Weekend Update 02-11-2012

Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics. Of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever that the GOP actually has to address facts with their constituency. Ever. And the naive report of salary (that federal employees earn 2% more), done by a group that lacks the expertise to analyze salaries contradicts the reports of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the group of people who do know how to analyze labor statistics. Why the difference? The BLS take into account required experience, education, and scope of duties and responsibilities and uses those to compare federal employees in given professions to private sector employees who actually have similar jobs. And by that scale, federal pay lags pretty significantly in aggregate. (Of course, it varies by profession.) One huge difference is that the federal government actually provides its low-level employees sufficient pay and benefits to form a living wage, even if a minimal one. So in that part of the spectrum, it probably does “over-pay” if your only measure of salary is the most work for the least cost you can whip out of someone, no matter the societal cost of your action. And I’ve been a federal employee for twenty-six years now. When I started, our benefits were pretty average and they’ve largely stayed the same. (Fortunately, it requires a literal act of Congress to change our benefits.) Across the private sector, though, as unions have been decimated, benefits have plummeted and sometimes almost vanished altogether. This actually reflects GOP tactics nationwide. We’ve seen it particularly on display in Wisconsin and Ohio since the last election cycle. They attempt to pit different groups against each other so they can distract them all from the way they are actively looting our country. It reminds me of the story of the rich white man who sits down at a table with a poor white sharecropper and a black man with a huge plate of cookies. The rich white man takes all the cookies but one. He then turns to the poor white man and tells him, “You better watch out. That black man is trying to take your cookie.” That’s exactly what’s happening with the GOP. They are trying to set union against non-union, private sector against public sector, middle class against poor, working poor against indigent poor, white against black, white against hispanic, and every other division they can find to exploit. Why? To distract people from the fact that they’re getting all the cookies. Duh. And to get those groups to keep pulling each other down. Maybe when 80% of Americans are back to living in company towns, they’ll be satisfied. Something like that seems to be their goal. Maybe they want the last cookie, too, and will take it while we’re fighting amongst ourselves. I won’t even analyze the bad math. I’ve already established that basic math skills seem to be a lost art in our country. I can’t tell if they author simply can’t do math or if he just recognizes that most of his audience can’t do math so will be easily fooled by his propaganda. (And if you can’t tell what’s wrong with the math regarding federal employee pay, go get a 5th grade or so math textbook and come back when you understand percentages.)

A Prayer for Survivors. It’s at the bottom of the post. Make sure you scroll down and read it.

Obama the Moderate. It’s an interesting and, from everything I can tell, pretty accurate graph.

Things Are Not O.K. And they won’t be as long as we still have fewer people employed than we did in 2001 and more long-term unemployed than at any point since the Great Depression. So far my older three seem to be weathering this economy OK. But I still have two more kids who will need to find employment at some point in the not too distant future. And Robert Reich on the downward mobility of the middle class in America.

Why did the South flip from solidly Democratic, which they had been since the Reconstruction to Republican? The maps in this post tell the story. The Civil Rights Movement, plain and simple. LBJ knew it would happen and he still did the right thing instead of the politically expedient thing. People who believe we are somehow a post-rascist society are either naive or are lying to themselves. We may become such a society some day, but we’re nowhere near it yet.

We’ve always been at war with Eastasia. Must be inconvenient to be an economist having to fight back against your own discredited words. That’s actually the main reason I started reading Krugman. As I researched things, I kept finding stuff he had written before events that actually predicted what would happen if certain actions were taken. Then those actions or inactions were in fact taken and the result Krugman had predicted from his models occurred. In other words, I found him credible. Not so with many others.

#NOMOREDEADKIDS For the record, I don’t consider Dobson substantially better than Pearl. He just promulgates variations on the theme.

St. Isaac the Syrian on the audacity of mercy. If I have a patron saint, it’s certainly St. Isaac.

This isn’t a war on religion or Catholics. It’s just America. Really good post by Diana Butler Bass pointing out that we all pay for things we don’t agree with and with which we even have a moral objection.

And this column makes a point similar to the one I made. The First Amendment also prevents the Catholic Church from imposing its views on those who are just looking for a job in health care to support their family from a major employer in their area. Catholic hospitals and universities are largely indistinguishable from secular versions of the same in today’s world. I know that for a fact; I’m quite familiar with both in our area. In addition to other things I’ve mentioned, my older son was born at Seton (and I’m not even sure I was aware it was a Catholic hospital at the time) and I’ve known many people who worked in its system (really only one of two significant hospital systems in our city). My second wife graduated from St. Edward’s University. My wife attended it for a time. And I’ve known a ton of people who attended it. Arguing about the reason the Catholic Church started these institutions is largely irrelevant to a discussion of how they operate today. The author also makes the point I did that if the Republicants had allowed health care reform to take a more rational shape, this wouldn’t have been left in the lap of employers in the first place. But we already know they are nothing by hypocrites. I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted by the vocal Catholic Bishops as well. I’ve yet to hear of one of them threatening to bar a Catholic Republican politician from the Eucharist for supporting the death penalty, opposing health care reform, or any of a host of other Catholic pro-life dogmas. Their “outrage” seems very narrowly focused.

And another good column from the New Yorker on the contraceptive coverage issue.

And this is an intriguing chart. Everyone has probably heard that 58% of Catholics disagree with their Bishops on the contraceptive coverage issue. The rest of the results haven’t gotten as much air time. It’s white Protestants who mostly support them. And of those, white mainline protestants roughly break 50/50 while white evangelicals overwhelming disagree with the Obama administration. (And yes, I phrased it that way on purpose. My gut tells me it’s more about finding any reason to hate Obama than any deep support for Catholicism. I know too many white evangelicals.) And yeah. We’re definitely a post-racist country.

NPR does an excellent job of pointing out that the requirement for plans to cover contraceptives has been in place since 2000. And it’s been incorporated into many state laws as well. The only thing that is really new in the HHS regulation is that it must be considered preventive care and offered by insurers with no deductible or copayment.

This is an interesting post exploring “Left” and “Right” political poles. I agree with much of the central premise. If you study ancient history in particular, as well as the not so ancient sort, it quickly becomes clear that regardless of culture it’s difficult to separate the social concerns of the “Left” from Christianity. That’s their source. Historically, there is no other. I also like the use of Nietzsche. I shudder as the things he wrote increasingly become reality, but he had sharp insights into the nature of human beings and their societies. I also find the appellation “conservative” jarring when applied to the modern political “Right”. We’ve completely forgotten what “liberal” and “conservative” mean. And the association of the “Right” with Christianity in our present time is one of the most bizarre things of all. It makes no rational sense whatsoever. Of course, we’re not nearly as rational as we often like to think ourselves to be. There are a number of places where I would outright disagree with certain statements made or connections drawn. Those who know me can probably pick them out. But I don’t really want to direct focus to those aspects. Rather, read it and get a sense for the broader themes and descriptions. They are good ones.

Comic book hero and villain alignment chart. (And if you don’t get it, you clearly never played Dungeons & Dragons.)

Want to promote “family values”? Do something about income inequality, loss of employment opportunity, and poverty.

You’ve got to love Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine first thoughts on Gingrich and Romney.

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