Monday Reads

barkus+2013-9701Good Morning and Happy Carnival Season and Super Bowl Madness!!

My city is hopping with all kinds of things for the next few weeks.  Yesterday, one of my favorite parade krewes rolled!  It’s the Krewe Of Barkus!!  Honey, Karma, and I used to do this all the time when we lived in the Quarter and they were alive. It’s a dog krewe and a fundraiser and adopt-a-krewe member event that raises funds for our NOSPCA.  It’s a great time.  Honey and Karma loved it because the parade attendees throw dog biscuits.  They used to think the streets of the French Quarter were lined with treats for weeks after the parade!!!  Kids and Dogs are just about the happiest I ever see them when this parade rolls!  Be sure too check out Channel 4′s photo gallery because it’s 100 photos of cuteness!!!

Meanwhile, the 49ers have landed and sportscasters from all over are begging we host the game every year.  I’m not sure we could handle that but it’s interesting for awhile.  We’ve been told to be nice to Roger Goodell despite the hooplah over the bounty fines and penalties.  Most Saints fans feel the team was unfairly singled out for punishment since it’s been a practice in other places too.  You can’t go very many places where fans go where there’s not a sign that says that a place won’t serve Goodell; and many of the krewes that have already had to roll due to the interruption have had floats that have also laid into him.

Political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin have spent many years arguing their individual philosophies (in summary: He’s on the left, and she’s not) even as they’ve enjoyed a surprisingly happy marriage for most of the last two decades. One thing that brings them together right now is their work with the Super Bowl host committee in New Orleans, which they co-chair. It’s an especially meaningful honor for Carville, who was born and bred in Louisiana, and is a rabid football fan.

Carville and most other Louisiana natives seem to firmly believe that having the Super Bowl back in New Orleans is a great measuring stick for the ways in which the city has not only moved on, but rebuilt and improved, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the landscape in 2005. Getting the game back here, and for the 10th time overall, was a big part of that.

“My hope is it can help bring some real closure here, and that the city can show what it can do,” Carville said in a recent host committee conference call. “But you just don’t know that feeling until you’re through with it. All of us on the committee are trying not to focus on that. We’re trying to focus on the mission at hand. Sometimes I wake up at night and say if this thing goes well this can really help people put a lot of things behind ‘em. Yes, that thought has crossed my mind. But I can’t allow myself to think like that. We’re a little bit like these teams. You can’t think what it’s like to win, you just gotta prepare. That’s been the attitude here.”

Paul Krugman says the Republicans have a new “welfare” queen” stereotype to flog.  This time it’s “disabled deadbeats”.  Once again, they can’t seem to do the math to figure out the aging of the baby boom generation is going to cause the numbers to go up in absolute, but not relative terms.

So yes, there has been some liberalization of the criteria — if you have multiple interacting conditions or mental illness, you may qualify in ways you didn’t before — but that liberalization is pretty reasonable. It’s still quite hard to qualify for DI.

What strikes me, however, isn’t just the way the right is trying to turn a reasonable development into some kind of outrage; it’s the political tone-deafness.

I mean, when Reagan ranted about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, he was inventing a fake problem — but his rant resonated with angry white voters, who understood perfectly well who Reagan was targeting. But Americans on disability as moochers? That isn’t, as far as I can tell, an especially nonwhite group — and it’s a group that is surely as likely to elicit sympathy as disdain. There’s just no way it can serve the kind of political purpose the old welfare-kicking rhetoric used to perform.

The same goes, more broadly, for the whole nation of takers thing. First of all, a lot of the “taking” involves Social Security and Medicare. And even the growth in means-tested programs is largely accounted for by the Earned Income Tax Credit — which requires and rewards work — and the expansion of Medicaid/CHIP to cover more children. Again, not the greatest of political targets.

The point, I think, is that right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval — but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are).

I made the mistake of watching bits and pieces of MTP yesterday where both Paul Ryan and Jim Demint –aided and abetted by Dancing Dave–tried to convince every one that we have a fiscal crisis.  That is so not true.  As we know here, it’s code for drown the Federal Government in Grover Norquist’s bathtub while starving granny and offing Big Bird.

The other drone war is in Washington. The drones are in groups with names like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Campaign to Fix the Debt. They drone on, and on, about the calamities that await unless we cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That the goal of the deficit drones is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has been plain for years to anyone who looks at where the money comes from. It comes largely from Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire former secretary of Commerce under Nixon, who is Captain Ahab to Social Security’s Moby Dick. And when one trick, such as privatization, falls flat, his minions always have another, whether it’s raising the retirement age or changing the COLA. But a cut by any other name is still, and always, just a cut.

Peterson’s influence is vast; practically the entire DC mind-meld has bought his line to some degree.

The other day I was on CNBC, supposedly to discuss the debt ceiling, but the topic was Social Security all the way. My host, Andrew Ross Sorkin, was very blunt: “If now isn’t the time to cut entitlements,” he asked, “when would be?” My answer – in a word, never – is not one he seemed to have thought possible before.

Yet there is no good reason to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. These are insurance programs. They keep the elderly, their survivors and dependents, and the disabled, out of dire poverty. We can afford this. There is also no financing problem; if there were, investors would not be buying 20-year US bonds at 3 percent. These days when some economists say that cuts are needed, they say it’s only for show – to establish “credibility.” Old-timers may remember, that’s what DC insiders once said about the war in Vietnam.

Jim DeMint’s performance on the MTP panel was so abysmal that the camera actually caught Andrea Mitchell shaking her head no in disgust at something he said and furrowing her brow.  The worst part was his response to how the Republican Party Race baits to get to the Dixiecrats.  When asked if the Republicans were going to quit campaigning to the lowest common denominator, Demint went off on abortion for a good 3 minutes.  He totally avoided the question which I suppose is part of their new messaging strategy.  Yes the answer to republican racism is a rant on aborted fetuses.

Pressing DeMint, Gregory asked if he regretted “some of the comments about abortion in this last cycle, about rape, about, again, what Colin Powell thought were veiled racist comments from the party?”

The former South Carolina senator ignored the reference to “racist comments,” instead responding with a rant about fetal personhood.

“The fact that we are losing over 3,000 unborn children a day is an important issue,” DeMint opined. “But Republicans or conservatives should not engage in a wish list about exceptions for abortion when the other side will not even agree that we have real people, real human beings. And we need to fight the battle where it should be fought. Life is important. We know from all the new technology and improved sonograms that we do have a baby.”

“Instead of just offering my opinion on some hypothetical debate about exceptions for abortions, we need to move it back and particularly work with the states that are fighting just for the personhood of the child. And if we can start there, I think America will move with us.”

“Little different than the question about rhetoric and how it reaches voters,” Gregory noted as he moved on to the next topic.

You can see the performance at Raw Story.   Talk about your “offensive and bizarre comments” after Demint went crazy-go-nuts after Dancing Dave played the Jindal  “Party of Stupid” lecture.  You can watch Andrea shake her head at about 1:48 as he take after Detroit and LA for being devastated as the result of Liberal agendas. The fetus rant is shortly after that.   It’s jaw dropping.  Also, Demint seems to think that Louisiana is a success story.  I just don’t even know what to say to that.

Economist and head of the IMF Christine LaGarde said women were diminished at Davos as women outdoors protested the treatment of women by taking off their shirts.

Thirty-nine years after the forum’s annual meetings began in Davos, Switzerland, female participation hasn’t topped 20 percent of delegates. And that’s for the entire conference: Excluding moderators, there were only men among the bankers and policy makers discussing “Global Financial Context,” for instance, and executives and lawmakers on the “Global Energy Context” were also all male.

“The debate is still dominated by males frustrated by the crisis created by male-oriented industries,” said Kim Sung Joo, a businesswoman who co-chaired the election campaign last year for South Korea’s first female president. “The forum is reflective of the industries that used to lead. It’s not broad enough.”

Kim, whose Sungjoo Group owns German fashion brand MCM, joins delegates who point to an array of mechanisms the forum, Activist from the women's rights organisation Femenlike the business and political world, could adopt to be more inclusive. The shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge, Internet-based economy is one element the forum is overlooking, and cheaper access might lure a wider spectrum of delegates including younger leaders, Kim said.

Davos reflects a global community in which women are still struggling to become leaders.

Women represent just 17 percent of independent directors at companies in the U.S. Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) stock index, barely above the 16 percent level of 2007, executive recruiter Spencer Stuart said in a November report. In the European Union, women with board positions climbed to 15.8 percent in October, according to European Commission figures.

The Feminist Protestors were from the Ukraine.  You can watch a video report from the UK Guardian at this link.

Topless protesters from the activist group Femen clashing with police at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Ukrainian protest group painted their chests with ‘SOS Davos’, calling attention to poverty of women around the world and what they perceive as sexism and male domination of the world economy

Well, I think that’s it for me today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?