Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't Let This Happen To You

This post started out as a test of my ability to e-mail photo posts to the blog. See, my employer had blocked Blogger months ago, which forced me to compose and send in posts, and hope I didn't make any mistakes or typos.

Of course I did, but now I come to find I can access Blogger again directly, so I got that going for me now.

Anyway, I read this story online and was all prepared to include it in "Nobody Asked Me, But..." today, but the picture really speaks better than any words I could have written, so here it is:

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) President Obama gave nearly full support for Nancy Pelosi as minority leader yesterday. Expect bus tires marks up her back in

2) Jon Stewart was on Rachel Maddow last night, addressing some of the criticism of his Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear and the equivalence he "drew" between FOX and MSNBC. He made another plea for common sense and moderation in public discourse. Naturally, MSNBC couldn't just let it rest as a conversation between two equals. Note the graphics in Larry O'Donnell's show. Granted, Stewart used the boxing motif in his rebuttal on The Daily Show, but come on, guys, he's a comedian, you're news anchors!

3) Ever wonder where that quote I featured on the top of my sidebar comes from? Here ya go! It makes you want to cry with joy to hear a politician, as faux as the character was, stand up for being liberal.

4) Yesterday, I posted a screed railing against the extension of the Bush tax cuts. I really had two stories I could have written an extended piece about. The other was the rather ludicrous first draft of the deficit reduction commission Obama appointed. I didn't, because I figured Paul Krugman would have my back.

5) It has been nearly twenty years, but this generation's Mandela Moment is about to happen.

6) Karma's a bitch, Gov. Christie! Actually, Obama was sort of forced into this position. An additional train tunnel under the Hudson makes lots of sense, but Obama could not possibly be seen cooperating with Christie, a Teabagger favorite.

7) Either someone's not singing from the same hymnal, or that trial balloon Axelrod floated Wednesday dropped like a lead balloon. If so, I'm glad to have played a part.

8) To ask Obama to somehow salvage America's world image in the face of the absolute idiocy his citizens are pulling back at home was like asking the fog to stop a rabid panther.

9) I didn't realize pets had their own engineers and physicists!

10) The latest diet craze: Twinkies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tax Cuts Are For Nothing

The Obama administration has caved. The signal to the media and the Republicans is that the administration would not oppose renewing the Bush tax cuts, for growth's sake. Whether this would be a permanent tax cut is yet to be determined.
The CBHO has estimated that the budget deficit by these tax cuts alone would be 90% of annual GDP by the year 2020. Note that's before you consider the boom in Social Security and Medicare that is scheduled to happen after that year.
That's not the national debt, which is already on par with the GDP and is the culmination of all deficits since the nation's inception. That's the annual increase in our national debt. That means we'd actually be running the country into the ground, and that assumption includes the rosiest of economic scenarios.
There were actually three Bush tax cuts, in each of 2001, 2002, and 2003. The 2001 tax cut eliminated estate taxes, or taxes on people who managed to avoid taxes on increases in wealth, but whose heirs would rightly reimburse society for the wealth those assets took out of the general pool. If you take a dollar out of the general wealth pool, that's one less dollar for the rest of us.
The 2002 tax cuts were focused on business, primarily to try to stimulate economic growth (and job creation).
The 2003 tax cut was the "No. Really! We mean it this time! We Republicans will create jobs, dammit!" tax cut.
As you can imagine, all three failed, miserably, to alleviate the suffering of a modest recession that occured during the waning days of the Clinton administration and into the Bush first term.
Gross domestic product from 2000 to 2009 was as follows, on an annual basis:
2000 (the last year of Clinton's administration, just before the recession) 4.1%
2001 1.1%
2002 (the first year of Bush's tax cuts) 1.8%
2003 (the second round is in effect) 2.5%
2004 (the final round of tax cuts is effective) 3.6%
2005 3.1%
2006 2.7% (Bush tax cuts are in full effect after a phase-in of new tax rates)
2007 1.9%
2008 0.0%
2009 (Obama's first year, and the final year of Bush's budgets) -2.6%
So, in no year did Bush and his precious little tax cuts manage to come within half a percent of Clinton's final year, which included the first rumblings of a RECESSION!
Wait. What about jobs?
Precisely zero jobs were created in the decade from 2000-2009. Zero.
This, despite the Bush administration creating the single biggest bureaucracy in world history, in the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration!
Job growth by year
2000 (Clinton) 1.4 million jobs added
2001 (Bush) (recession) -1.7 million jobs
2002 (first year of tax cuts) -500,000 jobs
2003 87,000 jobs added
2004 2.0 million jobs added
2005 2.4 million jobs added (finally, Bush has added jobs to the his SECOND term)
2006 2.0 million jobs added (tax cuts fully effective)
2007 1.0 million jobs added (whoops!)
2008 -3.6 million jobs (!)
2009 (final year of Bush budgets) -4.7 million
Factor out the Clinton administration, and Bush is responsible for a net job loss of 2.8 million jobs.
The unemployment rate picture isn't much prettier:
2000 4.0%
2001 4.7%
2002 5.8%
2003 6.0%
2004 5.5%
2005 5.1%
2006 4.6%
2007 4.6%
2008 5.8%
2009 9.3%
In no year did Bush's unemployment rate dip below the final, recession year of Bill Clinton.
Why is this even a discussion? Obama should tell Boehner in no uncertain terms, "You guys had everything you wanted: tax cuts, a Republican president, and a Republican Congress, and you did nothing, NOTHING, for the American people. This time, we'll do it my way."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rule Of Law And Other Principles

So the Teabaggers ran a platform of adhering to the Constitution, of obeying its precepts and ideals, and of resisting judicial activism and big government.

Miller is asking a judge to prevent the state from making a judgment on a voter's intention. Alaska's election law calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and either the candidate's last name or name as it appears on the official declaration of candidacy written in.

But Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who is responsible for Alaska elections, has said he will accept minor misspellings of Murkowski's name if the "voter intent" is clear.

Voter intent goes to the heart of Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ultimately declared George W. Bush the winner of the 2000 presidential contest after a lengthy -- and nasty -- recount in Florida. Miller's complaint cites the case by name.

The high court ruled that the Florida Supreme Court violated the Constitution's equal protection clause by failing to adopt uniform standards for determining voter intent.

OK, so far he's in the clear. After all, if the SCOTUS suggested that a fair and objective standard be applied to counting votes to determine voter intent and that makes sense. Otherwise, both sides would fight over votes where the intent was less than clear.

However, here's where Miller is being very liberal in his application of "Bush v. Gore": ""Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."


In other words, the Court has made it abidingly clear that "Bush v. Gore" was so hastily decided that none of it should be applied to any circumstance beyond that one instance!

Miller's correct for trying, but here's the laughable part. As a Teabagger candidate, Miller is directly in conflict with his entire party's platform of respect for conservatism, respect for the law, and as minimal application of that law as possible.

Legally, he's on solid ground. After all...and I wish Al Gore had done is wholly appropriate to use any legal means necessary to obtain an elective office in a winner-takes-all environment. Politically, he's relying on the short-term memory of voters.

Considering his boss, Sarah Palin, couldn't even identify the case when she was a candidate for Vice President in 2008, he's likely on safe ground there, as well. Too, it's not like he's the Democrat (or even Murkowski) trying to slide one under the door.

But this ought to be noted for the record that Joe Miller is a lying thieving weasel trying to burn the voters of Alaska out of their elective and collective voice. he ought to be jailed!


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What Does It Take?

A couple of semi-related stories to put on your table today.
First, a tale of past hope and present woe:

Frustration over 10.4 percent unemployment in surrounding Stark County has caused more political instability than Canton has known in generations. John Boccieri, a conservative Democrat, won the seat in Congress from the local district in 2008, only to lose to Jim Renacci, a Republican, last week. “People are scared,” said David B. Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron. “When the economy is bad, the party in power gets punished.”

In 1933, the fear was visceral. J. L. White, father of seven children, wrote in his thank-you note to B. Virdot that he was considering suicide just before he received the gift.

For other families, Mr. Stone’s gift provided the only holiday cheer that bleak winter. Olive Hillman used the $5 check to buy her 8-year-old daughter a doll with a porcelain face and leather arms.

“I was thrilled to get it,” said the daughter, Geraldine Hillman Fry, now 85. “It really was the only doll that I ever had in my life, so it meant a lot to me.”

This winter will not be as bad as the winter of 1933, four years into the Great Depression. Endless unemployment created abject poverty and remember, there really wasn't any unemployment insurance to speak of. People lived hand to mouth, stealing what they couldn't buy but needed. It was grim, oh so grim. Next Christmas could be as bad, as Republicans in Congress scale back unemployment, and attempt to dismantle healthcare and Medicare.

It's enough to make you angry.

Speaking of which...(h/t to Blondesense)

If 3 million Americans all peacefully surrounded the White House and Capitol Hill, holding signs saying "We're Not Leaving Until the Too Big to Fails which Caused the Economic Crisis are Reined In", things would change pretty fast.

3 million might sound like a lot of people. But many millions of people read popular alternative financial and economic news sites. You are probably one of millions of people who will read this essay (by the time it is published by some of the larger sites).

In other words, it's not even a question of convincing other people to go. We - those who read alternative financial websites - could do it ourselves.

He's right, of course. And he's wrong. But it's an interesting article.
The author makes the comparison of the current anger, from the left and the right, to the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. He points out that public demonstrations helped rein in and end both established practices, and there is no doubt that occured. Indeed, it also included violent confrontation (which the author repudiates, but rather naively). That was part of the art, however. If the students demonstrating against the war or the civil rights movement did not include some violence, it would have made for bad television.
And it's television that really made the difference. And here's where the author falls short.
I look back to the recent Bush war on Iraq, and I see a million protestors in the US alone the day before the first bombs dropped, and tens of millions worldwide...and I see the war go right on, and for even longer than Vietnam. It's not that the rallies weren't covered, they were. Maybe not as extensively as the organizers would have liked, but they entered the consciousness of Americans.
I saw two million people gather on the Mall in DC to watch President Obama swear into office. I saw 250,000 show up for a comedy show. It's not that activist people or fans can't be motivated. That's not the target audience, however.
The target audience is the kid in Canton, OH seeing his parents struggling to put food on the table, embarrassed to ask for food stamps or charity. The target audience is the commuter stopping in at the local bar for a beer before dinner, watching the news, or the single mom reheating the chicken she bought down the block for her three kids.
It's easy to attract people to an anti-war movement. The message is simple: "No More War". Likewise, civil rights rallies have a simple message: "Justice For All."
A rally with the message "We're Not Leaving Until the Too Big to Fails which Caused the Economic Crisis are Reined In"? Eh, not so much...
See, it wasn't the rallies that stopped Nixon and Johnson, or convinced Congress to do the right thing. Rallies are fueled by anger and anger disappates quickly (we're about to see that with the Teabaggers. Hear much from them since the election?) It's also too easy to characterize the folks who attend those rallies, right or left. "Moonbat" or "Teabagger", pick your poison. Who wants to sympathize with either of those, for fear of being tarred with the same brush?
But make the message of the rally transcend the rally itself, like Jon Stewart and sStephan Colbert came close to doing, and suddenly Middle Americans are paying attention. And they're educating themselves, and talking to their friends.
"Say, did you watch the news?" And it is in that dialogue that protest takes shape.

Monday, November 08, 2010

There Is No Box

A couple of weeks ago, I had my eyes opened wide.
See, I have a friend who was graduated from the same high school that I did, a school that's been awarded perhaps more Nobel Prizes than any other in America. This school is in a liberal bastion of one of the most liberal cities in the country. our extra-curricular activities could include seminars at an Ivy League college or the local "Moss League" college, NYU. the graudation rate is about 93-95%, and most of the people who drop out do so for financial reasons: they need to support their families.
In other words, we were a sharp bunch of students.
This friend is a New Yorker still. He's artistic, intellectual, deeply devoted to science, politically aware (or so I thought), and unfailingly polite, a trait not to be underestimated when dealing with a blowhard like me.
He's also conservative. This aspect is not a problem. I've grown up with conservatives and their offspring all my life, and counted among my correspondents William F. Buckley, among other notable thinkers. I valued their input and while I disagreed with most of the views I heard, I could at least understand the thinking that went into them.
The shocking part of this encounter was how mis- and ill-informed my friend was, especially about the liberal agenda.
This stemmed out of a conversation shortly after the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear, in which I was espousing the liberal agenda thru history. You've read this every day at my blog: "Liberals got women the right to vote..." ad sum. The stock answer, the one I expect from the historically uninformed, is "Well, you know, Republicans actually did most of those things," to which I usually respond along the lines of "I said 'Liberals' not 'Democrats' and yes, there was once a time when the Republican party not only contained liberals, but welcomed them," and then drop names like Roosevelt, Rockefeller and Javits.
Knowledge, it's a good thing to share.
This was raised in the course of our dialogue, which sort of surprised me. Our school was well-known for its history curriculum, and I know the classes he had to pass and the material covered.
What I wasn't prepared for, what was the really spine-tingling moment, was the charge that liberals are a) against evolution and therefore b) beholden to the ignorant religious types in our wing.
My first reaction reading this was to laugh out loud. Literally, I LOL'd. And for once, the barrier of the keyboard probably saved me a friendship. I don't know that he would have appreciated the reaction.
My next reaction was "teachable moment!" I responded on that approach, and I think it was effective. I felt that it was more important to lay out the groundwork that ignorance was bipartisan and while there may be a significant number of liberals who might believe in Creationism over evolution, it could not be as large as the number on the right.
Do a thought experiment here with me and you'll see my point: four in ten Americans believe Darwin was right (myself among those). If conservatives all believe in Creationism, that still leaves 20% of Americans (assuming a 40-40-20 split, which seems reasonable) who believe in Creationism.
And I think it's a safe bet to say Randians do not believe in Creationism, since Rand herself was atheist, brutally so. We can safely say that not every conservative believes in Creationism. Therefore there must be some percentage, however small, of liberals who do, just as Prop 8 in California could not have passed without liberal Christian votes.
Labels suck, in short.
The incident did start me thinking: here's a man who is at least as smart as I am with such a gravely wrong idea.
I think the problem comes in that last sentence: "started me thinking". Now, I'm not accusing him of not thinking, but of thinking wrongly.
I don't think we are taught how to think properly, either in school or in society. Oh, we learn logic, and mathematics and science and A leads to B leads to C, but that's all manipulable.
Let me put it this way: if you know "C", you're going to assume A & B. But C could be wrong, and certainly both A and/or B will be, at least partially. Or C could actually need D to occur or might even really be D, but you wouldn't know that unless you made the connection.
In our school system, we're taught to problem solve, not to think. In our society, we value the path of least resistance to the path that would require work. This is why the rise of talk radio has been so successful: why think of a reason for, say, liberals to outspend conservatives (they don't) when someone will tell you that and either make up statistics proving this, or simply ignore proving it, relying on your gullibility (or good will, depending on how naive you are) to trust their opinion.
After all, they're on the radio or TeeVee and you are not. They MUST have authority, right?
Hm, I wonder. If Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck had to be vetted for their jobs the way a President has to be vetted for his, they would both be back at their day jobs and Bugs Bunny would have his own show on MSNBC. In truth, there's little difference in cartoon characters there.
(Yes, I just called Bugs Bunny a liberal. After all, he cross-dresses, opposes guns, and is a vegan)
We're taught to think linearly, and for most of the work we do in our lives, math and linearality work fine. You know, you know the diagonal dimension of a room and the closest side and that the corner is a right angle, figuring out the far wall is a snap. Or that you need to put paper in a printer before it will work.
Even tho I pick on the right wing here, I've seen it from the left, particularly when I supported Hillary in the primaries over the President. There's a lot of linear thinking and that's something we ought to address on our side, too.
But here's the thing: most of life, most of the really important things in life, are fractal, not linear. The influences on who we fall in love with or marry, what our children turn out to be, whether our lives become better for taking this job over another, are all so widely dispersed as to be meaningless in advance of the choices we make and the turns we take.
I get in an elevator. I meet this ravishing beauty from the subcontinent, and I date her and marry her. She becomes a successful banker, which in turn encourages me to become a successful businessman.
I miss that elevator. While waiting for the next one, a deliveryman walks up to the button, presses it, slips and spills coffee all over my suit. I go home and change, and am late for work. I get fired, and in this economy, I can't find a job. I throw myself off a bridge when the pressure from my creditors, all linear thinkers, becomes too great.
Even more fundamental, I hit the genetic jackpot and am born into a family of great wealth, whereas if Dad pulls out thirty seconds earlier, I'm never even born.
We hear a lot about "thinking outside the box," but if you ask me, there is no box. The box only exists for the low-normals who need that kind of regulation, and even evading that regulation is adhering to it in the abstract. Life doesn't work that way. God laughs at the boxes, and ends up destroying them all eventually.
The key to thinking is to be open to possibilities, to understand that just because your situation demands a logical solution, that logic does not have to abide by the initial conditions that we've perceived. Our perceptions can be grossly wrong.
Think about it this way, in politics: Barack Obama is a Muslim. Therefore, everything that he's done since has been to advance the Muslim agenda in America. It doesn't matter that it might be opposed to, even violently, that agenda (whatever "the agenda" might be). if someone believes he's Muslim, they're going to logically demand a Muslim throughline. Or, he's not a Muslim, in which case we free ourselves to look for other motives to his behavior. If you tie yourself to one initial set of conditions, you force yourself to abide by them, unless you're adept enough to back your way out and rethink the entire thing.
But that requires thought and as I noted above, that's not something Americans do well.