A Place at the Table

When Horatio Alger fables turn toxic

June 26th 2011

 America’s income disparity is at a record high. Not only is it the worst it has been in American history, it’s the worst it has been in Western history, going back to the French Revolution. The prerevolutionary Russia of the Czars had not seen a constriction of wealth this bad. Nor had the English of Charles Dickens’ time. The aristocracy that the Founding Fathers inveighed against and warned must never be allowed in democratic America did not have as disproportionate share of the wealth as America has today.

It has made a travesty of the American dream, bringing poverty to tens of millions in “the world’s richest country.” At a time when corporate profits are at all-time highs and banks steal billions with seeming impunity, one in six Americans is on food stamps.

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The Wizards of Oz

Down under, they know how to work people!

June 11th 2011

 As American labor drifts slowly into outright servitude, Australia is trying something different, and it seems to be working.

Australia passed the Fair Work Act of 2009, which took effect in the form of the National Employment Standards on January 1, 2010. The act covers roughly 2/3rds of Australia’s workers (about 27% of the workforce are deemed “casual workers” defined by a tautology; they are called casual workers because they are paid as casual workers). Some of the provisions are, by American standards, utterly amazing.

The minimum wage is $569.90 per week. (In Australian dollars, which are presently a bit over $1.05 in US dollars, so that wage is $600.56). A work week is defined as being 38 hours, and for part timers, the minimum wage is $15 an hour. It’s higher for temps.

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Newt’s Palin Next to Cain

Who says train wrecks can’t be fun?

June 10th 2011

Watching the GOP presidential campaign is a bit like watching a train wreck, only to discover the train is filled with circus clowns. You hear thundering crashes, and see hundreds of yards of wreckage, and you take this in with mounting concern and apprehension. Then all these clowns come tumbling out, all red noses and floppy pants and tiny umbrellas, like psychedelic ants, and you can’t help but laugh.

If I hadn’t already compared it to a train wreck, I might compare it to a skeet shoot. Every week, there’s a new front runner, and this name is breathlessly announced to the Teabaggers who are anxiously awaiting the great white hope, and this is the equivalent of shouting “pull!” at the skeet range. The front runner soars, and then explodes into shards.

OK, so I used the skeet analogy anyway. There’s probably several dozen good analogies that could be used. You’re smart: I’m sure you can come up with a good one of your own.

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A Budget for the Rest of Us

The other budget that the House won’t consider 

June 5th 2011

The GOP made about the worst mistake a doctrinaire political party can possibly make. They started believing their own propaganda.

They somehow managed to convince themselves that people were so distressed over government spending and the deficits that they would happily throw retirees under the bus and put Medicare on a for-profit voucher system, effectively destroying it. All the billions of dollars and thousands of manhours the right wing noise machine spent only succeeded in convincing the wrong set of people that Medicare had to be cut.

The Teabaggers said they wanted it, but the Teabaggers are for the most part dupes of the Koch brothers, who haven’t noticed that behind the populist rhetoric lies a Wall Street agenda. And the vast majority of Americans are not Teabaggers. They like Medicare, and would be pissed off if they figured out that most of the debt comes, not from government spending, but slashing government revenues in order to give the wealthy and unneeded and even unwanted tax break, whilst getting into pointless and expensive wars in central Asia.

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Weather or Not

With global warming, the weather is just the same, only more so

May 31st 2011

   I was pleased when I found a plug-in for my blog that gave the average levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.  I regard climate change to be the greatest threat humanity faces over the next century, and the levels attained, according to the display, were terrifying.  393.18 parts per million.
There was just one problem: it was wrong.  It was out of date, and badly so.
The  US government’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, came out with a report this week that CO2 peaked last week at 394.97ppm. That set a new record for greatest concentrations of CO2.
To give the numbers some perspective, the ice core samples show that for most of the last millennium, CO2 levels stayed within a couple of points of 282ppm.  That was high by Holocene standards.  Over the previous 450,000 years, it usually ranged between 290ppm and 190ppm, in a cycle running between 100,000 and 125,000 years.  Big, dramatic falls were known to occur over the period of 10,000 years, usually triggering an ice age.  Over the past 450,000 years, the highest level recorded prior to the past hundred years was 314ppm, some 4,700 years ago. That may have played a significant role in humanity migrating out beyond the tropics.   Continue reading “Weather or Not”


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