I have a question that maybe you all can help me with. This past week my mother, father and I have been busy hanging up pictures and putting things in their place…yes we are still moving in, but at least it is looking more like home.
In yesterday’s post I wrote about WW2 veterans…this was my grandmothers and grandfathers generation. They are all gone, but our house is full of images and photographs of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, items my grandfather brought back from the War, and even a couple pillowcases he sent to my grandmother while he was in France after D-Day. They all are wonderful memories that hang framed on the wall.
So while we are working on hanging all these things, my brother is in the living room watching his shows. He has TVLand on all day, of course, most of the commercial sponsors of MASH, Bonanza, I Love Lucy, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son are aimed at the senior citizen generation. You know the ones, AAPR/Medicare, Colonial Penn and catheter ads that used to target people of my grandparents generation. Since most of them have passed or will soon be moving on to greener pastures, it follows that those ads are now produced for the baby boomer generation…
My mom is 64 my dad is 65, my mom’s sister is turning 70 next year…they are the next big focus of future sales for “senior” products. So here is my question, why is it these commercials still use the same patronizing…stupid formula when pushing that Colonial Penn insurance? Isn’t this next generation supposed to be more educated than the last? I just can’t see the former hippie college graduate baby boomer watching these ads and saying, oh yes…I need that funeral life/death insurance policy for just pennies a day. It seems they would be more savvy than that.
I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent, so let’s get down to some newsy links.
Have you seen the latest “lie” reported by Politifact? Paul Krugman had this to say about it:
This is really awful. Politifact, which is supposed to police false claims in politics, has announced its Lie of the Year — and it’s a statement that happens to be true, the claim that Republicans have voted to end Medicare.
Steve Benen in the link above explains it, but let me just repeat the basics. Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system to buy private insurance — and not just that, a voucher system in which the value of the vouchers would systematically lag the cost of health care, so that there was no guarantee that seniors would even be able to afford private insurance.
The new scheme would still be called “Medicare”, but it would bear little resemblance to the current system, which guarantees essential care to all seniors.
How is this not an end to Medicare? And given all the actual, indisputable lies out there, how on earth could saying that it is be the “Lie of the year”?
Go to the link to see what the answer is…I’ll give you a hint, it has something to do with attempting to be “fair and balanced.”
In other GOP news, Gary Johnson has decided to officially run as a Libertarian. Hmmmm….I wonder what that means for Ron Paul?
Over in the swamp, the Senate is gone for the holidays, leaving those who would benefit the most from the payroll tax cut, and the extended long-term unemployment benefits, up shit creek without a paddle. Capitol impasse boosts chances of tax increase
The Senate is gone for the holidays, the House packed up to leave, and as a result the chances that working Americans soon will see a tax increase jumped sharply.
The Capitol emptied to an eerie quiet on Tuesday, with no signs of negotiations toward a compromise that would save an expiring payroll tax break. As of Jan. 1, the tax cut that has been in place all year is scheduled to return to 6.2% from its current 4.2%, meaning that biweekly paychecks on average will be $40 smaller. Long-term unemployment benefits for some 3 million people also are poised to expire. Doctors face an estimated 20% cut in Medicare payments.
That means things are going to get even worse for many people who have been struggling…and barely getting by.
There was an article in the NY Times this past week about the economy and consumption, it even had a cute graphic that went with a clever title, What Nail Polish Sales Tell Us About the Economy.
Illustration by Oliver JeffersEconomics is all about consumption. People either spend money now or they use financial instruments — like bonds, stocks and savings accounts — so they can spend more later. A healthy economy is largely a result of a reasonable balance between consumption today and consumption deferred, and it’s pretty clear that balance has been ridiculously out of whack for a while.[…]
Economists believe that what we feel about the state of the economy is best revealed not through what we say in surveys but rather through what we buy and exactly how much of it. There’s a lot of data available, though none come with a prepackaged psychological narrative attached. So analysts do the best they can, combing through our national shopping lists hoping to uncover clues. Sometimes they find remarkably helpful information in very unlikely places.
They also uncover plenty of cute facts that mean little. Consider this: 2011 was a banner year for the sale of insanely expensive fine wines at auction. Someone at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong, for example, bought 12 bottles of 1985 Romanee-Conti for a bit more than $150,000, or about $600 per sip. And the grand lesson this teaches us about the overall economy is . . . absolutely nothing. There’s some meaning in this anecdote about how the superrich — especially the newly superrich in China — are doing far better than the rest of us.
So what are some of the “shopping-based indicators” saying about Americans and the US Economy?
The results were mixed, but we did uncover some ominous signs. Lipstick sales used to go up when the economy went down, perhaps because women were searching for a cheap pick-me-up or an edge in a job interview. For reasons nobody quite understands, the lipstick indicator doesn’t hold up anymore, though nail polish sales now seem to reflect the economy very clearly (albeit inversely). A rise in nail polish sales indicates that we’re searching for bargain luxuries as the economy craters — and sales of nail polish are way up right now. Women’s underwear sales are down, which historically suggests intense frugality and more rough times ahead.
But we were encouraged by the number of optimistic indicators we uncovered. There is good news in cemetery plot sales. They seem to have peaked a couple years ago when desperate families were unloading unused holes in the ground (though cremation numbers are rising). Sales of cardboard boxes, because everything from electronics to clothing is packaged in them, should also be a strong indicator of economic rejuvenation. (Current production — enough to paper over the entire state of Maryland — portends recovery.) Sales of men’s underwear, one of Alan Greenspan’s favorite metrics for predicting growth, are also up. Sales of cheap spirits, which soared during the worst of the recession (people need an affordable way to self-medicate), have now stabilized, meaning, at the very least, that people can now afford better liquor.
Of all the indicators we looked at, one of the most consistently accurate was Champagne sales. The amount of French Champagne that Americans consume has predicted — with nearly 90 percent accuracy — the average American income one year later. Apparently, when we pop a Champagne cork, we know that good times are ahead (see chart). Champagne sales hurtled upward twice in recent history — at the peak of the Internet bubble in 1999 and during the heyday of the housing bubble in 2007. These were both followed by slowdowns as fewer people found reason to celebrate.
I realize that we have an amazing resident Doctor of Economics here on Sky Dancing, and Dakinikat always explains all things Economics so well…but I just thought these shopping indicators were kind of funny, because most of the folks (oops, sorry Pat) that live in my redneck of the woods still can’t afford the high price booze, or electronics in their cardboard boxes…and most of the men in Banjoville have holes galore in their underwear. (My dad says poor people have holes in their socks, and rich people have holes in their cheese…)
My point being that things are still bad, and with this payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits both parties are determined to do away with, it is going to get worse.
I wanted to end on an up note, so here are a few items about North Korea that should make you laugh.
Well, after seeing this obvious South Park inspired cartoon, it reminded me of a movie called Team America, that South Park creators made a few years ago.
If you did not see it, the entire movie is done with puppets…which are quite impressive.
Here are a couple of clips from the movie, staring Kim Jong Il, I hope you enjoy them.
Have a lovely evening!
This is a scene from the movie Team America, when Hans Blix from the UN comes to inspect Kim Jong Ils palace to see if he has weapons of mass destruction.
And here is Kim Jong Il singing…I’m so lonely!
Frankly, I’ll be very glad when this holiday season is over. It goes on way too long. This year I saw Christmas stuff at Halloween! At least I don’t get depressed at this time of year anymore, and I’m very happy for people who enjoy the celebration. I’ll probably have a nice time at Christmas dinner, but why do we need a two month build-up? Please forgive my grumbling…. I’ll get to the news, such as it is.
MSNBC’s First Read reports that Boehner and his merry men in the House “punted” on the payroll tax cut bill last night; supposedly they’ll vote on it today.
House Republican leaders emerged following a meeting with rank-and-file members to say that the House would take up their votes on Tuesday. Lawmakers had planned to vote around 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday evening, but the 6 p.m. meeting of GOP lawmakers lasted longer than expected, over two hours.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that the House Rules Committee, which sets the parameters for votes in the House, would meet tonight to set the stage for tomorrow’s series of votes. Those Tuesday votes would include a measure to reject the Senate’s two month extension, and instead instruct lawmakers to meet in a conference — the formal process of resolving differences with legislation in the Senate.
“Our members do not want to just punt and do a two-month, short-term fix where we have to come back and do this again,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters at the Capitol.
House Republicans prefer legislation to extend the expiring tax cut by a whole year, and produced legislation to that effect. But Democrats in the Senate rejected that proposal because of some of the cuts used to offset the cost of the bill, which also includes an extension of unemployment insurance.
Meanwhile, Jake Tapper is reporting that the two month extension passed by the Senate and backed by President Obama cannot be implemented in it’s current form.
Officials from the policy-neutral National Payroll Reporting Consortium, Inc. have expressed concern to members of Congress that the two-month payroll tax holiday passed by the Senate and supported by President Obama cannot be implemented properly.
Pete Isberg, president of the NPRC today wrote to the key leaders of the relevant committees of the House and Senate, telling them that “insufficient lead time” to implement the complicated change mandated by the legislation means the two-month payroll tax holiday “could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.”
ABC News obtained a copy of the letter, which can be read HERE. Isberg agreed that it would be fair to characterize his letter as saying that the two-month payroll tax holiday cannot be implemented properly.
Why on earth can’t those morons on Capital Hill just extend the unemployment insurance for Pete’s sake? The Congressional Republicans make Scrooge look like a piker when it comes to mean-spiritedness. Aren’t most of them supposed to be “Christians?” Good grief!
Please, can’t someone force Boehner and Cantor to visit some homeless shelters and perhaps some parks and street corners in Washington D.C., where no doubt some of the 1.6 million homeless children in the U.S. reside? One out of every 45 kids in this country were homeless last year! And these evil bastards are trying to make this horrendous situation worse!
A huge winter storm was pounding the Southwest and the lower Great Plains States last night.
Interstates and highways were shut down Monday night as a large winter weather system brought heavy snow, fierce winds and ice to at least five states in the West and Midwest.
There were blizzard conditions in parts of western Kansas and southeast Colorado, with visibility of less than a quarter-mile, said Ariel Cohen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
A blizzard warning was in effect for those areas along with northeastern New Mexico, the northwest Texas panhandle and the Oklahoma panhandle, he said. The severe weather was starting to affect Missouri late Monday, with a winter weather advisory in effect for the northwest corner of the state.
Roads were closed in Texas and New Mexico because of blizzard conditions. Wow, some of those people rarely see snow. If you live in the storm area, please stay inside and don’t drive!
The New York Times calls handling of Kim Jong Il’s death “an extensive intelligence failure.”
Kim Jong-il, the enigmatic North Korean leader, died on a train at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in his country. Forty-eight hours later, officials in South Korea still did not know anything about it — to say nothing of Washington, where the State Department acknowledged “press reporting” of Mr. Kim’s death well after North Korean state media had already announced it.
For South Korean and American intelligence services to have failed to pick up any clues to this momentous development — panicked phone calls between government officials, say, or soldiers massing around Mr. Kim’s train — attests to the secretive nature of North Korea, a country not only at odds with most of the world but also sealed off from it in a way that defies spies or satellites.
Asian and American intelligence services have failed before to pick up significant developments in North Korea. Pyongyang built a sprawling plant to enrich uranium that went undetected for about a year and a half until North Korean officials showed it off in late 2010 to an American nuclear scientist. The North also helped build a complete nuclear reactor in Syria without tipping off Western intelligence.
As the United States and its allies confront a perilous leadership transition in North Korea — a failed state with nuclear weapons — the closed nature of the country will greatly complicate their calculations. With little information about Mr. Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-un, and even less insight into the palace intrigue in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, much of their response will necessarily be guesswork.
Not good. Maybe the CIA and NSA should concentrate on actual intelligence gathering rather than bugging Americans phone calls and reading their e-mails and tweets and Facebook postings.
Did you notice that Jeb Bush had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday? With Gingrich tanking and Ron Paul rising in Iowa, are the Republicans getting ready to push another Bush for president? Charlie Pierce of Esquire thinks it looks that way:
He was supposed to be the savvy one, the presidential one, not that dolt of a brother who ducked his National Guard duty, ran several businesses into the dust of west Texas, got drunk and challenged the Auld Fella to a fistfight, and kept driving his car into the bushes. But the dolt got Daddy’s money and Daddy’s lawyers behind him and got installed as president, where he did his utmost to lodge the family brand somewhere between those enjoyed by Corvair and leprosy. Meanwhile, the golden child got to be governor of Florida for a while longer.
And now, in the widening gyre, slouching toward Manchester to be born, our moment of… Jeb (!)
Make no mistake. You don’t write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal at this point in the Republican primary process unless somebody, somewhere wants to make people think you’re an legitimate option. You certainly don’t write one as stuffed full of free-market banana-oil as this one unless somebody, somewhere wants to raise enough money to make the world think you’re a legitimate option. There was enough Jeb (!) buzz over the weekend that it’s becoming plain that some very important someone’s have looked over the current Republican field and decided that, by god, it’s just bad enough that there’s room in there to bring back the most discredited surname in American politics. The slogan writes itself:
“Jeb! This time, let’s try the smart one.”
I don’t know. I don’t think any of the Bushes are all that bright. They’re way too inbred. Maybe another Bush presidency is what the Mayans predicted as the world-ending event?
I’ll end with an upbeat story. Remember Jessica Lynch? She just graduated from college.
I don’t really like to talk about what it took to get here. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, or to think I don’t know how fortunate I am. Everyone else in my vehicle in Iraq was killed. My best friend, Lori Piestewa, died as a prisoner of war. I’m still here.
I’m also incredibly proud of this moment. I always dreamed of becoming a teacher, ever since my own kindergarten teacher took me under her wing when I was frightened on the first day of school. We are still in touch today. That’s the kind of teacher I want to be.
In the eight years since my captivity, I’ve had 21 surgeries. I have metal parts in my spine, a rod in my right arm, and metal in my left femur and fibula. My right foot is held together by screws, plates, rods, and pins. I have no feeling in my left leg from the knee down, and I wear a brace every day. Sometimes I’ll get a flash of pain, or feel upset because I can’t run, and then I’ll remind myself: I’m alive. I’m here. Take some ibuprofen.
Go read the whole thing. It’s not very long, and it’s a nice, inspirational story.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?