30 June 2011

Glenn Beck ba-bye

If you ever found yourself saying "Please God, make Glenn Beck go away," (or Rush Limbaugh, but that's another matter)... it looks like the prayers of who knows how many thousands have been answered, and the Beckster is finally being dragged away from television. (At least TV that anyone watches; his radio show being another story).

Somehow I think even a paranoid megalomaniac like Beck, despite his weird attraction for some folks out there in the Greatland, can't pull off his own network. Even his counterpart Keith Olbermann had to take refuge in an existing Network that actually had a rational plan for ultimately justifying its existence. (And of course, Olbermann actually has something to say that makes sense on a daily basis).

I feel fairly confident that Glenn Beck will now begin a long and richly deserved fadeout.

29 June 2011

Democrats should say: Per Constitution: Debt Ceiling is unconstitutional so pound sand

If the Democrats, and especially the president, were really serious about challenging the insane Republican attempt to extort unpopular plutocratic policy concessions by threatening to allow the US to default on the debt, they would embrace this constitutional argument that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional, and just tell them to pound sand. 

[(Ryan Grim, in Huffington Post, interviewed on Countdown June 28 by Keith Olbermann)]

See my FDL post

28 June 2011


The president needs to give a big speech as soon as possible, in which he directly accuses the Republican leadership of trying to hold our entire nation hostage, risking the economic calamity that would result from a default on the debt to try to extort extremely unpopular policies from the White House and the rest of Congress.

He should lay out just what’s at stake, just how calamitous a default would be, and just how reckless and undemocratic the Republicans are being, threatening our whole country with economic disaster to get their way.

Then he should lay out what it is they want… things that are extremely unpopular by all recent polls: extended tax cuts for multimillionaires and billionaires, no increase in taxes for hedge fund managers who pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, deep cuts to Medicare and other essential programs, on the backs of old people and the middle class, plus no revenue solutions at all, not even cuts to unneeded oil industry subsidies or changes to other corporate tax breaks and giveaways, and no significant military cuts.

He should say that his administration and the Democrats in Congress are trying to strengthen and preserve the Middle Class in this country, while the Republicans are doing everything they can, even threatening the destruction of our economy, to preserve the extreme wealth and power of the richest Americans and corporate interests; even opposing changes which would encourage employers to keep jobs here in America and sensible cost controls for medical care to rein in the cost of insurance and Medicare.

He should say the Republicans are not being honest with the American people. They are not doing a thing to help out the Middle Class, but are working only for the very rich and powerful corporations, and they oppose the measures in the area of infrastructure development and jobs programs designed to get America working again. Emphasize (use Ross Perot pie charts, for Heavens’ sake!) how American middle class and working peoples’ wages have been flat, while the richest have gotten richer and richer, and it’s time to restore some fundamental fairness. Show (with charts) how just restoring the Bush tax cuts for the richest and some sensible cost controls on medical reimbursements would erase the deficit. Show (again with charts) how some judicious borrowing for jobs programs now would increase revenues, get America working again, and actually help eliminate the deficit more quickly, whereas huge cuts in public sector jobs proposed by the Republicans would just make matters worse.

Then directly face the American people and ask them for their support. Ask them to write to their Congressman (give them a way to do this, right then and there) and DEMAND that they vote to end the debt ceiling and cooperate with the president to get this job done NOW.

Thank you.

27 June 2011

My e-mail to the White House: THIS TIME, call their bluff!

My e-mail to the White House:

We Democrats absolutely DEMAND that the president call the bluff of the Republican leadership which is so obviously trying to hold the entire nation hostage over the debt ceiling, despite the fact that the great majority of the American people DO NOT WANT cuts to important social programs and DO WANT significant increases to make the very wealthy pay their fair share!  Please follow Bernie Sanders' advice and DO NOT give in to this bluff! The Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy must be brought to an end as soon as possible. If the president were to go on television and explain, just as Sen. Sanders has done, just what the Republicans are trying to do TO our country, and the public will rally in support... but if he caves in to them YET again, he will own the consequences and could even lose the election.

Please! This is the time for some spine!

25 June 2011

Besan and Almond Flour Bread Machine Yeast Bread Low Carb Recipe


Or, here:
2 T flax seed whole
2 T ground psyllium seed
½ cup vital wheat gluten-- not gluten flour, but the actual gluten powder (available from Honeyville)
½ cup coarse ground whole wheat flour
1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1 cup almond flour (or could use oat flour)
½ cup wheat bran or oat bran or mix
1½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp stevia powder (optional)
½ tsp vanilla extract
small handful of walnut pieces

> gently mix all dry ingredients except yeast in bowl.

1 T SAF or bread machine yeast w/ (1 T dextrose (or sugar) in 2 T water) or (1 T water, 1 T honey); let stand for a while
> This step is necessary because the low-starch flours will not activate the yeast well enough otherwise.

2 eggs lightly beaten plus water or other liquid to make 1¼ cups
3T canola oil

> put liquid ingredients including yeast in bread machine pan, add dry ingredients, shake pan
set for rapid whole wheat if you have that, light crust, 1 lb. loaf
adjust with liquid or one of the flours if two wet or dry, when kneading it should form a fairly smooth ball, but not stick to pan

>take out at once when done, cool. Will keep at room temp reasonably well

Even though this bread is only 1/3 wheat, and half of that is gluten, I've found that it makes a passable substitute for whole wheat yeast bread. I have no sure way to estimate the carb count, but based on the ingredients I believe it should be a reasonably low carb bread. Also, what carbs it does have should be less digestible than any wheat flour, which is the key for low carb diets.

Although I don't bake bread in the oven generally, I see no reason this wouldn't work perfectly well as a hand kneaded bread. Don't overdo it... the flours have no gluten at all naturally, and the gluten is added in. It shouldn't need a real lot of kneading. Of course, like any bread, you have to use your experience and instinct to get the dough consistency right. You can just add regular flour if you need to, or a tiny bit of water, for the other direction.

Apropos gluten. I understand that a lot of people have... or believe they have... gluten intolerance, and obviously this bread would not work for them. There are zero gluten recipes out there, but that's not what this one is about. This one tries to reduce easily digestible starch, which is a problem for people with metabolic syndrome or who want to avoid sliding into metabolic syndrome through eating too much refined carbohydrate. The gluten makes nongluten low-carb flours act more like wheat, and actually make bread. Without it, a yeast type bread made predominantly from these flours is impossible.

If Clarence Thomas were a Democorat, he'd already be gone

It's now clear, thanks to the investigative reporting of Ian Millhiser on Think Progress (and others), that Clarence Thomas is guilty of multiple serious ethical violations, which would have landed an ordinary judge or Appellate justice out of a job. See this. You'd have to have just arrived here from Tralfamadore not to have noticed the double standard in American politics when it comes to ethics; in Rachel Maddow's epithet: It's OK if you're a Republican. What Thomas is clearly guilty of is far worse than what former Chief Justice Rehnquist, then a political operative for Nixon, drummed up as a case against Johnson appointed Justice and Chief Justice appointee Abe Fortas in 1968.

But will there be any consequence for Thomas? Will feckless congressional Democrats commence an investigation, much less impeachment proceedings? Will Thomas even acknowledge that there is a controversy? Likely none of these. Let's just say it: if a Democrat on the court had done these things, he'd already be gone. What we're likely to see from Thomas instead is more veiled threats, like the speech he gave earlier this year in which he said that an attack on him was an attack on the court. It's not too much of a stretch to read his comments as "mess with me, and I'll mess you up even worse, America."

Sometimes I wonder if the motivation of many right wingers isn't some sort of deep seated desire for vengeance, as hateful and destructive as their actions (and words) are. Certainly there's almost never a hint of any sense of responsibility to the public as a whole, or that the laws and morés of society apply to them.

22 June 2011

Bond Kingpin: Do More Stimulus Now

In a sane world, when even a major Wall Street bond "kingpin" is saying the Administration and Congress need to give up on all the deficit nonsense and focus on stimulus to create jobs now, you'd think some of the policymakers would sit up and listen. (See this, from Daily Kos). But, as usual the miasma of muddleheadedness that roils up from the swamps in D.C. will no doubt prevent any outbreak of sanity yet again.

21 June 2011

AARP's reply and mine to theirs on Social Security

To my recent letter to AARP (*here), I received this reply; with my reply to that below.

Dear Mr. Studhalter:

Thank you for contacting AARP regarding inaccurate media stories
about the association's policy on Social Security:

AARP is committed as ever to fighting to protect Social Security for
today's older American's and to strengthen it for future generations.
 Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story,
AARP has not changed its position on Social Security.

We are currently fighting proposals in Washington to cut Social
Security in order to reduce a deficit it did not cause.  AARP
believes Social Security should not be used as a piggy bank to solve
the nation's deficit.  Any changes to this lifeline program should
happen in a separate, broader discussion and should make retirement
more secure for future generations.

Our focus has always been the impact of changes on people, not just
budget totals.  This is why AARP's volunteer Board is evaluating any
proposed changes to Social Security.  They will determine how each
change-individually or in different combinations-might impact the
lives of current and future retirees, especially in times of economic

We have maintained for years-to our members, the media, and elected
officials-that long-term solvency is key to protecting and
strengthening Social Security for all generations.  We have urged
elected officials in Washington to address the program's long-term
challenges in a way that's fair for all generations.

It has always been AARP's policy that Social Security be strengthened
to provide adequate benefits, in order to ensure solvency for the
next 75 years.  Any changes should be phased in slowly, over time,
and should not affect any current or near-term retirees.

AARP strongly opposed a privatization plan in 2005, and continues to
oppose this approach. Private accounts would reduce benefits and add
a large measure of risk.  They would eliminate the guaranteed income
that Social Security currently provides.

Social Security is a critical issue for our members, their families
and Americans of all ages.  We are in a time when many will have less
retirement security than previous generations due to fewer pensions,
less savings and rising health care costs.

To take action to help protect Social Security, and to learn more
about what we're doing to help older Americans, go to
www.aarp.org/strengthensocialsecurity from your home computer or at
your local library.

I hope this information is helpful.  Again, thank you for getting in
touch with us.  It is important for us to know the concerns of
members.  If there are any services or issues we can assist you with
in the future, please do not hesitate to ask.


Member Communications
My reply:

Thank you for your reply, but you have not indicated the kind of strong stance that the membership by and large demands. You need to realize that this is an epochal struggle at this time to preserve the only meaningful social programs for the majority of Americans which we have managed to preserve thusfar in this country.

I strongly recommend to you Thomas Geoghegan's excellent op-Ed in Monday's New York Times, advocating payroll and other revenue adjustments to raise, not merely preserve, Social Security, as an essential element of the basic economic security of tens of millions of Americans. AARP should not be milquetoasty and middle-of-the-Road on this issue. If they want to present themselves to their membership as strong advocates for their interests, they need to start acting like it, and supporting changes in the right direction, not the wrong direction.

I remain entirely dissatisfied with the organization's position on this issue and will not contribute funds to their lobbying activities until they are changed to a much stronger advocacy position. Fiscal strength must come from the revenue side, not on the backs of Americans who have seen wages flat and the greatest wealth transfer to the richest Americans in history over the last thirty years.

Thank you.

David Studhalter

20 June 2011

Pure Gold--Geogeghan in NYT-- "Get Radical: RAISE Social Security"

This piece by Thomas Geogeghan in the NYT is pure gold. This guy has it 100% right, and the Democratic Party and the Administration are completely out to lunch on this issue (and about to have their lunch eaten, too, by the Rightists).

18 June 2011

My letter to AARP today

The organization is publicly claiming that it has not changed its position on Social Security, but it is being widely reported, without any clear contradiction, that AARP is "in play" on raising the retirement age. This is totally unacceptable to us, the membership, and we DEMAND that AARP clearly enunciate the truth about Social Security immediately and clearly state that it and its membership will FIGHT any attempt to cut benefits, COLA adjustment methodology, or raise retirement age.

Social Security benefit cuts or further increases in the Retirement Age are simply out of the question. The ONLY acceptable reform for Social Security is to raise or eliminate the cap on income subject to payroll taxes.

People have PAID for Social Security; it's off budget and it's FLAT OUT immoral to ask people to accept DEFAULT on that debt to them to fix a debt they didn't create. AARP needs to say this, and make clear that we will not tolerate cuts to this vital social program.

The national debt was almost entirely created by lowering taxes on the rich under Reagan and both Bushes, and Republican spending on unpaid for wars, unpaid for military buildup, even the unpaid for Pharma giveaway Medicare prescription drug program under Bush II. AARP needs to make the point that it was largely the Republicans that created this big debt, and they did it by allowing the very rich and corporations to go without paying their fair share of the "price of civilization" ... taxes. You should point out that if we were to return to the tax rates of the 1960s we would be able to afford all investments and benefits on the books and proposed, and still pay down the debt.

Current deficits are the result of the current Great Recession, not its cause. The Republicans are fobbing a giant deficit hoax on the American people. The solution to deficits is to get people working again, just as the Great Depression was ended by employment programs and ultimately by the more than full employment of WWII. The percentage of GDP of debt, which was 35% during WWII, is nowhere near that now, and it's just a myth that the US cannot afford to do something about long term unemployment, or keep its realatively meager social programs, namely Social Security and Medicare, intact.

It is particularly galling that the Right, and now apparently with the tacit complicity of AARP, is attacking Social Security. Social Security is not in deficit. It is, moderately, taking in less than its paying out, but it holds massive bond debt and is the most fiscally solvent social program in history. As I noted above, increasing taxes for Social Security would fully resolve the long term financial problem of this program, and nothing else is acceptable. AARP members DEMAND a strong stance from the organization on this issue.

Medicare, too, requires strong support. There are many ways to reduce the excessive cost of medical care without cutting benefits, and AARP should insist on this as well. Tax rises for the richest Americans and eliminating subsidies and sweetheart deals for Pharma, agricultrue, oil, and Finance, would eliminate the deficit entirely; and sensible cost controls for the medical reimbursements from the public sector could easily restore Medicare and Medicaid to full fiscal health. AARP must stand for and defend these programs, which are absolutely essential for America's seniors, especially those of lower income. 

America is not broke, it's just that too much of the money has gone to its richest citizens and too many corporations have been allowed to offshore assets and otherwise avoid taxes. AARP must strongly communicate this message, and defend the essential programs on which its members depend.

Thank you.

16 June 2011

Larry Summers and the way forward

As anyone who has paid any attention to my musings here knows, I have been very critical of Obama's choice of Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner as economic advisers. Strangely, though, based on the piece Summers published on Monday in the Financial Times (behind paywall), Summers, now that he has left the Administration, has started giving good advice to the president. He reviles the idea of a budget crisis as our main economic problem, supports a program of public investment to create jobs and develop infrastructure, and warns against a potential "lost decade" like Japan's in the 1990s (which is really 20 years and no end in sight). Timothy Conover and Ian Masters discuss this here (link to audio file); and if you only listen to one segment of Ian Masters' excellent Background Briefing radio program on KPFK-LA (kpfk.org... archives... Sun 1100 and M-Th 500 PM), make it the first segment of this one.

{The third segment, beginning around 2/3 through, on the travesty of what's being done to public higher education in California is also well worth listening to.}

13 June 2011

My answer to Republican canard that Progressives have their heads in the sand on Medicare

First off, it's a right-wing frame to call the "problem" a "need to fix Medicare." Medicare doesn't need fixing. It needs cost controls, and it needs a secure funding base.

But, to those who (falsely) claim that Progressives have their heads in the sand and are just putting off the inevitable day when Medicare goes bankrupt, I say, all right then, here's my plan.

1. Expand Medicare to all, adding negotiated RX benefits without ridiculous donut holes and sweet deal pricing for Big Pharma.
2.  Institute a comprehensive system of cost controls to rein in health care costs. (This is very general, obviously, but there are a wealth of ideas out there on exactly how to do this).
3. Assess a progressive tax on workers and employers approximately equal to the average amount of health care premiums currently typical of employer paid health insurance. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be taxed at a much lower rate, to encourage employment in that sector. Very low income workers would pay nothing.
(By providing this revenue stream, Medicare, which is 20% more efficient (at least) than private health insurance, would save a ton of money and provide decent health care for everyone, at a net cost saving. There would be firm commitments to a practicable but First World Standard level of medical care for all).
4.  Medicare Advantage would be put on a completely cost-neutral basis. You want it, you (or your employer) pays for it; otherwise Medicare for All is what you get. Unsubsidized private insurance (which would probably be more or less the same thing... coverage for luxury medical care that the new Medicare doesn't pay for, funded by private premiums), would be allowed.

By doing this, we could significantly reduce the percentage of GDP spent on medical care, reduce the per-patient cost and put the program on a sound fiscal basis, (since all the healthy younger workers will be paying into it as part of the insurance pool, not just as taxpayers), and the program would be in a position to regulate costs and negotiate equipment and pharmaceutical prices.

Of course, this would require overcoming deeply entrenched special interests. But if you don't say what you want, and you aren't willing to fight for it, you'll never get it.

Krugman on Lieberman's very dumb, extremely bad, not smart idea to raise Medicare eligibility age to 67

This article by Krugman on the total dumbness of Joe Lieberman's proposal to increase Medicare age to 67 is excellent. (Why should we be suprised, when Lieberman has a well-deserved moniker as the "Senator from Aetna"?)

Another E-mail to the White House: Out of Afghanistan

The time has come, as the majority of Americans now realize, to end the war in Afghanistan with all due speed, consistent with the security of our forces.

No question America cannot walk away from a constructive role in the region, particularly with regard to efforts to influence rational and balanced policies in Pakistan, but prosecuting a vastly expensive war in Afghanistan is not in our interests.

Sec. of State Clinton should publicly call for a regional summit, including even Iran, China, and Russia, to try to work out a security regime for the region that DOES NOT include U.S. troops. Talk to Lawrence Wilkerson, whose ideas are certainly not isolationist, but who is someone who knows the history and geopolitics of the area and recognizes that it's time for a complete rethink.

Thank you.

Echoing Kuttner: e-mail to the White House

I sent this to the White House.

Please see Robert Kuttner in today's Huffington Post. The president must NOT allow the political advantage from the huge overreach the Republicans wandered into on the Medicare issue to destroy the political advantage that right now could be the basis not only for re-election, but for retaining the Senate and winning back the House. The administration needs to come up with a strong narrative, including a program of promised reforms centered on jobs and preserving the key social programs, with higher taxes for the rich and closing corporate loopholes... as well as explaining how much of our deficit problem is CAUSED by underemployment. Then sell this, while resisting all attempts to buy into the counterproductive Republican and misguided Conservative Democratic ideas about cutting social programs and undermining the already fragile recovery.

11 June 2011

McKinsey study on HCR: garbage

It surprises me not at all that McKinsey & Co. has published a "study" claiming that Health Care Reform will cause employers to drop benefits. See this. I've had enough experience with these "management consultants" to know that virtually everything they say is just unfounded conventional wisdom and non-scientific conclusions based on unreliable evidence. They're almost entirely in the business of dressing up what their clients want to hear in the trappings of intellectual foundation. (So it can be used to justify actions the clients wanted to take anyway; usually for nefarious, plutocratic, and anti-worker reasons).

I look upon McKinsey and similar phony intellectual management consultants, and the doctrines of the schools of business foremost among which is Harvard Business School, across the river from the real Harvard, as part of the problem of the economy of this country, not part of the solution. This pattern now dates back more than a generation.

We have to completely reform the way business is conducted and regulated in this country, along the lines of the way it is conducted in Germany. Part of that process will be to permanently discredit and discard the anti-employee doctrines promulgated by the likes of McKinsey and big business schools, Harvard chief among them.

09 June 2011

Santorum has it for brains

Santorum says climate change is "patently absurd" and a "liberal scheme." This man's brain has turned into his eponymous substance. (If you don't know what that is, google 'santorum.')

06 June 2011

Weiner's follies

OK, so Anthony Weiner has fessed up that he really did send the dick pick and that he's a bit of a cad. So what? What does that really have to do with anything? If Sen. Vitter can get re-elected after admitting to paying a prostitute for sex, which, by the bye, is a crime, this little peccadillo is a big fat nothing, in my book.

So, Congressman Weiner, thanks for the confession, now let's move on. If Pelosi and the leadership want to reprimand him, who cares about that either? I would vote for him in a heartbeat.

05 June 2011

Krugman sums it up for you... again

As I've found to be generally the case with him, Paul Krugman once again gives an excellent summation of a politico-economic issue; this time the deceptiveness inherent in Republicans' insistence that their plan is anything other than a scheme to destroy Medicare. Here. (Times paywall in effect).

01 June 2011

A message to Democrats... Stand your ground!

See Daily KOS today. They publish the results of a recent poll that shows:
  • A majority of voters do not want the Affordable Care Act repealed: Just 42% of voters want to see the new healthcare law repealed, with 56% preferring to either give it a chance to work and make changes as needed (48%) or to keep it as is (8%).
  • Voters are even less supportive of defunding than repeal: If efforts to repeal the law in Congress fail, voters disapprove of defunding it by a 16-point margin (39% approve / 55% disapprove)....
  • Voters overwhelmingly reject Ryan budget’s proposed changes to Medicare. After voters hear [a] neutral description of the Ryan plan’s proposed changes to Medicare, they oppose the budget by a 16-point margin (38% support / 54% oppose). Among seniors, opposition rises to 58%, and it reaches 60% among independents after they hear about the substance of the plan’s proposed changes to Medicare....
  • Voters are just as concerned about the impact of the Ryan budget on certain aspects of Medicaid and the ACA as they are about its changes to Medicare. As concerned as voters are about the Ryan budget’s proposed changes to Medicare, they are just as opposed to its proposed Medicaid cuts that would impact four-out-of-five of nursing home residents (63% very concerned). 
  • There is also strong concern that the budget would allow insurance companies to continue to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (61% very concerned). This is even higher than the concern caused by the budget cutting billions from Medicare while protecting tax breaks for big oil (59% very concerned), or that it will privatize Medicare (55% very concerned).
 OK, Democrats, take heed! Stay on message, tout Health Care Reform, and REFUSE to cut benefits for Medicare. (Cost controls, yes, cut benefits, no). The Republican positions on all these issues are terrifically and increasingly unpopular. Don't cave in! Stand your ground, call their bluff, and prevail!