Monday, August 31, 2009

Should Obama take charge of healthcare reform?

That's the question. Now, Bill Clinton tried to do that 15 years ago. It didn't work -- the House and Senate simply ignored him and did their own thing. But Bill tried to ram it through first thing. He didn't wait for Congress to fuck it up first. I think it's fair to say right now that Congress has fucked it up -- they've tried to shove a 10 pound bill into a 5 pound container, and the shit splatting out is confusing enough that it splatted all over the tracking poll. In particular they've lost the old farts because they are suspicious that 1/3rd of the bill is Medicare reform, which they don't view as something needing reform other than the donut hole. Thus the seemingly nonsensical refrain "keep your government hands off my Medicare!" (heh!).

So there's two things possible here. Either Obama can come in and say, "strip out all this other stuff not related to creating universal coverage and make it another bill", i.e., clean it up and make it lean. That's probably his first inclination. His own health care plan during his campaign was similar to the House approach, except worse, so if he said to the House "throw out all that Medicare stuff and any other miscellaneous and make it *only* about insurance and Medicaid reform to give universal coverage", and gave them said cleaned-up bill, they'd probably go for it.

Or Obama can lead. He can say "Enough. You tried, you failed. We will expand Medicare to all." Then the Republicans have to run against Medicare, and if they do that, they've lost. Medicare is the most popular government program aside from Social Security, and anybody running against Medicare is taking on old folks as well as taking on something that's already a known quantity. You can't say Medicare has "death panels" because it doesn't. You can't say Medicare rations care, because it doesn't -- it won't pay for everything, but you can always buy Medi-Gap coverage from private insurers for the things it won't pay for. And the bill would be literally 5 pages long, most of which would be boilerplate around the three paragraph payload, one paragraph expanding Medicare to everybody, the second one which raises the Medicare payroll tax to 4/4%, the third which adds a 5% Medicare surcharge to the income tax for everybody who makes over $500K/year. I've worked the numbers and that would pay for every dime that's currently being paid through private insurance, and leave enough to cover the current uninsured. Three paragraphs. That's all it would take.

Against this, the right wing could not attack Medicare directly like they do the current bill, because then they are attacking prunes, and prunes get upset when you attack their Medicare. So basically the only thing they could do is attack it on two fronts. The first is on a dollars and cents basis: "Medicare is bankrupt", which is a ridiculous argument because not a single Medicare check has ever bounced or ever will because they come directly out of the U.S. Treasury. They will whine that raising taxes in a recession is bad (and I will simply point out that this proposal does not raise taxes -- it simply shifts the already-existing healthcare tax from the private sector to the public sector). And as I've repeatedly pointed out, the U.S. is the least-taxed OECD nation on the planet, we pay an average of 27% GDP in taxes at every level from school board to federal government as vs. an OECD average of around 35% of GDP, so it's not as if we have no leeway for raising taxes if needed. The United States is a long, long, LONG ways from being bankrupt despite all the Republican anti-American ranting about how America is bankrupt blah blah blah. The second attack would be that it would put "hard-working Americans" out of work. Well, given that the work of these "hard working Americans" is to stand between Americans and their doctors and say "we won't pay", good. This is America. Jobs are not guaranteed for life here. Those "hard-working Americans" can simply re-train for jobs that actually add something to the American economy. I understand Subway's is hiring sandwich artists...

So will Medicare For All happen? Of course not. It would piss off too many campaign donors. As Paul Krugman pointed out recently, in America it is the will of the campaign donors, not the will of the people, that is most important. Votes can be taken for granted when the opposition is as batshit crazy as today's Republican Party. Cash cannot. So Congress is going to come back next month, strip some of the garbage out of the current set of bills under Obama's direction, and set up a Bismarkian system that looks like a strange conglomeration of the German and Swiss systems. That's the best we can do in today's U.S. political system, it seems. The Republicans have done their best to make this nation ungovernable, and even that's pushing it. But I can pine for the days when we had an LBJ who actually knew how to lead, who could get important legislation like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed despite rabid Republican opposition... even if one of the places he led us was called Vietnam and was national disaster not only for the Democratic Party but for the nation :(. Obama? He ain't fit to lick LBJ's boots in that regard. So it goes...

--Badtux the Health Care Penguin

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Evening Music

Jason Isbell, Dress Blues. Sombre. Why are we still in Iraq?

-- Badtux the Grim Penguin

Eyes of the Cat

The Mighty Fang is on patrol.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Saturday, August 29, 2009

California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust Signature Pepperoni

Yes, the reviews continue! This is the most expensive of the pizzas that I have purchased thus far, costing $6 at my local Safeway. Is it worth the price? Well... yes, and no.

First of all, this is a good pizza. The cheese is wonderfully cheesy and smooth and there is a lot of it, the pepperoni is nicely flavorful, and while there isn't much sauce, more sauce than there is on this pizza would utterly overwhelm the crust. The crust itself holds up quite well to the load of toppings and has a pleasant toasty taste to it. In short, now that the Red Baron folks have discontinued their "Ultimate Pepperoni Thin Crust Pizza", this is now my favorite thin-crust pizza.

But is it worth it? Well... this is a small pizza, and thin. So I guess it depends. I like a pizza with a thicker crust that adds a bready taste to the toasty taste. Still, if you're looking for a good pizza, and don't care that you're paying $6 for what's basically a one-serving pizza (if you're a penguin with a big appetite like me), this is definitely a great choice. It is still not pizzeria pizza... but it's very, very, very close, and will definitely reward rather than punish your taste buds when you eat it.

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

Faith, Communism, and Glibertarians

So the Glibertarian CATO Institute is still insisting that their free market health insurance scheme could actually work, even though I, and many, many other people, have pointed out that a free market health insurance scheme inherently only insures young and healthy people because insurers would swiftly cherry-pick out anybody unhealthy or older in order to reduce rates and gain more customers. Their solution -- insurance insurance? -- isn't a solution either. It's a derivative, and we all know now, I hope, that derivatives in a free market don't work because nobody can accurately value them (see: credit default swaps, financial disaster caused by thereof). The Glibertarians' response? "It WOULD work! We have faith, faith we say, that it would work!" They can't point out any single time in human history when their system for funding health care has worked, but that doesn't matter, because they have faith.

The Glibertarians remind me of the hard-core Communists. Their system has failed whenever put into practice, but still they insist that the reason for the failure was because the attempt wasn’t pure enough, not because their system is, inherently, idealistic utopian nonsense that disregards important facets of human nature in its attempt to reach some ideal that cannot be obtained with human beings as they currently exist. Pragmatic reality seems to be something that neither Glibertarians nor the Communists are familiar with. If it wasn’t for the fact that their nuttery was so bloody deadly when actually put into practice, it might be funny. The 22,000+ per year dead because of lack of health insurance, however, are not laughing. They can’t. They’re dead. And the Glibertarians would add to their number if they had their opportunity to do so, while claiming that it was not happening, because in the end that's what ideologues like Communists and Glibertarians do -- deny reality and pretend their their ideological nonsense actually works, when every stitch of evidence we have from the passage of history says it won't and can't because people just don't behave the way Communists and Glibertarians think they behave.

Reality. Sigh. It's just too bloody bad that so many people have no acquaintance with it, and still continue pushing toxic nonsense that could never work.

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Practical Penguin

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fact vs. opinion

Water is wet. That is a fact. There is no arguing about this fact, it simply is.

Getting wet with water is good. This is an opinion. It's an opinion I agree with when I take a shower in the morning. It's an opinion my cats vehemently disagree with, to the point where attempting to get them into the shower enclosure in order to clean them up makes for a blood-curdling (and blood-letting) experience.

In short, reasonable men, women, and kittehs can have different opinions about whether a fact about reality is good or bad. But reality simply is, it isn't a matter of opinion. Water is wet regardless of whether you or I like that reality.

One of the things I liked about Barry Goldwater was that he didn't try to just make shit up. He didn't try to say that water was dry or that the sky was purple at mid-day on a sunny summer day. He was, in short, in touch with reality.

Today's Republicans, however, will argue with a straight face that water is not, in fact, wet, and that the sky at mid-day on a sunny summer day is a fine color of grass-green. It's as if they do not live in the same reality as the rest of us. A discussion with someone who states with a straight face that water is dry, and who refuses to believe the fact that water is wet even when you splash his face with a glass of water, is akin to having a discussion with a kitchen table. It is futile.

So it goes with HR3200. Sensible people can have differing opinions about whether particular provisions of the bill are good or bad, but the actual content of the bill is presented in clear legal language about which there can be no factual argument. The nonsense about "death panels", "tax money to illegals", "tax subsidies for public option", blah blah blah is like discussing whether water is wet -- it has absolutely no connection to reality. The clear legal text of the bill explicitly disallows any of those to happen -- the Medicare end-of-life counseling would be done by private doctors employed by patients, not by the federal government, the law explicitly disallows illegals from receiving subsidies to buy health insurance, and the law explicitly disallows using tax money to subsidize the public option. Arguing with people who insist that these three things are real even after you point out the parts of the law that says they're not real is like arguing with people who insist that the sky is green and water is dry. The only argument that should be involved is how quickly such people could be committed to an insane asylum as delusional schizophrenics with no conception of reality. Yet sadly, this is to what we've come: Arguments about whether water is wet. GAH! The crazy! It burns, it burns!

-- Badtux the "Arguing w/a table is futile" Penguin


Mencken decides that catching one of the last rays of summer is more important than lap time...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Yeah, that big fat cat fit through that tiny crack in the door just fine. Amazing how such big kittehs can make themselves skinny when they need to!

Snow Leopard Day

Rather than fight the crowds at the Apple Store, I'm waiting for FedEx to deliver my very own big cat to my door. Nice thing about working from home is that you don't have to worry about getting dressed. Bad thing is that the LITTLE cats decide that lap time is more important than your work, and sit on the keyboard until you give them said lap time...

-- Badtux the Homely Penguin

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Everybody must get lost

Bob Dylan to voice a new GPS.

GPS: "Muh muh wuh muh luh."
Driver: "Wha?"
GPS: "ruh lah muh stuh."
Driver: "I don't get it!"
GPS: "Awe muhn. Fuggit."
Driver: "Aiiiiieeeeee! Cliff! EEEEEEeeeeeeeee!"

In other news, Bob Dylan is also to release a Christmas album of traditional Christmas songs. Like, presumably, "suhluh nuh", "juh guh buh", "ruhduh duh ruhnuh ruhduh", and other such classics...

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

So why don't I comment on your blog?

Well, there's various possible reasons:

  1. I don't *know* about your blog. If you've never commented here, or dropped me a line saying you like my blog and are linking to it from your own blog, I probably don't know about your blog. If your blog is not in one of my blogrolls, I don't know about your blog.
  2. You never post (or at least Blogger thinks you never post): If you don't have your RSS feeds turned on to be picked up by my blogroll, I don't know you've posted, so I never go see what you have.
  3. You're boring me. I'm not going to post comments about things that don't interest me. If it's about health care or the economy, or Republican stupidity, I might comment. If it's about something that is of no interest to me at all, like feminism or recipes more involved than "throw box into microwave for 15 minutes, remove, and eat", I likely just move right on by.
  4. YOU REQUIRE ME TO SIGN UP FOR AN ACCOUNT THAT'S SPECIFIC TO YOUR BLOG. I have no problem creating a Wordpress or Blogger account to comment on your (and thousands of others) blog. That username/password pair is useful in a number of places, not just on your blog, so it's no big deal. But unless you're bigger than Jesus, I'm not going to bother to create a user name and password that is explicit to your legend-in-your-own-mind blog.
That last one is a biggy. There's one blog that I regularly see updates on, go cruise to see posts, say "Wow, that's an interesting post, let me clarify some things about the inflationary and deflationary effects of the business cycle absent a central bank however", then I realize he requires me to have a special username/password for just his blog, at which point I say "Naw, that's too much trouble" and move on...

-- Badtux the Blogging Penguin

Will Obama seize Republican babies for Marxist re-education?

That appears to be the general gist of a new Republican survey. It implies that HR3200 will deny health care based on party affiliation.

Which brings up the question: In order to keep the government mind control rays out, do Republicans make their pets wear tin foil hats too?

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

And for entertainment... this Fox News re-enactment is fail all the way. Cardboard cutout of bear?!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The obligatory

I suppose, since I am a "liberal" (a word attached to any sane person by today's insane Republicans), I should write a long laudatory note about the late Teddy Kennedy, who died last night. Well, fuck that. What I remember most about Teddy was how he sucked up all of Jimmy Carter's campaign cash with a hard-fought primary campaign in 1980 that he had absolutely no chance of winning because of his own demons of rum and women, and contributed to the election of that bastard Ronald Reagan, who dismantled the New Deal systems that had led to the greatest gains in prosperity for the average American that this nation had ever known. Teddy Kennedy was an ego in search of an agenda, a liberal out of habit rather than conviction, the best you can say is that, unlike most politicians today, he was not a monster who wanted to enrich the elites at the expense of children and the working man. Sad to say, that made him a giant amongst today's politicians but then, it is not difficult to be a giant amongst pygmies.

I'm not saying that Teddy Kennedy was a bad man. He wasn't. He was a flawed man, but who isn't. I'm just not much for all the idealizing bullshit that goes around whenever a prominent politician dies. At least with Teddy it's not like the bullshit that happened when Richard Nixon died (Hunter S. Thompson's was the only honest obituary there), but sheesh. Let's get real, okay?

-- Badtux the Grumpy Penguin

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dead children, dead dreams, and lies

Palo Alto is nick-named "Shallow Alto" by locals from Berkeley. It is a place where BMW's and Mercedes Benzes are as common as Toyotas in other parts of the Bay area, where exclusive homes hide behind bushes or boldly proclaim the affluence of their owners depending upon whether it's old money or new money (old money doesn't proclaim, new money does), where upscale shops are the rule and big boxes need not apply, where the schools are the best and have all the college AP courses that any aspiring Stanford student would ever want or need, where... where in the past four months, four young people have deliberately walked out in front of trains to die.

Palo Alto, it seems, is a place where the American Dream has gone to make its last stand, where the desperation of parents to make sure that their own children do not fall out of the comfortable upper-middle-class affluence to which they are accustomed has led to pressures upon children that they are not capable of handling, where every child is instilled with a desperation, a fear, that if they are not the best, if they are not at the top of their class, if they are not popular, if they don't take all the right extracurriculars or are lousy at sports so do not look good to recruiters from top colleges looking for "well-rounded" students, then they are failures, doomed to be one of those people who shuffle around pushing a shopping cart, a piteous beggar in the cornucopia of America.

Palo Alto. It is a kingdom of fear, in the end, fear of failure, fear of falling out of the upper middle class, fear that this generation will be the last generation of upper middle class America as the American Dream turns into the American Nightmare of Mexico North, a nation of piteous ill-educated peasants and a small upper crust of masters who rule them all, a place where an ill-defined sense of panic clutches each heart in a deadly grip. And a place where children, overwhelmed, step out in front of trains and end it all.

Palo Alto. It is where the American Dream has gone to die, and with it... so, too, do the children die, killed by dreams turned to nightmares, dreams turned to lies.

-- Badtux the Sombre Penguin

Yes, it took me all day to write this post. It wasn't an easy one to write. I only wish I could do it right.

Safeway Eating Right Soy Protein Burgers

These things are sold in the freezer section at Safeway, and claim to be microwavable, exactly what any good bachelor needs -- burgers that don't need firing up the grill but, rather, can be nuked in the microwave in a few minutes after getting home from work. So I brought a box home, and cooked one pattie by nuking it in the microwave for 2 minutes

The general consistency is cardboard, leavened by Worcestershire sauce (which made a friggin' mess on the microwave plate as it boiled out of the burger during nuking). Still, placed on a hamburger bun and dressed up with ketchup, yellow mustard, hamburger dill slices, and random salad greens, it was acceptably edible for the bachelor who is, well, baching it. I had two of them, which didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth or anything, though clearly they aren't real hamburgers. They could maybe be confused with McDonald's hamburgers though. For what that's worth. Yellow mustard, ketchup, and pickle will make even cardboard edible enough for a bachelor.

In short: If you're a bachelor in a hurry needing to nuke a couple of burgers inbetween getting home and leaving for a hot date with a woman, this will fill the hole in your tummy. Fine cuisine it ain't, but edible it is, and proof that enough Worcestershire steak sauce, ketchup, mustard, and pickle will make even cardboard edible.

-- Badtux the Culinary Penguin

Budget fail

It isn't even the 1st of the month yet, and already my September discretionary budget is gone :(. First, I ordered a body lift / motor mount lift set for my Jeep. Then, I ordered an update to my Delorme GPS software to make it work better on my netbook. Then I relaxed, because that left some space in my budget for one more discretionary purchase in September. Then... then...

Apple released Snow Leopard and the upgrade bundle (with iLife and iWork) for Friday. Those bastards!

Siiiigh. That was the last of my September discretionary budget. So the rest of September (well, until September 24, which is when my budget month flips over) is going to be rather dull. I have a couple more pizza reviews on tap, but that's pretty much it, until October arrives...

-- Badtux the Budgeted Penguin

Monday, August 24, 2009

Birthers want to view Obama's wang

This is just sad. One wonders if what the birthers are really wondering is if it's true that black men's willies are bigger than theirs. Probably so... probably so... but frankly, that wouldn't be hard to do.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

So why won't competition work for health insurance?

The right-wingers claim that competition would reduce the cost of health insurance. To which I have a simple, succinct, one word answer: Bullshit.

To put it simply: Health care is expensive, and insurance companies have no control over how much health care costs. That is determined by the patient, the doctor, and the cost of the technologies involved in modern medicine (as I explained in my post on 'Why is health care so expensive?'). Given this, there are only two ways an insurance company can charge less than other insurance companies while retaining the profit margin that investors demand:

  1. Kick sick people out so that they don't have to disburse as much money, or
  2. Deny claims so they don't have to disburse as much money.
That's it. That's the only two ways an insurer can reduce their costs while retaining the profit margin that investors demand. So if we went to a completely unregulated "competition-based system" like the right-wing is always touting, we'd end up with a) only young, healthy people being offered insurance by insurance companies, and b) most claims for rare but expensive illnesses (such as coverage for $1M leukemia treatment) automatically denied in order to keep insurance rates low. And if we regulated it to avoid points 1 and 2 above, competition would result in no overall decrease in costs, because insurers don't control costs, just payments.

In short, if our goal is to provide health care for everybody, and to pool money to cover rare but expensive illnesses such as leukemia when they happen, "free-market health insurance" is an oxymoron -- it simply is incompatible with those goals. That is why employer-provided health insurance is heavily regulated today in order to mandate that insurers can't kick out sicker/older people and can't arbitrarily deny coverage to expensive illnesses -- we found out the hard way that points 1 and 2 above are what happens if we rely on an unregulated free market for health insurance.

If our goal is to provide content-free buzzwords for use by ideologues pushing imaginary solutions to real problems, on the other hand, "free market health insurance" works quite well indeed. It's got all the right buzzwords and rolls well off the lips. It's bullshit, of course, but then, so is 99% of what you hear from politicians or on TV, so if you're an ideologue pitching nonsense, the majority of Americans (who, remember, don't even seem to know that Medicare is a government healthcare program) won't be able to tell the difference anyhow, so why not? Of course, it's horrible public policy and would result in tens of thousands more Americans dying per year, but let's not let facts get in the way of a cool sounding talking point, right? Right?!

-- Badtux the Health Care Penguin

Below: Democrats demonstrate their posture on health care. funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Today's pizza: Freschetta Flatbread Pizza

The whole title is, "Freschetta Flatbread Ultra Thin Crispy Crust Made With All Natural Cheese". So I preheated the oven, plunked it on the center rack as directed, let it cook for ten minutes as directed, and voila - one pizza.

As I've mentioned before, a thin and crispy crust pizza is darned hard to get right, because there simply is not enough crust to contribute a huge amount of flavor to the pizza. The usual result is that the taste of the crust gets overwhelmed by the toppings.

In this respect, Schwan's comes close, but manages to avoid perfection by one missing flavor. The crust is quite good for a thin and crispy crust pizza. It actually *is* crispy -- too many "thin crust" pizzas have a limp crust, but Schwan got this one to have a good consistency.

The "all natural cheese" was good too. It has a nice rich cheesy flavor that goes well with the toasted flavor of the crust. Think grilled cheese. Not bad at all.

And the pepperoni... well, it was a bit salty, but that's a matter of taste. Other than that, the pepperoni was exactly right for this pizza, with just the right amount of pepperoni tang to offset the cheese and toasty crust.

So what's missing, you ask? Well... the sauce. That just goes to show how devilishly hard it is to make a good thin-crust pizza. Schwan's sauce is generally tangy and tasty and offsets the mild rich flavor of the cheese nicely. But on this pizza, the sauce is basically missing in action. My suspicion is that Schwan's simply couldn't figure out how to keep the crust crispy at the same time they put a well-balanced amount of sauce onto the pizza, and so to keep the crust from getting soggy, they put too little sauce.

Close, but no cigar. I certainly wouldn't turn down this pizza if someone offered it to me, but the Freschetta Brick Oven Pizza is still the champ -- its more substantial crust allows for more substantial flavors. Nice try though. Maybe somebody, someday, will make a frozen thin crust pizza that's actually as good as pizzeria thin-crust. But that day isn't now, and my suggestion if you want a really good thin-crust pizza is to find a pizzeria specializing in that... the frozen is getting closer, but still not there.

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

Saturday, August 22, 2009

He likes it!

Heard splashing from the kitchen so *very* carefully went to see who was splashing. TMF was sitting next to my chair so it wasn't him. Instead, it was...

Mencken. Who hates everything. Who was lapping at the falling water from the Drinkwell Platinum fountain as if it were the tastiest thing ever, instead of drinking from the bowl like a normal cat.

That was an expensive dadburned fountain, but worth every penny.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Pizza Review: Newman's Own

This is a Newman's Own Thin and Crispy Uncured Pepperoni pizza. Paul Newman has now shuffled off to that great Sundance Festival in the sky, but his company still keeps chugging along.

So I preheated the oven to 425 as directed, and then placed the pizza on the center rack for 11 minutes as directed. The pizza came out perfectly baked the way a thin crust pizza should be baked. One thing that is apparent, however, is that this is a quite small pizza -- that's a normal sized pizza pan that it's sitting on, and it is dwarfed by the pizza pan. Still, if it was suitably tasty I could live with that...

Now, thin crust pizzas are devilishly hard to get right. The crust is thin, so has to work hard to contribute flavor to the pizza. You must make sure that the toppings do not entirely overpower the crust so that all parts of the pizza present themselves in a well balanced way. So how does the Newman's Own pizza do?

In a word: Not well. Oddly enough, the problem isn't that the sauce or pepperoni overpower the crust, which is a common problem with thin-crust pizzas. No. The problem is garlic. Pretty much the only thing you can taste while eating this pizza is garlic. Not sauce. Not pepperoni. Not cheese. Not crust. Just an overpowering and ever-present taste of garlic, with a slight hint of olive oil taste being the only thing that makes it better than just chomping down on a garlic clove.

So: If you love the taste of garlic, get this pizza. If you love the taste of a well balanced pizza that presents the full spectrum of pizza flavors to your taste buds, on the other hand, this pizza is utter fail. Sorry, Paul, wherever you are -- your company just isn't doing you right here :-(.

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

Click on the 'pizza' label below for *more* pizza reviews!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Morons with Guns

Thus far, there have been 21 incidents logged where people in open carry states stood near one of the President's events with openly displayed weapons. Generally these weapons were carried in an unsafe manner that was clearly incompatible with being able to actually, well, use these weapons if necessary. For example, there was the dude in Arizona who was carrying an AR-15 slung over with the barrel pointed at his ASS, leading one to hope that nobody in the crowd jostled him, otherwise his new nickname would be "Assless Ass".

This reminds me of the odd and unpleasant fact that in the Star Wars universe, light sabers do not have safeties, just a big switch that’s easy to flick on. *AND*, they’re carried by Jedi loosely at the belt, where they can be easily jostled. This seems like a situation ripe for an accident: “Reason there is Jedi cannot love. Find out you will.”

But George Lucas has an excuse. He writes bad movies. Slinging his characters’ weapons off the belt in an unsafe way is no big deal because, well, the weapon isn’t *real*. It’s fiction. Fake. Imaginary. So what’s these guys’ excuse? Gah! The stupid! It burns, it burns!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Revealed: The GOP health plan diagram!

Oh wait, that's the Republican BUDGET plan with a couple of different text changes. Here's the REAL GOP plan, which is their so-called "free market health care" :

Remember, boys and girls. If insurers aren't free to discriminate against customers and arbitrarily rescind coverage because patients didn't report diseases they didn't even know they had, Big Government is getting between a patient and his undertaker, and that's just wrong!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Lords of the Chairs

Mencken and The Mighty Fang love these kitchen chairs. Mencken is usually on the one opposite this one, hidden under the table, so I can't get a good photo of him. TMF always takes my chair, though, the one I pulled out so I could easily sit after preparing my tasty herring dinner. So here's yet *another* photo of TMF hogging my chair...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Upcoming attractions

A new batch of frozen pizzas has arrived at my local Safeway, meaning it's time to update my pizza tests. Some of the brands I reviewed in the past are gone, and there's a whole bunch of new ones. There are four in particular that look interesting, and I shall bake each and every one of them for you and let you know exactly what my opinion is.

In case you were not around for the last batch of tests, the winner was the Freschetta Brick Oven Fire Baked Crust Italian Style Pepperoni. It had a wonderfully caramelized crust that was bready yet light, not dense, and which was perfectly offset by exactly the right amounts of tangy sauce, cheesy cheese, and tangy pepperoni so that no one flavor dominated the mix. Ah, pizza ecstasy! So anyhow, that tells you the criteria I use to judge pizzas. All pizzas I test are pepperoni, and each is evaluated according to crust (must be light rather than dense, have a nicely bready taste with a hint of caramelization), sauce (should be plentiful and tangy but not overwhelming), cheese (should be plentiful and have a pleasantly smooth and cheesy taste without being overwhelming), pepperoni (should be plentiful and tangy), and overall balance (no single flavor should overwhelm the pizza). It will be interesting to see how each of these new pizzas evaluate against the reigning champ by those criteria. This penguin is pumped at this excuse to maintain his pleasing penguin rotundity!

The other thing I'm going to do is a new entry or two into the Bachelor's Cookbook. Most bachelor cooking is rather unhealthy processed food leaning heavily towards chili mac, tuna casseroles, and hamburgers. But what happens if we make soy burgers? Can a soy burger be made as tasty as a beef burger? Can soy burgers be prepared in the microwave and still be edible? This penguin is decidedly curious to see what happens!

-- Badtux the Food Penguin

This just in: America disappearing into black hole of suck

54% of Americans don't know that Medicare is a government-run healthcare program. 54%. The black hole of suck is so fucking big that it's amazing the whole goddamned country hasn't disappeared into one giant black hole of suck yet.

Jesus fucking Christ in a goddamned handbasket. How can so many people be so fucking stupid? Oh wait. "President George W. Bush". Fucking *TWICE*. Nevermind.

Maybe I ought to just go ahead and apply for Canadian residency. It's clear that any nation where 54% of the population can't figure out that Medicare is a government program is too goddamned stupid to continue to exist for a whole lot longer. Maybe getting out before the black hole of suck finishes the USA off is the best thing to do after all.

- Badtux the Rude Penguin

And appropriate music:

Is Count Novakula really dead?

Okay, so I keep hearing that columnist Robert Novak, the scumbag who revealed a CIA agent to the world and set back nuclear anti-proliferation efforts by years due to all the hundreds of CIA assets subsequently killed by their host governments, has died and that I should write an obituary for him. Thing is, I'm not sure an obituary is really warranted. Not unless I see the body.

See, here's the thing. Count Novakula was a vile undead thing who did the bidding of evil and sadistic people like Dick "The Big Dick" Cheney. So yeah, I've heard he's dead. But look. Until I see his body with a big-ass fucking stake driven through the black shriveled mass of corruption that was Count Novakula's heart, I just don't believe it.

So, anybody seen the body? Was there a big ass fucking stake through Count Novakula's heart? If not, keep an eye on that grave. My guess is that there's going to be some loose dirt moved shortly as this festering pustule of evil emerges to resume his feasting upon the carcass of our decaying and disintegrating Republic. Either that, or I'm a penguin. Oh wait...

-- Badtux the "Speaking Evil of the Dead" Penguin

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What HR3200 really is

Previously I noted that there are five proven ways to provide universal healthcare, and the Republicans be agin' all of'em. So what is HR3200/ObamaCare amongst those five ways?

Well, basically, HR3200 is a strange amalgation of the German system -- which has publically owned nonprofit sickness funds and for-profit insurers largely funded by employer contributions with all citizens required to purchase insurance if not provided by employer (and all employers required to provide insurance for their employees) -- and the Swiss system, where individuals purchase insurance in a heavily regulated must-issue must-have individual insurance market (that is, insurers are required to issue insurance that meets minimum standards w/no pre-existing conditions exclusions, and individuals are required to purchase insurance). Subsidies are provided in both systems so that people who cannot afford to buy insurance on their own can afford to buy insurance, and HR3200 includes similar subsidies. One thing HR3200 does *not* do is force employers to provide insurers -- if employers refuse to provide insurance, instead HR3200 taxes them 8% of payroll in order to fund subsidies so the employees themselves can afford to buy individual insurance.

There's no reason why HR3200 should not work as designed -- the public option in the German system keeps costs low, the 8% tax encourages employers to provide employer-provided insurance, while the various mandates and subsidies insure that all Americans can afford and obtain insurance that will cover all common health costs -- but of course it is nowhere near the most efficient way to provide health care. The system HR3200 sets up will provide universal healthcare, but at a cost much higher than a single-payer system. Still, it's a whole lot better than the current system, which is "let them eat cake" filled with rescissions, refusals to insure due to pre-existing conditions, discrimination against women, older Americans, and against families with young children, and far too many people who cannot afford to purchase health insurance and cannot obtain any subsidy for doing so. And the costs situation is self-limiting in the end... when the costs become too huge to bear, the American public will simply turn to their democratic mechanisms and do something about it. Which will probably make providers accustomed to billion-dollar profits scream, but so it goes. It's called DEMOCRACY, and it would be a good idea...

-- Badtux the Democratic Penguin

Splish splash

I heard a splashing from the kitchen and poked my head around the corner to see... both cats playing with their new Drinkwell Platinum water fountain.

So my latest indulgences for the kittehs (the Furminator and the Drinkwell) have been well received. My masters are pleased. That makes this humble penguin servant of kittehs happy.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Monday, August 17, 2009

More on why the right hates democracy

As promised, here is my response to a right-winger's response to my post about why conservatives hate democracy -- i.e., democracy invariably transfers wealth from the minority of owners to the majority of workers:

First, you assume that once someone in the executive class acquires wealth, that it somehow disappears from the economy, unless of course the government takes it from the executive class and redistributes it to the working class.

Nope, it just gets invested somewhere, like, say, dot-com stocks or housing. I.e., it creates bubbles. That's what happens when you have too much income inequality, the extra income that the executive and ownership class took from the workers using the bargaining power of their position as the owners and bosses gets used in unproductive ways that do not further the goal of maintaining full employment. Some amount of excess investment capital in the hands of the ownership and executive classes is necessary to push further innovation, but more than the amount that we had during the period of fastest economic growth in America -- the period from 1945 to 1980 when the upper classes paid 75% income tax and executives earned 25 times what their workers earned rather than 250 times -- seems to do nothing but create one useless and destructive bubble after another, rather than fostering the increased consumption that would justify the investments.

And why do we want to maintain full employment? Simple. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. We do not want large numbers of citizens idle or on welfare. We want them working, producing goods or services, because otherwise they will be up to mischief or even rebellion. Furthermore, the more goods and services there are in an economy, the more real wealth there is in an economy. Remember, money is just toilet paper with pictures of dead people on it. Money is not wealth. It's what you can buy with money that is wealth.

Secondly, often the truly wealthy will choose to "redistribute" their wealth via charitable activities
The problem is that the wealthy don't get wealthy by being charitable. They get wealthy by being tight-assed and stingy. The figures don't lie -- the more money you make, the lower the percentage of your income that you donate to charity. Surprisingly, the poor donate the largest percentage of their income to charity of any income class. If we redistribute money from the ownership class to the working poor, in the form of higher wages and goods and services that will give them more actual income, we will foster more giving to charity than if we leave that money in the hands of the rich because the rich simply don't donate as much to charity as the poor do.

Thirdly, you assume that we live in some kind of class-based society where workers can only be workers. If you're good, you can start as a minimum-wage hourly employee at Wal-Mart and rise to an executive level one day
There can be only one CEO of a corporation. As I mentioned, the economies of scale of a modern economy dictate that the vast majority of citizens will be workers, not owners or executives. Intel requires tens of thousands of workers to produce microprocessors, but there is only one CEO. This is just the reality. Not everybody can be a CEO, the majority will be lunchpail types who show up for work every day, do their job, get paid for it, and go home (though in today's economy they may well be sitting in front of a computer rather than in front of a factory machine). That's how modern economies work.

Furthermore, as I've otherwise mentioned, class mobility in the United States is a myth. It is far higher in "socialist" countries. So the chances of a line worker becoming CEO are pretty dim in the first place. The reality is that the CEO becomes the CEO because he went to school with, and is chums with, the Board of Directors, who appoint him because they trust him to defend their (the owners') interests. Choosing a CEO from amongst the workers would be counter to the Board's best interests, because someone chosen from the workers would work in the workers' best interests, not in the owners' best interests. So it virtually never happens.

SA and JzB, it is true that some people inherit wealth and I suppose you deem that unfair. Instead I suppose that someone with a lot of money should be encouraged to dispose of that wealth either to charity, or possibly by riotous living, but either way one should not dare leave that wealth to their descendants, because that would put them at an unfair advantage over others, correct? What then, is the difference between inherited wealth and inherited genes?
The difference is that there is no fundamental right granted unto us by the Great Penguin to have inherited wealth, while there is a fundamental right to life granted unto us by the Great Penguin which says that our genes (our life) are ours. (Substitute creator of your choice for Great Penguin).
As for the exploitation of labor: Say I have some money that I wish to use to start a company. I need to hire a worker to do a certain job. What should I consider a fair wage?
What you will consider a fair wage will be whatever allows you to attract sufficient workers while making the most profit from their labors. That is your goal as a capitalist -- to make a profit from the labors of your workers. That is why you hate democracy -- because the workers in turn, in a democracy, take some of that profit from you in order to provide services for themselves, or in order to have higher wages for themselves via negotiations (trade unions) or other democratic methods. This is all natural and self-correcting in a democracy -- if workers get too greedy, the company fails, if the management gets too greedy, the workers vote to impose higher taxes on the management to redistribute it to the workers.

The problem is that you want to have all the power and give the workers none. That is not healthy, because power corrupts, and the problems with our economy over the past 29 years of Republican domination of U.S. politics, where the economy has grown much slower than in the previous 30 years, shows that power corrupts economies too. Our economy has rotted out from the inside because our rulers, corrupted by all the power they amassed thanks to Republican anti-worker policies, exported jobs overseas to the point where we cannot even make our own underwear anymore. Yes, we'll all be going commando if the Chinese decide to quit selling us underwear. And now we're on the precipice of a new Great Depression and I'm not sure that we'll get out of it without descending into a fascist dictatorship, because there's a lot of desperate people out there, and desperate people will turn to easy answers in a heartbeat. Give them an enemy -- Jews, or "socialists", or whatever -- and you have them.

are dollar a day jobs not the starting point for entry into the global economy?
I'm with Pat Buchanan here: The job of the government of the United States of America is to serve the needs of the AMERICAN people. Not of the Chinese or Malaysian or Thai or Filipino people. Some globalization is necessary and good because no one nation has the resources anymore to do everything -- for example, while the U.S. is still the leader in the computer business, we rely on Taiwanese motherboard makers and Korean sound card and case makers to a huge extent. And exporting some jobs overseas is necessary simply because we don't have enough Americans to do everything needed to keep a leading-edge economy going. But we've gone wayyyy past that point, to where our executive and ownership classes are deliberately harming American workers in order to make higher profits, then blocking any attempts by American workers to remedy that situation by taking back some of that wealth from the executive and ownership classes to, for example, provide healthcare for all Americans.

But I suppose you would say that is perfectly fine as long as *everyone* is born equally poor and dies equally poor.
Nonsense. That is not true in European countries -- there is higher class mobility there than here in the United States, and there is inequality there too, just not at the extremes of the American economy. You're throwing out a straw man.
You say that wealth distribution is more askew at any time since 1928 and world commerce is on the decline. Yes, this is a coincidence. Correlation does not imply causation
But we do have a direct causal relationship between bubbles and excess income on the part of our ownership and executive classes. Without that excess income, there are no bubbles. Did we have asset bubbles in the 1960's and 1970's? Nope. Because there was not excess income to have asset bubbles with. Correlation is not causation, but the collapse of asset bubbles destroy wealth, which in turn causes world commerce to decline, so one correlation leads to another which is causative. Unless you're saying that the collapse of the recent real estate bubble was not the cause of the current economic troubles? In which case I say balderdash.

One final note: The usual right-wing argument against socialism is that it takes from the "productive class" and gives to "deadbeats". But as I've shown, socialism actually takes from "deadbeats" -- those who produce no real wealth but, rather, manage wealth -- and gives to the "productive class" -- those who actually produce wealth via their labors, without whom the ownership and executive classes would have no wealth. The question is whether a socialist democracy will ever get to the point where there's a huge number of people on welfare. And the answer is, "yes -- but it is self correcting." The workers, who are the majority, will simply rebel at the notion of subsidizing a huge population of people who are contributing nothing to the economy, and will vote to cut benefits and welfare rolls. We have seen that happening in Sweden, for example -- they had generous welfare benefits, it was abused, so Sweden is cutting back. That's what happens in a real democracy, it is self correcting. But when you put all the power into the hands of the executive and ownership classes, which has been what happened during the past 28 years of Republican domination of U.S. politics, you destroy that self-correcting mechanism. Thus we have the current situation, where our economy is completely out of control, millions are out of work, and every attempt to deal with the situation is fought tenaciously by the small group of executives and owners who created the situation in the first place because they fear losing their power to the people and democracy coming to the USA. Which is sad. But maybe democracy will come to the USA someday.

Democracy. It'd be a good idea. And people who think it's not a good idea... well, in the end, we all know what happens to folks who say "let them eat cake" to the majority. Frankly, as a member of the top 20% of income earners, I value my neck more than that :-).

-- Badtux the Somewhat Affluent Penguin

Busy busy busy

A major customer is excited about our technology. But that means I need to go through and update the API documentation for the next release, which is the version they're excited about, plus implement a couple of missing features that they really, really want. So if I seem to be a bit heads down, now you know why.

-- Badtux the Busy Penguin

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My personal contribution to stimulus

I've set aside cash for a new Macbook Pro 13.3" once MacOS 10.6 Snow Leopard is released. That's the one with the 7 hour battery, Firewire 800, SD card slot for my camera's memory cards, and will take up to 8gb of RAM (which is coming down in price rapidly). Supposedly Snow Leopard is going to be released next month. I'm pumped!

- Badtux the Computer Geek Penguin

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Depressing numbers

Consumer prices in many sectors of the economy are falling, signaling we're moving into deflation. The WSJ etc. is trying to paint this as a good thing, but as I've repeatedly pointed out, deflation drives money out of circulation and turns it into mattress stuffing because people quit buying, waiting for prices to fall even further, and take the money out of banks because there's no reason to keep it in a bank if the bank can't pay you interest because there are negative real interest rates (which is what happens during deflation). Without money in banks available for lending, capitalism slows to a halt -- bank lending is how a capitalist system pays for the capital expenditures for future output using the cash generated by that future output and thus allows a capitalist system to swiftly adjust supply of items to match demand. Without that ability to swiftly adjust supply to meet demand, capitalism grinds to a crawl as businesspeople must then wait to slowly accumulate the capital to adjust their supply to meet demand.

And in fact consumer spending is also still well below last year's levels, where, remember, we were already in recession. The only reason the unemployment rate didn't go up is that so many people were forced to take temporary part-time jobs because their unemployment benefits had run out, but a $5.95/hour job for 15 hours a week as a sandwich artist at Subway isn't going to bring this economy out of recession and is "employment" only by the most stretched use of the word. And in fact the U-6 unemployment rate is unchanged, all that happened was that these people were no longer listed in the U-3 rate because they'd moved to the U-6 as "marginally attached" workers.

It is unclear how we're going to get out of this death spiral. Perhaps health care reform will help, since it will trigger a burst of health care spending as people currently locked out of the health care system suddenly get access, but the Rethugs are doing their best to stop that from happening via threats and disruptions. The only good news is that France and Germany are now out of recession and have growing economies again. Of course, that's good for them, but not so good for us, since we don't export diddly to France and Germany.

We need to do something to create jobs, to get people spending again, and get the economy moving. The stimulus is now slowly trickling into play, remember the Federal contracting cycle takes six months so we're just starting, so that's going to help. And the Cash for Clunkers program has had astounding bang for the buck -- automakers are going to be working overtime to replace the cars bought as a result of that program, keeping people employed all the way from assembly plants to steel suppliers. But we blew a $4 TRILLION hole in the economy with the housing bust, and we've only patched up maybe 2/3rds of that. We're still at risk of a deflationary spiral, yet so-called "serious economists" (i.e., all the economists who were wrong, as vs. people like Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini who were right) whine about imaginary inflation.

And it has become utterly clear that a) President Barack Obama is no President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he seems far too conservative to do the drastic things needed to get the economy moving again, b) Obama appears to be taking far too much advice from the very people who are responsible for the current crisis, and c) Congress is a joke. The Republicans spend all their time attempting to sabotage all efforts to end the crisis (apparently the suffering of their fellow Americans is of no concern to them, they literally care more about partisan hackery than about doing good for America and Americans), and the Democrats are a coalition of smaller parties spending more time in infighting than in getting things done. If I sound as hang-dog as Paul Krugman now, it's with reason. Our political system has ground to a halt and turned into a circus freak sideshow with "teabaggers" and "deathers" and Caribou Barbie and other such circus freaks running around to scare small children and miscellaneous pets, and our economy's "green shoots" look more like sickly tendrils about to expire under the heat of the sun.

In short, we are fucked, but good, unless something happens next month in Congress that is really unexpected. I'm not holding my breath.

-- Badtux the Gloomy Penguin

Caturday reminder

The Mighty Fang is still such a cool sleek black kitteh. He loves his Drinkwell, loves lapping water both from the bowl like a normal cat and licking at the falling water like a Bengal or something. He goes into virtual kitteh orgasms when I use the Furminator on him (note - he has no organs for doing that, he is quite neuter, but so it goes). He purrs and looks up at me adoringly when I give him his kitteh massages on my lap. What a sweet kitteh he is. And a mighty hunter too: - Badtux the Silly Cat-owned Penguin

Like a complete unknown

Bob Dylan detained briefly in New Jersey for being a dhisheveled bum. A homeowner called to say a suspicious hobo was shuffling around the neighborhood, cops came, found someone claiming to be "Bob Dylan". Cop said, "Yeah, and I'm Perry Como, where's your tour bus and entourage?" But of course the story has a happy ending in this case -- rather than tasering him to a crisp and throwing him into the slammer, they took him to where his tour bus was parked and verified with his manager that yes, this really *was* Bob Dylan.

No comment yet from his press agent on whether Bob felt like a rolling stone.

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

Friday, August 14, 2009

Unfounded accusation

I was recently accused of my recent blogging being more bitter and cynical than a year ago. Not true. Case in point: The following song, which I wrote 13 years ago. Can't get much more bitter and cynical than this:

Apologies for the lighting and for a couple of timing flubs near the end. I don't regularly play my songs anymore and am woefully out of practice.

-- Badtux the Musical Penguin

For the gearheads: My audio recording rig is a Lexicon Lambda USB 2-channel, hooked to my Macbook. The SM58C vocals mike is hooked directly to the Lambda, the Oktava OC-12 condenser mike pointed at the guitar is going through a Boehringer MX802 mixer then to the Lambda because the Lambda's 48v doesn't work for some reason. I used iMovie and the built-in webcam of the Macbook. There are no - zero - effects. The slight "echo" to my vocals appears to be the Oktava picking up some of my vocals despite being pointed almost down. This is a video that was made in exactly 4 minutes and 45 seconds including the time to swing the mike booms over and the time to fire up iMovie as well as the actual 4 minutes of recording time.

Les Paul, R.I.P.

He was 94 years old.

If you are a musician, you know who he was. If not, you have probably heard the results of his work. May he rest in peace in the light of the Great Penguin in that paradise above where the ice floes never melt and the herring is always tasty.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

You want to do WHAT?!

The Mighty Fang disagrees with my intention to sit in my chair at the dining room table in order to eat my herring.

I sat elsewhere. When dealing with a giant cat taking up an entire chair, what else is a bird to do?!

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Friday morning Youtubery

Don't piss off Polly Jean. She used to cut off balls for a living. Castrating lambs, but still!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to provide universal healthcare

Part II of "Why conservatives hate Democracy" will commence as soon as I get time to finish pulling the statistics together. In the meantime, let's get back to healthcare.

There are five proven ways to provide healthcare to all the citizens of a nation. Conservatives are against all of them:

  1. Socialized medicine like in Britain and Scandinavia, where all hospitals and clinics are government-owned and all doctors are government employees (American example: VA and military healthcare systems): Republicans are against it, of course.
  2. Single-payer government-owned insurers with private providers, like Canada or Taiwan (American example: TriCare for military retirees/dependents): Against it, of course.
  3. Hybrid single/multi-payer government major medical and private supplemental insurance, like France (American example: Medicare): Against it, of course. (At least for non-prunes -- they're afraid of the prunes if they dare try to eliminate Medicare).
  4. Employer mandates like in Germany requiring employers to provide insurance, with government insurance payment assistance for the unemployed, and insurers required to must-issue and provide a minimum amount of coverage: Against it, of course.
  5. Individual mandates like in Switzerland requiring individuals to purchase insurance, with government insurance payment assistance for the unemployed and those who cannot afford it, and insurers required to must-issue and provide a minimum amount of coverage: Against it, of course.
That's it. Those five ways, or hybrid mixes thereof, are the only proven ways anywhere on this planet for insuring that all the citizens of a nation have access to healthcare when they need it. And Republican conservatives are against each and every one of them, even the most modest ones involving employer or individual mandates that retain a private health insurance industry.

So what do conservatives propose? Well:

  1. "Let them eat cake." Otherwise stated as, "healthcare is a privilege, not a right." But life is the most fundamental right, without which all other rights are worthless. If you're dead because you did not get healthcare when you needed it, WTF good is the right to bear arms? Dead people can't bear arms, they're DEAD! This is a non-starter from both a moral point of view due to the dead bodies that result and from a political point of view in a democracy. But then, we already knew conservatives hated democracy and have no problems creating as many dead bodies as necessary in pursuit of their agenda of profiting from the labors of others via all means possible.
  2. Unicorns and cotton candy trees: a "free market" healthcare system which is guaranteed to not cover the oldest / sickest individuals because they aren't profitable to insure, thus resulting in dead bodies. We already have up to 22,000 people per year killed due to lack of health insurance, any move towards even more "free market" would result in even more dead bodies. But once again, conservatives have no problem with murdering people, as long as they just set up the policies that lead to the deaths rather than pull the actual trigger. They, like, get fucking woodies from the notion of dead people, as long as there's profit involved. Remember, for a conservative, if there's profit involved it is by definition "good", and if something hurts profits, it is by definition "evil". A conservative denotes "good" and "evil" by how much profit can be made doing it, not by any morality that you might recognize by reading the Bible or any other holy book.
In short: What conservatives propose is a lot of dead bodies. Which is not surprising, since "a lot of dead bodies" is their answer for any societal question, whether said question is illegal immigration, dealing with terrorists, or whatever. And they see absolutely no problem with that (see #1, "Let them eat cake"). From a moral point of view it is completely immoral, but conservatives view the right to make a profit as more important than the right to life. Unless we're talking about fetuses, but that's another issue.

-- Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Intergenerational mobility

While I am out: Look at this paper on intergenerational mobility in the US, Britain, and Europe. Basically, if you were born poor in the USA, you will die poor. If you were born rich in the USA, you will die rich. It isn't a perfect correlation, there are exceptions, but it's close enough -- intergenerational mobility in Europe is much higher, if you were born poor in the Netherlands you have more chance of dying middle class than if you were born poor in the USA, where you will likely die poor. The oft-quoted statistic that "there is class mobility in the USA" is nonsense that does not account for career progression -- the son of a middle-class parent will typically be lower class or working class in his or her early career, then will move up into middle class positions as he or she ages, which makes it seems like there is class mobility in the US. But there isn't. He just progressed to where his parents were, no further.

What does this mean? It means The American Dream is a fraud, sold to us by the same elites who have systematically closed off the majority of ways for the lower classes to join their ranks. After all, Paris Hilton's mommy and daddy certainly don't want their little darling to have to compete with some upstart in her life, eh? The American Dream is dead, Rest In Peace.

I am a member of the last generation for whom the American Dream was real. When I came of age, there were still industrial jobs for the poor to take so that they could work their way out of poverty. When I came of age, tuition for poor kids was 100% paid by Pell Grants with plenty left over to pay for textbooks. If you did not qualify for Pell Grants, tuition at most state universities was ridiculously low -- for example, it was $265 per semester at University of Louisiana/Lafayette in 1982, and $172 per semester at University of Houston that same year (both in-state figures, out of state paid significantly more). This meant that working class parents who made too much for grants could still afford to pay cash to send their children to state universities close to home. Today... none of that is true. The generation covered by the above paper were born starting in 1970, and came of age after Ronald Reagan had gutted Pell Grant funding and block grant programs to the states that allowed them to provide inexpensive education to their citizens. After all, there were tax cuts for the rich that had to be made, and $600 hammers to be bought for the Department of Defense to enrich Reagan's war profiteer cronies. So the tax cuts for the rich were taken out of the hides of the poor and working class. The kids never had a chance, dammit.

And they know it. That inner city school I taught at? The only kids who still bought the American Dream there were the slow kids. The rest... they knew. They knew that this hell they were born into was what their life would always be. So they soothed the pain with drugs, or guns, or alcohol, or cynically decided that a life of crime was their way "out" of the hell they were born into. The working class kids I taught in a rural area? They knew. They knew that their parents' jobs were going away to Vietnam and Malaysia and China, that they had no future, no hope. They didn't even bother applying to universities, there was no money for a kid who was just a regular kid rather than being super-smart or something. The middle class today? They know. Thus their frantic efforts to make sure their child makes it into the "right" schools at the K-12 level, gets the "right" teachers, takes the "right" advanced placement classes and the "right" extracurriculars so they can get into the "right" college. They know, they know that if their child falls out of the middle class, that's it -- their child, and their grandchildren, will be poor forever. They know the American Dream is dead. Yet they try to pretend it isn't, in their frantic efforts to make sure their own child doesn't become yet another victim of a dead dream that was the American Dream.

And so it goes, in the United States of Delusion, where we pretend that there is a such thing as the American Dream even though it is long dead, spiked through the heart by Ronald Reagan's "compassionate conservatism" and doubly-spiked by every President thereafter including Bill Clinton who put a friggin' post-hole digger through its chest in 1996 by signing a "welfare reform" law that basically cut off all federal aid for poor people going to school for additional education, instead forcing them into low-paying dead-end jobs. We now have a system where the oligarchs who rule us are guaranteed that their children shall remain our rulers, and where the only American Dream is a lie that won't come true for the majority of Americans. And nobody seems to notice, or to care, or dare to say the truth: The American Dream is dead, R.I.P.

But it could live again, if we dared. But that would require admitting unpleasant truths. No, no, far better to believe the lies, the smooth soothing lies from Faux News and Hate Radio that blame anybody, everybody who isn't you, for the fact that you live a life of misery and your children will live lives of misery and your children's children will live lives of misery. In a nation of liars, the man who tells the truth is condemned as a heretic, and swiftly stoned. So it goes, so it goes...

-- Badtux the Can't-keep-his-beak-shut Penguin

Added: Appropriate music.

Slow blogging

I am at an industry trade show with just my iPhone for Internet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Mighty Fang encounters the Drinkwell Platinum Pro

Well, it came today. I hooked it all up and got it bubbling away and then The Mighty Fang started playing with it. I adjusted the flow so it was a fairly low flow like he's used to from the water faucet in the lavatory, and he started poking at it to see what this thing was. He figured out that it was water and it was wet. He sniffs... And he drinks! Finally he got tired of playing with the water, and just drank water like a regular cat. No, I don't spoil or overindulge my babies, not at all :-).

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Reminder: Hitler was not socialist

As I pointed out earlier, socialism in a democracy invariably transfers wealth from the executive and owner class to the worker class. Which is proof that Hitler was no socialist, despite all the right-wing claims that he was.

Hitler liked to throw around socialist jargon in order to ingratiate himself to the German people, but his actual actions were to impoverish the workers and enrich the ownership class. One of Hitler's first acts, on May 2, 1933, was to outlaw labor unions and make strikes illegal -- one reason why prominent Republicans of the 1930's such as Prescott Bush and Charles Lindbergh loved Hitler. Worker income fell throughout the remainder of the 3rd Reich... according to the Reich Statistical Office, they declined from 20.4 cents an hour in 1932 to 19.5 cents by the middle of 1936 for skilled workers, and 16.1 cents to 13 cents per hour for unskilled labor. The share of all German workers of the national income fell from 56.9% in 1932 to 53.6% in 1938, while capital and business's share rose from 17.4% to 26.6%. Nazi Germany in short was the opposite of democratic socialism -- it transferred wealth from the working majority to the ownership minority, rather than from owners to workers as is true for democratic socialism. Hitler's "national socialism" may have thus been "socialism" in name, but certainly was not modern socialism as practiced by Sweden and other democracies in practice. (Note: All figures courtesy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, which of course is not available on the Internet but you can check it out of the library and check page 264 for yourself).

Meanwhile, Hitler's brownshirted goons showed up at all campaign speeches and rallies of opponents and disrupted them and/or beat up supporters. Hmm...

-- Badtux the History Penguin

The Mighty Fang says people who call Hitler socialist are morons. Are you going to disagree with that face?!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Epic fail

Caribou Barbie (Sarah Failin) states that if we had government-run healthcare like England, it would exterminate handicapped people. Like... uhm...

Stephen Hawking?

Yes, THE Stephen Hawking. Born England in a British Public Health Service hospital, receives his healthcare in a British Public Health Service hospital, and doesn't seem to have been exterminated.

In the meantime, the Kaiser Heath Foundation decided to test the theory that people do not know that Medicare is single-payer health insurance They asked half their poll sample, "Do you support extending Medicare to all Americans?" and 58% said "Yes." They then asked the other half, "Do you support a single-payer health insurance plan for all Americans?" and only 51% said "Yes." Read the wordings of the questions. Both suggest exactly the same health care plan! But use of the word "Medicare" automatically gets a 7% boost in the poll? WTF?!

Here. Have some gratuitous kitty porn. You need all the brain bleach you can get after encountering such a black hole of intellectual stupidity. The stupidity, it burns, it burns!

-- Badtux the "We're being beaten by these morons?!" Penguin

And for Sarah Palin and the American people as a whole: A song!

Where's the cat?

OMG! After using the Furminator on Mencken, this pile of fur was all that was left! Poor Mencken, literally turned into a trashcan full of fur...

-- Badtux the Fur-bearin-varmint-owned Penguin

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The *REAL* reason conservatives hate democracy

Previously I've asked, "what is the problem with a free people in a democracy voting to tax themselves to pay for healthcare?" One thing I've discovered on Twitter is that if you really push and nudge a conservative, pointing out to them that the majority in the US voted for Obama and his agenda including Obama's campaign promise of universal healthcare, they will finally admit that they hate democracy.

The question is, why do they hate democracy? They give nonsense answers. For example, they say "the majority will vote to take the wealth away from the producers of wealth". But in any economy, the majority are employed workers who are producing wealth with every widget they make or every widget they sell or every medical treatment they provide. At which point things start getting clearer: They're afraid that the PRODUCERS of wealth might take some of that wealth back from the PROFITEERS who make billions off the labor of others.

In any modern economy, scale dictates that the majority of people will be working for others. A semiconductor foundry costs $5 billion dollars to build and employes hundreds of people. This means you will need a bunch of people with a lot of money to invest in order to build this thing.

But once it is built, then every single dollar produced by the semiconductor foundry is produced by its workers and by the sales and distribution people who move its output to where it's needed. The executive class and the ownership class are not producing any wealth at that point. The owners are simply taking the wealth that others produced in exchange for the initial startup capital, while the executive class is merely defending the owners' interests and doing the transferring of wealth to the owners. The problem is that in our economy, this process has gone whack. See this graph:

As you can see, the pay of the executive class has skyrocketed over the past thirty years by comparison to that of the producers of wealth, the workers who actually create and distribute the products that the executives are profiting from. And this is matched by skyrocketing wealth of the ownership class, the top 10% of Americans who own 90% of America:

In a democracy, the producers of wealth -- the workers of companies without whom companies would have no product to sell and no way to ship it -- would vote to redistribute wealth from the owner and executive classes to the producer class in the form of desired government services such as healthcare, in the form of additional benefits such as more weeks of paid vacation in a year, and in the form of increased ability to bargain collectively for higher wages. In a democracy, the producers of wealth would redistribute wealth from those who profit from their production of wealth to those who actually produce wealth -- the actual workers, without whom companies have no product. And in fact, if you look at functioning democracies such as Sweden (the most democratic nation on planet Earth according to the right-wing journal, The Economist), you will see this in action. Sweden taxes the executive and ownership class heavily in order to provide services such as free education from preschool all the way through graduate school, free healthcare, and so forth to the workers, the actual producers of wealth. Thus Sweden's income distribution looks quite different from the U.S. income distribution:

In other words, the reason conservatives hate democracy is because democracy is inherently socialist -- i.e., the worker majority in a democracy will inherently choose to tax the ownership and executive minority classes in order to redistribute the wealth created by workers back to the workers that created the wealth and out of the hands of the executive and ownership classes that are profiting from the labors of the workers. As the example of Sweden above shows, they will still allow the executive and ownership classes to keep enough of the income produced by workers so that they're still making more money than the workers. But it's more like the 2x of worker income that characterized the U.S. economy in the 1950's and 1960's, not the 4x+ of worker income that is true today.

So there you have it: Why is democracy hated by conservatives? Because it transfers wealth to the producers from those who profit from the labor of the producers. In short, because it is exactly the opposite of what conservatives claim socialism is when they claim socialism transfers from "producers" to "leeches". CEO's truly are leeches -- they produce not a single widget, design not a single piece of software, in short, they produce nothing yet profit from the labors of those who do produce everything that the company sells. Without the workers who design the products, who assemble the products, who sell and ship the products, the CEO has nothing, less than nothing since he has no skills that could be useful other than the ability to spew bullshit. Yet this small collection of leeches benefit hugely from the labor of the workers who design and create the products that they profit from. This isn't to say that we don't need CEO's. As I pointed out previously, the CEO is fundamentally the guardian of the interests of the ownership class, and responsible for making sure that the ownership class gets a return on their investment in the business. But clearly we don't need CEO's making 400x what workers make, and clearly American democracy is broken when that's happening. Which we already knew... otherwise the workers, who are the majority, would have already voted to tax CEO's to the point where they were making only 20x what workers make again. Democracy. Eeep! It's garlic to those who profit off the labor of others!

-- Badtux the Democracy Penguin

BTW, this is a huge refutation of the notion that Hitler was a socialist. Hitler liked to throw around socialist jargon in order to ingratiate himself to the German people, but his actual actions were to impoverish the workers and enrich the ownership class. One of Hitler's first acts, on May 2, 1933, was to outlaw labor unions and make strikes illegal -- one reason why prominent Republicans of the 1930's such as Prescott Bush loved Hitler. Worker income fell throughout the remainder of the 3rd Reich... according to the Reich Statistical Office, they declined from 20.4 cents an hour in 1932 to 19.5 cents by the middle of 1936 for skilled workers, and 16.1 cents to 13 cents per hour for unskilled labor. The share of all German workers of the national income fell from 56.9% in 1932 to 53.6% in 1938, while capital and business's share rose from 17.4% to 26.6%. Nazi Germany in short was the opposite of democratic socialism -- it transferred wealth from the working majority to the ownership minority, rather than from owners to workers as is true for democratic socialism. Hitler's "national socialism" may have thus been "socialism" in name, but certainly was not modern socialism as practiced by Sweden and other democracies in practice. (Note: All figures courtesy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, which of course is not available on the Internet but you can check it out of the library and check page 264 for yourself).

Saturday, August 08, 2009


The Furminator got here today, and I've given both The Mighty Fang and Mencken a de-furring of sorts. TMF will jump on my lap and get de-furred for a while, purring at the top of his lungs, then Mencken will realize hey, TMF is getting all the petting, and come shove TMF off and take his place to be de-furred. They both seem to think this thing is, like, the most cool petting device ever, created solely to give them a sort of scalp massage...

If you wonder where I was today, check out yesterday's Moto-Tux entry. I was installing the new stereo system in my Jeep. It's installed now, but I'm waiting for daylight tomorrow so that I can see well enough to get all the wiring tidied up before I button everything up again.

I was supposed to write a long-form essay for you yesterday, about the real reason Republicans hate democracy (hint: maybe they're right to whine that Democrats want socialism), but I got involved in yanking all the old stereo gear out of my Jeep instead. And today I spent most of the day trying to find a place to put the satellite receiver bits and pieces into the Jeep (eventually had to stick the little boxes with double-sided tape into some really odd crannies under the dash) and running the wires for the satellite receiver antenna and stuff, as well as soldering the dozen wires needed to create the jumper between the stock wiring and the Sony receiver. So anyhow, I'm tired, and going to bed. G'nite!

-- Badtux the Weary Penguin

Friday, August 07, 2009

Shall we dance?

One of the more successful cat toys I've gotten for the kittehs is a piece of spring steel wire with some cardboard nibblets on the end called a "Cat Dancer". I was rearranging my bookshelves and The Mighty Fang spotted the Cat Dancer amongst the stuff I'd taken down (I'd hid it up there on the top shelf to keep the cats away from it when not playing with them). And of course TMF could not be satisfied until I'd taken him on several spins around the apartment chasing that piece of cardboard on the end of a spring steel wire and got him good and tired...

Cats. Interesting how the most intricate toys bore them, but simple things like a milk bottle cap or this Cat Dancer will fascinate them for hours. Heh.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin