Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Polanski:

Chill everybody. As Whoopie Goldberg said
"I know it wasn't rape-rape. It was something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape."
Exactly. It's wasn't rape-rape. It was more a gauzy sunset-with-burnt-sienna-coloration-rape. Doping up a 13 year old and then violating her against her protests, when performed by a noted Hollywood director is totally excusable. We've all been there, right?

Woody Allen certainly has, so it's no surprise that he's come to the defense of Polanski. And we've heard from other defenders that the kid was just asking for it, so leave the poor man alone!


Entertainment geezers against Obama:

Chuck Norris (69):
"How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?

... For those losing hope, and others wanting to rekindle the patriotic fires of early America, I encourage you to join Fox News' Glenn Beck, me and millions of people across the country in the live telecast, "We Surround Them," on Friday afternoon. Thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation."
Jon Voight (70):
"We're witnessing a slow and steady takeover of our true freedoms. We're becoming a socialist nation, and Obama is causing civil unrest in this country.."
Pat Boone (75):
"Wow, I had this crazy dream last night:
      In a stunning, unprecedented civilian uprising, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid were recalled and sent packing. Practically overnight, responding to the national emergency, an extraordinary election propelled entertainer/activist Pat Boone into the White House. The new president just revealed his first-term agenda. ..."
Andy Williams (81):
"Obama is following Marxist theory. He's taken over the banks and the car industry. He wants the country to fail."


Income inequality on the march:

There's a longish post/excerpt at Economist's Views that, in a nutshell, says the United States continues to move towards greater inequality and that market forces will not halt that trend. And the usual related issues: decline of the middle class, unstable politics, it's extremely hard to reverse.

What's "new" is that the recent economic downturn has made things worse (so far).

RELATED: Small businessman celebrates high unemployment:
The upside to the high unemployment rate is that it has helped us control our payroll costs. No one's asking for raises. No one's demanding more benefits. ...It's now easier and more politically correct to hire part-timers, subcontractors, and other outsourced help to fill the gaps.
Here's a prediction. In a year or two, if wages stay low, we will be reading about the lack of incentive by employees to work hard. With hotel cleaning staff being paid minimum wage (without benefits) and similar treatment up to, but below, the executive level, who is going to want to bust their ass at their place of work?


Irving Kristol was an ignoramus:

He wrote this: (emp add)
There is no doubt that most of our textbooks are still written as participants in the ''warfare'' between science and religion that is our heritage from the 19th century. And there is also little doubt that it is this pseudo-scientific dogmatism [i.e. evolution] that has provoked the current religious reaction...

Though this theory [the neo-Darwinian synthesis] is usually taught as an established scientific truth, it is nothing of the sort. It has too many lacunae. Theological evidence does not provide us with the spectrum of intermediate species we would expect. Moreover, laboratory experiments reveal how close to impossible it is for one species to evolve into another, even allowing for selective breeding and some genetic mutation. There is unquestionably evolution within species: every animal breeder is engaged in exemplifying this enterprise. But the gradual transformation of the population of one species into another is a biological hypothesis, not a biological fact.

... "evolution" is no simple established scientific orthodoxy, and to teach it as such is an exercise in dogmatism...


The Washington Post on Merkel:
After five years of near-policy deadlock under a conservative-socialist coalition, Europe's largest economy is now likely to see tax, regulation and spending cuts.
How large the cuts in taxes, regulation (!), and spending remains to be seen. They may not be significant, thus leaving Germany with a substantial public sector and safety net. But if they are large cuts, then keep an eye on Europe's largest economy.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A refreshing change in right-wing rhetoric:

For most of this year, we've heard Obama (or members of his administration) called a modern-day Hitler by some right-wingers. It's a strong, punchy accusation, but gets old after a while. After all, per Godwin's Law, most everybody gets compared to Hitler in due time.

That's why it's a relief to see some right-wingers drop the Hitler nonsense. Instead, we get this:
... Janet Porter [an operative at the Take Back America Conference] compared Mark Lloyd, the chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission (or "diversity czar") to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Goebbels! Good choice.

When can we look forward to hearing about modern-day Himmlers, Heydrichs, Streichers, Höss's, et al.


Newsmax columnist muses about military coup:
There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized.
Thank goodness for that.

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?
Wow, it's worse than we thought. It's not Obama who is the threat, but "those who control him". Would that be Acorn? Or the Kenyan-Illuminati?


Browser musings:

How about the recent proliferation of drop-down, cover-over, or slide-in ads that have appeared on so many websites in the last two weeks or so (literally, two weeks)? Typically these things appear when you casually let the mouse pointer drift over a region, typically near the top of the page.

What's irksome is that some of them don't have a close button and you have to somehow mouse-over and mouse-out in such a fashion that it closes the text-obscuring ad (or Share-Link dialogue box).


Monday, September 28, 2009


Liz Cheney:
“Mr. President, in a ticking time-bomb scenario, with American lives at stake, are you really unwilling to subject a terrorist to enhanced interrogation to get information that would prevent an attack?”
Should have been:
“Mr. President, in a ticking time-bomb scenario, with American lives at stake, are you really unwilling to give a terrorist a green felt top hat to get information that would prevent an attack?”
Because it's just as effective.[1]

For many conservatives, torture is a "value" to be embraced.


This looks like a minor story without much serious impact:

Don't take dollar's place for granted: World Bank
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the United States should not take the dollar's status as the world's key reserve currency for granted because other options are emerging.

In excerpts released on Sunday from a speech that he is to deliver on Monday, Zoellick said global economic forces were shifting and it was time now to prepare for the fact that growth will come from multiple sources.

"The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar's place as the world's predominant reserve currency," he said. "Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options."
That's Robert Zoellick, of all people (nominated to WB by Bush, previously a managing director of Goldman Sachs).


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Technology breakthrough!

Microsoft has developed some remarkably life-like human-looking robots. Check them out in this six minute video. Yes, the speech and facial expression modules need further improvements to make them indistinguishable from real people, but it's still enormous progress.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

A quick comment about Acorn:

That organization has been in the news recently and Fox News and Limbaugh are piling on. Acorn has lost some public support and people are wondering if this will have ramifications for Democrats or Obama.


A substantial reason is that there is no public face of Acorn. Who is its leader? All I've seen are grainy shots of low-level workers in offices scattered around the country.

In politics you get traction - good or bad - when a person (or persons) is associated with an organization. That's how the mind works. You think of an organization largely in conjunction with "that man" or "that woman" who shows up at press conferences or to do interviews. Obviously, Acorn has a hierarchy with real executives, but up until now it's been largely invisible. Thus no stories about person X visiting the White House or Harry Reid, which is how a bad reputation for Acorn could spread to the Democrats.


Friday, September 25, 2009

A Birther money machine:

You'd be a fool to ignore this opportunity:
Produce informercial. ($5000)*

Air infomercial 7 nights @ $100 per = $700. Call it ($1000)

Get 1,500** people to send in $30 = $45,000

Processing 1,500 customers (call center, bumper stickers, faxes) @ $7 each* = ($10,000)
Profit is $45,000 - $16,000 = $29,000

Not bad for a week.

* - estimate
** - claim was from between 1,500 and 2,000, so picked the lower number for a conservative estimate.

UPDATE: Over at TPM there is a post, A Fool and His Money, which contains:
... while it may be shameful and it may be funny, it pretty clearly looks like an effort to separate a lot of hyped-up birther rubes from their money, quite possibly to pad the wallets of those in the rube hyping business.


Limbaugh on Leno:

That's something of a surprise. Leno's only in his second week and he brings on someone like Limbaugh.

Jay Leno tilts towards Republicans and that was evident when he supported Schwarzenegger (he even spoke at a post-election rally). And talk show guests do occasionally have politicians or pundits on, but Limbaugh has been controversial this year, to say the least.

It's hard to see how Limbaugh will help Leno's ratings.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jonesing for some McCain?

Get your fix this weekend.


For history buffs:

Five times larger than Sutton Hoo.



This is what you get after a decade of economic stagnation:

You get Glenn Beck. Yes, he's a loon (boiling, or pretending to boil a frog).

But then you read things like this:
  • Frank Rich:
    "Wall Street owns our government," Beck declared in one rant this July. "Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged." He drew a chart to dramatize the revolving door between Washington and Goldman Sachs in both the Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner Treasury departments. A couple of weeks later, Beck mockingly replaced the stars on the American flag with the logos of corporate giants like G.E., General Motors, Wal-Mart and Citigroup (as well as the right’s usual nemesis, the Service Employees International Union). Little of it would be out of place in a Matt Taibbi article in Rolling Stone. Or, we can assume, in Michael Moore’s coming film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which reportedly takes on Goldman and the Obama economic team along with conservative targets.
  • Glenn Grenwald:
    Are the views expressed in that paragraph [above, by Frank Rich] liberal or conservative ones? They're neither. Instead, they're the by-product of a completely different dichotomy that is growing in importance: between system insiders and their admirers (those who believe our national political establishment and its elites are basically sound and good) and system outsiders (those whose anger is confined not to one of the two political parties but who instead believe that the political culture itself is fundamentally corrupted and destructive). There are people typically identified as members of either the conventional Right or Left who are, in fact, more accurately described as being in this latter group: those disenchanted with the political culture itself. Anger over the Wall Street bailout and corporate excesses was one example where that trans-partisan disenchantment was evident.
  • Rod Dreher: (on the conspiracy angle that Beck hints at)
    Cunning Realist observes that economic times like these produce Glenn Becks. Excerpt:
    I know I keep coming back to Europe and particularly Germany in the 1920's and 1930's. But the parallels at a minimum can protect you financially (if you've owned gold for the past few years, you probably agree) and in the future maybe even physically. There's a temptation to write off that period in history as an outlier for its madness, and I think that's a mistake.
    CR's point is that when people feel as if they are no longer in control of their lives and destinies, they will look for hidden actors who are secretly manipulating things.
  • Rod Dreher: (emp add)
    ... I agree with Beck that a corporate/finance oligarchy is disproportionately powerful in this country, and that both parties are complicit. I have been saying that on this site for quite some time now. And let me say once again, in case you haven't been paying attention to this blog for a while, people are right to be angry and fed up with business as usual.
That remark by Dreher (bolded above) seems like a good summary of the situation.

Visitors to this blog know that I think a significant reason for the stagnation is globalization (substantial immigrant labor coming in, H1-B, outsouring, free trade with ultra-low wage countries). Will that be halted or reversed? There's no reason to stop all trade, but some adjustments (tariffs, smaller H1-B) could help domestic labor.


Shorter David Broder:
In a conservative journal I read an essay by a conservative who is the director at a conservative institution, and I liked it.

It warned against progressives formulating "a uniform national policy supported by empirical and objective data" because "a highly rational, comprehensive approach" isn't the American Way.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thank goodness (?) for the printing press:

FOMC statement:
To provide support to mortgage lending and housing markets and to improve overall conditions in private credit markets, the Federal Reserve will purchase a total of $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and up to $200 billion of agency debt. ...

As previously announced, the Federal Reserve’s purchases of $300 billion of Treasury securities will be completed by the end of October 2009.
That's $1.75 trillion of money that came from ... where? Oh, the FED's printing press.

It will be interesting to see how the FED unwinds this action.


George Will agrees with Brad DeLong on tariffs:

Many people consider DeLong a liberal who cares about the average American worker. So on this policy issue, we can conclude that George Will has abandoned his support for the corporate oligarchy.


Cartoonist Pat Oliphant goes after Murdoch in a big way:

Today's cartoon (23 Sep).


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We can only hope:

Kevin Drum on the direction Murdoch is taking things:
I figure it's only a matter of time until the [Wall Street Journal] is just a printed word version of Fox News.


Monday, September 21, 2009


The Republicans really stepped into it this time. And it's not X-degrees-of-separation with a maniac at a rally, nor some low level politician or aide caught lying. It's straight from the Republican Senate GOP. In a mailer sent out, there was this question:
Are you concerned that health care rationing could lead to:

23. Denial of treatment in cases where the patient's prospects are deemed not good?
24. A "lottery" system of determining who will get priority treatment?
25. A "quota" system which would determine who would determine who would get treatment on the basis of race or age?
The GOP is throwing out as a "concern", the notion that Obama will implement a health care program where treatment depends on race.

Watch out everybody, a shit-storm is about to happen. The press will seize on this and hound Republican Senators - each and every one of them - and ask them if they agree with the implication of the mailer, and why. It'll dominate the news for the next two weeks, at least.

There will be consequences for this crude racial appeal by the GOP and it won't be pretty. The press, in their role as arbiters of moral standards, will expose, embarrass, and ultimately get the GOP to apologize and perform a public act of contrition.

UPDATE: Over at Swampland, there was a post on this survey, and a reply from the National Republican Senate Committee:
Brian Walsh a spokesman for the NRSC did call me back, and defended the mailer, not as a description of any of the Democratic plans, but rather as an open-ended musing on possible health care reform ideas. "It simply poses questions," said Walsh. "In looking at it, it doesn't say definitely what the president's health care plan is."
The "simply posing questions" defense is lame, and they know it. The Republicans must be terrified.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

The New York Times on tariffs:
Mr. Obama acted unwisely [by imposing a 35 percent tariff on Chinese-made tires], invoking a never-before used section of American trade law that allows him to penalize even fair Chinese competition if it results in sharply increased imports and job losses in the United States. (...)

China has not been competing unfairly on tires — just more effectively, mainly because of its far lower labor costs.
"fair Chinese competition"?

If China is offering tires at a lower cost because they have (a) a more productive factory, or (b) more skilled workers, that's fair competition. That's why you have free trade: to give countries that treat their labor the same the chance to compete.

But if the tires that are coming from China are cheaper simply because the workers are paid less - which is the case here - then you either don't import them at all or you put a tariff on them. Otherwise you put downward pressure on labor in the United States.

What's interesting is that the Times flatly admits that it's a wage differential that gives China an advantage. Free traders tend not to say that, but instead, claim that there is some magic that takes place when people in America no longer need to make tires (presumably freeing them up for lucrative careers elsewhere).

It goes without saying that Brad DeLong opposed the imposition of tariffs in this case. He's cool with the displacement of workers in this country by low-wage labor overseas. Why this guy is held in high esteem by liberals is a complete mystery.


The Washington Post ombudsman inveighs against the Liberal Media (which it thinks it's part of):
[It may be that] that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.

It "can't be discounted," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms."

"They just don't see the resonance of these issues. They don't hear about them as fast [and] they're not naturally watching as much," he added.

Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he worries "that we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It's particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view."

To guard against it, he said, "I challenge our reporters and editors with great frequency to look at what is going on across the political spectrum . . . at the extremes, among the rabble-rousers, as well as among policymakers." He said he pressed the National desk this week to provide more ACORN coverage.
You've got to like the Pew dude's remark that there's a problem with "non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms". Even if something is deemed "non-iedological", there's still something fishy going on. (Conspiracy theories, anyone?)

Back to the Post's ombudsman:
The most authoritative recent research into the political leanings of newsrooms (including television, radio, magazines and wire services) shows they are considerably more liberal than the general public. At daily newspapers, those who "lean to the left still far outnumber those who lean to the right," said Indiana University journalism professor David H. Weaver, whose researchers surveyed 1,149 journalists in 2002 and recently conducted a follow-up study of 400.
Where is the survey of the leanings of the owners and executives in television, radio, magazines and radio services?


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Maybe now David Broder will reconsider his high opinion of Karl Rove:

From a former deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush and senior speechwriter for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
Every administration politicizes hiring to a degree, but some in the Bush administration went beyond the pale. Much is known about the political firings of U.S. attorneys and the party-line enforcers who removed or intimidated qualified personnel at the Justice Department. Less well known is what happened outside Justice.

For nearly three years at the Defense Department, I saw young, inexperienced political operatives enjoy nearly unrestrained power. Like schoolyard bullies who picked on people because they could, these operatives pursued personal vendettas, blocked hirings, delayed promotions and pressured high-ranking officials.

Backed by the White House political shop, some operatives refused to hire experienced communicators to help the president and the defense secretary work effectively on Afghanistan and Iraq. They insisted on hiring friends or mediocre candidates from a White House-approved list.

One loyal conservative with sterling credentials was refused even an interview because a personnel official was fighting with the conservative senator the candidate worked for. Another credentialed applicant was rejected for allegedly failing to vote in 2004. When it was proved that she had voted, the personnel office raised another objection. There were also reports that the Pentagon personnel system raised frivolous political objections to hiring experts on biological and chemical weapons.

And these are just things I knew about.

Frustrated by his inability to staff his own department, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went to the White House in 2005 to sort out the situation. He met a bespectacled wall of resistance in Karl Rove. When Rumsfeld prepared to go higher, top Rove aides -- including a future U.S. attorney -- tried to intimidate Pentagon officials who were encouraging Rumsfeld's effort. Even Rumsfeld's chief of staff asked me to help persuade the secretary to stop pushing personnel issues.
The remark about "young, inexperienced political operatives enjoy nearly unrestrained power" would appear to be a reference to the Monica Goodling / Regent University crowd.

In the comments section, there is this observation from what appears to be an Eisenhower (or Ford or Nixon) Republican:
Latimer has done an excellent job summarizing all of the reasons that many of us who once worked for the Republican Party can no longer support either the party or it's leaders. But like many disillusioned conservatives who believe that Conservatism is some Virgin Godess betrayed by the mendacity of tin-penny despots like Karl Rove, Latimer refuses to consider that the real problem may be the rotteness in the state of Conservatism itself.

Latimer laments that he was denied what he says was the opportunity to continue the Reagan Revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth since seeing the Reagan Revolution out to its logical conclusion is exactly what Latimar did.

The utter contempt both for government and for government expertise that Latimer found so revolting in the Republican functionaries around him wasn't just the case of a few bad apples putting their own careers before the needs of the country. Like the scandals at Abu Ghrab, the stink in today's conservatism comes straight from the top. It was Ronald Reagan himself who opened Act I of the corruption of American conservatism as a responsible governing philosophy when he declared on his very first day as president that government was not the solution to our problems, it was the problem.

To an old FDR fan like Reagan, undermining confidence and respect in the democratic nation-state may not have been any big deal, since Reagan was always more libertarian than conservative. So, defaming government was just his way of saying that taxes were too high.

But to Southern neo-confederates who hated the federal government with a primal rage for its opposition to white supreamacy, Reagan's attack on government was heard as an endorsement of Jim Crow. To right wing authoritarians, especially those on the Religious Right, Reagan's attacks against government were heard as an attack against secular democracy itself, and an endorsement of replacing man's law with God's law.

And for the rich and powerful who resented a government responsive to the exploited masses looking over their shoulders and challenging their financial games, Reagan's opening day assault on the democratic state was heard as sanctioning selfishness and greed, the pursuit of personal rather than collective ends.

Unlocking the potentialities of individuals sounded a lot more noble than sanctioning selfishness and greed, but that is what Reagan did. He planted the seed of doubt in the efficacy of the democracic state that has now borne bitter fruit as an inability to engage in collective action at all.

What Reagan did was replace America's democratic state with a de-regulated one, which means that he gave us a politics distinguished by its lawlessness.

Try as they might, it is impossible for conservatives like Latimer to separate the actions of the Ronald Reagan they revere from the attitudes and worldview of Reagan's ideological heirs that conservatives like Latimer now deplore.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Why did Fox run this ad in the Washington Post?

Reax:Here's the thing. The ad is not going to get more Fox viewers. It's not even going to keep Fox viewers in the fold. It will make no difference to viewership. It's a deliberate provocation of the other networks with no upside. The question is, why was the ad run?

Fox has, believe it or not, been taken over by the right-wing crazies. They were heavily pro-Republican before but this year the network has ditched journalism with the hyping of unresearched stories and outright lies.

Murdoch, or his son, or someone else in power at FOX is a crazed right-winger who is oblivious to appearances. Just get the message out about The Truth, is the clarion call.

UPDATE: The blog SNAFU-ed says this:
It's hard to understand what Fox, or in this case, Faux News had in mind with the full page ad that ran in the Washington Post Friday, as well as in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, both owned by Fox's parent company.
UPDATE2: Joe Gandelman at the Moderate Voice has a longish post, with links and excerpts. Of interest, this from Howard Kurtz' report on the affair:
There is no evidence that The Post asked Fox for any substantiation. Ken Babby, Washington Post Media's vice president for advertising, declined to be interviewed.
The Post's Media vice president for advertising declined to be interviewed by the Post's Howard Kurtz!


This is how the U.S. economy will recover, through healthy wage gains for labor:

Or maybe not:
When the housekeepers at the three Hyatt hotels in the Boston area were asked to train some new workers, they said they were told the trainees would be filling in during vacations.

On Aug. 31, staffers learned the full story: None of them would be making the beds and cleaning the showers any longer. All of them were losing their jobs. The trainees, it turns out, were employees of a Georgia company, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, who were replacing them that day.

The move to outsource the jobs of about 100 housekeeping employees at the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and Hyatt Harborside at Logan International Airport is unusual in the hospitality industry, which counts on the housekeeping staff to help make sure hotel guests are comfortable.

“It’s unbelievable,’’ said Lucine Williams, 41, who has worked at the Hyatt Regency Boston for nearly 22 years and was making $15.32 an hour plus health, dental, and 401(k) benefits when she lost her job. “I don’t know how they can treat people like that.’’

After hearing the news at meetings last month, employees cried and screamed, said Drupattie Jungra, 55, who had worked at the Cambridge Hyatt for more than 21 years and made $15.69 an hour, plus benefits. (...)

[The president of Unite Here Local 26, a union that represents local hotel workers] said the new workers will make $8 an hour and receive no benefits, based on information from a Hospitality Staffing Solutions employee. Staffing firm president Rick Holliday sent out an e-mail stating his employees made competitive wages but didn’t answer further questions.
Those jobs paid $32K (plus benefits). The new workers will make about $16K a year. Who can live on that?

Also, as to the claim by Holliday that the employees at Hospitality Staffing Solutions are making "competitive wages", $8/hour is minimum wage in Massachusetts.

This is part of the grind-down of wages and benefits that is going to make an economic recovery difficult.

UPDATE: There were protests about this action.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Economic musings:

There are all sorts of opinions out there, bullish and bearish, so you pretty much pick the scenario that matches your prejudices. That said, here are some excerpts from posts at the Big Picture that seem on the mark.

From Lehman’s Legacy Still Being Written: (Mon, Sep 14)
After small stutter steps on Friday and this morning, U.S. stocks marched ahead today for the sixth time in the last seven trading sessions.

By one measure alone — the willingness of investors to speculate — the mindset that helped foster bubbles in both stocks (until 2000) and in residential real estate (until 2006) is proving hard to kill. Generational seismic events, whether along tectonic plates or in financial behavior, tend to be followed by long periods of relative inactivity. Earthquakes in and around the San Francisco Bay area were few and far between in the decades following the “big one” in 1906, for example, and stock speculation after the twin Greats (Crash of ‘29 and Depression during the ’30’s) didn’t really rear its ugly head again until the go-go years of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

Not so here in 2009, though, as any quick glance at the New Highs tables will reveal. Lower quality stocks have led the move higher off the March lows, and the rises in the shares of financial entities that are really wards of the State in drag have been downright perplexing. AIG, just to cite one of this summer’s hottest names, recently quintupled, even though current shareholders have the most distant of claims on the company’s assets. ... If what happened to the capital markets in the wake of Lehman’s 2008 failure were really the “Big One”, then how could risk appetites in so many asset classes be so healthy so soon?

The short answer is money printing, and the long answer deals with the side effects that go with zero-bound short term interest rates and quantitative easing. ... Deathly afraid of making the type of mistakes that might lead to a 1930’s-style depression, today’s policy makers are united in their desire to make mistakes of their very own during this credit down cycle. One symptom of this pedal-to-the-metal approach to monetary policy (and perhaps a harbinger of unwindings to come) is the sudden appearance of the dollar carry trade. Risk appetites are sparked by many variables, but speculation also needs fuel. Borrowing at a rate approaching nothing, in a currency that tends to head south for winter and summer both, is just the stuff with which to fan the speculative embers.
From Who is Feeling Smart These Days?: (Wed, Sep 16)
U.S. stocks rose once again on Wednesday, extending what has become a rather remarkable equity rally.

“Never confuse brains with a bull market” is one of Wall Street’s oldest pieces of advice for investors. It teaches us to not feel too smug or smart about the levitation in one’s portfolio when the major averages, too, are rising. If what has been transpiring at the corner of Wall and Broad streets since March is indeed a bull market, then the usual celebratory cockiness is missing. Of the seeming lack of joy over this latest rally, one of my readers relayed the following impression of her recent trip to New York : “Even the ones who are making money aren’t happy”, she said.

Mr. Bernanke will see to it that money printing will be with us until the bond market grounds his fleet of helicopters. Until that day comes, stocks could continue to be kited higher on the winds of easy money.
From A Tale of Two Cities: Wall Street vs. Main Street; the stock market vs. the real economy: (Wed, Sep 16)
Long-time readers know that for years we have inveighed that there is a huge, historic disconnect between the stock market and the economy due to funny money. Easy Al and now Benito have transformed the stock market and other markets from gauges of the economy to generators of economic activity via their deployment as asset bubbles.

Ergo one must now be a technician to not only navigate and profit in the markets but to insure against a career-ending misadventure, either on the downside or upside.

Yesterday Bernanke said the recession has probably ended. If the recession has ended shouldn’t the Fed at its meeting next week at least stop QE and the massive monetization of mortgages?

If QE, which is due to expire, is renewed, stocks should rally but commodities, gold and inflation plays should rally far more. The dollar should tank. China should go apoplectic. Benito will look foolish for saying “the recession is likely over”. Bonds might rally initially but then look out below.

If QE is not renewed, stocks and commodities should tank; the dollar should soar and bonds after initially declining should rally. China will be appeased.
Bottom line is that the stock market rally, by now at least, has exceeded "bear rally" dynamics and is being seen by some as a direct result of the Fed's QE and other easy money policies. That may explain the peculiar non-euphoric feelings of those who have gained in the last six months (and massive angst by those who are losing, or losing out).

ALSO: Check out Can You Name These 14 Bubbles?


The world has turned upside down:

Bill O'Reilly to the left of key Democratic Senators regarding the public option (i.e. he supports it).


Limbaugh: "We need segregated buses"

Why stop there?


"actuarial value" BLEG (first time I've ever used that ugly-sounding work)

Emptywheel at firedog lake wrote up a post about Max Baucus' health care plan and part of it was excerpted: (emp add)
As a general matter, if an employee is offered employer-provided health insurance coverage, the individual would be ineligible for a low income premium tax credit for health insurance purchased through a state exchange. An employee who is offered coverage that does not have an actuarial value of at least 65 percent or who is offered unaffordable coverage by their employer, however, can be eligible for the tax credit. Unaffordable is defined as 13 percent of the employee‘s income. For purposes of determining if coverage is unaffordable, salary reduction contributions would be treated as payments by the employer. The employee would seek an affordability waiver from the state exchange and would have to demonstrate family income and the premium of the lowest cost employer option offered to them. Employees would then present the waiver to the employer. The employer assessment would apply for any employee(s) receiving an affordability waiver. Within five years of implementation, the Secretary must conduct a study to determine if the definition of affordable could be lowered without significantly increasing costs or decreasing employer coverage.
"at least 65 percent" of what?

Is "actuarial value" a measure of a health plan or a measure of affordability? I can't find more on this (at least not quickly).

Speaking of how to measure a health plan, there would have to be some standard or every employer would provide, or every individual could be steered to, a ridiculous plan (one bandaid, two aspirin, and a bottle of eye drops per year for $15).

In any event, "actuarial value" appears to be a key variable when crafting a good, or terrible program. It would be nice to know what it is.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I really thought the Baucus health care plan would, without wasting any political capital, solve our national health care problems of cost and coverage and receive near-unanimous bipartisan support.

Didn't you?


Taking a break:

In light of the fact that two million people showed up at the 9/12 rally, the largest event ever held in Washington, D.C., it's hard to be enthusiastic for mere blogging.

Maybe it's time to take a break.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who loves South Carolina?

South Carolina has been in the news this year:
  • Governor Mark Sanford:
    • Rejected stimulus money.
    • Rejected extending unemployment benefits.
  • Senator Jim DeMint:
    • A believer in Tenth Amendment nullification for all sorts of programs.
    • Opposes health care reform (it would be Obama's "Waterloo").
  • Representative Joe Wilson:
    • Shouts "You lie!" at the president during an address to a joint session.
    • (In the past) Said Essie Mae Washington-Williams should not have revealed she was the daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond because "it's a smear" on Thurmond's image.
What a state! Any fans of South Carolina in this day and age?

Actually, yes. Remember this nugget from last year in August? Obama planned to take a short break from campaigning to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii (she died two days before the presidential election). Cokie Roberts:
...going off this week I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place. He should be at Myrtle Beach ...
Myrtle Beach is in South Carolina.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Quick take about Chait on Rand:

Yglesias recommended it, but I wasn't thrilled with the review. Anybody who has worked in industry knows that added value comes from lots of people. Some important movers and thinkers at the top, but also small improvements coming from workers lower on the totem pole. Rand takes a "superstar" approach to what makes the world move forward, but that's not reality. It also ignores the fact that what we do today is the result of accumulated knowledge from previous decades (and centuries).

This does give me an opportunity to present my favorite question for Libertarians:
Who did you pay for the use of the English language?
A libertarian, true to the creed, would have to eschew using English and instead, craft a language de novo in order to properly claim not to be sponging off the rest of society.



How many protests have you seen that were filled with signs praising a media outlet? On Saturday there were several saying "God Bless Fox News" or the equivalent. That should tell you something about the dynamic behind the 9/12 event.

The protesters on Saturday were, as the signs indicated, dismissing almost all media except for one source: the Murdoch empire of Fox News (which is reinforced by the WSJ, New York Post, and - before it was sold - the Weekly Standard). One source!

Interestingly, there didn't appear to be any signs praising Limbaugh or ClearChannel or Ross Douthat. It was the outpouring of a club, or cult. Sure, some Republicans and bloggers like Glenn Reynolds cheered it on, but it's really being driven by a third force, Murdoch.

Talk about living in the Fox Bubble. I don't know what the appropriate parallel is, but when you have a "political" movement with a significant fraction praising the messenger, is it really political? Or is it a hypnotic capture of the crowd by a masterful propagandist?

NOTE: Top image, lower right, next to "No" CNN HLNS: Except for Nancy Grace

UPDATE: Commenter riffle makes the good point that other media outlets, by reporting 9/12 as a straight news story, are essentially promoting a rival network (Fox News).br>


September 12 thoughts:

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of conservatives: Those that recognize that an election was held and those that don't.

Those that recognize that an election was held, disagree with Obama and the Democrats but are willing to work within the current framework (reasoned debates, using rules of Congress to thwart/modify legislation, preparing for the next election).

Those that don't recognize the election, deny the legitimacy of those in power and as a result are making charges of treason against Obama and other insults (e.g. he's like Hitler). Those were the ones in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

To be honest with you, I don't know which faction is ascendant. I generally think that the "powers that be" in politics (frequently the money boys) keep things from getting out of hand, but this take-over by Limbaugh and Beck and Fox News makes me wonder. Is it that Bush ruined the establishment Republican brand such that a wild populist movement is in control? Could be.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

This explains a lot:
A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.

Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin's "struggle between faith and reason" as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution., an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying".

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

"That's what we're up against. In 2009. It's amazing," he said.

"The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

"It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There's still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It's quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules.
Can we take a look at Charles Darwin's birth certificate? How do we know he wasn't the spawn of Satan from the seventh circle of hell? Where's the Birth Certificate?


Interested in a deep-think read?

A 5,000 essay over at the Nation about how historians have viewed the conservative movement in the 20th century (and up 'til today). A representative sample:
... the general interpretation of the United States in the twentieth century was one of liberal victory followed by tragic decline. Today a new vision seems to be emerging--one that sees the liberalism of the midcentury as always hemmed in by hostility and limited by its internal tensions. In the latest scholarship, the old narrative has been turned upside down: more and more, historians are depicting the century as one of conservative strength only briefly interrupted, some going back still further to see all of American history shot through with the power of forces sharply opposed to equality and democracy.
It does appear that the mid-century New Deal - Great Society period was the exception, not the rule. That seems clear from those charts on income inequality. The only period where it dropped was from 1930 - 1980. Before and after that, the free-market/individualist philosophy had the upper hand.

It's important to note that people alive today, at least the graybeards, think of that liberal period as normal since that's what they grew up under. However, a newer generation of historians who witnessed Reagan - Gingrich - Bush, don't see it that way.

But, as the essay notes, things may not be so binary. Over time, many liberal policies are implemented and are popular (Social Security, Medicare). But it's clear that at a minimum, a passive attitude towards politics on the left is a prescription for failure. Economic interests are not everything. Nor are ones of social justice. There are a lot of deeply held conservative views out there, and a messaging apparatus as well, that keep conservatives potent, or potentially so.

A final comment: The unmixing of the parties, with the Republicans becoming situated in the Old Confederacy as a Christian white party, is extremely significant. The near-identical match up of the Gore/Bush race in 2000 with the split during the Civil War tells you that we may be entering a period of regional politics. If that's the case, it will be less liberal/conservative divisions that dominate, and more parochial interests which can lead in any direction.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pictures of your Republican party:

The classic:

A Teabagger event in August 2009:

People fear Gov't Tranny
Glen Beck's 9/12 event in D.C.:

And in the upper left corner of that sign:

YES GOD Bless Amercia
Think about that the next time you hear about conservatives dominating the bestseller lists.

Re "People fear Gov't Tranny": Who wouldn't?


World's oldest person dies in Los Angeles at 115:
LOS ANGELES – Although she liked her bacon crispy and her chicken fried, she never drank, smoked or fooled around, Gertrude Baines once said, describing a life that lasted an astonishing 115 years and earned her the title of oldest person on the planet.

It was a title Baines quietly relinquished Friday when she died in her sleep at Western Convalescent Hospital, her home since she gave up living alone at age 107 after breaking a hip.

With Baines' death, David Broder of Virginia becomes the world's oldest person, said Dr. L. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks claims of extreme old age.


Fouad Ajami's collective-selective punishment:

From his Wall Street Journal op-ed: (emp add)
The impulse that took America from Kabul to Baghdad had been on the mark. Those were not Afghans who had struck American soil on 9/11. They were Arabs. Their terrorism came out of the pathologies of Arab political life. Their financiers were Arabs, and so were those crowds in Cairo and Nablus and Amman that had winked at the terror and had seen those attacks as America getting its comeuppance on that terrible day. Kabul had not sufficed as a return address in that twilight war; it was important to take the war into the Arab world itself, and the despot in Baghdad had drawn the short straw. He had been brazen and defiant at a time of genuine American concern, and a lesson was made of him.
So, if an outfit is based in Afghanistan, you don't pay attention to that fact or the individuals per se. You collectivize by expanding the list of guilty to include all Arabs. But you don't go after all of them. Instead, you select from that pool whomever's ass you want to kick.

Ajami went the Al Qaeda - Arabs - Saddam Hussein route.

Instead, why not Al Qaeda - Saudis - King Abdullah?

Or Al Qaeda - Guys who like violence - Chuck Norris?

It's about as legitimate.


Friday, September 11, 2009

I feel vindicated:

Background: I was satisfied with Windows 2000 find-files function. I still have trouble with XP's, but was totally stumped with the search function on Vista.

So I google for "vista search files" and the first link has a post by someone (Dave Taylor) who must have had the I-love-Microsoft chip inserted in his brain. To wit:
Performing searches has drastically changed in Windows Vista; what used to be a nightmare is now an easily accomplished task using Vista's powerful new Search features.
And if you read further, you are told about one particular search capability, but can it be that easy? I had trouble trying to use it. Is it me?

No. If you look at the follow-on comments, they are uniformly hostile, all complaining about how poorly Vista search works (or more likely, doesn't). My favorite: (emp add)
Vista file search is useless. It seems that everytime Microsuck 'improves' something it only gets worse. "FIND" in Win9x was far superior to any "SEARCH" that has come since. I am looking at dozens of files that Vista cannot find with "search". I have been using computers since the 70's, so I'm not new to this. Vista sucks and it's file search engine does too.
I was talking to a software professional earlier today about this and he said that Microsoft seems determined to make things harder for programmers to use. This remark from a positive review of Vista Search over at Computerworld seems to confirm that view (at least for one particular flavor of search):
Searching inside a lot of stuff, like Windows's own operating-system files and the guts of your software applications would be sort of pointless to anyone but programmers, so Vista doesn't bother.
That is a questionable practice, having a Search (one of many!) that returns a subset of possible returns as the default behavior and without clearly displaying that fact to the user.

Perhaps this is the new approach. Don't give people control over anything. If, for instance, you are looking for a suspected Trojan on the machine, don't even try. Everything is done at the app level. Got a suspect Trojan? Under Vista the "solution" is to download another app that you are told will fix the problem. This leads, naturally to you loading a ton of apps (practically one for each suspect situation) that clogs the machine and probably interferes with whatever security software you already have running.

Anyway, it was a treat to read the comments from disgruntled folks who clearly know what they are talking about with examples of failed searches or missing functionality compared to the earlier Windows platforms. The comments, by the way, were posted from as far back as March 2007 up until a few days ago (175 of them).

QUESTION: These complainers are smart people familiar with computers (e.g. trying to search for strings within PHP files). How can the typical non-specialist be expected to get the hang of it?

CODA: I love this from Microsoft:
The new Windows Vista Explorer showcases Instant Search in the top-right corner. It's always with you when you're using the Documents Explorer, Music Explorer, Pictures Explorer, and the new Search Explorer.
How about all those Explorers?


Off topic:

Don't upgrade to FireFox 3.5. It's unstable. Why they are promoting a switch is puzzling.

The user interface for Adobe Acrobat 9 editor (not the reader) is worse than Microsoft's Word 97. Has to do what you see on pull-down menus and the lack of choices "above" the set value (necessitating moving the scroll button each time). How this terrible UI got past Q/A is a mystery. But then, Microsoft's Office 2007 has a crappy UI.

UPDATE: FWIW, FireFox 3.0.whatever frequently went into massive memory suck when accessing Yahoo mail (on Windows XP), so I upgraded to FF3.5, but that was crashing on a variety of webpages, thus the rollback. I'm aware that FF works fine on different platforms, but my situation is pretty spare (one plugin and one enhancement for bookmarking).

Root cause? While browsers should be robust, they do have to deal with all sorts of web content, and that's a challenge. What is the problem is poor website design. With Yahoo Mail, for example, (and I'm using the old Classic view), it should be a simple set of HTML tables with text listing what's in my Inbox. But something more is happening, for reasons unknown, and that triggers a browser failure. Problems with Yahoo Mail on FireFox have been reported, so it's not something unique to me.


The Washington Post waves the free trade flag:

From their editorial: (emp add)
Slashing Tires
Why President Obama should tread lightly on Chinese imports

(...) By Sept. 17, Mr. Obama must decide whether to crack down on tire imports from China, and if so, how.

At issue is a recent increase in U.S. imports of cheap Chinese tires: from $453 million in 2004 to $1.7 billion in 2008. That boosted China's share of the U.S. market from 5 percent to 17 percent. U.S. trade law allows curbs on imports from China when they threaten "market disruption" and "material injury" to U.S. producers. China agreed to this rule as part of the deal under which it acceded to the World Trade Organization. (It is similar to the kind of import protection in agricultural goods that China has been demanding in global trade talks.)

The United Steelworkers of America (USW), which represents many tire workers, alleged a violation of the law; by a vote of 4 to 2, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) agreed. It recommended that Mr. Obama slap a 55 percent tariff on Chinese tires next year, a 45 percent tariff in 2011 and a 35 percent tariff in 2012 -- before the China "safeguard" provision expires in 2013.

There's no dispute that the U.S.-based tire industry has closed plants, shed 5,000 jobs and lost market share since 2004. (...)

Unfortunately, the president's freedom of action is clouded by American dependence on Chinese purchase of U.S. government debt. (...)

All the more reason for him to focus on the one thing he can be sure of if he imposes tariffs or an import quota: Prices will go up for American consumers, and choices will go down. The pain would be concentrated where Chinese imports are concentrated: in the low-cost segment of the market. In short, consumers who can least afford it would pay the most.

Some benefits of this regressive tax would indeed flow to U.S. tire workers in the form of jobs saved, but some might accrue to low-wage tire producers in other countries. And all this for what would be at most a three-year respite from the alleged Chinese onslaught. This case gives Mr. Obama a chance to show that he defines American economic interests broadly, not in response to the demands of particular interests.
If you wonder why median wages have stagnated for a decade, this is one reason. The "broad interests" of consumers can always be used to deny the "particular interests" of labor. That argument was used in the 19th century when unions were being formed. It's popular today with businesses. However, the aggregate of all those "particular interests" can be more important when it comes to figuring the distribution of economic power and wealth in this country.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sartorial ignorance at Time magazine's Swampland:

You've got to like this:
Barack Obama's Lucky Tie (Style)

This is how the President of the United States like it when the pressure is on: Cherry-red, with thin silvery-white diagonal stripes. He wore this tie last night. (See it here.)
And the piece goes on about it, and some other ties Obama has worn.

But what they fail to note is that the tie Obama wore last night had a particular slant.

English ties slant down from left to right. American slant from right to left.

Obama's tie slanted down from left to right. It wasn't an American-style tie.

Glen Beck should be notified immediately.


Craziest right-wing site ever?

Look, it a tough competition, but this site is a clear contender.


John Stossel gets "promoted" to Fox News:

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.



Yeah, right.


It doesn't get more stupid than this:

Betsy McCaughey writing in the New York Post:
When President Obama addresses Congress and the nation tonight, he should pledge to do three things.

First, he should announce that he will discard the 1,018-page health bill drafted in the House of Representatives and replace it with a 20-page bill in plain English. Twenty pages should be sufficient. The framers of the US Constitution established an entire federal government in 18 pages.
The US Constitution specifically sets out procedures and areas of operation, not statutes. The statutes and their enforcement are the government. How do they come about? Through the mechanisms found in the Constitution. (The Constitution also deals with other topics, such as the electoral process, representation, and the addition of states.)

For example, the Constitution does not say what the rules of the Senate should be, only that the Senate is free to make rules. It does not say what the Post Office should charge for delivering a letter, only that such an agency should exist. Etc.

Kevin Drum said that McCaughey is "poison", and it's hard to disagree with that.


Bill Kristol's whopper:

From his post-Obama-speech observations: (emp add)
So President Obama invited himself into our living rooms tonight...why? Not to address questions of war and peace -- even though we are fighting two wars overseas, and even though an avowed enemy and terror sponsor is rushing towards nuclear weapons. Not to address the economy -- even though unemployment continues to rise, the deficit is at an all-time high, and we face a truly worrisome debt burden in the years ahead. And not to rally the nation in the face of some other crisis.

But isn’t health care a crisis? No.

Indeed, the president acknowledged it isn’t: “But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future.
So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future -- and that is the issue of health care.” In other words, health care -- unlike, say, the financial system a few months ago -- is not in a state of crisis.

So there is no health care crisis. (...)
Obama said:
We did not come here just to deal with X. We came to do Y.
Kristol asserts that Obama is saying that X is not the case, but the formulation "we did not come here just to deal with X" means that X is the case, we will deal with X, and more.

Kristol is engaging in eighth grade sophistry. I guess that's his audience.

Kudos to the Washington Post and Fred Hiatt for putting out this high-quality analysis.


The speech was good:

But will it still be a factor two weeks from now?


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Beg to differ:

From Obama's health care speech:
I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.
That sounds like keeping health care a profit-making business for the most part. That's not a solution.

Fixing the problem of cost and coverage, especially at the national level of GDP percentage for a developed country, means a Japanese-Euro-Canadian approach.

But Americans seem to like being different (or so we're told). Exceptional, you might say. To their disadvantage.


Who is the Surgeon General of the United States?

Take a guess.

It's this fellow, (acting) Surgeon General Steven Galson:
Appointed by Bush in 2007.

Is he going to beat the drum for Obama's healh care plans? No.

But don't despair, Obama took his sweet time to nominate someone on July 13th of this year. And his nominee, Regina Benjamin, doesn't appear to be someone especially skilled in public relations. Have you heard anything from her? Can she help sell health care reform? Who knows?

What a choice! What timing!

Read Wolcott on the failure of the Democrats to deliver a message.

Maybe a speech by Obama will set everything straight. Or maybe not.


A remarkable Washington Post news article extolling the wealthy:

Waiting for Deep Pockets to Open
Recovery May Well Wait on the Wealthy to Step Up Their Spending
: (excerpts)
Affluent shoppers are the most important segment of consumer spending, which in turn drives the national economy.

"Unless these people turn up, a lot of companies won't turn up," said Milton Pedraza, founder of the Luxury Institute, a consulting firm. "When they are not spending, it definitely impacts all of us in a negative way."

Conditions are beginning to improve for the well-to-do.

... a recent survey of wealthy consumers by market research firm Unity Marketing showed their confidence in the economy during the second quarter jumped by the largest amount since the firm began tracking the data.
The key to the story is the first line quoted (above):
Affluent shoppers are the most important segment of consumer spending, which in turn drives the national economy.
It may be that the wealthy are (or more accurately were) the most important, but that doesn't mean it's optimal. If, as many claim, the distribution of wealth has become concentrated at the top, it's pretty lame - especially in an economic downturn - to passively accept the Bush-era economic structure as a given and root for the top dogs of that time. But that's what the Post does.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm beginning to wonder ...

if a President Hillary Clinton would have been more focused - and successful - in getting progressive health care legislation passed.

The salesmanship by the Obama administration has been dreadful.
  • Where's the avuncular family doctor - always seen in a white coat and stethoscope - who understands health insurance problems and can reassure? (And has a near-daily press event.)

  • Where's the chart where you find yourself (by age, income, married/single, health status) and see what advantages you get with the proposed legislation?

  • Where are the corresponding rebuttal-scenarios that demonstrate why the present system (and Republican alternatives) will not work, and will result in serious financial or medical hardship?
This doesn't have to be a 40-page presentation. Probably a well constructed 6 page brochure would suffice.

I've seen better explanations and choice-options from my local automobile tire dealer.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you go to the White House - Health Care Reform page, which doesn't have a whole lot of content, you will read this at the end:
Please visit to learn more about the President’s commitment to enacting comprehensive health reform this year.
Does that link work? Not if you right-click to open in new window or new tab. If you right-click you go to:
Which keeps you on the White House page. The href should be
Which is what happens when you left-click (involving JavaScript that initiates a new browser window).

The White House webpage link to the Health Reform website is broken. What more can be said?

A little more. Check out and, just for fun, click to see what they have to say about: HOW HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM WILL BENEFIT CALIFORNIA.

It is wonkeriffic. Dense and, get this, in 1,100 words (essentially 38 one-sentence paragraphs) there are 29 footnotes that comprise an additional 720 words (or 40% of the total). Especially alluring is the second footnote-3 which reads:
Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2000, Table II.D.1.
Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table X.D.
Projected 2009 premiums based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "National Health Expenditure Data," available at
I challenge you to read that page and tell me your eyes don't glaze over before you're finished.


The Baucus health care plan:

Looks like a piece of shit. With extra shit on top. And served with a side order of shit.

It will not address the serious issues of health care: coverage and costs.


Yes it is:

Over at the FOX Nation thread on Obama's speech to the schoolchildren, there are the usual right-wing comments:
There are several statements in Obama’s speech that are laced with his usual socialist rhetoric. The one that everyone should notice is where he wants kids to do well in Social Studies so they can grow up and make this nation fair. Fair? What planet is he living on? There is one resounding fact of living on this planet Mr. Obama. LIFE IS NOT FAIR!

Teabag Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer!
Teabag Laura Bush!
They are traitiors!

Obama mentioned the children could be a member of OUR MILITARY. Did OUR MILITARY mean HIS MILITARY, or a MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES? If he meant HIS MILITARY, parents must continue to be aware of this president.

Obama wants the kids to stay in school so they can become communist czars.
And then there was this:
I've never been to a right wing talk board before. This is a very strange place to be.


Monday, September 07, 2009


Steve Benen started a post with this:
LAMAR ON RECONCILIATION.... Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee was on Fox News yesterday, and weighed in on the possibility of Democrats using reconciliation to pass health care reform.
"Thumbing their nose at the American people by ramming through a partisan bill would be the same thing as going to war without asking Congress' permission," he said. "You might technically be able to do it, but you'd pay a terrible price in the next election."
There was no follow-up on this during the interview -- it's Fox News, after all -- so let's go ahead and note why this is very foolish.
And he continued for 6 paragraphs about reconciliation and the Republicans prior use it. It's as if Benen is taking seriously the notion that Fox News is a real news outfit. But consider the following way of presenting the story:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee was on the Republican Propaganda Network yesterday, and weighed in on the possibility of Democrats using reconciliation to pass health care reform.
"Thumbing their nose at the American people by ramming through a partisan bill would be the same thing as going to war without asking Congress' permission," he said. "You might technically be able to do it, but you'd pay a terrible price in the next election."
There was no follow-up on this during the interview -- it's the Republican Propaganda Network, after all
See? There's no call to get involved and counter what Alexander said because it's obvious what's going on. Alexander was not speaking in a forum where he would be challenged. He might just as well have been speaking at a workshop at the How To Take Back America conference. Nobody cares about those events. Similarly, no one should care about what's said on the Republican Propaganda Network. At least not care about the substance of what's being peddled there.


Happy Labor Day!

The 216,000 jobs lost in August is a BLS calculation from payrolls.

The 9.7% unemployment rate is the result of the Household Survey. These comments from a post at the Big Picture are about the Household Survey: (emp add)
What was really key were the details of the Household Survey, which provide a rather alarming picture of what is happening in the labor market.

First, employment in this survey showed a plunge of 392,000, but that number was flattered by a surge in self-employment (whether these newly minted consultants were making any money is another story) as wage & salary workers (the ones that work at companies, big and small) plunged 637,000 – the largest decline since March (when the stock market was testing its lows for the cycle). As an aside, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes a number from the Household survey that is comparable to the nonfarm survey (dubbed the population and payroll-adjusted Household number), and on this basis, employment sank – brace yourself - by over 1 million, which is unprecedented. We shall see if the nattering nabobs of positivity discuss that particularly statistic in their post-payroll assessments; we are not exactly holding our breath.
Wage & salary jobs are generally good jobs (compared to self-employed). Losing 637K of those is serious hurt.

Most of you probably read headlines like US jobless figure rises, but not as rapidly as before, and others to the effect that 216K jobs lost is the best number this year - implying that we're about to get on the road to recovery. Economic "happy talk" has been a prominent feature of economic reporting this year. It may not continue.


Cokie Roberts on Sarah Palin:

One year ago:
“The main thing about Sarah Palin,” Roberts said one year ago, “is that she's down to earth. Sold the state jet on eBay. She drives herself. She got rid of the household staff in the governor's mansion and told the children that they were not going to get anything other than their usual macaroni and cheese.”
The "main thing". Being "down to earth" is hardly a mark of distinction.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Getting closer ...

Olbermann Declares War on Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes

Take it one rung higher, Keith.



Friday, September 04, 2009

Poor David Frum:

From a report about WorldNetDaily:
According to, WorldNetDaily had more than 1.9 million visitors in July, the month when the “birther” story peaked. That was the slowest month for the site in more than a year. In June, a more average month, it drew in more than 3.9 million visitors. For comparison, that month Free Republic had around 3.2 million visitors, The Washington Times had roughly 2.9 million, had 2.5 million, had 2.4 million, National Review had roughly 2.2 million, Human Events had 1.4 million, had 1.1 million, had around 532,000, and The American Spectator had around 358,000. Among conservative news sites, only Fox News, with roughly 50 million monthly visitors, and Newsmax, with around 6.2 million in June, regularly beats out WND. It’s tougher sledding for Websites that attempt to carve out a more refined audience of conservatives: in June, David Frum’s New Majority had only 42,000 visitors. (According to Google Analytics, it fared quite a bit better at 72,000 unique visitors.) WND, unlike New Majority, has a permanent link at the Drudge Report; according to, Drudge accounts for 13 percent of WND’s traffic.
Frum is trying to cut back the crazy in the Republican ranks.


Go for it, GOP:

Politico headline: David Petraeus, Joe Scarborough eyed for '12

Remember back in 1991 (or there abouts) when Bill Moyers was being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate? This is the same thing.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

What's David Frum's point here?

His full post:
Bruce Bartlett sends this email:
I’ve been thinking lately that conservative elites are reaching a moment similar to that which confronted liberal elites in the late 1960s. At first they saw the rise of SDS, the Black Panthers and other extreme left groups as cannon fodder that could be used to achieve liberal goals. (Norman Podhoretz goes into detail on this point in Breaking Ranks and Tom Wolfe made fools of them.) But one day liberals realized that the extremists couldn’t be controlled and threatened anarchy. I read somewhere that the seminal event was when student radicals threatened to burn the Harvard library. This sort of thing led to the rise of neoconservatism (not the foreign policy variety, but the original one). I think conservative elites today see the teabaggers, birthers and other kooks as cannon fodder for larger conservative goals the same way liberals originally saw student radicals in the 1960s. I think one day soon something like the Harvard library burning is going to make conservatives realize that these people present more of a threat than a tool for advancing conservative goals. I hope it doesn’t involve an assassination or Oklahoma City-type event. But you can’t pour fuel on the fires of peoples’ emotions the way Glenn Beck does on a daily basis without getting an explosion at some point.
Bartlett’s comparison is thought-provoking, but I think fails for the following reasons:

1) The radical left of the 1960s was not “cannon fodder” for liberal elites. On the contrary, liberal elites were the principal target of the radicals. Student radicals hated Clark Kerr and Robert McNamara as much or more than they hated J. Edgar Hoover or Richard Nixon. The Panthers despised the civil rights leadership at least as much as they hated George Wallace. Today’s angry conservative base by contrast directs its rage across the partisan divide.

2) Liberal elites kept a much greater distance from the radicals than conservative elites do. Can you imagine the Sulzberger or Graham family giving a platform to the left-wing equivalent of Glenn Beck, in the way that Rupert Murdoch has done?

3) Both sets of elites feared their militant base. But while liberal elites feared that the student radicals and black radicals would attack them, today’s conservative elites fear that the angry Republican base will withdraw their support from them.

4) Violence was integral to the 1960s left, and especially to the Black Panthers. On the right, so far there’s plenty of paranoia but thankfully nothing remotely like the cult of revolutionary violence that wrecked so many lives in the years 1965-1975.
Frum seems to be saying that today’s angry conservative base:
  • Is not directing its anger at conservative elites.
  • Is being cossetted by Murdoch.
  • Are "wanted" by conservative elites (for their votes and noise making capacity).
  • Not violent (yet).
On the whole it appears that Frum is saying that today's angry conservative phenomenon is worse than the Black Panthers because there's no daylight between them and the conservative elites.

That sounds strange coming from Frum.