Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mark Halperin Is A Dick

Mark Halperin (R) with the First Lady.

Been offline most of the day, but when I finally get on, everybody's talking about Mark Halperin calling the President a "dick" for what he said in the press conference yesterday.  You remember, the press conference where the President suggested firmly that Congress stop playing games and avoid an economic collapse?

So many good thing have been written about it by others I'll just go Linkapalooza:

Shorter version: Halperin should be fired because he's an awful, awful political reporter who is terrible, awful, dreadful at his job.  Not because he called Obama a Cheney.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Facts Have A Well Known Liberal Bias

This makes more sense than supply side economics.

The Most Radiant and Splendid Wife and Bestest Friend Evah brought to my attention a study that looked at states that have cut spending since 2007 and states that have raised spending since 2007.  And then looked at their unemployment rates.  Guess what?

Once again, you return to the basic equation of demand: D=CS+BI+GS+(E-I).

Demand = Consumer spending+Business Investment+Government Spending +(Exports-Imports)

In the face of declining consumer and business spending, government spending should be used to stimulate demand.

There really is no counter-argument to this that I have heard that makes a damned bit of sense.  But according to the GOP, it's all about supply-side.  So, cut spending and cut taxes and jobs will magically appear.

This study above is about the millionth to show that supply side economics is so full of crap that its eyes are brown.

The same supply side idiots who are cutting budgets and cutting taxes are the same idiots who predicted that Bush 1.0 and Clinton's tax increases would lead to a recession and high unemployment.  They also said that the Bush 2.0 tax cuts would create a "rising tide that would lift all boats."  Crap and crap.

So, with all due respect to my lovely, intelligent and charming wife, having facts on your side won't matter a lick with these people.

It never has.


Well.... Yeah.

With the US government about to default on its debt and turn a weak recovery into a strong depression, Chuck Todd asked Obama at his press conference if he thought marriage was a right.

Obama basically ducked the question.

TBogg, whom I have the utmost respect for, says Obama's response is crap.

The thing is, there is a very serious series of issues that the President has on his plate right now.  The debt ceiling and whatever godawful screw the poor deficit reduction package that will come out of it; Libya; Afghanistan; the coming election; a host of issues that he mentioned in his presser including patent reform of all things.

If Obama had said what I imagine he believes - that, yes, same sex couples should have the right to get married - then that would be the ENTIRE lede for this presser.  "Obama Shifts Position On Gay Marriage!!!11!!"  And his very firm message to Congress to get its ass in gear would've been lost as the national media dissected how Obama's new position on gay marriage played in Ohio.

Obama has been very, very good on LGBT issues.  And frankly, a state-by-state method at first, followed by overturning DOMA would accomplish a lot more than Obama stepping all over his message at today's press confab.

But if TBogg is already declaring Obama a sellout, I can only imagine what the rest of the nutballs at FDL or Daily Kos are posting right about now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Required Reading

You want to understand Washington today in 500 words or so?  Read this.

Bipartisanship Fail

Hey, GOP!  Joe Lieberman ain't a Democrat!

Just because you got one of the biggest assholes in the Senate to agree with you, doesn't mean that this is a bipartisan plan.  It just means Lieberman is going out as only Lieberman can.

It's Enron's World, We Just Pay The Rent

The birth of a corporate attorney.

In the 19th century, the Supreme Court was hearing a question about railroads.  The clerk of the court, a former railroad attorney, inserted a comment by the Chief Justice.  The comment went something like this, "We are not going to determine whether a corporation is a person for the purpose of 14th Amendment protections, but let's assume for the moment that this is true."

That non-opinion opinion has basically shaped the legal status of corporations in America.  While some of it had its roots in the Marshall court, the real jump came in the first Gilded Age with that inserted comment.

The Court in that era actually said that the 14th Amendment protects corporations more than African Americans.

The result is that an American ethos that values the independence of individuals has been warped to value the independence of corporations.

If I could offer one amendment to the Constitution, it would be to strip corporations of their "personhood".  Limited liability, legal protections, sure.  Personhood?  No.

Raise The Roof!

We need a new roof.

We have not had a real raise in three years.

We cannot afford a new roof.

So, we might liquidate some of those retirement equities those ads during golf tournaments are always going on about.  You know, "JT Moneybags, Inc, Ltd, can make it so that you own a vineyard and eat Cialis by the handfull in your matching tubs with a wife that looks suspiciously younger than you."

Anyway, after reading about the latest GOP blustering about refusing to raise ANY revenues as part of the debt ceiling negotiations, I'm thinking maybe I should transfer all of my holdings into Greek Drachmas or Russian Facebook or maybe give it to a Nigerian who needs help, but can pay me later.

When Glenn Beck was shilling for that "We buy gold!" company because Obama was gonna be all Soshalust on your ass and you needed to stockpile guns, gold and canned foods, turns out he was on to something.

Of course, he was wrong about the cause, because he's Glenn Beck.

Obama isn't out to destroy the American economy and way of life.

Mitch McConnell is.

UPDATE: Mark Zandi weighs in here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Manic Progressives Strike Again

When it comes to the "Left" there is nothing that fails like success.

New York became the largest state not only to allow marriage equality, but also to do it through the legislature rather than the courts.

This, of course, shows what a bad president Obama is.

The repeal of DADT is just so yesterday, the real issue now is DOMA.  Now, Obama's Justice Department has decided not to defend DOMA in courts, because they think it's unconstitutional.  But since Obama has not personally divorced Michelle and married Dan Choi, his lack of vocal support for same-sex marriage is seen as a betrayal.  Also, too, no one seems to be able to add to 60.  As Matt Yglesias argues, what matters here is political institutions.

Cuomo was much more publicly aggressive in pushing for marriage equality than Obama was for most of his legislative agenda.  Part of that is personality.  Obama tends to avoid grandstanding, Cuomo seems to enjoy it.  Obama, unlike say Clinton, does not want to be the story; he doesn't need to be "the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral."  So his style lacks the combativeness that many on the Left want to see.

But Cuomo had two huge advantages over Obama on, say, ACA.  One was, Cuomo didn't need a supermajority and was not facing a legislative branch bent on his destruction.  Second, same-sex marriage is pretty popular in New York.  ACA never enjoyed that much popularity.

At the time, I couldn't see a path clear to a public option with Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu all blocking the way (and then Brown and Snowe).  Reconciliation would have been a temporary fix. Given that the GOP is trying to end MEDICARE, it is unlikely the public option could have survived the inevitable return to power of the GOP, unless it was written into ACA, not passed through reconciliation.

Obama's brand of leadership actually probably helped pass DADT repeal.  It probably meant that ACA was not as strongly progressive as it might have been.

But ultimately, to return to Yglesias' point, institutions matter.  A lot.  And political culture matters a lot, too.

Right now, the institution of the Congress, especially the Senate, is broken.  It does not function properly.  Lyndon Johnson, whose legislative prowess is rightly celebrated on the Left by those who disparage Obama, had a super-majority in the Senate.  So did FDR.  Obama had 58 votes and Lieberman and Nelson.

The political culture has also changed.  Political polarization is hardly new, but it strikes me as an unusual combination of toxic divisions and crisis.  Usually in a crisis (1861, 1933) one side has control of the agenda.  The Democrats never had complete control of the agenda.  McConnell's refusal to grant unanimous consent, the holding up of trivial executive branch appointees and the filibustering of everything in sight, robbed the Administration of momentum and opportunities.

They still passed a historic health care bill and a lot of other legislation.  Obama' legislative record is as good as any president since LBJ.

But it's still not enough.  I actually saw a diary at DKos that hoped Obama would lose so that we could elect a "real" progressive in 2016.  One look at Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, Georgia or Michigan SHOULD make that person a laughingstock of anyone to the left of David Brooks.  But, sadly, sage heads nod along and complain about how Obama is no better than Bush/Walker/Reagan.

Ultimately, the reason Obama is struggling with parts of his base is not because he has failed to deliver progressive change, but because they are ignorant of basic math (how to count to 60) and of the political culture of the United States (a lot more conservative than they think it is).  They are ignorant of the history of progressive change and how slowly it evolves.  They are knowledgeable only about their own feelings and their own agenda.

The problems with Obama's base is Obama's base, not Obama.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Required Reading

I ran into an ex-student of mine and we were discussing just this issue.  The GOP really seems willfully intent on wrecking the economy.  The sooner people start pointing this out, the better off the long term prognosis might become.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let's Try This Again

Elaborating on a few notes from last night:

1) I watched the Gold Cup final - some of it.  Chichirito is a  the real deal.  He gave up a stat padding goal.  He's a top Ten international player for me.

2) The Gold Standard - which has enjoyed a resurgence under Ron Paul - is a manifestation of one person's lack of faith in another.  I could never figure out why anyone would want the gold standard back.  It's like manifesting a belief that cavemen rode dinosaurs.  Or maybe a return to monarchy.

But in reading The Lords of Finance I found that the reason the gold standard was so revered - even in the face of compelling arguments by monetarists like Keynes - was that the gold standard was an absolute.  It could not be tinkered with by politicians, like the way the Germans blew up their currency in the early 1920s. A belief in the gold standard, in other words, is a belief that humans cannot manage their own affairs properly.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York, New York

UPDATE:  A few obvious conservative voices - given that it's New York, they are mostly Catholic - have come out talking about the dire consequences for the state GOP for "allowing" this to pass.

But this is why they are so scared.  There will be no dire consequences arising from marriage equality.


If Congress ran Pizza Hut, they'd have to take this sign down.

There is a reason why people hate Congress.  They are on display today.

First, you have Cantor walk away from bipartisan negotiations because Democrats want to get something from these negotiations, too.  If you're going to cut spending, you'd better raise revenues, too.  Especially on the rich who aren't going to get gauged by the spending cuts.  Only fair.

Cantor says, "Screw fair, I'm out of here."  Behaving, in effect, like a six year old, over-privileged brat.

You also have Jim DeMint saying that any Republican who votes to increase the debt limit - in other words, any Republican who votes to ward off economic armageddon - is "toast".

These people are children.  And not especially bright ones.

Finally, you have the House vote NOT to approve of the Libyan air war but NOT to defund it.  A purely symbolic, impotent vote.  John Cole got there first, but I was thinking the same thing.  If you were Obama and had to deal with this Congress, you wouldn't ask them permission either.

When the GOP won the House, I thought, Good, now these bomb throwing a-holes will have to govern.

But they haven't.  They have spent what little time they have actually been in Washington mostly trying to restrict abortion.  They have not fulfilled their fiscal duties, they have blocked the executive branch's ability to staff itself and have done NOTHING to create jobs - when that is the primary concern of Americans.  Instead they have strutted and postured about the deficit, when defaulting on the debt for even a few days will  likely cost the US over a trillion dollars in the long run.

In Congress, you have too many inflated egos without the real power to DO anything.  All they can do is stop other people from doing things apparently.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

We Are All Mayans Now


For whatever reason there has been a lot of stuff coming out in the past 24 hours about the dynamics of the GOP primaries.

Matt Taibbi launched one of his verbal napalm attacks on the prospects of Michelle Bachmann becoming president, a possibility he finds troublingly real.

There is a poll that finds Obama leading the GOP field in Tennessee of all places, despite Obama topping out at 38%.

Rick Perry continues to play Cuomo/Thompson with pursuing the GOP nod.

The dynamics as I see it are roughly this, and I don't think this is much of a stretch.

1) Mitt Romney is the quintessential GOP frontrunner.  He came in second the time before, it's his turn, he has the money behind him and he's probably the "most electable" Republican in the field.

2) The Tea Party is feeling their oats from 2010.  Despite the fact that the actions of Tea Partisans are roundly condemned by the public at large, whether in the Midwest governorships or in Paul Ryan's budget plan, the Tea Party wants a "pure" candidate.  (In that sense, they are similar to the FDL crowd on the Left that wants to primary Obama with, I dunno, Kucinich and Cornell West.

3) The competition for the GOP nomination in 2012 will largely come down to Romney and Not Romney, in much the same way 2008 was about Clinton and Not Clinton.  When Obama (mercifully) beat out Edwards to be Not Clinton, the race was on.  At some point, a GOP Winger will emerge to become Not Romney.  I've stated that if Perry gets in, it will be him.  But Bachmann is increasingly plausible as the Not Romney.

4) If the Not Romney candidate wins the GOP nomination, Obama will almost certainly win re-election.  This is why Karl Rove has thrown his support behind Romney.  He understands this.  Rove always knows to put the best face on the odious GOP policies.  Of course, I don't think anyone wants to "have a beer" with Romney.  Especially not if he's an observant Mormon, because that near-beer stuff sucks.

Thrown into the hopper is the terrifying possibility that the GOP really will blow up the economy in August by not raising the debt ceiling.  Cantor abandoned the Biden meetings today and Boehner says that if there are any additional tax revenues, he won't support the debt limit increase.  He already has 40 members of his caucus saying that they won't sign on to an increase without ridiculous concessions.

The GOP has also backed away from supporting tax cuts - TAX CUTS - to stimulate the economy, because they are counting on a bad economy to help them in 2012.

It is still possible for the GOP to win in 2012.  It is also possible that they lose the Presidency and the House.

This July will be especially interesting, with the debt limit issue.  As always, the American public is woefully misinformed about a complex economic issue -  in this case the debt limit.  But this fight will largely determine the future of this country and both sides know it.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Stupid Is As Stupid Does

John Cole notes the idiocy of the GOP in action, this time in my native state of Georgia.

When the GOP is elected, their policies - especially in the past 30 years - have been objectively bad.  Measurably bad.

And yet they continue to win elections...

The War Pig

Budget cuts are looming for the Pentagon's elite Hot Pink Fern Brigade.

I am starting to read Ahamed's Lords of Finance.  I'm in that tricky phase of a good but challenging book where I'm having trouble getting that inertial mass going that will propel me through the lives and world of pre-Depression era central bankers.  You know, a beach read.

Ahamed gives a good description of what has commonly been called the first age of globalization from roughly 1870-1914.  He has a quote from the spring of 1914, whereby one wise European says that continental war was unthinkable because it was too damned expensive.

It occurs to me that little has changed.  We have hidden some of the costs well.  A professional, well trained volunteer army backed by the world's most extraordinary military infrastructure means that the human cost in lives is lessened and hidden and the cost in maiming and wounding can also be obscured.

And the orgy of Bushonomics, whereby tax cuts always pay for themselves and "deficits don't matter" until a Democrat gets elected, we have hidden - to some degree -  the financial costs of the war, too.

Which is just another way of saying, we have to stop fighting wars, especially the never-ending ones.

Afghanistan will never be what we want it to be.  Best case scenario is a nuke-free, smaller Pakistan: a country in name only, riven by tribal factions and held together by a dictatorship of the elite.  Same goes for Iraq.

The compelling reasons for staying there are lost on me.

After shooting bin Laden in the face (Update: still dead), we needn't light bonfires of US tax dollars and sacrifice the cream of our youth because we worry about "emboldening" anyone.

The idea behind the surges was to create a security window for civic institutions to blossom.  Under that logic, we will NEVER leave.  And if the choice is between NOW and NEVER.  I choose NOW.

We no longer have an obligation to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.  We did, at one point perhaps, have an obligation not to leave Iraq in chaos, after we destroyed their state.  We've paid our debts.  Time to go.

I know Obama won't go for it.  I know we will only see a small draw down in Afghanistan.  But it's nice to dream.

(Oh, and I won't count Libya as a war until we have ground troops there.)

Obama is rightly called the "only adult in the room" when it comes to DC politicians.  But just this once, I'd like to see him cut to the chase and make a bold call rather than a reasoned, judicious decision.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reality Based Community

Alan Blinder - no doubt a socialist, communist Muslim - who is an Econ professor at Princeton (with Krugman, so there!), former member of the Fed Board and author of one of the most popular Econ textbooks as something to say:

Basically, he takes on the Republican "idea" that government spending kills jobs.  To be fair, it's an idea so patently absurd that a high school Econ student should be able to refute it, but still, zombie ideas must be decapitated.  Whether with a baseball bat or an RPG, they must be put down.

More broadly, this speaks to the GOP's blind obeisance to ideas that are simply fanciful.  And while there is a lot to be said about the complete falsity of, say, Neo-conservative foreign policy, the economics of the GOP are just baldly, fundamentally wrong.

You take any of the basic tenets of GOP economics and subject them to a reality test, and they fail.

Take cuts for the wealthiest produce jobs.  No, they don't.  They put more money into investors' hands, true.  And in a sane equities market, that additional investment capital would be used to fund the next Apple or Google or whatever.  But in the brave new world of Wall Street, all of this investment capital is used to create bubbles and chase after short term gains.

Government spending kills jobs.  You really should just read Blinder's piece to see how absurd that idea is.

Any rise in taxes will kill growth and jobs.  Taxes can be so high that they stifle growth.  We are so far from that level that it's laughable.  When Clinton and the Democrats raised taxes in '93, the GOP came out and talked about how the American economy was doomed.  What followed was the longest post-war peacetime economic expansion in history and budget surpluses to boot.

This isn't - or shouldn't - be a big mystery.  Grover Norquist, the great tax cut mandarin of the GOP, demands fealty to his flat earth, flat tax ideology.  Cross him and you're done as a GOP politician.  And he has openly said that his preference is to shrink government to the size where you can drown it in a bathtub.

That is the goal of the modern GOP: a return to the Gilded Age era of laissez faire economics.  They are pretty close, as wealth inequality has exploded since the Age or Reagan began.  But the social safety net created by people like FDR, LBJ and, wait for it, Richard Nixon has managed to put a floor under most American's economic hardship. Not all, as homeless shelters are overflowing and people go hungry here in America every night.  But if we had a modern day Jacob Riis cataloguing how the other half lives, it would not be near so dire.

So the GOP has succeeded in creating the economic inequality of the Gilded Age, and now they are setting their sights on the welfare state.  Not the "welfare" state of "t-bones for big black bucks" but the welfare state of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ACA, food stamps, public schools, public works projects and any and all regulation.

This manifests itself not only in what the troika of Walker, Snyder and Kasich  are doing in the Midwest, but also in Shelby's killing Peter Diamond's nomination to the Fed or holding the debt ceiling hostage.

As Blinder notes in his opening, ideas shape the world.  And one of the two major parties has adopted a set of ideas that could destroy this country.  First by defaulting on the debt and then by destroying whatever protections Americans have against the machinations and mastications of mercenary capitalism.

God help us if they win power in 2012.  I really mean that.

UPDATE: Tom Levenson does a much better job on this theme than I did.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Stalingrad In Summer

Life at our house...

There is an old saw that the three best things about teaching are June, July and August.  Today, I mowed the lawn, did some laundry and did my single favorite thing in the world.  Read a little.  Fall asleep.  Wake up.  Read a little.  Fall back almost asleep.  Start awake and read a bit more.


(And also, according to neuroscientists, the best way to remember what you read.)

Of course, it is all punctuated by the Civil War re-enactors known hereabouts as Thing One and Thing Two.  Today, they were re-enacting Bull Run, probably Second Bull Run, with Thing Two as Pope and Thing One as Stonewall Jackson.

The next two and half months will witness a low level of combat during all waking hours.

June, July and August...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Healthy Living

Interesting read here.

When ACA was being debated, I commonly asserted that it was health insurance reform, not health care reform.  That what was being reformed was the way that we pay for health care, rather than how we treat people.

I guess that was wrong.  In a good way.

ACA has a lot of pilot programs designed to improve the health and health care delivery in American people's lives.  But one of the interesting ideas is to promote wellness.

Too often, medicine looks at health as illness.  "Health" is the maintenance of illness through treatment - drugs, surgery and so on.  In fact, a lot of illness can be avoided through wellness.  And it's a helluva lot cheaper.

Is it cheaper to pay the treatment costs to get someone to stop smoking at age 30 or to treat their emphysema, lung cancer and heart disease when they are 60?

While fee-for-service is a big problem in our health care costs, so is the unhealthy lifestyles of many Americans.

During the AP reading, I sat at a chair for about 8 hours a day.  We started at 8am, had 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon and an hour lunch.  The rest of the time, we sat and read.

I still have heartburn from that.  I literally have heartburn.  If I did that every day...

I realize that this is the way many Americans work every day of their adult lives.  If you could find a way to change that, a way to add movement or exercise to people's lives, you could make America healthier.

That strikes me as good policy, though I realize Republicans see it as the living incarnation of Nazism.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Thing Two, being an inveterate Red Sox fan, and I are headed to Boston for the Sox-Brewers game.  We bought the tickets for an afternoon game, but the stupid Bruins went and won the Stanley Cup, so the game got moved to accommodate a bunch of drunken, toothless hockey goons.

Married to a Whalers fan, this just gives me another reason to hate on the Bruins.

That, and the people of Vancouver are creative as hell.

Who else turns a hockey riot into a makeout opportunity.  (To be fair, the dude is Australian, which explains a lot.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Damn It's So Hard To Be A Dadster

Look what happened when we elected Reagan and Bush II...

I'm not poor.  I'm not working poor.  I'm not working class.  I don't know if I'm Upper Middle Class, because I don't know what that means anymore.  Arbitrage guys on Wall Street call themselves Upper Middle Class.

But I know that in the vast scheme of things in America, we're doing pretty OK.  Both parental units have jobs that earn us a better than average wage.  The kids have a decent enough school system and plentiful green spaces to play in.  Our own parents are very generous with us.

But still...

We need a new roof.  The kitchen cabinets are falling apart.  The downstairs bathroom smells like decades old piss.  Frankly, we never should have bought a house, but we did and now I have no idea how to make ends meet.  College?  Let's hope Thing One's soccer career takes off and Thing Two gets a nice aid package.  Retirement is for other people.  Luckily the only heavy lifting we have to do is mental so we can work later into our sixties if we have to.

There's something wrong with that.

As two professional educators at a prestigious school, we should not be wondering how to keep the roof from flying off our house.  We should not begin and end conversations about college with "And then a miracle occurs."

The GOP wrested control of the government by noting that "your tax dollars were going to buy t-bone steaks for big bucks on welfare."  While racist, it was also classist.

Right now, the middle class has to look at its economic status and wonder "How did this happen?"

Short answer: "Your tax dollar are going to buy third homes in the Hamptons for bond traders on Wall Street."  We are gutting all sorts of programs in order to funnel money to the richest people in the world.  And that's classist, too.

And it's not out of the question that we could do the same thing again, if we elect some dipweed like Tim Pawlenty (ok, no chance of that) or Mittens Romney.  Combine a man with the spine of Romney with the ideological fanaticism of Paul Ryan and the machiavellian machinations of Mitch McConnell and before you know it, we will be looking at Mexico as a model of more equitable wealth distribution.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Exit The Weiner.

Our political press unleashes its kung fu on an unsuspecting populace.

So Weiner resigned today.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the multiple levels of idiocy.

First, Weiner's idiocy.  He was a rising attack dog in a party that needed one.  And then... did he not know how the internet works?  You can't erase this crap.  There are no secrets.

But then, what the hell happened?

OK, Weiner's a cad.  That term may seem too tame, but it really fits him to a tee.  Maybe there was information about him having ACTUAL sex with someone out there, but I never saw it.  Josh Marshall thinks it was precisely because he was a rising young star whom Pelosi trusted that he had to go down.  Maybe.

But David Vitter actually, you know, BROKE THE LAW.  He frequented prostitutes, one of whom apparently diapered him like a baby.  He's still in the Senate!  Ensign lasted for months after his sex scandal and BRIBERY scandal.

Pardon the pun, but Weiner's a dick.  Still, I think he should run again in 2012.

If it doesn't involve breaking the law, the decision about whether a politician's personal foibles are important should be left to the electorate.  Not the pearl clutching mandarins of DC high society.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Daily Moment Of Campandering

Tim Pawlenty releases his tax cut plan.

Recently (like two hours ago) I said that I wondered if being a GOP Congressperson was a mental illness.

Now, we have Tim Pawlenty's tax plan to contend with.

Basically, he ends government as we know it.  He reduces taxes on the rich to Andrew Mellon levels and increases the budget deficit by $11,000,000,000,000 this decade alone.  In order to compensate for this, basically, you would have to end... well, everything.

I am waiting for David Brooks to explain to me how this is good Burkean conservatism.

Honestly, is there any reality left in the GOP?  Is there any line that a GOP candidate can cross that is too far?

Pawlenty's toast anyway after Mitt Romney mounted him on the debate stage the other night.

Is this a desperate last gambit from Pawlenty?  Or simply business as usual in the GOP nominating process?

Your Daily Moment Of Legislative Depravity

Today, Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg - who is running for Senate and must need campaign contributions - introduced legislation that would:

immunize the tobacco industry against many FDA regulations preventing them from making tobacco more addictive and marketing it to children.

At this point, I'm half convinced that being a Republican member of Congress is a mental illness.

Oh, C'mon!

Via Balloon Juice, this nugget from NPR:

“The only good way to learn about writing is to read good writing,” says Chief Justice John Roberts.
That sentiment is echoed by Breyer, who points to Proust, Stendhal and Montesquieu as his inspirations. Justice Anthony Kennedy loves Hemingway, Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Dickens and Trollope.
Justice Thomas says a good legal brief reminds him of the TV show 24. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says one of the great influences on her writing was her European literature professor at Cornell, Vladimir Nabokov — yes, the same Nabokov who later rocked the literary world with his widely acclaimed novel Lolita.

Shoot me...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Can you tell I'm on vacation?

Romney vs. The World

So, the usual horserace crap about who won last night's poo-flinging exercise officially known as the GOP debate is underway.  Romney won, because he's the front-runner and guys like Pawlenty wimped out in refusing to take him on.  Bachmann won because she stole the show, because she's MILFy or something.  Cain won because he was craziest.

I have no idea.  I was tired anyway, and the last thing I needed to do was watch the Fail Parade of empty suits explaining how high taxes were the cause of unemployment and defaulting on the debt isn't that big a deal.

But there is something interesting going on.  Usually the GOP field has an anointed heir.  Usually it's the guy who came in second last time.  Reagan in '80, Bush in '88, Dole in '96, McCain in '08.  Dubya didn't fit that pattern, but he was anointed the heir apparent anyway.

So, Romney is the Guy.  If he was a Democrat, we'd hear what a flip-flopper he is and how he has no principles, but since he's a Republican, he's "ideologically flexible".  But, like Dole in '96 and McCain in '08, I don't get the sense that anyone is really all the excited about him.  I double-dip recession might make all that moot anyway, but I still see the GOP reaching out for a White Knight, and I've said I think it will be Rick Perry.  It won't be Giuliani, because c'mon.  And it won't be Palin because I mean really.

Perry has a resume as "impressive" as Romney's without the Obamneycare baggage.  He's as right wing as they come and an evangelical nutball to boot.

But I thought Wes Clark was going to take the Dem nomination in '04, so don't listen to me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Twin Peaks Of Policy Evil

The Recession as measured by standard economic models has been over for months.  The "recession" as understood by millions of Americans - perhaps the majority of Americans - is still going strong.

The reason can be tied to two basic philosophies that animate not only the Republican party, but also DC conventional wisdom and much of the Blue Dog/DLC crowd.

The first False God is Randian economic philosophy.  This is really more a failing specific to the GOP, but we see it in the calls for austerity by the sort of "Serious People" that inevitably dominate the punditocracy.  Randian economics basically argues that anyone who relies on the state for anything is a parasite or moocher. Do you need Medicare/Social Security/Medicaid/food stamps/unemployment benefits?  You are a moocher, and your needs are unimportant.  It is your fault for not being rich enough to go without these important benefits.  True Randianism is even harsher than this, but its main expression in DC is the disregard that policy makers who are to the right of Ben Nelson have for the overwhelming majority of Americans who rely on these programs.

The second False God is supply side economics.  This one drives me insane.  Supply side HAS.  NEVER.  WORKED.  Never.  Tax rates can be high to the point where they can directly impede supply.  I willingly concede that.  When the top marginal rate was 93%, that impeded investment and growth.

But that is not the same as saying that supply creates its own demand.  And that is the orthodoxy among the tax cutters in Congress.

Unemployment remains stubbornly and frighteningly high.  The reason is a lack of demand.  Cutting taxes will not create that demand. The presence of large deficits has little effect on demand.  Yet, the GOP and much of the center in Washington seems obsessed with cutting taxes and cutting spending.  That's the only permissible debate.

Private sector hiring is slow, but it is happening.  A lot of the bump in unemployment recently has been because the Fifty Little Hoovers have cut spending and laid people off.  But, again, under the Randian philosophical system, teachers and other public servants are just another form of Moocher, so who cares?  Given that much of the unemployment is centered on high school graduates - many who in days of yore worked in manufacturing and construction - things like infrastructure projects would be essential to re-employing those looking for work.

It is difficult to calculate the damage that supply side economics, combined with the adolescent narcissism of Randian ideas, have had on our body politic.  The Bush tax cuts alone have done as much damage to our fiscal situation as any other event.

How do you kill a monster, when the monster is an idea?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Called It!

Replace Barbour with Perry and he advances to the Irate Eight.

So, I predicted Rick Perry would get into the race.  Although to be fair, I called him Mark Perry several times, so it's not like I'm a super-genius.

I also said he would win the nomination.  He's conservative enough - dude threatened seceding over HCR - and has that good Republican hair.  Sorry, I meant to say charisma, but have you noticed that the "charismatic" Republicans are always the ones with the best hair?

I think he has just the track record to appeal to GOP voters and lose to Obama.  But that's just me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Interesting Idea

Fareed Zakaria has an interesting idea.  Create a national infrastructure bank.

It would seem to meet a number of needs:

1) Our infrastructure sucks.  It needs refurbishing.

2) Our method of funding infrastructure - earmarks - is economically inefficient.  Powerful mandarins in Congress get their pet projects, while needy projects go wanting.  Compare the Hudson river train tunnel to the Bridge to Nowhere.

3) We need to find a way rebuild our country with limited funds.

Having said that, I have one big question.  If the USIB (as I will call it) is a Bank, how does it make its money back?  Who pays off the loans?

Otherwise, sounds great.

It SHOULD have bi-partisan support, but we all know that ain't happening.

As a closet Whig, I like the idea of a USIB.  But remember, too, the effect of the Bank of the United States on American politics.  Much of the appeal of Jacksonian populism was its attack on the Second BUS.  People hated the idea of all powerful economic magi running the show.  "Why" we can hear some future Nebraska politician ask, "Should the coasts get all the infrastructure money?  Where is our fair share?"

The dirty secret of GOP politics is that Red States feed off the tax dollars of Blue States.  If you had a USIB, that might change.  Which is one of many reasons why it won't happen.

Well Done, NYTimes

I bash them a lot, but hiring TNC for their Op-Ed page is a brilliant move:

When was the last time a Times Op-Ed piece brought a tear to your eye?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weiner's Weiner

So sue me.

I don't care.  I really don't care.

I don't care that Chris Lee made an idiot of himself on CraigsList.  I don't care that Bill Clinton screwed around.  I don't care about philandering.

To clarify:  I DO care about underage trolling like Mark Foley.  I DO care about using campaign funds to cover up an affair like John Edwards.  I sure as hell care about scumbag rapists like the IMF guy.

But unless you are actively selling yourself as someone with "traditional family values" and as someone who should be elected primarily BECAUSE you are a good family man, I really couldn't care less.

America needs therapy.  Our ideas about sex are so conflicted that as a nation we are pathological.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Great Depression 2.0

Dean Baker makes a depressingly good case here that we are setting ourselves up for a second Great Depression.  We forget that the Great Depression was a slow motion trainwreck, unfolding over two or three years of economic hardship before the final collapse in '32-'33.  We have avoided many of the same mistakes of 1929-30 with TARP.  We have avoided the Smoot-Hawley idiocy.

But - as with the Great Depression - we have adopted a premature orthodoxy on deficit spending and unemployment.  As I stated below, demand has to come from somewhere, and as state and local governments slash spending (the 50 Little Hoovers syndrome) and the federal stimulus dries up, it should not surprise us that unemployment numbers are getting scary again.

Of course, once we default on the debt, we'll all be living a financial apocalyptic nightmare anyway, so whatever.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ignorance Is Bliss

The power of positive delusional thinking.

I can't exactly explain why I remain in a good mood during this grueling ordeal.  One reason might be that I don't get to see much news.

Today as I was getting my third cup of coffee, I saw that the House GOP leadership was "emboldened to hold the debt ceiling hostage because of the poor employment numbers."

There are few things that get me more irate than supply-side economics.

They don't work.  They've never worked.  Tax rate can be too high, and they can be too low.  But supply never creates its own demand.

The basic equation for demand is Demand=Consumers spending + Business investment + Government spending + (Exports-Imports).  D=C+B+G+(E-I)

If you slash consumer spending - as happens when there is high unemployment - then demand falls.

If you import more than you export, demand falls.

If business stop building new plants and creating new product lines, demand falls.

And if you slash government spending, guess what happens.

The "Fifty Little Hoover" - otherwise known as Americas governors - labor under balanced budget amendments and have to balance the budget.  This usually involves raising revenues and cutting spending.  Currently, it involves a lot of laying off government workers.

So, GOP nitwits, if you slash government spending when businesses aren't investing and consumers aren't spending, then guess the f*** what?  Demand falls.  Employment falls.  The economy declines.

I have no idea what leaders in GOP actually believe.  But which is worse?  That they don't believe in the basic equation of macroeconomics?  Or that they do, but don't care?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day Two

Ran into my ol' Buddy Jeff, who invented the position of Assistant Table Leader.  ATLs don't exist, you seize the position to "undermine the seriousness of the reading" by keeping things light and a little goofy.  I don't think my job will be difficult given my table mates.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gone Galt House

Teach your children well.

So, Day One is in the books.  

When teaching history to high school students, we inevitably get asked, "Do we need to know dates?"

And I always say, "You need to understand cause and effect, but specific dates are not important."

I need to stop saying that to my AP students.  I'm reading a question about resistance to immigration in the 1840s to 1850s and 1910s to 1920s.  You'd be surprised how many kids work Pearl Harbor in there.

Looks like a good week to be (sort of) away from blogging, as I really have nothing to say about Anthony Weiner's wiener.

I did see two things worth noting:

First, Moody's will downgrade the US bond rating in mid-July if there is no deal on extending the debt ceiling.  Good.  I would've preferred an earlier date to get the GOP to face reality.  But good.

Second, an international panel of political and economic experts have concluded that the war on drugs is lost. I guess that's been kind of self-evident to me for a few years, but whatever it takes.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Arrived in the nation's banking center for tobacco companies.  Hot as balls.

The AP readers are an odd group.  On the bus from the airport I sat with a guy who looks like he started teaching because JFK asked him to personally, but this is his first year reading so he's a rookie or "Acorn".  And then there are relatively young people like me.  Although as a "young" person, I am old.  Old enough to have just bought my first pair of progressive lenses.  Which give me a headache every time I put them on.

As I predicted the day after the exam, I will be reading the question I know the least about.  The question is:

Compare and contrast the ways that many Americans expressed their opposition to immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s with the ways that many Americans expressed their opposition to immigrants in the 1910s and 1920s.

I have worked hard over the years to fill in gaps in my knowledge about American history.  But the history of immigration is a gap that I haven't gotten around to yet and am in no hurry to do so. This question will be "answered" mostly by students who don't want to answer a question - they are being made to take the exam so that their school can tout the number of AP exams their students take.  So it will be a lot of non-answers, bad answers and the occasional brilliant essay from someone who really cares about the history of immigration in America.

The good news is that I might learn a little bit about immigration history.  But more likely I will hear a lot about the No-Nothing Party, NINA, the potato famine and if I'm lucky, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Gentleman's Agreement and the KKK.

As my reward for wading through four days of immigration essays, I get to spend the other three days with Dick Nixon.