Save the Lawyers

The video below is an excellent attack on the Humane Society of the United States. Watch it and then I’ll add a little extra information:

I agree that we should not support the HSUS, but your local “shelter” may be no better. As I wrote in my article Arms of a Death Angel, most shelters do little but kill animals. Find out about the no kill revolution and support it!

And as usual, here is a picture of a three week old kitten:

3 Week Old Kitten

The Liberal Side of Block Grants

Dylan MatthewsI am no fan of so called welfare reform. On the large scale, it sucks because we make it very hard for the poor to get welfare even as we make it easy for the rich to get it. For example, there is the trivial paperwork required to get billions under TARP. And on the small scale, there are countless cases of evil nonsense. For example, there is this whole idea that rich stay-at-home moms are doing real work, but poor ones aren’t. As Nicole Colson puts it, “So, poor women with children need to know the ‘dignity of work’—but rich women like Ann Romney should be respected for their ‘career choice’ to never hold a paying job.”

Dylan Matthews, who is annoying the hell out of me most days, has a great catch. The Congressional Research Service looked at Obama’s changes to the welfare-to-work requirement and found—What a surprise!—that it is legal. What’s great is that the CRS also found that a recent Republican bill that would block grant a bunch of state funding would remove the welfare-to-work requirement. I like this because it isn’t surprising at all. The Republican push for “states’ rights” does come along with relinquishing the power to control how those states spend their money.

While I’m on the subject of states’ rights, I have a question: why is government oppression on the federal level “Tyranny!” but on the state level, “Democracy!”? It’s like we didn’t live through Jim Crow or something. Oppression is oppression, whether it is your husband or the federal government who keeps you locked inside your house. So I find these “states’ rights” and “block grant” arguments—and I hear them often—very perplexing.

Of course, I know all these claims that we should let the states decide are just a first step in their ideological march to fascism. They are only interested in the states being able to decide on the legality of abortion while none of them can. Once they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will want to take the choice away from states and force every state to make abortion illegal.

I suppose what most bugs me about the conservative “states’ rights” push (among many, many other things) is that it is dishonest. They will turn against the states the moment it is politically convenient. Their arguments have nothing to do with states or rights.

We Are Our Own Investors

Robert Reich has taken on the fiscal cliff and Moody’s statement that they might downgrade the United States government credit rating. I know: we’ve seen this before. But there is something different. When S&P downgraded us, it was because we weren’t dealing with our debt problem. That was bullshit, of course: there is no debt problem. As Dean Baker notes, we are paying about half as much interest on the debt as we did during the glory days of Reagan, Bush, and Clinton:

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Now, Moody’s wants to downgrade our credit rating because we are too concerned about the debt or, more precisely, because we may go over the fiscal cliff and stay there, thus throwing us back into recession. At least this is a reasonable concern. S&P seems to have downgraded us just because they didn’t like the look of us. (Not that I blame them exactly.)

As always, Reich is very informed and thoughtful. But one thing he said really bugged me:

As long as the rest of the world is willing to lend us their savings so cheaply, we’d be wise to use it to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and our schools and parks—and thereby put more Americans back to work—rather [than] try to cut the deficit too much and too soon.

I agree that given that we can borrow money at more or less (Yes, often less!) the rate of inflation, we should be investing in human and physical infrastructure. But it is really not “the world” that is loaning us money; it is “the United States.” Just look at this graph from an article by libertarian nut Nick Gillespie:

As Gillespie writes, “All told, it’s looking like 70 percent of the debt is held by domestic suckers…” He is right on the number, but wrong on the “suckers”: does he really believe that the United States government is going to default on its debt obligations?

We need to understand that our debt is, as Paul Krugman likes to say, money we own to ourselves. We are not beholden to other countries. We are not on the verge of China pulling the rug out from under us and turning us into Greece. As a country, we really are the master of our own destiny.

<%image(20120913-buybonds.jpg|450|292|Buy Bonds)%>

KCRW’s Greatest Hits

When I was down in Los Angeles last week, my brother-in-law introduced me to KCRW, which has an all-music channel Eclectic 24. It is rather good. They play a lot of music that I don’t find that compelling, but they played very little that I was familiar with, and that’s always a good thing.

One song that came up was Greatest Hits by Mystery Jets. They are not a great band. In particular, they always seem to sound like some other band—more exasperatingly, The Cure. The opening guitar on Greatest Hits sounds maddeningly like Stealers Wheel’s Stuck In The Middle With You. Mostly, they sound like a New Wave band that doesn’t suck, which is saying something.

Here is the song:

While Mystery Jets might be worth checking out, KCRW Eclectic 24 most definitely is.

Yes, I know what you want:

Fragile Conservatives

Yemen ProtestsAccording to Reuters, hundreds of protesters stormed the American embassy in Yemen. I have a slightly different take on this than most people.

The United States kills innocent civilians all the time. In fact, our government has now defined the enemy so that anyone within shouting distance of a bearded man can be killed. This is upsetting to anyone who hasn’t dehumanized these people. You know: it’s upsetting to non-conservatives.

But why are our embassies being protested?[1] Murder and rape? No. The conservative religious freaks have got their feeling hurt.

I don’t have much to say about any religion other than Christianity, because I don’t know about these other religions. But I know Christians to be very thinned skinned about God and all that. This seems to be the case with most other religions, especially the Abrahamic religions.

I watched some of the trailer of the controversial film. I couldn’t watch it far enough to get to the anti-Islamic stuff—it was just too painful. What I saw seemed like pretty typical conservative fear mongering about dangerous Arab terrorists. I don’t doubt that there is material in the film that is deeply offensive to these protesters. But the word is that very few of them have seen the film anyway.

This all reminds me of the brouhaha over the absence of the word “god” in the Democratic platform. Why are religious people so insecure? Do they really think that God is so fragile that he can’t deal with the fact that some people don’t worship or even believe in him? Or is it that their faith is so fragile that that they can’t deal with these challenges? I tend to think the latter.

I’ve had Christians cut off religious conversations with me because I was harming their faith. It has never worked the other way around. I have no fear that someone is going rock my world into seeing that Jesus really did die for my sins. Instead, I would welcome such an unlikely occurrence.

It is wrong to belittle another person’s faith. Respect is very important. But religious zealots suffer from the same problems as those who live in the conservative media echo chamber. They come to believe that all reasonable people believe as they do and thus anyone who disagrees must be something horrible. This is how we dehumanize outsiders and why it is important to maintain a broad social circle.

My advice to those of fragile faith is the same as my advice to children who are similarly hurt: just ignore them. The Rodney “I Don’t Get No Respect” Dangerfield[2] antics just make them sound like they are following a very shallow religious or political ideology.

[1] I’m not discussing the attack in Libya, because I’m not sure it is actually related to the protesters.

[2] Too bad they aren’t as funny as he was: