“In Poe’s time, life was far more precarious than it is today. You were almost bound to have lost a sibling or a parent at an early age. Medicine was crude, diseases abounded. No social safety net, no childhood vaccines. Yet people were not indifferent or psychologically hardened to their condition. It hurt as much to lose a child then as it does now. Twain and Dickens and even Lincoln attest to that. Poe’s tales are like an inoculation, a milder form of the virus we are trying to avoid. We take the vaccine and call it fiction, and lay down the book. His life was in his stories, and the truth as he knew it. There was not much spring or summer in his worldview. It was all pretty much late autumn and winter, the sun fading, the shadows growing. Perfect for this time of year.”—Winter’s Tale (via azspot)
“Although the national minimum wage was raised a few years ago, it’s still very low by historical standards, having consistently lagged behind both inflation and average wage levels. Who gets paid this low minimum? By and large, it’s the man or woman behind the cash register: almost 60 percent of U.S. minimum-wage workers are in either food service or sales. This means, by the way, that one argument often invoked against any attempt to raise wages — the threat of foreign competition — won’t wash here: Americans won’t drive to China to pick up their burgers and fries.”—Better Pay Now (via azspot)
Pop quiz: Who do you think funds the hundreds of Ronald McDonald Houses around the nation? McDonald’s right? Sort of, but not really. While McDonald’s gets 100 percent of the brand benefit from Ronald McDonald House Charities, the burger giant only provides about 20 percent of its funding globally. At the local level, it’s closer to ten percent, with some of that money coming from donation boxes at McDonald’s outlets, that is, from customers.
Confused? Wondering how a corporation that raked in $27 billion last year can be so stingy with its own charity? You’re not alone. In my new report, “Clowning Around with Charity: How McDonald’s Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children,” I show how McDonald’s enjoys a huge public relations and marketing boost relative to how little money it donates. In fact, Ronald McDonald Houses report that the name causes many people to assume that McDonald’s provides 100 percent of the charity’s funds – and that this “common misperception” is “absolutely confusing.” In other words, the McDonald’s brand may be more of a liability than it’s worth.
Little could be more important than giving families a comforting place to stay together during such stressful times. The cause’s importance, and the extent to which McDonald’s is serving versus exploiting that cause, is all the more reason for gaining a better understanding of the corporation’s involvement.
Despite McDonald’s claims of philanthropic generosity, the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric. The report’s findings include how McDonald’s philanthropic giving is 33 percent lower than leading corporations and that McDonald’s spends almost 25 times as much on advertising as on charitable donations.
“Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. Any policies that create additional poverty among the working poor, or further impoverish hungry people around the world, are reprehensible. It is unacceptable for lawmakers to take vital food stamp benefits away from millions of Americans who are struggling to recover from the ongoing impacts of the recession. And it is reprehensible for our nation to turn away from people starving in Central America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. In doing so, we break Jesus’ commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors.”—Cutting Food Stamps is a Bad Way to Balance the Budget (via azspot)
On June 18, 1940, Winston Churchill delivered a speech to Parliament.
What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealthlast for a thousand years, men will still say,This was their finest hour.
“D For Deception” by Tina Rosenberg tells the story of how one best-selling spy novelist turned his pulp fiction fantasies into real-life espionage in an epic effort to fool Hitler.
Can you believe the web browser is 20 years old? Or that MOSAIC took the world by storm ONLY 20 years ago? Either way, it makes you blink, just to imagine the world of back-then. Have a look back via Frank Catalano’s brilliant essay about the things we used to take for granted.
When did you first go online? My first extensive use was while we lived in FRANCE, using their competitive Minitel system, which was better than Compuserve and in nearly every home in France. They were trying hard to get ahead of us with a unified, centrally planned approach and it worked well, if incrementally. Everyone could check the weather, get news and order tickets…
…Then Al Gore (yes, he did not lie) pushed a bill that unleashed the Internet on the world, taking government hands almost completely off. The opposite approach than the French — and the greatest act of deregulation in the history of history… for which he get no credit, only mockery. From ungrateful fools.
The other day Sean Hannity featured some Real Americans telling tales of how they have been hurt by Obamacare. So Eric Stern, who used to work for Brian Schweitzer, had a bright idea: he actually called Hannity’s guests, to get the details.
Sure enough, the businessman who claimed that Obamacare was driving up his costs, forcing him to lay off workers, only has four employees — meaning that Obamacare has no effect whatsoever on his business. The two families complaining about soaring premiums haven’t actually checked out what’s on offer, and Stern estimates that they would in fact see major savings.
You have to wonder about the mindset of people who go on national TV to complain about how they’re suffering from a program based on nothing but what they think they heard somewhere. You might also wonder about what kind of alleged news show features such people without any check on their bona fides. But then again, consider the network.
“What ought to be evident, when Tea Partiers reflect on what they disliked about the Bush years, is that neither insufficient fight nor excessive compromise was the problem. The Iraq War, the most disastrous, budget-busting initiative of the aughts, occurred when the GOP establishment fought for war and didn’t give up. The K Street Project involved neither capitulation nor compromising with Democrats. And conservatives were pleased when the establishment “threw in the towel” on immigration reform and the Harriet Miers nomination.”—Conservatives Misunderstand What Went Wrong Under Bush (via azspot)
But perhaps the most consequential subsidy is rarely mentioned or even noticed: Government for decades has directly subsidized individuals’ costs of employer-based health care, to the tune of roughly $250 billion every year – sums far greater than the annual costs of the subsidized insurance coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
That fact makes the ongoing debate positively perverse. What we are witnessing today are individuals who already receive government health-care handouts attempting to prevent others from obtaining similar (but smaller in aggregate amount) health-care subsidies, as well. And as a group, today’s recipients of government health-care subsidies are better off to begin with than are those they wish to exclude.
Today’s direct government subsidies for health care are easy for the political right to ignore because those handouts are not delivered through messy health exchanges or government checks, but rather through the income tax.
“How has a faction consisting of no more than four dozen House members come to exercise so much destructive power? The continuing abandonment of professional responsibilities by the nation’s mainstream news sources – including most of the metropolitan daily newspapers and the television outlets, network and cable – has had a great deal to do with it. At some point over the past 40 years, the bedrock principle of journalistic objectivity became twisted into the craven idea of false equivalency, whereby blatant falsehoods get reported simply as one side of an argument and receive equal weight with the reported argument of the other side. There is no shortage of explanations for the press’s abdication: intimidation at the rise of Fox News and other propaganda operations; a deep confusion about the difference between hard-won objectivity and a lazy, counterfeit neutrality; and the poisonous effects of the postmodern axiom that truth, especially in politics, is a relative thing, depending on your perspective in a tweet. Whatever the explanation, today’s journalism has trashed the tradition of fearless, factual reporting pioneered by Walter Lippmann, Edward R. Murrow and Anthony Lewis. A press devoted to searching for and reporting the truth, wherever it might lead, would have kept the public better informed of the basic details of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling showdowns. It also would have reported seriously the hard truths of the Tea Party “insurgency,” including how it was largely created and has since been bankrolled by oil-and-gas moguls like David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, and by a panoply of richly endowed right-wing pressure groups like Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Jim DeMint’s Heritage Foundation. It also would have reported on the basic reason for the hard right’s growing domination of the Republican Party, which has been the decay of the party at every level, including what passes for its party leadership.”—Republican Extremism and the Lessons of History (via azspot)
Before 1943, all taxpayers paid their income taxes in a lump sum no later than March 15 the following year, although quarterly payments were permitted. This was not that much of a burden because few people paid any federal income taxes – on the eve of World War II just 4 percent of the population did. And the bulk of those were very well to do.
But the war increased the need for federal revenue. Consideration was given to a national consumption tax to raise the money, but this idea was rejected in favor of a vastly broader income tax.
This brought into the income tax net millions of Americans who had no familiarity with it, were baffled by its complexity and lacked the savings to pay their annual tax bill in a lump sum. The Treasury Department said it believed that tax withholding was essential to make the wartime income tax work.
Physicians do get things wrong, remarkably often. Studies have shown that up to one in five patients are misdiagnosed. In the United States and Canada it is estimated that 50,000 hospital deaths each year could have been prevented if the real cause of illness had been correctly identified.
Yet people are loath to challenge experts. In a 2009 experiment carried out at Emory University, a group of adults was asked to make a decision while contemplating an expert’s claims, in this case, a financial expert. A functional M.R.I. scanner gauged their brain activity as they did so. The results were extraordinary: when confronted with the expert, it was as if the independent decision-making parts of many subjects’ brains pretty much switched off. They simply ceded their power to decide to the expert.
If we are to control our own destinies, we have to switch our brains back on and come to our medical consultations with plenty of research done, able to use the relevant jargon. If we can’t do this ourselves we need to identify someone in our social or family network who can do so on our behalf.
“Utopia is sometimes the goal. It’s often embedded in the insurrectionary moment itself, and it’s a hard moment to explain, since it usually involves hardscrabble ways of living, squabbles, and eventually disillusionment and factionalism, but also more ethereal things: the discovery of personal and collective power, the realization of dreams, the birth of bigger dreams, a sense of connection that is as emotional as it is political, and lives that change and do not revert to older ways even when the glory subsides.”—Joy Arises, Rules Fall Apart: Thoughts for the Second Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (via azspot)