have the authority to barter away what small, concrete advantages you receive by being a tax-paying American, in order to pay off the debt accumulated by those Congresspeople NOT doing the job they were paid handsomely to do – guide the frikkin’ nation in a prudent and responsible fashion! Great! Thanks for the nice bag of crap, you guys!

But back to business. The impact on the economy of going over the FC could be dramatic. The combo punch of  higher taxes and spending cuts would reduce the deficit by an estimated $560 billion, but the CBO estimates that implementation of these policies would cut the GDP by four percentage points in 2013, likely sending the economy back into the recession we just crawled out of. It also predicts unemployment would rise by almost a full percentage point, with a loss of about two million jobs. One Wall St. Journal article from May 16, 2012 estimated the impact in dollar terms: “In all, $280 billion would be pulled out of the economy by the sunsetting of the Bush tax cuts; $125 million from the expiration of the Obama payroll-tax holiday; $40 million from the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits; and $98 billion from Budget Control Act spending cuts. In all, the tax increases and spending cuts make up about 3.5% of GDP, with the Bush tax cuts making up about half of that.”


So the Republicans, who are so ferocious about defending the Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy, are willing to go ahead, pitch us off the so-called cliff, screw their really-rich base, AND their low-info working class Tea Party voters, just to score on Obama? Wow. That’s ballsy. Really, really shortsighted, but the brazen, stupid confidence of it is breathtaking.

Of course, the third thing that happens is the Republicans get to stage a huge, windy drama that, if the predictions of recession prove out, lets them give Obama a beating to settle his hash for kicking their asses in the election. Which they think will “look good” to voters, except that the voters already pointed out that this crap was not gonna fly anymore. The Republicans created this financial dog’s breakfast through George Bush’s wacky Republican policies, and further back, with Reagan’s supply side BS. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT, even legal, voting immigrant folk who haven’t been here for more than a year! DUH!

So, when we go down this path, this bad road, it is ENTIRELY due to Congressional ineptitude, mainly Republican, and their refusal to DO THE WORK. Spineless Democrats. Dogmatic, ignorant Republicans.

Oh, and the cliff part? Not a cliff. More like a bunny hill, or a “fiscal incline”. Nothing happens all at once: it will be gradual, kind of like the proverbial boiling frog. And who knows? Maybe America will cowboy up and deal with whatever problems their loopy lawmakers hand them. Lemonade outta lemons, right?

Hope so.




Democrat to GOP in Benghazi Hearing ‘If you want to know who is responsible in this town, buy yourself a mirror!’

By: Sarah Jones      November 15th, 2012

A House Foreign Affairs hearing went wild today, with Republicans accusing Obama of being worse than Watergate over their thus far fictional Benghazi conspiracies. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said the President had “lied”. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) joined Rohrabacher in accusing Obama of lying (still no proof or even a valid reason for this accusation). Other Republicans spent their time orating instead of asking questions of the witness, suggesting that this is really more about manufacturing a narrative than getting to the truth.

Finally, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) got mad. Said Ackerman,

“The stench of hypocrisy that hangs over this city today emanates from this room. I’ve listened to my colleagues talk about the President of the United States and others in the administration using [the] terms ‘deliberate’, ‘lies’, ‘unmitigated gall’, ‘malfeasance,’ which is malicious and knowing evil-doing, ‘disgust’, ‘coverups’. If you want to know who is responsible in this town, buy yourself a mirror!”

He accused the Republicans of, according to NBC, having:

“the audacity to come here” when the administration requested, for worldwide security, “$440 million more than you guys wanted to provide. And the answer is that you damn didn’t provide it! You REDUCED what the administration asked for to protect these people. Ask not who the guilty party is, it’s you! It is us. It is this committee, and the things that we insist that we need have to cost money.”

He added,

“Could you tell me which of my colleagues on this committee was as bodacious in their insistence that we provide more money for American security in the State Department budget. I would appreciate it.”

Ackerman then asked them to raise their hands and gave them a count of five to do so. None did.

So now we get to just one of the issues Republicans are trying to avoid by pointing the fingers first.

Dana Milbank reported on the Republicans cutting funding for embassy security in October:

House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012… Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

Ryan, Issa and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. Under Ryan’s budget, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes State Department funding, would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, which would translate to more than $400 million in additional cuts to embassy security.

Republicans were also warned by their own side to stop playing games regarding funding Libya to little avail.

They were told that they were putting our security at risk, but the taste of socking it to Obama was too delicious. It turns out that while they were playing juvenile games of “gotcha”, lives were indeed on the line, just as Clinton and even right wing policy makers warned Republicans.

Now that the results of their obstruction are staring us all in the face, instead of owning up to it, they are screaming at the top of their lungs that it’s the other guy’s fault and he’s a liar. Usually, this method of distraction works well for Republicans, as the media follows their pointing fingers to a shiny ball and forgets to go look up just who denied that funding.

The bit about the other guy being a liar is meant to discredit anything the other side says before it can take root that yes, indeed, Republicans denied this funding just to say no to Obama.

This is the old Rove play book of accusing the other side of what you did in order to wear down the impact of the truth when it finally comes out. By that time, the public will be so weary of the screaming they will decide “both sides do it.”

You notice that Issa was one of the House Republicans who voted for an amendment to cut 1.2 billion from state operations going to diplomatic security in 2009, and yet he is leading the charge into “investigating” just who is responsible for the lack of security.

And because it should be repeated every single time a Republican brings this issue up, “Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.”


“If subject S knows p, and S knows that p entails q, then S can thereby come to know that q.”

“The term “epistemic closure” has been used in US political debate to refer to the claim that the belief systems of political conservatives are closed systems of deduction, which cannot be affected by empirical evidence.”

Thanks, Wikipedia!

I’d say that’s a fairly accurate definition. And, since the recent election is being widely regarded as the triumph of geek computer science nerds over the macho “I got a feeling – I’m gettin’ a vibe” school of Republican thought, let’s talk about this mystery equation using a real-life example!

In reference to Obama’s unexpected win, Bill O’Reilly said, “…The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff, they want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”

Okay. Subject S (Bill) knows p (“50 percent of Americans want things”), and S (Bill) knows that p (“people wanting things”) entails q (“people voting to get things”) then S (Bill) thereby comes to know q (people vote for Obama because he’s gonna “give them things”).

There’s only one problem, but it is a big one. Bill “knows” that “50 percent of Americans want things.” But that doesn’t work within the parameters of the formula. The formula only works with situations that are empirical in nature, objectively measurable, like “50 percent of Americans have coins in their pockets”. You could actually measure that, and actually draw some accurate, if meaningless, conclusions from the results.

But when you START with a stupid generalization, nothing else in the formula is going to work in a real way, because what you “know” only functions in the little closed system you have created with other people who also “know” the same stupid generalization. Unfortunately for Bill, people voted Obama for a LOT of DIFFERENT reasons, most of which were also probably not particularly empirical in nature – “He seems like a nice guy.” “I’m a brown person and he’s a brown person, so I am voting brown.” “His wife is a classy lady.” “My kid got to stay on my insurance at a critical time, so I’m grateful for Obamacare and rewarding him with my vote.” And so on, in as many permutations as there were voters.

Presto! Recipe for conservative disaster on Election Day! I guess those geeks actually had something goin’ on after all, right, Bill?

Oh. He can’t hear me because he is stuck inside his own little universe-within-a-universe with the rest of the folks who got “vibes” and “feelings” and based their expectations on magical thinking. The inhabitants of this place have been blocked from the perception of their own errors in judgement because they could only feed each other the pap that made perfect sense in their own self-enclosed world, but not in the wider world the rest of us inhabit. At the moment, these folks are blinking and blinded, like newborn colts, having been dumped into the harsh light of a new, unexpected environment. Maybe we can communicate when the shock wears off.

But I guess that depends on THEM.


I keep hearing, over and over, from all quarters of the conservative biosphere, that Saul Alinsky is evil. A monster. A freaked-out radical Goya-esque nightmare creature, with the power to disturb conservative sleep just by the whisper of his name: “Aliiiiiiin-sky! ALIIIIINS-SKY!”


Oh, please. Let’s get real.

Saul Alinsky was born in 1909 to Russian Jewish immigrants. Hometown: Chicago. Went to the U. of Chicago and got a degree in archaeology, except that during the Depression there wasn’t a big demand for archaeologists, so he went to work for the state while moonlighting as a labor organizer.

Labor organizing-wise, he started with Back of the Yards, a completely impoverished slum where workers from the slaughterhouses were concentrated in abject misery, and incidentally, held prisoner there by now-illegal company-store practices of Armour and other meat packing corporations. Alinsky then expanded into community organizing, using some unconventional methods to bring people together: Kansas City, Detroit, the barrios of Southern California, and the African American ghettos of Chicago,  He even traveled to California to help organize the black ghetto in Oakland, but upon hearing about it  “the panic-stricken Oakland City Council promptly introduced a resolution banning him from the city.”

Alinsky wrote a book that was published in 1971, called “Rules for Radicals”, which talks about organizing power for the people, to “change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be.” He was an outspoken advocate of the “have-nots” wrestling power from the “haves”.

He was not a Communist and not a Marxist. “Philosophically,” he claimed, ” I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology… One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as ‘that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right.’ If you don’t have that, if you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics.”

Hmmmm.. ” … an inside track to absolute truth … humorless and intellectually constipated … religious and political and racial fanatics.” Ring a right-winger bell, anyone?

Back to work. Okay, what’s so bad about Alinsky so far? I can’t really spot anything, except that he isn’t controllable. Fox News can’t load him up with heavy spew and have him “catapult the propaganda”, in George W. Bush’s immortal phrasing. In fact, leaders of the Tea Party movement have distributed copies of “Rules for Radicals” to their members because Alinsky’s techniques are very, very effective. So, Alinsky is used by both the right and the left, because his methods cannot be confined to a particular ideology.

So what’s the Alinsky problem? There are still workshops all over the country, and his methods of organizing are as effective as ever, but what’s the fundamental issue for conservatives here?

Well, one is ignorance. If you are a conservative reading this, it is probably way more information about this guy that you have ever absorbed before, and possibly a lot more than you ever wanted to know, because it messes up your echo chamber.

But the main issue is one of unintended consequences. One of Alinsky’s core concepts is that if you know other human beings – that is, KNOW them, their family history, their circumstances, their hopes, dreams, desires, wishes, what they love and what they hate – then you can actually begin to communicate. So an Alinsky workshop is made up in large part of getting to know other people on a deep level. And, everyone soon realizes, there is much more that unites them than that which divides them. Beyond that, you become much more than strangers, and more than acquaintances: you become natural allies.

This is the LAST thing our polarized, separatist, right-wing control-freak corporations and their paid politicians want to have happen. Their mission over the 30 years since Reagan was elected has been to keep everybody isolated, Mountain-Man style, which has the effect of sticking the nation into a static state. Our congresspeople don’t mingle across party lines anymore. My House representative, Cathy McTurniphead Rodgers, never bothered to return my numerous polite Emails, I assume because I wanted to talk about things she hoped she’d never have to consider. Brad Benson, former Washington State congressman, was under the mistaken impression that everybody who was a liberal was a committed Communist, despite having “a degree in economics”. Neither Boehner or McConnell, our national right-wing figureheads, seem to have even the slightest interest in talking to progressive Democrats, and demonstrate it every day. Comment boards are stuffed with right wingers yelling names, curses, and threats against anyone who has the temerity to question the wisdom of writing off the progressive half the electorate. My neighbors across the street haven’t spoken to me since Obama was elected the first time because I had an Obama sign in my yard.

Alinsky was a very smart guy. When did deliberate ignorance, calculated stupidity, and navigating life by “feelings” become virtuous in this country? If Alinsky were here now, he’d lock us all in a Rules for Radicals workshop together for a week, and believe me, we would all be different when we came out. Maybe then we could start uniting as a nation of human beings, instead of a pack of dogs fighting over a single bone.

I look forward to that day.





Okay, so Obama won, yay. He’s actually a moderate Republican, so I am not as happy as I could be, but I think we are at least close to the same page as the rest of the occupants of this planet, since we enjoy similar perceptions of reality. Well … most of us, anyway. Here we come to the crux of Republican woe: they are not operating in the same world as the rest of us, and are definitely not partaking of the same set of facts.

Here’s what Grand Poobah Nutbag Extraordinaire Glenn Beck sez: “When you watch Barack Obama, you can just see he is angry. When you watch Mitt Romney, you can see he is not.”

You know, I never got the impression that Obama was angry except when Republicans were being stubbornly oppositional. And I basically thought Mitt was never angry because he was kind of an airhead. Even when the family dog crapped all over the car after being strapped in a crate on the roof for hours didn’t make Mitt mad – he just turned the hose on the beast and continued on his merry way, never thinking for a moment that this episode might someday be perceived as just a lil’ out of touch with much of the rest of the nation, and perhaps prejudice a segment of the population against his political ambitions.

Glenn also said Americans were “dead inside” because they chose to vote for a compassionate, educated black guy instead of a fabulously rich Mormon who’s never seen the inside of a double-wide. Hm. Guaranteed, the black guy has experienced more of life than the Mormon, just by virtue of the fact that he’s black. Members of oppressed groups ALWAYS know more about the higher-ups than the other way around. Hence: Obama knew what was going on, while Romney was taking a quickie stroll through Candyland. I mean, Romney allegedly didn’t even prepare a concession speech, he was so sure he was gonna win. Jinx!

Then there was Karl Rove, who argued about how Romney was gonna take Ohio, and nobody better tell him different! Um, Karl – Obama took Ohio, it’s over. “NO HE DINT!” screams Karl. So embarrassing. Different facts. Karl, it’s just that you choose to ignore the ones THE REST OF US AGREE ON. Like, when somebody has the majority of votes in a state, THEY WIN THE STATE. Not like Rove-a-topia, where when somebody loses, they can still win. I think George Orwell discussed this in “1984”.

Here’s one of my favorites, supplied by Buster Wilson of the American Family: “Four states voted for it (same-sex marriage) in some fashion yesterday and that means that when they teach that homosexuality is an accepted lifestyle to your kindergartners like they did, I think it was in New Jersey or Chicago I don’t remember where it was, but it does happen even though they mock us and say we’re making this up.”

To tell you the truth, I don’t think sexual preference comes up a whole lot in kindergarten. Basically you learn to not pee your pants and not to hit other kids: the rest of that stuff is gonna go over your head. Has this guy Buster ever met a kindergartner? Oh, I forgot, he’s a CHRISTIAN MAN and REAL CHRISTIAN MEN don’t do kids cuz it is a wimmin thing. Besides, the idea of some kindergarten teacher squeezing in the gay agenda between finger painting and lunch is just ludicrous, because THEY ARE BUSY. They don’t have time to make up crazy-ass stories like these Christian strategists sitting around in their comfy offices trying to figure out how to manipulate their sheeple into voting the way they want.

The conservatives of this country have returned to the wilderness from which William F. Buckley led them out of so long ago. They have their own TV station broadcasting a steady stream of bullshit over the airwaves, yet blame the “liberal media” for the results they don’t like. They call science “gobbledygook” and then express surprise that statisticians were able to predict the outcome of the election using actual facts instead of “feelings”, as in “I have a feeling Mitt’s gonna win in a landslide.” They managed to ignore the obvious sense of not having the mega-rich John-Bircher Koch brothers as their poster boys and then turn around to blame Brad Pitt and George Clooney for swaying vast masses of voters to the dark side. They have systematically purged their party of anyone who would appeal to any voter aside from a crabby, racist, over-60 white male get-off-my-lawner with an IQ of between 75 and 96, and then expect members of this tiny demographic to numerically win elections for them. No wonder some conservatives are so powerfully into suppressing the vote; it is their only chance to hang on to power a little longer.

I am not opposed to having a political party made up of members that do not agree with me. To have it otherwise would mean that the dynamic tension between two opposing views, the tension that encourages innovation and allows for progress, would subside and disappear. But we can’t have one group that is  grounded in the real world, while their opposite numbers are riding around  La-La-Land on Jesus-horses and telling each other that they “feel” something is true, even when it isn’t.

Conservatives, there is a valuable lesson to be learned here. Ignore it at your peril.



“People who grew up in public schools, run straight to the embassy the instant they get a runny nose overseas, stuff burgers down their throats without worrying about E. Coli and sleep happily in planes they know have been inspected by the FAA , can with straight faces make the argument that having to pay any taxes at all is tyranny. It’s almost as if people feel the need to announce that they don’t need any help with anything, ever – not even keeping bridges safe or drinking water clean.”   Matt Taibbi

So now we come to the true heart of darkness in the conservative American voting psyche: complete and utter disregard for facts.

Here’s one such fact: pioneers of the Old West used to traverse the vast landscape in these things called “wagon trains”. Not “wagon families” or even just “wagons”. It was a GROUP of people traveling together, under the auspices of some dude who was designated “WAGON MASTER” who was experienced, knew the way, and how to handle problems that came up. Kind of like – a very small government! And, as is true of almost any group of people, diversity enhanced survival: some members had hands-on expertise to fix a wagon wheel or doctor an ox, while others had few skills, but a lot of money. They would pool their resources, hire the wagon master, and get going TOGETHER across the face of the nation. Gosh, our hardy pioneer forebears were fricking Communists!

Here’s another fact: back in the Middle Ages, before motors, oil, cell phones and even 8-track tape players, a good proportion of our ancestors lived in villages in England. These people did not scurry around willy-nilly planting beets here and barley there, according to their whim. No, there was a BOARD made up of respected regional farmers, who DECIDED who was going to plant what where, how much, what land was to be cleared and what land was to remain fallow, and TOLD YOU what you were going to do with “your” fields that year. If you think about it for even 2 minutes, obviously, it would have to be done this way, or a lot of people would starve. Who can live on just beets? And the more successful the village, the more people survived, hence the need for ever more efficient control over the flow of resources.

Yet we have the ignorant of America who say they are going to go “off grid” and sit on their porch with a shotgun to keep everybody away from their stuff. They say, for example, how they’re gonna hunt up a deer to eat. Great. Are you going to salt it or freeze it? One way you need salt, and if you live far from and ocean, where’s salt gonna come from? Not Morton’s, apparently, since they’re part of the infrastructure these guys want to live without. And freezing, well yeah. You can have electricity to power your freezer or you can have a generator. Either way, where will the energy come from? The evil infrastructure, of course! All that canning of preserves you’re going to do? Where’s the sugar come from? How about the little rubber lids for the jars? Guaranteed, most survivalists would die of food poisoning within a year, trying to make it on their own.

“Data so far suggests the conservative brain… is irredeemably incompetent at accepting scientific information that conflicts with their bias.” (Mark Hoofnagel, citing Chris Moody). This must be why there is a constant din from these people who claim, numero uno, that making it on one’s own is the natural free state of humanity, so screw government; and numero two-o, if bad shit happens, suck it up, because maybe your church will help you rebuild your house and the houses of the 200,000 or so other parishioners who need it too.

History demonstrates that this approach will not work. Experience demonstrates that this approach won’t work. Smarter people that you or me say that this approach won’t work, and Hurricane Sandy says this approach will not work. Yet ignorant human donkeys keep on blathering about zero taxation and government-free self sufficiency, as if wishing makes the concepts somehow more tenable.

Alexandra Pelosi made a short film about voters in Mississippi. There was one dentally challenged gentleman who carried on at length about all the “takers” and “leeches” in the system, sucking up resources they didn’t deserve, and how the government should get the hell out of the handout business. The filmmaker then said “But you told me you were on food stamps!” And the guy says – with a completely straight face – “Yeah, but I deserve it because ain’t nobody takin’ care of me!”

Can anyone forget the town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”?

And then there’s Craig T. Nelson, Spokane local boy, who goes on Glenn Beck and says “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No. No.”

What is wrong with these people? And now we have a slew of new ones in the wake of Sandy, who are cussing out FEMA for not getting to them fast enough, even though they are completely self-sufficient Americans, and always vote against big government.

What can anyone say about this level of self-deception? It renders one speechless. But it does explain how it is possible for this election to be neck-and-neck when the challenger never served in the military, has gobs and gobs of money, has lived his entire life in the lap of luxury while exporting the jobs of thousands, hides bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, has a son “Tagg” who is embroiled in some pretty shady activities, has never done actual work that produced anything but more money out of auctioning off the assets of businesses, and has all the gravitas of the Upper-Class Twit of the Year.