Friday, July 29, 2011

When white people do it. When brown people do it.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Earth First! Dances on Governor’s Table in Montana Tar Sands Protest

I'm not sure if this type of direct action will do much good.

Like activist judges? Then you’ll love the balanced budget amendment.

Brad Plumer gives a run down of the really bad idea being touted by tea party Republicans right now:

One of the big unanswered questions about a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution — the new favorite policy of tea party types everywhere — is how it would even work in practice. Sure, the basics are easy to understand: Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee’s proposed amendment in the Senate, for instance, says that spending can’t exceed revenue for a given fiscal year, and spending can’t go above 18 percent of GDP, unless a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate approves. (There’s a war exception.) But how would this rule actually be enforced?

Lee’s bill, for one, would allow any member of Congress to file a lawsuit if a budget violates the Constitution. “The bar for a lawsuit would be pretty low,” explains Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center. So take an easy case: Congress passes a budget that either runs a deficit or tries to hide the deficit through accounting tricks. Jim DeMint gets annoyed and files a lawsuit. The courts could order an injunction and block the spending bills — which could, in turn, shut down the government unless Congress scrambles to fix it. (And, given that the Congress needs a two-thirds majority to raise taxes or run a deficit, “scrambling” might be a tall order.)

But it doesn’t stop there. The court could also just step in and make decisions about what exactly to cut, in order to bring the budget in line with the Constitution. In Hatch and Lee’s proposal, the courts couldn’t order tax increases, but they could mandate specific cuts. “They’d have a lot of latitude,” says Kendall. “Do they start setting budgetary policy? Which wars we fight, which veterans we provide for, whether Grandma gets her Social Security benefits — these are the choices we’d be authorizing the court to make.” It seems preposterous, but nothing would bar Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg from donning green eyeshades, breaking out their adding calculators and going through the budget line by line. If you love judicial activism, you’ll love this provision.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Say Congress does obey the new amendment and passes a balanced budget that relies on certain projections for revenue. Now say that midway through the fiscal year, there’s an economic downturn, tax receipts fall unexpectedly and unemployment benefits go up. Deficit! What then? Congress would have to pass immediate (and likely steep) cuts and/or tax hikes. Otherwise, the courts step in. Another problem: Congress, remember, passes appropriations bills in chunks. What if, say, the defense spending bill is the last one passed and is the thing that nudges federal spending over the 18 percent mark? “Do they then strike down the defense bill?” Kendall asks. “Or do they go strike down something else? How do they make that choice?”

And it’s no use pretending that these decisions would be made swiftly — especially because, as Lee’s spokesman has conceded, the amendment doesn’t bar citizen suits. As Robert Bork (yep, that Robert Bork) wrote way back in 1984, this could create a nightmare scenario: “The result … would likely be hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits around the country, many of them on inconsistent theories and providing inconsistent results. By the time the Supreme Court straightened the whole matter out, the budget in question would be at least four years out of date and lawsuits involving the next three fiscal years would be slowly climbing toward the Supreme Court.”

“But wait,” you say. “Don’t most states have balanced budget requirements? Why don’t they don’t ever run into this absurd situation?” Luckily, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took a detailed look at this question years ago. The short answer is that state laws aren’t nearly as strict as a federal balanced budget amendment would be (states can borrow money for their capital budgets, which is used for infrastructure spending, and many states actually do run short-term deficits in their operating budgets throughout the year). No state has to deal with anything like what Republicans are proposing. We’d be in truly uncharted territory.

How to keep up with news and information on the web

A friend asked me a while back how I keep up with news and find all the information that I'm always posting on my blog/facebook/twitter.

You have to use an RSS feed aggregator.  

I use google reader though you can do a websearch for a list of other feed readers

Here is a quick easy to understand Youtube video on what an RSS feed is.

Here are four of my "must reads":

Beat the Press:  Its a blog written by economist Dean Baker over at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Its fantastic because it fact checks of news articles in major newspapers and  puts important economic issues in to very readable english and not economic goobly goop the policy wonks use.  If you want to understand the economy you have to read this blog.
Plug this link into your feed reader to subscribe:

Talking Points Memo.  Its an online news organization/political blog.  
Plug this link into your feed reader to subscribe:

Ezra Klein -- He's a writer that focuses on Economics and politics over at the Washington Post.
Plug this link into your feed reader: 

Political Insider with Jim Galloway:  Its a political blog over at the AJC that focuses on GA politics.  A must read for anyone in Georgia.
Plug this link into your feed reader:

I follow about 150 feeds---websites, think tanks, newspapers from all over the globe, blogs.  Your favorite site probably has a rss feed.  It will save you time and will keep you up to date on items right as they hit the web.  But even if you just add your local newspaper and a few of other sites it will help you save time and catch up on the news quickly.

If you want to follow my blog you can plug this into your feed reader:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Clearest Sign That Boehner's Bill Will Pass the House

 If you listen to Eric Cantor or any of the self-styled Tea Party Republicans pushing the country to the brink of default, they claim to be motivated by an unshakeable fealty to the principle that spending must be cut and must be cut right now -- damn the consequences. They appeared serious enough that John Boehner was forced to pull his debt-ceiling bill last night because it cut too little and did not have the votes to pass. 

But it seems that was all for show. This morning, at a closed-door session, most of the Republican caucus apparently exploded in anger at a staffer for the conservative Republican Study Committee, Paul Teller, who had been rallying support against some of the weaker-willed members who were preparing to support Boehner's plan. Here's how
House Republicans on Wednesday morning were calling for the firing of the Republican Study Committee top staffer after he was caught sending e-mails to conservative groups urging them to pressure GOP lawmakers to vote against a debt proposal from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Infuriated by the e-mails from Paul Teller, the executive director of the RSC, members started chanting "Fire him, fire him!" while Teller stood silently at a closed-door meetings of House Republicans.

"It was an unbelievable moment," said one GOP insider. "I've never seen anything like it."
This sounds like something out of Lord of the Flies -- only the anger was not unleashed on behalf of the conservative principle of holding the line on spending (a struggle that Teller's wing of the party has plainly been winning). Instead, it was directed at the one person who clearly did mean exactly what his party has been saying and was willing to fight for it. If Republican House members had any convictions at all, Teller would get a medal and a promotion. It speaks volumes about what Republicans really believe -- and confirms every Tea Party suspicion about Washington insiders selling them out -- that this is how they behave in private. There can't really be much doubt, at this point, that Boehner's bill sails through the House. 

UPDATE: A fairly prominent movement conservative just sent me this note:
This is infuriating. And you are absolutely correct -- this highlights everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. Instead of spending the morning in their conference meeting deciding how to avert the disaster of a AAA downgrade (which the Boehner plan will not do), they were dicking around like middle schoolers ganging up on the the least powerful person in the room.

If they are trying to spawn a third party they are doing a damn good job.

Eff these morons.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama's speech

Obama's speech was the last straw for me.  This morning after work I contacted the Chair of the Democratic Committee here in Henry County and resigned my seat on the committee.  To be fair it was more of the reaction that came from local Democratic action before the speech as well as their new found passion after the speech--as if all of a sudden now was the time to contact their Representative that broke the figurative camels back.   

A real political party would have been pounding the pavement and sending out calls to action from their county parties to educate voters on what was going on.  Demand that Obama take Social Security and other cuts off the table and demand a clean bill.  Political Parties are political machines.  The fact that Obama came out in the speech and pretended both parties were partially at fault---because thats what the polls tell him he should say-- was just one more example of his preference for being President rather than being a leader.

This "debt criris" is a fabricated emergency and anyone paying attention knows it.  The nation isn't going broke--we have a long term (public and private sector) health care spending issue not a government spending problem.  But the silence from Democratic leaders--elected and otherwise--tells me the belonging as a member is not something I can stomach; just don't have the heart.

I'll of coarse stay engaged and will look to find local candidates to work for--they'll inevitably be running on the Democratic ticket as its the reality of the political situation.

But for now i've got to back away from a party that toes the line and  jumps when a Democratic President says jump.  Its just not a good idea.  Sometimes you are standing at the edge of a cliff.  All of this is so similar to the run up to the Iraq War.  The silence from Democratic leaders in this state over the past few weeks has been deafening.  I'm going to fold for a few hands. 

"Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule."  --Friedrich Nietzsche

The Cult That Is Destroying America

Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price.

Obama’s Scare Tactics to Get Democrats to Vote for His Republican Wall Street Plan

Michael Hudson over at Naked Capitalism on Obama's scare tactics:

You know that the debt kerfuffle is as staged as melodramatically as a World Wrestling Federation exhibition when Mr. Obama makes the blatantly empty threat that if Congress does not “tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform,” there won’t be money to pay Social Security checks next month. In his debt speech last night (July 25), he threatened that if “we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills – bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.”

This is not remotely true. But it has become the scare theme for over a week now, ever since the President used almost the same words in his interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley.

Of course the government will have enough money to pay the monthly Social Security checks. The Social Security administration has its own savings – in Treasury bills. I realize that lawyers (such as Mr. Obama and indeed most American presidents) rarely understand economics. But this is a legal issue. Mr. Obama certainly must know that Social Security is solvent, with liquid securities to pay for many decades to come. Yet Mr. Obama has put Social Security at the very top of his hit list!

The most reasonable explanation for his empty threat is that he is trying to panic the elderly into hoping that somehow the budget deal he seems to have up his sleeve can save them. The reality, of course, is that they are being led to economic slaughter. (And not a word of correction reminding the President of financial reality from Rubinomics Treasury Secretary Geithner, neoliberal Fed Chairman Bernanke or anyone else in the Wall Street Democrat administration, formerly known as the Democratic Leadership Council.)

It is a con. Mr. Obama has come to bury Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not to save them. This was clear from the outset of his administration when he appointed his Deficit Reduction Commission, headed by avowed enemies of Social Security Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, and President Clinton’s Rubinomics chief of staff Erskine Bowles. Mr. Obama’s more recent choice of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats be delegated by Congress to rewrite the tax code on a bipartisan manner – so that it cannot be challenged – is a ploy to pass a tax “reform” that democratically elected representatives never could be expected to do.

The devil is always in the details. And Wall Street lobbyists always have such details tucked away in their briefcases to put in the hands of their favored congressmen and dedicated senators. And in this case they have the President, who has taken their advice as to whom to appoint as his cabinet to act as factotums to capture the government on their behalf and create “socialism for the rich.”

There is no such thing, of course. When governments are run by the rich, it is called oligarchy. Plato’s dialogues made clear that rather than viewing societies as democracies or oligarchies, it was best to view them in motion. Democracies tended to polarize economically (mainly between creditors and debtors) into oligarchies. These in turn tended to make themselves into hereditary aristocracies. In time, leading families would fight among themselves, and one group (such as Kleisthenes in Athens in 507 BC) would “take the people into his party” and create a democracy. And so the eternal political triangle would go on.

This is what is happening today. Instead of enjoying what the Progressive Era anticipated – an evolution into “socialism,” with government providing basic infrastructure and other needs on a subsidized basis – we are seeing a lapse back into neo-feudalism. The difference, of course, is that this time around society is not controlled by military grabbers of the land. Finance today achieves what military force did in times past. Instead of being tied to the land as under feudalism, families today may live wherever they want – as long as they take on a lifetime of debt to pay the mortgage on whatever home they buy.

And instead of society paying land rent and tribute to conquerors, we pay the bankers. Just as access to the land was a precondition for families to feed themselves under feudalism, one needs access to credit, to water, medical care, pensions or Social Security and other basic needs today – and must pay interest, fees and monopoly rent to the neo-feudal oligarchy that is now making its deft move from the United States to Ireland and Greece.

The U.S. Government has spent $13 trillion in financial bailouts since Lehman Bros. failed in September 2008. But Mr. Obama warns that thirty years from now, the Social Security fund may run a $1 trillion deficit. It is to ward it off that he urges dismantling the plans for such payments now.

It seems that the $13 trillion used up all the money the government really has. The banks and Wall Street firms have taken the money and run. There is not enough to pay for Social Security, Medicare or other social spending that the Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans now plan to cut.

Not right away. The plan will be to “paper over” the current crisis by delegating the plans to a “Deficit Reduction Commission #2,” appointed from Congressional members.

Finally, we have “Change we can believe in.” Real change is always surprising, after all.

The faux crisis

Usually a crisis is needed to create a vacuum into which these toxic details are fed. Wall Street does not like real crises, of course – except to make quick computer-driven speculative gains on the usual fibrillation of today’s zigzagging markets. But when it comes to serious money, the illusion of a crisis is preferred, staged melodramatically to wring the greatest degree of emotion out of the audience much like a good film editor edits a montage sequence. Will the speeding train run over the girl strapped to the tracks? Will she escape in time?

The train is debt; the girl is supposed to be the American economy. But she turns out to be Wall Street in disguise. The exercise turns out to be a not-so-divine comedy. Mr. Obama offers a plan that looks very Republican. But the Republicans say no. There is an illusion of a real fight. They say Obama is socialist.

Democrats express shock at the giveaway being threatened. Many say, “Where is the real Obama?” But it seems that the real Obama turns out to be a Republican Wall Street imposter in Democratic clothing. That is what the Democratic Leadership Committee basically is: Wall Street Democrats.

This is not as much of an oxymoron as it may sound. There is a reason why today’s post-Clinton Democrats are the natural party to undo what FDR and earlier Democrats stood for. A Democratic Senate never would stand for such giveaways to Wall Street and double-cross of their urban constituency if a Republican president would propose what Mr. Obama is putting before them.

Here’s what the next Republican presidential candidate can say: “You know that whatever we Republicans want, Mr. Obama will support us. If you don’t want a Republican policy, they you should vote for me for president. Because a Democratic Congress will oppose a Republican policy if we propose it. But if Mr. Obama proposes it, congress will be de-toothed, and cannot resist.”

It’s the same story in Britain, where the Labour Party is called upon to finish up the job that the Conservatives start but need New Labour to subdue popular opposition to privatizing the railroads and a Public/Private Partnership financial giveaway for the London tube line. And it’s the same story in France, where a Socialist government is supporting the privatization program dictated by the European Central Bank.

Round up the usual fallacies

Whenever one finds government officials and the media repeating an economic error as an incessant mantra, there always is a special interest at work. The financial sector in particular seeks to wrong-foot voters into believing that the economy will be plunged into crisis of Wall Street does not get its way – usually by freeing it from taxes and deregulating it.

Mr. Obama’s first fallacy is that the government budget is like a family budget. But families can’t write IOUs and have the rest of the world treat it as money. Only governments can do that. It is a privilege that the banks would now like to obtain – the ability to create credit freely on their computer keyboards, and charge interest for what is almost free, and what governments can indeed create for free. (That is the State Theory of Money. See the UMKC Economics Blog.)

“Now, every family knows that a little credit card debt is manageable. But if we stay on the current path, our growing debt could cost us jobs and do serious damage to the economy.” But economies need government money to grow – and this money is provided by running federal budget deficits. This has been the essence of Keynesian counter-cyclical spending for more than half a century. Until the present, it was Democratic Party policy.

It’s true that Pres. Clinton ran a budget surplus. The economy survived by the commercial banking system supplying the credit needed to grow – at interest. To force the economy back into this reliance on Wall Street rather than on government, the government needs to stop running budget deficits. The economy will then have a choice: to shrink sharply, or to turn almost all the economic surplus over to banks as economic rent on their credit-creation privilege.

Mr. Obama also pretends that credit ratings agencies are able to act as mascots for their clients, the large financial underwriters, by making the entire economy pay even higher interest rates on its credit cards and banks. “For the first time in history,” Mr. Obama dissembled, “our country’s Triple A credit rating would be downgraded, leaving investors around the world to wonder whether the United States is still a good bet. Interest rates would skyrocket on credit cards, mortgages, and car loans, which amounts to a huge tax hike on the American people.”

The reality is that running a budget surplus would increase interest rates, by forcing the economy into captivity to the banking system. The Obama administration is now deep into its Orwellian rhetorical phase.

Why Wall Street needs Obama Democrats to shepherd Rubinomics #2 through Congress

During Mr. Obama’s speech I could not help feeling that I had heard it all before. And then I remembered. Back in 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sought to counter Sheila Bair’s argument that all FDIC-insured depositors would be able to ride out the September crisis, with only the reckless gamblers losing the gains they hoped to make on their free credit. “If the financial system were allowed to collapse,” he warned in his Reagan Library speech, “it is the American people who would pay the price. This never has been just about the banks; it has always been about continued prosperity and opportunity for all Americans.”

But of course, it is all about the banks! Wall Street knows that to get sufficient Congressional votes to roll back the New Deal, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, a Democratic president needs to be in office. A Democratic Congress would block any Republican president trying to make the kind of cuts that Mr. Obama is sponsoring. But Congressional Democratic opposition is paralyzed when President Obama himself – the liberal president par excellence, America’s Tony Blair – acts as cheerleader for cutting back entitlements and other social spending.

So just as the City of London backed Britain’s Labour Party in taking over when the Conservative Party could not take such radical steps as privatizing the railroads and London tube system, and just as Iceland’s Social Democrats sought to plunge the economy into debt peonage to Britain and Holland, and the Greek Socialist Party is leading the fight for privatization and bank bailouts, so in the United States the Democratic Party is to deliver its constituency – urban labor, especially the racial minorities and the poor who are most injured by Pres. Obama’s austerity plan – to Wall Street.

So Mr. Obama is doing what any good demagogue does: delivering his constituency to his campaign contributors on Wall Street. Yves Smith has aptly called it Obama’s “Nixon goes to China moment in reverse.”

The Republicans help by refraining from putting forth a credible alternative presidential candidate. The effect is to give Mr. Obama room to move far to the right wing of the political spectrum. Far enough so that it is his own Democrats who are most intent on scaling back Social Security, not the Republicans.

This is done most easily under pressure of near panic. This worked after September 1008 with TARP, after all. The Wall Street bailout melodrama should be viewed as a dress rehearsal for today’s debt-ceiling non-crisis.

Econbrowser: The Bonds of August

On a positive note the Gauls didn't sack Rome for a number of years after the decline of the Roman Empire. We'll be fine and will leave the mess we've made to generations down the road. The sky won't fall tomorrow but cracks erode away at the heart of our Empire.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In just one sentence you get a glimpse of how we reached this point...

Probably too much to ask that the cable nets bring on guests with expertise on the budget or on economics to provide insight and perspective on a budget and economics story.

A Republic can't function without quality journalism/media watchdog that educates and informs...

Love me i'm a Liberal!

Something I can always count on is as soon as Boehner says something stupid my Facebook gets plastered with rebuttals. But when Obama tries to erode Social Security benefits for 90 year olds nothing but silence.
10 degrees to the left of center when GOP says it. 10 degrees to the right of center if a Democrat says it. This ones for you...
Here is the original if you've never heard it...

‪Yves Smith: Debt Ceiling Extortion

Government doesn't have a spending problem, the government doesn't have a spending problem...

All together now---the Government doesn't have a spending problem. 

The belief that we do, being propagated by the austerity now crew ignores the current reality we are facing in the markets and is hampering our long term recovery.  A rundown via Free Exchange over at The Economist Magazine :

Debtors are working hard to pay down their debts. In doing so, they transfer money to creditors. What are the creditors doing with it? To too great an extent, nothing, which is why interest rates are so low. But this means that the government can borrow cheaply and use the opportunity to make needed investments and support critical government consumption. Unfortunately, the government has done the opposite. State and local governments have cut back their budgets dramatically. The federal government's efforts to boost the economy through greater borrowing mostly offset these cutbacks, and the federal government is now following state and local governments down the austerity path. Insolvency needn't be a concern; if the government really felt the need to reassure bond markets, the best thing it could do would be to reduce the long-run path of spending on health care. Instead, it is focused on cutting short- and medium-term borrowing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Barack Obama: The Democrats’ Richard Nixon

Bruce Bartlett over at the Fiscal Times on our center-right President.

Clinton now Obama... the Democrats are controlled and push the agenda of the center right. People really wonder why I think my friends that vote GOP are out of touch and quite radical in their political beliefs?

Cutting Gov. spending in the middle of a recession is a really bad idea...

Its hot...


Grover Norquist Contradicts Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist, the godfather of Washington's anti-tax activists,backtracked from remarks he made to theWashington Post editorial board in which he suggested that a lawmaker who voted to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire wouldn't be guilty of violating the anti-tax pledge he has gotten so many to sign.

His organization, Americans for Tax Reform, issued a statement. An excerpt:

ATR opposes all tax increases on the American people. Any failure to extend or make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, in whole or in part, would clearly increase taxes on the American people. In addition, the failure to extend the AMT patch would increase taxes. The outlines of the plans are deliberately hazy, but it appears that both Obama's Simpson-Bowles commission proposal and the Gang-of-Six proposal dramatically increase taxes on the American people.

It is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to trade temporary tax reductions for permanent tax hikes.


The present conversations in Washington should focus totally and exclusively on reducing government overspending. President Barack Obama has increased the annual federal budget by almost $1 trillion dollars. ATR has not altered either its policy positions or opposition to all tax increases whatsoever in any debt negotiations.

The Washington Post editorial board has blog post containing audio of its journalists' conversation with Norquist. It does appear he said what the Post reported he said, that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, since they were temporary to begin with, wouldn't technically be scored as a tax increase by his organization.

Earlier Thursday, Democrats ran towards Norquist's statement to the Post as though it were an oasis in an arid land. They were actually quoting him and, for once, not disdainfully.

But it was all apparently a mirage.

‪Theodor Adorno - Music and Protest‬‏

Doug Henwood of LBO fame posted this Adorno video to his Facebook Page commenting, "Adorno explains why protest music is so bad."

Some thoughts popped up because of this.  

1) The importance of music in sustaining human beings--who are political actors
2) Even if radical music really existed it would be necessary to abolish it

1) I'm bipolar and struggle for a number of years early in my life.  "Radical [sic] Music" in many ways sustained me and kept me struggling through.  

From dropping out of high school to going in an out of psychiatric wards music and the things I took away from from it kept my sense of identity in tact and kept me plugging away.  

If I had to pick one person that inspired me more than any other to run for State Senate (or help organize the anti war movement on my college campus in run up to Iraq II, or start up an Amnesty International on campus) it'd be Steve Ignorant.  Maybe radical music is a contradiction, a tragedy, a farce.  But human beings are political actors, life is tragedy/farce, and sometimes we need a commodity/soundtrack to what we do as we perpetuate decline.

2) Punk is dead

Superman: A Transitional Power Source

The US is the 4th most exposed country to Greek Debt

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Socialism Watch: Nathan Deal and his Nanny State ways...

Business Week:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed say a public-private toll road project will go out to bid, with the help of a federal low-interest loan of up to $270 million.

Deal and the Georgia Department of Transportation had delayed the bidding while they waited to see if Georgia won the loan, which was announced Tuesday under the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The project involves building toll lanes along Interstate highways 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. It has an estimated cost of $968 and is expected to create more than 9,700 jobs.

Conditions of the loan allow for it to be repaid with toll revenues. It's the first step in the Georgia DOT's plan to build a managed lane network for metro Atlanta.

I'm waiting for the Free Market crew over at the GOP to decry Nathan Deal and his nanny state efforts to "entice" (subsidize) investors.  If this was such a great deal, then why did they hold off on taking bids?  Why not just let the Free Market have at it?

Socialism Watch: Nathan Deal and his Nanny State ways...

Business Week:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed say a public-private toll road project will go out to bid, with the help of a federal low-interest loan of up to $270 million.

Deal and the Georgia Department of Transportation had delayed the bidding while they waited to see if Georgia won the loan, which was announced Tuesday under the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The project involves building toll lanes along Interstate highways 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. It has an estimated cost of $968 and is expected to create more than 9,700 jobs.

Conditions of the loan allow for it to be repaid with toll revenues. It's the first step in the Georgia DOT's plan to build a managed lane network for metro Atlanta.

I'm waiting for the Free Market crew over at the GOP to decry Nathan Deal and his nanny state efforts to "entice" (subsidize) investors.  If this was such a great deal, then why did they hold off on taking bids?  Why not just let the Free Market have at it?

Georgia Restaurant Association is warning of rising wages and lower unemployment numbers...

Right as GA's unemployment rate rises to 9.9% in June, the Georgia Restaurant Association is saying Georgia restaurants are reporting labor shortages.

At first I thought this was an article in The Onion. 

Really basic supply and demand.  A labor shortage will result in wages rising to meet demand.  Why does the Georgia Restaurant Association think we should be worried about either lower unemployment or rising wages for working people?

Must as been a slow news cycle over at the AJC.  

The capacity for representative thinking...

"The more people's standpoints I have present in my mind while I am pondering a given issue, and the better I can imagine how I would feel and think were I in their place, the stronger will be my capacity for representative thinking and the more valid my final conclusion, my opinion."  --Hannah Arendt

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lets compare this recession to past recessions....


Right, a recession that Obama was elected into is Obama's fault!  What was I thinking....

Steve Wynn’s Obama ‘Wet Blanket’ Rant Is ‘Nonsense’,

In three words or less?   Its demand stupid.

Steve Wynn’s Obama ‘Wet Blanket’ Rant Is ‘Nonsense’

Social Security provides the majority of income for three-fifths of Americans age 65+

Social Security 2008 quintiles

The average annual Social Security retirement benefit in 2009 was $13,406.40, slightly above the $10,289 federal poverty line for individuals age 65 and older, but less than the minimum wage. While modest in size, Social Security benefits comprise a substantial share of household income for most elderly recipients. Originally designed to complement savings and retirement income, Social Security has instead become the primary source of income among this group.

According to 2008 data, for the poorest 40 percent of 65-and-older households, Social Security payouts constitute more than four-fifths of total income. Even retirement-age middle- and upper-middle-class households rely heavily on Social Security, with benefits making up nearly two-thirds of middle-class household incomes and more than two-fifths of upper-middle-class household incomes. The highest income group relies less on Social Security, but that is largely due to the fact that almost half of their income comes from earnings, meaning that they are still working.

Social Security benefits are not a windfall, but a lifeline. With benefits so modest, Congress should be focused on raising them, not cutting them by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment or raising the retirement age.

Bruce Caldwell - Why Economics Needs the History of Thought

The trucks won't load themselves edition 7.20.11

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Governments can keep the banks alive but tell them that their world will end

Dean Baker reminds us you don't have to be held political hostage by the banks:

Larry Summers wants Post readers to believethat the policy choices are either letting banks fail like Lehman, and setting off a financial earthquake, or keeping them alive through government bailouts. Actually, there is a third option. Governments can keep the banks alive but tell them that their world will end.

The principle here is so simple that even one of the world's top economists should be able to understand it. Insolvent banks are kept alive by government welfare. Just as the government sets all sorts of conditions for getting monthly welfare checks (which average around $500), it can impose conditions on the banks that are on life support. This can mean giving large capital stakes to the government, voluntary haircuts for creditors (voluntary in the sense that they will get next to nothing if it goes bankrupt), and really really big paycuts for bank executives. This means no more multi-million dollar paychecks.

Congress pretended to impose some of these restrictions with the TARP, but everyone except Washington Post reporters knew at the time that the restrictions were a joke. The story as Summers and the Wall Street boys tell it is that we have no choice but to give the financial industry all of our money. This is not true.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't trust the corporate media

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (aka:owners of Fox News), is in the midst of scandal.

Appears they hacked into the phones&personal records of murdered children, the sick four month-old child of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, victims of the 7/7 London terror attacks, the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, celebrities, politicians, members of the royal family, thousands of other Britons, and 9/11 victims.


Dean Baker smack down of John Stewart --China/Debt edition...

In an age of Fox News media decline where John Stewart gives the public better journalism than most "journalists" its appropriate for Dean Baker to call out John Stewart on China.

That's what folks should be asking John Stewart. The United States as a country owes China money because it has a trade deficit. The trade deficit means that United States would be borrowing from China even if it had a balanced budget, as for example was the case in 1999 and 2000. The fact that China happens to hold a lot of Treasury bonds simply is the result of what U.S. assets they choose to hold. They could, and do, also buy private bonds, stock and other assets., Of course the trade deficit is high due to the over-valued dollar. This in turn is partly the result of the fact that China and other countries have a policy of keeping the dollar high by buying up assets like U.S. Treasury bonds., 

All of this may be way too much depth for a comedy show, but how about leaving China out of the story? We have a lot of China bashers in this country. There are reasons to object to many of China's policies (I certainly do), but do we need to throw China into the picture gratutiously? After all John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Barack Obama would seem to provide plenty of comedic material.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Economics is not Math

The sooner we recognize that the field of economics is a branch of Sociology and not Mathematics, the better off we will all be. --Barry Ritholtz

Economics is not Math

The sooner we recognize that the field of economics is a branch of Sociology and not Mathematics, the better off we will all be. --Barry Ritholtz

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Forms of liberty worth having

Been having a very fruitful debate with a conservative on the discussion board for my Microeconomics class.

I'm seldom able to finding conservatives who actually take the time to truly engage and debate issues indepth, and it truly is enjoyable when I do as I actually learn a lot in the process both about the reasons behind some of the positions I disagree with as well as getting a better understanding of my own positions and flaws in those positions that I can improve upon.

One thread I've been thinking through is the importance of definitions of liberty.  

Definitions of liberty that lack the right of self-government, of choosing ones leaders, isn't a form of liberty worth having.  I think I see a tendency within right-libertarians and conservatives to champion liberty that either openly denies self-government as a right that all have, or at the very least support policies that imply a denial of the right to self government as an unstated premise.

When you lack a heuristic device to deal with disagreements about what a policy should be you end up either imposing a subjective version of coerced/uncoerced policy.

Is social security a nanny state system that coerces people, against their will, to put money into retirement funds that individuals would rather invest on their own.***  Or is social security a social program that the demo's voted on and supports.  The self-governed should have a right to set up a safety net no?

I look at Libertarians like Jason Pye and the crew over at United Liberty as examples of people that claim liberty at the forefront of their belief system but appear to lack the needed heuristic to resolve the self-government impasse. 

***I think its a fallacy to claim that social security is a retirement fund--its a safety net of last resort which protects society from having to deal with the social costs/externalities of large masses of impoverished seniors burdening the economy.


None dare call it class warfare -- Obama Offers to Cut Social Security

Social Security adds absolutely nothing, 0, nada to the deficit. In fact Social Security is loaning the federal government money because it has a surplus! Under the law it can only spend money that came from its designated tax or the interest on the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund. It has no legal authority to spend one dime beyond this sum and this gets thrown into the debt ceiling deal?  

None dare call it class warfare

Okay some people do call a spade a spade...

We are in the midst of a counterrevolution and intensifying class war. What makes its present efflorescence so striking is that it is taking place under the presidency of Barack Obama, a man elected in good measure by an aroused mass base that is now taking its lumps. The power structure no longer permits serious attention to the welfare of that mass base. The great upward redistribution of income, the increased importance of money in elections, the centralization of corporate and media control and the media's rightward drift, globalization, outsourcing, the weakening of organized labor, and the permanent war system, have all combined to effectively eliminate a "populist" option in politics. The Democrats invariably betray their voting base, but not their investor base.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sandra Day O'Connor's Secret Shame

Just think of the millions of lives killed/maimed/destroyed via the Bush administration recklessness.  All because of votes not counted and activist judges... (ahhh most of 'em were brown people in a far off land so who cares...)

Jonathan Chait

I enjoyed Jeff Rosen's defense of Sandra Day O'Connor, but wanted to add a bit of detail to this part at the end:

O’Connor was prickly and defensive about Bush v.Gore in Aspen: “It wasn’t the end of the world,” she said impatiently. “They had recounts of the votes in four counties by the press, and it did not change the outcome at all. So forget it. It’s over!”

O'Connor's recollection of the media recount is false, though understandably so. The media recount was released shortly after the September 11 attacks, at the height of George W. Bush's popularity and in the midst of massive pressure to affirm his legitimacy. The newspapers spun the recount as an affirmation of Bush's victory. In fact, it proved the opposite. The newspapers assumed that the recount would only focus on "undervotes," or ballots that registered no presidential vote. But the judge overseeing the recount that the Supreme Court halted stated that he would have counted "overvotes," too -- ballots that register more than one vote for president. Many of those ballots registered a clear preference -- usually, the voter both checked the box and wrote in the name of the same candidate. And if those ballots were counted, Gore would have won.

Second, even if O'Connor was right that Bush would have won, it hardly justifies the ruling. After all, halting a legal statewide recount and eliminating any chance that your favored candidate might lose is wrong even if he wouldn't have lost anyway. I wrote at the time:

At the time, nobody knew who would win the recount, but everybody knew it was Gore's only chance of victory. The trouble with Bush v. Gore was that it distorted the law to bring about a desired political outcome. (Alternatively, if you believe Bush v. Gore got the law right, as the Journal does, then a subsequent recount wouldn't "vindicate" it.) That the Court's intervention may, in retrospect, have been unnecessary hardly exonerates it. You're no less guilty of burglary if you break into a bank vault that turns out to be empty.

O'Connor's defensiveness suggests a recognition that she supported a partisan, wildly activist, and legally bizarre ruling. People who are proud of a vote don't shout down any questions by declaring "forget it, it's over!" They're happy to discuss their role in a great legal moment! The justices who voted for Bush v. Gore don't act that way.

Hacked Fox tweets claim 'Obama dead'

A Twitter account was hacked briefly on Monday and six false tweets, saying that US President Barack Obama had been shot dead, were sent.

In a statement posted on its website later on Monday morning, Fox News called the tweets "malicious" and "false".

The media outlet, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, said it was investigating the hacking and had alerted the US Secret Service.

"We will be requesting a detailed investigation from Twitter about how this occurred, and measures to prevent future unauthorised access into accounts,'' said Jeff Misenti, vice president and general manager of Fox News Digital.

Obama is celebrating the July 4 Independence Day holiday with his family at the White House and is due to host military families to watch fireworks in the evening.

The White House and Secret Service both declined to comment on the incident.

The first hacked tweet appeared around 2 am (0600 GMT) and said: "@BarackObama has just passed. The President is dead. A sad 4th of July, indeed. President Barack Obama is dead."

The next one, "@BarackObama has just passed. Nearly 45 minutes ago, he was shot twice in the lower pelvic area and in the neck; shooter unknown. Bled out."

Monday's breach raised questions about the integrity of news feeds on Twitter, which is increasingly used by news outlets, including Al Jazeera, as well as government officials as a way to reach readers and supporters.

Jodi Olson, the Twitter spokesperson, declined to say whether the company would add more security as a result of the attack, but stressed it was important for users to shield their profiles.

"We don't comment on specific accounts. In general, though, it's always good to remind people of the importance of actively protecting their account credentials," Olson said, recommending that all users should have a strong password as a "starting point."

Cyber breaches

A group calling itself The ScriptKiddies claimed responsibility for sending the tweets - including "#ObamaDead, it's a sad 4th of July" - from the "FoxNewspolitics" news feed before Twitter suspended its access.

In all some six false tweets were issued, saying Obama had been shot at a restaurant in Iowa while campaigning.

Obama was not in Iowa this weekend. He returned on Sunday to the White House from a brief trip to Camp David in neighbouring Maryland.

The account hacking followed a wave of highly publicised cyber security breaches, including attacks on the bank Citigroup, Sony Corp, Apple and the US Senatethe IMF and Brazilian presidential websites.

The latest hacking comes two days before Obama's first "Twitter town hall" where he will field tweeted questions about the economy and jobs.

Twitter's co-founder and executive chairman Jack Dorsey is due to moderate that Wednesday session at the White House., another Fox Entertainment Group website, was the target of an attack by hacker group Lulz Security in May.

"Free markets" i.e. protectionism for Factory Owners

One of the foundational problems with the arguments of Republicans and right-Libertarians make now a days is the claim that there is some objectively defined "free market," out there in the netherworlds.  That, Obama has brought an end to the Free Markets championed by Reagan and is destroying our economy. 

Ha-Joon Chang in his excellent book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism put it quite succinctly when he stated early in the book "the 'freedom' of a market is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder."  

For instance electoral votes, government jobs and legal decisions are not for sale (okay in some countries and even in the past in our they have been).  Should they be for sale?

Child labor restrictions are an infringement of the freedom of contract.  In 1819 legislation in the UK regulating child labor caused a massive amount of controversy, to the point that it ended up being tabled.  Called the Cotton Factories Regulation Act it would have banned employment of children under the age of 9 and restricted to 12 hours a day those between 10-16.  

As Chang notes in his book

The proposal caused huge controversy.  Opponents saw it as undermining the sanctity of freedom of contract and thus destroying the very foundation of the free market.  In debating this legislation, some members of the House of Lords objected to it on the grounds that 'labour ought to be free.'  Their arguments said: the children want  and need to work, and the factory owners want to employ them: what is the problem?"

The right of 8 year old's to work in what were at the time quite dangerous cotton factories, and the right of factory owners to employ them is one of "the beautiful things that free markets can do for impoverished people" and that socialist interventions by the government needlessly divert resources from market actors.

Communists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and Anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin tried to undermine and destroy the fabric of our society by politically advocating and organizing against such practices as child labor. (In fact in the end these 'evil men' and many other men and women of like-mind took their now "proven wrong theories" and won out--at least in the industrialized world; which quite possibly explains the unemployment levels, not to mention the moral decay, and the proclivity of gays to want to marry here in the US, but I digress)

Child labor laws are an example of what many on the right derid perjoratively as 'smart' people," in Washington that "have an axe to grind" with factory owners and/or children and are imposing their hollywood liberal elite views on us from on high.  

The fact is, many of us, dare I say most will impose our ethical views on this situation and say that 9 year olds working in a cotton factory because their families needs their labor to feed them is a "market failure" and will impose nasty regulations that impede growth and restrict the liberty of individuals.

Some of us "smart people" neophyte  "social planners" will even go so far as to make the claim that keeping kids out of the labor market, allowing them to more fully develop and go to school is a market restraint that will actually increase growth and productivity in the long run because a more educated workforce is a more productive workforce.  

I'm going to guess that Republicans and right-Libertarians will respond by saying I am taking their words out of context and will point out that they believes in constitutional government and the right of people to choose (regulate) to ban child labor in this market; that we can in fact choose to keep kids out of the workforce.  

I hope they do as it make the case for those of us not drinking the conservative Kool-Aid helping to further reinforce the argument that markets are political creations and that "socialism" Obama is shoving down our throats is nothing new.  

The argument that Republicans make, that some forms of intervention are free market while others are socialist efforts to pick and choose winners and losers is fundamentally flawed.  In fact they usually go further and claim that free markets are "non-interventions,"--which is definitionally incoherent as all markets are set up via rules politically determined.  To claim that a rule is a nonintervention--even a rule that says "we won't restrict the trade in product x" is still a rule imposed by people--is just silly.  

One can come to the conclusions Republicans and Libertarians make, or even the factory owners in the UK made, simply by saying that "I support protectionism for factory owners and think that every day workers should be forced to fend for themselves because I think that will create the best outcome" but that is a tough argument to make and is not one that is truly free market.  Such claims are especially hard to make in places where we have democratic government and people elect others to choose the policies they prefer seeing implemented.

The free marketeers will turn to economics and say its about economic liberty in order to hide their socially unpopular positions, but hiding ones arguments behind technical terms doesn't speak highly to the legitimacy of such policies in a free society... especially one where according to advocates of free markets, the free flow of information is vital for fully functioning markets. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Medicare and Medicaid Could Lose Billions in Budget Talks


Somehow I think Republicans will balk at cutting out the profits of private sector beneficiaries of government dollars as the health care industry is quite a lucrative business in this country.  Paying 2 to 3 times as much as other nations for health care pays for a lot of CEO vacations who certainly don't want to see their paychecks dwindle down on par with their cohorts in other industrialized nations...

But here is a question.  Should overpayments be in quotes if we aren't on the editorial page?

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, said: “We are very willing to entertain savings in Medicare. Medicare gives very good health care very inefficiently.”

In return, Mr. Schumer said, Republicans should be willing to consider some additional revenue.

Negotiators said they were seriously considering cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals for uncollectible patient debt and the training of doctors; steps to eliminate Medicare “overpayments” to nursing homes; a reduction in the federal share of some Medicaid spending; and new restrictions on states’ ability to finance Medicaid by imposing taxes on hospitals and other health care providers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Eurozone manufacturing growth at 18-month low

Growth in the eurozone's manufacturing sector lost steam in June as both exports and domestic demand slowed, falling to an 18-month low, a key survey has shown.

Markit's Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 52.0 last month from 54.6 in May, its lowest reading since December 2009.

Any reading above 50 indicates growth.

"Increasing numbers of countries are showing signs of sliding back into recession," Markit said.

Italy's manufacturing sector shrank for the first time in 20 months, while Spain's contracted for the second month in a row.

Growth in the German and French sectors slowed considerably, while the UK's manufacturing expansion fell to a 21-month low.

Gilles Moec, senior European economist at Deutsche Bank, said the data reflected two main factors: inflation hampering consumer demand and the end of stimulus measures in a number of regions, including the US.

"The weakness is no longer simply in the peripherals, it's now moving to Italy for instance," he told the BBC.

"This is painting a different picture from the one we had a few weeks ago."

Libya casts shadow over AU summit