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Christmas Eve…

(Happy Christmas, Kyoko

Happy Christmas, Julian)

So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

A new one just begun

And so this is Christmas

I hope you have fun

The near and the dear ones

The old and the young

A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Christmas

(War is Over)

For weak and for strong

(if you want it)

The rich and the poor ones

(War is Over)

The road is so long


So happy Christmas

(War is Over)

For black and for white

(if you want it)

For yellow and red ones

(War is Over)

Let’s stop all the fight


A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Christmas

(War is over)

And what have we done

(if you want it)

Another year over

(War is Over)

And a new one just begun


And so this is Christmas

(War is Over)

And we hope you have fun

(if you want it)

The near and the dear ones

(War is Over)

The old and the young


A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

War is over

if you want it

War is over


Happy Christmas

kos made me laugh today!

I don’t even open the “from Barack Obama” emails anymore.  They make me want to lay down and take a nap.  kos, on the other hand, opens his:

   We will not back down

   From: President Barack Obama to Markos

   Markos —

   As we head into the final stretch on health reform, big insurance company lobbyists and their partisan allies hope that their relentless attacks and millions of dollars can intimidate us into accepting the status quo.

   So I have a message for them, from all of us: Not this time. We have come too far. We will not turn back. We will not back down.

   But do not doubt — the opponents of reform will not rest. So I need you to fight alongside me.

   We must continue to build out our campaign — to spread the facts on the air and on the ground, and to bring in more volunteers and train them to join the fight. I urgently need your help to keep this 50-state movement for reform going strong.

   Please donate $5 or whatever you can afford today:…

   Let’s win this together,

   President Barack Obama

kos’s response: gold!

This is so freakin’ obnoxious I can hardly stand it. We are about to get a turd of a “reform” package, potentially worse than the status quo. We have the insurance industry declaring victory, Republicans cackling with glee, and the administration is using that piece of shit to raise money?


Democrats are demoralized, and have little incentive to turn out next year. The teabaggers will turn out. If this is how the Obama camp thinks we can energize the base — by promising them a health care pony for $5 to the same Democratic Party that is home to the likes of Baucus, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman, and the rest of the obstructionist gang — then we’re in for a world of hurt in 2010.

less after the jump…

The Real Story of Debt and Consumption in the US

An interesting piece by Rebecca Wilder I saw at the Angry Bear economy blog really jumped out at me.  The nutshell is this:

The goods share of total consumption has been falling quite dramatically, while the service component surged. Therefore, it is more likely that the debt fueled consumption was going predominantly into the service component (paying service bills).

In Q2 2009, 25% of service spending went to health care – outpatient services (physician, drugs, dentist) or hospital and nursing home services – and 29% of service spending went to housing and utilities – rent, water, electricity, and trash. As such, over 50% of service consumption is more likely to remain stable, even rise faster, with the Boomers out there.

The chart is here:

Sorry about the left and right vertical axes… to get it to post, I had to shrink it.  Full blown chart is here.

Note that consumption of goods has dropped from just over 60% to just over 30% in the past 60 years, while spending on services has steadily increased from just under 40% to nearly 70%.  The two dataplots connected to the right hand axis, rent/housing and healthcare, show that health care has tripled as a fraction of spending during that period while housing costs have edged up slightly as a fraction of spending.

How does this tie in to debt?  Well, you probably already know the answer to that one, but allow me to belabor the point.


Prop. 8 upheld by California Supreme Court: The justices uphold the same-sex marriage ban but also rule that the 18,000 gay couples who wed before the November vote will stay married. The decision is sure to spark another ballot box fight.


Oh, well, I guess it was expected.  Go see for some action.

Who Resurrected the Electric Car?

The startup company Better Place, that’s who!

The scheme these guys have undertaken solves one of the major problems of electric cars: recharging.  Better Place’s approach: replace the whole battery in less time than it takes to fill up a tank with gas!  Recharge the batteries at leisure and reuse.  If you buy an electric car, you subscribe to their service and can swap out drained batteries for recharged ones at properly equipped stations.  The other crucial step in the process is to connect up with fuel stations to install the replacement bays.  Wherever you can get gas, you can get a battery! Here’s a cool demo of the technology.

Who knows if this will work?  But it seemed to me to be a pretty interesting concept.

Could this be the dumbest idea on the economy?

So why shouldn’t the Fed just keep cutting interest rates? Why not lower the target interest rate to, say, negative 3 percent?

So suggests Harvard Professor N. Gregory Mankiw in the New York Times.

So, let’s pay people to borrow money?  At a time when household debt is about one whole year of GDP, individuals should borrow more?

If that’s not weird enough, Professor Mankiw goes on to note that no one will lend at negative interest rates.  Unless…

Off With Their Heads: Fixing Failing Companies

Time after time we see layoffs as the solution to a company’s woes.  For example, of the 598,000 newly unemployed individuals in the US in January of 2009, 163,000 of these were laid off from the 500 largest US companies.  Some lowlights:

Jan. 26: Following the acquisition of the small drug outfit Wyeth for $68 billion, Pfizer closes five factories and cuts 15% of total workforce (19,000 workers).

Jan. 26: Sprint Nextel pink-slips 8,000 workers–recording more than $300 million in severance charges but saving $1.2 billion a year in labor costs.

Jan. 30: Caterpillar increases previous layoffs from 20,000 to 22,110, and share price hits 52-week low.

Here’s the question: does this really help a company?

Here’s the answer: probably not.

Another question:  what would help these companies?

Another answer: replace the management!

We’ve heard some whining about President Obama forcing out GM CEO Waggoner.  Maybe he’s onto something?

Help! Help! I’m surrounded!

Glenn Beck, well-known wingnut, has come loose from his bolt!  His “We Surround Them” campaign seeks to let other wingnuts know that they “are not alone.”

How ’bout those principles?

The Nine Principles

  1. America is good.

Rush: I hope Obama Fails!

  1. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

 Said Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 19:24 — “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

  1. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

Well, if it’s market-moving manipulation, it’s not really a lie.

  1. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

Unless you tell your spouse to hit the highway!

   * Ronald Reagan – divorced the mother of two of his children.  Married Nancy Davis who bore him a daughter only 7 months after the marriage.

   * Bob Dole – divorced the mother of his child, who had nursed him through the long recovery from his war wounds.

   * Newt Gingrich – divorced his wife who was dying of cancer.

   * Dick Armey – Former House Majority Leader – divorced

   * Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas – divorced

   * Gov. John Engler of Michigan – divorced

   * Former Gov. Pete Wilson of California – divorced

   * George Will – divorced

   * Sen. Lauch Faircloth – divorced

   * Rush Limbaugh – Rush and his current wife Marta have six marriages and four divorces between them.

   * Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia – Barr has been married three times.  Barr had the audacity to author and push the “Defense of Marriage Act.”

     The current joke making the rounds on Capitol Hill is “Bob Barr, WHICH marriage are you defending?”

   * Sen. Alfonse D’Amato of New York – divorced

   * Sen. John Warner of Virginia – divorced (once married to Liz Taylor)

   * Gov. George Allen of Virginia – divorced

   * Henry Kissinger – divorced

   * Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho – divorced

   * Sen. John McCain of Arizona – divorced

   * Rep. John Kasich of Ohio – divorced

   * Rep. Susan Molinari of New York (2000 Republican National Convention Keynote Speaker) – divorced


  1. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

Unless your name is Rove, Bush, Cheney, Libby, etc.

  1. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

Especially if you control the results.

  1. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

Well, maybe for a tax write-off.


We are supposed to applaud philanthropy–the very word connotes altruism and “giving back”–but Walton and Wal-Mart giving serves as a reminder that philanthropy provides an alternative to taxation, a way for rich people and corporations to decide what to do with their extra money, as opposed to letting the rest of us decide through our elected governments. Since charitable donations are a tax write-off, as Krehely points out, “they are supposed to benefit the public good.” He thinks it is reasonable to ask whether a family’s–or a company’s–philanthropy serves the common good, or at least enough good “to make up for the public revenue that we’re losing.”

Funny he should mention taxes: Wal-Mart and the Waltons have, after all, been notably reluctant to pay them. Not only has the company lobbied for tax breaks in communities all over the nation, the Waltons–the family that former Wal-Mart board member Hillary Clinton has called “the best America has to offer”–have campaigned vigorously against the estate tax. They have donated money to its opponents, Republicans like John Thune of South Dakota and David Vitter of Louisiana, and enlisted one of Washington’s top lobbying firms, Patton Boggs–a leading anti-estate tax lobbyist–to represent their interests.


  1. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

Oh, really?  Tell me more!

   Ari Fleischer:

   There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.


  1. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

I’m Henry Paulson, and I hold this principle dearly!

Section 8. Review: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.


Not Your Grandfather’s Depression

Headline (albeit a small one) in Sunday’s LA Times: “20% in Los Angeles County Receive Public Aid.”

Headline in Sunday’s Nashville Tennessean: Homeless Kids Flood Shelters and Schools.

Headline on the cover of this week’s The Economist: The Collapse of Manufacturing.

Paul Krugman noted on Saturday that the current situation bears resemblance to the Great Depression. Maybe this is no surprise to some of us. But I can’t help thinking it’s worse.

finally, an email to forward from the left!

Greetings, Docudharma denizens!  This morning I got an email from an old friend, and it definitely got my juices flowing.  I’ve received so many right wing hit job emails making fun of liberals, casting dispersions on Democrats and liberals, and generally boasting about the greatness of conservatism that the wasted electrons could light Las Vegas for a month.  Today, I have received the antidote.  I included it below in all its glory.  Feel free to copy, paste, spam, and repeat (editing as you see fit)!

Update:  edger, in comment below, pointed me toward the origin of this text, John Ridley at the Huffington Post.  I include the link here.

If a black Democratic presidential candidate was an affirmative action selection (akin to the legacy selection for McCain) at the Naval Academy and graduated 894 out of 899, Fox News and the conservative right would push this story as the basis for his disqualification for the nation’s highest office.  The rest of the media would then be forced to report on it, giving the story wide exposure.

  If a white Republican presidential candidate graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, he would be celebrated as an intellectual giant ready to lead the country in bold new directions.   But since we are talking Obama here, his education fits into the  “uppity” and presumptuous narrative.

  If you’re a Harvard and Princeton-educated black woman married for years before having her first child Fox labels you a “Baby Mama”.

  If you are a white woman who eloped and had a baby eight months later you are Sarah Palin

  If you have studied international affairs for several decades, you’re “inexperienced at foreign affairs”

  If you live in a state that is geographically near a foreign country, you have “foreign policy expertise”

  If you both write and present your own words, you just “give good speeches.” If you read someone else’s words from the teleprompter-a “superstar is born.”

  If you are Obama, your greatness must be measured by what you’ve done and its NEVER enough, NOT by any of the profound speeches you wrote yourself, or the repeated grillings you’ve taken in the press.

  If you are Palin, your greatness is measured by…just one speech, written by Bush II’s speechwriter, and no you will not be taking any questions from the press.

  If you attend two of the top ivy leagues schools in the country, you are surprisingly “articulate.” If it takes you several colleges to graduate and you deliver a speech with the phonetic “new-clear” on the teleprompter, you’re a poised and eloquent speaker.

  If your staff is so dumb they mix up Walter Reed Middle School for Walter Reed Medical Center in your convention’s big night, it’s because you wanted to focus on education & it would have been political to use the soldiers in that format.

  If Obama had done that, he would be eviscerated for not knowing the difference between the two, hating the troops/America & would be dangerously unqualified to be CinC.

  If your a a liberal mayor and you ask for government financing, your a “fan of big, tax and spend, corrupt government.”

  If your a conservative mayor and wind up on John McCain’s “worst pork” list in 2001, you are “”disgusted” that small towns like yours are dependent on earmarks,” even if your town had no earmarks before you became mayor.

  A white woman talking tough is an advocate of women’s rights, a black woman is angry and bitter. A white man talking tough is a straight shooter and a conservative, a black man is a angry gangsta rapper.

  If you’re a GOP’er you naturally wouldn’t see what the problem with any of this was, even if you slept for 20 years on a dictionary opened to the word ‘hypocrisy’.

  If you’re a Republican and you talk to America’s enemies, it’s diplomacy.

  If you’re a Democrat and you talk to America’s enemies, it’s appeasement.

  If you’re a Republican, you swear Jesus is a registered member of your party.

  If you’re a Democrat, you appreciate that Jesus was a community organizer.

  If you’re a Republican and you wind up on the cover of People magazine, it’s because you’re a “regular American.”

  If you’re a Democrat and you wind up on the cover of People magazine, it’s because you’re a “celebrity.”

  If you’re a black Democratic man who can fill a stadium with 80,000 people (or worse, a German atrium with 200,000), you’re a vapid celebrity. If you’re a white Republican woman who can get a room full of fire breathing evangelical right wingers to holler, you’re a star

  If you are a Democrat, the days are counted down since the last time you have been to Iraq.

  If you are a Republican, you have all the foreign policy experience you need because your state is close to Russia.

  If you’re a black woman, with advanced academic degrees, and you have children while married, you’re a “baby mama”

  If you’re a white woman who barely graduated from college, and you get knocked up and then get married after you’re pregnant, you’re a “SuperMom”

  If you are black and your daughter is pregnant, unmarried and has an uninvolved baby daddy, you are a statistic…but if you’re a white and your daughter’s baby’s daddy has an explicit MY Space page where in between 4 letter words, he exclaims he “don’t want no kids,” you get to run for Veep.

  If you’re a Black presidential candidate that has wide appeal and the ability to motivate over two million Americans to re-engage in the political process you’re an egomaniac with a messiah complex seeking the spotlight.

  However, if you’re a right wing conservative – you’re applauded for your “likeability” and called a “unifier for the Republican base”

  If you’re white, win a beauty contest, attended 5-6 colleges before finally graduating, join the PTA, are voted to be mayor by 1000 people, govern a sparsely populated state for a almost two years now, and randomly get chosen at the last minute to be VP…you’ve lived the American dream, “she’s every American”.

  But if you’re black, raised by a single mother, lived on food stamps, help the community, get into Harvard, become the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, build a great campaign organization from scratch, and are voted to be the presidential nominee by millions of people, you are just “uppity”.

  If you are a democratic candidate and people around you complain about the MSM vitriole toward you, you’re a whiner.

  If you are a republican candidate and you won’t answer the questions the MSM attempts to ask about your qualifications for the second highest office in the land, you’re being victimized.

  If you are a white republican mom with a special needs baby, you are suddenly the advocate of all special needs families in the US.

  If you are an Alaskan democrat mom with a special needs baby, you just saw state funding cut for programs like special-ed. You’re on your own.

  If you are a black democrat home-owner that was preyed upon by mortgage companies and your house is in foreclosure, you made bad choices and don’t deserve a house.

  If you an older white republican who can’t keep track of how many houses he has, then he deserves another one.

Uranium Found in Iraq!

It seems that on Saturday Brian Murphy of the Associated Press is reporting that the US has removed uranium from Iraq.

The removal of 550 metric tons of “yellowcake” — the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment — was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam’s nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

Holy Cow!  WMDs!  Saddam’s nuclear arsenal!  Condi’s smoking gun!  I came across this story at where they are taking this effort as validation of Bush’s invasion!

Of course, if you read the whole story from Murphy, it’s kinda funny, and kinda sad…

Pawn Shops: The Newest Growth Industry

It’s refreshing to see that some businesses are doing well in today’s economy.  Perhaps the most successful venture going today is the pawn shop.  From Peoria to Pasadena,  pawn shops are seeing a boom in clients.

Says Doug Robinson, a pawn shop owner in Pasadena,

We’ve been on a continuous uphill run for a number of months.  I don’t see anything that will stop it.

Worse even than the paycheck advance loans, a pawn shop loan typically involves an annual interest rate in excess of 50%.  Yes, that is fifty percent per year.  In Mississippi, the cap is 25% per month, which is 300% per year (if not compounded monthly).  

Given that credit card debt is often 18% or higher, it is incredibly sad to imagine the poor soul who pawns an object at 50% interest to pay that very same object off on the 18% credit card debt.  

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