BREAKING: Martin O’Malley announces announcement.

Governor Martin O’Malley has just announced an announcement, and also announced a website announcing the announcement:

Join me on May 30th at 10am on Federal Hill in Baltimore for a special announcement. http://omalleyannouncement.com/

omalleyannounceLoyal Readers™ will recall that Your Humble Monarch® has been selflessly volunteering her time and talents to help her BFF Martin O’Malley’s pre-presidential pre-campaign (while secretly working on a national write-in campaign for Snowden/Manning 2016 on the FUCK YOU party ticket).

At this time, however, all I am authorized to tell you is this:

SHIT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL, PEOPLE.

Have a nice day.

palacehappyface

 

Ask Iris: How can that happen?

I’ve been conversing in the comments on my seminal post on Conservative Personality Disorder with reader jim davis, who asks: “Why don’t progressives use facts and statistics to make their case?” He then provides irrefutable evidence—in the form of facts and statistics—that the (conservative) economic policies enacted over the past decades have utterly failed the American public and systematically devastated the middle and lower classes.

I responded that the utility—or futility—of deploying facts as a method of political persuasion depends on one’s target audience, and that unfortunately, for many of our fellow citizens facts are not only irrelevant, but exposure to facts can actually backfire. <—That article summarizes the research demonstrating that conservatives are especially prone to this effect, whereas liberals are more likely to change their minds when presented with new evidence and sound reasoning (i.e. reality-based).

jim davis responded:

How can that happen? Iris, I just read exposure to facts can actually backfire. I don’t buy it because all we have to do is change a very small percentage of peoples minds to tip the scales.
MLK, and a small group of activist did it in the 60’s and we can do it now, and we better begin before it’s too late.

I started answering in the comments, but instead I thought I would share my response here.

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How can that happen?

The short answer is that humans are not particularly rational creatures—although some are, or at least potentially can be, more rational than others. Unconscious biases and our physical and social environments motivate our actions and reasoning to a far greater extent than we generally like to admit. But for now, we don’t need to know how the backfire effect happens to observe that it clearly does. (See also reactance.)

Behold just some people you would like to persuade with facts and statistics:

Almost half of Americans believe that a god created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and, except in the relatively rare case of extremist homeschoolers, it isn’t because they’ve never heard the facts about the age of the earth and evolutionary biology. We recently learned that the Governor of Texas ordered the state guard to monitor military training exercises based on widespread fears that President Obama is planning to invade Texas and declare martial law. Influential American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke—a ranking member in perhaps the most patriarchal institution on Earth—blames the Catholic Church’s pedophile priest scandals on…feminists. Abstinence-only sex education is an unrivaled policy failure, and yet its proponents only double-down in the face of indisputable facts:

Officials with the Crane Independent School District are meeting to discuss their sex education program after nearly two dozen cases of Chlamydia were reported among the high school student body.

The school district’s superintendent, Jim T. Rumage, stands by his chlamydia-friendly strategy of telling kids to wait until marriage. “If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can’t get this disease,” he told the Express-News in a phone interview.

I recently wrote about conservatives in the Colorado legislature ending funding for a program that saves the state many multiples of its cost by providing long-term contraception to low-income women. Under that initiative teen birth rates plummeted, and abortions fell 42 percent among women aged 15 to 19. The legislators’ “reasoning,” if we can call it that, for ending the program is the (false) belief that IUDs cause abortions. In other words, in order to curb the horrifying scourge of fictional abortions, actual abortions are now going to rise—to the tune of about 42%. And I can guarantee you that these same legislators will insist without even blinking that they are fiscally conservative and fiercely anti-abortion. And they believe it.

So. For whatever reason(s)*, our society continues to generate a critical mass of highly illogical, willfully ignorant, stunningly selfish, aggressively petty, historically naive, self-righteous, shallow-thinking and empathy-deficient (when not actively violent) apes—i.e., conservatives. And I would argue that precisely to the extent one is conservative, one is an arealist at best, and anti-reality at worst. (Yes, I just coined that word “arealist.” Like amoral, or atheist. You’re welcome, people!)

And let us not forget for one single second that the power center of the Democratic Party—which includes Barack Obama—is economically conservative (“neoliberal”). That makes them arealist, too. (See?! It’s come in handy already!)

I just read exposure to facts can actually backfire. I don’t buy it because all we have to do is change a very small percentage of peoples minds to tip the scales.

I don’t understand your disbelief in the fact-backfire effect. As I noted in my first reply, whether facts can be persuasive depends on (among other things) one’s target audience. For conservatives, that approach is particularly counterproductive. The effect is real, and that article I linked does a decent job of reporting the solid research that backs this up.

Your contention that “all we have to do is change a very small percentage of peoples minds to tip the scales” is also a bit confusing to me, as I am not entirely sure what claim you are making. By “tip the scales,” do you mean “get people who are uninformed, misinformed, unmotivated non-voters to consistently turn out to vote for liberal candidates and support liberal policies”? Because that is a very different order than “get a small percentage of conservatives to vote for liberal candidates and support liberal policies.” The former is exceedingly difficult; the latter, nigh impossible.

There is a key axiom that underlies all conservative ideology, namely: conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. In other words, when conservative policies fail (and fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail…), well, this only proves that we obviously need more of it. It’s a cognitive cousin to narcissism: since they can never, ever be wrong about anything, it therefore follows that anything that contradicts their beliefs simply cannot be true. QED. This is why they cannot help but spin bizarre rationalizations, believe wacky conspiracy theories, and accept all manner of conveniently confirming bullshit as “fact.”

Relevant to the facts and statistics you presented in your comments, virtually all conservatives, all libertarians and an unconscionable number of Democrats have bought into the Just World Fallacy of the Free Market™ as a moral arbiter, i.e. that based on the inherent moral character and work ethic of the individual, the poor and the rich “deserve” their respective lots in life. Now obviously if this myth were even remotely true, Mexican day laborers would all be millionaires and the idle rich would be living on the streets. I mean, it doesn’t even hold up to the slightest empirical scrutiny. Nevertheless, the belief makes those who hold it readily susceptible to messages that we should further punish the poor until they get their goddamn bootstrappin’ shit together, and enact more tax cuts for all those wonderful wealthy job creators. The fact that the American Dream is now an empty promise for nearly everyone is either outright denied, or—contrary to all available evidence—blamed on liberals.

Likewise, if the middle and lower classes have had their income and wealth decimated for decades—and as you document, they certainly have—conservative economic policies simply cannot be responsible. Thus people are eagerly gullible dupes for messages that claim the source of our economic woes are our (inadequate) social safety net programs like Medicaid or food stamps that benefit Those Other Undeserving People at the expense of me and my own, and oppressively high taxes on rapacious corporations and wealthy individuals—and not, say, our absurd “defense” budget, or deregulating the banksters. It is simply a fact that over the past three decades 100 percent of income growth has gone to the wealthiest ten percent of Americans, and that this is the direct result of conservative economic policies. (And no, neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama are liberals on economic policy: they are neoliberal True Believers™). But good luck convincing the American people of that: conservative economic dogma so dominates our political discourse to such an extent that even people who are not particularly conservative by nature adopt conservative economic beliefs unquestioningly.

You will never, ever reason conservatives out of their wrong ideas. It is not just what people believe, but how they think that makes the task so daunting. That too, my friend, is just a fact. When it comes to the forces driving the economic status quo, Americans are among the most propagandized populations in the world, and the overwhelming majority cannot or will not interrogate the myths they have been force-fed since childhood. They have absolutely no fucking idea what their government is up to, or who it serves. And I am not convinced that even if they did, a sufficient number would be any more rational, compassionate, or motivated to do anything effective about it. There is something going on here that makes us uniquely irrational among Western nations.

Last, I would be remiss if I did not address this:

MLK, and a small group of activists did it in the 60’s and we can do it now, and we better begin before it’s too late.

Again, I’m not exactly sure what you are trying to say here, but facts and statistics did not drive the civil rights movement any more than reasoned argument got women the right to vote. As the brutal state violence visited upon peaceful protestors (including whites) was splashed across the nation’s TV screens, black activist leaders seized the moment and maneuvered politically to force the federal government to intervene. The FBI wanted Dr. King dead, and I am 100% certain that if a leader with the potential to upend the status quo arose today, the same would be true. More to the point, for all practical purposes blacks are still segregated in housing and education, legally lynched and discriminated against in ways large and small. Whatever gains the civil rights movement made, the backlash was swift, severe and continues to this day. Do you think Dr. King, if he were alive today, would declare victory for civil rights?

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*I have my pet theories on the causes of Conservative Personality Disorder. Religiosity is a likely vector: faith is antithetical to critical thinking and a reality-based worldview; it is no accident that the least religious countries are the most socially advanced. A permanent war footing is another: War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on Whatever Bogeyman is Coming Next, war, war, and more war. Presently, we are bombing at least seven Muslim countries; meanwhile we are bombarded with images of Islamic terrorism (not our terrorism, silly) that serve up easy justifications for our counterproductive state violence abroad and worse-than-useless mass surveillance domestically. Militarization invariably degrades the humanity and empathy of any citizenry, and that trend is only increasing in the US. Economic insecurity also spawns conservatism, and as your examples demonstrate there is certainly plenty of that to go around. And perhaps the greatest impediment to meaningful change is that this state of affairs suits some very, very powerful interests very, very well.

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I hope this edition of Ask Iris has been helpful. And I would like to thank jim davis very much for his comments and question.

In which Gov. Martin O’Malley heeds my campaign advice.

omalley2Well, well, well. It appears mah BFF Gov. Martin O’Malley is not only serious about a run for the presidency, he has quite obviously taken my campaign advice to heart. Loyal Readers™ may recall that after our meeting last year, I wrote about some of my concerns about his messaging, image and tone:

He does not have tight soundbites in response to direct questions; instead he takes the approach of a patient explainer. Think: Al Gore. Only hawt. That said, this occasion was part of a series of candid meetings with potential supporters, not a media appearance: between now and an official campaign launch, he will hopefully crystallize his responses. His messaging needs to be clear, coherent and consistent—even, or perhaps especially, when obfuscation is necessary.

Although O’Malley comes off as smart and capable, he needs a more fiery presence and populist stance to appeal to disparate swaths of Democratic voters in key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania…O’Malley is exceptionally good looking and fit, but he does not exude the personal charisma of, say, Bill Clinton. In short, and with the caveat that he will need to walk the line carefully: more rock star, less wonk.

omalley3The former Governor of Maryland at his own inauguration
actually playing Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line.”

And what do you know, here we have Martin—that’s what I call him, “Martin,” because it sounds really classy in a Jackie-O sorta way—schooling the shit out of DC detritus Chuck Todd on decades of failed conservative policies:

Hahaha. Well done, Martin. I always knew you had it in you.

I agree with Egberto at Kos, who pointed out:

Chuck Todd once again allowed his program to be used as an Ayn Rand message conduit…[A] Democratic primary is necessary…to remind America that it has been living under a conservative biased agenda for north of thirty years. The catastrophic results surround us all.

Indeed. But I also have concerns about the role of Martin’s wife, Katie, a U.S. District Court judge who is barred from political campaigning. As I said, it is difficult to envision any successful presidential campaign without the ubiquitous presence of a candidate’s spouse. Unless and until she resigns from the court to hit the campaign trail with her husband, Martin will absolutely require the presence of a strong, politically savvy woman among his very closest advisers.

Yes, my friends, you heard it here first: Your Humble Monarch™ has magnanimously volunteered herself to fill this critical role in Governor Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign!

omalleycomp01Me and Martin, campaignin’ and shit.

omalleycomp03Oh, and hey listen: now I am counting on you guys to STFU for a while and don’t tell him about our national write-in campaign for Snowden/Manning on the FUCK YOU party ticket. I am just helping mah BFF Martin out, that’s all.

snowdenmanning2016

Reading.

library4KKK fliers left at Selma homes on 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’. Hill, E., AL.com (Mar. 2015). [Post racial Amerikkka, y’all. –Ed.]

Martin O’Malley Readies His Run as the Un-Hillary. Weigel, D., Bloomberg (Mar. 2015). [Mah BFF. –Ed.]

5 Ancient Discoveries That Prove Modern Men Are Sexist. Kosh, W. and Harlow, K., Cracked (Mar. 2015). (“Well, this serves as a nice example of how this kind of unintentional exclusion works: When archaeologists dug up this statue of a female gladiator, threateningly brandishing some kind of weapon in a victorious warrior pose, they originally described it as “a cleaning tool” — because cleaning is a thing that women do.”)

The Gangsters of Ferguson. Coates, T.N., The Atlantic (Mar. 2015). [FIVE STARS. –Ed.]

This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Increased the Minimum Wage — Now, His State’s Economy Is One of the Best in the Country. Gibson, C., Huffington Post (Feb. 2015). [Duh. –Ed.]

U.N. Finds ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women. Sengupta, S., The New York Times (Mar. 2015). (“The latest United Nations report draws attention to the rise of ‘extremism and conservatism,’ and without naming any countries or groups, it argues that what they share is a ‘resistance to women’s human rights.'”) [O rly. –Ed.]

Motor W-32. Miniatura. W-32 Engine. youtube (Feb. 2015). [h/t flyboy] [Engineering, meet Art. Art, meet Engineering. Turns out you two have a lot to discuss. –Ed.]

How Transgender Women Make Topless Laws Look Even More Ridiculous And Offensive Than We Already Knew They Were. Molloy, P.M., Bustle (Feb. 2015).

Plane Attempting First Solar-Powered Around-The-World Flight Resembles Wright Brothers Design. Phillips, A., Think Progress (Mar. 2015).

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

 

Recent reads.

library4FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers. Stein, B., ACLU (Jan. 2015).

DHS intelligence report warns of domestic right-wing terror threat. Perez, E. and Bruer, W., CNN (Feb. 2015). [h/t SJ] (“Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups”) [No shit. –Ed.]

Editor of major newspaper says he planted stories for CIA. Lopez, R., Digital Journal (Jan. 2015). [Quelle surprise. –Ed.]

The U.S. Media and the 13-Year-Old Yemeni Boy Burned to Death Last Month by a U.S. Drone. Greenwald, G., The Intercept (Feb. 2015). (“Most Americans, by design, will have no idea that their government just burned a 13-year-old boy to death and then claimed he was a Terrorist.”)

Obama administration to allow sales of armed drones to allies. Ryan, M., The Washington Post (Feb. 2015). [Finally! Now other countries can enjoy burning 13-year-olds to death too! –Ed.]

1 In 3 College Men In Survey Say They Would Rape A Woman If They Could Get Away With It. Culp-Ressler, T., Think Progress (Jan. 2015). [ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. –Ed.]

How Israeli High-Tech Firms Are Turning the U.S.-Mexico Border into a New Kind of Hell. Miller, T. and Schivone, G., TomDispatch via AlterNet (Jan. 2015).

The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle. Scahill, J. and Begley, J., The Intercept (Feb. 2015). (“The hack…gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.”)

To the Parent of the Unvaccinated Child Who Exposed My Family to Measles. Jacks, T., Mother Jones (Feb. 2015). (“When your child gets sick, others are endangered—including my daughter with cancer.”) [To the parent of that unvaccinated child from Perry Street Palace: FUCK YOU. –Ed.]

What Not To Wear After 50. Combs, C., Better After 50 (Feb. 2015). (“Resting bitch face. Hahahahaha. Just kidding. Wear that one all you want.”)

I’m Brianna Wu, And I’m Risking My Life Standing Up To Gamergate. Wu, B., Bustle (Feb. 2015).

Natural Deception: Conned By the World Congress of Families. Parke, C., Political Research Associates (Jan. 2015). (“the organization is leading a global legislative and public relations campaign against LGBTQ and reproductive rights.”) [They seem nice. –Ed.]

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’. Kruse, M., Politico Magazine (Jan. 2015). (“Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.”)

Here Are 25 Jokes That Only Nerds Will Understand. If You Laugh Then Yep, You’re A Nerd! Boredom Therapy (Jul. 2014).

The Anti-Vaccine Movement Should Be Ridiculed, Because Shame Works. Novak, M., Gizmodo (Feb. 2015). [Hear, hear! He must be reading my blog! This d00d disagrees, though, and says “People who are told their deeply held beliefs are stupid tend to withdraw from the conversation.” Um, perhaps someone can ‘splain to me why getting these assholes to shut the fuck up would be a bad thing? I mean, there is a reason unvaccinated children with measles are found in clusters, and that reason is anti-vaxxers spreading their deeply held beliefs deadly bad ideas to others. –Ed.]

FBI monitored and critiqued African American writers for decades. Flood, A., The Guardian (Feb. 2015).

Policing Our Girls. Hutchinson, S., blackfemlens (Feb. 2015).

Gay People Posting Photos Of Gay People On Facebook Is Persecuting Christians Says Perkins. Badash, D., The New Civil Rights Movement (Jan. 2015). [To all mah gay peeps: go forth and persecute. –Ed.]

Something Really, Really Terrible Is About to Happen to Our Coral. Philpott, T., Mother Jones (Jan. 2015). [I hate people. Have I mentioned that I hate people? Well, I hate people. –Ed.]

How secular family values stack up. Zuckerman, P., The Los Angeles Times (Feb. 2015). (“Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children”) [h/t SJ]

Why science is so hard to believe. Achenbach, J., Washington Post (Feb. 2015).

10 Senate Ds Think Drillers Should Be Able to Inject Whatever the Frack They Want into Your Water. Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, Daily Kos (Jan. 2015). [In case you’re wondering who these motherfrackers are: Michael Bennet (D-CO), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Warner (D-VA). –Ed.]

Obama, Biden & Pelosi Lobbying Hard for TPP. Publius, G., Hullabaloo (Feb. 2015).

Source Code Similarities: Experts Unmask ‘Regin’ Trojan as NSA Tool. Rosenbach, M., Spiegel Online InternationaI (Jan. 2015).

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History. Legum, J., ThinkProgress (Feb. 2015). [Christ. Doesn’t Oklahoma have enough problems already with all the earthquakes from fracking? –Ed.]

No good deed goes unpunished. Vermont Political Observer (Jan. 2015). (“What I did not anticipate was the vitriolic verbal assault from those who don’t know the difference between the Classics and illegal immigrants from South America.”) [D000000000d. Have you never been on the Internet? –Ed.]

Indisputable proof that prosecutors and politicians are penalized when they hold police accountable. King, S., Daily Kos (Jan. 2015).

Is the US the only country where more men are raped than women? Filipovic, J., The Guardian (Feb. 2015). [American exceptionalism, y’all. –Ed.]

5 Bizarre Realities of Being a Man Who Was Raped by a Woman. Anonymous, via Mannen, A., Cracked (Jan. 2015).

Pipeline explodes in West Virginia. Gardner, F., Daily Kos (Jan. 2013). (“This is the fourth major pipeline incident that’s occurred this month.”)

Hobby Lobby 2: Inside Republicans’ Plan to Kill America’s Most Effective Anti-Teen-Pregnancy Program. Baumann, N., Mother Jones (Feb. 2015). (“An innovative program has reduced the abortion rate and saved a state millions. Here’s why it’s doomed.”) [SPOILER ALERT! Because conservatives. –Ed.]

Black teens who commit a few crimes go to jail as often as white teens who commit dozens. Ehrenfreund, M., The Washington Post (Jan. 2015).

Here’s What It’s Like For A Woman To Send a Job Rejection To A Man. Creighton, J., Medium (Feb. 2015).

Liberal Racism: 25 Things I Learned After I Wrote About ISIS and White Racism at the Daily Kos. DeVega, C., Daily Kos (Feb. 2015).

Women Being Inexpertly Groped In Western Art History. Ortberg, M., The Toast (Feb. 2015). [NSFW] [Hahaha. –Ed.]

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

BREAKING: King weasel infests Palace inbox, craps all over the place.

Oh. No. He. Didn’t.

whitehousemastheadFrom: President Barack Obama <info@mail.whitehouse.gov>
To: Iris Vander Pluym
Subject: Writing the rules for 21st century trade
Date: February 18, 2015

My top priority as President is making sure more hardworking Americans have a chance to get ahead. That’s why we have to make sure the United States — and not countries like China — is the one writing this century’s rules for the world’s economy.

Trade has an important role to play in supporting good-paying, middle-class jobs in the United States. Unfortunately, past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. That’s why I’ve made it clear that I won’t sign any agreement that doesn’t put American workers first.

But we also should recognize that 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders. Exports support more than 11 million jobs — and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. Failing to seize new opportunities would be devastating not just for our businesses, but for our workers too.

That’s why my Administration is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership — so we can benefit from trade that is not just free, but also fair.

Watch this video my team put together, and then share it with anyone who needs to know exactly what’s at stake.

We have the chance to open up more markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America. For the sake of our businesses, and American workers, it’s an opportunity we need to take.

But beyond greater access to the world’s fastest-growing region, the agreement will establish enforceable commitments to protect labor, environmental, and other crucial standards that Americans hold dear.

Right now, China wants to write the rules for commerce in Asia. If it succeeds, our competitors would be free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards, giving them an unfair advantage over American workers.

We can’t let that happen. We should write the rules, and level the playing field for our middle class. The first step is for Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority.

Watch the video, and then pass it along.

After years of shipping jobs overseas, our manufacturing sector is creating jobs at a pace not seen since the 1990s. Rather than outsourcing, more companies are insourcing and bringing jobs back home. Today, more than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re looking at bringing jobs back from China.

Let’s give them one more reason to get it done, by giving me the tools I need to grow our economy, boost exports for our businesses, and give more hardworking middle-class families a chance to get ahead.

Thanks,

President Barack Obama

The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111

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I have taken the liberty of highlighting only the most bald-faced, blatant lies. That bolded statement in red, however, is particularly weaselly: the problem the TPP addresses is not other countries being “free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards, giving them an unfair advantage over American workers.” The problem the TPP addresses is that, so far at least, U.S. corporations have not been entirely free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards themselves—though not for lack of trying. Also, the interests on whose behalf the TPP is being negotiated are literally the last people in the world to give a flying fuck about improving the fortunes of U.S. workers. Please.

For more on the depth of the Democratic president’s depravity here, please go (re-)read my post from November 2013. Among other things, I noted that upon ratification of the TPP (and its transatlantic doppelganger the TTIP), corporate control of governments around the world—including ours—will be complete. Since then, more information has leaked out of the TPP negotiations (see e.g. this Wikileaks press release and linked documents therein) but very few people have seen a draft of the whole thing. My BFF Congressman Alan Grayson is one of them, and he says flat out: “This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.”

Here is how it works. The TPP has a binding “proactive requirement” that participating countries conform their laws and regulations to the desires and whims of Big Business. In practice, this means gutting already weak environmental protections, labor laws, banking regulations, public safety rules, you name it: it eviscerates virtually any law or provision that can be construed as compromising profits in any way. Draconian, right? But it’s the enforcement mechanism that is the real coup for America’s Owners: investor-state dispute settlement. Corporations can sue noncompliant governments to recover the “loss” of anticipated future profits—and not in a court of law, either, but before a secret(!) panel of three corporate lawyers(!). There are no appeals from these rulings. If a government loses, taxpayers are on the hook to pay the lucky winning corporation.

We are not talking about chump change here, either, nor are we talking about some imagined dystopian future. This is already in force in some countries, via NAFTA and other terrible trade agreements:

During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people’s energy and water bills… It was sued by the international utility companies whose vast bills had prompted the government to act. For this and other such crimes, it has been forced to pay out over a billion dollars in compensation. In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long, perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.

In Canada, the courts revoked two patents owned by the American drugs firm Eli Lilly, on the grounds that the company had not produced enough evidence that they had the beneficial effects it claimed. Eli Lilly is now suing the Canadian government for $500m, and demanding that Canada’s patent laws are changed.

The TPP is “NAFTA on steroids.”

It’s not enough to stop this fast tracking bullshit the president wants, the TPP deal itself has to go down in flames. What are the chances of killing it? Well, just ponder for a moment what it means that it’s Barack Obama and Republicans who want the TPP deal fast-tracked—signed, sealed and delivered to America’s Owners a.s.a.p.

obamarepublicanLoyal Readers™ can attest that I am not particularly prone to hyperbolic hyperventilation. But that sound you just heard? Shhh. Listen carefully—it’s barely a whisper. Hear it? That is the sound of the last few tattered threads of democracy whizzing right past your head.

This webcomic provides excellent infotainment on the subject, and I really cannot recommend it highly enough. Well, except for one thing. The d00d serving the poison Kool-Aid is a piss-poor rendering of Barack Obama.

economixcomixThere is no scenario I can envision in which my fellow citizens and I are not forced to drink it.

Various and sundry.

Hello Loyal Readers™, and Happy Sunday! I hope your day is infused with joyous blasphemy and peppered liberally with sins. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, why not try to tick off all seven of the deadlies today?

  • Avarice
  • Envy
  • Gluttony
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Sloth
  • Wrath

My Amazing Lover™ and I once threw a Seven Deadly Sins party, at which guests had ample opportunities to engage in all seven of them. It was fucking epic.

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I have a new post up at TPJ Magazine; it’s about Democratic weasels infesting my inbox and becoming more and more unhinged in the lead up to the OMG Most Sooper Important Ever Midnight January 31 fundraising deadline, for an election that is almost two years away.

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I am also excited to be heading up the launch of a new series at Secular Woman in collaboration with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “The HerStory Project” will be home to an ongoing series of posts highlighting the contributions of secular women throughout history and into the present day. Lady badasses FTW.

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I have approximately umpteen gazillion tabs open in my browser to compile into a recent reading list for you lovely people, which I will get to at some point. Probably. Possibly. You see, I have been rather obsessed lately with perfecting a new recipe, which I am happy to say I think I have finally accomplished. A new post from Iris the Idiot’s Kitchen will be forthcoming.

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Now go, and sin some more.

palacehappyface

Ask Iris: Are you watching the State of the Union tonight?

Q. Are you watching the State of the Union tonight?

A. Of course not. HELLO?!

Loyal Readers™ will be well aware of my admonitions to parse with extreme skepticism any words emanating from the mouth of a politician, and to instead form your judgements based solely on their actions. (Actually this is really good advice for dealing with anyone and everyone; it will spare you many, many headaches and heartaches.) This is particularly important to note when someone’s words and actions are in conflict: their actions speak the truth about their values and priorities. If by now you do not know by his actions that Barack Obama is a True Believer in conservative economics, a Wall Street-serving corporatist, a radical and lawless executive, and an unrepentant, murderous warmonger very much like his predecessor, then you simply have not been paying attention.

Relatedly, there has recently been some media hubbub about our president “rediscovering a progressive agenda” (after six years in office, during which Democrats held one or both houses of congress). Why, gosh darnit, it’s about time we tax those billionaires! As I told a correspondent, this week I’ve witnessed people I thought were at least minimally politically astute sincerely wondering why the administration is suddenly proposing a bunch of lefty policies only after there is zero chance of passing any of them. The question contains its answer in itself.

So turn off the TV and have a nice evening. Lard knows I certainly will.

red&whitewinecheersCheers!

Behold the beauty of for-profit healthcare.

My last post touched briefly on the debacle known as Obamacare, which I have written about ever since I first started blogging and many times since. In a nutshell, my primary objection is that it entrenches and strengthens our wildly expensive, unjust, craptastic for-profit system, rather than providing any sort of bridge to transition the vast majority of Americans to a single-payer system. For-profit means just what it says: it puts healthcare in the business of producing profits, and not, you know, health.

See?

On several key measures, for-profit hospices as a group fall short of those run by nonprofit organizations.

The typical for-profit hospice:

●Spends less on nursing per patient.

●Is less likely to have sent a nurse to a patient’s home in the last days of life.

●Is less likely to provide more intense levels of care for patients undergoing a crisis in their symptoms.

●Has a higher percentage of patients who drop out of hospice care before dying. High rates of dropout are often viewed as a sign that patients were pushed out of hospice when their care grew expensive, left dissatisfied or were enrolled for hospice even though they were not close to death.

They also deny their patients palliative care they deem too expensive, like radiation treatments to shrink tumors.

Hospice operators have an economic incentive to provide less care because they get paid a flat daily fee from Medicare for each of their patients. That means that the fewer services they provide, the wider their profit margin.

Wow! Who would have thought?

Industry advocates warned against using the findings to rule out care from a for-profit hospice.

That’s because they are industry advocates, paid to advocate for the hospice industry. And they seem to be quite successful at what they do:

The number of hospice firms has risen rapidly, and over the past decade the growth has come almost entirely from new for-profit operations. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of for-profit hospices tripled to 2,196, according to federal figures, compared with about 1,500 nonprofit hospices, including those run by local governments.

Good job, industry advocates! And of course the ultimate villains in this story are never lurking very far away:

The expansion has been driven in large part by investors, including private equity firms, hedge funds and entrepreneurs. More than a dozen private equity firms have invested in businesses that provide hospice care, including giants such as The Carlyle Group, Kohlberg & Company, Summit Partners and GTCR.

“Hospice [mergers and acquisitions] market is red hot (peak valuation levels),” according to a presentation by financial analysts at Cain Brothers last year, which cited, among other things, the favorable U.S. demographics — more old people.

“Hospice continues to be of robust interest to Wall Street,” said Carsten Beith, a managing director at Cain Brothers.

The more neglect and misery inflicted on the elderly and terminally ill, the more money motherfuckers make. Red hot market. Robust interest to Wall Street.

If that’s not your cue to run far, far away from for-profit hospice care, I’d really like some of that (illegal!) medical marijuana you’re smoking.

Defenders of market-based healthcare generally and private medical insurance in particular—a.k.a. conservatives—would no doubt attack my reasoning here, perhaps by claiming that the real problem is too much regulation (nope: as the linked article notes, hospices are terribly under-regulated) or too much government interference in the Glorious Free Market™ that leads to such disparate outcomes between for-profit and non-profit hospice operations. Alternatively, conservatives might spin or deny reality, with which they maintain only the most tenuous grasp. That is because in the bizarre wasteland that is the conservative mind, the well-established fact that non-profits and single-payer health systems yield far superior health outcomes across a wide range of measures (and do so much more cost-efficiently) simply cannot be acknowledged as true. Thus stories like this one in The Washington Post must be dismissed or explained away by ever more hilariously absurd rationalizations, lest we all fall into a communist death spiral and ruin America.

medicare4all