Tuesday Reads: Are Things Really As Bad As I Think?

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know where to begin this morning. I wish I could write a coherent diatribe like the one Dakinikat wrote yesterday, but I can’t do it. I have a sense that things are very wrong, but I can’t explain the feeling in any rational way.

As we head into the holiday season, I feel as if the country is leaderless. The public focus of the Obama administration and the media is on the glitches in a website; and yet in the background are terrible problems that are building  and growing more and more intractable as our political “leadership” fiddles with nonsensical issues like Obamacare and Benghazi.

As Dakinikat noted yesterday, there is a problem of growing poverty and income inequality become institutionalized and normalized. There is the issue of gun violence and our total failure to respond to it with any kind of rational regulations on guns. There is the devolution of education in the U.S., and of course there is the continuing attack on women’s autonomy and Democratic politicians seeming willingness to use women’s bodies as bargaining chips. Finally there are the already institutionalized problems of racism and hatred of immigrants. What have I missed?

As our real problem grow, it seems the American political and media classes, either don’t notice because as part of the wealthy 1% they simply aren’t affected, or because they’ve got theirs and they just don’t care about the mass of people who are struggling to survive in a poisonous system. And because of the obsessive focus on the end-of-year holidays, nothing will happen in Washington until we hit the next debt limit and our “leaders” mobilize briefly to kick the can of our economic and social problems down the road once again and so they can return to their focus on minutiae.

Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?

Anyway, here a some of the stories leading the news at the moment.

Jeff Bezos tells Amazon customers to expect home delivery by drones. NBC News reports:

Amazon.com hopes to deliver small packages to your home in just 30 minutes by unmanned drones within five years, chief executive Jeff Bezos said Sunday.

In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bezos was actually less optimistic than what his company said in its online announcement, which declared that tiny robot aircraft could be landing on front porches as soon as 2015.

Bezos said Amazon already had the technology in place and had even flown a working prototype, which he showed off in a video the company published Sunday:

He promised “half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”

The rest of the work, Bezos said, is in quality control and getting the plan OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration — something technology experts said was unlikely on Bezos’ time frame.

So basically, this is just a silly idea that has no chance of actually  happening anytime soon. But the media sees it as more urgent than poverty, income inequality, and people getting killed with guns day in and day out.

From the Washington Post: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test.

Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.

While U.S. teenagers scored slightly above average in reading, their scores were average in science and below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which was administered last fall. That pattern has not changed much since PISA was first administered in 2000.

Gee, I wonder why this is happening? It seems like something that should concern our “leaders.”

The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.

But were intentions really good? Check out these years-old headlines on profiteers (including the Bush family) who cleaned up after passage of the Orwellianly titled “No Child Left Behind” law was passed.

Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News, March 30, 2007)

Bush’s Family Profits From `No Child’ Act (LA Times, Oct. 22, 2006)

No Bush Left Behind (Bloomerg Businessweek, Oct. 15, 2006)

There are plenty more headlines where those came from.

And yet, nearly a decade later, we’re stuck with that awful law and the damage it has done to our public education system. Why have Democrats done nothing to reverse it? Most likely because they too profit from the continuing privatization of education.

What about the latest media narrative on Obama care?

From the Washington Post: Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs:

The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.

The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.

Figuring out how to clean up the backlog of errors and prevent similar ones in the future is emerging as the new imperative if the federal insurance exchange is to work as intended. The problems were the subject of a meeting Monday between administration officials and a new “Payer Exchange Performance Team” made up of insurance industry leaders.

Okay, but what is with the bizarre impatience about some computer glitches from a media that couldn’t care less about institutionalized poverty, racism, and gun violence? And then there’s the Obama administration’s defensive response, as reported by USA Today: Obama to launch new health care law campaign

President Obama and his aides will seek to rally public support for his embattled health care plan in the coming weeks, starting with a White House event Tuesday.

Obama will promote the effort in a speech while surrounded by people who have benefited from the new law, according to an addition to the White House schedule.

The Affordable Care Act has come under heavy political attack since its rollout in October. Problems have included a malfunctioning website and the cancellations of polices that do not meet new federal standards.

In the coming days, Obama and aides will highlight what they call successful aspects of the law. They include provisions that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

A few writers have tried to look at the “Obamacare crisis” slightly more rationally than the mainstream corporate media.

Here’s Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded.

It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.

Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.

Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.

Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, foryears.

On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.

For more rational perspective, read the rest of the post at the link.

I particularly like this uncharacteristically long post by TBogg at Raw Story: Are-We-There-Yet?-American [sic] just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet. Here’s just a taste:

You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacareor Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up,  and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.

Please go read the rest.

Charles Pierce also had a few choice words for Ron Fournier and the rest of the Obama-hating press.

Ace reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has another scoop for y’all. There is absolutely no fking way on god’s green and pleasant earth that this Obama fellow will be elected president again. He has blown his chance for that third term, and probably the fourth and fifth as well. Ron would like the Pulitzer committee to leave the medallion on the doorstep. Watch out, Obama. The Horsemen ride at daybreak! [….]

I heard my friend Eric Boehlert on the radio this morning, warning us that the traditional end-of-the-year retrospectives are likely to sing in close harmony on the theme of the collapsing Obama administration, even though his poll numbers are pretty much where they’ve been for a couple of years now, and even though the Republicans in Congress continue to have the approval ratings of skin disease. I think he’s right, and I think Fournier, who’s been a tool so long they ought to sell him at Home Depot, is just trying to get a jump on things here.

More hilarity at the link.

And what’s with the efforts to deny that racism exists? From Raw Story: Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.

A faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney, received a formal reprimand for her handling of a discussion about structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communication course.

According to Gibney in an interview with City College News, a white male student asked her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”

She claims she was shocked, because “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”

Gibney says another white male student followed the first, saying “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”

When Gibney attempted, again, to inform the students that they were mistaking a systemic critique for a personal attack, the students continued to argue. Eventually, she told them that “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” This is exactly what they did.

This probably has something to do with our f’d up education system too . . . . As far as I can tell, critical thinking has been banned.

Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. What interesting news have you been reading? Let us know in the comment thread.

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44 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Are Things Really As Bad As I Think?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    A look at how the Reagan administration and the compliant Washington media handled a previous national health crisis: 13 TimesThe Reagan White House Press Briefing Erupted With Laughter Over AIDS

    • bostonboomer says:

      Quoted at Buzzfeed:

      Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement—the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
      MR. SPEAKES: What’s AIDS?
      Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
      MR. SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
      Q: No, I don’t.
      MR. SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.
      Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President—
      MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)
      Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
      MR. SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.
      Q: Does the President, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
      MR. SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any—
      Q: Nobody knows?
      MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
      Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping—
      MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no—(laughter)—no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
      Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?
      MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.
      Q: Didn’t say that?
      MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)
      Q: Because I love you, Larry, that’s why. (Laughter.)
      MR. SPEAKES: Oh, I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)
      Q: Oh, I retract that.
      MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.
      Q: It’s too late.

  2. Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?

    Nuts? Nope. Cause if you are, then I am too!

    • Pat Johnson says:

      Let’s try this one on for size in response to your question:

      For almost 6 years the GOP has said “no”. No to fixing the infrastructure, healthcare, education, finance reform, taxation on the wealthy, immigration laws, voting rights, women’s issues, gun control, and veteran’s benefits. They had an agenda and stuck to it.

      They then turned their obstruction around and put the blame on the current administration which also – to some extent – worked on their behalf. If not the illegitimacy of Obama himself as an American citizen then rename the ACA “Obamacare”, gin up its defects, and cram it down the throats of the purposefully uninformed and perhaps by 2014 or 2016 we may be looking at a majority GOP congress which can then shove their theological and unintelligent issues down the throats of the nation which will set us back another 50 years.

      Boehner controls the House schedule and along with McConnell (“our goal is a one term presidency”) stifles any form of progress and fairness the nation deserves. After 8 horrid years of Bush/Cheney – all almost forgotten – the goal is within reach to bring back what they began – shrinking government and privatizing everything not nailed down.

      The GOP has been moving in this direction for decades and they know the limitations of the electorate who usually do not pay attention until a week or so before election days and only then does celebrity names play a role in decision making. Not the issues, but the “charisma” of the candidate and his/her ability to “sell” the product,

      We live with a handcuffed congressional delegation that is honed in the practice of raising money. First come, first served. For the most part these are not people interested in public service or serving the common good. So far that cycle has not been broken as we see those who have been elected retire to high paying jobs in the private sector and this will continue until it is properly addressed which means “never”.

      So I share your feelings of defeat because this is what has become the norm. The GOP will stop at nothing to regain power and when that day comes things can only go from bad to worse.

      An uninformed, uneducated, unknowing electorate is the vital piece to their eventual triumph and there are enough now serving in congress who bear out that theory.

      This is what we are against and will be for years to come.

      • RalphB says:

        I agree but we have to fight it whenever and wherever we can. Giving up is not an option. I’m not sure sure who I hate most, men or white people.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Oh, I totally agree, Ralph. It’s just that some mornings I wake up with this unreal feeling as if I dreamed the nightmare history of the last 33 years since Reagan took office.

      • Fannie says:

        It times for jobs fixing roads, bridges, pipes, parks, EDUCATION.

    • dakinikat says:

      At ;least you’re in a blue state where the governor and legislature aren’t going mad with power. Our children here are mired in poverty. They’re getting experimental education projects that aren’t working while the governor insists they are. Our people need health care and the governor refuses to take the medicaid expansion. This will cost folks their lives. It’s all so he can make a national political name for himself. We’re still reeling from oil and hurricane disasters and a huge sink hole and the companies that were the worst about things that caused the damage get a pass from him and are his biggest political donors. Would you like me to continue? I get up daily and am thankful when I can pay a bill these days. Our higher education system has been gutted. Students clean classrooms because there are not enough janitors to do it. My major professor bought my data base for me when I finished my dissertation because there are no funds for library books or subscriptions any more. Teachers at SELU teach 5 classes now.a semester with more students than ever. LSU is in danger of losing its research status. Grambling’s football time went on strike because of the unhealthy conditions in the locker room and field. Grambling was trying to save funds for its academic classes so it let the atheletic infrastructure fail. Meawhile, Jindal is hailed by the Republicans as a model governor.

  3. RalphB says:

    CNN provides fuel to the reich-wing flying monkeys.

    Video: CNN employee`s own mistake crashed Obamacare Web page

    In a rather embarrassing revelation for CNN, their own “expert” crashed the Obamacare Web site yesterday by doing something that every child in America knows you simply do not do on the Internet: Refreshing the Web page while your transaction is processing.

    Yet, an examination of the video, first noticed by AMERICAblog reader Jea this morning, reveals that that is exactly what CNN did – their expert refreshed the Affordable Care Act federal exchange site while their application was “processing.”

    And what happened as a result? The page crashed. As it does on every single Web site in the world when you’re dumb enough to refresh the page while a transaction is in progress.

    And now Republicans are crowing about how this CNN video “proves” that Obamacare is a disaster – because CNN managed to produce an error message with a rookie “my first Internet” mistake. …

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Jamelle Bouie tries to explain to Republicans why racism is actually still a problem.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/03/racism-not-a-problem-anymore-don-t-be-ridiculous-it-s-still-a-big-issue.html

  5. dakinikat says:

    Rush Limbaugh tells the new pope that he’s wrong …
    It’s Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It’s a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)

    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2013/11/27/it_s_sad_how_wrong_pope_francis_is_unless_it_s_a_deliberate_mistranslation_by_leftists

    • dakinikat says:

      http://gawker.com/pope-puts-on-costume-sneaks-out-of-vatican-at-night-to-1475545451?utm_campaign=socialflow_gawker_facebook&utm_source=gawker_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

      Now The Huffington Post is reporting that a “knowledgeable source” is confirming the report that Swiss guards have personally witnessed the Pope leave the Vatican after nightfall “dressed as a regular priest” in order “to meet with homeless men and women.”

      Krajewski, who is tasked with handing out Holy See money to the poor and indigent, suggested Francis was joining him on nighttime sojourns into Rome.

      “When I say to him ‘I’m going out into the city this evening’, there’s the constant risk that he will come with me,” Krajewski was quoted as saying.

      Though he evaded a more direct follow up question, Krajewski set the grapevine ablaze with a single smile.

      If Pope Francis is indeed hiding a super alter-ego, he would be merely continuing the tradition of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — the mortal he once was.

      Bergoglio “would go out at night…to find people, talk with them, or buy them something to eat,” Krajewski said. “He would sit with them and eat with them on the street. This is what he wants from me.”

    • RalphB says:

      Here’s another RWNJ criticism of the new pope. This is ONLY about money.

      Tea party activist: ‘Jesus Christ is weeping in heaven’ over pope’s criticism of capitalism

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Here’s my answer to the Tea Party

        Matthew 23:24

        …23And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24″Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

        The Prosperity Gospel-ites, which is the primary christian belief system of the TP’ers, don’t think this admonition from jesus, described in both Matthew and Luke, means what is says.

    • Mary Luke says:

      OK, I think my throat is closing up here. Rush Limbaugh is criticizing the Pope? And Rush has a paranoid conspiracy theory about “leftists”. There is no way to comment on this.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Wall Street Journal column says Elizabeth Warren’s policies are “disastrous,” ignores actual data http://thkpr.gs/1k6WOd9

  7. dakinikat says:

    New GOP Plan Would Save Military From Sequestration By Cutting Social Security

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/military-sequestration_n_4377517.html

    • RalphB says:

      Makes me glad Patty Murray is the Senate negotiator and not Kent Conrad. She has already taken cuts to entitlements off the table.

  8. dakinikat says:

    http://thecontributor.com/thank-you-freedom-religion-foundation

    There’s really big news from Wisconsin this week. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) won a decision in the United States District Court in their case challenging a little-known law established specifically to provide government subsidies to churches.

    The law, known as the parsonage exemption, comes from 1954, the depths of the Red Scare — see the addition of “under god” to the Pledge of Allegiance — and the purpose was the same: to bolster religion, and Christianity in particular, against the onslaught of godless Communism. The 1954 bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter Mack, argued ministers should be rewarded for “carrying on such a courageous fight against this [godless and anti-religious world movement].”

    The parsonage exemption allows churches to pay “ministers of the gospel” partly in salary, partly in a housing allowance, and exempts the housing allowance from income tax. FFRF observes that the parsonage exemption allows payment not only for rent or mortgage payments, but for home improvements and even swimming pools. In 2002, the value of this exemption was estimated at $2.3 billion in lost tax revenues over five years. On top of that, ministers are able to “double dip,” paying their mortgage with their tax-free housing allowance and then deducting their mortgage interest and property taxes from the income tax payable on their taxable income.

    The court, in a very strongly written opinion, explains why this violates the First Amendment. “However, the significance of the benefit simply underscores the problem with the law, which is that it violates the well-established principle under the First Amendment that ‘[a]bsent the most unusual circumstances, one’s religion ought not affect one’s legal rights or duties or benefits.’ Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School Disrict v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687, 715 (1994) (O’Connor, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment).”

    The judge reminds the reader that the Establishment Clause “protects the believer and the unbeliever alike,” and explains that if the First Amendment would prohibit a tax that is assessed exclusively on churches or ministers, which it does, it also prohibits a tax benefit conferred exclusively on churches.

  9. RalphB says:

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I can put myself in Heather’s shoes and understand that she is not defending herself, she is defending the validity of her family. She’s been with Mary Cheney for 21 years, which is remarkable when you consider that both have lived in a society that doesn’t honor their fidelity to each other, but has encouraged them not to even think about marriage and family.

      If you can stick with a partner for 2 decades in a world that doesn’t value or support your commitment, you’ve done something special. I hope Liz Cheney gets on the right side of this before she loses her relationship with her sister, forever.

  10. RalphB says:

  11. dakinikat says:

    Why American kids do so poorly on the vaunted PISA exam: http://slate.me/1hwssDT

  12. This is terrible: School officials and police investigate threat on bathroom wall | AccessNorthGa

    At the Gainesville Highschool

    She said the threat indicated the school would not be there after Thursday and indicated a mention of explosives and weapons.

    Dyer said the school is working with the police department and other safety resources.

    “We will proceed just as they advise and take all measures,” Dyer said.

    She said it was her understanding that police had already searched the building and were planning for additional security.