I've mentioned this type of rampant sociopathic behavior many times, but I can't top the words that come out of their mouths. And as far as their educational backgrounds, degrees or lack thereof? Just listen to their opinions.
You have presumably heard of Tom Perkins, though probably not before last Friday, despite the fact that he is one of the richest men in the country. It was on Friday that the Wall Street Journal published his remarkable letter to the editor, in which Perkins foresaw an anti-rich “Kristallnacht” on the near horizon. (The Kristallnacht comparison is especially odd considering that there are actual historical examples of state-sanctioned violence and destruction of property directed against elites. Predicting a progressive “Reign of Terror” would’ve been marginally less idiotic, if nearly as hyperbolic.)
Perkins, who once killed someone with his yacht, was invited to apologize for his insensitive comments in an interview with Bloomberg, a finance media company owned by and named for one of his fellow plutocrats, but he decided instead to wholly embrace the caricature of the paranoid rich kook.
When you remove the always ill-advised Nazi analogy, Perkins’ comments are indistinguishable from the sorts of things hedge fund managers and venture capitalists and executives say on CNBC literally every day.
As I, and as Josh Marshall and Joshua Green have written, the combination of the financial crash and the election of Barack Obama made a generation of billionaires lose their minds. The Perkins worldview — that the rich are under siege, that any and all government efforts to make “market outcomes” fairer represent tyranny and threaten to become actual atrocities, and that the modern Democratic Party is led not by well-off neoliberals but by frothing revolutionary leftists — is to America’s ultra-wealthy what birtherism is to rank-and-file right-wingers: a comforting paranoid fantasy that facts and reason cannot possibly hope to dispel.
One question raised by Matt Yglesias is why anyone bothers listening to deluded billionaires. People like Tom Perkins are quite good at making a lot of money, but not exactly experts in other fields. Indeed, the modern American plutocrat rarely wastes an opportunity to expose his ignorance of history, political science and even basic mainstream economics.
Numerous authors have become quite successful by making a living out of explaining science and world affairs to the executive class in language so simple that a child could grasp the basic points. Despite that ignorance, there is an entire industry built around soliciting the opinions of the wealthy on subjects unrelated to their wealth. (Some media companies see this as the prayed-for replacement for print subscriptions and advertising dollars, and have reoriented their business around conferences and similar rich-splaining events.)
But we listen to their opinions, no matter how stupid they are, because our elected officials listen to their opinions, and their jobs depend on not recognizing or acknowledging how stupid they are. It is impossible to get elected president without the backing of a cadre of multimillionaires. It is nearly impossible to get elected to the U.S. Senate without a couple in your corner. The multimillionaires and billionaires fund every effective political interest group in the country, from gun rights to gay rights groups.
What makes the wealthy persecution fantasy so risible is that our political class is responsive almost solely to the priorities and views of the rich, but the fantasy serves a purpose: It prevents Congress from actually acting to address economic inequity.
As long as the rich perceive even ineffectual social opprobrium as an existential threat, politicians will be too terrified to advance any actual redistributionist agenda. Our best hope for achieving anything on income inequality under this political system, in this climate, might be to somehow convince rich people that it’s their idea, and that we all love and admire them a great deal for coming up with it.
— Alex Pareene
As for Obama's SOTU . . . I didn't watch it. After his action, or lack thereof, on all my personal issues (jobs exported overseas with no support for those suffering stateside, the attacks on women's issues, the health care nightmare for those without resources in states that refused to expand Medicaid coverage, etc.), I thought it the wiser course of action for my blood pressure.
Nick Gillespie at Constitutional Insurgent covers my thoughts on the Obama Wars:
The most emotionally powerful moment in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was also its most morally dubious. The nation’s commander in chief drew attention to a wounded warrior while eliding any responsibility for placing the young man in harm’s way.
A record number of Americans – 60 percent – think the government is too powerful, says Gallup, which also finds a near record low percentage trusts the government “to do what is right.” Who can blame us? The government under Republican and Democratic presidents has spent virtually the entire 21st century sending young men and women to fight in ill-defined and unsuccessful elective wars. That’s bad enough, but then to use them as props in political speeches? That’s positively obscene.
After a typical laundry list of empty boasts (unemployment is down largely because labor force participation is tanking), fantasy policy prescriptions (“a new savings bond that encourages people to build a nest egg”?), and outright falsehoods (economic mobility has not declined), President Obama introduced America to Cory Remsburg, “a proud Army Ranger,” who “on his tenth deployment … was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan.”
Even more than economic meltdown, America’s 21st century has been defined by unfocused and ill-considered elective wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While both were initially prosecuted in the name of preventing another 9/11 attack, 53 percent of Americans considered Iraq a mistake by the war’s 10th anniversary and just 17 percent support the Afghanistan war. None of that seems to resonate with Obama, who unilaterally (and unconstitutionally) committed the U.S. to NATO bombing raids in Libya despite no clear national interest and was just days away from bombing Syria before public outrage and a small handful of elected officials forced him to back down last fall.
“Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings,” Bob Dylan once sang, updating Samuel Johnson’s dark maxim. Obama’s gesture in the State of the Union will only accelerate the cynicism that already understandably dominates public opinion. There is no more serious decision that a government makes than to send its citizens (to) war. And there is nothing more disturbing than a president using soldiers’ sacrifices as a way of selling a grab-bag of domestic policy agenda items.
Joan Walsh had a few thoughts that I felt empathy with about what I expected, what happened and what the news media reported.
Another SOTU leak revealed an internal split over whether Obama should stress “income inequality” or “opportunity,” and revealed that “opportunity” won because apparently income inequality is a big downer and sounds like class warfare. In the end, the president did mention income inequality while stressing “ladders of opportunity,” but the preliminary hype made me more sensitive to his disappointing storytelling: Obama blamed the decline of opportunity and the rise of inequality on “massive shifts in technology and global competition,” but left out the deliberate shift of wealth and power from the majority to the top 1 percent, and the deliberate dismantling of “ladders of opportunity” that began under Ronald Reagan and continue through today.
Overall, it was a well-delivered but tepid and still disappointingly cautious speech. He made a great joke about “Mad Men” policies toward women, but given the way Republicans have escalated the War on Women just this week thanks to Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul, he missed opportunities to highlight his party’s superiority, especially given the House voting for more restrictions on abortion just hours earlier.
Once again, though, as throughout his career, the president is blessed by having lame enemies. In her SOTU response, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers ironically decried government “controlling” our healthcare while of course ignoring her role in the earlier House vote on controlling women’s bodies.
We are now fated for three more years to live in a state of stasis between the rule (and care) of those who want to hurt us (for our own good, of course) and those who want to trade policies away that will help us for a small bounty of goodwill for themselves.
I rest my case.
There are other cases that will not be arrested so easily.
The ABX Files
Documents reveal that the FDA allows antibiotics in animal feed despite its own studies showing risk to human health.
@bittelmethis • January 27, 2014
Thousands of pages of internal documents obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration show that the agency has continued to allow dozens of antibiotics to be used in animal feed over the past decade — even after its own internal studies confirmed that the practice could pose a serious threat to human health.
Public health advocates have been pushing the FDA to crack down on the practice of feeding antibiotics (or ABX) to livestock, which factory farms do in large numbers in order to promote growth and keep their animals from dying in cramped, fetid conditions. The overuse of antibiotics on the farm is connected to the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, which can pass from animals to humans.
Yet the FDA has been slow to take action, and now, the documents obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) show that the agency has been even more reckless than previously believed.
From 2001 to 2010, the FDA tested 30 kinds of antibiotics that have been approved for us in animal feed for decades. The products feature varieties of penicillin and tetracycline — antibiotics that are also used in human medicine. Of the 30 products, the agency found that not a single one would pass the standards it requires for approval of new additives today.
Furthermore, 18 of the products the agency tested have a “high risk” of encouraging the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the documents show. Humans can become exposed to these superbugs through vegetable or meat products, as well as through the air, water, dirt, manure, and wildlife. The risk level of the remaining 12 additives is unknown, since the drug manufacturers failed to supply enough information for the FDA investigation.
So, in light of these startling findings, what has the FDA done? Not a damn thing.
The FDA documents, which NRDC obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, come as a stark reminder of the risks associated with feeding antibiotics to livestock.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 23,000 people die each year as a result of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If that’s not scary enough, the continued overuse of antibiotics could render some medicines ineffective at staving off infections, making everyday illnesses and surgeries more dangerous.
And boy, are we overusing these drugs. Approximately 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to farm animals, most of which aren’t sick. (This is what’s called “nontherapeutic use” of antibiotics.) The result is an ideal setting for a strain of bacteria to evolve and become immune to an antibiotic.
The FDA has known about the risks of antibiotics in livestock since studies were first published in the 1970s, but it has declined to take action—even in the face of a lawsuit from NRDC and court rulings in the group’s favor. At this point, the agency’s only action has been to ask drug manufacturers to voluntarily stop selling them to promote the growth of livestock.
“[The FDA’s] charge is to withdraw approval from drugs that are not shown to be safe, and I think we have a good sense that these drugs are not shown to be safe at this point,” says Avinash Kar, an NRDC staff attorney.
Many countries in Europe have already responded to the emerging health crisis by banning penicillin and tetracycline for use in livestock. The European Union prohibits administering antibiotics to food animals for the purpose of encouraging growth. The FDA, though, has failed to follow its lead.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive the onslaught of drugs we throw at them because they are capable of rapid change. Perhaps it’s time the FDA takes a page out of the superbugs' playbook.
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(OnEarth news blogger Jason Bittel contributes to Slate and serves up science for picky eaters on his website, Bittel Me This. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and two tiny wolves. (Note: wolves may be Pomeranians.) MORE STORIES )
You may have noticed there was nothing about this in the fr**king SOTU.