Archive for category Perspective

The Fear Economy – NYTimes.com


OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Fear Economy

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: December 26, 2013

 

More than a million unemployed Americans are about to get the cruelest of Christmas “gifts.” They’re about to have their unemployment benefits cut off. You see, Republicans in Congress insist that if you haven’t found a job after months of searching, it must be because you aren’t trying hard enough. So you need an extra incentive in the form of sheer desperation.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

As a result, the plight of the unemployed, already terrible, is about to get even worse. Obviously those who have jobs are much better off. Yet the continuing weakness of the labor market takes a toll on them, too. So let’s talk a bit about the plight of the employed.

Some people would have you believe that employment relations are just like any other market transaction; workers have something to sell, employers want to buy what they offer, and they simply make a deal. But anyone who has ever held a job in the real world — or, for that matter, seen a Dilbert cartoon — knows that it’s not like that.

The fact is that employment generally involves a power relationship: you have a boss, who tells you what to do, and if you refuse, you may be fired. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If employers value their workers, they won’t make unreasonable demands. But it’s not a simple transaction. There’s a country music classic titled “Take This Job and Shove It.” There isn’t and won’t be a song titled “Take This Consumer Durable and Shove It.”

So employment is a power relationship, and high unemployment has greatly weakened workers’ already weak position in that relationship.

We can actually quantify that weakness by looking at the quits rate — the percentage of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs (as opposed to being fired) each month. Obviously, there are many reasons a worker might want to leave his or her job. Quitting is, however, a risk; unless a worker already has a new job lined up, he or she doesn’t know how long it will take to find a new job, and how that job will compare with the old one.

And the risk of quitting is much greater when unemployment is high, and there are many more people seeking jobs than there are job openings. As a result, you would expect to see the quits rate rise during booms, fall during slumps — and, indeed, it does. Quits plunged during the 2007-9 recession, and they have only partially rebounded, reflecting the weakness and inadequacy of our economic recovery.

Now think about what this means for workers’ bargaining power. When the economy is strong, workers are empowered. They can leave if they’re unhappy with the way they’re being treated and know that they can quickly find a new job if they are let go. When the economy is weak, however, workers have a very weak hand, and employers are in a position to work them harder, pay them less, or both.

Is there any evidence that this is happening? And how. The economic recovery has, as I said, been weak and inadequate, but all the burden of that weakness is being borne by workers. Corporate profits plunged during the financial crisis, but quickly bounced back, and they continued to soar. Indeed, at this point, after-tax profits are more than 60 percent higher than they were in 2007, before the recession began. We don’t know how much of this profit surge can be explained by the fear factor — the ability to squeeze workers who know that they have no place to go. But it must be at least part of the explanation. In fact, it’s possible (although by no means certain) that corporate interests are actually doing better in a somewhat depressed economy than they would if we had full employment.

What’s more, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that this reality helps explain why our political system has turned its backs on the unemployed. No, I don’t believe that there’s a secret cabal of C.E.O.’s plotting to keep the economy weak. But I do think that a major reason why reducing unemployment isn’t a political priority is that the economy may be lousy for workers, but corporate America is doing just fine.

And once you understand this, you also understand why it’s so important to change those priorities.

There’s been a somewhat strange debate among progressives lately, with some arguing that populism and condemnations of inequality are a diversion, that full employment should instead be the top priority. As some leading progressive economists have pointed out, however, full employment is itself a populist issue: weak labor markets are a main reason workers are losing ground, and the excessive power of corporations and the wealthy is a main reason we aren’t doing anything about jobs.

Too many Americans currently live in a climate of economic fear. There are many steps that we can take to end that state of affairs, but the most important is to put jobs back on the agenda.

 The Fear Economy – NYTimes.com.

 

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Confirmed: This is the worst Congress ever – The Week


Confirmed: This is the worst Congress ever

So say the American people — and history

By Jon Terbush | December 26, 20133

 

Time for a "do better" New Year's resolution?

Time for a “do better” New Year’s resolution? (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

Though millions of Americans received Christmas gifts Wednesday, none got the one thing just about everybody wanted. No, not a new iPhone: A new Congress.

Two-thirds of Americans in a CNN poll released Thursday said the current Congress was the worst one in their lifetimes. And it wasn’t just one party or demographic who felt that way.

“That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old — all think this year’s Congress has been the worst they can remember,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

Three cheers for bipartisanship!

Meanwhile, three-fourths of respondents said lawmakers had “done nothing to address the country’s problems” through the first year of the 113th Congress. That gets at what’s primarily to blame for Congress’ horrible image: Lawmakers didn’t do much of anything this year, and the few things they did do were spectacularly infuriating. Heck, one of Congress’ most notable actions was failing to pass a bill to fund the government and, as a result, shuttering Washington for two weeks.

It’s not just a skewed, subjective view of congressional inaction either. The 113th Congress is statistically on track to be one of the least productive in history.

The 113th Congress passed only 66 laws in its first year, according to GovTrack. That was the lowest tally in four decades, or as far back as GovTrack has reliable data. Worse, only 58 of those bills became law, and many of them did nothing more than name post offices.

Meanwhile, many enormously popular bills fizzled. Nine in ten Americans supported tougher background checks for gun purchases, though Congress spiked gun control legislation. Two-thirds of Americans supported the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill, but the House refused to take it up this year.

So yes, people aren’t too thrilled with how Congress has been functioning, a sentiment that’s been made clear throughout the year. Polls have found Congress less popular than dog turds and cockroaches, and in November, Congress’ approval rating fell to an all-time low of nine percent, according to Gallup.

Don’t count on that trend turning around any time soon either. Sure, Congress just passed a bipartisan budget agreement before fleeing Washington for the holidays, but that compromise was relatively tiny, and there are other major showdowns looming, including yet another one over the debt ceiling. Oh, and 2014 is a midterm election year, which should make lawmakers even more tepid toward major action.

In other words, the 113th Congress is already one of the most unpopular and least-productive in history, and it’s probably only going to get worse.

 Confirmed: This is the worst Congress ever – The Week.

 

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Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen Is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault | Wired Opinion | Wired.com


Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen Is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault

BY CLIVE THOMPSON

12.26.13

 Ben Wiseman

Are teenagers losing their social skills? Parents and pundits seem to think so. Teens spend so much time online, we’re told, that they’re no longer able to handle the messy, intimate task of hanging out face-to-face. “After school, my son is on Facebook with his friends. If it isn’t online, it isn’t real to him,” one mother recently told me in a panic. “Everything is virtual!”

Now, I’m not convinced this trend is real. I’ve read the evidence about the “narcissism epidemic” and the apparent decline in empathy in young people, and while it’s intriguing, it’s provisional. Lots of work offers the opposite conclusion, such as Pew surveys finding that kids who text the most also socialize the most in person. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that we have a crisis. Let’s agree that kids aren’t spending enough time together mastering social skills. Who’s responsible? Has crafty Facebook, with its casino-like structure of algorithmic nudging, hypnotized our youth?

If kids can’t socialize, who should parents blame? Simple: They should blame themselves. This is the argument advanced in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd. Boyd—full disclosure, a friend of mine—has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives.

What she has found, over and over, is that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won’t let them. “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”

It’s true. As a teenager in the early ’80s I could roam pretty widely with my friends, as long as we were back by dark. But over the next three decades, the media began delivering a metronomic diet of horrifying but rare child-abduction stories, and parents shortened the leash on their kids. Politicians warned of incipient waves of youth wilding and superpredators (neither of which emerged). Municipalities crafted anti-loitering laws and curfews to keep young people from congregating alone. New neighborhoods had fewer public spaces. Crime rates plummeted, but moral panic soared. Meanwhile, increased competition to get into college meant well-off parents began heavily scheduling their kids’ after-school lives.

‘TEENS AREN’T ADDICTED TO SOCIAL MEDIA. THEY’RE ADDICTED TO EACH OTHER.’

The result, Boyd discovered, is that today’s teens have neither the time nor the freedom to hang out. So their avid migration to social media is a rational response to a crazy situation. They’d rather socialize F2F, so long as it’s unstructured and away from grown-ups. “I don’t care where,” one told Boyd wistfully, “just not home.”

Forget the empathy problem—these kids crave seeing friends in person.

In fact, Boyd found that many high school students flock to football games not because they like football but because they can meet in an unstructured context. They spend the game chatting, ignoring the field and their phones. You don’t need Snapchat when your friends are right beside you.

So, parents of America: The problem is you; the solution is you.

If you want your kids to learn valuable face-to-face skills, conquer your own irrational fears and give them more freedom. They want the same face-to-face intimacy you grew up with. “Stranger danger” panic is the best gift America ever gave to Facebook.

 Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen Is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault | Wired Opinion | Wired.com.

 

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Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin – NYTimes.com


Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin

 

Darren Hauck/Reuters

Milwaukee got a share of the winter storm that passed though the Midwest on Sunday.

 

By STEVEN YACCINO
Published: December 23, 2013

 

MILWAUKEE — In a state whose license plates advertise it as America’s Dairyland, where lawmakers once honored the bacterium in Monterey Jack as the state’s official microbe and where otherwise sober citizens wear foam cheesehead hats, road crews are trying to thaw freezing Wisconsin streets with a material that smells a little like mozzarella.

 

Tom Lynn for The New York Times

Cheese brine used by Milwaukee. Added to rock salt, it produces a mixture that sticks to roads better, freezes at a lower temperature and saves money.

 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Parmesan in brine.

 

Tom Lynn for The New York Times

“If this takes off, if this proves to be a success here, I’m sure that it will be used in cities all over the country,” says Tony Zielinski, a Milwaukee alderman.

 

This month, Milwaukee began a pilot program to repurpose cheese brine for use in keeping city roads from freezing, mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a way to trim costs and ease pollution.

“You want to use provolone or mozzarella,” said Jeffrey A. Tews, the fleet operations manager for the public works department, which has thrice spread the cheesy substance in Bay View, a neighborhood on Milwaukee’s south side. “Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.”

Local governments across the country have been experimenting with cheaper and environmentally friendly ways of thawing icy thoroughfares, trying everything from sugar beet juice to discarded brewery grain in an attempt to limit the use of road salt, which can spread too thin, wash away and pollute waterways.

Snow science experts say an attempt to recycle the salty brine that flavors cheese was only a matter of time, particularly in a state like Wisconsin.

“We’re just trying to make every possible use of cheese,” said Tony Zielinski, an alderman who represents the Bay View district, adding that local governments in other states have called him to learn more about the program. “If this takes off, if this proves to be a success here, I’m sure that it will be used in cities all over the country.”

But in this dense urban setting, Milwaukee officials are reviewing a list of potential problems that come with cheese-coated streets: Would a faint odor of cheese bother residents? Would it attract rodents? Would the benefits of cheese brine, said to freeze at a lower temperature than regular salt brine, be enough to justify the additional hauling and storing requirements?

If at first it sounded like a joke, the reality of tapping the wellspring of dairy byproduct has become a serious budget-slimming conversation. The state produced 2.7 billion pounds of cheese in 2012, the most of any in the nation. With it comes a surplus of brine that is shipped to local waste treatment plants. (Cheese brine is permitted on roads if limited to eight gallons per ton of rock salt used.)

Chuck Engdahl, the wastewater manager at F & A Dairy Products in northwestern Wisconsin, said his company now donates most of the excess liquid to a handful of municipalities willing to cart it away, including Milwaukee, saving about $20,000 a year in hauling costs.

And Polk County, also near the Minnesota border, estimates that it saved $40,000 in rock salt expenses in 2009, the year it started using cheese brine on its highways.

“If you put dry salt on a roadway, you typically lose 30 percent to bounce and traffic,” said Emil Norby, who works for Polk County and was the first in Wisconsin to come up with the cheese brine idea to help the salt stick. The county has expanded its use of the material every year since, spreading more than 40,000 gallons on its highways last year. Chehalis, in Washington State, also uses an anti-icing mixture that includes cheese brine.

Looking for rock salt alternatives, Milwaukee, a city that averages about 50 inches of snow each winter, tested a “molasses-type product” more than a decade ago, but scrapped the idea after residents complained that it left shoe prints in their homes. In 2009, the city sprayed its rock salt with sugar beet juice to make it last longer, but the mixture clogged trucks and was eventually dropped.

Last year, with only 28 inches of snow, Milwaukee used 44,000 tons of salt and spent almost $6.5 million on snow and ice management. The year before, the costs surpassed $10 million.

It is, perhaps, too soon to tell how much cheese brine would alter that outlay. The pilot program will cost Milwaukee about $6,500 — mostly for transporting and storing a small batch of brine. A full report is expected in the spring.

Residents of Bay View say they have noticed little difference, good or bad, in the smell of their streets, and city officials say they have received no complaints. If anything, days after the plows passed through, a person would have to get down and sniff the pavement to get a decent whiff of dairy.

“We never look down or get that close,” said Ghassan A. Korban, the public works commissioner, his back straight as he stood behind a truck of cheese brine, battle-ready for an approaching storm. “If you can’t smell it from this height, then you won’t smell it.”

 Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin – NYTimes.com.

 

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More Hunger for the Poorest Americans – NYTimes.com


EDITORIAL

More Hunger for the Poorest Americans

 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: December 24, 2013

 

This is a harsh season for Americans struggling to afford food. Last month, the long lines at food pantries across the country grew longer with the expiration of the boost to food stamp benefit levels included in the 2009 economic stimulus plan. Those lines are apt to grow even longer thanks to the refusal of House Republicans to renew extended unemployment benefits as part of the recent budget deal.

 

And if that isn’t sufficient pain for the neediest, Congress is getting ready to make another big cut to nutrition aid when it returns in early January.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat of Michigan and the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Representative Frank Lucas, a Republican of Oklahoma who leads the House Agriculture Committee, are close to a deal on a farm bill that is said to include an increase in crop insurance subsidies for farmers and a more than $8 billion cut in food stamp benefits for the poor over the next 10 years.

That cut, about double the one contained in the Senate version of the farm bill, is more modest than the devastating $40 billion reduction in the farm bill passed by House Republicans that would have denied benefits to about 3.8 million people in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The House bill would also impose drug-testing, work requirements and other conditions, which are not expected to be included in the compromise bill. Still, the compromise deal, driven by the Republican obsession with cutting the food stamps program, will leave many Americans worse off than before.

The deal being finalized would not kick people off the rolls, but it would end a practice used in some 16 states to boost food stamp benefits. That change would reduce benefits for 850,000 of the nation’s poorest households, according the Congressional Budget Office, with the cut falling particularly hard on seniors, disabled people and working-poor families with children.

The households affected currently receive higher food stamp benefits (on average around $90 a month) under a practice known as “heat-and-eat,” which is intended to prevent poor families from having to choose between heating fuel and food. States employing this practice trigger the increased food assistance by providing selected households a nominal amount of fuel aid (as little as $1 per year), regardless of whether they actually pay utility bills.

This gaming of the system has had the positive effect of giving some hard-pressed families in high-cost areas like New York City help with their overall household budget, but it has also provided a talking point for critics bent on gutting the food stamps program.

The proposed Senate-House deal would require states to pay $20 a year to trigger the higher benefits. Some states will likely decline to increase their subsidies to that amount, so to achieve the bill’s projected savings benefits would have to be taken away from many poor families.

The right fix would be to take any savings and devote it along with other new financing to make sure basic food needs of the poorest families are met. Some Democratic lawmakers and antihunger advocates say the $8 billion cut being contemplated in the compromise deal is necessary to get the food stamps program reauthorized by both the Senate and House and that keeping the cuts to that level would be a political defeat for right-wing Republicans, who sought to do much more damage. That may be true, but it’s not much consolation for people lining up at food pantries because their inadequate monthly food stamps allotment has run out.

 More Hunger for the Poorest Americans – NYTimes.com.

 

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McDonald’s to Its Workers: Beware of Fast Food – Burger, fries an unhealthy choice, guide warns


McDonald’s to Its Workers: Beware of Fast Food

BURGER, FRIES AN UNHEALTHY CHOICE, GUIDE WARNS

By Rob Quinn 

Posted Dec 24, 2013 

             

The good and the bad.

(NEWSER) – It’s hard to have a healthy diet when you often eat at fast food joints, according to sensible dietary advice posted in an unlikely place: McDonald’s own employee resources website. “Fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight,” warns the website, which labels a picture of a cheeseburger, fries, and soda “the unhealthy choice” and a picture of a sub, salad, and cup of water the “healthier choice,” CNBC reports. And workers with a hankering for Big Macs may want to hold out hope that there’s no mayo in the “Special Sauce”: The site recommends one “limit the extras such as cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise.” 

Fast-food meals are “almost always” very high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, the employee website notes, but if a worker must eat a burger, it shares the best way to do so: “A single, plain meat patty without the cheese and sauces is the best choice. Ask for extra lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Limit how many French fries you eat. Ketchup contains a lot of calories from sugar. Ask if you can substitute a salad for fries.” CNBC notes the posts “appear” to have been written by a third-party vendor; a McDonald’s rep says the company is investigating, though the posts are still live. It’s far from the first gaffe on the employee website, which has previously advised workers about tipping au pairs and pool boys

 McDonald’s to Its Workers: Beware of Fast Food – Burger, fries an unhealthy choice, guide warns.

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US leads world in smartphone porn viewing – NBC News.com


US leads world in smartphone porn viewing

Devin Coldewey NBC News

phub

Pornhub

Traffic on Christmas goes down everywhere Pornhub tracks… except Japan.

The United States is the first to achieve a rather dubious milestone in technology: More than half our Internet porn is watched on mobile phones, judging by the habits of visitors to Pornhub, one of the Web’s largest distributors of online smut.

In the website’s 2013 Year in Review post (NSFW link), several interesting statistics are revealed — but to establish credibility, the first numbers shown are the site’s overall traffic: 1.68 million visits per hour on average, leading to a total of 14.7 billion visitors during the last year.

Worldwide, the desktop is still the favored porn platform, accounting for 51 percent of visits to Pornhub, well above the 40 percent that came from a mobile device. The U.S., however, perhaps owing to impressive smartphone market penetration, saw globe-leading consumption on mobiles: 52 percent, plus another 10 percent on tablets. Good old desktop watching is being left behind — though there’s no word on DVDs, magazines and peep shows.

There are a number of other stats, from the decline in porn viewer hours during holidays and sports events to the months and days of the week with the most and least visits. Traffic is even broken down by country, so you can feel a little pride — or maybe a little shame — on account of the national habits.

Head over to the post for a few more not necessarily tech-oriented highlights (many not safe for work, naturally).

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.

 US leads world in smartphone porn viewing – NBC News.com.

 

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Republicans Have Cut Funding So Deeply That Government Employees Can’t Do Their Jobs


Republicans Have Cut Funding So Deeply That Government Employees Can’t Do Their Jobs 

By: Rmuse

Friday, December, 20th, 2013

 

OPM_0

Any business owner is acutely aware the key to success of their enterprise is a workforce dedicated to their job and content in the knowledge that if they perform well, their job is secure and they will be properly compensated for their services. Even though the government is not a business, it does depend on dedicated employees who, as public servants, deserve security in their mission oriented jobs that are crucial to the secure continuity of the government providing for the “general welfare of the people.” For the past five years, Republicans have campaigned on, and profited from, an anti-government platform, and chief among their victims have been government employees at both the state and federal level.

Last year, as is their annual practice, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) surveyed federal workers across the government regarding their satisfaction at work that this year included nearly 400,000 federal employees from April through June. The survey was underway just as the sequester’s furloughs began affecting many workers and well before Republicans shutdown the government. In conjunction with OPM, the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) produced a report on the survey from data compiled by OPM, PPS and consulting firm Deloitte who issued their annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” report released Wednesday with some very “troubling” responses. Not surprisingly, due to budget cuts to government agencies, furlough days, and wage cuts, satisfaction in the federal workforce declined for the third year in a row to their lowest since rankings were first published ten years ago.

The CEO of PPS, the report’s publisher, Max Stier said “We continue to dig a deeper and deeper hole because the workforce that we have in government is a mission-oriented workforce. They want to do their jobs. They’re there because they want to make a difference for the public. The most damaging thing you can do for someone who’s mission-oriented is tie their hands behind their back and say, you can’t help.” Stier was referring to consequences of lawmakers in Congress (Republicans) who continually refuse to cooperate and cited employee dissatisfaction driven by uncertainty and consequences inherent in agencies’ budget uncertainties driven by perpetual spending cuts and the sequester.

During the shutdown, President Obama sent a letter to federal workers apologizing that they have been treated like a “punching bag” where civil servants were portrayed as spoiled compared to private-sector workers. The President wrote, “None of this is fair to you. And should it continue, it will make it more difficult to keep attracting the kind of driven, patriotic, idealistic Americans to public service that our citizens deserve and that our system of self-government demands.” Unfortunately, the Ryan-Murray budget agreement deals another blow to federal workers because their pensions were raided to prevent tax reform to close the rich and corporations’ unfair loopholes. Stier gave a fair appraisal of why government employees were under attack from Republicans and the effect their assaults were having on the government; he said “they are dismantling the capability of our government; it should be really worrisome to anyone who cares about our country.” It is hardly a surprise Republicans do not care about America, and what is seriously worrisome is that their perpetual cuts have severely hampered the one agency tasked with protecting democracy; the Federal Elections Commission.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity recently cited staff departures creating case backlogs and staffing levels dropping to a 15-year low, combined with political infighting as a serious impediment to the FEC’s ability to monitor the big money influencing elections since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. In fact, curiously in October when the shutdown furloughed all 339 agency employees, hackers took advantage of the absence and crashed computer systems that publicly disclose how billions of dollars are raised and spent each election cycle by candidates, parties, and political action committees. The minimum measure for keeping someone on the job was that it was “necessary to the prevention of imminent threats” to federal property; including public campaign finance disclosures, and yet all 339 FEC employees were furloughed at the precise time hackers crashed computers containing crucial public disclosures.

Besides cuts keeping staff levels at a 15-year low, there is gridlock because now-departed Republican commissioner Don McGahn abhorred regulations and believed the agency should ensure corporations’ rights included raising and spending big money to either promote or lambaste political candidates, and FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub (Democrat) believes the agency’s duty is to be a strong regulatory force that checks the political influence of corporations and wealthy donors. With a dearth of employees doing the people’s work to ensure campaign financing and elections are fair and legal, the electoral process, and democracy itself, is in jeopardy of malfeasance.

It is really irrelevant which federal agency, or part of the government, is understaffed or staffed with employees who are dissatisfied, worried about job security, or under attack for doing their jobs. Republicans have been on a mission to, as Max Stier said, “dismantle the capability of our government” that should concern every American, but they have made little secret that is their intent whether it is their tax pledge to Grover Norquist or Boehner’s oath to the Koch brothers to “get government out of their way.” In lieu of eliminating agencies and departments such as the EPA, Internal Revenue Service, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), Education, NLRB, or Department of Housing and Urban Development, Republicans have cut funding to such a degree that employees in those departments and agencies can hardly do the jobs they are tasked to do, and yet they continue serving the people admirably.

Republicans have campaigned on an anti-government platform for the past two elections and they have succeeded in hampering the government through their spending cuts and their precious sequester. Perhaps their drive to keep the sequester in place for nine years is more than just cutting domestic programs to harm vulnerable Americans, and maybe it is more about neutering the government to prove their longstanding contention that government is incapable or working. However, if they believe that is the case, they should fully fund the government and let the results speak for themselves, but they know that with a fully staffed and properly compensated federal workforce, their argument that government does not, and cannot possibly, work would fail worse than it consistently does. To their great credit, federal employees’ dedication and commitment guarantees the government works for the people regardless if they are dissatisfied with the way Republicans treat them and they deserve better, but they should not feel singled out because Republicans treat all Americans badly.

Republicans Have Cut Funding So Deeply That Government Employees Can’t Do Their Jobs.

 

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Robertson Family Threatens to Kill Duck Dynasty If They Can’t Spew Bigotry and Hate


Robertson Family Threatens to Kill Duck Dynasty If They Can’t Spew Bigotry and Hate

By: Jason Easley

Friday, December, 20th, 2013

 duck-dynasty-hed-2013_0

 

The Duck Dynasty clan wants the freedom to hate, or they are threatening to cancel their show.

In a statement, the Robertson family made their threat to A&E clear,

We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E’s decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.

The Robertsons like many other right wing Christians are using the Bible as justification for their hatred of gays. Phil Robertson is basing his hate speech on his interpretation of the Bible. His interpretation is not fact, and shouldn’t be given the same weight as fact. What the Robertson family didn’t address was how Phil’s religious beliefs explain away his comments about race, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

The Robertsons are revealing themselves to be typical right wing extremists who try to hide their agenda behind “religious freedom.” The Robertsons are both trying to play the victim and bully others into accepting their bigotry. Phil Robertson has a right to be intolerant, but he and his family don’t have a right to a television show or viewers.

Duck Dynasty is Honey Boo Boo with beards. They are reality TV stars, nothing more. If they insist on pushing their extremist agenda, the Robertsons are going to find themselves without a television show.

Robertson Family Threatens to Kill Duck Dynasty If They Can’t Spew Bigotry and Hate.

 

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The Religious Right Champions Moral Relativism in Defense of Phil Robertson


The Religious Right Champions Moral Relativism in Defense of Phil Robertson

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Saturday, December, 21st, 2013 

phil-robertson-closeup-ae

 

The entirety of the lunatic right with the possible exception of Bill O’Reilly, have jumped to the defense of suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson: the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Bryan Fischer, Bobby Jindal – and of course, the Family Research Council, (FRC) which complained about “the totalitarian tactics of the Left.”

Because A&E is somehow the “Left” now.

Breitbart happily lists all those upset at A&E’s decision; NOM has generated a petition that says Robertson did nothing “hateful”; Ralph Reed wants men to grow ugly beards in support of ugly Christians; but Bryan Fischer with typical hyperbole said Robertson’s suspension is a “turning point in history.”

Right. I’d like to take you seriously Bryan, but I just can’t.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal actually released an official statement (he’s the Robertson clan’s governor after all) bringing in the First Amendment,

Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.

And Rush Limbaugh gets applause while Martin Bashir loses his job. Y’all forget that down there in Loosiana, Bobby?

Ted Cruz (R-TX) actually more than touched on the First Amendment when he claimed on Facebook that Robertson actually has a First Amendment right to be on reality TV – does that mean we can all line up to claim our Reality TV shows?:

If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him—but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.

Cruz cited Robertson’s “explanation” about being a child of the 60s. But does saying you’re a product of the 60s suddenly make racism okay? Does it make anti-Semitism okay to say you are a child of an earlier generation? Does everything become okay because you were brought up that way? That defense didn’t work with quarterback Michael Vick got caught dog-fighting. Nor did the claim that dog-fighting is a cultural thing.

Free speech may not be freedom from speech, but free speech does not deprive others of the freedom to be offended by that speech, as Sarah Palin demonstrated on behalf of all these right wing hypocrites when she threw a hissy fit over Martin Bashir exercising his First Amendment rights. Funny how morally relativistic the so-called Religious Right is, isn’t it?

Whatever happened to the old Christian concept of a monolithic, unchanging morality that opposed moral relativism, the supposed product of Paganism? All these defenses of Robertson seem highly relativistic to me. It’s okay because he’s a Christian, but the First Amendment went right out the windowwhen Martin Bashir criticized Sarah Palin. Yet it’s okay for Robertson to insult not just one person, but gays, lesbians, and African Americans, all at once. And the insults just keep coming, with Republican Ian Bayne of Illinois, who is trying to unseat Rep. Bill Foster, announcing that “Phil Robertson, star of the A&E series ‘Duck Dynasty,’ [is] the ‘Rosa Parks’ of our generation.”

Rosa Parks wanted ALL people to be treated like people. Phil Robertson wants to treat some of them like animals. How is that in any way the same thing?

The lone wolf here was Bill O’Reilly, who cited Luke 6:37 to say Robertson was “being judgmental” which put him at loggerheads with Laura Ingraham. But O’Reilly said,

It’s not about the Bible, or believing or not believing in the Bible,” he explained. “It’s singling out a group, could be any group, and saying to that group ‘Hey, you’re not worthy. You’re not worthy in the eyes of the Lord, or in the eyes of God, you’re not worthy because of who you are.’ So once you get that personal, once you get down into that kind of a realm, problems arise.

Bryan Fischer more than makes up for O’Reilly by claiming that Robertson’s suspension is somehow “the mark of the beast.”

All this fuss about Phil Robertson comes down to the Religious Right’s insistence that they have a right to say nobody else has rights, which kind of makes a mockery out of the whole First Amendment. They don’t want equal treatment; they want privileged treatment. Persecution, from their perspective, is depriving them of those extra rights. They’re special. Even though the Constitution says we’re all equal before the law.

The Phil Robertson imbroglio is a clear signal to everybody exactly what the Religious Right thinks about the First Amendment. Many will refuse to see it, including the mainstream media, which seems determined, as Muse wrote here the other day, to “ignore rampant Republican fueled racism.”

It is to be hoped that Duck Dynasty will, as they threaten, take their toys and go home. A&E can pretend to respectability again and I’m sure Rupert Murdoch can find them a hating home on his network. Maybe Sarah Palin can appear on the show and take a few stray shots after having somebody explain to her which end of the gun is which, and how to load it.

There they can all lament being persecuted by being forbidden to strip other people of their First Amendment rights, brothers and sisters in hypocrisy while wiping their backsides with Jesus’ words to love your enemies and turn the other cheek. They’ll just be turning the wrong cheek.

The Religious Right Champions Moral Relativism in Defense of Phil Robertson.

 

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