Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Night with The Who

"Can't Explain", 1965

(kinda describes the trouble understanding republicans)

"My Generation", 1967

"A Quick One (While He's Away)" live at The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, December 11, 1968.

This is Very cool

Single Molecule, one million times smaller than a grain of sand, Pictured For First Time.
by Claire Bates

Scientists from IBM used an atomic force microscope (AFM) to reveal the chemical bonds within a molecule.'This is the first time that all the atoms in a molecule have been imaged,' lead researcher Leo Gross said.

Read more:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 80's Could Have Been Much Different

I love to sail. So did Ted. Here he is at the helm of his 50' Schooner Mya just hours after being released from the hospital where he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor on May 23, 2008 . I think sailing is some of the most fun you can have with your pants on. I bet Ted did too.

The 80's could have been much different. The labor unions could have been strengthened, not busted, the walls between banking, securities and insurance would still be up, the government would still have been a respected force in American lives and not turned into the enemy, the Fairness Doctrine would still be in effect and Glenn Beck would have to give equal time to Ralph Nader, we would still have tariffs in place to protect American Manufacturing, people would still be making a living wage. And there would be a good chance that healthcare for all would be old news... but no, Chappaquiddick changed all that. Then Reagan took away the American dream. With a smile on his face. Poor old Gipper, he had no clue....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who's Paying to Kill Health Reform?

By Sarah Shive

(Click image for larger view)

It's a tangled web, with big lobbying firms, industry groups, and Astroturf organizers all linked to townhall meetings. Reflecting a widely-held view among progressives, the big kahuna behind it all is the health insurance industry, via trade group America's Health Insurance Plans.

Lies of Mass Destruction

by Sharon Begley
Image by Zirgar

The same skewed thinking that supports a Saddam-9/11 link explains the power of health-care myths.

Not being a complete idiot (contrary to the assertion of many readers I've been hearing from), I was not exactly surprised at the e-mails I got in response to my story analyzing why the myths about health-care reform—even the totally loony ones, like death panels—have gained such traction. One retired military officer called me "nothing more than an 'Obama Zombie' that has lost touch with reality," while a housewife sweetly suggested that I sign up for "socialistic medicine" and die, the sooner the better. (My kids get upset when people wish me dead, but hey, they'll survive.) But now I think I understand people who believe the health-care lies—and the Obama-was-born-in-Kenya lie—even better than when I wrote that piece.

Some people form and cling to false beliefs about health-care reform (or Obama's citizenship) despite overwhelming evidence thanks to a mental phenomenon called motivated reasoning, says sociologist Steven Hoffman, visiting assistant professor at the University at Buffalo. "Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief," he says, "people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe." And God knows, in the Internet age there is no dearth of sources to confirm even the most ludicrous claims (my favorite being that the moon landings were faked). "For the most part," says Hoffman, "people completely ignore contrary information" and are able to "develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information."

His conclusions arise from a study he and six colleagues conducted. They were looking at the well-known phenomenon of Americans believing that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Some people, mostly liberals, have blamed that on false information and innuendo spread by the Bush administration and its GOP allies (by former members of the Bush White House, too, as recently as this past March). (As Dick Cheney said in June, suspicion of a link "turned out not to be true.") But the researchers think another force is at work. In a paper to be published in the September issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry(you have to subscribe to the journal to read the full paper, but the authors kindly posted it on their Web site here), they argue that some Americans believe the Saddam-9/11 link because it "made sense of the administration's decision to go to war against Iraq . . . [T]he fact of the war led to a search for a justification for it, which led them to infer the existence of ties between Iraq and 9/11," they write.

For their study, the scientists whittled down surveys filled out by 246 voters, of whom 73 percent believed in a Saddam-9/11 link, to 49 believers who were willing to be interviewed at length in October 2004. Even after the 49 were shown newspaper articles reporting that the 9/11 Commission had not found any evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, and quoting President Bush himself denying it, 48 stuck to their guns: yup, Saddam Hussein, directly or indirectly, brought down the Twin Towers.

When the scientists asked the participants why they believed in the link, they offered many justifications. Five argued that Saddam supported terrorism generally, or that evidence of a link to 9/11 might yet emerge. These counterarguments are not entirely illogical. But almost everyone else offered some version of "I don't know; I don't know anything"—that is, outright confusion over the conflict between what they believed and what the facts showed—or switched subjects to the invasion of Iraq. As one put it, when asked about his Saddam-9/11 belief, "There is no doubt in my mind that if we did not deal with Saddam Hussein when we did, it was just a matter of time when we would have to deal with him." In other words, holding fast to the Saddam-9/11 belief helped people make sense of the decision to go to war against Iraq.

"We refer to this as 'inferred justification,'" says Hoffman. Inferred justification is a sort of backward chain of reasoning. You start with something you believe strongly (the invasion of Iraq was the right move) and work backward to find support for it (Saddam was behind 9/11). "For these voters," says Hoffman, "the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war."

For an explanation of this behavior, look no further than the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance. This theory holds that when people are presented with information that contradicts preexisting beliefs, they try to relieve the cognitive tension one way or another. They process and respond to information defensively, for instance: their belief challenged by fact, they ignore the latter. They also accept and seek out confirming information but ignore, discredit the source of, or argue against contrary information, studies have shown.

Which brings us back to health-care reform—in particular, the apoplexy at town-hall meetings and the effectiveness of the lies being spread about health-care reform proposals. First of all, let's remember that 59,934,814 voters cast their ballot for John McCain, so we can assume that tens of millions of Americans believe the wrong guy is in the White House. To justify that belief, they need to find evidence that he's leading the country astray. What better evidence of that than to seize on the misinformation about Obama's health-care reform ideas and believe that he wants to insure illegal aliens, for example, and give the Feds electronic access to doctors' bank accounts?

Obama's opponents also need to find evidence that their reading of him back in November was correct. They therefore seize on "confirmation" that he wants to, for instance, redistribute the wealth, as in his “spread the wealth around” remark to Joe the Plumber—finding such confirmation in the claims that health-care reform will do just that, redistributing health care from those who have it now to the 46 million currently uninsured. Similarly, they seize on anything that confirms the “socialist” label that got pinned on Obama during the campaign, or the pro-abortion label—anything to comfort themselves that they made the right choice last November.

There are legitimate, fact-based reasons to oppose health-care reform. But some of the loudest opposition is the result of confirmatory bias, cognitive dissonance, and other examples of mental processes that have gone off the rails.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Birthday Music

BB King - How Blue Can You Get - From Folsom Prison

Slowhand Eric Clapton - Groaning the Blues (the Blackest White Guy We Know)

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues (for us DFH's)

Monday, August 24, 2009

This Isn’t Reform, It’s Robbery

This is a great article By Chris Hedges via Truthdig.

Read the whole thing here.

First a few facts:

Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health-insurance companies: +87%
Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428%
Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10

Aetna’s company profit for 2007’s first quarter, $434 million. The company would report $27.6 billion in revenue for the year and $31 billion for the following year.

Hedges writes - Capitalists, as my friend Father Michael Doyle says, should never be allowed near a health care system. They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care. The sick do not have a choice.

Medical care is not a consumable good. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is no choice between illness and health. And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health care industry is the problem and must be destroyed. This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to deny care to patients in order to increase profits. It is an industry that causes half of all bankruptcies. And the 20,000 Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder.

The current health care debate in Congress has nothing to do with death panels or public options or socialized medicine. The real debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health services are going to be able to siphon off from new health care legislation. The proposed plans rattling around Congress all ensure that the profits for these corporations will increase and the misery for ordinary Americans will be compounded.

The corporate state, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, is yet again cannibalizing the Treasury. It is yet again pushing Americans, especially the poor and the working class, into levels of despair and rage that will continue to fuel the violent, proto-fascist movements leaping up around the edges of American society. And the traditional watchdogs—those in public office, the press and citizens groups—are as useless as the perfumed fops of another era who busied their days with court intrigue at Versailles. Canada never looked so good.

The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and for-profit health care providers to craft the current health care reform legislation. “Corporate and industry players are inside the tent this time,” says David Merritt, project director at Newt Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation, “so there is a vacuum on the outside.” And these lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure nothing in the bills will impede their growing profits and capacity for abuse.

“It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their defective product,” says Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan.

The inclusion of these corporations in the crafting of health care legislation has not stopped figures like Rick Scott, the former head of the Columbia/HCA health care company, from attempting to sabotage any plan. Scott’s company was forced to pay a $1.7 billion fraud settlement—the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history—for stealing hundreds of millions from taxpayers by overbilling for medical care. Scott, who made his money primarily from Medicare, is now saturating the airwaves in a reputed $20 million ad campaign that is stoking the anger and fear of many Americans. His ads are coordinated by CRC Public Relations, the group that masterminded the “Swift boat” attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Hedges returns - “For someone my age who is making $40,000 a year you are required to lay out $5,000 for an insurance premium for coverage that covers nothing until you have spent $2,000 out of pocket,” Himmelstein said. “You are $7,000 out of pocket before you have any coverage at all. For most people that means you are already bankrupt before you have insurance. If anything, that has made them worse off. Instead of having that $5,000 to cover some of their medical expenses they have laid it out in premiums.”

The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care—$7,129 per capita—although 45.7 million Americans remain without health coverage and millions more are inadequately covered. There are 14,000 Americans a day now losing their health coverage. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage.

Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third, 31 percent, of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, Physicians for a National Health Plan points out, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

But the proposed America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200 in the House) will, rather than cut costs, add an estimated $239 billion over 10 years to the federal deficit. This is very good for the corporations. It is very bad for us.

The lobbyists have, as they did with the obscene bailouts for banks and investment firms, hijacked legislation in order to fleece the citizen. The five largest private health insurers and their trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug maker, spent more than $9 million during the last quarter of 2008 and the first three months of this year. The Washington Post reported that up to 30 members of Congress from both parties who hold key committee memberships have major investments in health care companies totaling between $11 million and $27 million. President Barack Obama’s director of health care policy, who will not discuss single-payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations.

Obama and the congressional leadership have shut out advocates of single-payer. The press, including papers such as The New York Times, treats single-payer as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45 and 60 percent of doctors favor single-payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to discredit and silence voices that represent at least half of the population is another sad testament to the power of our corporate state.

“We are considering a variety of striking efforts for early in the fall,” Dr. Himmelstein said, “including protests outside state capitals by doctors around the country, video links of conferences in 70 or 80 cities around the country, with protests and potential doctors chaining themselves to the fence of the White House.”

Make sure you join them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This Just In!! America Disappearing into a Black-Hole of Ignorance

.. and suck, as per the Penguin. Tried to mellow this one out... but the penguin is right and we should be mad as hell.

54% of Americans don't know that Medicare is a government-run healthcare program.


The black hole of suck is so 'effin big that it's amazing the whole goddamned country hasn't disappeared into one giant black hole of suck yet.

How can so many people be so 'effin stupid? Oh wait. "President George W. Bush". 'Effin *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

Now - the Other Side (See, the fairness doctrine is not dead)

Without reform, health insurance rates to nearly double in 11 years

Obama attacks ‘outrageous myths’ in health insurance reform debate

Competition lacking among private health insurers

Holy Crap! Under the New Healthcare Reform, Insurance Rates May Go Up 15%!

I Would Personally Like to Dope Slap Every One of These Assholes

Especially Lie-berman

Fox furthers ‘death panel’ hysteria with ‘death book’ claim

Lieberman: Recession no time to worry about health care reform

McCain to Obama: Drop public health care option

GOP congressman supports ‘proud right-wing terrorist’

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Late-Night Grateful Dead... Althea

Jimi Hendrix Set for a Saturday Night

Hey Joe

Hear My Train A'Comin' (acoustic)

Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire (Woodstock)

Common Sense 2009

by Larry Flynt
Publisher of Hustler magazine and free speech advocate

The American government -- which we once called our government -- has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "economic royalists," who choose our elected officials -- indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters.

In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.

This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment's hesitation, they took our money -- yours and mine -- to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don't care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as "useless eaters."

But, you say, we have elected a candidate of change. To which I respond: Do these words of President Obama sound like change?

"A culture of irresponsibility took root, from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street." There it is. Right there. We are Main Street. We must, according to our president, share the blame. He went on to say: "And a regulatory regime basically crafted in the wake of a 20th-century economic crisis -- the Great Depression -- was overwhelmed by the speed, scope and sophistication of a 21st-century global economy."

This is nonsense.

The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did -- knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) -- was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight -- and we've all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.

Instead, Obama wants to increase the oversight power of the Federal Reserve. Never mind that it already had significant oversight power before our most recent economic meltdown, yet failed to take action. Never mind that the Fed is not a government agency but a cartel of private bankers that cannot be held accountable by Washington. Whatever the Fed does with these supposed new oversight powers will be behind closed doors.

Obama's failure to act sends one message loud and clear: He cannot stand up to the powerful Wall Street interests that supplied the bulk of his campaign money for the 2008 election. Nor, for that matter, can Congress, for much the same reason.

Consider what multibillionaire banker David Rockefeller wrote in his 2002 memoirs:
"Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as 'internationalists' and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure -- one world, if you will. If that's the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it."Read Rockefeller's words again. He actually admits to working against the "best interests of the United States."
Need more? Here's what Rockefeller said in 1994 at a U.N. dinner: "We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis, and the nations will accept the New World Order." They're gaming us. Our country has been stolen from us.

Journalist Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone, notes that esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith laid the 1929 crash at the feet of banking giant Goldman Sachs. Taibbi goes on to say that Goldman Sachs has been behind every other economic downturn as well, including the most recent one. As if that wasn't enough, Goldman Sachs even had a hand in pushing gas prices up to $4 a gallon.

The problem with bankers is longstanding. Here's what one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about them:

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their father's conquered."

We all know that the first American Revolution officially began in 1776, with the Declaration of Independence. Less well known is that the single strongest motivating factor for revolution was the colonists' attempt to free themselves from the Bank of England. But how many of you know about the second revolution, referred to by historians as Shays' Rebellion? It took place in 1786-87, and once again the banks were the cause. This time they were putting the screws to America's farmers.

Daniel Shays was a farmer in western Massachusetts. Like many other farmers of the day, he was being driven into bankruptcy by the banks' predatory lending practices. (Sound familiar?) Rallying other farmers to his side, Shays led his rebels in an attack on the courts and the local armory. The rebellion itself failed, but a message had been sent: The bankers (and the politicians who supported them) ultimately backed off. As Thomas Jefferson famously quipped in regard to the insurrection: "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Perhaps it's time to consider that option once again.

I'm calling for a national strike, one designed to close the country down for a day. The intent? Real campaign-finance reform and strong restrictions on lobbying. Because nothing will change until we take corporate money out of politics. Nothing will improve until our politicians are once again answerable to their constituents, not the rich and powerful.

Let's set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn't effective -- if the politicians ignore us -- we do it again. And again. And again.

The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It's time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves.

The Goldman Sachs of the world. (my add).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

STFU Tweety

Thanks to Susie Madrak from Crooks and Liars for this great vid

Someone mentioned today that Rep. Anthony Weiner was Jon Stewart's college roommate. Imagine what that duo was like. This guy is smart, passionate and willing to go the extra mile on healthcare reform. I'm glad he's doing what he does.

He asks the question: "What do insurance companies really do?".

What the Healthcare Bill, HR3200, Really Is

Big Thanks to BadTux for this one.

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Late Night Rolling Stones for a Hot Night

Sebelius walks it back: “We continue to support the public option”

Corporate Rule

IF we do NOT get a public option in this environment of all dem controlled house, senate and potus - then we will never get a public option, or a labor bill, or a finance regulatory reform bill, or stop the wars, or win any progressive battle. We'll give the keys to our country to the multi-national corporations that have bought and own our democratic process and the thugs that run the corporate owned media.

A very prescient movie, Rollerball, was produced in 1975 - a post-apocryphal future where corporations run the world. Here's a summary:

Here's another clip where the CEO of "Energy" (there are no longer countries or presidents) tells Jonathon E, the greatest Rollerballer ever, that he needs to retire because they don't want the people to start thinking they actually have any power as individuals .... sound familiar? You'll have to turn this one way up to hear it, but it is WAAAY worth it.

So Jon thinks about it.... and tells the corporations to pound sand, fuck off, and generally forget about controlling him.

So they ramp up the pressure, making the game more and more dangerous thinking he would get killed... but, Jonathon E is the last man standing.. much to the chagrin of the ruling class.. well, how many Jonathon E's are there out there today? Obama? Is he up to the task? I am Jonathon E. Are you?


Monday, August 17, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Moral Relevance

Ah, for the good old days ...
by SusanG

... when you could get arrested in the House gallery for wearing a T-Shirt listing the number of casualties in the Iraq war.

But last Tuesday.... how quaint.

Intergenerational Mobility or Will Our Kids Have Equal Opportunity to do Better than Their Parents?

This is a Damn Shame.

By BadTux

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 (me too, I remember it well). 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

Health Care meets Goldman Sachs

by Matt Taibbi via True Slant

The debate over the merits of taxing high-cost, excessively generous insurance plans has highlighted Goldman Sachs’s plan as an example. Goldman’s 400 managing directors reportedly receive an average of $40,543 in employer-provided health insurance annually. What has received less attention is how much of the cost the federal government pays. This compensation is provided tax-free. The same result would occur if the compensation were included as income and the government sent each Goldman managing director a check for $14,777 each year.

I can’t get away from Goldman Sachs even when I try. This is from a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It’s an interesting take on the health-care bill. I’m not sure about taxing insurance plans — I’ve seen research that argues somewhat convincingly that it’s a bad idea — but this is also worth pointing out. The report goes on:

For comparison, consider an illustrative family of three in which the father earns $30,000 as an independent contractor for a small plumbing company and the mother earns $25,000 from a small retailer. Neither small business provides health benefits. The couple has a daughter in second grade at the local public school and pays $100 a week for child care after school and during the summer. The family lives in a modest home and pays $1,000 a month in rent and $250 in utilities. It owes $2,312 in federal income taxes, $6,502 in Social Security and Medicare taxes, and $1,350 in state income taxes. It has two cars with payments of $300 a month each, and pays $2,000 a year in car insurance and $1,000 a year for gasoline. It spends $150 a week on groceries. The couple has avoided accruing any credit card debt, but they have no saving for retirement and no life insurance…

Right now, the federal government pays $14,777 to provide health insurance for each of Goldman Sachs’s managing directors and pays nothing to provide health insurance for this middle-income family. The Administration and Congress face a clear choice: can we modestly reduce the extremely generous government subsidies provided to the Goldman bankers and others similarly situated to help pay for a subsidy worth a fraction of that amount to families of modest means?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dueling Health Care CEO's

Rachel Maddow talks to whistleblower Wendell Potter about the health care industry's rising profits while more and more Americans lose their health care insurance.

Cookie Jill nails Cigna's SEO Stephen Hemsley via Skippy
Sick needing healthcare vs. sick for profit

Unitedhealthcare ceo stephen hemsley owns $744,232,068 in unexercised stock options. cigna’s edward hanway spends his holidays in a $13 million beach house in new jersey. meanwhile, regular americans are routinely denied coverage for the care they need when they need it most.

It's Not Your Imagination, You Really Are Working Harder for Less Money.

By Susie Madrak via Crooks and Liars

See, Republicans and corporatists will love this - they'll say, "See how much they're producing with fewer people? Obviously, they were slacking off before."

Remember, Republicans believe they're entitled to cheap, disposable labor without any pesky legal rights or protections that may get in the way of their profits.

Kind of reminds me of that scene in "Schindler's List," where Ralph Fiennes as the camp commander shoots a very sick man who somehow did the impossible task he was ordered to perform.

"Why did you shoot him? He did what you asked," another guard says.
Fiennes replies, "Why didn't he work that hard for me all the time?"

Yes, welcome to America, where "Work Will Make You Free". (Or is it "You'll Work Almost for Free"?) Hey, at least they don't shoot us - those of us who still have jobs, I mean:

Feel like you’re working a lot harder these days, putting in longer hours for the same pay — or even less? The latest round of government data on worker productivity indicates that you probably are.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the American work force produced, at an annual rate, 6.4 percent more of the goods they made and services they provided in the second quarter of this year compared to a year ago. At the same time, “unit labor costs” — the amount employers paid for all that extra work — fell by 5.8 percent. The jump in productivity was higher than expected; the cut in labor costs more than double expectations.

That is, despite the deep job cuts of the past year, workers who remain on the payroll are filling in and making up the work that had been done by their departed colleagues. In some cases, that extra work came with a smaller paycheck.

The higher worker output and lower labor costs have been good news for companies struggling through the worst recession since World War II. So far, some 70 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have turned in better-than-expected profits for the latest quarter.

KO’s special comment on Mooselini and Death Panels

Found this at Mock, Paper, Scissors - one of my favorite blog sites who snagged it from Crooks and Liars.

Media Matters presents Glenn Beck’s corporate sponsors

by Jed Lewison via Daily Kos

Let's keep up the pressure. It seems to be working.

As ColorOfChange diaried earlier, GEICO has now joined the growing list of advertisers pulling their corporate advertising from Beck's show. Fortunately for Beck's current advertisers, there's still time them to get on board the train out of Glenn Beck's crazy-town. What are they waiting for?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Braced for a fight he never got, President Barack Obama went on the offensive in support of his health care plan

"Where were the 'birther/deather' pussies tonight, eh?", said Rahm Emmanuel

Smile! You're on Deather Camera!

by Marty Kaplan via HuffPost

I keep hoping that the health care "debate" we're having this summer will turn out to be just a plot point in the 2009 version of The Truman Show, the movie where Jim Carrey's character, Truman Burbank, discovers that what he thought was reality is actually a reality television show.

I want my character in The Marty Show to discover that Rush Limbaugh calling Obama a Nazi, and Glenn Beck calling the president a racist, turn out to be harmless taunts in a fictional storyline, not actual invitations to nutballs with weapons to do something truly terrible.

I keep waiting for that Candid Camera reveal when members of Congress realize that the constituents accusing them of wanting to euthanize their grannies turn out to be actors playing their parts, not voters too dumb or too scared to resist being manipulated by political demagogues and industry propagandists.

I keep praying that the execrable job the news media is doing turns out to be an intervention by extraterrestrials in an episode of The Twilight Zone. The elevation of combat over content; the false equivalence of lies and facts in service of a bizarre notion of "balance"; the imperative to captivate instead of the obligation to inform: I want the camera to pull back and disclose the alien mind-control experiment that has forced human journalists to become entertainers.
When Sarah Palin declares that Obama's evil death panel intends to condemn her Down's syndrome baby to die, I keep waiting for the twist. This isn't really the news; it's a headline in the Onion. This isn't really the opening salvo of the GOP frontrunner in the 2012 presidential campaign; it's a South Park parody of Harry Potter.

When I see how a handful of Senate Republicans and a kennel of Blue Dogs can demonize the public health insurance option as a tyrannical government takeover; when I see seniors demand that government keep its mitts off Medicare; when I see Obama trade billions of savings achievable by price-bargaining with drug companies for millions of administration-friendly Big Pharma ads -- that's when I pine for a shocker like the one in The Matrix when Neo learns that reality is just an illusion.

The election of Barack Obama offered reason to believe that the fear-mongering on the campaign trail, the lying in the ads and the inadequacies of the media were no match for the enduring common sense of the American people. Wow -- the system works.
Not so fast.

If the health care fracas has demonstrated anything so far, it's how porous the membrane is between self-government and self-deception. Other than the Hollywood tradition that the darkest hour is just before dawn, what evidence is there to believe that the country -- as Obama said at his inaugural -- has put away childish things? Other than the president's faith in bipartisanship and compromise, what reason is there to feel that Republicans won't do everything they can to destroy him?

This summer is shaping up to be as ugly as anything served up by Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney may no longer call the shots, but their disciples in lobbyist front groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks share the same DNA as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the folks who impeached Bill Clinton.

When I hear Republican congressmen and cable gasbags cast doubt on Obama's natural-born citizenship, I know that they don't really believe the "birther" argument, just as they don't really believe the euthanasia argument. They're just playing to the base.
The problem is that the base doesn't know it's just being played.

To the demagogues in Congress, it's all a game, an act. They've already got health insurance. It doesn't matter whether 46 million uninsured Americans get it; what matters is whether they get re-elected.

To the media bloviators, it's a play, a piece of political theater. Their job isn't to cry foul, or to explain really complicated things; their job is to review the politicos' performances, and to hold the audience's attention so they stick around through the commercials.
Of course it's not at all a sport or a spectacle to the drug industry, the insurance industry, the hospital industry or any of the other stakeholders with hundreds of billions of dollars at risk. For them, it's a fight to the death.

Unfortunately, it's also a fight to the death for many of the Americans who can't afford premiums, can't afford drugs, and can't get insured. For them, it's not The Truman Show; it's a horror show.

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

by Deanie Mills via TPM

First thing to know is: They're not stupid. They're just scared.

It is important to know that upfront if we are going to get anything accomplished on health care reform.

My dad is a retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant. He and my step-mom are very conservative--she watches Bill O'Reilly every night and insists that the reason I refuse is because I "won't consider alternative points of view." (It does no good to reel off a half-dozen conservative columnists and bloggers I read; Bill O'Reilly is the definitive word.)
She also believes fervently that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

I love my folks. Until his health finally prohibited such activities, Dad was a white-water rafter, a kayaker, a mountain-climber, a desert-hiker, a treasure-hunter, and remains a whopping good storyteller. My step-mom is a smart, savvy, generous and loving woman who has stood by him for more than 50 years, while they raised five kids.

They are not stupid people. (Just brainwashed by Fox News) More here:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Inside Story on Town Hall Riots: Right-Wing Shock Troops Do Corporate America’s Dirty Work

by By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet via Truthdig

The recent spate of town hall dustups may look like an overnight sensation, but they’ve been years, even decades, in the making.

Since the days in the late 1970s, when the New Right began its takeover of the Republican Party, it has cultivated a militia of white people armed with a grudge against those who brought forth the social changes of the ’60s.

These malcontents have been promised their day of retribution, a day for which they are more than ready. Few seem to understand that they are merely dupes for a corporate agenda that will only worsen the conditions in which they live.

Why, you may ask, would men of power and fame shake the rough, unmanicured hands of gun enthusiasts, conspiracy theorists, gay-haters, misogynists and racists?

Because somebody’s got to do the dirty work. Magnates don’t like to soil their French cuffs, and it’s hard for a bunch of rich guys to garner sympathy for threats to their bottom lines. It’s the classic inside-outside game that the right wing of the GOP has played for the last two decades.

The Health-Care Industry Executive
Imagine you’re an executive at a pharmaceutical company. Your U.S. operations are your cash cow; they earn you wild net profits because, unlike in other industrialized nations, you do not experience the price controls of a government-administered program in which the government negotiates for the best price on prescription drugs and devices.

Along comes a government plan for health-insurance reform that includes a public, government-financed plan. The public option, they call it. As part of the plan, you will be required to negotiate with the government for the price of medications and devices to be distributed within the plan.
Now that could really screw up your massive profit margins. Private plans might then insist on prices more like those the government is getting.

Instead of increasing your profit by double digits in the worst year the economy has seen since the Great Depression, as did an outfit called The Medicines Co., your shareholders may have to settle for profits more in line with the overall growth of the economy. And wouldn’t that just stink?

Meanwhile, polls show a clear majority of Americans—you know, regular Americans, the kind who don’t want to own an AK-47, or who do accept the president’s citizenship status—favor the public option. In fact, in June, CBS News found that majority to be 72 percent.
So, whaddaya do? Well, if your lobbying firm counts former Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, as its senior policy adviser, you don’t have do much. Dick will take care of the rest through FreedomWorks, the ostensibly grassroots, nonprofit organization of anti-taxers, cold warriors and affirmative-action opponents, which he chairs.

Need to make it look like regular Americans oppose the health-insurance reform bills now being considered by Congress? Make sure a handful of those angry white people turn up at the town hall meetings now being conducted by members of Congress throughout the country. Make sure they disrupt the meeting and rattle the congressperson.
Capture it all on amateur video and put it up on a faux, amateur-looking Web site, and try to kid the media into thinking there’s a widespread rebellion happening. After all, the media are gonna want that dramatic footage.

The Republican Member of Congress
Now, suppose you’re a Republican member of Congress. Your party got totally throttled in the 2008 election, and if you don’t derail this health care thing, it’s going to be a big win for your Democratic opponents, as millions of underinsured and uninsured Americans finally have some health care coverage—one bright spot in a largely dismal economy.

Meanwhile, you get a lot of your campaign cash from health-care-related industries and from the Wall Street bankers and brokers who want to keep those profits soaring.
A public option is going to stink for you, too. So, while Armey’s army of taxphobes is useful to you, it would be great to get some really hard-core types to further stoke the fires—especially if marshaled by guys who know how to really tar Democrats with racist imagery and slurs of unpatriotic behavior.

That’s where and its brother networking site, ResistNet, come in. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who promised to make health-care reform President Obama’s "Waterloo," is a big fan. Says so right there on the Grassfire Web site. ResistNet is yet another right-wing hub for organizing the disruption of health-care town hall meetings.

The Media Mogul
Okay, now put on the hat of a media mogul, one who rails against the minimal restrictions the U.S. has on multi-outlet ownership, and one for whom the bottom line is everything. In fact, you actually own the Wall Street Journal.

If you can nip this health care thing in the bud, you could stand in the way of a president who wants to rein in Wall Street’s worse excesses and who may depress the profit margins of health-care companies in which your readers invest with his dastardly public option. What’s a mogul to do?

Why not hire a guy known for riling the discontented to host a show on your cable news channel, and empower him as an organizer? Let him create a little project pegged to fear and nationalism—something, say, like 9/11—through which he mobilizes bands of those aggrieved by the fact of a black president to disrupt town hall meetings.
That’s exactly what Rupert Murdoch did when he hired Glenn Beck to host a Fox News Channel show and to put together a little organizing site called The 9-12 Project. Read the rest of this article here

Southern Beale has some words for Sarah Palin:

Don’t Talk To Me About Death Panels, Sarah Palin.
by Southern Beale

Don’t talk to me about death panels, Sarah Palin. You, who so carelessly bolstered a lie about healthcare reform to score a cheap political point; you, the most craven of political opportunists, who fearmongers about some dystopian socialist/fascist fantasyland; you, who earlier this year were only too happy to accept free medical, dental and veterinary care from the U.S. military for Alaska’s remote villages; you, dear lady, are an idiot.

In your free market wonderland everyone somehow manages to get healthcare, even those who are poor or live in isolated areas, though the poor and isolated in your own state required assistance from the federal government.

And despite all of this, you appear blithely unaware that the free market healthcare system we have now does, indeed, have “death panels.”

I’ve been part of a death panel conversation. I know about death panels.You have no idea what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. "Living will" or no, it doesn't matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document. If this isn’t a “death panel” I don’t know what is.

So don’t talk to me about “death panels” you heartless, cruel, greedy sons of bitches, who are only too happy to keep the profits rolling in to the big insurance companies while you spout your mealy-mouthed bumper sticker slogans about the evils of socialism. You don't even know what socialism is. You don't know what government healthcare is. You have no fucking clue about anything except that you lost the last election and you're pissed off.

You are young. Your parents are still alive. You don’t know enough to take any of this seriously. It's all an exercise in political theater for you. But that will change. We all get older. The time will arrive, someday, when you are tasked with caring for someone you love who is seriously ill. You will be ushered in to that sterile hospital conference room with an administrator you do not know, where you are told to "make plans" for a day you never hoped to see. And then you will get your education. If on that day you still think the healthcare system we have now is fabulous and worth lying, cheating and threatening people to maintain, I can only conclude that you lack even the tiniest grain of a soul.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Glenn Beck - Racist rants put to good music

Saturday Morning Healthcare Vids

"Go Ahead and Die" From the Pirates of the Health-Care-ibean.

"The Drugs I Need".

Bill Maher, "Ask Your Doctor..."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Inspired By Glenn Beck, Protesters Overwhelm Town Hall Meeting With ‘Cat Calls’ And ‘Banging On Windows’

By Amanda Terkel via Think Progress

An angry mob of protesters disrupted a health care forum today in Tampa, FL, which was attended by state Rep. Betty Reed (D) and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D). More than 1,000 people showed up for the event, which was being held in a venue meant for just 250 people. As a result, “a large crowd gathered outside, and tensions were high among people who couldn’t get in.”

From a report by the Tampa CBS affiliate:
As the building filled to capacity, angry protesters stuck outside began to scream, yell, and chant. At one point, those trying to get inside began banging on windows as Tampa Police officers quickly spread out guarding all entrances.

10 Connects photojournalist Kevin Carlson, currently inside the meeting reports at least one fist fight breaking out inside.

Castor reportedly “left the meeting early, saying she couldn’t be heard above all the shouting inside the meeting.” When police “on bullhorns” tried to send the crowd home, many refused to leave. Additionally, some protesters’ signs “bore an image of Obama with his face painted as the Joker, an image that drew protests of racism locally when it appeared on a Web site thought to be associated with the Pinellas Republican party.”

So how did all these protesters find out about the town hall meeting? According to the St. Petersburg Times, many of them heard about it from Fox News host Glenn Beck’s 912 project and the local Republican party:

Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck.

Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points to challenge supporters.

Beck has been a heavy influence on these “grassroots” tea parties and protests. In April, ThinkProgress spoke to attendees protesting outside the White House, and many of them said that they had heard about the event through Beck’s 912 Project.

Update Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) also faced an angry crowd at an event today, where he was repeatedly interrupted, jeered, and called a "liar."

Fascist America: Are We There Yet?

By Sara Robinson via Campaign for America's Future

All through the dark years of the Bush Administration, progressives watched in horror as Constitutional protections vanished, nativist rhetoric ratcheted up, hate speech turned into intimidation and violence, and the president of the United States seized for himself powers only demanded by history's worst dictators. With each new outrage, the small handful of us who'd made ourselves experts on right-wing culture and politics would hear once again from worried readers: Is this it? Have we finally become a fascist state? Are we there yet?

In tracking the mileage on this trip to perdition, many of us relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world's pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist. In a 1998 paper published in The Journal of Modern History, Paxton argued that the best way to recognize emerging fascist movements isn't by their rhetoric, their politics, or their aesthetics. Rather, he said, mature democracies turn fascist by a recognizable process, a set of five stages that may be the most important family resemblance that links all the whole motley collection of 20th Century fascisms together. According to our reading of Paxton's stages, we weren't there yet. There were certain signs -- one in particular -- we were keeping an eye out for, and we just weren't seeing it.

And now we are. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, it's suddenly everywhere. It's odd that I haven't been asked for quite a while; but if you asked me today, I'd tell you that if we're not there right now, we've certainly taken that last turn into the parking lot and are now looking for a space. Either way, our fascist American future now looms very large in the front windshield -- and those of us who value American democracy need to understand how we got here, what's changing now, and what's at stake in the very near future if these people are allowed to win -- or even hold their ground.

What is fascism?The word has been bandied about by so many people so wrongly for so long that, as Paxton points out, "Everybody is somebody else's fascist." Given that, I always like to start these conversations by revisiting Paxton's essential definition of the term:

"Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline."

Elsewhere, he refines this further as:

"a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Jonah Goldberg aside, that's a basic definition most legitimate scholars in the field can agree on, and the one I'll be referring to here.

From proto-fascism to the tipping pointAccording to Paxton, fascism unfolds in five stages. The first two are pretty solidly behind us -- and the third should be of particular interest to progressives right now.

In the first stage, a rural movement emerges to effect some kind of nationalist renewal (what Roger Griffin calls "palingenesis" -- a phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes). They come together to restore a broken social order, always drawing on themes of unity, order, and purity. Reason is rejected in favor of passionate emotion. The way the organizing story is told varies from country to country; but it's always rooted in the promise of restoring lost national pride by resurrecting the culture's traditional myths and values, and purging society of the toxic influence of the outsiders and intellectuals who are blamed for their current misery.

In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power. Interestingly, in every case Paxton cites, the political base came from the rural, less-educated parts of the country; and almost all of them came to power very specifically by offering themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of the large landowners. The KKK disenfranchised black sharecroppers and set itself up as the enforcement wing of Jim Crow. The Italian Squadristi and the German Brownshirts made their bones breaking up farmers' strikes. And these days, GOP-sanctioned anti-immigrant groups make life hell for Hispanic agricultural workers in the US. As violence against random Hispanics (citizens and otherwise) increases, the right-wing goon squads are getting basic training that, if the pattern holds, they may eventually use to intimidate the rest of us.
Paxton wrote that succeeding at the second stage "depends on certain relatively precise conditions: the weakness of a liberal state, whose inadequacies condemn the nation to disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right, the heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone, refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner."

And more ominously: "The most important variables...are the conservative elites' willingness to work with the fascists (along with a reciprocal flexibility on the part of the fascist leaders) and the depth of the crisis that induces them to cooperate."

That description sounds eerily like the dire straits our Congressional Republicans find themselves in right now. Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can't even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can't win elections or policy fights, they're more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.

When that unholy alliance is made, the third stage -- the transition to full-fledged government fascism -- begins.

The third stage: being there all through the Bush years, progressive right-wing watchers refused to call it "fascism" because, though we kept looking, we never saw clear signs of a deliberate, committed institutional partnership forming between America's conservative elites and its emerging homegrown brownshirt horde. We caught tantalizing signs of brief flirtations -- passing political alliances, money passing hands, far-right moonbat talking points flying out of the mouths of "mainstream" conservative leaders. But it was all circumstantial, and fairly transitory. The two sides kept a discreet distance from each other, at least in public. What went on behind closed doors, we could only guess. They certainly didn't act like a married couple.

Now, the guessing game is over. We know beyond doubt that the Teabag movement was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. We see the Birther fracas -- the kind of urban myth-making that should have never made it out of the pages of the National Enquirer -- being openly ratified by Congressional Republicans. We've seen Armey's own professionally-produced field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process -- and the film of public officials being terrorized and threatened to the point where some of them required armed escorts to leave the building. We've seen Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."

This is the sign we were waiting for -- the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.
This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It's also our very last chance to stop it.

The fail-safe point, according to Paxton, the forging of this third-stage alliance is the make-or-break moment -- and the worst part of it is that by the time you've arrived at that point, it's probably too late to stop it. From here, it escalates, as minor thuggery turns into beatings, killings, and systematic tagging of certain groups for elimination, all directed by people at the very top of the power structure. After Labor Day, when Democratic senators and representatives go back to Washington, the mobs now being created to harass them will remain to run the same tactics -- escalated and perfected with each new use -- against anyone in town whose color, religion, or politics they don't like. In some places, they're already making notes and taking names.

Where's the danger line? Paxton offers three quick questions that point us straight at it: Check out the rest of the article here