the old parachute ride, complainer becomes an obamacare supporter

Coney Island (Parachute Jump)

Coney Island (Parachute Jump). Gelatin silver photograph, 1969.  By  Stephen Salmieri. Like some of the other steel structures that made their way to Coney Island, the Parachute Jump originated begin life as a ride at a fair, in this case, the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Obamacare “victim” now says loss of previous health plan may be “a blessing in disguise”

Because her $54 per month plan was cancelled due to Obamacare’s new higher requirements — and because her insurance company’s recommended replacement would cost her nearly 10 times as much — Dianne Barrette became the face of Obamacare’s so-called victims.

But in a new report from the New Republic, Barrette, after factoring in her tax credits and going through her options with reporter Jonathan Cohn, is now singing Obamacare’s praises, even going so far as to say her previous plan’s cancellation was “maybe” a “blessing in disguise.”

Like many people M’s Barrette was living in an information bubble. A friend or some on TV or AM radio  told her that the changes in health care insurance were bad. She believed it without looking at the numbers. Like many people in the individual insurance market – those who buy their health insurance on their own instead of getting it through their employer, did not realize how awful her insurance was. She had a high up front deductible, and after the deductible she had to pay a high percentage of the costs and the total payout by her insurance company was capped at a certain amount. She, like many other would have been liable for everything over their cap – frequently $15k to $20k. In other words if she had a heart attack, she would have had some real financial hardship. Now, once she and similar policy holders have no cap and with many of them qualifying for tax credits, she will pay about the same for much better coverage. Insurance is not that complicated so I’m assuming that reading and making comparisons is like high school homework, these people just don’t want to do it. And since there is no parents or teachers to force them to do their homework now, they just go by bits of misinformation floating around the bubble.

The thirteenth labor of Hercules

The thirteenth labor of Hercules. Poster created 1914. Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915 : opens February 20, closes December 4.  The Exposition of 1915 was both a celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal and an opportunity for San Francisco to show it had recovered from the Great Earthquake of 1906. In the legend, Hercules had only 12 labours. Building the Canala was probably more difficult than Labour 9, to ‘Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons’.

the automat, obamacare versus the private sector

Automat, 977 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan, 1936. Gelatin silver print. Berenice Abbott  (American, Springfield, Ohio 1898–1991 Monson, Maine).

A nice history of the Automat from The Smithsonian here.

The Truth About the Obamacare Rollout The feds botched the website. But the states are doing much better. It has not been a smooth roll-out. Though it has not been a disaster either. Many of the problems is just less than great programming. On the people side, clearly people are interested. Jonathan Cohn is a great source for the facts about the ACA or Obamacare. So those interested in an unbiased account of how things are going might want to give it a read or pass it on to those who swear the ACA is a complete failure. One of the fundamentally dishonest criticisms is the lack of comparison to the real world. Anyone ever been cheated by a business, bought an inferior product or service that the business touted as great, ever received shoddy service from private business, ever been billed in error and it has been a headache to get someone to straighten out the error, ever been to a private web site that was dysfunctional? Of course. We all have. Private enterprise is run by humans, frequently not the brightest people around, who employ a lot of underpaid and overworked employees to sell products and take care of complaints.

Internationale Hygiene-Ausstellung Dresden (International Health Exposition, Dresden), 1911. Designed by Franz von Stuck.


april tulips wallpaper, nobel prize winner gets some vindication over iraq

april tulips wallpaper

april tulips wallpaper

Many of the details of events that lead us into the disastrous invasion of Iraq are fading, like too many other important details tend to do. One of the things the Bush administration did was to get rid of the director of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, José Bustani. Bustani got some justice when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, To Ousted Boss, Arms Watchdog Was Seen as an Obstacle in Iraq

But Mr. Bustani and some senior officials, both in Brazil and the United States, say Washington acted because it believed that the organization under Mr. Bustani threatened to become an obstacle to the administration’s plans to invade Iraq. As justification, Washington was claiming that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, possessed chemical weapons, but Mr. Bustani said his own experts had told him that those weapons were destroyed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war.

“Everybody knew there weren’t any,” he said. “An inspection would make it obvious there were no weapons to destroy. This would completely nullify the decision to invade.”

…..Getting Mr. Bustani fired took some doing. Washington failed to obtain a no-confidence motion from the chemical weapons watchdog’s executive council. Then the United States, which was responsible for 22 percent of the agency’s budget at the time, threatened to cut off its financing and warned that several other countries, including Japan, would follow suit, diplomats have said.

Former UN ambassador John Bolton ( and unbelievably also mentioned to be a possible presidential candidate in 2016) said that Bustani did not make the chemical weapons argument until after the invasion. Which is ridiculous considering the timeline, Bustani was working on getting Iraq to join the OPCW since the late 90s and was getting more and more cooperation. Bolton was and still is a very good neocon, he believes in the doctrine of the Big Lie, repeated loud and often, he is a master of bull. He probably suffers from something like O.J. syndrome, he has been BSing for so long he has begun to believe the twisted narrative in his head.

Grand Bal poster for a Swiss film festival, March 23, 1929. They’re difficult to see, but the Cubist-style jazz musicians are an especially nice touch.

alien world with possiblity of life, secede and show us mortals how it is done

Electrotower, Coney Island. c.1903.

Electrotower, Coney Island. c.1903.

An alien world dripping with water? Scientists see possibility of life

Scientists have found the shredded remains of a large, water-rich asteroid raining down on the embers of a dead star, 170 light-years from Earth.

It is the first time that scientists have found a mix of rock and water in a solar system that is not our own. The discovery also suggests that hundreds of millions of years ago, this distant solar system could have been conducive to life as we know it.

“What we know is that this system had the main ingredients to build planets like the Earth,” said Boris Gänsicke of the University of Warwick in England, who coauthored a paper about the discovery.

Finding life, especially something advanced as say a plant, would be a starling discovery just in terms of pure science. Though it would also create, not some theological and philosophical problems, but even more than we already have. While Wikipedia is not the last word on every detail of a subject, they do a fair job of introducing one into the shear number of creation myths that exists, without taking extraterrestrial life into account. Just a sample: Creation from chaos: Sumerian creation myth,  Greek cosmogonical myth; Emergence myths: Hopi creation myth; Ex nihilo (out of nothing):  Islamic creation myth, Genesis creation myth (Christianity and Judaism); World Parent: Heliopolis creation myth, Hiranyagarbha creation myth; Central Asian: Mongolian creation myth.

For Every Fighter a Woman Worker

For Every Fighter a Woman Worker/ United War Work Campaign/ Care for Her through the YWCA. Designed by Adolph Treidler, 1918.

Pat Buchanan: Is Red State America Seceding?

In the last decade of the 20th century, as the Soviet Empire disintegrated, so, too, did that prison house of nations, the USSR.

Out of the decomposing carcass came Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Moldova, all in Europe; Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus; and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

The spirit of secession, the desire of peoples to sever ties to nations to which they have belonged for generations, sometimes for centuries, and to seek out their own kind, is a spreading phenomenon.

What are the forces pulling nations apart? Ethnicity, culture, history and language – but now also economics. And separatist and secessionist movements are cropping up here in the United States.

Conservatives have been flirting with secession as far back as i can remember – certainly during the Clinton administration and have read stuff from the 1950s by the old John Birch Society conservatives advocating secession. While some libertarians have also joined in, they generally stick with some nebulous ideas about creating some utopian state of their own. There are many decent, moderate minded Americans living in every state where these secessionist’s yearnings are loudest ( Texas, Arizona, Alaska and North Carolina come to mind) so I’m not in favor of punishing those moderate Americans with the spiteful cravings of a vocal minority. Though I do wonder about what seems to be holding up the secessionist and the utopian crowd. Where are the candidates  running on a secession platform. Why haven’t the conservatives and libertarians who have all the answers and are more perfect than the rest of us used their fortunes and skills to create a new nation. They’d finally be able to have some solid proof, a living example of how anything and everything should be done in their pure societies. Back in middle-school we had a saying, put up or shut-up.

1938 peugeot, the benghazi betrayal, white rabbit

Peugeot 402 Darl'mat Pourtout Roadster'1938

Peugeot 402 Darl’mat Pourtout Roadster’1938. There is a some information about the 38′ Roadster at Wikipedia, but not much. It probably had a top speed in the high seventies. The styling is amazing. That, for me anyway, is the attraction of vintage cars. In reality, the ride would have been uncomfortable by the standards of today’s sport cars that can top a 100 mph without strain, and without spewing the nasty exhaust of the sports/race cars of that era.

Even as the story was unfolding anyone that was paying attention to the news knew that there were CIA personnel at the Benghazi compound. In the past week CNN’s Jake Tapper finds out and reports in breathless tones, oh my god there were CIA at Benghazi, maybe dozens or 21 or whatever. This may seem silly, but CIA stands for Central Intelligence Agency. As most Americans, if not most of the world knows, they are our secret intelligence service. They do things in secret. Which is probably the reason they did not come forward within the first minute of the news breaking from Benghazi. As other news sources have also reported, – in other words the secret operation under taken on behalf of America, and Syrian rebels national security interests, is that the CIA was doing two things at once. Recovering some portable rocket launchers that belonged to Muammar Gaddafi, while also directing said launchers to Syrian rebels who are fighting the totalitarian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Whatever factions that compose the rebels forces, it is a known fact that Bashar al-Assad is a sociopath who sponsors terrorism. So conservatives who have been obsessed with exposing the Bengahzi “conspiracy” have finally succeed in finding out that the CIA would rather everyone not know they had a full blown operation going on in Benghazi and look to have been using the diplomatic mission as cover. It seems that conservatives have done helped the enemies of America and freedom in Syria expose a CIA operation. This new round of Benghazi hysteria and betrayal is odd, or maybe not considering the strange workings of the conservative mindset, in that the first time round they were accusing President Obama of being the one who was not acting in the best interests of national security. I can imagine as Steve does that some people might not approve of giving weapons to anyone. But that is another issue entirely different from conservative Republican politicians, pundits and bloggers acting as proxies of  terrorists, against the secret operations of the CIA. Some may remember it was conservatives who outed a CIA NOC agent for political revenge. They seem to be racking up quite the record on undermining U.S. national security.

(Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead)

Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead concert poster, 1966, by Wes Wilson and Herb Greene.

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall

White Rabbit by – Jefferson Airplane

how we do things here

hilltop house wallpaper

hilltop house wallpaper


Since conservatives seem bent on making America into a theocratic authoritarian state like Iran or a right-wing authoritarian state like Chile under Augusto Pinochet, it is only fair that we consider a saner alternative model,  The Secret to Finland’s Success With Schools, Moms, Kids—and Everything

Inarguably one of the world’s most generous — and successful — welfare states, the country has a lower infant mortality rate, better school scores, and a far lower poverty rate than the United States, and it’s the second-happiest country on earth (the U.S. doesn’t break the top 10). According to the OECD, Finns on average give an 8.8 score to their overall life satisfaction. Americans are at 7.5.

…”The thinking was, ‘for a country of 5 million, we don’t have many resources to waste. If people are happy, they’ll maximize their work ethic, and we can develop,'” says Andrew Nestingen, a professor who leads the Finnish studies program at the University of Washington. The theory of the welfare state was that “everyone should get a slice of the cake so that they have what they need to realize their life projects.”

The country’s unemployment and disability system was in place by 1940, and subsequent decades saw the expansion of child benefits and health insurance.

Meanwhile, thanks to the country’s strong agrarian tradition, the party that represents the rural part of Finland pushed through subsidies for stay-at-home (or stay-on-farm, in their case) mothers — thus the current smorgasbord of inexpensive child-care options.

Over time, Finland was able to create its “cake” — and give everyone a slice — in large part because its investments in human capital and education paid off. In a sense, welfare worked for Finland, and they’ve never looked back.

It is not that modeling our economy, education system and safety net on Finland will not work, it is that some people are opposed to solely on ideological grounds. Ideological in the same way that some religious adherents are very dogmatic about their beliefs. Facts, history, the best outcomes, humanitarianism – those considerations do not factor into conservative or libertarian thinking because they are contrary to their quasi religious beliefs about economics and culture.

Winter's tale, act 3, sc. 3

Old Shepherd from Shakespeare’s Winter’s tale, act 3, sc. 3. created c1803.  Besides the artistic merit this drawing is a fascinating precursor to the super hero customs of characters like Cat Woman and Spiderman. You can see the Old Shepherd’s muscle definition through his custom – in the full size version you can see he is wearing a top – the sleeve ends are visible on his wrists and his tights end at his calves. And of course, the cape.

As long as you’re a zygote, conservatives are obsessed with you. Once actual human being, it is a different story. And when they’re not making life as miserable as possible for humans, they’re busy making it miserable for animals, New Legislation Could Yield Net Loss for Animal Welfare

With not a single Democrat supporting the Farm Bill, and only 12 Republicans voting against it, the House narrowly passed its pared-down version, which excluded all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding (more commonly known as food stamps), by a vote of 216 to 208. The bill approved by the House includes the dangerous and overreaching King amendment, which could nullify dozens of state laws to protect animals, the environment, worker safety and food safety. Introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), it seeks to erode the progress that states have made ensuring that farm animals are treated humanely.

Republican leaders blocked consideration of a series of other animal welfare amendments relating to banning barren battery cages, cracking down on horse slaughter, and upgrading the federal law against horse soring. (Horse soring is the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves, which forces the horse into an artificial, exaggerated gait, a practice often associated with Tennessee walking horses.)

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) feels strongly that being cruel to animals is the new cool American value. In the past King has been a champion of legalized dog fighting, has said that some obscure German lab has proved climate change is not occurring and had an emotional breakdown when some kids wanted to speak to him, a public official, about immigration reform. King should probably be in a nice sanitarium under psychiatric care, but no, he is collecting about $175k a year as a Congressional representative from Iowa.

tropical coconut trees wallpaper, when freedom shrinks down to property rights

tropical coconut trees wallpaper

tropical coconut trees wallpaper


Not Even a Bourgeois Freedom: Freedom of Contract in John Roberts’s America

Ever since the 19th century, one of the points of convergence between the free-market right and the socialist left has been that the most important freedom under capitalism is the freedom of contract.

…For the free-market right, that’s the end of the discussion: Workers are free. No one’s forcing them to work. If they don’t like a job, they can leave it.

For the socialist left, it’s more complicated. Workers are not in fact free, the left argues, but the source of their unfreedom is not to be found in the usual guise. The most important constraint upon the freedom of contract is not the discrete or formal acts of coercion by power-holders (what political scientists sometimes call the first face of power), which are embodied in law and enforced by the state. Rather, it is systemic inequality and disparities of power between labor and capital: people with few resources are not in much of a position to say no to a job that they don’t like. Formally, workers are free; in practice, they are not.

I’m not a socialist, but you do not have to be one to know what he means. You only have to be a worker, even in management, where there is someone who has the authority to end your employment at will. The rerun of Mad Men I watched this morning, where Don throws a wad of money in Peggy’s face is a good example of the power dynamics at work and the alleged freedom workers have to walk away from a job. It flashed through my mind that if that was me Don would have been eating that wad of money. Yet the reality is that I was humiliated in a similar way once and did not get up in my bosses face or even walk out because I had made some financial commitments. I did learn from that incident. I learned to say f*ck it and tell bosses off. Though when you do that you have to be willing to pay the price. What is your financial situation, how fast can you get another job. Your old boss probably will not gossip about you because they know that employees have sued employers for that. On the other hand you’re not going to get a glowing reference either. This construct of power is deeply embedded in American and European culture. The way it should work, the ideal that conservatives and libertarians say exists, should exist, but it does not. If you see work as an exchange of labor/skills for money that is great, but in practice employers or bosses see it as a power arrangement. They have the power and you’re to do as you’re told. To some extent capitalism, the way we practice it anyway, has infantilized the majority of the work force. People come to work knowing on some level their employer has bought into this power arrangement or employees know that they are thought of as disposable, so other than some very grudging economic necessity, they are not particularly motivated to work or have their employer’s best interest in mind. Though one big exception. That small percentage of people who do their jobs well out of a sense of personal pride.

Emboldened by a series of Supreme Court decisions and an employers’ job market, many companies are starting to require workers to sign away their rights in return for a job. It is a trend that experts worry could further wear away employees’ power in the workplace. The contracts make it harder for employees to join class-action lawsuits, take their employers to court, or leave to go work somewhere else.

Mazhar Saleem is bound to his employer by a number of contracts that made it hard to earn enough money to live, but also hard to go work anywhere else. He drives a town car for a company in New York as an independent contractor, rather than as a full-time employee. That means he doesn’t get benefits, never gets overtime, and isn’t guaranteed set hours.

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. The issue of the conservative movement and libertarians seeing freedom in terms of property rights. Who owns the most property ends up having the most rights. Anyone think they have the same rights as the Koch brothers or Mitt Romney. On paer you have some, but even those are not the same in pratice. Rush Limbaugh is a multimillionaire. When he was busted for illegal drug possession and doctor shopping, he had some high priced attorneys get him off on charges that have and still do gets hundreds of low income Americans put in prison every year. How is that possible when we’re all “equal” under the law.

she done him wrong – nice of them to give a very young cary grant a mention.


Wall Street Journal says Egypt needs a Pinochet

The Chilean dictator presided over the torture and murder of thousands, yet still the free-market right revers his name.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial entitled “After the Coup in Cairo”. Its final paragraph contained these words:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took over power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

Presumably, this means that those who speak for the Wall Street Journal – the editorial was unsigned – think Egypt should think itself lucky if its ruling generals now preside over a 17-year reign of terror.

I also take it the WSJ means us to associate two governments removed by generals – the one led by Salvador Allende in Chile and the one led by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Islamist, socialist … elected, legitimate … who cares?Presumably, the WSJ thinks the Egyptians now have 17 years in which to think themselves lucky when any who dissent are tortured with electricity, raped, thrown from planes or – if they’re really lucky – just shot. That’s what happened in Chile after 1973, causing the deaths of between 1,000 and 3,000 people. Around 30,000 were tortured.

Another good example of how conservatives do not see rights as something political and part of a moral philosophy, but mostly a byproduct of property rights. Obviously you can have tons of property rights and still live under a thuggish regime.