I Don’t Pray That Way

It’s frustrating to listen to the Disciples of the Sacred Profit Margin discuss privatizing public services. They see dollar signs. I see crumbling infrastructure. Shortly after that bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, a Libertarian friend actually had the nerve to say that the bridge collapsed because government can’t provide public services. I said bridge building and maintenance cost money and must be funded at a consistent, appropriate level. He said, “Business has to be allowed to conduct business.” Well then. You can step through the looking glass, but I’m not going to join you.

This is very, very simple: pretend you’re in charge of an agency’s budget. Your government agency provides a service, let’s say it’s lining up lawn gnomes in a perfect grid on a city’s public square. Your agency employs four people to keep the all-important gnomes clean, perfectly painted, facing in the correct direction and level. You decide you’re feeling trendy and want to privatize your gnome service. The first thing, after you’ve chosen your private gnome service, will be those four employees, who probably live in your city, will lose their jobs. The gnome service will hire three exploitable people, pay them less and your gnomes will lose their gleaming colors, grid-like pattern and correct orientation when the smaller workforce cannot maintain the same standards as a larger, dedicated staff. At first, your trendy move makes you look like a genius. A few years down the road, when your agency’s funding dries up because those gnomes have become a dangerous embarrassment, you look like an idiot. And you are an idiot.

Now of course, a gnome service is silliness itself, but many if not most government services are provided by the government because our society as a whole struggles with societal problems and our lives depend on that struggle. We must have roads and bridges that do not collapse. We must have hospitals, communications, national defense, emergency services, commerce and support for those among us who need help. This is not optional and mostly not negotiable. You cannot argue that your agency charged with feeding poor children the only regular meals they receive could maybe get by feeding fewer children less nutritious food – because, and I shouldn’t have to say this, that is BARBARIC. Deferring maintenance on bridges and roads doesn’t make you a genius. It makes you shun-worthy. You should be shunned, you agency head, you. So let’s look at our graph above. I’ve never made a graph before and I was surprised I didn’t give up and go for the Crayolas. It’s very simple: privatizing government services is stupid and the road to societal ruin.

You have a budget. You can organize your department, compensate your people appropriately, provide considerate services and set a high standard for those services. Provide those services and you are a hero. When you privatize, part of your budget peels right off the top for someone else’s profit, your workers lose their standard of living and your service deteriorates.

It’s simple. Get it? This person is starting to:

We’ve all been so brainwashed by 30 years of “government is the problem” bullshit that we’ve forgotten that the sole and entire purpose of privatizing government responsibilities is to enrich corporations at the expense of middle-class taxpayers.

It is always cheaper and more effective to pay public employees to do it, and do it right.

No, we didn’t all get brainwashed. We didn’t all forget who was making money and who was losing out. I’m sure you’re surprised at how much damage thirty years of cult behavior has caused, but thank you for joining us in a more real world now.

A Man Afraid Has No Shame

I had to work up the nerve to watch this video. Of course, I live in Jersey and stuff blowing up is kind of – well – normal, but even so, I was not sure I was prepared for what I might see. Turns out the explosion itself is rather banal now that we’ve all watched the Mythbusters blow up non-dairy creamer just for kicks.

CNN’s Larry Kudlow may have the money quote for this terrible -even horrible – disaster:

“The human toll here,” he declared, “looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that.”

Larry – I will be calling him Larry because I’m too freaking lazy to type That Vomitrocious Ghoul over and over – has long forgotten the Heroes of Chernobyl, who saved Europe. That story wasn’t widely reported in the West and not at all until much later. Granted, it’s hard to remember history when this is the morning’s news.

About 2,000 bodies found on coast of Japan’s Miyagi-Kyodo

March 14 (Reuters) – About 2,000 bodies were found on Monday on two shores of Miyagi prefecture in northeast Japan following last week’s massive earthquake and tsunami, Kyodo news agency reported.

That’s the entire news report. This human toll is not Larry’s problem. In fact, even as explosions continue to rock the imploding reactors, you can expect Larry to segue neatly into what investors are doing in three, two, one…

Lost In the Dangling Conversation

Arrrrrgh.

Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum during anti-government protests late on Friday and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt’s top archaeologist told state television.

The museum in central Cairo, which has the world’s biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early on Saturday.

“I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night,” Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Saturday.

“Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies,” he said.

You know, I’m smaller than a speck of dust in the flow of history, but about that stream, I really do care. I care that we preserve the things about ourselves that teach us where we’ve been, what we did, why and how. It’s not the business of royalty that matters, but the history of a monarchic civilization cannot be written without regard for its monarchs. We can go forward as we choose, but we must know who we have been.

Yeah. I know. Not everyone cares. Events in Egypt are hard to read about and tough to imagine. It’s heartening to see the courage of Egyptians protecting the museum while they stand up to the corrupt government.

We’re Still On Our Way Home

Oh bloody hell:

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Hey Texans! Wanna buy half a bridge in Brooklyn?

About the same numbers of Democrats and Republicans — 43 percent — disagree with the idea that dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time. Republicans were slightly more likely to agree with the idea (31 percent to 27 percent). Perry had more voters in each group on the GOP side, but Kay Bailey Hutchison had the largest share of voters who believe in that coexistence.

Prindle says the results recall a line from comedian Lewis Black. “He did a standup routine a few years back in which he said that a significant proportion of the American people think that the ‘The Flintstones’ is a documentary,” Prindle says. “Turns out he was right. Thirty percent of Texans agree that humans and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time.”

Putting aside for the moment that the poll presents a dispute about an objective reality, let’s take this fundy talking point to its extreme conclusion. Suppose for just a moment dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time: what would oil be made of? If you believed, as some of these death cults do, that human remains must be buried and left whole or the soul has no body to inhabit on Judgment Day, what are you doing to your ancestors as you tool around Texas in your SUV?

If my brain was stewing in this sulphurous marinade I’d be nailing solar panels to every outdoor surface I owned.

Running Numbers From the Bar

Photo: National Post.

That’s the Sydney Opera House, seen through the dust storm currently blanketing Sydney. I’ve never seen a dust storm. This picture doesn’t make sense to my eye, but so few things do. In my misspent youth, there was a sense that reporters were supposed to report and the story was the story. Last night, Katie Couric interviewed Glenn Beck, which is like the ouroboros biting the back of its head, and, no, that doesn’t make sense either.

The City Tonight We’re Finding

Know what’s weird about Facebook, a platform for one liners so high anyone can swan dive? No one’s funny.

Old Man: [uncomfortable silence at kitchen table] Someone, tell a joke…

I can’t figure it out. The joint needs a piano, a player and a diva in a tutu. But not me. I’m all discombobulated. One of my relatives kept her children home from school so their delicate ears wouldn’t be assaulted by the President’s common sense message: work hard in school. I understand. She was raised by immigrants and she hates immigrants. She rails against Mexicans and goes to Mexico on vacation. She works in the healthcare field, has cancer and a $5000 annual deductible herself. It’s simple: she’s forgotten who she is and has lost her mind.

There’s a joke in there someplace.