Monday, April 30, 2012

Obama's message fail:

In the body of this story, Romney campaign aide claims auto bailout was Romney's idea, we read:
Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, accused Fehrnstrom of distorting Romney's record.

“GM and Chrysler are in existence, creating jobs, and posting some of their most profitable quarters in history today because President Obama bet on American workers," Smith said in a statement to The Hill. "If Mitt Romney had had his way, the American auto industry and the millions of jobs it supports would cease to exist. Dishonesty and distortions are nothing new for the Romney campaign, but they can’t change this simple fact.”
Those words are basically of no value, merely assertions or slogans ("bet on American workers"). Smith does not say why the auto industry would cease to exist under Romney's business plan. She fails to point out the difference between what Romney would have done and what Obama did. The difference is that when Detroit was in big trouble, there was no source of private lending to help the companies and therefore, federal money had to be part of the mix - which is something Romney ruled out.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Some bullshit on ABC's This Week:

David Walker former US Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008:
If we broaden the tax base and recognize that we're spending $1.1 trillion a year in deductions, exemptions, credits, exclusions, and differences in tax rates. We can lower the top marginal tax rates for corporations, individuals, the estate tax at 25%. We can get more people paying income taxes. 35 to 51 percent don't pay any income tax. That's a dangerous disconnect.
George Stephanopoulos:
What I hear when you say that is that if you're a working american making $50, $60 thousand a year, your taxes are going up?
David Walker:
Well, here's what I'm saying. Let me finish. Buffet has got a real issue. But the reason that's an issue is because the wealthiest people make more of their money through capital gains and dividends. So if you can do what I've just said, bring the top marginal rate down to 25%, you can eliminate the difference between capital gains, dividends, and ordinary income, and we will accomplish multiple objectives in a prudent and sustainable manner.

Walker doesn't answer the question. Instead his solution to low capital gains and dividends rates is to lower the top rate for the rich (and lower the estate tax by 10% at the same time) while eliminating deductions that many in the middle class benefit from. Walker is a stooge for the ultra rich. Broadening the tax base means taxing more at the bottom and less at the top.

Wikipedia on Walker:
Walker has compared the present-day United States to the Roman Empire in its decline, saying the U.S. government is on a "burning platform" of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, expensive overcommitments to government provided health care, swelling Medicare and Social Security costs, the enormous expense of a prospective universal health care system, and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon.
"swelling ... Social Security costs" is the tell. Oh, and Walker is closely involved with Pete Peterson's Concord Coalition.


Why politics has become much less interesting:

Following up on the previous post that examined the total opposition by Republicans and their violation of institutional norms, some additional thoughts emerge.

As Kevin Drum put it last week, there are "Zealots to the Left of Me, Zealots to the Right of Me" where: (emp add)
It seems like every time I turn around I'm confronted by growing extremism. The Catholic Church is, increasingly, little more than an angry collection of reactionary old men who hate the modern world. The Republican Party is a refuge for bright-eyed true believers intent on tearing down the modern state. The state of Israel, unable to break the grip of its most expansionist zealots ...
What can you say about a party that rejects Keynesian economics? That dismisses the scientific consensus about global warming? That adheres to an empirically proven false doctrine of trickle down economics? That makes absurd claims about how the health care system works? That thinks that force is the solution to just about any foreign policy issue?

Note, these are not social issues about which people can disagree. If you don't like gay marriage, that falls into the category of morals where people are allowed to have their preferences, however disagreeable.

It's the economic and foreign policy area where the complete lack of rationality and acceptance of evidence is most troubling. What is the political observer supposed to do in this case? It's futile for pundits to "argue" the point on issues because there is no common ground of theory or evidence.

Let's look at so-called sensible conservative David Brooks. In a recent op-ed he wrote: (emp add)
In 2009, we had a big debate about whether to pass a stimulus package. Many esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Summers and Christina Romer argued that it would help lift the economy out of recession. Many other esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Robert Barro, Edward Prescott and James Buchanan argued that positive effects would be small and the package wouldn’t be worth the long-term cost.

We went ahead and spent the roughly $800 billion. What have we learned?

For certain, nothing. The economists who supported the stimulus now argue the economy would have been worse off without it. Those who opposed it argue that the results have been meager. It’s hard to think of anybody whose mind has been changed by what happened.
Stop. Right. There. *

Brooks ignores the historical record, going back to the 1930s demonstrating the efficacy of Keyneisn economics. There are even data sets from the last five years on this! Instead, Brooks points to some people who haven't changed their mind, as if that makes the case that we don't know if the stimulus helped.

This is typical of how someone like Brooks works to prevent accountability on his side. We have results, but look, some people haven't changed their minds. That must mean the issue is still unresolved. Hence, no changing of policy positions, no compromise, just continue the fight until Brooks' team takes over.

This has been the situation for a while but it's intensified since Obama took office. There is no dialogue to be had with Brooks or his wilder compatriots. There is nothing to be said. It's a waste of time and energy dealing with a cult-like party, which is what the Republicans have become.

(* The essay continues with Brooks citing global-warming-obfuscator Jim Manzi hilariously arguing that we should conduct controlled experiments in artificial environments and heed the results. That's merely a prescription for Kevin Hassett -style bullshit about DOW 36,000 or John Lott's manipulative statistics.)


Saturday, April 28, 2012

This is dispiriting:

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein write in the Washington Post: (excerpts, emp add)
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. ...

What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South. They included the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs. But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. ...

Norquist, meanwhile, founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 and rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge the following year. The pledge, which binds its signers to never support a tax increase (that includes closing tax loopholes), had been signed as of last year by 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators, according to ATR. The Norquist tax pledge has led to other pledges, on issues such as climate change, that create additional litmus tests that box in moderates and make cross-party coalitions nearly impossible. For Republicans concerned about a primary challenge from the right, the failure to sign such pledges is simply too risky.

Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented. ...

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
Good luck with that last one. The press is feckless.

Over at A Plain Blog About Politics (which reviewed the above essay) there was this comment:
It's [Republicans'] ideological extremism that drives their radicalism and disrespect for institutional norms. The stuff that makes no sense to us, like UN conspiracy theories, has its origins in the netherworlds of the far-right ideology. This fringe stuff is now bubbling into the mainstream of movement conservatism as tribal identifiers. It's the incoherent id of the far-right, but the general narratives of who the good guys and bad guys are, what might happen, is all pretty standard far-right ideology.

And disrespect for institutional norms is just the logical conclusion when your ideology instructs that all government is evil, wasteful and corrupt. You take that ideology, plug into our current instituions and you end up with the nihilistic power-grab of Delay and the unprecedented obstruction of McConnel. They hate government and benefit politically from the institutional norms that keep it running becoming discredited and ineffectual. In the meantime though, they are happy to use their disregard of these norms for the benefit of those that their ideology tells them to support: business, finance, social conservatism.
The press and ideology aside, the Mann and Ornstein essay cite cases where some Republicans were in support of various policies, but reversed themselves when the policies turned out to be close to something the Democrats could agree with. That's a result of the decision (reported elsewhere) that the stance of the Republicans was 100% opposition from day one of the Obama administration.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rupert Murdoch: I am a victim

You can't top this:
Rupert Murdoch took the stand in London this morning for the second day of his testimony before the public inquiry into the controversy his U.K. media empire has inspired, and the focus finally turned to the issue that sparked crisis in the first place—phone hacking.

Asked how the problem had gone on for so long at his News of the World tabloid without the knowledge of Murdoch or his senior executives, as has been claimed, Murdoch had a simple explanation: cover-up.

In response to questions from Robert Jay, the chief counsel to the Leveson Inquiry into corrupt practices in the British press, Murdoch said he had been “misinformed and shielded” from the problem. He casted the blame downward, away from himself and from trusted executives such as Les Hinton, Rebekah Brooks and his son James, who have all held top positions at News International, the U.K. arm of Murdoch’s New York-based News Corp. "I do blame one or two people for that who perhaps I shouldn't name because for all I know they may be arrested,” Murdoch said. “There is no question in my mind [that] maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret."
Murdoch is referring to a couple of people that were supposed to look into the hacking in 2008 and that, according to Rupert, concealed the illegal activities. But they say that they did notify James Murdoch, so this will boil down to whether or not there is evidence one way or another (like emails). Sadly, when News of the World was shut down, lots of computers were scrapped and millions of emails were deleted.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Joe Lieberman never misses an opportunity to stab you in the back:

Joe, speaking on Fox News Sunday, had this to say about the Secret Service prostitution scandal:
"The White House ought to be conducting its own internal investigation of White house personnel who were in Cartagena".
And this from the Washington Post:
[Joe Lieberman] joined a Republican colleague Sunday in calling for an expanded probe of the Secret Service prostitution scandal, saying the investigation should also include a look at White House personnel assigned to prepare for President Obama’s trip to Colombia.

There is no evidence that White House employees knew about the misbehavior. But Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) urged the Obama administration to conduct an investigation “just to make sure that none of them were involved,” echoing demands from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).
Why is this a White House problem? It's a Secret Service issue.

The Secret Service is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs?

Joe Lieberman. The guy who Obama endorsed in 2006 when he was campaigning as an independent.

And remember, he got to keep his chairmanship in 2009 after endorsing John McCain in 2008. How did that happen?
Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman managed to keep his Senate committee chairmanship in part because President-elect Barack Obama didn't want to punish him for supporting Sen. John McCain, Lieberman said Tuesday.

"I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus were moved not only that Sen. [Harry] Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation unite now to confront our very serious problems," Lieberman said in the Capitol ...
And now he's ragging on the White House for something that's in his jurisdiction.

JUST TO BE CLEAR: Past political favors is no excuse for looking the other way if misdeeds are suspected. But here there is no suspicion of White House involvement, which makes Lieberman's call look like an alignment with the Republicans for political ends, and that's a betrayal within that context.

UPDATE: The comments section of the Washington Post story has these remarks from those unimpressed with Sen. Joe:
  • Lieberman's nothing, if not a vicious little troll.

  • How about an investigation into whether Joseph Lieberman is an unregistered agent for the nation of Israel? How about whether his wife's business ties to the health care industry constituted bribes to Lieberman when he carried the water of the health insurance industry in the Senate.

  • A fishing expedition for two of the biggest worms in congress; Grassley and Lieberman. Maybe they can repeat the tag match damage they did to healthcare.

  • "There is no evidence that White House employees knew about the misbehavior."
    Oh why let a little thing like lack of evidence get in the way?

  • Why am i not surprise that this snicky Lieberman is trying to politicizes the issue and with the republicans ...what a piece of "work".

  • Lieberman, why don't you do something smart for once and go dig a hole, put your head it and cover it up. I don't think anyone would ever miss you, and your ideas.!!!

  • How about a wider investigation into Joe Lieberman? Just sayin'...

  • While there is no evidence that any of Mr. Lieberman's staff are pedophiles I am calling for an investigation “just to make sure that none of them were involved,” Saying this man is too stupid to know whether he is a Republican or a Democrat is an insult to truly stupid people around the world.

  • One of the biggest mistakes Obama made in his first 100 days was to allow that snake Lieberman back into a position of power. I hope Lieberman ends up on the dust heap of history.

  • “The White House advance person knows exactly where the president is going to be at any time,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.”
    Does this also mean the White House advance person is supposed to know where the SS agents are all going to be at any one time too?

    This article is very confusing and I am not sure why Lieberman and Grassley are trying to find a connection between the WH staff and the SS employees.

  • If ever there was a Benedict Arnold in American politics, it is Lieberman.

    I doubt that anybody on either side of the aisle really trusts the guy.

  • What a sanctimonious troll Traitor Joe is!
UPDATE 2: From The Hill:
The buck stops with President Obama when it comes to the dual scandals dogging the Secret Service and the General Services Administration (GSA) this month, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Sunday.

Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over both agencies, said the president should be held "accountable" in the aftermath of the incidents, even as it's "unfair" to hold him directly "responsible."

"The responsibility for the abuse of authority at the Secret Service and the GSA really is the employees who did it and their supervisors," Lieberman told "Fox News Sunday."

"But," he added, "the buck stops at the president's desk. He is the leader of our government. He now has to be acting with kind of relentless determination to find out exactly what happened and to make sure that people who work for him at the Secret Service and GSA and everywhere else in the government don't let anything like this happen again." ...

Lieberman, who ruffled Democratic feathers in 2008 when he backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over Obama, said he won't be endorsing any presidential contenders this year.

"I'm going to try to stay out of this one," he said. "I'm enjoying not being involved in the nastiness of campaigning in America these days."
Oh, but you are.

UPDATE 3: See also for more.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Something to check a year from now:

Ted Nugent: Obama ‘Vile’ And ‘Evil,’ Voters Should ‘Chop [Democrat's] Heads Off In November.’
Outspoken conservative rocker Ted Nugent appeared at the National Rifle Association’s conference in St. Louis where he delivered a full-throated endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. ...

Nugent also sharply denounced President Obama, who he described as leading a “vile, evil America-hating administration” which is “wiping its ass with the Constitution.” ...

Nugent warned that he would either be “dead or in jail” by this time next year, should President Obama win reelection in November. “We’ll be a suburb of Indonesia next year,” said Nugent.

Finally, Nugent concluded his attack on the Democratic party by saying that voters need to decapitate those politicians with whom the rock star disagrees. “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November,” said Nugent bluntly. “Any questions?”


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This pretty much says it all about the health care debate:

From Think Progress [10 April 2012]: (emp add)
Republican Congressman Scolded And Mocked By Senior Citizens For Embrace Of Ryan Budget

Rep. Dan Benishek’s (R-MI) embrace of the Republican Party’s platform ran into stiff opposition at a town hall meeting in Saulte Sainte Marie, Michigan when at least a dozen constituents, many of them senior citizens, pushed back against Benishek’s claims on Medicare, Social Security, oil subsides and health care reform.

Benishek couldn’t even get through his opening remarks before attendees began criticizing his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget that would increase the cost of health care for seniors by providing “premium support” vouchers to eligible senior citizens. ...

... for half an hour, Benishek fielded several suggestions on how to increase funding for Medicare, ranging from ending oil subsidies to increasing taxes on the wealthiest two percent, suggestions that Benishek summarily dismissed. ...

“There are no government subsidies for oil,” he told one woman who suggested ending the very real subsidies given to oil corporations to help defray the cost of Medicare. ...

Benishek, who served as a medical doctor before he was elected to Congress in 2010 ... told the audience that the United States has the best health care system in the world, before he was literally laughed at by several attendees.

“We have the highest life spans in the world,” argued Benishek. Several women in the audience quickly pointed out that in fact, many countries with universal health care place higher than the United States in terms of life expectancy, including Canada, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 50th, just behind South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” said Benishek. “How can you not know that, you’re a medical doctor?” one woman replied.
(Technically there are no subsidies for oil. Instead, there are special tax advantages which pretty much amount to the same thing.)

Dan Benishek replaced (retiring) Bart Stupak in the 2010 "Tea Party wave" election with 120K votes over the 94K votes for the Democrat.

Benishek endorsed Herman Cain in the 2012 Republican presidential primary.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Thomas Kinkade - painter of fantasy:

There's been a lot written about the artist since he died on Friday. Opinions are all over the map, especially since he has a huge fan base.

A good starting point for a balanced review of his work is here (and follow some of the links in the article).

Also this comment, from an Amazon book listing:
In my opinion, Mr. Kinkade falls squarely into the "wall decor" camp. For some reason, most people can't abide unadorned interior spaces. Consequently, there are millions of painters generating mountains of images designed to match the drapes and sofas for those people who feel an empty wall is somehow cheap and tacky. As long as one of these painters meets or exceeds the minimum set of 'artistic' requirements as perceived by their audience, then whatever success and popularity they enjoy is a result of marketing. Kinkade's biggest business strategy by far has been exploiting Christians --niche marketing at it's finest.

The irony is that Kinkade's work created during the 1980's was much more subtle, more skilled and less garish than what followed once the publicly traded marketing machine went into overdrive. His early plein air paintings are no better or worse than what one might see in a lot of museums. But like most painters, Kinkade reached the proverbial "fork in the road" ..and he chose to sell his soul for fame among fools and a fast buck. And each new painting thereafter shows the effect of his chasing an audience instead of letting them find him. Each new work seemed created to pander to whatever sub-niche he had yet to exploit.
Also, Felix Salmon wrote about Kinkade's business and its ups and downs.