Black and Red Clock wallpaper

time wallpaper

Black and Red Clock wallpaper

Tea Nut Rep Andy Harris (R-MD) Complained About Not Getting His Government Health are Fast Enough Punished by Republican Politburo.

Remember Rep.-elect Andy Harris (R-MD)? The anti-health care reform physician who got a heap of bad publicity when he made a fuss about having to wait a few weeks until his employer- (a.k.a. government-) provided health care kicked in? And who asked whether the government had a… public option, of sorts, from which he could buy insurance in the interim?

Turns out hubris has consequences.

According to The Daily Times, “The Maryland Republican didn’t get his top choice for a committee assignment, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over public health issues.”

There is of course has some playable deniability here as committee assignments are somewhat competitive. Competitive in the case of the Politburo nature of conservative leadership meaning who you know and how much power you have. Though in order to give their policy views on health related issues the specious glow of expertise, right-wing Republicans have a history of giving such committee assignments to their water carrying doctors.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington(CREW) Calls for Criminal Investigation into Christine O’Donnell for Campaign Fraud

Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against newly-minted Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell (R) for using campaign funds for personal living expenses.  By misusing campaign funds, Ms. O’Donnell committed the crime of conversion; by lying about her expenditures on forms she filed with the FEC, she committed false statements; and by failing to include the campaign funds she misappropriated as income, she committed tax evasion.

“Christine O’Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crook she should be prosecuted,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW Executive Director. “Ms. O’Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but both sides should agree on one point: thieves belong in jail not the United States Senate.”

CREW’s complaint is based, in part, on the affidavit of former campaign aide David Keegan.  Mr. Keegan explained that in 2009, when Ms. O’Donnell was out of money, she paid her landlord, Brent Vasher, two months rent out of her campaign funds. On FEC forms, Ms. O’Donnell called the expenditures “expense reimbursements.” Mr. Keegan also attested that Ms. O’Donnell routinely used campaign funds for meals and gas, and even a bowling outing. This is not surprising given that Ms. O’Donnell has not held a steady job or had a discernable source of income for many years.

Not a good sign when your behavior is so egregious even your campaign aid is willing to throw you under the bus. Very likely misplaced pity, but I’d let the money for rent slide and have her pay a small fine for the other infractions. Like many conservatives who seem to make money solely out of the political ether, O’Donnell has a sense of entitlement. At the age of forty plus she has never held a real job. She has been a trooper in the Right’s culture wars. In many cases – such as millionaire Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed, that can pay handsomely. O’Donnell has not seemed to be able to make it work. I would not be surprised if billionaire sugar daddy Richard Mellon Scaife came to her rescue or the right-wing Pravda Regnery Publishing offered her a book deal – with her book suddenly and mysteriously getting thousands in bulk orders to pull her out of her financial troubles and clean up her image in time for the next election cycle.

Jonah Goldberg is another arrogant and talentless voice on the right. That has not stopped him from getting a job on the wing-nut welfare circuit as a pundit. Gay marriage will be Bad News for Liberals, Jonah argues, because liberals hate monogamy and ABC sitcoms

Jonah Goldberg has a doozy of a syndicated column today arguing that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the inevitability of gay marriage are both Officially Good News for Conservatives, because they are Bad News For Liberals, because now the gays are bourgeois. As we all know, what liberals have always actually wanted is not “equality” or “equal rights,” but for our radical bohemian values to undermine society until it crumbles and we can erect a glorious anarchic state built on free-gay-child-love. But gay marriage will ruin our plans!

A smart person could write a good column about the trajectory of the gay rights movement, the long journey from Gay Liberation to NOH8, the story of how America deals with radical movements by eventually allowing formerly marginal minorities to join mainstream society. But Jonah Goldberg is not a smart person and this is not a good column.

The column encapsulates Goldberg’s pathetic conservatism: It’s a philosophy defined entirely by opposition to whatever those stupid liberals want. There’s no principle beyond the adolescent desire to be contrary.

Two decades ago, the gay Left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise, and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian “free love” and avant-garde values. In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight Left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents’ generation along with their gray flannel suits.

As a sexual-lifestyle experiment, they failed pretty miserably, the greatest proof being that the affluent and educated children (and grandchildren) of the baby boomers have re-embraced the bourgeois notion of marriage as an essential part of a successful life. Sadly, it’s the lower-middle class that increasingly sees marriage as an out-of-reach luxury. The irony is that such bourgeois values — monogamy, hard work, etc. — are the best guarantors of success and happiness.

Any sources or citations for quote for any of this? (Monogamy is the best guarantor of success! QED!) No. But don’t worry, he has a really good example coming up:

The gay experiment with open bohemianism was arguably shorter. Of course, AIDS played an obvious and tragic role in focusing attention on the downside of promiscuity. But even so, the sweeping embrace of bourgeois lifestyles by the gay community has been stunning.

Nowhere is this more evident — and perhaps exaggerated — than in popular culture. Watch ABC’s Modern Family.

Yep. “Gay people are all bourgeois now, I learned it on a TeeVee show I watch. Liberals stink!”

Goldberg has been learning at the knee of the National Review gurus of revisionism, spin and straw man arguments. Mix thoroughly with a throwing out every conceivable 70s chicle about liberals and you end up with the average fetid stew which constitutes the bile which flows from NR. Syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and some other STDs – primarily heterosexual diseases were causing death and misery for centuries before AIDS came along. If disease is the cause de celebre for the condemnation and end of sex than heterosexuals should have made the ultimate sacrifice and died out years ago. Humans are flawed and tainted with original sin – so several clergymen tell me – so sense no one is going to be untainted or  giving up sex any time soon maybe it is best to get over the blame game and get people educated about sex and its consequences so they’ll make responsible informed decisions. Now back to dealing with dysfunctional  momma’s boys. There is patriotism and there is patriotism. Goldberg’s is really a substitute for fidelity to conservatism, not the USA. He and his collectivists brethren on the Right don’t have the cojones to admit that is what they mean by patriotism, to march in ideological lock step with the power obsessed and greedy authoritarian goons who call themselves conservatives. These would also be the same perverted capitalists who caused the recessions of the 80s and the millenium. The ones who have created an economy that rewards wealth, not work. The kind of broken down ragged ass capitalism that rescues millionaires and lets the working class get cake. Conservatives do not and never have believed in competitive capitalism. They believe in corporate cronyism – a few Democrats do too unfortunately.

If our dog-eat-dog culture was not harsh enough Glenn Beck(like O’Donnell and Limbaugh has never had a real job or even possessed valuable work skills that an employer might need) and Joseph Lehman double down on the social-Darwinism – The Poorhouse: Aunt Winnie, Glenn Beck, And The Politics Of The New Deal

That movement’s most outspoken proponent is Fox News host Glenn Beck, who doesn’t merely pine for the pre-New Deal era in general, but regularly prevails upon his audience to recognize the particular genius of some of the period’s presidents, whose ideologies of inaction he holds up as the American ideal.

Democratic President Grover Cleveland is one such hero. When Beck and guest Joseph Lehman were discussing the proper roles of welfare and charity this summer, Lehman noted that one “extreme [position] is, you’ve got welfare only as a last resort and all assistance is private.”

It wasn’t too extreme for Beck. “And this is where we actually were a hundred years ago,” Beck said, rightly thinking — or not — of people in Aunt Winnie’s situation.

“We used to be here. In fact, Grover Cleveland has this excellent statement. In 1887, President Cleveland said, ‘Though the people may support their government, the government shall not support the people,'” Lehman responded.

“That’s great,” said Beck.

While lifting up presidents like Cleveland, he wants to tear down their successors. At Beck University, he offers a course titled “Presidents You Should Hate.” Part one focuses on Woodrow Wilson, part two on Franklin Roosevelt.

Until those men rose to power, the political field belonged to politicians in the command of business. Cleveland, however, is a distant second in the Beck view of the world to Calvin Coolidge. Beck told his audience this August that Coolidge was Ronald Reagan’s favorite president, and that he was “one of best presidents I think we’ve ever had that you don’t know very much about.”

Coolidge earned his place in Beck’s heart for refusing to send federal help to the Gulf region during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. “And under 30 feet of water, hundreds of people died. This is the Katrina of the 1920s,” said Beck. “And, to show you the difference in how far we’ve come with progressives, at the time that this happened, nobody was standing on their roof with signs saying, ‘Help me.’ They were helping themselves.”

Whatever the victims of the flood may have done, Wall Street certainly helped itself during Coolidge’s reign from 1923 to 1929. The Dow ran from under a hundred to a high of nearly four hundred. Corporate profits and consumer debt soared. Coolidge slashed taxes. By 1929, the top 0.1 percent had income equal to 42 percent of all Americans and held 34 percent of all the savings — while eight in ten had no savings at all.

Those eight-in-ten people without savings had no cushion against the economic crashes that relentlessly afflicted the economy and had no relief against the one calamity that is entirely foreseeable: old age.

Let them die in the streets that will teach them. Beck and the Right’s class warfare is showing. That upper part of the economic ladder is populated, according to the Right, by the hardest working and the most virtuous. Certainly some well off Americans are both, but all of them are never held to the same standards of the woman who empties the bed pan of a wealthy dowager. I have heard conservatives and right-wing libertarians willing to admit that it would be harsh at first but after a generation only the strong and deserving would survive and we’d finally have that conservative utopia where only the right kind of people will remain. The intro to this article tells the story of the real Aunt Winnie and her plight.

Poverty statistics are unreliable before about 1960, when the elderly poverty rate was 35 percent, but that figure likely represents a steep decline from the day Social Security became law. Though there were no national measurements, in surveys taken between 1925 and 1932 in Connecticut, New York and Wisconsin, nearly half of elderly people lived on less than $25 per month, which survey administrators deemed “insufficient subsistence income.” A third in Connecticut had no income at all. An attempt to quantify elderly poverty in 1939, deep into the depression, using census data, found the rate may have been close to 80 percent. Whatever the national numbers, by 1974 official elderly poverty had fallen below 15 percent and by 1995 it had dropped to ten.

Snowflakes New Year wallpaper – Democrats and Population Trends

Snowflakes New Year wallpaper

If you’ve ever taken a class in statistics you learned about the trap of drawing conclusions about cause and effect simply because there is a correlation:

“Correlation does not imply causation” is a phrase used in science and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other (though correlation is necessary for linear causation, and can indicate possible causes or areas for further investigation… in other words, correlation can be a hint).

I suspect that right-wing conservative Michael Barone and his fan Daniel J. Mitchell ( of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and a fellow at Cato)know that. Yet their rush to see cause and effect in a large overview of demographics – what the Census shows us about population shifts to the south – is built on a foundation of correlation and speculation – According to Census Data, People Vote with their Feet for Less Government

The world is a laboratory and different nations are public policy experiments. Not surprisingly, the evidence from these experiments is that nations with more freedom tend to grow faster and enjoy more prosperity. Nations with big governments, by contrast, are more likely to suffer from stagnation.

The same thing happens inside the United States. The 50 states are experiments, and they generate considerable data showing that small government states enjoy better economic performance. But because migration between states is so easy (whereas migration between nations is more complicated), we also get very good evidence based on people “voting with their feet.” Taxation and jobs are two big factors that drive this process.

Looking at the census data and matching migration data with state tax systems, here’s what Michael Barone wrote. He finds (not that anyone should be surprised) that the absence of a state income tax is correlated with faster growth, which attracts people from high-tax states.

…growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England. Altogether, 35 percent of the nation’s total population growth occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19 percent of total population at the beginning of the decade.

And here’s Diana Furtchtgott-Roth, writing for Realclearmarkets.com. She uses the presence of right-to-work laws (which prohibit union membership as a condition of employment) as a proxy for the degree to which big government and big labor are imposing restrictions on efficient employment markets. Not surprisingly, the states that have a market-friendly approach create more jobs and therefore attract more workers.

The recent release of population trends does indeed say some red states are growing – partly from birth rates and partly from migration from blue or purple states. Republicans were all over this – claiming the only conclusion one could possibly reach is the country is moving hard Right. There is no empirical data to support that conclusion. If Barone or Mitchell want to speculate that population trends favor conservatives and right-wing libertarians, that would be fine if they labeled their speculation as such. There is at the very least a reality based alternative interpretation – that people moving from blue states will turn some marginal red congressional districts blue. Democrats won the 2008 election cycle with a 50 state strategy

Obama won states in every part of the country. He bridged the red state/blue state divide with a message based on unity and the economy. For the first time since 1996, we have a president that has a true mandate. He won states in every part of the country. He broke through the Republican South by winning Virginia, Florida, and possibly North Carolina. He added Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio in the Midwest. He added the Southwest in New Mexico and Nevada, and the key Mountain state of Colorado.

There seem to be two different reasons why some states flipped for Obama. In Indiana and Ohio, I think the economy powered these voters towards Obama. They were moved directly by the economic crisis and McCain’s seeming inability to handle it. The second key was Hispanic/Latino and young Cuban voters. In Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, these voters played a huge role with their support of Obama. Nationally, Hispanic voters supported Obama by a 2-1 margin. This was a backlash against the GOP’s anti-immigrant stance.

While the economy and Republican rule of the Beltway were fresh in everyone’s mind in 2008 – benefiting Democrats – you cannot swing red and purple states and districts unless there has been both a population shift favoring Democrats as well as a shift in the electorate towards moderates and the center-left. Christopher Beam does some more centered speculation in this article and uses some plain old rational thinking – The new census data may favor Republicans, but long-term demographic trends favor Democrats

The census data released yesterday counted people, but it didn’t say anything about who they are. The figures show that the populations of traditionally Republican states like Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Utah are growing, while those of Democratic states like New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are shrinking.

Barone and Mitchell give the impression – hell they emphatically state – they do know who these people are – they’re obviously far Right conservatives fleeing blue states. They present no evidence that is the case.

But trends over the last decade or so suggest the country is becoming bluer. When we talk about population growth in the United States, we’re almost invariably talking about a group that votes Democratic. Political scientist Ruy Teixeira, who co-authored The Emerging Democratic Majority back in 2006, points out that minority voters have grown by 11 percent over the last 20 years while relatively conservative white working-class voters have decreased by 15 points. Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz projects that nonwhite voters will constitute one-third of the electorate in 2020. (By 2042, the entire U.S. population will be more than half minority.) College-educated women, 65 percent of whom supported Obama in 2008, went from 8 percent of the over-25 female population to 28 percent over the last 40 years. Young voters, who went for Obama 66-32, add 4 million new members to their ranks every year. Professionals, 68 percent of whom voted for Obama, are the “fastest-growing occupational group,” according to Teixeira. And, adding insult to injury, the fastest-growing religious population is “unaffiliated” voters, three-quarters of whom voted for Obama.

Does that mean the country will become permanently Democratic? Of course not. Both parties will adjust to accommodate the shifting demographics. But Republicans will be playing catchup.

Those trends are hard-core demographics. Mitch and the “experts” he cites simply roll out a litany of assertions. None of them supported by any data. They see correlations as a facts. Some red states have lower or no state income taxes, ah-ha, that is why the population is shifting. My neighbor got a new TV that must mean he is watching more cable news? Could mean he is watching more DVDs. Barone – using nothing more than his patented right-wing crystal ball says these population trends, which have been in motion for the last twenty years, are due to no income taxes in red states. If that is true those people of whom Barone is reading their minds( anecdotal comments under news articles do not count for obvious statistical reasons) are making some poorly thought out decisions. Taxes by State

Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement destination.  This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack of a state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden.

States raise revenue in many ways including sales taxes, excise taxes, license taxes, income taxes, intangible taxes, property taxes, estate taxes and inheritance taxes.  Depending on where you live, you may end up paying all of them or just a few.

This is my anecdotal experience. Some years ago I lived in a red state that had income taxes to one that did not. In the first state, with deductions and credits I got all my taxes back. The no income tax state ended up costing more because of higher sales taxes and fees ( like driver license renewal). Both states gave businesses tax breaks that included a tax holiday for years and other economic incentives to get businesses like car manufacturers to open new plants. Who paid for the loss revenue? Ordinary citizens. It was a win win for business and a kinda win for labor. More jobs, but a bigger share of the cost of infrastructure. Taxes are or should be only part of the equation. On average Per Capita Personal Income by State is higher in blue states. So let’s say I’m making $35k a year in a blue state – with all those terrible taxes. Doing the same work in a red state might mean I make $34.3k. With lower taxes I might come out about even, but with the high probability of higher sales taxes, property taxes and fees, probably not. Let’s fellow down the yellow brick road of economic nirvana of Barone, Mitchell and Furtchtgott-Roth’s thinking. Life is better in red states because of the economic incentives. Looking at the macroeconomic picture where is some of that money coming from. The money in real people’s pockets that buy toothpaste, tires and pays the rent. Some of it is coming from blue states – If Democrats are the big spenders, why do Republican states get the money?

It isn’t surprising that the more Republican a state leans, the more likely it is to be furious about government spending. But what is surprising is that states with the highest anti-spending sentiment appear to be the largest beneficiaries of government spending. Not only do red states swallow the lion’s share of government spending, but Richardson found a linear relationship between the extent of GOP support in a state—and, by implication, the fervor of its anti-government sentiment—and the amount of federal largesse the state receives.

Alaska, home to Sarah Palin, and where two fiscally conservative Republican candidates for Senate recently mopped up 75 percent of the vote between them, received $1.64 in federal benefits for every $1 the state contributed to the national kitty. Massachusetts, Richardson found last year, received 82 cents for every dollar it paid into the national pool. No doubt as compensation, liberals in Massachusetts and other “blue” states also received lots of vitriol for being such out-of-control spenders.

The 28 states where George W. Bush won more than 50 percent of the vote in 2004 received an average of $1.32 for every dollar contributed. The 19 states where Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote collected 93 cents on the dollar.

Let’s set aside the hypocrisy about red states getting a ride off blue states for a moment – maybe they genuinely need that money or red states senators and representatives are better at getting more pork. Just in terms of economic incentives – which is the major slant of the Right – why are so any red state residents reliant on federal dollars if they are an economic conservative/libertarian wunderland. There has been plenty of talk over the last 10 years especially about Democrats and how to frame the debate. That might be a like learning to run in waist deep mud since right-wing voters pay attention to the false and empty slogans of the Right, but very little attention to what they actually do. Republicans are pleased as pigs at the trough at government spending as long as they are the beneficiaries. It has been like this since Nixon in the late 1960s. Some counter-factuals to consider – Behind the Population Shift

The rise of the Sunbelt has two common explanations: one climatic and the other commercial. The climatic, obvious explanation is that it’s the weather, stupid. The commercial explanation, which has a proselytizing undertone, is that places like Texas and Nevada attract companies and people with their lower business taxes and fewer regulations.

The first view emphasizes the outdoors; the second right-to-work laws. If all that we knew was that Sunbelt populations were increasing, it would be impossible to distinguish among these and other theories, but we have evidence on wages, productivity and the price of housing that can help us make sense of the Census.

If economic productivity – created by low regulations or anything else – was causing the growth of Texas and Arizona and Georgia, then these places should have high per capita productivity and wages. Yet per capita state product in Arizona in 2009 was $35,300, 16 percent less than the national average. Per capita state products were $36,700 and $42,500 in Georgia and Texas, respectively.

These figures are far below per capita state products in slow-growing places like Connecticut ($58,500), Massachusetts ($50,600) and New York ($50,200). According to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, median family incomes were $56,200, $60,800 and $56,600 in Georgia, Nevada and Texas, but $83,000, $81,000 and $66,900 in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.

Low incomes and productivity in the growing states of the Sunbelt strongly suggest that their expansion is not driven by outsized economic success.

Perhaps, sunshine really is behind Sunbelt growth. A superb climate is surely part of the appeal of Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, but what about fast-growing Houston, which has 99 days a year with the temperature above 90 degrees?

The economists’ creed that free lunches are rare does appear to apply to cities as well as stocks. If a place is pleasant, you end up paying for it, especially in the form of higher housing prices. That logic explains why the median sales price for a home in the San Jose area was $630,000 in the third quarter of 2010.

But housing prices in Texas and Georgia are neither high nor rising. The median sales price for a home in greater Houston area is $159,000 and in Atlanta $113,000. The comparable figures for New York and Boston are $470,000 and $367,000, respectively.

Housing in the growth regions is inexpensive, both in absolute terms and relative to those areas’ incomes. People, perhaps unsurprisingly, don’t seem to be putting great value on humid Houston weather.

But those low housing prices actually provide a vital clue about why Arizona, Georgia and Texas are growing.

If housing – the most basic and necessary living expense – seems cheaper or better stated as a consumer you get more for your dollar, that is going to motivate a lot of people to move. Even if that means they might get a small cut in gross income. Here is where the Right has a nugget of truth in their argument, but get the facts or direction of the red state Sunbelt wrong. Housing regulations are less stringent in the south. Professor Glaeser should have mentioned notable exceptions such as  Miami ( hurricane and wind storm building standards) where the cost of living nearly matches many blue cities such as San Jose and Boston, but that aside, lack of higher standards in building codes – California has to meet earthquake standards – is driving down housing prices in the Sunbelt. And he should have mentioned that areas like San Jose, Manhattan Island, Boston proper and many other places in the northeast and large western cities reached pretty much reached their new building on open land capacity ( unless you don’t mind a hour long commute). The Sunbelt fellows the supply and demand laws. There is still a lot of open land and land developers willing to build massive suburban mini-cites. If housing prices remain suppressed the current population trends to move south might also lessen. So this might seem like a de-regulation feather in the Right’s cap – even if Barone, Mitchell and Furtchtgott-Roth don’t know what they’re talking about. They and the Professor are ignoring the role of population density on housing prices and the cost of living. Blue states such as New Jersey – which is losing population has 1170 people per square mile, California has a density of 236 people per square mile. While Texas has a population density of  93 people per square mile and red state Georgia has a density of 167 people per square mile. First, these numbers relate to the relatively rural nature of red states versus blue states. That means there is less demand for a relatively abundant resource – land. Fewer people means less demand for infrastructure: Fewer schools, police, fire, side walks, power lines, land easements for the city, fewer and smaller highways, fewer teachers, fewer universities, fewer public institutions like libraries and museums. Should the Sunbelt reach the population density of California or New Jersey it is not outside the realm of possibility those places will need the same infrastructure or want the same amenities of higher population higher density states. This is not a knock against Miami, but as a southern city with  population boom issues – largely due to northern “snow birds”, you’re looking at the future of Texas and Georgia. Wrapped up in those number and cost of increased cost of living trends will be the kind of cultural diversity, youthful populace and higher education levels Beam referred to in his article. Something that does not bode well for the red future painted by conservative prognosticators.

This link might also be helpful. As seem already, the Right and libertarians have taken one isolated data point and extrapolated all kinds of nonsense. There are many factors involved in an individual’s tax burden by state, State and Local Tax Burdens: All Years, One State, 1977-2008. And let’s not forget to factor in the most obvious mitigating factor, income. Income is not the end all anymore than state taxes. But if we play the simplistic tax game as the Right has laid out one has to consider if taking a five percent pay cut would compensate someone for getting a lower tax rate.

About Tax Burden Data
People often ask how Tax Foundation rankings of state-local tax burdens compare to Census data, which include two popular state-by-state rankings. One of these popular Census tables covers only state-level taxes (click here to view tables). Local taxes are excluded, such as property taxes and local sales taxes. This exclusion allows Census to report up-to-date state-level collections, which would be impossible if Census waited for the time-consuming tally of tax collections by thousands of local governments. However, some states accomplish at the local level what other states accomplish at the state level, so a degree of comparability is lost as a result. For example, New York’s state sales tax rate is 4 percent, and its counties have local sales tax rates that range from 3 percent to 5.75 percent. Connecticut, on the other had, has a 6 percent state-level sales tax with no local add-ons. In a ranking that includes only state-level taxes, New York appears less taxed than it actually is, and Connecticut appears more taxed.

Historical Print – The Overland Mail Begins From San Francisco to the East

Overland Mail Begins From San Francisco to the East

Sep 15, 1858: The first transcontinental mail service to San Francisco begins

With California booming, thanks to the 1849 Gold Rush, Americans east and west had been clamoring for faster and surer transcontinental mail service for years. Finally, in March 1857, the U.S. Congress passed an act authorizing an overland mail delivery service and a $600,000 yearly subsidy for whatever company could succeed in reliably transporting the mail twice a week from St. Louis to San Francisco in less than 25 days. The postmaster general awarded the first government contract and subsidy to the Overland Mail Company.

[   ]…Travelers also found that toilets and baths were few and far between, the food was poor and pricey, and the stage drivers were often drunk, rude, profane, or all three. Robberies and Indian attacks were a genuine threat, though they occurred far less commonly than popularly believed.

Postal service has improved immensely but travel still has a lot in common with the good ol’days. Now you get poked and prodded between x-rays. Or the might just leave you in a room to die because they think you have a bad attitude. It has been known to happen when you treat people badly, they get cranky and upset.

Now that would be nice Christmas present: Hawaii’s governor wants to finally demolish the birthers. Mr. Abercrombie’s heart is in the right place, but he is likely wasting his time. Like the Theory of Gravity, it is almost a law of right-wing nature to be impervious to facts that conflict with their bizarro-world view. There are occasional exceptions. Abercrombie’s little crusade for reason and sanity has been ridiculed by the usual suspects. An Associate Clinical Professor at Cornell Law School and right-wing conservative blogger William A. Jacobson gives us a glimpse into what the Right considers clever insight, So The Anti-Birther Hawaii Governor Is Actually A Birther

If you demand to see Obama’s actual birth certificate, you will be called a “Birther.”

It doesn’t matter if your position is that anyone ascending to a constitutional office should provide the best evidence of constitutional qualification, you’re a Birther.  It doesn’t matter that you think all candidates should comply, you’re a Birther.  It doesn’t matter it you think Obama was born in Hawaii, but should put the issue to rest by releasing the records, you’re a Birther.

Is anyone else tearing up at yet another incident in which conservatives are the victims of their honest curiosity. We’ll probably never know if Bush 43 skipped out on his TANG enlistment, but we do know that while it takes some physical courage to fly a jet, Bush could not muster up enough of that courage to join the regular troops via the draft. That didn’t stop the Right from voting for a draft dodger. Bush’s charade is nothing compared to what birthers think President Obama has achieved. Obama has apparently conned the state of Illinois where he was a Senator and Harvard University – where he earned his law degree. Not only that, Obama has a passport, so he has fooled the State Department. Between the NSA ( The National Security Administration – a section of the Department of Defense), the FBI and the CIA – have access to any information about anyone. They all take orders from a guy that was really born in Kenya and does not have the legal right to be president? Call Hollywood, this has the makings of like, the best political thriller ever. Almost as good as conservatives convincing the country that a sand bound nation of 25 million people was worth spending three trillion dollars to go to war against. Obama’s nefarious tentacles even reach into the nation’s court system and the military – Birther Army Doc Who Refused To Serve Pleads Guilty, Faces Up To Three Years In Prison

Earlier this year, Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, an 17-year Army veteran, refused to report for duty at Fort Campbell, KY because he said his orders emanated from an illegal President who is not a natural born U.S. citizen. As such, Lakin said he had “no choice” but to disobey the orders and that he would “gladly deploy” if Obama released his birth certificate.

In September, a military judge ruled that Obama’s birth certificate was irrelevant in Lakin’s case, thus he was not able to raise the issue in a military court today where he pleaded guilty to two charges related to the case:

An Army doctor who disobeyed orders to deploy to Afghanistan because he questions President Barack Obama’s citizenship pleaded guilty Tuesday to one of two charges against him.

Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin of Greeley, Colo., pleaded guilty in a military court to a charge that included not meeting with a superior when ordered to do so and not reporting to duty at Fort Campbell.

Lakin faces up to 18 months in prison and dismissal from the Army. He pleaded not guilty to a second charge of missing a flight he was required to be on, and the court-martial proceeding continued on that count.

As Anderson Copper noted this guy has never asked for proof of birth or citizenship from anyone who has given him orders over the years. Note that Jacobson and the birthers have never made a crusade of verifying the citizenship of any Republican serving in federal office. I wonder if free tin foil is one of the benefits of being a conservative prof at Cornell.

Barack Obama's birth certificate

Black and White City on the Bay wallpaper

Black and White City on the Bay wallpaper

Maddow: ‘Newt Gingrich is a direct mail scam artist’

Speaking to a live audience at the 92nd Street Y Wednesday, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow blasted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his opposition to federal unemployment benefits.

“I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing,” Gingrich insisted during a recent speech to GOP activists in South Carolina.

“Let us review for just a second how Newt Gingrich makes his money,” Maddow began. “For starters, he hands out fake awards in exchange for cash.”

“Newt Gingrich makes money right now running a fake awards for small businesses scam,” she continued. “Last year he tried to give one of his fake awards to a small business called The Lodge in Dallas, Texas.”

In exchange for a $5,000 donation, Gingrich offered The Lodge, a strip club, a certificate, a novelty gavel and a dinner with him.

“When Mr. Gingrich realized he was giving one of his fake awards — for a $5,000 donation — to a strip club he decided to rescind the award and the dinner invitation,” Maddow noted.

In mid-December, Gingrich sent another letter to The Lodge and asked them for a $2,000 donation to his American Solutions organization.

“This is how Newt Gingrich makes his money but he doesn’t think that you earned yours,” Maddow observed.

The Right would describe Gingrich as an expert of sorts. Thus he makes a substantial part of his living being said expert. That expertise includes offering opinions on the usual subject – fear. Fear of non-whites, bed wetting fear of Islam, fear of organized labor, fear of women having dominion over their own bodies. Not because he necessarily believes what he says but because it motivates his base and brings in the cash. Even under this very generous umbrella of what constitutes being a pundit for a living, sending out you may have won a prize newsletters to businesses of whose operations he has no real knowledge is over the line.

David Weigel has copy of the new rules for conservative Congressional legislators in which they have to fill out a ‘New Constitutional Authority Requirement for Legislation”. Each piece of legislation, henceforth shall be justified by citing exactly what Constitutional authority gives Congress a right to pass said piece of legislation.

The new rule will be a new paragraph of clause 7 of rule XII:

“(c) A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution. The statement shall appear in a portion of the Record designated for that purpose and be made publicly available in electronic form by the Clerk.”

It is difficult to say this without some snark being read into it by the reader, but the first question I asked myself on reading this is, does this mean that every conservative in every Congress in the last sixty years has been writing and voting in the affirmative for legislation whose Constitutionality was questionable.  A conservative commenter at this post – Of Course, Sometimes Congress Deserves It – writes that the NCARL is largely a symbolic gesture. An attempt by conservatives to remind themselves and the public the importance of the Constitution. Politics is frequently reduced to symbolism without substance. In movement conservatism especially so. Conservatism – it says so in every polisci text-book and Wikipedia – is about small government. Even the commenter seems to really believe that is what conservatism means,

There is a spreading disquiet among the population and while some of that has to do with us abrogating our responsibility as citizens in a republic, much of it has to do with a statist government that has been relentless in coalescing and centralizing power in all spheres of American life.

First let’s get the statist silliness out-of-the-way. It is the way conservatives call moderates names while trying to appear civil and intellectual. Their definition of statism is like their belief they are the movement of small government. Only if by small government you mean trashing Medicare, Social Security and the thread bare social safety net for working Americans. In every other way conservatives have been the crack dealers of “coalescing and centralizing power in all spheres of American life”. Conservatives lied us into a war using our military for cannon fodder, they ran up the largest debt in U.S. history and like a bunch of shiftless drifters they left the damage for others to repair. Cons encouraged the housing bubble then stood by and did nothing as it burst and they let Wall St make insane bets with the nation’s wealth pushing the economy off the cliff( a shadow financial government). Conservatives increased the size of government and widens its authority over the everyday lives of Americans, in open defiance of the Constitution. When warned those policies would become enshrined as executive powers which Democrats would also use, conservatives were silent. If That conservative’s commenter’s cone of denial was not thick enough he goes on to parrot an odd talking point,

I find the liberal (or progressive movement, whatever you call yourselves these days) movement simply baffling as well. Consider that we have government growing exponentially (witness the FCC today and its grasp for influence over the internet) and politicians leading an elite class that revels in its power to tax, spend and regulate without accountability, and Jonathan casually dismisses the push to have our leaders explain how what they are doing abides by the limits our constitution has in place to protect us from political avarice.

Trolls like this think they’re clever. Unlike the mouth breathers at Freepers or those who troll the news reports who have a contest to see how many invectives they can fit into a few sentences, the high brow trolls feign civility. Liberalism is as old as the American founder of liberalism Thomas Jefferson. Progressives, whose goals frequently line up with liberals, have been around since the turn of the 20th C. Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive.

The FCC’s taking over the net. Obviously does not understand the issue. The FCC pushed back against net neutrality hand over more power to corporations like Comcast and AT&T, with the government acting as a conduit to those new powers. Liberals, and previously Obama had supported net neutrality, to keep the net open rather than information highways whose corridors were controlled by the corporate elite. Conservatives have claimed for some time now that the principle of net neutrally was a liberal plot – Right-wing media push baseless claim that net neutrality would allow government to censor content, squash dissent

Beck claimed net neutrality is “a way to control voices.” On the January 19 edition of his Fox News show [accessed via Nexis], Glenn Beck claimed, “FCC, they want net neutrality with Obama. That’s the big push. Net neutrality, it’s a way to control voices.” Beck previously claimed on the October 20, 2009, edition of his show that “we have Marxists that are designing and working on net neutrality — are big believers in net neutrality, right? Gosh, it does seem that these would be the wrong people to help, you know, innovate business for it. And so what they want to do is, if I can do the third one, control content.”

Limbaugh: “[N]et neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine of the Internet.” On the March 16 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that “net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine of the Internet.” He added: “In the era of net neutrality … the results of any search — let’s say you want to search abortion, or you want to search the health care bill — they want to control what you see. They want to control what your options are. They can’t really control the content; it’s too massive and it’s too big. What they want to try to do is limit your access to it, and have that access flavored toward whatever particular point of view the administration wants supported.”

Obama’s FCC ruled in favor of the conservative POV that the net should not be neutral. Glenn Beck even claimed that the concept of net neutrality was Marxist. I realize there are small differences of opinions among conservatives, but wow. How does one conservative see net neutrality as Marxist and one see the end of net neutrality as “statist”. Now Con commenter’s side has what they asked for it is an evil thing. One suspects the commenter really knows zero about the issue or is blindly using it as a gudgeon against those on the more moderate end of the political spectrum.

Legacy of Republican Economic Policies

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy. In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

Conservatism in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions of conservatism today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today is sufficiently democratic that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice.

The full essay is at the link.

December Morning Snow wallpaper

December Morning Snow wallpaper

December Morning Snow 2 wallpaper

It is remarkable how difficult President Obama makes defending his agenda. The recent tax cut package contained that payroll tax holiday which might have some short-term stimulus effect, but it’s long-term effects are likely to be less than a bargain in regards to keeping Congress’s dirty little hands off those funds. It is one of those things I hope I’m wrong about. The last few days were good ones for Democrats. They continue to be the best legislators one can expect wedged between the party’s corporatist tendencies and the pure maliciousness of conservative Republicans. Apparently the powers that be thought a few days of basking in the glow of relative progress was going to spoil us, so here they go – Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality

According to all reports, the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow’s FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet.

The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it’s become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users.

Welcome to AT&T’s Internet

For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination.

Instead of a rule to protect Internet users’ freedom to choose, the Commission has opened the door for broadband payola – letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

Instead of protecting openness on wireless Internet devices like the iPhone and Droid, the Commission has exempted the mobile Internet from Net Neutrality protections. This move enshrines Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers to the expanding world of mobile Internet access, allowing them to favor their own applications while blocking, degrading or de-prioritizing others.

If the people of the good ol USA should have learned anything in the last thirty years it is to never give the corporate plutocracy any more power. They are not your benevolent Uncle or Aunt. They will take that power, enshrine it as a right and abuse it. Critics are nothing but dang liberals and anarchists. She comes at the net neutrality from a different angle than liberals, but even this Republican commissioner at the FCC gets the basics of what is at stake – Hands off tomorrow’s Internet By Meredith Attwell Baker

Discouragingly, the FCC is intervening to regulate the Internet because it wants to, not because it needs to. Preserving the openness and freedom of the Internet is non-negotiable; it is a bedrock principle shared by all in the Internet economy. No government action is necessary to preserve it. Acting only on speculative concerns about network operators and contrary to a decade of industry practice, the FCC is moving forward aggressively without real evidence of systemic competitive harms to cure, markets to fix or consumers to help.

Obama’s FCC decision on net neutrality is the payroll tax holiday all over again. They do not have to regulate the net and the long-term consequences have no upside for consumers, small business or democracy. Wireless is taking its first steps toward becoming the ubiquitous highway of net access. let’s let the corporate dark princes have their finger on every portal and every app. I don’t have that kind of faith in anyone’s good judgment. Such economic power to corporations is worse than the allure of meth to addicts. They’re addicted abusers. The later have the potential for reform and redemption, corporations not. I’m too schooled in the ways of politics and the political ego to believe politicians will or even can keep all their promises. Obama’s broken promises keep adding up. Many of them he did not have to break. Net neutrality is one of them.

Some good news even if the new net rules take some of the wind out of this very potential victory – New START headed toward ratification as GOP support grows

“I believe we have the votes to ratify this treaty,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), after emerging from a two and a half hour closed session, during which senators discussed both unclassified and classified issues related to New START.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are senators who can probably measure their degree of relevance slip away by the day. Their contributions to American government to be found with a team of tracking dogs and a microscope. In their desperation they are offering up amendments to the “Resolution of Ratification”. Basically they have found what they believe might be a ghastly uncrossed T. If they can get their juvenile bids for T crossing passed they’ll have partial fingerprints on a Obama – Clinton accomplishment. The crowning glory of their failed careers. They still have two years to go maybe they can lie and manipulate the country into another three trillion-dollar war.

I was going to give the latest verbal farts from Haley Barbour (R-MS) a pass. Barbour has always been and will likely die an unrepentant racist. No news there. Then I read No More Mr Nice Blog’s post and the excerpt from the Barbour apologists at the National Review,

And so we get this from National Review’s Jim Geraghty, eagerly linked by Fox Nation:

The Weekly Standard profiles him this week, and liberal bloggers are spotlighting one section where Barbour discusses segregation and racism in Mississippi in his childhood days. You can sense where this is going, right?

…Over at Ace of Spades, Drew M. details how liberal bloggers are pointing out that the Citizens Councils weren’t as benign as Barbour remembers; the story angle and accusation is gradually migrating from the most highly-strung of liberal blogs to the most likely MSM outlets. “It’s as if JournoList is back in action,” he tweets.

Any white Republican who grew up in the South is going to be accused of racism. In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest that any Republican running against Barack Obama will be accused of racism, period. Hell, any Republican, running for office, anywhere, at any time, will be accused of racism eventually.

… His sin is that, decades later, he remembers his hometown through rose-colored glasses? Don’t most people do that?

Working against Barbour is that he is a distinctly Southern in his drawl and mannerisms, and Southern politicians have a higher bar to clear when it comes to accusations of racism. Because of the experience of slavery and segregation, the South is associated with racism in the minds of a significant chunk of the electorate. The perception may be outdated, false, unfair, and hypocritical, but it is out there.

I was born in the south, live in the south and according to associates in the western and north-eastern part of the country – I have a light southern accent and southern way about me – whatever that means. I am never mistaken for a racist and I vote for southerners. I do not vote for racists because – even though all us southerners sound and act alike according to NR  – racists are usually easy to differentiate from non-racists. Members of racist organizations – such as Barbour – tend to be the garish pink neon lights of racism. I know conservative southerners who are not racist. I still wouldn’t vote for them because they either have contempt for good governance or think governing is a joke and stepping stone to power and money. What is deeply pathetic here is NR pulled the passage about southern mannerisms and accent from the depths of the right-wing blogger slime pool Ace of Spades. This is his best analysis, his deepest most profound thoughts and insights into Barbour’s life long affair with racism. This article about the history of The National Review is mistaken in one aspect. Racism is not what the NR was, but what it still is in its readiness to play apologists for the likes of Barbour – The Decline of National Review

A famous example of the early NR stance on race was an unsigned editorial of August 24, 1957, titled “Why the South Must Prevail.” It was almost certainly written by Mr. Buckley, since he uses similar language in his book Up From Liberalism. The editorial argued against giving blacks the vote because it would undermine civilization in the South:

“The central question that emerges … is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes — the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists.”

“National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct… It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.”

“The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class… Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.”

The final passage about “genuine cultural equality between the races” can be read either as a last-minute loss of will or as a description of a criterion for the black franchise that could never be met. In any case, the editorial recognizes a principle NR would never articulate today: the right of a civilized minority — racial or otherwise — to impose its will upon an uncivilized majority. NR Contributing Editor L. Brent Bozell dissented from the editorial on constitutional grounds but still admitted, “It is understandable that White Southerners should try to have it both ways — they can’t know what would happen should Negroes begin to vote, and they naturally want to cover their bet.”

NR has not changed all that much. No you probably will not see an article which advocates the inherit inferiority of African-Americans. They take a more convoluted route. When a conservative is caught being a racist, the wrong is not the racism but making note if it. All those liberals in their blogs and Tweets are being hurtful to a white racists, which is the new racism. This tactic is as old as the Southern strategy. One of the many problems with the poor white guy argument is that most southern whites do not want to be associated with such embarrassing rationalizations.

An article by James Kilpatrick in the September 24, 1963, issue argued that the Civil Rights Bill (eventually passed in 1964) should be voted down. He wrote, “I believe this bill is a very bad bill. In my view, the means here proposed are the wrong means… In the name of achieving certain ‘rights’ for one group of citizens this bill would impose some fateful compulsions on another group of citizens.” After it passed, an editorial declared: “The Civil Rights Act has been law for only a little over two months, yet it already promises to be the source of much legalistic confusion, civic chaos and bureaucratic malpractice.”

Mr. Kilpatrick also took aim at the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the April 20, 1965 issue. “Must We Repeal the Constitution to Give the Negro the Vote?” he asked, accusing the bill’s supporters of “perverting the Constitution.” He thought certain blacks should be given the right to vote but notes, “Over most of this century, the great bulk of Southern Negroes have been genuinely unqualified for the franchise.” He also defended segregation as rational for Southerners. “Segregation is a fact, and more than a fact; it is a state of mind. It lies in the Southern subconscious next to man’s most elementary instincts, for self-preservation, for survival, for the untroubled continuation of a not intolerable way of life.”

NR was on the wrong side – the deeply immoral side of history in 1957 and 1963. NR continues that dubious tradition today. All wrapped up in similarly banal defenses.

Currier and Ives winter sleigh ride – About Those Lame Duck Democrats

Currier and Ives winter sleigh ride

As I write this DADT was repealed by the Senate a few hours ago and it looks like America has a good chance of doing the right thing by 9/11 responders by passing the Zadroga Bill. First DADT repeal – Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay, lesbian and bisexual troops as second-class citizens.

Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban, and said it was “time to close this chapter in our history.”

“As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best-led and best-trained fighting force the world has ever known,” he said in a statement after the Senate, on a preliminary 63-to-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts to block final action on the repeal bill.

John McCain(R-AZ) who likes to use words like honor and integrity a lot acted without those qualities in claiming, “I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,”. In other words if the Senate had voted yesterday to desegregate the military or admit women to military service academies and widen their role in the military, McCain and the conservative hate mongers at The Family Research Council would vote no. So much for the lame duck Democrats meme. It was a difficult and dirty compromise but Democrats have passed legislation to help working families, the unemployed, toss DADT on the dust bin of history and have a fair chance of helping 9/11 responders despite Republican obstructionism – Democrats Confident that 9/11 Health Bill Will Pass

Senate Republicans last week derailed a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors, but Gillibrand(D-NY) today voiced confidence that the Senate will pass the bill in the next week, now that lawmakers have agreed on how to pay for the measure.

“We have the votes we need,” Gillibrand said today at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “We’ve had indications from several Republicans that they very much want to vote for this bill.

“They would like to vote for a stand-alone bill,” she said. “There is general agreement on a new pay-for that we’re going to offer, so the hope is to get to the bill as soon as the START bill is completed.”

Since the Zadrogo Bill has been put up as a stand alone bill it looks like a couple Republicans felt they could risk crossing over as long as the money for the bill could be found. Considering Republicans just found almost a trillion dollar give away to America’s billionaires a few, the $7.4 billion for the heroes of 9/11 is a bargain.

About the same Obama was elected and gun sales skyrocketed conservatives suddenly discovered this thing called the deficit. That deficit (and liberalism) were almost as big a threat to the nation as terrorists ( Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo actually said that President Obama and the deficit were a greater threat to our way of life). Colorado Senate candidate and tea bagger favorite Ken Buck ( he lost so we dodged that bullet) said, “I believe that, because if we continue to spend the way we’re spending, we will not have the ability to focus on those external threats that you just mentioned.” Suddenly there was a choice between adding a trillion dollars ( some estimates are $900 billion) to the deficit or increasing taxes on the top 2% income bracket. What did the the party of Tancredo and Buck’s party vote for. To increase the deficit – Springtime for Hypocrites

The hypocrisy of the centrists: Just two weeks ago, the deficit was the great evil, and all the VSPs insisted that we needed fiscal austerity now now now. Then, magically, a big tax cut — increasing federal debt by more than the original Obama stimulus, and substantially raising the probability of making unaffordable tax cuts permanent — was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Why, it’s almost as if all the concern about the deficit was a front for opposing anything progressives might want, to be dropped as soon as debt was being run up on behalf of conservative goals. But that can’t be true, can it?

Going into the new year Krugman’s hypocrites will have control of the House and 49 Senate seats. The Whoopee Cushion Congress. Conservatives will play lots of games, makes lots of promises which they weasel out of, cry like spoiled brats when they don’t get their way, make analogies that would embarrass a semi-rational adult and proceed with their war on the middle-class.

Since Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission have decided to ignore all rational proof that the private sector banks, deregulation and failure to enforce regulation were the main causes of the housing bubble and financial crisis, its time for a trip in the way-back machine – Bush White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire

So Mr. Bush had to, in his words, “use the mighty muscle of the federal government” to meet his goal. He proposed affordable housing tax incentives. He insisted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac meet ambitious new goals for low-income lending.

Concerned that down payments were a barrier, Mr. Bush persuaded Congress to spend up to $200 million a year to help first-time buyers with down payments and closing costs.

And he pushed to allow first-time buyers to qualify for federally insured mortgages with no money down. Republican Congressional leaders and some housing advocates balked, arguing that homeowners with no stake in their investments would be more prone to walk away, as Mr. West did. Many economic experts, including some in the White House, now share that view.

The president also leaned on mortgage brokers and lenders to devise their own innovations. “Corporate America,” he said, “has a responsibility to work to make America a compassionate place.”

And corporate America, eyeing a lucrative market, delivered in ways Mr. Bush might not have expected, with a proliferation of too-good-to-be-true teaser rates and interest-only loans that were sold to investors in a loosely regulated environment.

“This administration made decisions that allowed the free market to operate as a barroom brawl instead of a prize fight,” said L. William Seidman, who advised Republican presidents and led the savings and loan bailout in the 1990s. “To make the market work well, you have to have a lot of rules.”

But Mr. Bush populated the financial system’s alphabet soup of oversight agencies with people who, like him, wanted fewer rules, not more.

Like Minds on Laissez-Faire

The president’s first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission promised a “kinder, gentler” agency. The second was pushed out amid industry complaints that he was too aggressive. Under its current leader, the agency failed to police the catastrophic decisions that toppled the investment bank Bear Stearns and contributed to the current crisis, according to a recent inspector general’s report.

As for Mr. Bush’s banking regulators, they once brandished a chain saw over a 9,000-page pile of regulations as they promised to ease burdens on the industry. When states tried to use consumer protection laws to crack down on predatory lending, the comptroller of the currency blocked the effort, asserting that states had no authority over national banks.

Where do disgraced stenographers for right-wing conservatism go. On the payroll at Wing-Nut Welfare. In the case of former NYT reporter Judith Miller that would be Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. Where she wrote a recent column on the movie “Fair Game”. “Fair Game” is about the outing of CIA NOC agent Valerie Plame. Judith Miller Got it Wrong… Again

Judith Miller demonstrated in her recent WSJ story about my film, Fair Game, the same cavalier attitude towards the facts that led to her departure from the New York Times in disgrace. And we should never forget that Scooter Libby outed Valerie Plame to Miller in June 2003 — more than two weeks before Richard Armitage outed Plame to Novak. Somehow Miller neglected to mention that in her op-ed piece. But she also forgot about that before — in her early grand jury testimony — until she was forced to come clean about it in a subsequent grand jury appearance and under oath at Libby’s trial. Miller’s belated testimony helped convict her “source” Libby, but not until she did everything she could, as a forceful proponent of the war in Iraq, to avoid telling the truth to the American public.

And so here we go again.

Judith Miller writes that her supposed anonymous sources told her that Valerie Plame did not play a “key role” in the CIA’s effort to penetrate Iraq’s presumed WMD program. In truth, Valerie Plame was head of operations for the CIA’s Joint Task Force on Iraq (JTFI). My sources: former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and U.S. attorney Pat Fitzgerald.

Former United States Deputy Secretary of State Armitage came out of the blue ever so sadly to confess that he was the one to reveal Plame’s identity. He was meant as a red herring to distract from the Miller-Libby-Cheney connection. Miller only has two options at this point in her pathetic career. Show some integrity and patriotism and come clean or continue to cover for her first round of lies with recycled lies. She has chosen the latter. Even in writing an opinion column for the WSJ the editors should still hold her to some standard of truth. They chose not to as befits a Murdoch enterprise.

Happy New Year wallpaper – Lessons in How to Frame a Debate

Happy New Year wallpaper

We’ll be digesting this bitter pill for a while even if it was the best that could be done as Republicans see the glory days of America as Pottersville ahead- Congress Sends $801 Billion Tax Cut Bill to Obama. The conservative hypocrisy was palpable –

“We are crawling out of the worst economic downturn in generations,” said Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, who will be the majority leader next year. “The choice is to act now or impose a $3.8 trillion tax increase.”

[   ]…Even some fierce conservatives said they were putting aside reservations about the overall cost to back the plan. “I am going to fight to put this nation back on the road to fiscal sanity,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, announcing that he would vote aye.

Cantor (R-VA) and Hensarling (R-TX) were in Congress during the Bush era. They helped create the largest debt in the nation’s history. During that time they and their conservative brethren wrote checks on an empty bank account. Having run up the largest debt in our history – with interest – they felt no moral obligations to make amends for their contempt for their country and future generations of Americans. They were and continue to be part of the conservative zealots against sensible regulation or enforcement of the regulations we do have. Having stolen billions and wrecked the economy they left the bills, the loss of three trillion dollars of the nation’s wealth and the general disaster for Democrats to clean up. They are livid to find out that it costs less to ravish an economy than it does to fix one. Conservatives like Cantor and Hensarling are like muggers who tore their shirt during a mugging and are angry the victim will not pay for the damages fast enough and with someone else’s money. There are several things about the Obama’s tax cuts ( his second round of tax cuts)  that may come back to haunt us – though they bode well for his reelection ( one of the reasons I chalk the bill up as ultimately a big win for Democrats). The most pressing of the possible negatives is the payroll tax holiday – Extend Social Security payroll tax holiday? No thanks.

It’s important to remember that according to ABC’s polling, the Social Security payroll tax holiday is an unpopular idea: just 39% support the idea and 57% oppose it. Why would a wide majority of Americans oppose a tax cut? Simple: because they understand the value they get from paying the Social Security payroll tax, and they know that in the long run, you can’t get something for nothing.

Assuming this tax cut deal passes, there’s going to be a loud chorus of demands, mostly from politicians, that the Social Security payroll tax holiday should be extended. When that happens, progressives are going to need to stand strong and say “no” and we’re going to have to do it knowing that we’re on the right and popular side.

Political wonks who are really into how issues are framed should find the sudden conservative messaging meant to demonize the word earmarks interesting. Earmarks are in fact not a clear-cut evil versus good issue. Some earmarks are pork and some are not. At their best earmarks are for local spending that are not of  or at least do not seem to be of national concern. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Thune (R-SD) denounced earmarks that were in the omnibus spending bill that went down in flames even though they had millions of dollars worth of earmarks in that bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) similarly denounced earmarks even though he too had millions worth of earmarks for Kentucky. McConnell asked for $4 million for marijuana eradication efforts by the Kentucky National Guard. In that case hiring teachers and construction crews for infrastructure projects would seem a better use of the $4 million. On the other hand McConell had earmarked $1 for construction of the Kentucky Blood Center Building – which sounds like a very worthwhile use of the money. The construction would create jobs and leave a lasting public resource for the people of the state. Pretend Democrat Byron York – a Republican too lazy to change his registration status – writes Dems are earmark junkies but GOP goes straight. It is true Democrats asked for more earmarks than Republicans ( though York gets the Republican numbers wrong – he say they asked for a billion and they had $2 billion in the bill. Whats a billion between friends I guess. Republican earmarks accounted for 25% of the total. The total amount of earmarks – which York leaves out completely was about .75 percent of the total budget). What were some of those awful earmarks Democrats asked for – Proud to Show the Mess They Made – Is there anything so very wicked… as EARMARKS?

$247,000 – Virus free grapes in Washington State
$413,000 – Peanut research in Alabama
$125,000 – Fishery equipment for the Guam Fisherman’s Cooperative Association
$349,000 – Swine waste management in North Carolina
$277,000 – Potato pest management in Wisconsin
$246,000 – Bovine tuberculosis treatment in Michigan and Minnesota
$522,000 – Cranberry and blueberry disease and breeding in New Jersey
$500,000 – Oyster safety in Florida
$400,000 – Solar parking canopies and plug-in electric stations in Kansas
$165,000 – Maple syrup research in Vermont

Sure some folks in Washington State may think bovine tuberculosis treatment in Michigan and Minnesota might be pork and some folks in Florida may think a little grape virus in California’s multi-billion dollar grape industry is no big thing. Such is the bias of regional priorities. On the other hand these seem like reasonable expenditures rather than the pure evil York and other conservatives would have us believe in their mindless demonization campaign.

PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘A government takeover of health care’

“Government takeover” conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

• Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up “exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don’t have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It’s true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

The far right-wing conservative site Newsbusters – which is supposedly the conservative answer to Media Matters – cant’ argue with the facts so they wonder about Politifacts priorities in what constitutes a major lie and leaves it for some open thread responses. But not before recycling one another big lie,

This is actually the second year in a row that Politifact, which is owned by the St. Petersburg Times, has dubbed an ObamaCare-related claim its Lie of the Year. In 2009, the honor went to Sarah Palin’s “death panels” claim, even though that claim was not really a lie. And in fact, the specter of death panels resurfaced a day before Politifact gave its 2010 LOTY award.

Palin’s government “death panels” claim was and is a lie. We do have some something akin to death panels, but they are run by private insurance companies. If Paul Ryan’s(R-WI) budget proposals – known as the Road Map – are legislated as currently written it will mean a death sentence for seniors who use up their cute little conservative vouchers. Once again moderate civil Americans can talk til the cows jump over the moon about civil honest debates, but we’ll never have them. Conservatives serve up falsehoods, distortions and half-truths as though they were in a competition for the arrogant mendacity championship. They get caught and double down. It may be part of the attraction of conservatism. The lazy and lizard brained are only required to sit back and swallow the tons of crap movement conservatism shovels out.