“Nut-Fueled Rage” especially interesting headline

nut rageYou see a headline about “Nut-Fueled Rage” and you think maybe you know what it’s about. But it’s not what you think.

It’s from South Korea. What a relief.

It’s an update about that Korean airline executive who threw an in-flight fit, actually turning the airliner around because her serving of macadamia nuts arrived in an unopened bag instead of a bowl. That was not first-class service, and she was flying first-class.

She was a vice-president of the airline.

Also — a little surprise here — the daughter of Korean Air‘s chairman.

And quite surprising, she has drawn a year in South Korean jail for the incident. She’s remorseful, but plans to appeal the sentence.

The 1% is an extremely interesting group, and the 99% would buy more newspapers if this area of life were covered more assiduously, but for some reason, it’s not.

Someday we hope to forgive the Koch brothers Ha ha, remember when you were total dicks?

We look forward someday to forgiving the Koch brothers, to maybe sitting around with them and few of their [former] plutocrat buddies, and laughing about the bad old days (i.e., these days now).

Hoo, boy, remember when you plutocrats were just grotesquely fixated on more and more money? And you were buying up the government, and barreling full speed toward wrecking the planet?

Do we remember? No one let’s us forget! But it was a crazy time. We were having so much fun!!! Buying people, selling people. Then we discovered meditation. And the whole power/greed thing just seemed to fall away. It was pointless in the end…

Yeah, it’s miraculous the way you guys turned your lives around. Now it’s better for everyone.

Well, it’s not perfect, but now at least there’s a future. Say, who wants more tea?!?

Now, admittedly, this is a long-shot. The Koch brothers are 74 and 79. If they’re going to have a sudden spiritual transformation, it needs to happen soon. Bring on the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The Kochs haven’t much time, nor does the world they are wrecking.

Scrooge and ghost


Well that went badly…

As predicted, the elections went well for Republicans, and their owners. Of course, it was bad news for the humans, and the planet, and all those other creatures with fur, fin, and feathers, and zany hopes to survive.

Because there’s a global shit storm coming.

The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises…

And days ago the U.N. Panel on Climate Change warned us, again. We have only a short time to get acting. And acting very seriously.

And yet, as we see in these elections, we are headed in an utterly wrong direction. Kids, that inheritance — the nice blue planet — isn’t going to be there for you. It’s going to be much, much worse. Your folks, many of them, it turns out, aren’t really that tuned in to reality. Advertising by the Koch brothers can easily trump science. Most voters (and all the non-voters) apparently don’t get worked up by their own children’s future calamity:

Only 3 percent of current Republican members of Congress have been willing to go on record as accepting the fact that people are causing global warming. That, at least, was the calculation by PolitiFact, which found a grand total of eight Republican nondeniers in the House and Senate.

Toles - Climate changeClimate scientists might (or might not) get a headline for a day. But we see that they’re no match for billionaire campaign contributors. They’re no match for the fossil fuel industries. They’re no match for Money.  Let’s all say hello to a few more 1%-Republican apparatchiks as they ascend into the halls of government power and the earth goes sideways.

There is no guard rail.


We’ve got a whole new class of opiates
To blunt the stench of discontent
In these corporation nation-states
Where the loudest live to trample on the least
They say it’s just the predatory nature of the beast

But, the barons in the balcony are laughing
And pointing to the pit
They say, “Aw look, they’ve grown accustomed to the smell
Now, people love that shit
We’re workin’ it.”

Workin’ It by Don Henley


This-Week-in-Racism update

Frank Bruni, in his NY Times column, discusses racism and wealth.

…[David] Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, just did the impossible. He wrested the racist-of-the-moment mantle from Cliven Bundy,

Interestingly, Mr. Sterling was just about to receive an honor from the NAACP… and not even for the first time.

…at a transcendently awkward news conference on Monday [Leon Jenkins, president of the N.A.A.C.P. Los Angeles chapter] was rationalizing the latest lifetime achievement award — which the N.A.A.C.P. has now rescinded — and its coddling of Sterling over time.

Turns out… if you give sizable donations to a routinely needy nonprofit, they in turn will speak well of you. They may even give you an award. This turns out to be true even if you are a known douchebag. This is the power of money, most particularly when a tiny few have piles of it and most others don’t. It seems almost corrupting, doesn’t it?

Ha. We kid. Of course it’s corrupting. Now the president of the L.A. NAACP has resigned (which is sort of a real penalty) and Sterling may be forced to sell the Clippers for some whopping number of millions (which isn’t a real penalty, is it).

How to enjoy bad punditry

David Brooks1It’s always fun when another David Brooks column pops up at nytimes.com, because literally within minutes, a torrent of wonderfully articulate reader criticism begins gushing in. Yesterday Mr. Brooks ventured to write about inequality, probably a poor choice for a pundit who is himself part of the 1%, but you know, it’s been in the news, and it’s by no means the first time he’s stepped on a rake.

This promptly generated over a thousand mercilessly critical reader comments. Well, to be fair, maybe they weren’t all critical. We just looked at the first 25 or so. Who’s got time for a thousand comments? Fortunately, the Times makes it easy to show the comments most recommended by other readers, and that allows a thousand comments to be workable and fun.

Frankly, THIS is the way the public dialog is supposed to work. Does anything like it happen in the US Senate? No. On TV? No. On cable? Hell, no. At least it’s occurring somewhere that matters at least a little bit.

We’ve heard that Mr. Brooks never reads the comments, and we’ve certainly never noticed that he benefits from the criticism, so we suppose it’s probably true that he does, as a matter of personal policy, hide from this withering (yet by internet standards, reasonably well-mannered) bombardment of correction from his readership. Brooks may hide, but everyone else should feel free to enjoy.

The lies we tell ourselves

We continue to puzzle (yes, probably way too much) at the recent editorial in which the Wisconsin State Journal tries to assure readers that the recall election was not determined –at least not exclusively — by money. They sum it up like this:

Money, of course, matters. But so does everything else.

Alright then. Doubtlessly true, in some sense. But how much does money matter? Could it be 80% of the story? 90%? And after accounting for the money, what exactly is left over in the remainder barrel labeled “everything else”?

For quite some time, the savvy insider understanding has been that money does matter very, very, VERY much, and in fact, in each new election cycle, the spending just grows and grows. Political consultants try to raise lots and lots of money. Lobbyists gain access by raising money. Outside groups deliver truckloads of money. News organizations report on just how much money each candidate has raised, and they treat it as an early proxy for how voters are going to wind up thinking. For several decades there has been no single indicator predicting who will win a federal or statewide election that’s more predictive than money. The State Journal reports candidate fund-raising on its front page. And on its editorial page, on days when it suits them, they grump about Wisconsin’s “money-soaked” elections.

But wait! All of a sudden the Wisconsin State Journal turns this narrative sideways, first in this (misleading) front-page news analysis (R’s and D’s both raise equivalent money?), and now again in this (bungled) editorial (Sure there’s money, but other factors matter, too?).

Is it somehow useful to avoid this elephant in the room?

Yes, it is.

  • For one thing, it’s boring for readers to see this same sad fact over and over. There’s a reason that news sellers will stop covering a war after the 3rd and 4th and 5th year. It’s depressing. It’s the same old story over and over. It’s not new and it doesn’t sell.
  • It’s useful to somebody’s interests to have elections controlled by money. Newspapers that identify with and support those interests may think it’s clever to tell the rubes, “Oh, money matters, but it’s not the only thing, you know.” (And technically it’s not the only thing See how clever that is?) You can judge for yourself whether that’s pertinent in the present case.
  • Maybe, at some level, they are lying to themselves. The State Journal editorial board, while strongly partnered with moneyed Republican interests, is not from the Crazy Wing of the party. See any editorial from category 2 — “The Surprisingly Correct”. They do worry on occasion about “good government”. It can’t really be lost on them that democracy at the federal level has been thoroughly captured by money, and that the same is now well-advanced in the states. And that their team (and it is a team) has been all for it. Maybe it’s useful — psychologically speaking — to tell oneself it’s not really that bad yet.

It’s worse than we think

Do not give up. Progress is not linear. It doesn’t come in a day, or a month, or a year, or in a single campaign. But it comes.

— Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, writing about the Wisconsin recalls 

We’re glad that so many progressives are unbowed by the painful drubbing in the Wisconsin recall elections. We hope Rothschild and others, whom we admire and respect, are ultimately proven right. But, actually, we don’t see it — the evidence, that is. We don’t see it.

It seems quite possible that the period of 30 or so years after World War II was an aberration. It was a time when Americans prospered rather generally, when the middle class exploded, when access to good education and higher education broadened significantly, when civil rights actually grew, and the promise of democracy and a sense of common purpose lifted hopes and aspirations for the future. It was quite possibly an aberration, a blip in history.

Not just a blip in American history, or recent history, but in human history.

We humans have definitely shown some good ability at cooperating to defend ourselves or take resources from the less adept, but through it all, we evolved, like our primate ancestors, living in dominance hierarchies. Isn’t it at least possible that in America, sometime around 30 years ago, the dominant members of our society came to notice that wealth, education, leisure, and even political influence were becoming too widely shared? Maybe it made them uncomfortable? Blacks were gaining, women were gaining, hippies were just acting crazy. Whatever the causes, a great rebalancing started around 1980 when Ronald Reagan ascended to the Presidency.

And, as we can see, it has not stopped. It’s accelerated. It’s fair to say that representative democracy has been dead at the federal level for over a decade. Corporations and wealthy contributors simply own it. Only “the 1%” fund campaigns. Large banks are above the law, bank executives likewise. In Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court ensured that high level governance would be overwhelmingly funded by (and then serve) the very, very wealthy. The 1% are courted (are needed) by both political parties — the Republicans are happily in thrall to this corruption, and the Democrats are sufficiently corrupted that they pose very few problems. The national media is owned by the same 1%, and even many of the well-known journalists and pundits (dare we call them “workers”?) are members of the 1%. The wealthy have now gone on to invest in governors, state legislatures, and state supreme courts.  It’s not necessary to buy them all; it’s just nice to buy enough.

And then, of course, they buy us. Again, not all of us, but enough. There’s a constant campaign for mindshare. A very significant cohort of us live in a Fox News alternative universe of information and beliefs and “knowledge”. If it’s not on Fox, we don’t believe it. The 1% own Fox. Of course, they own Lee Enterprises, too. They own Clear Channel Broadcasting. They own 95% of the news and entertainment media we know and love (or… hate, it’s doesn’t really matter). We are almost completely enveloped in a commercial web owned and operated by the very wealthy. We cannot escape, anymore than a person living in an Arab country can escape from its all-pervasive religious atmosphere.

There’s a global warming catastrophe on the way. It is not strictly a future problem; it’s happening now and will continue to accelerate. Lots of people know this, but not enough. Obviously the 1% has decided, through some strange pathology of mind or character, not to act, even on behalf of their own children. And so it will happen. Maybe they think they will ride it out comfortably in well-guarded mountaintop castles. Maybe they’re just not thinking about it. The 1% may be conditioned to think that, except for growing old, nothing bad can ever happen to them. That’s not true, of course. But great wealth doesn’t mean great intelligence, and certainly not great compassion. Often great wealth was never “earned” in any sense but simply inherited. Consider Louis XVI, the absolute monarch of France, and his lovely wife.

So we are busily engaged in debates about how to deprive workers of their benefits while incentivizing business owners to create some jobs, or at least not leave the city/state or country.

We are constantly at war.

We have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world, while ranking ninth worst in social spending according to the OECD. Half of poor children end up in the penal system.

We can’t repair bridges because that might produce jobs, and then that could benefit the other political party.

We have simply lost control of the democracy — the Congress, the executive, the courts, and the press — everything that would allow us to discuss, and reverse, our downward spiral. Will something change? Doubtless. Will a new leader appear? Will an infectious pandemic appear? Probably both and a lot more. If the 1% remain in charge, there’s no reason to feel all too hopeful.

NPR – Now starring the “1%”

Would anyone else be [a little] surprised (as we were) to learn that National Public Radio  hosts earn over $300,000?  (h/t JimRomenesko.) For example:

  • Robert Siegel (host, All Things Considered) — $341,992
  • Renee Montagne (host, Morning Edition) — $328,309
  • Steve Inskeep (host, Morning Edition) -– $320,950
  • Scott Simon (host, Weekend Edition) — $311,958

It’s modest compared to television network pay scale (Katie Couric — 30 times higher at $15,000,000/yr; Brian Williams at $12,500,000). But still, we were [a little] surprised.

These NPR hosts are at nudging into the “1%”. To be in the top 1% you need an income of $344,000 per year. (That’s the most recent number. It varies each year, significantly, with the stock market.) If these NPR folks have additional sources of income — and they almost certainly do: investments, speeking, spouses — then they’re likely enjoying a half million dollars per year, or more.

Does it mean the NPR hosts are in some way influenced by their wealth and success? Well, if they aren’t, they would be among the few to none. Money does inevitably change us — both having not enough and having a lot — it affects where we live, who we know, where we go, how we see the world and how the world sees us.

NPR top salaries are just another data point. At the national level, almost all of our elected representatives belong to the 1%, and almost all of their campaign contributions come from the 1%, and then it’s all interpreted for us by journalists of the 1%.

It’s the money, Lebowski

America watched with interest as a $5-million-dollar contribution from from a single wealthy donor, Sheldon Adelson, altered the outcome of an election. Suddenly Newt Gingrich had money for attack ads, polled 35 points higher, and won the South Carolina Republican primary.

Now another $5 million is on the way for Newt’s ‘super PAC’ attack ads in Florida, this time from Mrs. Sheldon. Adelson. Imagine you and your wife giving away $10 million dollars, and then seeing the intended results at the polls. Fun!  Remember, they’re not just billionaires, they’re concerned citizens who expect nothing in return.

Coincidentally, we were making a few political contributions of our own — smaller though. Much smaller. We were giving $50 each to a tiny few of our favorite candidates. We contribute because nothing predicts the outcome of elections like money.

Of course fifty bucks isn’t much. But we like to tell ourselves, ‘every little bit helps’.

With a bit of free software we can make an instant graph of our $50 donation compared to, say, $5 million from Sheldon Adelson (ignoring Mrs. Adelson’s equally generous gift). Graphs often aid us in keeping perspective.


Oh, dear. Look at that. Do you see our little $50 campaign contribution (the red bar on the left)? No? Neither do we. It’s so tiny that it doesn’t merit a single pixel next to the big, green $5-million-dollar contribution. Our $50 is insignificant.

Can you make out the painfully skinny, little blue bar representing $5,000? We don’t know anyone who makes a single contribution of $5000; we don’t travel in those circles. That little blue bar might represent our $50 contribution + 99 other people also contributing $50. It just barely makes it onto the graph.

Is it any wonder we have massive distortions in who and what our elected representatives attend to? Calling it a “distortion” of course reveals our own personal bias. It might just as well be called “the obvious and intended result”.

Former U.S.Senators could expect to earn somewhere between $800,000 and $1.5 million in annual salary next year at lobby firms

More news of deep corruption as retiring U.S. Senators and Representatives are offered new opportunities at Washington lobbying firms — in this report from The Hill.

Corporate headhunters are sizing up the K Street prospects of the retiring members of the 112th Congress — and they like what they see.

It’s easy to despise these venal old men (mostly). But what would each of us do for a comfortable million dollars a year?

It’s there for the taking. It’s part-time work, if you call it work at all; it’s just talking to people, making some phone calls.

And respectability can be fully maintained. There’s almost nothing to give up. It can all be arranged.

Several headhunters said lawmakers are typically averse to registering as lobbyists, preferring instead to become senior advisers who consult and strategize on how to lobby. Rarely do they wish to advocate face to face with their former colleagues.

“No one wants to be Abramoff,” Latourette said, referring to the once-jailed lobbyist whose tactics became infamous. “There is a definite stigma associated with it, which is being identified as a lobbyist.”