28 September 2010

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: Happy 10th anniversary today to American availability of mifepristone plus misoprostol, the abortion pill! About 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion during their childbearing years; about a million abortions are performed in the U.S. every year; and about 15% of all American abortions are accomplished with mifepristone. Not only do you probably know (or: drink beer with, share a home with, work with, sleep with, send your kids to school to be taught by, sit in church next to) a woman who's had an abortion, but also there's a good chance she used the abortion pill to terminate her pregnancy.

And now Glomarization's friendly regular reminder: when abortions are illegal, or at least devilishly hard to come by, women will still get abortions. If they're candidates for a medical abortion but they can't get the safe two-drug combination, they will often try using Cytotec -- misoprostol -- on its own. It's not as effective as the two-drug combination, and if you think that off-label Cytotec use is only a South and Central American thing that doesn't happen in the U.S., you'd be mistaken.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

24 September 2010

Philly AIDS Thrift anniversary + mega donation party Friday through Sunday

You know what really chaps my hide? (OK, to be honest, a lot of things chap my hide. But this is a big one.) People throwing out clothes in the trash. I mean, there's a lot of thoughtless waste in the world, in the U.S., and in my largely upper-class neighborhood in particular -- every trash day you see all kinds of indicia of first-world overconsumption, like new carpets that were ripped out and replaced with newer carpets, recyclables mixed in with trash, take-out containers spilled on the sidewalk.

And worst of all, bags and boxes and sometimes mere piles of clothing. Often clothing that's only a few seasons old and was clearly bought new at designer shops in town. Today, I found a box that held about $200 worth of Lucky Brand Dungarees jeans; J. Crew handbags, shorts, and tops; Zara trousers; and Banana Republic sportswear. (Also some city sports league t-shirts with the family name printed across the back. Way to protect your privacy! Now I can make an educated guess at the G---- family's income level, and not just based on the house the box was in front of.) All boxed up and ready for the landfill. Not for families in need, or a battered women's shelter, or a halfway house, or even a consignment store, but for the landfill.

My point, and I do have one, is that Philly AIDS Thrift is celebrating their fifth birthday this weekend. And they have more than that to celebrate: over the past five years, they've donated over $200,000 in cash to area AIDS relief organizations. They've done it by taking in boxes of clothing, housewares, furniture, and other items that people would otherwise landfill, and re-selling it for pennies on the dollar. And since they're a non-profit, you can get a tax deduction receipt for anything saleable that you donate.

To really celebrate the anniversary and the $200,000 milestone, they're having special sales and refreshments all weekend, as well as a party tonight in the "Pair o' Dice" furniture warehouse across the street from the main store. Free food! Free music! All weekend!

Philly AIDS Thrift
514 Bainbridge St
Philadelphia PA 19147
Shop - Donate - Volunteer

21 September 2010

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink and food specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: Ha-ha, looks as though Citzens United is turning around and biting conservatives in the ass: the California-based Tea Party Express organization is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns quite literally from Alaska to Delaware. By supporting looney-tunes extreme-right Republican candidates, the Express is setting up the GOP either for big losses in six weeks, or for the six-year installation of a young-earth creationist, a person who wants to shut down the Department of Education, and another who wants to ban abortions for survivors of rape or incest into one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the entire world. I say, pass the popcorn!

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

17 September 2010

Friday jukebox: Dr. Dog

Music by local band Dr. Dog; video by the lovely and highly talented local filmmaker Ted Passon:

16 September 2010

French burka ban, part 2

First, does the burka ban law violate the French constitution? Hell if I know. There are some likely relevant provisions:
La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l'égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances.

France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.
That's the official government translation into English, not just mine (PDF).

The text of the law doesn't mention religion and doesn't single out any one group literally, but the subtext is clear, and it's disingenuous to say that it's not targetting a particularly Muslim practice. So there's a tension there between those first few sentences of the French constitution, though I don't know how a burka-supporting group would challenge the law on French jurisprudence terms.

Now, it's important to remember how strong the separation of church and state is in France. In the U.S., we think of it as a wall of the "expression of the supreme will of the nation [on] behalf of the rights of conscience." The French, though, think of it as an electrified, barbed-wire fence, 50 meters high, surrounded by a shark- and crocodile-infested moat, and protected by Michael Vick-trained attack dogs. With frickin' laser beams attached to their heads. Why? Well, in America we had the Salem witch trials. In France, they had the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre; the church's opposition to the Revolution; and literally centuries of history controlled by and circling around the history of the Roman Catholic church. From the Crusades to the Wars of Religion to the modern complicity in deporting Jews to the German deathcamps, tens of thousands of French people -- if not millions -- have died because of dogmatic, fundamentalist religion and religious conflict in France.

In 1905 France enacted its law on the Separation of the Churches and the State (texte en français). Its most striking line:
La République ne reconnaît, ne salarie ni ne subventionne aucun culte.

The Republic neither recognizes, nor salaries, nor subsidizes any religion.
This law followed hundreds of years of back-and-forth battles for power over the public fisc, establishment and disestablishment of Roman Catholicism as the state religion, and church interference with the transfer of power after the death of a ruler or régime.

You know how it's gotten nearly impossible to assert taxpayer standing in a First Amendment establishment of religion case nowadays, even though that was something James Madison specifically said you should be able to do if the state forces you to contribute your pence to a church? Well, maybe it's not clear to the Supreme Court lately, but it's pretty damn clear to the French that faith-based and neighborhood partnerships are anathema to a nation that values a real and true separation of church and state.

In short, France is a secular state. The French treasure this situation. The 1905 law on the Separation of the Churches and the State is as untouchable as our Brown v. Board of Education or the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So that's one place we're starting from: the French will give up their secular state when you pry it from their cold, dead hands, and if you're an immigrant whose religious practice conflicts with the rule of French law, you should choose a different country to immigrate to.

Another place we're starting from is women's rights. The French constitution also has some affirmative action for getting women into office:
La loi favorise l'égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives, ainsi qu'aux responsabilités professionnelles et sociales.

Statutes shall promote equal access by women and men to elective offices and posts as well as to position of professional and social responsibility.
This is nice, because women didn't get the vote in France until 1944 (en français), and, if I recall my French contemporary history correctly, they couldn't even sign a check without a husband's or father's countersignature until the early 1970s. Feminists have had a long, hard road in France. So it's seen as a huge step backward for the government to permit a practice -- and a religious one, at that -- the sole purpose of which is to subjugate women.

Argument for majority rule: Most Muslim women in France, and many of their religious leaders as well, reject the burka. Of some 5 million Muslims in France, only 2,000 women right now wear the burka. Call it tyranny by the majority to enact this law, but even in the States we ban some religious practices: using peyote religiously (Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990)), or ritually killing chickens (Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993)). But distinguish the situations here. French burka-wearers can still wear them in private, but religious peyote use and ritual chicken-killing are banned whether done in a church or in your basement.

Another point. Part of the social contract in France is that, in exchange for the rule of law and benefits and protections you get from the government, you do not run around anonymously, which breeds distrust and interferes with the peaceful, orderly, smooth function of society.

Si l’on accepte la burqa dans notre pays, il y aura d’un côté des femmes qui ont connaissance de leurs droits, et de l’autre des femmes qui connaitront la ségrégation et seront privées de liberté. (Ni Putes, Ni Soumises)

If we accept the burka in our country, there will be on the one hand women who know their rights, and on the other hand women who will know segregation and will be deprived of their liberty.

You can't be a full participant in society if you anonymize yourself. Women who are anonymized can't fully enter public life -- that is, enter politics and become participants in the French republican government. The burka ban is right and as a woman and a civil libertarian I'm happy to see it happen.

(If I've missed an argument, call me out on it and I'll address it in a reply or another post. I gotta go run errands.)

The French burka ban is fine by me, and not just because it alliterates in English

First, I'm looking at the text. I've translated the text of the law and commented as thoughts and reactions came to mind. Text in italics set off from the left margin, translation in bold text set off from the left margin, and thoughts in plain text at the left margin.
Article 1er

Nul ne peut, dans l'espace public, porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage.

Article 1

No one may, in a public space, wear attire with the aim of concealing the face.
I don't know anything about French constitutional or criminal law, so I don't know if the wording here legally implies "knowingly" or "purposefully." The sense in plain French is one of purpose. In any event, it doesn't say "recklessly" or "negligently." If this were an American statute, I'd say it's pretty clear (and advise the drafters to use one of the magic words).

So while I don't know how French law deals with levels of culpability, it seems to me that it's a crime of some kind, not a summary offense or violation. Were you wearing a hat over your face while taking a nap in the park? Then you're in good shape: your aim was to avoid sunburn, not conceal your face from others. Were you wearing a bandanna over your nose and mouth during a good, old-fashioned cobblestone-throwin' protest? Unless you can convince the magistrate that your sole purpose was to avoid tear gas exposure, you're probably out of luck.
Article 2

I. – Pour l'application de l'article 1er, l'espace public est constitué des voies publiques ainsi que des lieux ouverts au public ou affectés à un service public.

II. – L'interdiction prévue à l'article 1er ne s'applique pas si la tenue est prescrite ou autorisée par des dispositions législatives ou réglementaires, si elle est justifiée par des raisons de santé ou des motifs professionnels, ou si elle s'inscrit dans le cadre de pratiques sportives, de fêtes ou de manifestations artistiques ou traditionnelles.

Article 2

I. - For the purposes of Article 1, "public space" is defined as public ways as well as places open to the public or affected by a public service.

II. - The prohibition described in Article 1 does not apply if the attire is required or authorized by law or regulation, if the attire is justified for health reasons or professional grounds, or if the attire is an included part of sports equipment, of festivals or or artistic or traditional demonstrations.
You know how, in American law, you have no "reasonable expectation of privacy" when you go outdoors? It's the same deal with the burka ban: you leave your house, you uncover your face. But the law gives a lot of reasonable exceptions. If you have the flu, or you're in a surgical theater, or you're welding, or you're ump'ing fastballs, or you're in a performance, or you have some other legal exemption, then you're good to go.
Article 3

La méconnaissance de l'interdiction édictée à l'article 1er est punie de l'amende prévue pour les contraventions de la deuxième classe.

L'obligation d'accomplir le stage de citoyenneté mentionné au 8° de l'article 131-16 du code pénal peut être prononcée en même temps ou à la place de la peine d'amende.

Article 3

Violation of the prohibition prescribed in Article 1 is punishable with the scheduled fine of a second-degree contravention.

The obligation to complete the citizenship course, mentioned at 8° of article 131-16 of the penal code may be imposed, either on its own or in addition to the fine.
OK, so méconnaissance translates literally to ignorance in English, but it means ignorance in the sense of an active, willful refusal to be mindful of -- or, basically, to mind -- the law. There's no American legal equivalent of "failure to mind the prohibition," so I used "violation," because you don't use "defiance" in American statutory drafting.

I suspect that contravention is a specific legal term of art; various translating dictionaries suggest infraction, infringement, violation, transgression, which aren't specific. Since the French and American legal systems don't match up concept-for-concept, I'll just say that the fine (maximum €150.00) and the requirement that you read the French constitution ("La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale") makes this contravention something along the lines of a pretty minor misdemeanor.

I would compare it to a summary offense, except for that "with the aim of" language at the top there. In American legal terms, there is an element of intent in the definition of the crime. So it's not like a ticket for driving with expired tabs, where it doesn't matter whether you meant to do it or not, and the only thing to fight in court is whether your tabs were truly expired. It's more like proving a disorderly conduct versus a riot charge (see, e.g., Delaware Criminal Code).
Article 4

I. - De la dissimulation forcée du visage

Le fait pour toute personne d'imposer à une ou plusieurs autres personnes de dissimuler leur visage par menace, violence, contrainte, abus d'autorité ou abus de pouvoir, en raison de leur sexe, est puni d'un an d'emprisonnement et de 30 000 € d'amende.

Lorsque le fait est commis au préjudice d'un mineur, les peines sont portées à deux ans d'emprisonnement et à 60 000 € d'amende.

Article 4

Regarding the forced concealing of the face

The act of any person to impose upon one or more other people to conceal their face by threat, violence, coercion, abuse of authority or of power, for reason of their sex, is punishable by one year of imprisonment and a fine of €30,000.00.

If the act is committed on a minor, the punishments are increased to two years of imprisonment and a fine of €60,000.00.
Holy crap! The law just jumped from a super low-level misdemeanor to a felony, with a fine the size of a year's tuition in law school!
Article 5

Les articles 1er à 3 entrent en vigueur à l'expiration d'un délai de six mois à compter de la promulgation de la présente loi.

Article 5

Articles 1 through 3 will come into force after the expiration of six months after the date of promulgation of this law.

Article 6

La présente loi s'applique sur l'ensemble du territoire de la République.

Article 6

This law is applicable across the entire territory of the Republic.
Meaning not just France, but also the overseas territories. Keep that mind when you tour Saint Pierre et Miquelon! But that's OK; you get six months to get used to the idea first.
Article 7

Le Gouvernement remet au Parlement un rapport sur l'application de la présente loi dix-huit mois après sa promulgation. Ce rapport dresse un bilan de la mise en œuvre de la présente loi, des mesures d'accompagnement élaborées par les pouvoirs publics et des difficultés rencontrées.

Délibéré en séance publique, à Paris, le 14 septembre 2010.

Article 7

The Government will remit to Parliament a report on the application of this law eighteen months after its promulgation. This report will include an accounting of the costs of enforcing this law, the accompanying implementation measures, and the difficulties encountered.

Deliberated in public session in Paris, 14 September 2010.
I like the accountability here.

Next, I should further discuss why I'm 100% on board with this law for policy reasons, but this post has gotten too long to include the discussion here.

Muslims aren't against Christians, says Ahmadinejad; no response from Molly Norris

Two of these headlines don't go together:

Molly Norris, the (now formerly) Seattle-based political cartoonist who caused a furore with her proposed and then retracted "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," has gone ghost -- not exactly "witness protection," since it's not a court case, but the same sort of deal with assistance from the FBI. In a move that the FBI naturally can't comment on, Norris has had to give up her life, job, and identity and move somewhere else and live as a different person because an American-born Islamic cleric in Yemen has put her on a hit list. "Her proper abode," says smiling fanatic Anwar al-Awlaki, "is hellfire." In response, her editor at the Seattle Weekly has announced that "there is no more Molly."

Score one for religious fundamentalism.

On the same front page yet elsewhere in the Middle East, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proclaimed that Muslims don't actually hate Americans:
People (in Islamic countries) are against that ugly behavior [of burning Korans, or drawing Mohammed.] They are not against the people of the United States. They are not against Americans, they are not against Jews. They are not against Christians or Christianity.
If you can reconcile the two stories here, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

14 September 2010

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: David Grisham, the director of Repent Amarillo, had to call off his scheduled Koran burning on Saturday when a 23-year-old skateboard punk yoinked the book away and handed it over to a local Muslim leader. But since thousands, if not millions, of deeply religious Muslims never got the memo that the Florida burn was canceled, over a dozen people have died in protests and clashes anyway.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

11 September 2010

9/11 nine years on

"All for the Best" from Godspell:

Maybe it's because I don't get up to New York very often, but I still get chills when I see Manhattan and the World Trade Center towers aren't there.

10 September 2010

Pennsylvania Bar News law summary of the month

An intrusion upon seclusion issue in a workers' comp case summarized in the September 6, 2010, Pennsylvania Bar News:
Tagouma v. Invest. Consult. Srv., 2010 PA Super 147 (Aug. 10, 2010) -- Since no expectation of privacy when praying in public, summary judgment affirmed for defendant in intrusion upon seclusion claim based on video taping of workers' compensation claimant kneeling in church directly in front of plate glass window.
I'll give the claimant the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he was in church begging the lord's forgiveness for filing an "erroneous" claim, and seeking divine guidance for how to proceed.

08 September 2010

CNN mobile links frequently broken

Is it me, or are half -- or often more than half -- of the links from CNN's front page broken when you use your smartphone to read it? I swear I get more 404 Not Found messages from CNN mobile than from any other news website.

07 September 2010

Support the troops! Don't burn the Koran

Why do these Christians hate American troops so much?
The top US commander in Afghanistan has warned that troops' lives will be in danger if an American church sticks to its plan to burn copies of the Koran [on 11 September 2010].

[ ... ]

Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center, plans to put copies of the holy book in a bonfire to mark this week's anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

There have already been protests in Afghanistan and Indonesia.

[ ... ]

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort," Gen Petraeus said in a statement to US media. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems.

"Not just here, but everywhere in the world, we are engaged with the Islamic community," added Gen Petraeus, who heads a 150,000-strong Nato force against a Taliban-led insurgency.
(BBC.) There have been protests outside the U.S. embassy in Kabul already. A young man who was interviewed there appears to believe that the church's Koran burning plans aren't isolated to some four dozen brainwashed, ignorant fundies. Rather, he believes, "[T]his is not just the decision of a church. It is the decision of the president and the entire United States." I'd dismiss the young man's brainwashed, ignorant, fundie ranting as harmless, except that last time the mere rumor that an American desecrated a Koran got out, 15 people died.

Fundamentalists are the same the world over, no matter which religion they profess and which other religion they call sorcery. This Pastor Jones is merely one example, though a striking one. BBC quotes him saying on CNN, "How long do we back down?"

Jesus christ -- so to speak -- hasn't this guy ever read the Sermon on the Mount?
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. [ ... ] Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
(Matt. 5:38-47, KJV.)

Why hasn't Facebook taken down the related event page, which is basically just a shill for Pastor Jones's hate-mongering, misinformation-spreading book? (For example, the book claims that there is only one, single, united Islamic faith. This lie distorts the truth that there are four major branches or schools of Islam, with their own sub-groups, as well as some very small sects, not to mention the various Black Muslim organizations here in the States.) And how can the church call itself the Dove World Outreach Center with a straight face?

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Or maybe Pastor Jones is taking a page from Fred Phelps's playbook, and is trying to get the burn shut down so that he can win § 1983 damages for a violation of his free speech rights. The church's local municipality rejected their application for a burn permit, because "[t]he only open burning allowed in the City of Gainesville is for cooking, such as barbecue grills, smokers, or other devices designed specifically for that purpose" (cityofgainesville.org). The fire chief says he'll cite the church if they go ahead with the burn anyway. -sniff sniff- What's that I smell? It's not smoke! It's a First Amendment challenge! Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law & Justice to the white courtesy phone, please!

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: Philly blogger tax? Local blogger and taxation expert taxgirl explains: No income and no ads on your blog? The tax does not apply to you. That sounds fine, except that the tax does apply even if you get the smallest bit of revenue through your blog. What a mess.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

06 September 2010

Hedge fund oligarchs are the new robber barons

I've been getting Bloomberg Businessweek for the past few months, though I don't know why. I didn't subscribe. Maybe it's a perk of my membership in some bar association. It's a little rough to read about billionaires complaining about the economy. It's rougher to read about small-business owners complaining about how hard it is to hire migrant workers because H1-B, H-2A, and H-2B visas are being denied more than they used to, and how "anti-employer" the new immigration regulations are "on almost every level."
Torrey Farms has lost money for the past two years because [New York state vegetable farm owner Maureen] Torrey says she can't bring in enough workers to tend her crops.
With all due respect, Ms. Torrey, the problem isn't that you can't bring in enough workers to your farm. The problem is that you aren't willing to pay high enough wages to the un- and under-employed Americans in your region to work on your farm. Blaming it on "Washington" is disingenuous. (Not that I'm disingenuous, myself -- I know it's not realistic to pay full minimum wage to farm workers, without raising the price of onions to $15/pound.) Anyway, Torrey seems to have a grudge against CIS; her farm has been busted twice, in 1997 and 2006, for violations. So it's not just the post-9/11 immigration changes or the current administration that are making her unhappy.

But what about visas for skilled workers?
Robert Groban, an attorney with law firm Epstein­BeckerGreen in New York, says [federal immigration] agencies are under pressure due to worries that "foreign nationals are taking the place of U.S. workers," and are reacting to the political climate. IT consultant [and Indian immigrant Atul] Jain's response: "The economy will not improve just because foreign workers can't come."
Really, Mr. Jain? Because every IT professional hired at $60,000 or $100,000 will be buying groceries, paying rent or a mortgage, paying for health insurance, entertaining herself, paying taxes, and otherwise flipping that cash back into the economy from paycheck number one. And every dollar she spends continues to move around the economy by stimulating employment, from the grocery checker to the postal employee who handles her Netflix envelopes. Or the housekeeper she hires to come in and do the cleaning now that she's working full-time again and doesn't want to do housework after a hard week back at the office.

It's Reaganomic trickle-down. While I'm no fan of the conceit that cutting the capital gains tax will improve the economy by encouraging hedge fund billionaires to move people off welfare with an invisible hand, I do firmly believe that hiring Americans at fair wages will improve the economy. Working Americans pay taxes that fund foreign wars and buy things. Sometimes they even pay taxes while they buy things. They need money, and they're not averse to working a job to get money. But when the nation's money is held by a handful of oligarchs who refuse to release the money by investing in companies that hire people, the economy can't recover.

Our nation's money is being held, frozen, by the new robber barons and fat cats that used to be satirized in political cartoons during the Progressive Era and the Roaring Twenties.

We don't have these types of political cartoons nowadays because the hedge funds don't have faces. But you don't need a face to be an oligarch.

02 September 2010

Pre-emptive itching

During our 10-day trip we overnighted in two brand-new hotels and one older one. I, for one, do not welcome our new bedbug overlords, so my to-do list now that I'm home includes a bunch of tasks that presume that I brought some bedbugs with me. I've been doing a lot of laundry, for one, and the suitcases are out on the deck indefinitely -- or at least until we get some freezing weather.

And now some vacuuming.

Shiny new credit cards

Got home from vacation to find that my credit card had been canceled a week ago due to some security problem at a vendor my card company won't identify. So they sent me new cards and I'm taking a few minutes this morning to update a few places where I have regular charges going onto that card.

Between things like this data compromise and the regular horror stories I read over at the Consumerist blog, is it really any wonder why I still pay most of my bills by check? Imagine if I had all my utilities and everything else that could be automated put on this card! I'd have had to spend all morning, rather than about 10 minutes, switching all the vendors to the new card. Yuck.