Monday, January 25, 2010

Just in case you thought I was joking

Talking Points Memo

Democrats are calling on New Hampshire State Rep. Alfred Baldasaro (R) to resign over his remarks that the state "sold" children for $10,000 each when "they said that homosexual couples, not married, can adopt."

but wait - there's more!

He elaborated with some choice metaphors:

So because I disagree on something that's pushed down my throat, I'm supposed to roll over because, representative, you think it's normal? I'm sorry you got the wrong person.

Then things got really bad: "I wanted to make sure everyone understood here, that this legislature sold the rights of $10,000 per kid under title four, when they said that homosexual couples, not married, can adopt."

And even more - there's video! The first guy you see is Rep. David Bates, who is in favor of putting slavery and interracial marriage to a public vote. Crazy Al kicks in at about the 20 second mark:

You can hear him talk about how his constituents didn't even know that marriage bill had passed - as if that were somehow the fault of the legislature. What he's really saying is that his constituents are not very bright - and since he's in his second term, that may well be true.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Now that we've abandoned democracy

in favor of corporatocracy, we might consider adopting this form of government:

Friday, January 22, 2010

The REAL Size of the Bailout

Mother Jones gives us a look at the REAL size of the bailout.

The price tag for the Wall Street bailout is often put at $700 billion—the size of the Troubled Assets Relief Program. But TARP is just the best known program in an array of more than 30 overseen by Treasury Department and Federal Reserve that have paid out or put aside money to bail out financial firms and inject money into the markets. To get a sense of the size of the real $14 trillion bailout, see our charts here.

Granted, not all of these funds have been used – but they could have been. Imagine if even a quarter of this money had been spent on job creation and helping small business entrepreneurs get loans? Instead, billions were shoveled into banks who responded by refusing to loan the rest of us money, while handing out bonuses to the same guys who drove the financial bus over the cliff.

MOJO also takes a look at the behavior of the banks in: Too Big to Jail?

MAYBE WALL STREET should open a casino right there on the corner of Broad, because these guys simply cannot lose. After kneecapping the global economy, costing millions their homes and livelihoods, and saddling our grandchildren with massive debt—after all that, they're cashing in their bonuses from 2008. That's right, 2008—when amid the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the $700 billion TARP legislation (a mere 5 percent of a $14 trillion bailout; see "The Real Size of the Bailout"), humiliated banks rolled back executive bonuses. Or so we thought: In fact, those bonuses were simply reconfigured to have a higher proportion of company stock. Those shares weren't worth so much at the time, as the execs made a point of telling Congress, but that meant they could only go up, and by the time they did, the public (suckers!) would have forgotten the whole exercise. It worked out beautifully: The value of JPMorgan Chase's 2008 bonuses has increased 20 percent to $10.5 billion, an average of nearly $6 million for the top 200 execs. Goldman's 2008 bonuses are worth $7.8 billion.

And why are bank stocks worth more now? Because of the bailout, of course. Bankers aren't being rewarded for pulling the economy out of the doldrums. Nope, they're simply skimming from the trillions we've shoveled at them. The house always wins. Indeed, 2009 bonuses are expected to be 30 to 40 percent higher than 2008's.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate creeps higher and higher, as does the number of home foreclosures. It sure is nice of us working folks to go broke, so the bankers don’t have to.

This is cross-posted at

A Visit to the People's House

I attended two legislative hearings in Concord this week. I was at the judiciary committee hearing of the bill to repeal marriage equality (HB 1590) and the hearing of the proposed amendment (CACR 28) to the NH Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. It was, to put it mildly, an interesting day.

As we all know, NH legislators are volunteers – citizens who earn the princely sum of $100 a year for the privilege and headaches of representing us in Concord. This is how it works in representative democracy. When I first became a community organizer, and began spending time at the State House, my boss schooled me on how to dress and how to behave at a hearing. Respectful was one of the key words in those instructions. These are our representatives, acting on our behalf, in the people’s house. That means that no matter how we might feel about individual legislators or issues, we use good manners when we’re in that house, just as (presumably) we would when visiting any house.

This is a lesson that the tea bagger crowd is not being taught. At both hearings I attended, there were disruptive people making ugly comments, and in one case, a man bellowing at Rep. David Cote, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. This is what the tea party movement and Fox News has given us: rude, uninformed individuals, with no respect for the process, who just want to shout everyone down. After watching some of the sponsors of the legislation, it was even more understandable.

Representative Al Baldasaro from Londonderry is the sponsor of HB 1590. Baldasaro is a transplant from Massachusetts (giving lie to the GOP libruls from MA moving to NH theory) who is serving his second term. When asked by the chair to keep his remarks to the point, since there were so many waiting to testify, he responded by talking about what a long day he had ahead of him. Representative Baldasaro seems to suffer from a serious lack of impulse control, bellowing at the chair during the CACR 28 hearing. He went on at length about “people with agendas” stealthily pushing marriage equality through, while declaring that some of his best friends were “on the other side” which appeared to be his euphemism for gay. Even though he thinks they’re degenerates undeserving of equality, I’m sure he’s a great pal to his “best friends.” Perhaps the single most astounding statement made by Rep. Baldasaro was “some of my constituents didn’t even know this bill had passed, until gay people started getting married,” while people in the audience nodded approvingly. Is that the fault of the legislature? As a NH voter, it's my job to be informed about what is going on in my state. That this bunch couldn't be bothered to pay attention - and now they're angry about it, shows a sense of entitlement that I find befuddling at best.

But - entitled, they are. They are angry that the issue of marriage equality wasn’t on a ballot. They are frightened, angry people who hate gay folks, and believe they shouldn’t be treated as equal citizens, but rather than say that, they say, “we should have the right to vote.” Representative David Bates of Windham went as far as to say that interracial marriage and ending slavery ought to have been put to a vote. These people shout about the constitution, while seeming to have little understanding of what is in either the US or the state versions. I earned some dirty looks from a group when I pointed out that the Bill of Rights was never put to a popular vote. The few wives who were present (following a few steps behind their bellicose spouses) are unaware that if the 19th Amendment had been put to the popular vote, they wouldn’t be voting – or that if it were voted on today, their husbands would vote against it. One guy spoke about how marriage equality isn’t a civil rights issue because it doesn’t have anything to do with black people.

In contrast, the married gay couples who testified before the committee did so quietly, respectfully, and briefly. One gay couple made a point of thanking the legislature for giving them equality. Couple after couple testified about their very normal lives; paying taxes, running businesses, and community involvement. They were very dignified in the presence of the angry thugs who would treat them as second class citizens.

Rep. Bates is fighting hard for discrimination. He’s part of a campaign to put bigotry on our warrants at town meeting this year. His presentation included a big map of all of the states that don’t have marriage equality – saying that NH should fall in line with all 85% of the other states. I couldn’t help but notice that those states also have state income and/or sales taxes. Rep. Bates should be careful what he wishes for.

There was really nothing new presented at either hearing. The members of the far right fringe are aware that this is an election year, and they’re very cynically using these uninformed, angry people, in the hopes of getting their dirty paws on out-of-state hate money. It seems unlikely that HB 1590 will go anywhere. So far, the NH legislature has voted down identical constitutional amendments twice. We do not frivolously amend our state constitution, and we have never amended it to enshrine discrimination, or take away rights from a minority group.

“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” Alice Paul

© sbruce 2010

This was printed as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on January 22, 2010

h/t to patriotboy for Republican Jesus

Monday, January 18, 2010

Killing for Christ

ABC - US Military Weapons Inscribed with Secret Jesus Bible Codes

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

At the end of the serial number on Trijicon's ACOG gun sight, you can read "JN8:12", a reference to the New Testament book of John, Chapter 8, Verse 12, which reads: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The ACOG is widely used by the U.S. military.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

Yet another way to win hearts and minds in the middle east. Or anywhere else. This is where our tax dollars are going, people.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hyde, Health Care, and Your Money

To answer their question - I don't want a dime of my tax dollars going to the Pentagon or funding US global empire building. If these aging white patriarchs really gave a damn about life, they'd oppose war, too. We all know that their concern extends to the not yet conceived. Once the unborn is in fact, born, all concern evaporates, and the little sprout is on his/her own, to pull his/herself up by her bootie straps.


The bad economy is giving new life to an old, dishonorable trade – the scam artists. Scammers are coming out of the woodwork these days. The days when all we had to worry about was the Nigerian investment email scams are over.

An Oregon couple was recently duped by a “mystery shopper” scam that involved being sent money orders they were to use for making mystery shopper purchases, and for being paid. They were told to send the rest of the funds back, via Western Union. The money orders turned out to have been forged, so they actually sent their own money to the scammers.

The Better Business Bureau is seeing an increase in all kinds of scams:

Lottery and sweepstakes scam — Victims get a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery, claiming that they won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents some of the winnings. To get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire money back to the scam artists supposedly to cover taxes or some other fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.

Job hunter scams — Scam artists offer job hunters fake job applications in exchange for personal information, such as bank account numbers.

Google work-from-home scam — Scam artists offer victims materials to work from home using Google or Twitter, but, after the victims pay for the materials, they discover the at-home job is a hoax.

Given the current job market, it’s easy to see why folks would check out those “earn big bucks at home” ads that seem to be a staple in every newspaper and magazine. This Site gives helpful advice on how not to get scammed by work at home offers. One important piece of advice:
Do not pay anything. If you encounter a website or someone asking you to pay money to them for membership or other purposes before you can work, then it is most likely to be a scam. No one should ask for money just for you to be able to work. Most likely than not, they only want your money and you will not have the job you want. You will be just wasting your money.

Phishing Scams are another thing to watch out for. An email claiming to be from your bank, credit card company, or brokerage house may well be a phony. Don’t give out any personal information without checking first. The idea behind this sort of scam is to get your personal information for the purposes of identity theft.

Tech Republic tells us about 10 email scams to watch out for, including the Census scam:

Another recent email scam also involves the federal government, but instead of accusing you of a crime, it uses your knowledge of real, routine government activities against you. Everyone knows that the U.S. government conducts a census every 10 years, and 2010 is the year. Citizens are required by law to answer the census-takers’ questions. Most people also know that many government-related tasks can now be done online.
Scammers are taking advantage of this to send phishing emails that claim to be from the Census Bureau, making it “convenient and easy” for you to fulfill your census obligation, either by filling out an attached form and emailing it back or by visiting a Web site to fill in a form. The form asks for all sorts of personal information, including the social security number and date of birth of everyone in your household, which can be used for identity theft.

These scams involve either identity theft, or infecting your computer with malware or viruses.

The bottom line is – if an offer comes to you, it’s probably a scam. If it seems too good to be true, it’s definitely a scam! If you encounter a scam, or get caught up in one, contact your local Better Business Bureau, and your state’s Attorney General’s office. The BBB keeps a list of updated scams on their web page for your state, and many state AG’s offices keep a list online as well. In looking at my state’s BBB website, I found a warning to beware Haitian earthquake charity scams. Be sure to carefully check out any charity you are thinking about donating to in advance.

cross posted at blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pat Robertson is a lunatic

Listen to ole "I can divert hurricanes" Pat speak about how Haiti made a pact with the devil, and that's why they had the earthquake. Can anyone explain to me why in the world this man is taken seriously?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Too Big to Fail - the Fallout

The Credit Card Act of 2009 has been touted as a successful bit of legislation that will force credit card companies to engage in more disclosure. Card companies will no longer be able to arbitrarily raise interest rates on customers who pay on time – just because they can. The bad news is that the banks are going to make up the losses in other ways.
From the WSJ:
Credit-card companies already have been racing to slip new fees and practices into customer contracts ahead of the law. Issuers are closing accounts, switching cards with fixed interest rates to variable rates and introducing cards that have an annual fee.
Christopher Moss, who regularly shops at sporting-goods chain Gander Mountain, recently was notified that he will be charged a $1 "processing fee" each time he receives a printed statement of his Gander credit-card account rather than an electronic one. The 50-year-old paralegal said he is prepared to cut up the credit card even though he likes the loyalty rewards that come with it."It's not like I can't afford it, but it's another little stick in the consumer's eye," Mr. Moss said.
Banks will be also be changing their practices, to make up for the fact that they now have to receive customer consent before charging overdraft fees.

Other banks are expected to eliminate free checking completely, raise fees on safe-deposit boxes and charge customers more for issuing a stop-payment on a check.

"There may be some areas of opportunity that banks really haven't focused on because they had the engine of overdraft fees," said Chris Gill, who specializes in the community-banking industry at SNL Financial in Charlottesville, Va

The cost of accessing our money continues to rise. The Federal Reserve
will be looking into regulating ATM fees.
For those who want to stop paying ATM fees, a number of phone apps are now available to tell us where ATMs for our banks are, so that we can save the fees.

Arianna Huffington and other folks involved with the Huffpo blog, have launched a
campaign called Move Your Money.

The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, have had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leveraged activities that brought our economy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face to taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending, even though the need to get credit flowing again was one of the main points used in selling the public the bank bailout. But since April, JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo -- all of which took billions in taxpayer money -- have cut lending to businesses by $100 billion.

Meanwhile, America's Main Street community banks -- the vast majority of which avoided the banquet of greed and corruption that created the toxic economic swamp we are still fighting to get ourselves out of -- are struggling. Many of them have closed down (or been taken over by the FDIC) over the last 12 months. The government policy of protecting the Too Big and Politically Connected to Fail is badly hurting the small banks, which are having a much harder time competing in the financial marketplace. As a result, a system which was already dangerously concentrated at the top has only become more so.

The folks at Move Your Money urge us to put our money in local banks and credit unions. They have a tool on their website: to help you discover what your local banking options are. Investing in local banks keeps the money in our communities, where it can do the most good. It’s a simple, beautiful, concept. Your local bank is less likely to add all manner of new, egregious charges. They want your business – because unlike the giant corporate banks, they are not too big to fail.

cross posted at

Friday, January 08, 2010

The NH GOP Nanny State

During last year’s NH legislative session, the minority party frequently
accused the majority party of wasting time on unimportant issues, instead of
focusing on jobs and the economy. They wailed and gnashed their teeth over
the time spent on the issue of marriage equality - even though that was an issue of
justice and civil rights. In looking over the bills ready to be worked on this year, it seems that the minority party has chosen to actually do exactly what they whined
the other guys were doing all last year.

There are 834 items for the legislature to deal with in 2010, including bills, 13 constitutional amendments, and approximately 20 resolutions. At least 4 of the
proposed constitutional amendments deal with taxation, including amendments
for and against a broad based tax. There are two amendments that deal with
marriage equality in our state. One calls for an amendment to definite marriage
as between a man and a woman, and CACR 25 would amend the constitution of
our state to provide that the voters can veto laws by referendum. We saw how the
referendum process worked last year in Maine, when out of state hate groups
spent millions to ensure that gay Mainers would continue to be treated as lesser
citizens. The referendum process has pretty much destroyed the economy of the
state of California. This is what Representatives Boyce, Howard, Rodeschin,
Elliot, Hickel, and State Senator Jeb Bradley would like to unleash upon NH. This
is, of course, a response to the marriage equality bill that went into law on
January first. The far right Republicans would love to have all of that out of state
money come in from hate groups, to fund their own version of the nanny state,
and undoubtedly fund their own campaigns as well.

Among the resolutions, a number of gems stand out. HCR 22 calls upon
Congress to audit ACORN funding. ACORN is a community organization that
helps low income folks with issues like housing, and voter registration. They’ve
been demonized by the far right and their media mouthpieces - and apparently
Representatives Ulery, Haefner, Renzulo, Hogan, and Villeneuve aren’t aware
that ACORN has been absolved of any wrong doing.

HCR 26 affirms the state’s religious heritage and the constitutional right to
practice religion and free speech. Since none of this is under assault, this
resolution is redundant - other than to affirm the views of the religious right, as
deemed necessary by Representatives Hinckle, Bates, Palmer, Groen, and Ulery.

Now we move on to some of the highlights (or lowlights, if you prefer) amongst
the bills. HB 1683 is “An act requiring random drug testing of public assistance
recipients.” This bill would require anyone receiving TANF benefits, or food
stamps to undergo random urine tests. If a recipient failed a test, there would be
a mandatory second test. If that test were failed, the recipient would be denied
further benefits, and would not be able to reapply for 2 years. This bill was
written by the same people who abhor abortion, yet think robbing children of
food or shelter because their parent might smoke a joint now and then is a good
idea. I think we should be drug testing all members of the NH legislature. This
obscenity is brought to us by Representatives Baldasaro, Itse, Hinkle, Hogan, and

HB1666 calls for the licensing of outpatient abortion facilities. This is a long and
odious bill, that seems intended, not only to make abortions harder to get, but to
get access to womens health records. In this bill, any woman having 3 or more
abortions would have to be reported to law enforcement for “human trafficking.”
The language of the bill is couched in a lot of faux wording regarding how very
much the State of NH is concerned with “protecting the health of women.”
Clearly, we need men to do this for us, since we’re such silly little ninnies on our
own. This bill is sponsored by Representatives Baldasaro, Hogan, Dumaine, and
Roberge. The same Baldasaro and Hogan who want to randomly drug test food
stamp recipients. No hypocrisy there. It’s also unnecessary, stir-up-the-far-right
nutjob contingent, Big Brother legislation.

And speaking of Big Brother, the minority party also wants to get involved in your
divorce. HB 510 permits no fault divorce, only if there are no minor children
involved. Representatives Hopper, Boyce, Groen, Bates, and O’Brien would like to
make it even more difficult and painful for you to get a divorce, which by all
accounts, would seem to be difficult and painful enough.

By now, you’ve seen a number of the same names repeated, over and over. You
can count on a bill being far right nannyism if it’s sponsored by Itse, Baldasaro,
Groen, Ulery, or O’Brien. These are the same kind of Republicans who were
positively enraged by a proposed seat-belt law a couple of years ago, loudly
decrying the “nanny state.” They love to make stentorian speeches about how the
GOP is against gummint interference in people’s lives. That is, as long as the
people are wealthy, white, heterosexual men. If you’re a woman, your uterus is
public property.

There is a law against adultery in NH - it’s been on the books for 200 years. Some
legislators are trying to repeal it. I’d like to suggest that in the spirit of the GOP nanny state, we keep that bill, AND we add a new one. I propose a panel that
would oversee all Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis prescriptions in our state. The men
who are prescribed this type of drug would have to go before the panel, to make a
case as to why they need this prescription, and to prove that they aren’t going to
be use for adulterous purposes. Itse? Ulery? Baldasaro? Which one of the nannies
wants to write this up and sponsor it?

“Although, he feels pretty confident that New Hampshire will return Republicans
back to state government now that New Hampshire is becoming a nanny state.”

Howie Carr, right wing talk radio host, speaking about former Senator John
Sununu in 2008.

© sbruce 2010 published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun 1-8-10

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More fun and games from the Fetus Fetishists

Antis outside Louisville, KY clinic start wearing fake escort vests

Anti-choicers have taken to wearing orange vests outside Louisville, KY clinics - the same kind of vests that clinic escorts wear. Clinic escorts are needed, of course, because of harassers like these who are allowed to stand outside clinics and browbeat women as they go into clinics.

A look at what it's like:

h/t to feministing for bringing this to our attention.

Americans Unhappy at Work

Americans unhappy at work
Even Americans who are lucky enough to have work in this economy are becoming more unhappy with their jobs, according to a new survey that found only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work.

That was the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in more than 22 years of studying the issue. In 2008, 49 percent of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.

Certainly a large part of this has to do with the fact that people feel stuck in their jobs. The normal process of moving up or moving on has been dramatically affected by the deep recession and skyrocketing unemployment.

That isn't the whole picture. This study finds that employee unhappiness has been increasing for the last 20 years.

Workers have grown steadily more unhappy for a variety of reasons:

-- Fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.

-- Incomes have not kept up with inflation.

-- The soaring cost of health insurance has eaten into workers' take-home pay.

If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America's competitiveness and productivity. And it could make unhappy older workers less inclined to take the time to share their knowledge and skills with younger workers.

In other depressing employment news there were zero net jobs created in the last decade.

There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.

Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 -- and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.

In other words, the US created more jobs during the Great Depression than we have in the last decade. This is grim news, especially when the economists are focused more on Wall St. than Main St. Without working Americans, our economy will continue to founder.

cross posted at

Monday, January 04, 2010

An Update on the Company My Husband Kept

Well, it seems that my last contact at NY Life truly was wonderful.(The check really was in the mail!) Her name is Donna Shoop, and I hope that if you ever have to call them, that you get to speak to her. Donna was incredibly helpful - and she actually followed up with me, something no one else I'd spoken to at this giant corporation had bothered to do. Donna - thank you! I praised you to your boss - so I hope you hear about it.

That's one part of the story - here's the rest.

On New Year's Eve (last Thursday) I had a call from a higher up in the claims department. We finally connected today. She told me that in the course of reviewing recent claims, she realized that I'd had a pretty crappy NY Life experience. I don't buy it. Last Thursday there were 4 visits to my blog from NY Life. Somehow, someone became aware that I was blogging about them, and they decided that I was important enough to respond to. Given that I'm a small town yokel, with a pretty limited audience, this really is kind of amusing.

As always, I'm grateful for the power that I have as a result of being an op-ed writer and a blogger - but as always I am aware of the people who don't have that kind of power, and it is deeply disturbing.