Saturday, February 26, 2005

National Baboon's European Vacation

Je ne peux pas croire les Amercains élu ce morceau de merde

Lawzy day I'd kill for a Parliament right about now

Voice of Karl Rove: Testing...testing

Oh my man I love him so...he'll never know...

Anything you need, Pooty? Coffee? Blue jeans? Copy of Meet the Beatles?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Punishing the Victim

From today’s NY Times
TOPEKA, Kan., Feb. 24 - Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican who has made fighting abortion a staple of his two years in the post, is demanding the complete medical files of scores of women and girls who had late-term abortions, saying on Thursday that he needs the information to prosecute criminal cases.

Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape at a news conference here but also spoke obliquely of other crimes that court documents suggest could include doctors' providing illegal late-term abortions and health professionals' failing to heed a state law that requires the reporting of suspected child sexual abuse.

"When a 10-, 11- or 12-year-old child is pregnant, under Kansas law that child has been raped, and as the state's chief law enforcement official it is my obligation to investigate child rape in order to protect Kansas children," Mr. Kline said. "There are two things that child predators want, access to children and secrecy. As attorney general, I'm bound and determined not to give them either."

Mr. Kline's efforts to obtain records from abortion clinics follows his failed attempt last year to require the state's health workers to report any sexual activity of girls younger than 16, the age of legal consent in Kansas.

Although Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape in his news conference, many here on both sides of the abortion debate said they suspected that his real target was doctors who provide late-term abortions.

It is unclear exactly how the records could lead prosecutors to rape suspects, although the clinics say the files often include information about how patients became pregnant, among other "intimate details of their lives" like sexual history, birth control practices, drug use, psychological profiles, information about fetal anomalies and communications with law enforcement.

"These records are of the utmost sensitivity," the brief says. "The logical and natural progression of this action could well be a knock on the door of a woman who exercised her constitutional right to privacy by special agents of the attorney general who seek to inquire into her personal medical, sexual or legal history."

Lest there be any doubt about the real reason behind AG Kline’s witchunt, from the same article

Kansas law restricts abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, where the fetus would be viable outside the womb, except when "continuation of the pregnancy will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."

Despite that law passed in 1998, Kansas has become a national magnet for late-term abortions because of a doctor in Wichita who performs hundreds of them each year. The doctor, George Tiller, funneled at least $150,000 through political action committees to Mr. Kline's opponent in the attorney general's race in 2002, and his clinic, Women's Health Care Services, is one of the two whose records are being subpoenaed.

Politics masquerading as a campaign to protect the children? I’m shocked – shocked!

Any thinking person should be bothered by abortion. But any thinking person should also be bothered by the idea that a decision this personal should be anyone else’s business besides the woman and her doctor. And any thinking person should realize that no matter how they disguise it, this is still an attempt to legislate religious dogma.

My fantasy is that in a just world, some pro-lifer in need of emergency bypass surgery will find his way to the hospital blocked by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

You'll never complain about your job again

Now here’s a headline you won’t see every day:

Women sue over gorilla's breast "fetish"

The AP story:
Two fired caretakers for Koko, the world-famous sign-language-speaking gorilla, have sued their former bosses, claiming they were pressured to expose their breasts as a way of bonding with the 300-pound simian.

(hard to believe we’ll get through this whole story without a mention of Bill Clinton)

It seems Koko has a nipple fetish, and these these two ex-employees of The Gorilla Foundation were encouraged to flash the big ape.

(see above)

From the lawsuit:
The suit claims Patterson pressured the two women on several occasions to expose their breasts to Koko, a 33-year-old female -- sometimes in situations where other employees could potentially view their bodies. The women never undressed, said their attorney, Stephen Sommers of San Francisco.
They were threatened that if they "did not indulge Koko's nipple fetish, their employment with the Gorilla Foundation would suffer," the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit claims that on one occasion Patterson said, "'Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples."'

(and who among us has not said the same at one time or another?)

So Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, the plaintiffs, are suing for damages totalling more than $1million.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, but it goes a long way towards explaining why Jane Goodall spends all that time in the jungle.

The Look of Love

Friday, February 11, 2005

I’m an English major, but I can still do the math.

On his latest stop in the Lolabamboozle tour, the President was in my fair state yesterday. And he tried his usual bit of mathematical magic about Social Security.
And why does that happen? Because when you're able to get a rate of return on money invested, over time that money grows, that money accumulates, that money expands. And so I believe younger workers ought to be allowed to set up a personal account and invest in stocks and bonds so that their money can increase faster, at a faster rate than that which their money increases in the Social Security system. That's what I believe ought to happen. (Applause.)
And so -- that's called the compounding rate of interest. Just trying to show off a little bit, kind of -- (laughter.) Not bad for a history major. (Laughter.) Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. By the way, our plan is one where I believe we ought to phase in the accounts so they're more affordable, so that the transition costs are more manageable to get to such accounts. I believe ultimately a worker ought to be allowed to put 4 percent of the payroll tax aside as a -- 4 percent of the 12 -- as a -- in the personal account. So money stays in the system, but money also would be allowed to grow with interest. Your option, by the way. Younger workers shouldn't be forced to do this. Younger workers -- if you're interested in this, you can do so.
Now, if you're a worker who earns $35 [sic] a year over your lifetime, and this system were in effect where you could put 4 percent of your payroll taxes in a personal account, and you start at age 20, by the time you retire, your personal account would grow to $250,000. That's compounding rate of interest.

So boys and girls, here’s a little bit of arithmetic (as we used to call it) that I remember from eighth grade:

Social Security taxes are around 6%
35000 x .06 = 2100

And you get to take 4% of that
2100x .04 = 84

Taking an average of $84 a year for that average $35000 over a “lifetime” earnings, (and we assume that annual contribution is made EVERY year – no time off for losing your job or having a kid or two) by my calculations you’d need an annual interest rate of 12% AND work till you’re 70 to get $250,070 in the end. If you wanted to retire at 65, you’d need an annual interest rate of 13.7% to get $251,621.

Last time I looked, returns on bonds were in the 4 –5 % range.

Of course, you could always choose stocks…

Monday, February 07, 2005

I heard he flunked gym, too.

Atrios makes a great catch with this excerpt from the President explaining his Social Security program in Florida (all emphasis added)
Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it

So, he doesn’t know anything about economics. Or history:
We've seen a remarkable, remarkable series of events when you think about it. In a very brief period of time, Afghanistan became a democracy, people were able to vote for a President of that country -- they tell me,for the first time in 5,000 years. Millions of people showed up at the polls. The first voter was a woman who was not allowed to participate in democracy during the Taliban. (Applause.) And that's important for our children and grandchildren. The fact that Afghanistan is free sets a powerful example in a part of the world that is in need for powerful examples of a free society.

Or what century it is:

So, to give you an example, in 2027, the system will be $200 billion short. In other words, they collect X amount of payroll taxes, but because baby boomers like me are living longer and have been promised greater benefits, we're $200 billion short that year -- that year. And the next year is bigger than $200 billion. In 3037 [sic}, it's like $300 billion. And finally in -- 2037, it's $300 billion. In 2042, it's bust. Those are the facts.

Or language:
Jennifer. Jennifer has got the hardest job in America. She's a single mom.
MS. LALANI: Well, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: All right, Jennifer, what do you do?
MS LALANI: What do I do? Besides raising my two lovely children, which again -- like you said, it is the hardest job, the most challenging job, but the job I really truly lve -- I'm actually a pharmacist. And I currently work for a major chain. And what I do is I manage 30 of their stores.
THE PRESIDENT: So you're a manager?
MS. LALANI: Yes, so being a mom was a great training ground for a corporate job. (Laughter.) It taught me about multi-tasking.
THE PRESIDENT: Very good. Nice long word, multi-tasking. Very good. (Laughter.) Inject a little intellectual strength here in this conversation.
MS. LALANI: Yes, there you go. Corporate talk.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right. It is. All right, tell me what your concerns are on the Social Security plan.

Or irony:
Q Hi, I'm a high school student. I'm just wondering is there anything I can to prepare for this new Social Security reform when I grow up?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it is. That's a good question. You know, one of the issues is financial literacy, is to pay attention to what it means, how stocks and bonds work, compounding rate of interest. That's a very good question. A lot of people, when you say, the interest grows at a certain -- over time at a certain rate, people are not really sure what we're talking about.

Was there an affirmative action program for buffoons at Yale?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

David Brooks is an Idiot

I realize I risk stating the obvious with that headline, but his latest NY Times column is such an pure example of classic Boboism that it defies the usual laws of rhetorical restraint.

From the title, one would (if one were not familiar with Brooks) assume that he would provide a thoughtful analysis of the rise of Howard Dean style populism. One would be mistaken. Instead, we get a paean to those good old days of Ralph Kramden:

Back in the 1950's, tens of millions of Americans were members of fellowship associations like the Elks Lodges, the Rotary Clubs and the Soroptimists. These groups had lodges or chapters across the nation, where the affluent and not so affluent, the educated and not so educated, would get together once a week or so for schmoozing and community service.

In other words, ou sont les nieges des vieux hommes blancs?

Brooks then goes on to cite from the work of Prof. Theda Skocpol of Harvard and her book “Diminished Democracy.” Skocpol (according to Brooks) observes that “professionally run groups” such as NARAL and the Sierra Club are now dominating the association landscape, and Brooks writes

Being a member of one of these organizations doesn't generally involve going to a local lodge once a week and communing with your neighbors; it involves sending a check once a year and reading a newsletter.

"Communing" often being a euphenism for "sitting around bullshitting while hoisting back enough beer to float an armada" It's just not the same anymore:

Since the 1960's there has been a breakdown in the machinery that allowed Americans to work together across class and other divisions. The educated class has come to dominate, and the issues of interest to that class overshadow issues of interest to the less educated and less well off.

Quick! Somebody alert the English Department that they’re in charge!!!!

And then the column takes its familiar Brooksian flight of fantasy:

But the two major parties were affected unequally. The Republican coalition still contains some cross-class associations, like the N.R.A. and the evangelical churches, which connect corporate elites to the middle classes. The Democratic coalition has fewer organizations like that. Its elite - the urban and university-town elite - has less contact with the less educated.

You teach in Harlem? What the hell do YOU know about the education needs of the poor?

But herein lies the real danger to society:

Over the past two years, what we might loosely call the university-town elite has come to dominate the Democratic Party not just intellectually, but financially as well.

Howard Dean, in his fervent antiwar phase, mobilized new networks of small donors, and these donors have quickly become the money base of the party. Whereas Al Gore raised only about $50 million from individuals in 2000, John Kerry raised $225 million, including $87 million over the Internet alone. Many of these new donors are highly educated. The biggest groups of donors to the Dean and Kerry campaigns were employees of the University of California, Harvard, Stanford, Time Warner, Microsoft and so on.

“and so on” being Brooksian for “teachers, factory workers, farmers, students, nurses, social workers, secretaries…”

So now (finally!) he gets to his point:

Many Republicans are mystified as to why the Democrats, having lost another election, are about to name Howard Dean as party chairman and have allowed Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy to emerge unchallenged as the loudest foreign policy voices.

Let me clear up the mystery for any of you clueless Republicans out there. We are tired of being bulldozed by this administration. We are tired of rolling over and playing dead while you destroy the environment, run up a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying off, run roughshod over social programs that have been proven worthy time and time again, thumb your nose at our allies and pursue your dangerous foreign policies, and screw this country over six ways from Sunday.

So yes – we want Senators Boxer and Kennedy standing up to your bullying and speaking truth to power. We want Howard Dean as DNC chair because he is not afraid of you, your friends in corporate media or your business cronies.

So, David, don’t worry about us

Howard Dean may not be as liberal as he appeared in the primaries, but in 1,001 ways - from his secularism to his stridency - he embodies the newly dominant educated class, which is large, self-contained and assertive.

Thanks to this newly dominant group, the Democrats are sure to carry Berkeley for decades to come.

Yep—we’ll carry Berkeley…and Detroit…and Davenport…and Mobile. And then we’ll carry Miami…and Phoenix…and Billings….and Minneapolis…and French Lick…and Houston…and Portland…and AAAAAAAEEEEEYYYYAHHHHH!!!!!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bait and Switch Redux

As expected, last night's State of the Union address focused on Social Security. President Bush is just bound and determined to dismantle this program, spitting on FDR's grave while quoting him in his speech. For the longest time the President has been harping on this "Social Security is in crisis" theme as the reason we have to ACT. NOW.

Faced with mounting evidence that there is no crisis, this administration is changing its tune. From today's LA Times

Bush added new details to his proposal for individual accounts, under which workers could direct some of the taxes now paid for Social Security to mutual funds investing in stocks and bonds.

In a significant shift in his rationale for the accounts, Bush dropped his claim that they would help solve Social Security's fiscal problems — a link he sometimes made during last year's presidential campaign. Instead, he said the individual accounts were desirable because they would be "a better deal," providing workers what he said would be a higher rate of return and "greater security in retirement."

A Bush aide, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, was more explicit, saying that the individual accounts would do nothing to solve the system's long-term financial problems.

So once again we have the administration lying about its real motivation. Much like they did about Iraq.

"It's the WMD's"
"It's because Saddam Hussein is supporting terrorists"
"It's to spread democracy"

Geez guys --pick a reason and stick with it for a change.