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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Interesting... 

It's interesting and telling that Jonah Goldberg thinks of Martin Luther King as a "liberal" icon. See this post:
So which leftwing martyr/icon is left? Sacco & Vanzetti were guilty. The Rosenbergs: guilty. Hiss: guilty. Margaret mead: liar. Rigoberta Menchu: liar. Duranty: liar. Kinsey: liar. Upton Sinclair: liar. I.F. Stone isn't looking too hot (lied about America often, loved totalitarians, might have taken KGB money).

Martin Luther King Jr. -- small flaws aside -- is still looking good. But Bobby Kennedy is only a useful leftwing hero if you don't look too closely. Ditto JFK. Jesse Jackson's going to look awful to historians.

Who's left?
I guess ideas such as, you know, "black children shouldn't have to attend separate, inferior schools" or "lynching people is bad" are "liberal" ideas.

I seriously thought Martin Luther King had sort of achieved American Hero status, but I guess I was wrong: to some conservatives, he still represents the other side of the political divide.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Munich 

Merry Christmas, Goldberg.

POSSIBLE MUNICH SPOILERS IN THIS POST

I saw Munich as well. I guess it is a well made movie - some of the scenes are as exciting as Spielberg's work in the Indiana Jones films or Jurassic Park (by far, in my opinion, his best movie).

(As an aside - Goldberg. I find it best to leave unspoken the point that I don't differentiate between his "serious" and "popcorn" movies. There is really no difference - outside of his project of filming survivors telling their stories which actually is very important and will possibly make up for the harm done to the world by Jurassic Park 2 - and people should figure that out on their own.)

However, as a "prayer for peace" or a somehow interesting political statement, I have qualms. Before I saw Munich, I imagined the Munich terrorists as insane madmen, with no concern for human life and no real ideology outside of a homicidal religious philosophy. I figured Israeli soldiers were generally good people, probably pretty smart, and probably occasionally wonder whether they are doing the right thing. While I imagine those stereotypes are probably closer to accurate than most stereotypes, I also know that a lot of racism and cultural bias on my part went into forming them in my head. So, maybe a prayer for peace between Israel and its enemies (which I think Spielberg thinks this is) should maybe try to challenge that stereotype and bridge that gap? Maybe that's an impossible thing to do, but then why call this movie a "prayer for peace"? Regardless, this movie didn't even try.

I don't think Spielberg did anything to humanize anyone except the team of Israeli agents who were supposed to kill 11 men who probably had something to do with Munich. There are many scenes of Israelis feeling guilty about killing people, but not one scene (unless I'm missing something) of anyone feeling guilty about killing Israelis. The Israelis spend the whole movie desperately trying to avoid killing civilians; the only Palestinian characters that have significant screen time slaughter 10 helpless athletes. Seriously, how is that a "prayer for peace?" I just don't get it.

I say this knowing virtually nothing about what happened after Munich, outside of a general knowledge of the history of Israel during the time period. And I don't even know why this film was supposedly controversial or important - and I intend to read more and let you know if I'm missing something important. But apparently (according to this movie) Israel immediately bombed some camps after Munich - leaving something like 60 Arabs dead (again, according to the movie). Why didn't we see that? Yes, it wouldn't have had anything to do with the plot, but then neither did the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Were children killed? Seeing that on screen, rather than just hearing it referred to, may have made me pause and think about how much blood was on both sides' hands. That's doesn't mean that both sides are equally at fault - but the first step, I think, in a prayer to peach has to be a realization of just how terrible war is.

In the end, I don't understand why this story is especially relevant today, I don't understand why this movie was a prayer for peace and, although I don't really know what Spielberg was trying to say by ending with a shot of the World Trade Center, I'm pretty sure I don't like it.

But I still have an open mind about this, so try to talk me out of it if you disagree.

Also, Eric Bana was really quite good, as was the rest of the cast.
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Monday, December 26, 2005

Maddenism 

This might be the strangest color commentary moment I've ever heard:
Al Michaels: Bollinger, he and his wife are going to have their first child in May, and, John, they didn't want to know what the sex was gonna be until Christmas day, so they had the doctor put it in an envelope and they opened it up yesterday, and it'll be a boy
Huh. That's nice. A nice little anecdote about Brooks Bollinger. A nice story that Al Michaels could relate to us during the game. Nothing weird or untoward about that. But, immediately after that, here's John Madden's response:
That was the thing...you know, they didn't know, "Should we find out? should we not find out? Let's just wait and open it on Christmas" and they opened it yesterday morning.
Wha? Huh? Fleh? Madden just repeated the exact same thing Al Michaels told us, but in his "talkin' 'bout a big ole' lineman voice. You know what voice I'm talking about. Madden talked about it as if it's a "thing." "Yeah, that's just the old wait and open the envelope with the sex of your unborn child on Christmas day thing." Again, huh? And he just exactly repeated what Al Michaels said.

Well, I thought it was weird.
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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas... 

...and Happy Hannukah! All I want for Christmas is Guthrie to post!

So, I went to see Munich today. It was very, very good. Hard to know where it ranks in the Spielberg pantheon--probably better than Minority Report (only because the ending of that film was so bad), almost as good as AI** and Jurassaic Park, if not as good as those, and not as good as Schindler's List, Jaws, or Raiders.*

Bonus First Night of Hannukah Football Blogging--when can we say that Bret Farve has started to suck? Tonight? Last year? 2001?


*As you probably can tell, I don't differentiate between Spielberg's so-called popcorn fare and is "more serious" works--they're all films, and can all be compared against one another.

**A great movie with maybe the best, most natural use of special effects ever. If you are one of the multitude who thinks this movie sucks, watch it again. Also, if you think it's just a sad attempt of Spielberg doing Kubrick, well, you're right, but it's really exactly how such a project should look.
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Progress?!?! 

The TWU and MTA went back to the table this morning, and now 1010wins is reporting that it's expected that Toussaint will recomend calling off the strike to the board.

Breaking news here.
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Maxspeak Brings Us a Maxspeak Moral Clarity Moment 

Max speak, you listen:
A MaxSpeak moral clarity moment. There is huge moral outrage directed at workers for demanding the opportunity to live somewhere in the same quadrant of the universe where they work, and many crocodile tears for the collateral damage to subway riders. Our MaxSpeak Bile-o-meter detects proportionately less outrage over 30,000 innocents in Iraq, and 2,156 U.S. soldiers, who died so Iranian theocrats could rule the country. Of course, we are fighting for freedom -- so Americans can have the privilege of being jailed for going on strike. Maybe we should call in Lech Walesa.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Again, whose fault is the strike? 

The TWU says that the pension issue, the one the MTA changed at the last minute, is the issue:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The union that called New York's crippling transit strike said on Wednesday that if transit authorities take back a contentious proposal on pensions, that could resolve the strike.

"If the pension demands ... come off the table, that would go a long way to us resuming the negotiations and resolving the strike," Transport Workers Union Local 100 head Roger Toussaint said in a news conference, adding that he was in discussions with state mediators aiming to end the stalemate in talks.
Again, upping the pension contribution to 6% saves the MTA all of $20 million (much less than the state and city is paying in strike-contingency costs such as NYPD overtime) while it amounts to a 4% pay cut for workers.

*This post has been altered after the Riz pointed out an embarrassing grammatical.
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Today's Shocking News 

Richard Epstein hates unions and Richard Posner hates individual rights. Just shocking!
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Labor Market Trends 

Most the people against the TWU strike state their complaints something like this: I pay x for health care, I get a y% raise, I don't have a pension, and therefore the transit workers shouldn't get any more than me.

The thing about this is that it shows how much employers in this country have destroyed worker expectations. Instead of thinking "the transit workers get good healthcare, so should I", they think "I get shitty healthcare, so should the transit workers." Employers have fundamentally changed the dynamic in this country, I think, to a point where employment really is a race-to-the-bottom in terms of pay and benefits. As Daniel Gross says, it's Cramdown Nation, get used to it.

Another issue worth pointing out is that study after study has shown that having unions actually raises non-union wages, but putting general upward pressure on all wages.
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Greedy Union? 

It's day 2 of the Transit Strike. I don't see this coming to an end until the end of the week at the earliest.

Lots of people here are mad at the union, but look what just came out today:
On the final day of intense negotiations, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it turns out, greatly altered what it had called its final offer, to address many of the objections of the transit workers' union. The authority improved its earlier wage proposals, dropped its demand for concessions on health benefits and stopped calling for an increase in the retirement age, to 62 from 55.

But then, just hours before the strike deadline, the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, put forward a surprise demand that stunned the union. Seeking to rein in the authority's soaring pension costs, he asked that all new transit workers contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay. The union balked, then shut down the nation's largest transit system for the first time in a quarter-century.

Yet for all the rage and bluster that followed, this war was declared over a pension proposal that would have saved the transit authority less than $20 million over the next three years.

It seemed a small figure, considering that the city says that every day of the strike will cost its businesses $440 million to $660 million in lost revenues. But the authority contends that it must act now to prevent a "tidal wave" of pension outlays if costs are not brought under control.

Roger Toussaint, the president of the union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said the pension proposal, made Monday night just before the 12:01 a.m. strike deadline, would effectively cut the wages of new workers by 4 percent.

"What they'd be saving on pensions is a pittance," Mr. Toussaint said.

Indeed, not just Mr. Toussaint but some other New Yorkers are questioning whether it was worth it for the authority to go to war over the issue when the authority's pension demands would apparently save less over the next three years than what the New York City Police Department will spend on extra overtime during the first two days of the strike.

Robert Linn, a former New York City Labor Commissioner, questioned the transportation authority's decision - with the backing of the mayor and governor - to go to the mat over pensions with a union that can exact huge pain on the city in a year when the authority had a $1 billion surplus.
So, we have the MTA forcing a strike over something that, in terms of state and city costs, is absolutely nothing, but in terms of union members, is a substantial pay cut. Do you still want to tell me this is not about the city and state trying to break one of the most historically powerful unions in New York?

Sisyphus Shrugged read that and says this:
The irony of Mr. Bloomberg talking about thuggery after he paid a sizeable bribe out of his own pocket to bring the Republican convention to a city that overwhelmingly didn't want it and then carried out mass arrest sweeps which caught up people who weren't breaking any laws and put them in mass holding cells without medical care or access to their lawyers is probably too obvious to comment on, but I did anyway.

Parenthetically, despite Mr. Bloomberg excusing the utter inappropriateness of the Convention being held here by saying it would help the economy, the city lost a lot of money that week, since the delegates (who appeared, from on the ground, to be deathly afraid of catching New Yorker cooties) never left the endless round of catered events that supplicants to the party in power paid for over the course of the week.

You'd also want to keep in mind that Mr. Bloomberg was very active in tossing out a bid for the MTA-owned land he (and no-one else) wanted used for his pet stadium that would have paid the "cash-strapped" MTA five hundred million dollars more than the bid which "won" when Mayor Bloomberg's and Governor Pataki's appointees voted for it.

Of course, you'd want to keep in mind that Republicans, while disastrous for New York, are really very useful for Mike Bloomberg, multi-billionaire owner of a media company. Useful enough that it was worth close to a hundred million dollars out of his pocket to keep himself in City Hall doing them favors.

I say that for the rest of you, because it's hard for us New Yorkers to forget it.
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Monday, December 19, 2005

Concert Review--The Changes 

Saw indie rock Chicago band The Changes at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday Night. I had tried to see them back before I left Chicago, but was never able to make a show.

Anyway, I went with some friends (including the Goat of The Franklin Kite, another band worth seeing if you're up in Boston), and it was a very, very good show. Jonny Basofin, their drummer, was a co-worker of mine in Chicago, and I'm pleased to say that, while he was a highly competent paralegal, he's even a better drummer. He was, by consensus, the best part of the band easily the most interesting part of the show, and not just during the drum solo (well, really more a drum feature set or something) during the last song. He showed real timing chops and had an audience-friendly kinetic energy. And, as the Goat remarked, he sported a pretty solid indie-rock beard. This praise is not to denigrate the others--guitarist Dave Rothblatt clearly knows his way around his instrument, and his vocals were surprisingly strong, too. And bassist Rob Kallick, while fairly stoic, got a good workout moving up and down his fretboard.

I think the best number of the night was the one where frontman Darren Spitzer went behind the drum set and Jonny B. went over the to the glockenspiel and wailed on that for a while (I'd never seen anyone play that instrument so hard before). That was the only song where Spitzer really put some body into his voice, lending a real sense of urgency to that song. UPDATE: I've been told this song was "On a String." According to the website, it doesn't seem to be on any CD yet released.

On that point, I think I have to say that a shortcoming of the band's performance involves Spitzer. I like his vocals, but he seems to lack a stage presence. He never said a word to the audience; indeed, I don't think he even looked at the audience once during the show--his eyes were usually on the ceiling. He sort of was able to pull off a Morissey-type thing, but even a little attempt to connect with the crowd would have resulting in the audience eating out of their fucking hands--the songs and musicianship was certainly more than good enough.

Ok, enough with the criticisms, because, all in all, it was a really great show, and now I'm convinced that (a) the Changes deserve the indie-rock buzz they get as a new Chicago breakout band and (b) Jonny B. certainly made the right choice in leaving the world of corporate paralegals.

Unfortunately, because I'm just not that familiar with the individual songs, it's hard to get terribly specific because I don't have a set list nor did I take any notes. But, it was a great show, and all of us who went had a great time.

I was also very pleased that the best songs were, in general, not the ones I've been able to download off the band's website. So, at least as far as I was concerned, it was great to hear good new stuff. Hopefully they'll release those and put them up in mp3 format, too.

Oh, and they're doing a New Year's show at Schuba's in Chicago--so check that out if you're so inclined.

This post has been updated to correct for mixing up Rothblatt and Spitzer.
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Friday, December 16, 2005

American Stasi 

Ari Fleischer was right. Americans need to watch what they say.
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Strike update 

So, thankfully, the union has not ordered a system-wide strike. Some union members who work for private lines (and are thus exempt from the Taylor Law) have been ordered to strike, but the disruption is minimal (and non-existent in Manhattan--although the disruption from some stupid-ass Howard Stern rally did f up my walk to work.

The union seems to wisely realize that, regardless of who is right and wrong, a strike would really be terrible for the city. But I do imagine they will ratchet up the strikes as time goes on. We'll see.

Yesterday, I emailed many friends to get their take on the strike situation. I think, to a one, they seemed to be much more on the side of the MTA than the TWU. I, on the whole, think this is mistaken (this is not to say that, on each and every negotiating point, the union is right and the MTA is wrong). I just think it's dangerous and wrongheaded to think "oh, these people don't deserve a raise, don't deserve what they fought for over the years, don't know how good they have it," etc. Don't be fooled by some op-ed written in the Times by someone from the radical right-wing (and racist--just go read some of their stuff on Katrina and racial profiling) Manhattan Institute, an op-ed that skews overall city salaries down and TWU salaries up.

Now, Steve G. posted yesterday about this, after he and I had a little back and forth via email. His statement that white, liberal office workers are against the union comes from my emails--as I was telling him that my friends (who, in general, are in that category) seem to be mostly if not uniformly on the side of the MTA. Read his post and the comments. Now, he sees racism where I don't, but I think his viewpoint is still worthwhile. I do want to specifically point to a comment made to his post, about what these workers really have to go through. Then you tell me whether they should be doing this at age 65.
As to the issue of the cleaners in particular, I have a bias--one of my very best friends works for the MTA as a cleaning supervisor. Which ain't as cushy as it seems because in spite of his supervisor title, he still has to clean...and I mean clean EVERYTHING.

They empty the rat-filled garbage cans which they are trained to kick several times before unlatching, to scare the foot-long vermin out. Larger, older rats tend to be haughtier and simply lay in the bag, continuing to feast--until they get agitated from the cleaner jostling it too much and leap from the bag's mouth. Lots of fun if you're the poor f*ck of a cleaner looking into one after hearing a suspicious "clang" or hard something else hit the floor within the bag.

They pick up the LARGE rat droppings that accumulate near drainpipes and large
cracks. Bet ya didn't know that extended exposure to mouse and rat droppings can lead to people contracting Hantavirus, a nasty viral condition that is like a cross between a cold and meningitis and can leave you floored for weeks. Cleaners come down with this more often than even garbagemen in NYC--but only get 13 sick days a year--and the MTA wants them to give one of those back as a concession this go 'round.

They scoop up the human sh*t, and hose down the p*ss that uncaring straphangers deposit at the extreme front ends of stations (harder to be seen by fellow riders and personnel) since the demise of in-station bathrooms in the 80's. Combine all of that exposure to rats, their leavings and people's waste leavings with the lovely effects of the inhalation of the fine steel dust that comes off every wheel of every train that screeches to a halt in a station. Mmm-mmm! Healthy! Throw in the exposure to sewage which runs through certain stations unfettered as the lines often sit on or just below trackbed level. The Spring St. station on the 6 Line is notable for this. What a bouquet.

Finally, there is the additional debilitation of the sheer physical nature of the job itself. Up and down steps, lugging cans, bags, solvents and cleaners (toxic too!). My friend who is my age, looks 15 years older thanks to the backbreaking nature of his thankless job. Working down there ages you prematurely, brings on adult onset asthma and is hell on the knees and back. Plus, teams of cleaners are not assigned to stations--it is often A cleaner who is given a row of stations to clean (i.e. Parsons, Sutphin, Van Wyck in Queens) or one "Monster" (their term) to do (ala' the dangerous and massive Broadway-Lafayette station in SoHo). That cleaner has to clean that station from stem to stern with at most, a second cleaner to help--but oft-tmes not even that. The only time larger (more than one or the rarer still, two cleaners) teams are used is if a particular station gets written up in the news as filthy or the MWUs (Mobile Wash Units) that do the nighttime hosedowns of a week's worth of gunk.

They often wear "rat-proof" pants (actually "snake-proof", but are purchased for MTA workers from game warden catalogs) especially when traversing the "sea of rats"--a grate with a teeming multitude of leaping vermin below it at the 63rd St. station on the IND line. They throw sticks, sawed off mop handles and softballs into "Maint of Way" rooms, converted bathrooms and utility closets inhabited from floor to ceiling by rats--and often disturbed, angry homeless people stealing a moment's privacy.

I tell my friend "Man...I couldn't work down here!", and he simply says "Well...we can't all think like that, because somebody's got to." I stopped telling him what I make about ten years ago, because I knew it would p*ss him off, knowing what he was (or more honestly, was not) making in relation to what we do for a living respectively.

I'm not saying give the union the 24% over the three years--that's too damn much--but fer chrissakes, can they at least acknowledge the difficulty of the work, be a tad generous with the surpluses and own up to the rather unfair givebacks of the last few previous deals by paying these people something at least comfortable that keeps up with the cost of living? 12-15% over the next three years or something? With some minor, non-dignity robbing givebacks? (Like ditchng the sweep-up fare clerk idea and phasing out the MTA "Dicks" who are sent to check up on sick-at-home workers?)

Is ther any f*cking harm in giving 'em something decent? Really????
LowerManhattanite | 12.15.05 - 7:52 pm
I think that speaks for itself. Another issue I want to highlight, specifically as it relates to healthcare, is the idea of what unions fight for and why. Unions are a way for working people to enter the middle class. It's as simple as that. Without a union, these workers would be making $18-20k/year, not $50. They wouldn't have health care. They'd be on public assistance, and, frankly, they wouldn't be able to afford to raise a family in the city they worked in--and in this case, the city they make work. This union fought to get their healthcare, and to say that new workers need to pay 2% of their salary to premiums is an insult to those previous generations of workers who fought to get that right to healthcare. And this year, in a year of surpluses, the MTA asks for 2%. You better believe that, if there's a recession the next time the contract comes up, the MTA will be asking that 2% to become 5 or 8%. A union can't just give back something it fought for, or pretty soon that union will be forced to take whatever management shoves down its throat.

I think today, we can be happy that a strike was temporarily averted, or at least postponed. And please think about why unions exist, why we need to support them, and, lastly, why they are an integral part of any progressive agenda moving forward, including much-needed reform on the minimum wage and health care.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Shaker Heights 

The Times visits my alma mater, Shaker Heights High School. Bob Somerby promises to talk about the article tomorrow. I'll hold off on commenting until Somerby does.
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NYC Transit Strike 

As you readers not from New York may not know, there is a distinct possibility that the Transit Workers (Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union) will go on strike at 12:01am Friday morning. Needless to say, a transit strike would be a disaster in Chicago, so you can imagine what it would be like in New York. As far as I can tell, the main sticking points are (a) sick days and (b) retirement age/pension contributions. Regular raises are also an issue, but I don't think that's as big an issue as these other two.

The MTA, the state agency which runs the subways (and other stuff) here, is the legal entity which negotiates the TWU's contracts. However, today, I see in the Times that Bloomberg is injecting the city into this process on the side of the MTA. This, frankly, is bullshit. As Steve G. has pointed out repeatedly, the MTA is sitting on a pile of cash and Bloomberg should be leaning on the MTA, not the union. This is a Republican mayor who got elected, after all, by saying he wasn't really a Republican and was pro-union in this oh-so-unionized city (not sure if it's as unionized as Chicago, but it's gotta be close).

The key in any strike like this, which affects so many people in such fundamental and terrible ways, is which side public opinion is on. While Steve G. is certain that it lies with the union, I'm not so sure, at least with respect to the moneyed Midtown and Wall Street professionals who have such undue influence in the city. And, the MTA has been slashing fares this Christmas holiday season in a move that I thought was just good governance but now think was merely a PR stunt to get public opinion on management's side.

In any event, this is all by way of the fact that the city's interest, and therefore Bloomberg's interest, should be in keeping the transit system up and running (meaning the city should act as an honest broker at most), not in trying to force a bad deal down the union's throat.

Btw, all you so-called Democrats who voted for Bloomberg--nice job.

UPDATE: Besides altering the first sentence because it made no sense, I should note, in fairness, that it apparently is illegal for transit workers to go on strike, based on a 1967 law references in that Times article. This doesn't really affect the policy aspects of the debate, but it does explain why Spitzer (at the state level, of course) is seeking an injunction against a strike. That said, if you take away a union's ability to strike on all occasions, it kind of weakens that union to a huge and most likely unfair degree, of course.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Wire 

Many of you know that I think The Wire is not just the best show in TV, but probably the best show that's ever been on TV. Although, as per my usual Johnny-come-lately self, I never watched them on HBO, only seeing Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. And, since I watched those two seasons (over about 5 days last spring), I've been clamoring for Season 3 to be released on DVD, which, apparently, is even better than the first two seasons. HBO has not complied with my requests. However, it looks like they will begin replaying the third season on HBO Zone, which I assume is one of those HBO channels I never watch but do get on my cable. The first episode of the third season is episode 26, being aired on December 29. Set your Tivos.
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Monday, December 12, 2005

The War on Christmas 

This is pretty great.
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New Blog Email 

Due to the fact we're getting a million spams a day, we're changing our contact email here. It is now goldbergandguthrieblog at gmail dot com. I think the reason we got so much spam was because we had a direct link to the address, so now we're just spelling it out for you. I think this prevents spambots from getting it (not that I really know).

Guthrie--our password is the same as with our old account.
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Health Care Query 

i have a question regarding health care policy in this country. You hear a lot about companies that are refusing to offer health care to their employees, citing cost concerns. I understand that health care costs (overall costs and insurance premiums) are rising at an alarming rate. I also understand how, for some corporations such as GM and others with highly unionized workforces, the companies themselves are paying these premiums. But, for most companies, isn't it the employees themselves paying the premiums? I know I pay my premiums, because I see them taken out of my paycheck on a pre-tax basis (the tax savings regime being the reason health care is tethered to jobs in this country). So, if most companies, like the one I work for, don't pay the premiums themselves, where is their burden coming from? Why is it so expensive to offer healthcare when it's just passed on to the employee?

Why am I so ignorant I can't seem to answer this question?

UPDATE: In comments, Kate Steadman, who has a health policy blog, writes:
Goldberg,

You are missing a key part in the way we pay for health insurance. When you get insurance through your employer, you split the premium cost. You will pay about half and your employer pays the other half. The premium amount you're seeing is only half the equation.

That's why people in the individual insurance market have trouble. Because their employer isn't paying, they have to pay both parts, which can be prohibitively costly. That, and the policies tend to be thinner than an 80 year old man's hair.
So, I think this makes sense. And, while I think that employers probably pass on their half to employees in terms of lower wages, there are probably several other market forces that prevent employers from shifting 100% of that cost onto employees. And, as you'll see if you ever need to elect COBRA, you're premium would be about double what you see out of your paycheck (and sans preferential tax treatment, too). So, it stands to reason that many employers do balk at providing health coverage.

Anyway, I encourage you to check out Kate's blog if you want to bone up on health care policy.
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Friday, December 09, 2005

Health Care 

Read - linked to by Atrios.

In the end, I think I'm more embarrassed and ashamed that we don't have Universal Health Care than I am about all of these torture issues.
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More Schuler 

Via Josh Marshall, from the Hill:
As the political climate has turned sour for Republicans, Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) finds himself trailing his Democratic challenger by tens of thousands of dollars, dogged by ethics charges and running in an increasingly Democratic district.
Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler (D) is challenging Taylor, in the 11st District, in rural, western North Carolina.

At the end of the third quarter, Shuler had $248,957 in the bank while Taylor had just $19,369, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

During the same period, Shuler raised $263,642; Taylor took in $134,791.
All right!
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

U Chicago Law Blog 

Under the subject heading "Bloggy B. Blog," here is a link to the blog run by the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School. Haven't looked at it much yet, but I assume it's of interest to much of our readership.
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Howard Dean 4, "Hawks" 0 

How many times does this guy have to be right before people refrain from dismissing him out of hand?
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War on Christmas Much? 

Seems like Steve Gilliard is using our War on Christmas idea.
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Syriana--Quick Review 

I have to say, I pretty much agree 100% with what Atrios says about it:
I appreciate what the movie was aiming for, and that the ambgiuities in the movie were part of the point. But for that to work the audience has to be really drawn into the movie, almost feel a part of it, to feel those ambiguities. I found the movie really distanced itself from the audience and so people were just left scratching their heads instead of feeling as if they were part of the insanity.
I think that's right, especially in terms of not really ever feeling emotionally involved with either the story lines or the characters (for example, I don't think they got enough into the Clooney character to really feel like he was the "hero" of sorts at the end--which is clearly what we were supposed to feel). I think these problems arose because the filmmakers bit off more than they could chew--they tried to show way too many of the facets of America's entanglements with the Middle East, and therefore didn't have the time to really nail down any of them with authority--all breadth and no depth, if you will.

That said, it was an entertaining enough movie, and certainly better than most. And great little performances by people like William Hurt and Christopher Plummer and Tim Blake Nelson (and many others). Way too much stylized hand-held camera action, though.
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chicago Bans Smoking 

I'm a little confused about this "compromise" and also the "permanent exception", but here it is.
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Yes, it's that Heath Schuler 

Nice. He is one of the several options to vote for, the winner of which will get $5000 from Russ Feingold's PAC. So, vote for Heath, so his political career doesn't suck as much as his football career did.
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Joementum returns...and it still sucks 

There's a lot of talk this week in the liberal blogosphere about Joe Lieberman. First, we have Bob Scheiffer talking about rumors that Connecticut Joe will ride his Joementum into the Secretary of Defense's office.

Then, we have former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker saying he may take on Joe in a primary:
"When you've become the president's best friend on the war in Iraq, you should not be in office, especially if you're in the opposing party," Mr. Weicker, 74, said in a phone interview from his home in Essex, Conn. "I'm going to do everything I can to see that Joe Lieberman does not get a free pass."
This is more or less a response to the op-ed Lieberman wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week, which sounds like it was written out of the White House.

And, now, we have Lieberman saying this classy line:
It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years. We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."
Now, I pretty much feel that is the last straw. For a member of the supposed opposition, to say, in his weasly Lieberman-esque way, that dissent puts us and our troops in peris--it's just beyond the pale. Digby, in response:
I see that Senator Lieberman is concerned about partisanship poisoning the atmosphere in Washington and he has some stern words for Democrats who insist on criticizing the president....For instance he really hates it when Democrats say things like this:
After much reflection, my feelings of disappointment and anger have not dissipated, except now these feelings have gone beyond my personal dismay to a larger, graver sense of loss for our country, a reckoning of the damage that the president's conduct has done to the proud legacy of his presidency and, ultimately, an accounting of the impact of his actions on our democracy and its moral foundations.

The implications for our country are so serious that I feel a responsibility to my constituents in Connecticut, as well as to my conscience, to voice my concerns forthrightly and publicly. And I can think of no more appropriate place to do that than on this great Senate floor.

[...]

The president's intentional and consistent statements, more deeply,may also undercut the trust that the American people have in his word. Under the Constitution, as presidential scholar Newsted (ph) has noted, the president's ultimate source of authority, particularly his moral authority, is the power to persuade, to mobilize public opinion, to build consensus behind a common agenda. And at this, the president has been extraordinarily effective.

But that power hinges on the president's support among the American people and their faith and confidence in his motivations and agenda, yes; but also in his word.

As Teddy Roosevelt once explained, "My power vanishes into thin air the instant that my fellow citizens, who are straight and honest, cease to believe that I represent them and fight for what is straight and honest. That is all the strength that I have," Roosevelt said.

Sadly, with his deception, the president may have weakened the great power and strength that he possesses, of which President Roosevelt spoke.

I know this is a concern that may of my colleagues share, which is to say that the president has hurt his credibility and therefore perhaps his chances of moving his policy agenda forward.

[...]

That's what I believe presidential scholar James David Barber (ph) in his book "The Presidential Character" was getting at when he wrote that the public demands quote, "a sense of legitimacy from and in the presidency. There is more to this than dignity -- more than propriety. The president is expected to personify our betterness in an inspiring way; to express in what he does and is, not just what he says, a moral idealism which in much of the public mind is the very opposite of politics."

Just as the American people are demanding of their leaders, though, they are also fundamentally fair and forgiving, which is why I was so hopeful the president could begin to repair the damage done with his address to the nation on the 17th. But like so many others, I came away feeling that for reasons that are thoroughly human, he missed a great opportunity that night. He failed to clearly articulate to the American people that he recognized how significant and consequential his wrongdoing was and how badly he felt about it.
Lieberman thinks that speeches like that are wrong --- that Democrats should not go before the senate and speak about how the president has failed the nation, been dishonest, misled the people and undermined the nation's moral authority. Unless, of course, there's a blow job involved in which case Lieberman himself would feel compelled to lead the stampede to condemn and chastise him publicly.

But then, that was an issue of prime importance, unlike lying the country into a useless war of faux masculine vanity in which we are becoming a pariah nation known for torture, kidnapping, and disappearance. As long as Bush keeps his codpiece zipped and doesn't let anybody see him playing Grand Theft Auto, he's got Joementum on his side.

Putz.
Now, clearly, Digby is right. But, looking at the Secretary of Defense rumors, the Journal op-ed, and the fact that Lieberman knows (via the Weicker announcement) that the rank-and-file has had it with him, I think that this latest foray--casting his lot with the dissent=treason (ok, not "treason" but increasing our "peril") crowd is a way for him to lay the groundwork for that appointment as Secretary Defense. I don't know if he'll be offered the post, but if so, I'm sure he'll take it, and I'm sure he'll remain a nominal Democrat, much like William Cohen remained a Republican under Clinton. And, after what he's been saying lately, I think there's no question that he'd be a full-bore neocon if installed at the Pentagon.

The fact that a Republican would be appointed in his seat in Connecticut is icing on the cake--and icing that probably makes Joe happy. Worst mistake Al Gore made was selecting this chump as VP candidate.

VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: Weicker is on the Board of WWE (that is, the WWF).
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Linkathon--Rick Perlstein and Digby 

Please, please read these two links in their entirety. First, is Rick Perlstein talking to a group of died-in-the-wool conservatives about their worldview.

Second, Digby commenting on Perlstein's speech. Trust me, these are very important posts--read them.
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More on the Ford Motor Bund 

Via Kevin Drum, some background on the AFA's boycott history:
CRAVEN AND STUPID....The Carpetbagger reviews the recent boycott history of the American Family Association:
The AFA launched a nine-year boycott of Disney, for example, during which time none of the group's demands were met and the company enjoyed a surge in profits. The AFA also launched boycotts against Crest toothpaste, Volkswagen, Tide detergent, Clorox bleach, Pampers, MTV, Abercrombie & Fitch, K-Mart, Burger King, the Carl's Jr. hamburger chain, Kraft Foods, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Old Navy stores, NutriSystem, and American Airlines. Late last year, the AFA went after the movie "Shark Tale," because the group believed the movie was designed to brainwash children into accepting gay rights. Then, it was American Girl dolls. Then it was Target for its lack of the word "Christmas" in its advertising. The whole thing is pretty embarrassing, but the AFA just keeps doing it.
Everyone just ignores these yahoos. Everyone but Ford, that is, which apparently didn't understand the ground rules of the AFA game and immediately caved in when they complained recently about Ford's advertising in gay publications. So not only is Ford management craven, but they're stupid as well.

That explains a lot about the American car industry, doesn't it?
Needn't comment more. I do have a few things I want to post on today, and I should have time, so be on the lookout.
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Browns--A Different Perspective 

Gregg Easterbrook has a different take on the Reuben Droughns stat:
Stats of the Week No. 7: Everyone's saying Reuben Droughns is Cleveland's first 1,000-yard rusher in 20 years -- actually 17 years, since the Browns did not exist for three years of that span.
I don't think this is the right way to look at it--in fact, it might be the worst, as, even if you took this view, it would be 17 seasons, not 17 years--but anyway, for your consideration.
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The Rude One... 

...writes a post entitled "Samuel Alito is a Pussy."
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Hillary 

As regular readers (i.e., Goldberg and my mom) know, I have a love/hate relationship with the Clintons. The conservative stereotype of them both - that they are immoral, that they have no principles, that they will say or do anything to get elected - always strikes me as unfair. I was thinking, in fact, of simply getting behind Hillary's bid in 2008 - because she appears smart, decent and would bring simple competence back to the federal government.

Then, she supports an anti-flag burning law. But she's not for the Constitutional Amendment! But it should be illegal. But... I'm literally too confused to follow this line of thought.

As for flag burning, I quote a very wise political analyst...
Flag Burning Amendment

It's back, and apparently the vote will be "razor thin."

I know many Democrats may support it. Apparently, the majority of Americans support it. And God knows Republicans - by and large - support it. All of these people are idiots. If you support the flag burning amendment, you are an idiot. You don't understand anything about democracy. If some of these people are not idiots, they are bad people. If an otherwise smart person supports the flag burning amendment, they are either suffering from a mental disability or they are simply a bad person.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that members of my party will vote for this. I am embarrassed and ashamed that even one American thinks this is a good idea.

That's my contribution to the political discourse today.
Seriously, why would anybody think this was a good idea?
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Not Just the Jews! 

Some people following the War on Christmas think that the anti-Christmas forces are led by the Jews. Goldberg even insinuated in a comment below that Fox News's comments might be aimed at Jews - and are possibly even anti-Semitic.

This is wrong. I was reading a report from the front in Salon, which excerpts John Gibson's book (which I've never read). Gibson makes it clear that it's not just the Jews who are responsible for the attacks.
"The wagers of this war on Christmas are a cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists, and liberal, guilt-wracked Christians -- not just Jewish people," Gibson writes.
Goldberg - get it out of your head that the pro-Christmas forces are against the Jews! Gibson has made it perfectly clear that he is against the Jews AND many other people.



As an aside, that is an excellent article. I recommend it highly, even though you have to go through an ad to read it. As you will see, Gibson is much more enlightened than his predecessors, who sometimes - crazily enough - blamed ONLY the Jews, although we now see that the anti-Christmas forces are in fact Jews and guilt-wracked Christians working together with the trial lawyers. To wit:
As the Web site News Hounds pointed out last year, Henry Ford was sounding the alarm about the war on Christmas in his notorious 1921 tract "The International Jew." "The whole record of the Jewish opposition to Christmas, Easter and other Christian festivals, and their opposition to certain patriotic songs, shows the venom and directness of [their] attack," Ford wrote.
(Of course, as we know, the Ford company has since made up for this by sponsoring a commercial-free showing of Schindler's List.)


UPDATE: I saw this ironically after I made this post, and So-Called Austin Mayor links to it in the comments below. Ford continues its corporate policy of always being on the wrong side of history. Nice work, Ford!
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Monday, December 05, 2005

The NFL's Stalinist Re-Writing of History 

JK's comment to the post below:
Why must you focus on such negativity when the Browns have their first 1,000 rusher in 20 years,the Bengals are assured of their first winning season in 15 years, and the Bears beat the Packers at home for the first time since 1993?
So, first off, I don't give a shit about the Bengals (except that, if the Browns were decent, I'd be hoping they lose), I care even less about the Bears, and any good news regarding the Browns rushing game is certainly overshadowed by the loss of Braylon Edwards.

But, that's not what I want to talk about. JK (and everyone else) writes that this was the Browns' first 1000-yard rusher since 1985. That, my friends, is incorrect, or only correct if you believe that Oceania has always been at war with East Asia. See, by my thinking, the Browns franchise has had four seasons with a 1000-yard rusher: 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The running back for all four of those years was Jamal Lewis, and in 2003 Lewis had over 2000 yards rushing.

The Browns franchise, at least the franchise that was called "The Browns" through the 1995 season, moved in Baltimore and was renamed "The Ravens." The Browns franchise that is currently in Cleveland is a new franchise, formed in 1999. Now, I realize this is hard to understand, but this Browns franchise has nothing besides trademarked logos and home city in common with the Old Browns.

Similarly, Jamal Lewis is not the leading rusher in Ravens history, Jim Brown is.

As you can see, I think it's totally asinine the league pretends this move never happened. Warren Moon still holds records for the Tennessee Titans--his stats are rightly not considered stats of the Texans' franchise! Why does the league feel it can rewrite history like this?
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More Derb 

It seems to me that he doesn't seem to think a resurgence of this type of far-right thinking would be a bad thing:
Loony Right drops the Jew thing. ... Living in east London in 1970, I was at a meeting addressed by our local member of parliament, Reg Prentice, then the Minister for Overseas Development in Harold Wilson's second Labour government. The meeting was violently broken up by thugs from the far-Right, crypto-Nazi National Front party. The event made a great impression on me, and ever since then I have kept an eye on the British Far Right. (I'll postpone to another time the fairness of referring to them as "Right." The economic ideas of the NF, in so far as they could be said to have any, were fascistic, which is to say statist, so in this respect — to say the least of it! — they were not my kind of Right, nor yours. But Far Right is what everyone calls these types, and I'll use the label here for convenience.)

Well, very interesting things are happening on the British (and European — but I'll stick with Britain) Far Right. The most interesting is, they have dropped anti-Semitism. On a word-association test with "Far Right," a lot of people — including, I think, most of my NR colleagues — would come up with "anti-Semitism" as a first response. This is now seriously out of date. In Britain, the old street-fighting, Jew-baiting National Front has morphed into a collar-and-tie party named the BNP — that is, British National party. Nick Griffin, the BNP head, has been conducting a purge of Stalinesque ruthlessness against the old anti-Semitic National Front types. FrontPageMag's Robert Locke tells the story here. All the BNP's xenophobic propaganda is now concentrated against Muslims. Jews are O.K., on the principle that my enemy's enemy is my friend.

(I note en passant that Jared Taylor, who runs the white-nationalist American Renaissance magazine and website, is way ahead of the game here. For years Jared has been responding to questions about what he thinks of Jews with a cheery: "They look white to me!")

This stuff bears watching. The Far Right may not be your cup of tea; but they're out there, and with intelligent leadership, a tailwind of economic disgruntlement, and the dawning realization among white people in the West that they have, by foolish policies, made themselves into a minority in their own countries, outfits like the BNP might very well become a prominent force in public affairs in the 21st century.
I'd say the National Review should not associate with this racist ass, but, then again, it is the National Review:
The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

It's Because He Like Boys 

Atrios links to Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped talking about John Derbyshire. Garance reacts with a big "EEEWWWW" to the fact that the Derb apparently only things women (girls) are attractive from about age 15 to 20. She quotes the Derb:
Jennifer's bristols. Did I buy, or browse, a copy of the November 17 GQ, in order to get a look at Jennifer Aniston's bristols?** No, I didn't. While I have no doubt that Ms. Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20. The Nautilus and the treadmill can add a half decade or so, but by 36 the bloom is definitely off the rose. Very few of us, however, can face up to this fact honestly, and I am sure this diary item will generate more angry e-mails of protest than everything else I have written this month.
In another quote, she finds Derb saying this:
Conservatives, as I recall, are the ones who believe that "human nature has no history." It follows that we are at ease with the fact that the human female is visually attractive to the human male at, or shortly after, puberty, and for only a few brief years thereafter.
I think we can all agree that Garance's "EW" is the correct response. However, it's not the full response. It's clear to me (and Guth will agree with me, I'm sure), that this is just another way of Derb rationalizing to himself the fact that he is not, in actuality, attracted to women. I think what's unsaid in his writing, but at the forefront of his mind is: "of course, while women are only attractive for a few weeks at age 17 (when they're not menstruating, of course [another thing left unsaid--he's also a mysogynist]), boys and men are attractive throughout their lives." I mean, anyone this homophobic is clearly gay.

UPDATE: More Derb here.
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Should NFL Continue Games in Wake of War on Christmas? 

I wish I had an answer to that. On one hand, we should go on with our lives as much as possible, to prove to God and the World that the terrorists haven't won. On the other hand, it seems disrespectful to play a silly game when thousands of Americans - both soldiers and civilians - lay slain in the blood soaked streets, victims of the War on Christmas.
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