There’s a little breaking news this morning. The Guardian reports: China scrambles fighter jets towards US and Japan planes in disputed air zone.
China scrambled fighter jets to investigate US and Japanese aircraft flying through its new air defence zone over the East China Sea on Friday as the regional clamour over the disputed airspace escalated.
The ministry of defence announced the move, which is the first time China is known to have sent military aircraft into the zone alongside foreign flights, stepping up its response to the challenge after its unilateral establishment of the zone. It previously said it had monitored US, Japanese and South Korean aircraft and had flown routine patrols in the area on Thursday.
The ministry’s statement said two US reconnaissance aircraft and 10 Japanese early warning, reconnaissance and fighter planes had entered the zone.
The airforce “monitored throughout the entire flights, made timely identification and ascertained the types”, defence ministry spokesman Shen Jinke told the official China News Service.
Meanwhile, according to The New York Times,
Even as China scrambled fighter jets to enforce its newly declared air defense zone, the Obama administration said on Friday that it was advising American commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands to be notified in advance of flights through the area.
While the United States continued to defy China by sending military planes into the zone unannounced, administration officials said they had made the decision to urge civilian planes to adhere to Beijing’s new rules in part because they worried about an unintended confrontation.
Although the officials made clear that the administration rejects China’s unilateral declaration of control of the airspace over a large area of the East China Sea, the guidance to the airlines could be interpreted in the region as a concession in the battle of wills with China.
“The U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with” notice requirements “issued by foreign countries,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that that “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements.”
Just what we need, a fight with China….
Meanwhile North Korea is still holding Merrill Newman an 85-year old American who fought in Korea as a young man and had arranged a trip to visit the places he remembered. From Reuters, via the Times of India:
SEOUL: North Korea said on Saturday it had arrested US citizen Merrill E Newman for “hostile acts” against the state and accused him of being “a criminal” who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Newman “masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
North Korea apparently forced the elderly man to make a confession and apologize on video.
In a separate dispatch, KCNA carried what it said was a statement of apology by Newman, made after being detained.
“During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as advisor of the Kuwol Unit of the U.N. Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command,” it said.
The unit appears to refer to one of the special operations units of partisan, or irregular, fighters acting against the North.
Newman, who had been visiting North Korea as a tourist, has been held in Pyongyang since officials took him off an Air Koryo plane that was scheduled to leave the country on October 26.
I really feel for Newman and his family. His wife must be frantic. The Daily Mail has photos and more details on the “apology.”
A video has been released by the North Korean government showing detained American veteran Merrill Newman, 85, admitting to being ‘guilty’ of crimes including killing innocent civilians when he was a soldier in the Korean War.
Newman, who has not been heard from since he was detained on October 26, is seen reading a four-page hand-scribbled letter on camera in an undisclosed location in the video released on Saturday.
The veteran from California looks uneasy in the video, and with shaking hands apologizes for what he supposedly did 60 years ago.
‘I realize that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me,’ he reads.
There’s much much more on the public humiliation of this poor man. I hope he wasn’t tortured. Watch the video at the link if you want. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I just kept thinking of my Dad who was a WWII veteran. I would really like to know what the U.S. is doing to get Newman out of North Korea. It could be time for another rescue trip by Bill Clinton.
CNN is out with a new poll that found lots of Americans are unhappy with the way things are going in the U.S. these days.
[A] CNN/ORC International survey released Friday also indicates that less than a quarter of the public says that economic conditions are improving, while nearly four in ten say the nation’s economy is getting worse.
Forty-one percent of those questioned in the poll say things are going well in the country today, down nine percentage points from April, and the lowest that number has been in CNN polling since February 2012. Fifty-nine percent say things are going badly, up nine points from April.
Well, that isn’t too surprising, since the economy has been just awful for the vast majority of Americans for a very long time now. Good to know that more than half of the people polled have noticed something is off.
Besides an obvious partisan divide, which contributes to a urban-rural gap, the survey also indicates a difference of opinion between younger and older Americans.
“There’s a slight generational divide, with 46% of those under age 50 saying things are going well. That number drops to 36% for those 50 and older,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
So either older people are paying closer attention, or they can remember the pre-Reagan days when there was less income inequality; while younger people can’t recall a time when the economy was doing well.
It’s likely some of the negativity Americans are feeling is a reaction to the media’s constant trashing of the Affordable Care Act AKA “Obamacare.” This morning Reuters is reporting the the federal health care website–which was supposed to be fixed by today–is still experiencing problems and has been temporarily shut down.
Just hours before the Obama administration’s self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the “vast majority” of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.
It was unclear whether the extended shutdown of the website – about seven hours longer than on typical day – represented a major setback to the Obama administration’s high-stakes scramble to fix the portal that it hopes eventually will enroll about 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website’s disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama’s administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied….
After weeks of round-the-clock upgrades of software and hardware, Obama officials said they were poised to successfully double its capacity by this weekend, to be able to handle 50,000 insurance shoppers at one time.
Paul Krugman defends the program based on a “dramatic” reduction in health-care costs that no one else in the media can be bothered to report.
Much of the Beltway establishment scoffed at the promise of cost savings. The prevalent attitude in Washington is that reform isn’t real unless the little people suffer; serious savings are supposed to come from things like raising the Medicare age (which the Congressional Budget Office recently concluded would, in fact, hardly save any money) and throwing millions of Americans off Medicaid. True, a 2011 letter signed by hundreds of health and labor economists pointed out that “the Affordable Care Act contains essentially every cost-containment provision policy analysts have considered effective in reducing the rate of medical spending.” But such expert views were largely ignored.
So, how’s it going? The health exchanges are off to a famously rocky start, but many, though by no means all, of the cost-control measures have already kicked in. Has the curve been bent?
The answer, amazingly, is yes. In fact, the slowdown in health costs has been dramatic….
Since 2010, when the act was passed, real health spending per capita — that is, total spending adjusted for overall inflation and population growth — has risen less than a third as rapidly as its long-term average. Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly.
Read the rest at the link.
Edward Snowden is still in the news, and there’s talk of making him “person of the year.” That would mean lots more money and attention for Glenn Greenwald. The latest link doesn’t seem that exciting to me–but what do I know? From The National Post: NSA tracked online sex activities of suspected terrorists, latest Edward Snowden leaked documents reveal.
LONDON — The American spy agency NSA tracked the online sexual habits of suspected terrorists in an attempt to expose them as hypocrites.
Details of the exercise emerged Wednesday in the latest leak of classified documents by the leaker Edward Snowden.
The spy agency identified six targets, all of whom were Muslim, as examples of how electronic surveillance could be used to gather potentially embarrassing information on individuals, such as evidence of visits to pornography sites.
One of the six “globally resonating foreign radicalizers” is believed to be a U.S. resident while the others live outside America. None of the targets, whose names have been redacted, is accused of being involved in terrorist plots.
I guess I should be all upset about this, but for some reason I’m a lot more freaked out by breadlines in NYC, the ongoing war against women, and the possibility of Republicans taking over the Senate and/or the White House.
A little more worrying is the possibility that the Greenwald/Snowden cult might decide to release the names of U.S. and U.K. intelligence agents. The Daily Telegraph: NSA terror over ‘doomsday’ cache of secrets stashed in online cloud by Edward Snowden
U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a ‘doomsday’ cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.
The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter said.
The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters….
One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden’s ‘insurance policy’ against arrest or physical harm.
U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public.
Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories.
Ironically, Snowden himself is living under the thumb of Russian security services, according to a recent story at al Jazeera.
After a dramatic arrival and a prolonged confinement at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the United States government on espionage charges, has quietly vanished into a life of seclusion.
Nobody seems to know exactly where one of the most wanted and famous men in the world lives, who protects him or how he spends his days — beyond learning Russian and reading Dostoyevsky. Such glimpses into his life have been offered to the public by his Russian lawyer and de facto spokesman, Anatoly Kucherena.
Kucherena is a on the board of the FSB, Russia’s powerful intelligence agency.
“We know at this point that he’s not free,” said Yuri Felshtinsky, a Russian scholar who has written extensively about the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Felshtinsky, who believes the FSB controls Snowden, called the American exile a “Christmas gift” for President Vladimir Putin’s “public relations war” with the United States….
“He’s always going to be monitored and watched,” said Peter Savodnik, a journalist and author of a recently published book about another famous American defector who grew tired of his Soviet exile: Lee Harvey Oswald. “If he doesn’t already want to leave, he’s going to want to leave very soon.”
Good luck with that.
Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following? Even if you’re just lazing around enjoying the final hours of the long weekend, please leave a comment or two and let us know what’s happening where you are.
Reverend James David Manning of the Atlah World Missionary Church claimed this week that Miriam Carey, who was shot and killed by authorities after crashing her car into the U.S. Capitol building last month, had been assassinated by President Barack Obama because she had given birth to his illegitimate daughter.
The theory, which appears to have originated with a Russian website, alleges that before a May 2011 graduation address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Obama stopped at the dentist office where Carey worked as an assistant, because a piece of pistachio shell had become lodged in his back moral.
While there, according to the theory, Obama struck up a friendship with Carey, who became pregnant shortly afterward. The website claimed that Carey refused Obama’s request to have an abortion, at which point Obama “lured” her to Washington and had her killed. (Even more bizarrely, the site goes to claim that Obama was out trolling for extramarital action because Michelle Obama was actually born a man.)
Manning accused the “entire world media” of refusing to investigate the incident, and chastised Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, women’s rights groups, academia, and the courts for “refusing to come to the aid of this slaughtered woman, which means that they are protecting something that they feel far more important, which is Barack Hussein Obama. Case closed.”
And then you have this little spat: This Man Is Hilariously Live-Tweeting His Flight-and-Feud With The Woman in #7A (with images, tweets) · EliLanger · Storify
Which was a funny thing because we all have come face to face with assholes like that woman in #7A.
On with the rest of the cartoons.
Too bad that pope doesn’t pave a way forward for women in his papal statements…
This is an open thread.
So, it’s Black Friday and I am thankfully not part of any of the national crass consumerism season so I am home catching up with stuff. I thought I’d try to find some eclectic things to read about today.
A friends sent me this link to the National Geographic Magazine that helped sponsor and document a dig in Nepal. Was the Buddha actually born much earlier than thought? Archeologists have uncovered a shrine-within-the shrine at the Buddha’s supposed birth place.
The excavations showed that older wooden structures lay beneath the walls of the later brick Buddhist shrine. The layout of that more recent shrine duplicates the layout of the earlier wooden structures, pointing to a continuity of Buddhist worship at the site, Coningham says.
“The big debate has been about when the Buddha lived and now we have a shrine structure pointing to the sixth century B.C.,” Coningham says. The team used two kinds of scientific dating to find the age of the early shrine.
Outside scholars applauded the discovery but cautioned against too hastily accepting the site as the oldest discovered Buddhist shrine without more analysis.
“Archaeologists love claiming that they have found the earliest or the oldest of something,” says archaeologist Ruth Young of the United Kingdom’s University of Leicester in an email message.
They’re not certain if it is an older Buddhist shrine or a shrine of an earlier belief system that then became a Buddhist shrine. Either way, it’s fascinating.
Salinger scholar Kenneth Slawenski, author of J.D. Salinger: A Life confirms that these are truly Salinger’s unpublished stories, having read the previously guarded manuscripts. In an email to BuzzFeed, he wrote “While I do quibble with the ethics (or lack of ethics) in posting the Salinger stories, they look to be true transcripts of the originals and match my own copies.”
On Reddit, the original uploader claims that the source is this eBay auction, which appears to be a book published illegally — the title page reads oxymoronically, “the three stories in this book remain unpublished.” PJ Vogt, who is fairly sure that “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” is the same story he read at Princeton, confirms that the images on the leak don’t appear to be that same manuscript. “My memory is that Princeton’s copy looked like a submission — typed out pages, maybe even double-spaced. These seem too laid out to be from that collection.”
In an article published on Monday, The Times’s Patrick McGeehan describeda line snaking down Fulton Street in Brooklyn last week, with people waiting to enter a food pantry run by the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. The line was not an anomaly. Demand at all of New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens has spiked since federal food stamps were cut on Nov. 1. The cut — which affects nearly all of the nation’s 48 million food stamp recipients — amounts to a loss of $29 a month for a New York City family of three. On the shoestring meal budgets of food stamp recipients, that’s enough for some 20 individual meals, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
The food stamp cuts are occurring even though need is still high and opportunity low. In a report released today, the Coalition estimates that one-sixth of the city’s residents and one-fifth of its children live in homes without enough to eat. Those numbers have not improved over the past three years. The lack of economic recovery for low income New Yorkers is at odds with gains at the top of the income ladder, reflected in soaring real estate prices, rising stock prices and big Wall Street bonuses.
And there are more food-stamp cuts to come. House Republicans have proposed to cut the program by $40 billion over 10 years in the pending farm bill; the Senate has proposed a $4 billion reduction. With Congress framing its task not as whether to cut the program, but how much, is there any doubt that food lines will soon be getting longer — and children hungrier?
A small, battered book sold for over $14 million last week. It is a small bit of American History.
It is yellowed, battered and unassuming; but on November 26th the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in what would become the United States, sold at a Sotheby’s auction for a record $14.2m. The book was published in 1640, using a press shipped from England. It was clearly well used and (from its marginal marks) well studied. Ten other copies survive; this was the first to appear at auction since 1947. The seller was the Old South Church in Boston, which also owns another copy.
I’m worried about the outcome of the Hobby Lobby Lawsuit that’s all dressed up in first amendment rights for corporations. It just doesn’t pass the smell taste to me on any level. Here’s an interesting op-ed read with that in mind.
The religiously committed owners of the companies whose cases the court will decide – Hobby Lobby employs 13,000 people in its 500-store chain – say they object not to all birth control but only to the methods they believe act after fertilization to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and continuing to develop. This belief is incorrect, as a brief filed by a coalition of leading medical authorities demonstrates; although there was once some confusion on this point, the disputed hormonal methods are now understood to prevent fertilization from occurring in the first place. European medical authoritiesrecently reached the same conclusion and have changed the label on an emergency contraception pill to say it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.”
There is something deeper going on in these cases than a dispute over the line that separates a contraceptive from an “abortifacient.” What drives the anger about this regulation is that, as the opponents see it, the government is putting its thumb on the scale in favor of birth control, of sex without consequences. In a revealing article published earlier this year in the Villanova Law Review, Helen Alvaré, a law professor and longtime adviser to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, describes the contraception mandate as the culmination of what she calls the “contraceptive project.”
Professor Alvaré writes: “The churches opposing the mandate hold, and teach women and men to maintain, an understanding of the sacredness of sexual intercourse, and its intrinsic connection with the procreating of new, vulnerable human life.” The government policy of covering contraception, she says, would have the effect in law of characterizing these teachings “as violations of women’s freedom and equality.”
As Professor Alvaré surely knows, nearly all Catholic women use birth control at some time during their reproductive lives and they have abortions at the same rate as other American women. And her article acknowledges a recent and widely reported study that found that the abortion rate dropped by as much as two-thirds among women in St. Louis, most of them poor, who volunteered for a two-year project in which they received free birth control; the women were able to choose the highly reliable long-lasting contraceptives that are priced out of reach for many women who will now be able to receive them under the Affordable Care Act.
To the extent that the “contraceptive project” changes anything on the American reproductive landscape, it will be to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion. The objection, then, has to be not to the mandate’s actual impact but to its expressive nature, its implicit endorsement of a value system that says it’s perfectly O.K. to have sex without the goal of making a baby.
Well, that’s a few reads to get your the long weekend going! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I hope everyone will have a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you are and whomever you’re with. Enjoy being with family and friends; but whatever you do, I’m sure you know not to bring up politics. It never ends well. If you happen to take a minute today to stop by Sky Dancing blog, please leave a comment or two–and it’s always okay to discuss politics here.
Let’s see if I can find a little news out there . . . .
A couple of pundits have offered advice for those who just can’t resist talking about politics at the holiday dinner table. First up, my second least favorite libertarian writer of all time (after Glenn Greenwald), Conor Friedersdorf offers “ten unsatisfying rules for disagreeing with friends and family over the holidays,” based on a post by Kevin Drum:
But if you must talk politics, how should it be done? A lefty writer I follow is giving the subject some thought. “Every year there’s a spate of blog/magazine pieces about how to discuss the political hot potato du jour with your crazy right-wing relatives at Thanksgiving,” Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones. “And every year they’re fake. Mostly they provide stock liberal responses to imaginary conservative talking points.” (For conservatives, the worry is how to talk with left-wing relatives.)
Really? So glad you explained that, Conor. Anyway, here are his rules:
1. Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong. Seriously.
2. Approach the conversation with the purpose of better understanding one another’s views, not proving to your relative that you are right and they are wrong.
3. Before you focus on any point of disagreement, ask questions of your interlocutor to figure out why they think the way they do about the subject at hand.
4. Emphasize points of agreement, if there are any.
5. Give them room to agree with your arguments without having to concede that their arguments are stupid, or feeling as if they’ve lost the exchange and you’ve won.
6. Rather than harping on a particular flaw in their preferred policy, ask questions that force them to confront it. “I agree, killing all the sharks would make it safer for surfers. But what about the creatures that sharks eat? How would you make sure their populations don’t explode? Seriously, how would you handle that?”
7. Don’t bother trying to score debating points, especially when you both know that’s all they are.
8. Remember that they know stuff that you don’t, just as you know stuff that they don’t.
9. Remember that lots of intelligent, good-hearted people share their position, and lots of dense jerks share your position, because that’s true of almost every position.
10. Listen more than you talk.
While reading that, I had a flashback to the time when my Mom and Dad and I had a screaming argument with two of my uncles over the war in Vietnam (my husband was serving over there at the time) and one of my aunts tried unsuccessfully to get everyone to calm down. And then there was the time I when to my in-laws’ for Thanksgiving and my husband’s (second husband) grandparents sat in front of the TV discussing how there were so many “coloreds” playing football these days….
Here’s some advice from John Fugelsang: Tell conservative relatives Thanksgiving ‘invented socialism for undocumented immigrants’‘
Comedian John Fugelsang had some advice for progressives dealing with conservative relatives at the Thanksgiving table this year, telling MSNBC host Ed Schultz that it takes a hearty helping of facts to minimize political squabbles.
“I think you might just want to blow their minds, Ed, and say that back at the first Thanksgiving, when the Wampanoag fed the Pilgrims, they didn’t know it, but they had just invented socialism for undocumented immigrants,” Fugelsang said. “Then they’ll spend the rest of the night trying to process that.”
While admitting that keeping the peace can be difficult in a family setting (“You’ve got your Obamacare-hating uncle, you’ve got your NRA uncle, you’ve got your gay for Reagan uncle, you’ve got your uncle who uses ‘Benghazi’ as a verb”), Fugelsang said one way to defuse arguments over the Affordable Care Act is to advocate for a single-payer alternative, while reminding the family that President Barack Obama implemented a plan originally used by a Republican governor in Mitt Romney and upheld by a conservative-heavy Supreme Court.
“When you get to Obamacare, the main thing to remember when that particular uncle or brother-in-law tries to goad you into some kind of fight, the only way you win is if you leave Thanksgiving and everyone loves each other,” Fugelsang told Schultz. “You’ve gotta be the liberal, you’ve gotta be the good guy, you’ve gotta be the peacemaker, you’ve gotta go full-on Jimmy Carter.”
Or you could be a scrooge like me and have a nice, peaceful, solitary day at home reading any old book you choose or even watching old horror DVDs and eating something other than turkey and stuffing.
Humorist and food writer Calvin Trillin for years campaigned to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving dish. I found his recommendations on-line “shamelessly excerpted” from his book Third Helpings.
I have been campaigning to have the national Thanksgiving dish changed from turkey to spaghetti carbonara.
It does not take much historical research to uncover the fact that nobody knows if the Pilgrims really ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving dinner. The only thing we know for sure about what the Pilgrims ate is that it couldn’t have tasted very good. Even today, well brought-up English girls are taught by their mothers to boil all veggies for at least a month and a half, just in case one of the dinner guests turns up without his teeth… (It is certainly unfair to say that the English lack both a cuisine and a sense of humor: their cooking is a joke in itself.) Find out what is missing in your kitchen and you are going to love your food after you finish reading.
It would also not require much digging to discover that Christopher Columbus, the man who may have brought linguine with clam sauce to this continent, was from Genoa, and obviously would have sooner acknowledged that the world was shaped like an isosceles triangle than to have eaten the sort of things that the English Puritans ate. Righting an ancient wrong against Columbus, a great man who certainly did not come all this way only to have a city in Ohio named after him, would be a serious historical contribution. Also, I happen to love spaghetti carbonara.
Read the rest at the link. Or if you eat Kosher, try this: A Thanksgiving Pasta Inspired by Roman Jews: Calvin Trillin’s Thanksgiving Spaghetti alla Carbonara gets a kosher makeover.
It’s been 32 years since Calvin Trillin’s famous proposal, in the New Yorker, that Spaghetti alla Carbonara replace turkey as our national Thanksgiving dish. After all, Trillin argued, the Indians could have brought it to that first Thanksgiving dinner (their ancestors having learned how to make it from Christopher Columbus).
In the intervening years, the Carbonaristas have not abandoned the cause. Last Thanksgiving, the New York Timespublished Ian Fisher’s account of attempting to master this seemingly simple Roman dish, which, at its most basic—and therefore, its best—involves a sauce of eggs enhanced with some form of bacon (usually guanciale or pancetta), and, on top of that, Pecorino Romano cheese.
Which means it’s off-limits even to the most devout Trillin followers if they also follow Jewish dietary laws. So definitely not kosher for Thanksgiving, especially this year, when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah align for an Age of Aquarius moment of unprecedented commercial and culinary creativity.
In the spirit of Thanksgivukkuh, therefore, I propose Spaghetti alla Carbonara alla Giudea (Jewish-style), an actual dish now offered in some of the kosher and ‘kosher-style’ restaurants that have popped up in Rome’s Jewish ghetto neighborhood in recent years—the first new development in ages in the long and fruitful culinary relationship between Roman Jews and their neighbors.
More at the link.
I’ll leave you with a few news links in case you want a break from eating, arguing with relatives and watching football:
Think Progress: Five People Obama Could Pardon In Addition To The Turkey
Christian Science Monitor: New ‘little tiger cat’ species found in Brazil
Cleveland.com: Why covering Black Friday isn’t as much fun as it used to be
Calvin Trillin at The New Yorker: MOZZARELLA STORY
Take care everyone, and have a terrific holiday!!
There is just waaaaaaay too much going on in my life right now, and it is too sadly complicated to get into it for personal reasons. Why does it always seem like a constant stream of shit is there ready to hit the fan?
This will be another link dump, and if any of the news reads are repeats, oops.
I have a motherload of hateful misogynistic anti-woman links for you:
When Bode Miller, the Olympic ski star known for daring Alpine racing, met Sara A. McKenna in San Diego last year through the high-end matchmaker Kelleher International, they were both professing interest in finding a marriage partner, she recalls.
The relationship did not last long — but she did become pregnant. And now the skier, 36, and Ms. McKenna, 27, a former Marine and firefighter who is attending Columbia University with G.I. Bill support, are locked in a cross-country custody fight that has become not only tabloid fodder but also a closely watched legal battle over the rights of pregnant women to travel and make life choices.
Or as Ana at Shakesville blog puts it: Absconding With One’s Fetus
A U.S. court actually ruled that a woman who left California, while pregnant, to attend an Ivy League college, after having been exhorted by her ex-boyfriend to abort the pregnancy, absconded with her own fetus…
I don’t really know what to say to this, except that this doesn’t occur in a vacuum divorced from the context of, to name two examples, pressure to keep birth control from women (including hormonal birth control on insurance plans and Plan B emergency birth control in hospitals and granting pharmacists the ‘right’ to not dispense birth control unless they really want to) and movement to restrict the abortion rights of women.
If you can deny women the ability to prevent and/or end pregnancies, and if you can rule that pregnant women aren’t allowed to move because it’s abduction of, ooops, appropriation of a man’s fetus, then you can reduce cis fertile women (which are not all women, but are still a shitload of people) to a socially immobile worker class — unable to move out of abusive relationships, unable to move to a better support network, unable to move to a better education or a different job. Corporate dystopia and religious dystopia meet, as always, over the control of women’s bodies.
And if that shit wasn’t bad enough…here is a woman who could lose custody of her kids over an abortion | New York Post
She had an abortion. So what?
That first-trimester abortion, which last time I checked was legal in this country, could make a judge strip Lisa’s custody of the two precious babies she obsessed, agonized and fussed over from the day they were born.
Lisa and husband Manuel John Mehos, founder and CEO of Houston’s Green Bank, split in 2011, ending five years of wedded misery. Now Manuel is waging a scorched-earth campaign for custody of the couple’s daughter, Macy, 6, and son, John, 4 — a bizarre battle in which Lisa’s fitness as a mother is being judged by standards one might see in Texas. Or the Middle East.
“I’m divorced. I’m not Mother Teresa!’’ a teary Lisa told me. “I feel like I’ve been beaten up and raped.’’
Lisa, who lost temporary custody of the kids in August, is now bracing for the possibility that she’ll lose them permanently.
Backstory here: The abortion that could cost a mom her family – Salon.com
While Lisa’s abortion is relevant, according to Judge Sattler, Manuel’s sexual behavior is apparently not. A forensic psychologist testified that Manuel had confessed to visiting massage parlors, where he paid for sex. Lisa sees a double standard: “The court jumped at the chance to use the stigma of abortion to openly scorn, interrogate, and question my ability to be a worthy parent,” she told me.
Court transcripts reveal that Alter has argued — and Judge Sattler has agreed — that the abortion speaks to Lisa Mehos’ credibility. First, Alter says Lisa was dishonest because she claimed to be Catholic but had an abortion. Lisa had requested that her children spend Easter with her family, who observe the holiday, instead of with her husband — who, as an atheist, does not. “I never criticized him for being an atheist,” Lisa said. “I simply said, since you don’t celebrate religious holidays, could the children spend Easter with my parents because we do celebrate religious holidays.” The prosecution suggests that the fact that Lisa had an abortion as a Catholic calls her credibility into question. But 27 percent of the women who receive abortions in the U.S. are Catholic. Are they also untrustworthy?
Full look at the legal side of the case here: New York Court Forces Woman To Testify About an Abortion « Above the Law
Why would Lisa’s abortion reflect on her fitness to raise her children?
Given that this is happening in New York rather than Mississippi, the argument is not the backward claim that she can’t possibly love her kids if she had an abortion. Rather, the argument is that she demanded custody of the kids over a weekend when she knew she was going to dump them off with a sitter so she could undergo a medical procedure.
Still, injecting the emotionally charged issue of abortion into the matter fits into an overall strategy of demeaning and vilifying a woman’s sexuality under a double standard that brushes past the transgressions of the father…
And then there is this:
A divorced parent neglecting kids on the weekend he or she has them is a fair issue in a custody hearing. However, the children were left with their grandmother during Lisa’s procedure, and honestly visiting with grandma is not neglect. Which brings us to the real issue here. Eleanor Alter of Kasowitz Benson — who represented Mia Farrow against Woody Allen — is super smart, and knows how to get the best for her client. In this case that involves playing to reptilian impulses (or being “aggressive and innovative,” in Kasowitz-speak).
Alter said she should also be allowed to question Lisa Mehos about the procedure because “this is a woman who complains that she’s under great stress only caused by Mr. Mehos. I would be the first person to acknowledge that having an abortion, especially a two- to three-month late abortion, would be stressful.”
She said she also wanted to know whether the kids “were exposed to this man, how it all came about.”
“If this man was coming in the house, if she’s out of the house to see him, if it was date rape, that’s relevant,” Alter said.
So there’s a couple things to unpack there. First, check out the hysterical woman who’s troubled by all her lady business! See, it’s not the man who might have punched her a few months ago, it’s the ovaries.
Second, the abortion is just the setup for a thorough-going “slut shaming.” Could a divorced woman have a… boyfriend?!? Oh no! Alter adds the possibility of date rape because, I guess it’s supposed to be generous to imply that rather than have a consensual sex life, maybe Lisa was taken advantage of? Maybe?
The judge sided with Alter, noting that Lisa Mehos had previously testified she had never had any men over to her New York apartment. “I do find it to be relevant. The children were in her care at the time,” Sattler said.
Lisa Mehos, 38, then testified that she became pregnant after a one-time fling with a longtime friend at his place.
If she’d already testified that she never had men over at her house, why the hell would the fact that she got pregnant suggest in any way that her prior testimony was unreliable? Can women only get pregnant at home now? If they’re in another bed, does the body have ways of shutting that whole thing down? “I watched last year’s Super Bowl” does not cast doubt on the testimony “I don’t have a TV in my house.” Unless you add in all kinds of aspersions about female sexuality that permeate society infecting men and women.
And about that double-standard?
Lisa Mehos wasn’t the only one to be embarrassed in court — she testified that her ex-husband, who heads a bank in Texas, had tearfully confessed to her that he had cheated on her dozens of times with prostitutes.
I get that the Daily News is reporting on the controversy surrounding the forced testimony about an abortion rather than the trial as a whole, but it sure seems odd that a hooker habit doesn’t raise the same ferocity of “OH MY GOD HE’S AN UNFIT PARENT” as having one fling with a friend.
In other news, and another link to Shakesville: This Is Racism
This is Vanessa VanDyke, an Orlando teenager who has been threatened with expulsion from Faith Christian Academy, the private school which she has been attending since the third grade, because administrators say that her natural hair is a “distraction,” and the student handbook forbids hairstyles that cause disruption in the classroom.
What disruption there has been is that her classmates are teasing her about her hair. So, of course administrators have asked Vanessa to change her hair, rather than admonish her classmates to stop being assholes.
Presumably, this school includes among its staff some teachers and administrators who were alive during the ’80s, when white girls were teasing their hair at least that big. (And somehow, despite virtually every female classmate’s picture in my yearbooks looking a helluva lot like that picture of Vanessa above, we all managed to get an education.) But of course it has nothing to do with race. Ahem.
This is racism.
It’s also body policing of a young woman.
And choice policing of a young woman.
The next link deals with George Zimmerman: ORLANDO, Fla.: Deputies find five guns in George Zimmerman’s home, search warrant reveals | MCT National News | McClatchy DC
Is it me, or does the dragon demon in this illustration look like George Zimmerman….
With those beady eyes kind of sucked into the middle of his face?
From Susie Madrak: Pope to rich: Share the wealth |
Boy, I like this pope. More than ever, I can see that we’re going to have to pray for his safety
On to a few links with legal connections:
It still isn’t entirely clear what investigators are looking for in Wisconsin’s latest John Doe investigation, however, judging by the names lining up to oppose the investigation, it must be something bad.
The identities of the three people seeking to stop the John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and more than two dozen conservative political groups remain a secret.
But the names of their seven attorneys are public, and it’s an impressive list. It includes a former U.S. attorney in Missouri, one of Madison’s top criminal defense lawyers and the former head of the federal task force investigating financial fraud by the nation’s major banks.
Five petitions were filed last week seeking to halt the secret investigation launched in February 2012 in Milwaukee County that has spread to Dane, Iowa, Dodge and Columbia counties. The petitions were filed in the 4th District Court of Appeals against Reserve Judge Gregory Peterson, who is overseeing the probe.
Over on the other side of the world: Karzai details conditions for signing US security pact | Al Jazeera America
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security deal with the United States, the White House said, raising the prospect of a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the war-ravaged nation next year.
Karzai told U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice in Kabul on Monday that the United States must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and release all remaining Afghan Guantanamo detainees before he would sign a bilateral security pact, his spokesman said.
On Sunday the Loya Jirga, an assembly of Afghan elders, endorsed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) under those conditions, and Karzai suggested postponing the signing until after national elections — in which he will not be running — next year.
The impasse strengthens doubts about whether any U.S. and NATO troops will remain after the end of next year in Afghanistan, which faces an insurgency by the Taliban and is still training its military, and whether they would be immune from prosecution.
This next link does something cute with the icons of fashion, for a worthy cause: UNICEF Designer Dolls | Styleite
Forty-two fashion designers have been tapped to participate in UNICEF’s designer dolls Les Frimousses initiative, which means it’s again socially acceptable for adults to swoon over dolls the way they did in the springtime of life. The bad news is you won’t be able to procure them with tooth fairy money. Last year, the reserve price for each doll was $647 at current exchange. But since you’re not the selfish brat you once were, you’ll splurge because UNICEF will distribute the funds raised to help vaccinate children in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Get a preview of the pint-sized fashion plates, from the like of Chanel, Dior, and more, below:
If you want to see pictures of all the dolls, look here: Toutes les poupées
I think one of my favorites is this one:
Gilles Dufour – Lot n°58
NINI PEAU DE CHIEN
“Poupée Rock en Roll”
Née à Paris le 1er Août 2013
Finally another look at creative caricatures. This time, cartoon characters…These Iconic Character Voices Have Shocking Pasts That Will Ruin Your Childhood
Alright, I don’t know about “ruining” your childhood, but when I read where SpongeBob’s voice originated from, my fondness for that little square yellow happy dude suddenly made sense.
3. SpongeBob SquarePants was inspired by a misanthropic elf.
SpongeBob would probably sound a lot different if the character’s voice actor had never run into a bitter, foul-mouthed little person.
While auditioning for a TV commercial many years ago, Tom Kenny came across a group of little people in elf costumes who were trying out for a Christmas-themed ad. The sad fact of the matter is that not every vertically-challenged person can play Tyrion Lannister, so many shorter actors find themselves typecast as Santa’s elves and the like, which must do wonders for their outlook on the world. It certainly did with the elf Kenny ran into, who by the sound of it was one of the most profane people he ever met, loudly complaining about his lot in life and using the words “fuck” and “shit” like most people use commas.
He then went on to play a supporting role in “Bad Santa.”
The combination of the heavy swearing and the actor’s high-pitched, fast talking voice left a pretty big impression on Kenny. So much so that when he auditioned for the role of SpongeBob some time later, he remembered and imitated the voice of the swearing little man in a bright green elf costume, which instantly landed him the part. A part, mind you, that is defined by its wide-eyed innocence and yet traces its heritage to, as Kenny described him, a pissed off, vulgar “munchkin.”
Geez…not only was a midget the inspiration for the voice of SpongeBob…it was a foul mouth midget to boot!
Have a fucking awesome Wednesday y’all…and enjoy this day before Thanksgiving.
It has been evident for quite some time that news organizations were more about access to right wing politicians and audiences than the truth. CNN has descended into People Magazine territory to compete with FOX. The Home of Walter Cronkite and 60 minutes, well, it’s been bad. Don’t even get me started on Meet the Press that is now aptly called Dancin’ Dave’s Disco. It appears CBS decided Lara Logan went a bridge to0 far down the right wing memes and lies highway.
Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of ‘”60 Minutes,” informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine’s discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.
“As Executive Producer, I am responsible for what gets on the air,” Fager wrote in a memo obtained by The Huffington Post. “I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn’t have.”
On the Oct. 27 broadcast, Logan interviewed Dylan Davies, a security officer who claimed that he witnessed the terrorist attack on the Benghazi compound that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012. Davies, who had trained Libyan security guards for the State Department, claimed he scaled a 12-foot wall that night, knocked out a terrorist with his rifle and later saw Stevens dead in the hospital.
But four days later, The Washington Post reported that Davies had told his employer shortly after the attack that he never reached the compound that night, an account that conflicted with the one he had given to “60 Minutes,” as well as included in a memoir. The memoir was published by a conservative imprint that is a subsidiary of CBS, a financial relationship that was not disclosed at the time of the broadcast.
“60 Minutes” dodged questions for several days about the conflicting accounts.
Media outlet after media outlet discredited the report while CBS stood by the story. It finally eeked out a well, it seems it coulda been a little more accurate sorta kinda apology.
Now, well, read the headline.
The rest of the pundit herds are circling the near dead Logan assuming she will head to FOX where she can lie with impunity.
It took a while, but CBS has concluded an internal investigation of the 60 Minutes Benghazi! story, and reporter Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan are taking a “leave of absence” that has been strongly recommended by their boss, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager.
Most of the reaction to this development has focused on the question of what CBS has learned from this deeply embarrassing incident. But I wonder about Lara Logan. Will she take her medicine and climb back up the slippery pole of on-camera talent she seemed to be ascending quite rapidly before she decided to begin a new Benghazi! furor? Or will she make a strategic retreat into celebrity reporting or science reporting or sports reporting?
The short-cut for her, of course, will be to assume the mantle of Conservative Media Martyr and land a gig with Fox, where there will be no “internal investigations” of reporters who bend the rules in pursuit of Big Stories likeBenghazi!. If she resists that temptation, then perhaps there is hope for her as a legitimate journalist who admits when she’s wrong and rededicates herself to journalism.
Wondering if Logan and McClellan are being paid while they’re away.
Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of ‘”60 Minutes,” informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine’s discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.
Fager’s memo and findings of an internal review [are at the link.]
Always thought Rather was set up to take that fall. CBS caved to wingnut’s invented outrage. Certainly Rather’s investigation was not so thoroughly disgraced at this Benghazi hoax, or should we call it a paean to wingnut conspiracy blather. Yet he was fired and he was blackballed from appearing on air during their JFK anniversary coverage just days ago. At the very least Dan Rather is owed a huge apology.
CBS is now saying it should’ve never aired the piece.
On Tuesday, CBS News completed an internal review of the process that led to 60 Minutes’discredited Benghazi story, for which the show has apologized and which has now caused correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan to take leaves of absence. An hour later, Brian Stelter, in his inaugural appearance as CNN’s media reporter, said that the review showed 60 Minutes never should have broadcast the story, and “shouldn’t have dug in their heels” once it was criticized.
“What the standards report suggests is that this shouldn’t have gotten on the air in the first place,” Stelter said. “This report shouldn’t have been broadcast at all.”
“Once it was broadcast,” he continued, “CBS did exactly the wrong thing: they got up against the wall, they got defensive, they got in this defensive crouch. Often times see sports teams or companies or nonprofits make these mistakes, where they try to defend themselves rather than figure out what went wrong. Well, finally they did figure it out. They did this long report to try to figure out what was right and what was wrong about the story. They found that parts of the story were true and parts of the story belonged on television. But that main source you mentioned, he was discredited. And as a result, it shouldn’t have been broadcast at all.”
About friggin time. And apologize to Dan Rather while you are at it boyz!!!
The usual bunch of warmongers and profiteers have not failed to disappoint on the Iran Nuclear Deal. It’s just amazing to me that so many folks seem so ready to kill our young people unnecessarily. But, it is what it is. Pat Johnson called Israeli PM Bibi Cheney yesterday. I am inclined to agree.
To explain Benjamin Netanyahu’s frenzied reaction to the Geneva agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, let me begin with the stack of brown cardboard boxes under my wife’s desk.
Each of the five cartons contains a gas mask and related paraphernalia for a member of my family to use in the event of a chemical-weapons attack. They were delivered last January, as part of the gradual government effort to prepare every household in Israel for a rain of Syrian missiles. I suppose that having “defense kits” in the house could be macabre, but what we usually notice is that they’re a nuisance: another thing on which to bang your toe in an overstuffed city flat.
What’s more, they’re apparently an obsolete nuisance. A couple of weeks ago, the usual nameless military sources told the local media that the Defense Ministry would recommend ending production of gas masks for civilians. According to the leaks, intelligence assessments said that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was successfully reducing Syria’s poison-gas arsenal. In other words, the U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons is working, and one result is a significant improvement in Israeli security.
To put it mildly, this isn’t what Prime Minister Netanyahu expected in September when President Barack Obama opted for a diplomatic solution rather than a punitive attack on the Assad regime for using chemical arms. Back then, Netanyahu barely concealed his view that American weakness was both a catastrophe and a betrayal that would encourage Iran to develop nuclear arms. At a military ceremony, he proclaimed that Israel could depend only on itself. “If I am not for myself, who is for me?” Netanyahu said, quoting the first half of an ancient Jewish maxim, without the second part, which says that someone who is only for himself is nothing. “We are for ourselves!” he declared. A nameless senior official, making the prime minister’s warning more explicit, said that “a diplomatic failure in Syria without [an American] military response” might force Israel to attack Iran. The failure of diplomacy was virtually a given; the only question was what would come after.
The Syria agreement was the warm-up act for the interim accord with Iran. This time the hostile Middle Eastern state is a greater regional power, and the weapon of mass destruction to be tamed is nuclear rather than chemical. Pressure was exerted through American-led economic sanctions, rather than deployment of American forces for a military offensive. No one can yet be sure that the interim deal will lead to a full agreement to keep Iran from getting a bomb. But theimmediate steps promise an improvement in Israeli security. Among other measures, Iran has obligated itself to a complete halt in developing the Arak reactor, which potentially could produce plutonium, and has agreed to tight inspections to insure that it is keeping the deal.
That of course, is the lead up to GERSHOM GORENBERG‘s diagnosis and explanation of “Bibi’s Agreement Anxiety Disorder”. It sounds like something he contracted from the Republicans in our country. Why is it two countries with such reasonable people can get such out there elected officials? We’ve gotten two solid days of bomb, bomb, bomb Iran from our unreluctant belligerents.
Republicans are opposed to President Obama’s deal with the Iranians — whatever it is.
A couple of minutes after 9 p.m. on Saturday, word crossed the news wires that negotiators in Geneva had reached an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Then, at 9:08 p.m. — before any details of the pact were known — Ari Fleischer delivered his opinion on the agreement, via Twitter.
“The Iran deal and our allies: You can’t spell abandonment without OBAMA,” he wrote.
This is the sort of trenchant judgment Fleischer was known for as chief spokesman for President George W. Bush at the start of the Iraq war. His anagram analysis was so relevant to the topic that it deserves application to his name, too. Turns out you can’t spell “Re: Chief Liars,” “Hi, false crier,” “Hire Sir Fecal” or “I relish farce” without ARI FLEISCHER.
But Fleischer’s instant and reflexive response — even knees don’t jerk as quickly as he did — set the tone for Republicans. Three minutes after Fleischer’s tweet came one in agreement from Ron Christie, another veteran of the Bush administration. “Precisely,” he wrote, also without the benefit of knowing what was in the agreement. “A disgraceful deal.”
An hour later — still before Obama detailed the accord in a statement from the White House — John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, had analyzed the administration’s motives in reaching the deal.
“Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care,” he tweeted at 10:15 p.m., 19 minutes before the president spoke.
Aha! So the agreement to suspend Iran’s nuclear program, negotiated over several months, was actually a clever (and prescient) ruse to turn attention away from problems with the health-care law, which surfaced in the past several weeks.
And of course, John Bolton considers any one that doesn’t want to bomb Iran to be a surrender monkey. Isn’t he irrelevant? Do we have to hear from him? I mean REALLY? (Right Wing Source Alert!)
In his own words: It’s an “abject surrender by the United States,” he said in a commentary penned for The Weekly Standard. It’s a “Hail Mary” agreement that comes at considerable U.S. costs, he said. But that’s what happens with an administration that would rather have any deal than no deal, he said. “The inescapable conclusion is that … the White House actually did prefer a bad deal to the diplomatic process grinding to a halt,” he said, The Hill reported.
The biggest problem for the United States is that the deal doesn’t ban Iran from enriching uranium — and Capitol Hill lawmakers agree on that point, he said.
The deal includes a ban on weapons-grade enrichment. It does not include banning the kind that is used in medicine and energy production.
The U.S. acknowledges that Iran is enriching and will continue to enrich uranium – whether under mutual agreement, as is the case under the interim agreement struck in Geneva this weekend, or in the future, under a permanent, comprehensive agreement.
Of course, if there is no comprehensive deal, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Iran will continue to enrich as it has for years, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and international sanction.
“As part of a final resolution,” Rhodes said under persistent questioning, “you could have a mutually agreed-upon state in which Iran’s program is much different than it is today – they’ve dismantled elements of that program, they’ve accepted constraints, limitations, verification measures, and have a very limited enrichment capacity on Iranian soil.”
The Obama Administration and its negotiating partners are hoping to finally curtail Iran’s nuclear program to being limited and entirely peaceful in exchange for a wholesale lifting on sanctions.
There has been some other good news besides the talks with Iran. It appears there are charges that have been filed in the Steubenville rape case against enabling adults. These charges should send a strong notice to any adults enabling sexual assault and underage drinking including coaches.
Four school employees, including the superintendent and an assistant football coach, were indicted by a grand jury investigating a possible coverup in the Steubenville rape case.
The charges were announced Monday by the state’s top prosecutor, who decried “blurred, stretched and distorted boundaries of right and wrong” by students and grown-ups alike.
“How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine asked.
Superintendent Michael McVey, 50, was charged with tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice in the aftermath of the incident at the center of the case: the sexual assault of a drunken 16-year-old girl by two high school football players after a booze-fueled party in August 2012.
An assistant coach, Matthew Belardine, 26, was charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business and making a false statement.
Two school employees, strength coach Seth Fluharty, 26, and elementary-school principal Lynnett Gorman, 40, were charged with failure to report child abuse.
More than a few economists are arguing for some improvement in the lives of the middle class. Paul Krugman argues we should expand social security.
Before I get there, however, let me briefly take on two bad arguments for cutting Social Security that you still hear a lot.
One is that we should raise the retirement age — currently 66, and scheduled to rise to 67 — because people are living longer. This sounds plausible until you look at exactly who is living longer. The rise in life expectancy, it turns out, is overwhelmingly a story about affluent, well-educated Americans. Those with lower incomes and less education have, at best, seen hardly any rise in life expectancy at age 65; in fact, those with less education have seen their life expectancy decline.
So this common argument amounts, in effect, to the notion that we can’t let janitors retire because lawyers are living longer. And lower-income Americans, in case you haven’t noticed, are the people who need Social Security most.
The other argument is that seniors are doing just fine. Hey, their poverty rate is only 9 percent.
There are two big problems here. First, there are well-known flaws with the official poverty measure, and these flaws almost surely lead to serious understatement of elderly poverty. In an attempt to provide a more realistic picture, the Census Bureau now regularly releases a supplemental measure that most experts consider superior — and this measure puts senior poverty at 14.8 percent, close to the rate for younger adults.
Furthermore, the elderly poverty rate is highly likely to rise sharply in the future, as the failure of America’s private pension system takes its toll.
When you look at today’s older Americans, you are in large part looking at the legacy of an economy that is no more. Many workers used to have defined-benefit retirement plans, plans in which their employers guaranteed a steady income after retirement. And a fair number of seniors (like my father, until he passed away a few months ago) are still collecting benefits from such plans.
Even if its rollout becomes more expeditious, the Affordable Care Act does little to reduce the incentives that companies have to barricade themselves behind high information and transaction costs. In the financial sector, I previously noted, this perverse incentive is described as “strategic price complexity.”
A complicated new program applied to a complicated old industry makes it hard for everyone to figure out exactly what they will be getting relative to what they are paying. As a result, many ordinary people and small businesses fall prey to redistributional paranoia.
Accusations of ripoffs proliferate, along with assertions that the Affordable Care Act is unfair to young people or that it simply represents transfers from the affluent to the poor, or from whites to people of color.
The program clearly has redistributive impact, but much of it will be muted over the life cycle. People who pay more for their insurance will get more benefits in return. The biggest transfers will go from the healthy to the sick (who are sometimes poor precisely because they are sick) and from one part of the health care system (emergency room care) to another (insurance-covered routine care).
But the structure of the program seems unintentionally designed to intensify distributional conflict. Its highly means-tested subsidies create strongpolitical resentments and contribute to very high implicit marginal tax rateson lower-income families.
A single-payer insurance system, whether based on an extension of Medicare or on the Canadian model, promises many profoundly important benefits. Right off the mark, it promises simplicity.
‘Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult.” Reuters, 4 October 2013
How much is that?
It’s about £1,700 a month – over £20,000 a year.
Payable to whom?
Everybody, or at least, every adult citizen. It’s called a “basic income” and everyone gets it, no strings attached.
You have to be joking.
We’ll have to see whether the Swiss think it’s funny or not – they are holding a referendum, which is something they do quite a lot. But the idea of a basic income suddenly seems to be back on the radar after many years of being out of fashion. The New York Times announced recently that at the cocktail parties of Berlin there is talk of little else; US policy wonks are getting excited about it too.
This sounds like some communist plot. How can anyone take seriously the idea of paying people to sit around on their backsides?
The idea is endorsed not only by experts on inequality such as Oxford’s Sir Tony Atkinson, but by the late Milton Friedman, an unlikely communist. The idea of a basic income is one that unites many left- and rightwingers while commanding very little support in the mainstream.
What on earth did Friedman see in the idea?
He saw an alternative to the current welfare state. We pay money to certain people of working age, but often only on the condition that they’re not working. Then, in an attempt to overcome the obvious problem that we’re paying people not to work, we chivvy them to get a job. Our efforts are demeaning and bureaucratic without being particularly effective. A basic income goes to all, whether they work or not.
See? There are sane people in the world and many are still working at making it a better place. My suggestion is that there are a few we could just ship to the moon and do with out.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?