December 10, 2012 archive

Dec 10

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The Stars Hollow Gazette

Dec 10

Cartnoon

Originally posted September 7, 2011.

Feather Dusted

Dec 10

On This Day In History December 10

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

December 10 is the 344th day of the year (345th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 21 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1901, the first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.

History

Alfred Nobel was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, into a family of engineers. He was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. In 1895 Nobel purchased the Bofors iron and steel mill, which he converted into a major armaments manufacturer. Nobel also invented ballistite, a precursor to many smokeless military explosives, especially cordite, the main British smokeless powder. Nobel was even involved in a patent infringement lawsuit over cordite. Nobel amassed a fortune during his lifetime, most of it from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous. In 1888, Alfred had the unpleasant surprise of reading his own obituary, titled ‘The merchant of death is dead’, in a French newspaper. As it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died, the obituary was eight years premature. Alfred was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will. On 10 December 1896 Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, at the age of 63 from a cerebral haemorrhage.

To the wide-spread surprise, Nobel’s last will requested that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the “greatest benefit on mankind” in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. The last was written over a year before he died, signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895. Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million SEK (c. US$186 million in 2008), to establish the five Nobel Prizes. Because of the level of scepticism surrounding the will, it was not until 26 April 1897 that it was approved by the Storting in Norway. The executors of Nobel’s will, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel’s fortune and organise the prizes.

Nobel’s instructions named a Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize, the members of whom were appointed shortly after the will was approved in April 1897. Soon thereafter, the other prize-awarding organisations were established: the Karolinska Institutet on 7 June, the Swedish Academy on 9 June, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 11 June. The Nobel Foundation reached an agreement on guidelines for how the prizes should be awarded, and in 1900, the Nobel Foundation’s newly-created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II. In 1905, the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Thereafter Norway’s Nobel Committee remained responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and the Swedish institutions retained responsibility for the other prizes.

Dec 10

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Ogle 22

Dec 10

What’s The Difference Between “Broadening the Base” and Squeezing Pennies From The Poor?

[Hint: There isn’t any.]

One of the Great Untold Stories of the past few decades was the fall of the murderous “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher, when she proposed a modified head tax.

Thatcher could sail with aplomb above the increasingly nasty reputation of the English in Europe for her extrajudicial killings and mass imprisonment with little ceremony of the revolting Irish, especially with the full backing of the “World’s Greatest Power” across the big drink.

But the attack on les miserables even despite the inability of the voiceless ones to speak up for themselves sunk the old battleaxe.

Surprisingly fast.

In England of all places.

Maybe if England hadn’t lost the gift of poetry and lyrical literature that once stood her so well…

There has been an abortive destruction of the ham-handed Republicans, who had preveiously been raised from the grave by one of their own under a different label with a skillful ability to croon the old siren songs without shame.

We are obviously headed back towards the reign of a new and far more skillful Iron Lady if the stars foretelling the future are not giving a false signal.

Not looking good at all for working folk, the very young, the aged and the sick.

Then again it never did – ever.

Best,  Terry

Dec 10

The Real Financial Crisis: Income Disparity and Poverty

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC host sitting in for Chris Hayes on Sunday’s Up with Chris Hayes, discussed the political posturing on fiscal negotiations with David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winner and distinguished visiting lecturer at the Syracuse University College of Law; Joan Walsh, MSNBC political analyst, editor at large of Salon.com; Laura Flanders, founder of GritTV; Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress; and Avik Roy, former member of Mitt Romney’s health care policy advisory group, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Unlike the usual talk show, where right wing talking points are rarely challenged, Up pushes back and debunks those memes for the hollow myths and out right lies they are. This panel talks head on how income disparity and poverty are the real financial crisis and the insanity of “shared pain.” Topics about taxes on Wall Street transactions, defense cuts and closing loop holes that only benefit the wealthy were mentioned. You won’t hear that on “Meet the Press” or “ABC’s This Week”.

Heather at Crooks and Liars pointed out the conversation in the second video and responses in the third video to Avik Roy arguing how things are different now that when Bill Clinton was president and the nonsense that the rich already pay too much in taxes. The responses from the panel shredded Roy’s talking points. Here are just some of the comments from the panel:

   DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: The average income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans has fallen back to the level of 1966 when Johnson was president, and the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent have gone in today’s dollars from 4 million to 22 million. In 2010, the first year of the recovery, 37 percent of all of the increased income in the entire country went to 15,600 households.

   We have created a privatized system to redistribute upwards and the reason people at the top are sharing a larger share of the income taxes because their incomes are growing at this enormous rate, but their burden is falling. And to suggest we don’t need to raise more revenue by applying it to people who are a success depends on this government, on living in this society, with its rules that make it possible to make that money is just outrageous. It is arguing that we should burden the poor and help the rich.

   […]

   LAURA FLANDERS: No, you’re right. we have 50, 5-0 million Americans living in poverty at this point with food stamp help for many of them. We’ve got 9 million Americans over the age of 50 who are food insecure. One in three of us have no savings whatsoever.

   I mean, you talk the Johnson years, in that period, ’65 to ’73 the war on poverty reduced poverty by 43 percent. We know how to do it. It works. That’s what we should be talking about. We are in a crisis where we’re going to see stimulus. We’re going to see stimulus of poverty and hunger in this country and it’s shameful. And again, going back to ’63, you had more than 60 percent of Americans, I think even in1983, 60 percent of Americans had private pension plans. Now, it’s under 20 percent.

   So these elders that you’re talking about, young people with greater unemployment than ever before. I mean, this is the stuff that we want to be talking about after the last election, children and poverty are exploding.

   JOAN WALSH: And also… we need higher tax rates for the tippy top earners because everybody likes to talk about building the middle class or rebuilding the middle class. Well, the top tax rate that the middle class we in the ’40s,’ 50s and ’60s. The top marginal rate was in the 90’s. I’m not saying you should go back to that, but you can’t say at 37 percent.

Dec 10

The Great Debate on the Grand Sell Out of Medicare

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Whether you voted for Barack Obama or not, the reality is he is on the same path he was on for the last four years and that is to sell out the majority of Americans to reach a “bargain” with Republicans, who lost the election, on the mythical “fiscal cliff” and the  unconstitutional “debt ceiling.” Part of that sell out is raising the eligibility age for Medicare recipients to 67. This little nugget has started a “great debate” and a bit of an internet dispute about whether or not this is a good, or even workable, idea.

In his article at AMERICAblog our friend Gaius Publius, who is just reporting it, quotes Paul Krugman’s reaction on his NY Times blog to Ezra Klein’s commentary in The Washington Post on Jonathan Chait’s article in The New Yorker, who thinks that raising the eligibility age by two years is an OK idea. What the Herr Doktor said:

Ezra Klein says that the shape of a fiscal cliff deal is clear: only a 37 percent rate on top incomes, and a rise in the Medicare eligibility age. [..]

First, raising the Medicare age is terrible policy. It would be terrible policy even if the Affordable Care Act were going to be there in full force for 65 and 66 year olds, because it would cost the public $2 for every dollar in federal funds saved. And in case you haven’t noticed, Republican governors are still fighting the ACA tooth and nail; if they block the Medicaid expansion, as some will, lower-income seniors will just be pitched into the abyss.

Second, why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what. [..]

All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?

If anyone in the White House is seriously thinking along these lines, please stop it right now.

Meanwhile, Chait’s article, Go Ahead, Raise the Medicare Retirement Age, prompted David Dayen’s response at FDL and the Wanker of the Day Award from Atrios.

Dayen’s critique prompted some poutrage from Chait and Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly, who was more concerned about “tone” than the consequences of raising Medicare’s eligibiliy age.

Which resulted in Dayens’ response to Chait, the ill informed Ezra Klein comment agreeing with Chait that the Affordable Care Act would “blunt the pain,” and a hat tip to Kilgore’s pique about “tone.”

Meanwhile, Karoli at Crooks & Liars gets it in her response to Klein’s interview with Peter Orzag, former director of the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget, currently Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup:

Listen Up, White House! Take Medicare Eligibility Age Off The Table NOW.:

Raising the Medicare eligibility age is terrible, awful, horrible policy that plays right into the Republicans’ goal of killing Medicare altogether. Obamacare does not change that fact in substantive ways. Here’s why, in bullets:

  • Adverse selection – Obamacare or no Obamacare, raising the eligibility age means people enter the Medicare system with a higher likelihood of health problems. Even if they have health insurance before they’re eligible for Medicare, facts are facts: The older one gets, the more likely health problems become.
  • Administrative costs – Medicare’s administrative costs consistently come out to about 7 percent. Obamacare allows for administrative costs of 15 percent. Extending coverage via Obamacare means higher, not lower, costs to the government and the middle class. Subsidies will cost more for that older group as well as for the younger group, since insurers will set a higher baseline on young people in order to pad reserves for older people because of the 3:1 ratio requirement on rates between youngest and oldest.
  • Workforce phase-outs of older employees – This is the dirty little elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about. Because of the high demand for jobs right now, older employees are being shoved phased out earlier. Beginning at around age 50 to 55, jobs become scarce for older workers, leaving them with a 10-15 year gap before they become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. That means they’re living on their savings, home equity, or odd jobs just to scratch their way to the social safety net. Moving that football means leaving them on the hook for 2 extra years, not only for living expenses, but also covering their health insurance, whether or not subsidized.

[..]I’ve been told by some pragmatic liberals who I usually agree with that I’m being unreasonable on this point. I beg to differ. It is not reasonable for Peter Orszag to say we’ve gotten a concession from Republicans because privatizing Social Security is off the table entirely. That’s a little like saying we’re really lucky that they’re holding the gun to our hearts instead of our heads. The impact of conceding any ground on Medicare eligibility is immeasurably negative for Democrats.

HELLO, Barack, raising the eligibility age for Medicare is a really bad idea.

Dec 10

We heard about the Sell Out

It’s a hell of a start, it could be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team.