Saturday, January 31, 2009

Torpedoed Budgets Trump Ideology


Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama's economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.

Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where GOP lawmakers are more skeptical of Obama's spending priorities.

... more on Huffpo after the click.

My comment: Billions to states for Education! Public Works? Health Care? All those things that have been underfunded by the "Tax cuts for the wealthy" crowd? Over their objections? Oh, my! Welcome to the reality- and fact-based world! But then, facts have always had a liberal bias.

Stimulating Thoughts or "Bang for the Buck"

Source: The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (.pdf)* (TC=Tax Cut; PTC=Permanent Tax Cut; TTC=Temporary Tax Cut; SI=Government Spending Increase.

Republican ideology has it that the only way to stimulate the economy is to engage in tax cuts. They oppose government "spending", though in this context "spending" might better be characterized as "investment" ... something you'd think Republicans could understand!

* The paper was co-authored by Mark Zandi who has impeccable credentials. He is the Chief Economist and co-founder of Moody's, an independent subsidiary of Moody's that provides economic research and consulting services to businesses, governments and other institutions. He has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Republican, was an economic advisor to John McCain and was a maxed out contributor to McCain's presidential campaign.

Don't these guys read the stuff THEIR economic advisors write? Is it a problem with reading comprehension? Or is the blind support for various tax cut schemes simply a knee-jerk, ideological response?

The Sin of Ignorance

O'Reilly claimed that "enhanced food stamps ... will not help the economy one bit" -- but economists disagree (1)

Limbaugh op-ed misrepresents reason for stimulus (2)

Brzezinski suggests "welfare" provisions in stimulus bill don't stimulate the economy -- economists disagree (3)

Fox Business Network joins with GOP senators to further spread false ACORN attack (4)

Starting to get the drift?

More "Wanna know why you think what your think?"

from Media Matters

From the way the media have covered this week's stimulus package vote, you would think the goal of the legislation was to get Democrats and Republicans to sit together for lunch in the House cafeteria, rather than to turn around an economy in free fall.

After the House passed the stimulus package by a comfortable margin, much of the media reacted not by examining the bill's contents and the likelihood that it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy, but by focusing on the fact that it passed without a single Republican vote.

Why the GOP's unanimity in opposing the stimulus package should be surprising is anybody's guess; the last time we had a newly elected Democratic president, in 1993, congressional Republicans were unanimous in opposing his economic package, too. Then-Rep. John Kasich went so far as to promise that if Bill Clinton's plan worked, Kasich would switch parties. (It did; he didn't.) Point being: Congressional Republicans do not have a strong track record of working with Democratic presidents in recent memory. Perhaps because they were too busy trying to subpoena the White House cat.

Nonetheless, the Democrats' purported failure to get Republican support for the bill was, according to many reporters, the story.

... more of the story on Media Matters after the click.

Hint: The folks who bear the greatest responsibility for finding out what's actually going on and reporting back to us with the facts ... journalists ... when confronted by doing actual research, on one hand, and puffing up some small, sensational aspect of an issue, tend to kick back and take the easy way out. Politicians, aware of this, can spin the news, sure in the fact that no one is really paying attention to the important stuff. That's why we hear so much about the 1% chaff in the $800bn stimulus package while the other 99% goes unnoticed, unanalyzed and unreported.

Thought for the day

from Quotes of the Day

"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office."

-- H. L. Mencken

Friday, January 30, 2009

Feed Your Head

... or catch the video here on YouTube.

There are good reasons why friction exists between science and religion; VERY good reasons.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"The comeback starts now!"

Welcome to the Republican National Committee's winter meeting -- and the GOP's alternate reality, where happy days are nearly here again.

By Mike Madden in Slate

To the Republican base, and the members gathered at the Hilton, the House GOP's unanimous, losing vote against an economic stimulus bill on Wednesday wasn't a Bronx cheer aimed at a popular new president, but rather a heroic stand on behalf of the American public. Playing to the hardcore grass roots, the party's leaders made clear Thursday that they plan to stick to their new formula, the one they think will lead them back from the wilderness -- even if it sounds pretty similar to the one that got them there in the first place.


The party does have problems, (Mitch) McConnell told them, but they're all about image: "Ask most people what Republicans think about immigrants, and they'll say we fear them. Ask most people what we think about the environment, and they'll say we don't care about it. Ask most people what we think about the family, and they'll tell you we don't -- until about a month before Election Day." But the solution to all that isn't to change policies, he said; it's just to communicate them better. His first example? "Workers need to know that we're not anti-union -- we're pro-employee."

Lots more about the identity crisis in Slate after the click.

My comment: Fear immigrants? No cares about the environment? No thoughts about the family? (Think family centric family health care, dude, as opposed to insurance corporation centric health care. That oughta help sort it out.) Anti-union? Republicans? Where EVER would anyone get those silly ideas.

You're right, Mitch, DON'T EVER change policy!

Party Identification

The Gallop organization (they do polls, right?) has some interesting things to say about the current state of party identification in the United States. I'm thinking that Republican House members (probably Senators, too) oughta call home. There have been some changes back on the ranch ...

... more from Gallop after the click.

What I find really knee-slapping funny it how much the new party affiliation map resembles the "Born Again" post-Rapture map that was making the rounds when Mitt Romney, a wealthy Mormon who raised questions among the Evangelical right, was still imaging he had a shot at the presidency in a Born Again America.

Maybe there's something to that "End of Times" stuff!

More de ja vous all over again ...

Republicans in the House Are Behaving Like the Collapse of Bush's Policies Never Happened

Say you belonged to a charitable organization, and you and your friends were appointed to the steering committee for a big fund raiser, so you chose to have a combination bake sale and casino night. And let's say that you scheduled it on the same night as the town's homecoming football game, so nearly nobody showed up, and the peanut butter cookies in the bake sale gave the few guests that did visit salmonella. Oh, and let's say that in setting up the casino equipment, you accidentally cut off the electricity for the entire block. When the time rolled around the next year for the annual fund raiser, would you stand up and advocate a salmonella bake sale held on the same night as the big game? Of course not. You'd sit down, shut up, and wait for someone else to come up with a new idea. Even if you thought a bake sale/casino night could work under the right circumstances, you would probably be able to figure out that having overseen a colossal failure, the timing might not be right for you to pitch the same idea again.

Unless, apparently, you are a Republican member of the House.

... more from Mitchell Bard after the click.

Wanna know why you think what your think?

In perhaps the most shocking news since the dawn of time, a new ThinkProgress report finds that when it comes to discussion of the Obama stimulus plan on cable news, FOX News has actually been the most "balanced", hosting only slightly more Republicans than Democrats. MSNBC and CNN, on the other hand, have given substantially more time to the GOP.

... more on Crooks and Liars after the click.

Hint: You think what you think because you watch television.

Just a thought ...

"I'm not going to to spend a third of my life preparing to work for the next third of my life, to set myself up with a pension for the last third of my life."

-- Lily Allen

Allowing Science To Assume It's Rightful Place

President Obama has set a breathtaking pace in overturning the most egregious of the flawed and shortsighted approaches of his predecessor to virtually every aspect of presidential leadership including energy, the environment, foreign affairs, health care, and the economy. We can only hope that this momentum can continue as the new President deals with other critical areas neglected and distorted for eight years.


Let's say this as clearly as possible: There is no debate among reputable scientists as to the fact of evolution. It is the underpinning of modern biology and has been proven over and over again with every new discovery. There is no legitimate alternative to this powerful concept in describing life on earth. The scientific literature is flooded with examples of evolution and its all-encompassing explanation of relationships among living things throughout the history of the world.

... read the rest from Bill Allen on HuffPo's blogs.

De ja vous all over again

A quick reminder to the tax cuts = recovery crowd:

BREAKING NEWS (RealityBurg, ObviousLand): We just spent eight years trying to create jobs and grow the economy with only tax cuts and no public investment.

That worked out well, didn't it?

... more.

My comment: How come the Party of Ideas only seems to have one idea?

Edit: ... and then I found this:

... or catch John Oliver on video here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Republicans: The Audacity of Nope

"For every dollar (in the stimulus package) that is spent to help small businesses, $4 is being spent to help upkeep the grass on the lawns of Washington."

-- Eric Cantor (R-VA, Minority Whip)

PolitiFact has a couple things to say about that rather broad misrepresentation.

My comment: More distortion and spin in the hope of continued public ignorance; based on the assumption that no one is paying attention to the full story.

It seems the Republican answer to everything is to cut taxes the only source of revenue our government has to pay for the current stimulus pagkage ... besides borrowing.

They say cutting taxes will stimulate the economy and they complain that some items in the stimulus package won't kick in for a year or more. They neglect the fact that many of the items in the package have a multiplier effect. Increases in unemployment benefits, for example, provide $1.70 of economic effect for every $1.00 in benefits. Tax cuts provide a significantly lower rate of return (if memory serves, it's on the order of $1.07 for every $1.00 in tax cuts). But that doesn't matter. We MUST cut taxes (and borrow more). In the meantime, most individual tax payers won't see any effect from tax cuts for at least a year. The companies they work for will continue with hold. Any tax relief will be seen in the form of a tax return on 1040's filed in April 2009 ... distributed in May and June of 2009. I don't know what other people plan to do with their tax relief, but I plan to pay down my mortgage and pay other on-going bills. Neither of those things will stimulate the economy.

They oppose investments in infrastructure. In my opinion, that's about as short sighted as one can possibly get! Repairing our faltering infrastructure will create jobs throughout the nation. Those jobs (even if they ARE government jobs) are not the busy work as some on the right would have us believe. Our infrastructure is the foundation for our entire economy. It is the way we move goods from one place to another ... the more efficiently you can move things to market, the more profitable your company is. Or perhaps it would be better if individual companies invested their profits, contracted road and bridge outfits, and built their own infrastructure? (Government is the problem, ya see ... and maybe if we get the government out of the infrastructure business, we'd be a whole lot better off.)

I think the Republicans have already forgotten that they ran the 2006 and 2008 elections on a platform of tax cuts ... and lost big time. Their philosophy of tax cuts, more tax cuts, deregulation and unrestricted "free market" economics have left our economic vehicle firmly in a ditch. Their idea of getting us out of the ditch is to do more of what got us here in the first place.

I'm thinking the "funnest" part of their objections came when they quoted a Congressional Budget Office report(*) that didn't exist ... as in, they just made stuff up! But, it's not the first time for 'em. (Here's an overview of the REAL report, issued on Jan 26th.)

If the Republicans want to object, they're better served offering suggestions on how to get the stimulus package to positively effect taxpayers sooner and by demonstrating exactly how their ideas will work better. Ideological objections are so Bush Administration!

It gets better ... then Eric Cantor says: "The stimulus bill includes "$300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami."

But do a word search on "sculpture" in the 647-page stimulus bill now before the House and you'll come up blank. That's because it's not in there.

... get the rest of the story on Politifact after the click.

My comment: It troubles me how smug he seems on TV as he lies and distorts through his teeth.

Gold digging ain't what it used to be ...

It’s the Economy, Girlfriend
New York Times

The economic crisis came home to 27-year-old Megan Petrus early last year when her boyfriend of eight months, a derivatives trader for a major bank, proved to be more concerned about helping a laid-off colleague than comforting Ms. Petrus after her father had a heart attack.

For Christine Cameron, the recession became real when the financial analyst she had been dating for about a year would get drunk and disappear while they were out together, then accuse her the next day of being the one who had absconded.

Dawn Spinner Davis, 26, a beauty writer, said the downward-trending graphs began to make sense when the man she married on Nov. 1, a 28-year-old private wealth manager, stopped playing golf, once his passion. “One of his best friends told me that my job is now to keep him calm and keep him from dying at the age of 35,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s not what I signed up for.”

... read the rest in the NYTimes after the click.

My comment: I suppose they could fall back to charging by the hour now that the gravy train has headed south.

Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin

... or catch the video on YouTube after the click.

In Recognition of Differences

The year of the ox

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox, the second symbol in the Chinese Zodiac.

President Barack Obama released a statement to commemorate the new year:

"I send my warmest wishes to people across Asia, in America, and indeed around the world who are celebrating the Lunar New Year and welcoming the Year of the Ox. As they gather with their families and celebrate over meals, they welcome new beginnings and honor the enduring wisdom of their ancestors.

"From the lion dances in San Francisco to festivals in Atlanta and parades in New York City and Washington, D.C., Americans of Asian descent carry on the vibrant traditions of their forefathers and enrich America's cultural diversity. I wish all those celebrating the New Year to be blessed with peace, prosperity, and good health."

... from The White House Blog.

In Praise of Rational Thought

Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy
by Dennis Overby in The New York Times

Science is not a monument of received Truth but something that people do to look for truth.

That endeavor, which has transformed the world in the last few centuries, does indeed teach values. Those values, among others, are honesty, doubt, respect for evidence, openness, accountability and tolerance and indeed hunger for opposing points of view. These are the unabashedly pragmatic working principles that guide the buzzing, testing, poking, probing, argumentative, gossiping, gadgety, joking, dreaming and tendentious cloud of activity — the writer and biologist Lewis Thomas once likened it to an anthill — that is slowly and thoroughly penetrating every nook and cranny of the world.

Nobody appeared in a cloud of smoke and taught scientists these virtues. This behavior simply evolved because it worked.

... read the rest after the click.

Nixon's Lawyer on Torture

by John Dean

Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is being held up by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who apparently is unhappy that Holder might actually investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials who engaged in torture. Aside from this repugnant new Republican embrace of torture (which might be a winning issue for the lunatic fringe of the party and a nice way to further marginalize the GOP), any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work.

It is difficult to believe that Eric Holder would agree not to enforce the law, like his recent Republican predecessors. Indeed, if he were to do so, President Obama should withdraw his nomination. But as MSNBC "Countdown" anchor Keith Olbermann stated earlier this week, even if the Obama Administration for whatever reason does not investigate and prosecute these crimes, this still does not mean that the Bush Administration officials who were involved in torture are going to get a pass.

With few exceptions, the discussion about what the Obama Administration will do regarding the torture of detainees during the Bush years has been framed as a domestic matter, and the fate of those involved in torturing has been largely viewed as a question of whether the Department of Justice will take action. In fact, not only is the world watching what the Obama Administration does regarding Bush's torturers, but other countries are very likely to take action if the United States fails to do so.

... read the rest, and there IS more, after the click.

My comment: The whole world is watching. What an unholy, unmitigated, intergalactic, everlasting embarrassment it would be if someone should take the responsibility for cleaning up the mess WE, in a panic, allowed.

Until this minor detail is addressed, we can no longer claim to be a nation governed by laws (not men). We can no longer claim that "no man is above the law" for we will have made exceptions. Our mouthed platitudes about respect for the law will be greeted by international snickers. We will have demonstrated that when the going gets rough, we are just another comic opera banana republic willing to prosecute others for crimes against civilization (see the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, the prosecution of Augusto Pinochet and the trial of Slobodan Milošević) but totally unwilling to take responsibility for our own transgressions. We will have become a nation that believes laws are for other people and don't apply to us ... and that there are those among us to whom no laws apply what-so-ever.

It won't be the end of the world as we know it, but it will be the beginning of the end. We will have sacrificed our stated principles embodied in our laws for the sake of domestic political expediency - for the fear that those supporting this lawlessness might interpret the pursuit of justice under the law as somehow being petty political revenge.

To say that we believe in the rule of law while ignoring fundamental crimes against civilization would be the ultimate hypocracy.

I love my country ... I'm just not particularly proud of some of the things done in her name.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mad Magazine - Still Relevant After All These Years

Guantanamo Baywatch

... or watch the video after the click.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Growing stocks of unsold cars around the world

The Guardian, UK

Thirteen images of unsold cars ... some are absolutely beautiful ... except for the implications.

Imported cars stored at Sheerness (Kent, UK) open storage area awaiting delivery to dealers
... click image to see the rest.

Something you can bank on

... click image for larger version.

... and an explanatory word from Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis:

Why Banks Aren't Lending

Money was given to banks and many members of Congress are asking for banks to increase lending. I suggest that instead of attempting to force banks to lend, that Congress seek reasons why banks are not lending. Here is the answer.

1. Banks are still insolvent after all those capital injections. There is simply no capital to lend. Book values of banks, if credit were to realistically be marked to market is negative.

2. There is no reason to lend. What do we need more of? Cars? Pizza Huts? Houses? Nail Salons? Malls? Furniture? What? Nothing is what.

3. There is no consumer demand because there are no jobs. Since there are no jobs (or significantly fewer jobs) banks are unwilling to extend credit to consumers with less of an ability to pay it back.

It is a serious, serious mistake to force banks to lend at this point. All it will do is increase bank writeoffs.

Twenty-five people at the heart of the meltdown ...

Guardian, UK

The worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression is not a natural phenomenon but a man-made disaster in which we all played a part. In the second part of a week-long series looking behind the slump, Guardian City editor Julia Finch picks out the individuals who have led us into the current crisis ...

  • Alan Greenspan, chairman of US Federal Reserve 1987- 2006
  • Bill Clinton, former US president
  • Gordon Brown, prime minister
  • George W Bush, former US president
  • Senator Phil Gramm
  • Abi Cohen, Goldman Sachs chief US strategist
  • "Hank" Greenberg, AIG insurance group
  • Andy Hornby, former HBOS boss
  • Sir Fred Goodwin, former RBS boss
  • Steve Crawshaw, former B&B boss
  • Adam Applegarth, former Northern Rock boss
  • Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin
  • Lewis Ranieri
  • Joseph Cassano, AIG Financial Products
  • Chuck Prince, former Citi boss
  • Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide Financial
  • Stan O'Neal, former boss of Merrill Lynch
  • Jimmy Cayne, former Bear Stearns boss
  • Christopher Dodd, chairman, Senate banking committee (Democrat)
  • Geir Haarde, Icelandic prime minister
  • The American public
  • Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England
  • John Tiner, FSA chief executive, 2003-07
  • Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers chief executive

... there's the indictment, now get the details in the Guardian after the click.