Antique map of Southeast Asia 1590 – Keep Calm and Carry On

Antique map of Asia Abraham Ortelius c1590

Antique map of Asia c1590 by Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598).  1590 was the year of the Battle of Ivry where French King Henri IV and the Huguenots beat the Catholic League.

Negaunee, Michigan 1871

Negaunee, Michigan 1871. One of those maps that is not to scale, but the perspective and artistry make it so appealing. 1871 was the year of the Great Michigan Fires. The exact causes of multiple large forest fires are uncertain, but especially high winds that year helped spread the fires.

This debate has been ragging – abet generally civilly for a couple days – Researchers Finally Replicated Reinhart-Rogoff, and There Are Serious Problems. Reinhart-Rogoff did mange to show that an economy could be grown with austerity – IF you massage the numbers. R and R finally respond, but hedge on the facts, agin. people are generally pretty forgiving when you make a mistake, get out in front of that mistake and apolgize or even hedge and say you see where there might be a problem and we’ll get back with some new information later. R and R had their chance at said public generosity as Paul Krugman notes, Reinhart-Rogoff, Continued

What Herndon et al did was find that the R-R results on the relationship between debt and growth were partly the result of a coding error, partly the result of some very odd choices about which data to exclude and how to weight the data that remained. The effect of fixing these lapses was to raise the estimated mean growth of highly indebted countries by more than 2 percentage points.

So how do R-R respond?

First, they argue that another measure — median growth — isn’t that different from the Herndon et al results. But that is, first of all, an apples-and-oranges comparison — the fact is that when you compare the results head to head, R-R looks very off. Something went very wrong, and pointing to your other results isn’t a good defense.

Second, they say that they like to emphasize the median results, which are much milder than the mean results; but what everyone using their work likes to cite is the strong result, and if R-R have made a major effort to disabuse people of the notion that debt has huge negative effects on growth, I haven’t noticed it.

…So this is really disappointing; they’re basically evading the critique. And that’s a terrible thing when so much is at stake.

Even if austerity worked at one or points in this or that country’s economic history there could be other factors  – very economically healthy nations helping with their debt is one thing. Recent history, the past six years, show that every country that has tried austerity – pointing a massive emphasis on paying down the debt, sometimes cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, have sunk back into recession.

Pervert Mark Sanford (R-SC) due in court over allegation he trespassed at ex-wife’s house

According to the suit, Jenny Sanford allegedly caught the former governor and current congressional candidate on Feb. 3 using his cell phone for a flashlight as he left the house through a rear door. Court records also said McRackan enclosed a February 2011 letter sent to both Mark Sanford and local police warning him not to trespass on the property.

Mark Sanford won a runoff election on April 2 and is now facing a May 7 election against Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch for the congressional seat representing the state’s 1st district. He was forced out of office in 2009 after his affair with Argentinian journalist Maria Belen Chapur was revealed.

The conservative base in S.C. were the same family values hypocrites that let him stay in office so long after the affair was discovered. They’ll vote for him if he is caught beating the family dog. Though Sanford needs moderates and independents to win, so say goodbye to your great comeback Mr. Sanford.

You can buy tea baggers, but for how long, Tea Party DOA: Only Dozens Attended Washington DC Tax Day Protests

On Freedom Works’ website, they announced that 1,000s were expected to their “New Fair Deal” protest at the U.S. Capitol on Tax Day (April 15th), which would be the “next phase of the Freedom Movement.” They hyped it as their “Get Out the Vote” machine. They had a slew of Republican representatives speaking as bait.

[  ]…Apparently Freedom Works/Tea Party has surrendered the pretense of being separate from the Republican Party. That’s probably for the best, since Matt Kibbe is the president and CEO of Freedom Works, and he is a former staffer for the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Freedom Works runs “boot camps” for supporters of Republican candidates. Back when Freedom Works was “Citizens for a Sound Economy”, they used to trick people into signing up as members by selling them insurance policies that required their membership.

[  ]…Still, only “dozens” attended. Perhaps now the Tea Party can go back to being what it once was, long before it got co-opted by the greedy corporatists behind Freedom Works, who find their most natural habitat within the Republican Party. It’s too bad the Tea Party wasn’t what it claimed to be, because we could use a real movement to cut the puppet strings with which big money and big business operate our legislators.

This is not to say the tea baggers and their sugar daddies the Koch brothers still don’t have a lot of pull in the Republican Partay. When you watch Rand Paul (R-KY) or Paul Ryan (R-WI) speak on TV look for the puppet strings.

April 16 Updates on Aftermath of Boston Marathon Explosions. As more pictures and video are collected it would seem they will contribute quite a bit to catching the perpetrator. With so many surveillance cameras in public places, so many people with video cameras and cell phone cameras, I wonder how someone can even consider the idea that they’ll get away with something like this.

The Worst Conservative Reactions To The Boston Bombings. No rest for those who not only want to score political points, but do not mind looking like morbid fanatics while doing so.

In case anyone missed this great post by Bruce Schneier, The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On.

As Debt Ceiling Nears, Republicans Just Want to Beat The Hostage a Little Bit

Window Roses wallpaper

Window Roses wallpaper

When you blog about government and public policy it is difficult to avoid making predictions. In the press, something like half the time, by my casual count, they make them to fill up space. To have something to fill the void for wonks and political junkies. When I wrote Thursday about conservatives using the debt ceiling  as an excuse to go after entitlements, that was more about the reliable, but sordid and dangerous agenda of the conservative movement than a prediction. John Cornyn(R-TX): Partial Government Shutdown May Be Needed to Restore Fiscal Sanity

Even for someone unmoved by hyper-ideological, right-wing rhetoric, Senator John Cornyn’s most recent op-ed for the Houston Chronicle is astounding in its mendacity and utter disregard for responsible governance. To wit, after engaging in a little bizarro history—where he blames the president for brinksmanship on the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff, as if Obama has an obligation to implement the GOP agenda—the two-term Texas lawmaker presents a government shutdown as a responsible way to force spending cuts:

Over the next few months, we will reach deadlines related to the debt ceiling, the sequester and the continuing appropriations resolution that has funded federal operations since October. If history is any guide, President Obama won’t see fit to engage congressional Republicans until the 11th hour. In fact, he has already signaled an unwillingness to negotiate over the debt ceiling. This is unacceptable. […]

    The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.

Ignoring, for now, Cornyn’s assertion that the United States will end up like Greece—which, as I noted a few days ago, is ridiculous given our ability to print money—it’s worth elaborating on what Cornyn means when he says “shutdown.”

As many probably remember the last time Republicans played games with the debt ceiling the markets started to panic. What will happen if they decide to go clown crazy over the debt ceiling will include an immediate stop to Social Security checks, payments to government contractors, paychecks to government employees – probably including the military, no Medicaid payments to health care providers, among other catastrophes. Contrary to conservative framing these safety net and employee funds do not disappear down a well. Retirees spend their checks on groceries, rent, shoes, new tires. The same is true for government workers and contractors. We’re talking about billions of dollars that will suddenly disappear from the economy. Coryn says that beating the hostage, you know just a little bit, will be necessary to get cuts to balance the budget. Social Security cuts will not balance the budget. Medicare costs will increase in the coming years, but cutting health care will drive up cost for seniors and the disabled. They’ll take money they would have spent on bread or birthday presents for the grand kids and spend it on health care. Politics doesn’t require as much predictive skills as tolerance for reruns. Cornyn would rise the Medicare eligibility age. We just went though that idea with the fiscal cliff. The cost of raising Medicare’s eligibility age

Cornyn and his fellow kool-aid drinkers would throw millions of Americans off the cliff for a tiny slice of the total budget pie. There is no real debt crisis. Since there is no debt crisis there is no reason to throw the economy into a tailspin, take hostages, give America’s most economically vulnerable the shaft or to even get cranky. Any and all outrage about the national debt when we and the rest of the world is in a recession is a running con-game. Washington’s Deficit Obsession Is Insane

The unemployment rate is too damn high, and all that America’s politicians can talk about is the budget deficit. If only they knew that we can take care of both of them at once.

Friday’s unemployment report, showing joblessness still stubbornly high, makes the absolute insanity of Washington’s deficit obsession even plainer.

In fact, unemployment and deficits are very much related, or at least correlated, as you can see from this chart, which shows the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP (represented by the green line) vs. the unemployment rate (blue line), going back for the past 65 years. (h/t Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider)
unemployment-graph

Notice anything? Like, how every time unemployment rises, the budget deficit also rises? And how every time unemployment falls, the budget deficit also falls?

Why could this be? For one thing, the budget deficit is largely a function of the government’s inability to collect enough tax revenue from unemployed people. If we can just get those people back to work, then the government will get more revenue, and the deficit will shrink.

Meantime, a lot of the evil government spending that makes the ghost of Calvin Coolidge cry is designed to help carry people through prolonged unemployment and also maybe find new jobs. You know, the social contract. As people find more jobs, some of that spending goes away, as if by magic.

In fact, you can see that has already started to happen — despite Washington’s state of near-panic over the deficit, it has actually been falling steadily since the recession. What else has been falling? You guessed it, the unemployment rate.

What else would make the deficit go down? People like Wal-Mart, Target, Applebees, McDonalds and major retailers paying their employees a living wage. If more people are employed and those employees make more money two things happen: 1) They spend more money on housing, cars, clothes, travel, food etc. and generate more revenue from sales taxes which helps state economies and budgets. 2) Quite a few of these people would get bumped up in tax brackets – they pay a little more into entitlements like Medicare and in general Federal revenue. I don’t know whether Cronyn or other conservatives are lying or utterly clueless about economics when they play the austerity card. Those countries he mentioned –  Greece, Italy and Spain have something in common with Cronyn, the tea bagger mentality, conservative pundits and the media establishment – they want to pursue the failed economic polices of austerity while we’re still in a recession.

Reasons not to adopt the Republican austerity agenda

Few conservative in the austerity oil burning junker with the bald tires, will publicly admit ( check the comment sections of places like Breitbart, Free Republic, The Gateway Pundit)  that they really want to trash the USA so they can get the country back  to some bizarrely idealized time in the 18th century. Yet that is would be the de facto result of enacting the Republican agenda. Concentrate on getting people back to work and giving them fair compensation for their labor, rather than bringing down deficits and that chart would look much better for the U.S. in 2015. When people like Cronyn say Democrats and Obama are destroying America, that is pure projection of their own agenda.

Powerful Tea Party Group’s Internal Docs Leak—Read Them Here

Well-heeled individual contributors ponied up $31 million—or 94 percent—of those major gifts, according to the FreedomWorks board book. Eight donors gave a half-million dollars or more; 22 donated between $100,000 and $499,999; 17 cut checks between $50,000 and $99,999; and 95 gave between $10,000 and $49,999. Foundations contributed $1.6 million in major gifts, and corporations donated $330,000. Corporations once accounted for more of FreedomWorks’ hefty donations.

So there I guess, liberals are wrong. The Tea Baggers are not 100% plastic roots, they’re only 94% plastic.

UPDATE: In an interview with Media Matters for America’s Joe Strupp, Dick Armey shed more light on FreedomWorks’ financial arrangements with Glenn Beck’s media network and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. Those deals were first reported by Mother Jones. Armey said FreedomWorks paid Beck upwards of $1 million to promote Freedomwork last year, calling the deal with Beck “basically paid advertising for FreedomWorks.” But Armey questioned that deal, saying it provided “too little value” to FreedomWorks. Read the entire Media Matters story here.

One would think that since Beck thinks he is America’s biggest patriot he would promote the malevolent agenda of the Plastic Baggers for free.

Today in 1959: Rock pioneer Buddy Holly’s last record released. Holly popularized the Fender Stratocaster. It looks like he is playing a Stratocastor in this video,

Golden Autumn Path wallpaper – Republicans See All Fiscal Tax Issues As A Way To Sabotage American Values

fall, autumn, landscape, leaves

Golden Autumn Path wallpaper

 

I agree with the analysts who say we should not call the current budget negotiations the “fiscal cliff” ( I like Krugman’s description of it as an austerity bomb), but I can’t do much about other people calling it that. This is another issue that conservatives to have both ways – like chanting freedom and then listing all the freedoms that would flush. Cons in DC and on the net are warning of the most dire of consequences if President Obama and Democrats do not come to a “compromise”. Meaning as usual that if the austerity freaks do not get everything they want, Democrats did not compromise. While the usual suspects – Malkin, Redstate, Fox, The Washington Free Beacon are providing the echo, the noise machine’s messages still originate with the American Free Enterprise Institute, the Chamber of Chamber, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. The economic calamity message from the radical Right is meant to get the conservatives next door to provide what looks like populist support. Once again convincing some working class Americans to advocate against their own rational self interests. This is a tried and somewhat proven tactic on the Right’s part. The reason, or at least part of the reason it works in regards the debt ceiling and balancing the budget is that Democrats are citing the very real dire consequences. So amidst all that chattering what are relatively clear facts get lost and the working class Right gets snookered into helping the wealthy put another heads they win, tails they win, Some of America’s richest people are about to get even richer thanks to the fiscal cliff

The risk that the US government could raise taxes on dividends as part of a deal on the forthcoming “fiscal cliff” has finally forced corporate America to do something with its massive pile of cash. Here’s a look a the Smaug-worthy* hoard companies have been accumulating:

US Corporate Cash

And what will they do with this haul? Spend it on investment? Hah! They’re rushing to give some of it to shareholders. Both the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have taken note of the trend in recent days. The Journal writes:

The moves would send hundreds of millions of dollars back to shareholders before tax hikes that could kick in next year either automatically or as a result of negotiations between the White House and Congress.

And the FT reports that since the beginning of the fourth quarter, “a record 103 companies have announced they will pay special dividends before the end of the year, according to Markit. The data firm is forecasting that 123 companies will announce special fourth-quarter dividends, compared to the previous average of just 31.” This is similar to what happened during the fourth quarter of 2010 the last time that the so-called Bush tax cuts were about to expire.

With a ton of cash, there’s no reason companies shouldn’t be giving at least some of it back to shareholders. Especially if those shareholders are well, the controlling ones. The Journal rightly notes that some rich Americans stand to gain quite a bit from getting their cash now, thanks very much. For instance, Las Vegas Sands CEO—and well-known backer of Republican political candidates—Sheldon Adelson could collect about $1.2 billion from the $2.75 a share special dividend on his 52% ownership interest in the casino company, which said it would pay a new one-time dividend next month.

Some of America’s richest and laziest people are about to get even richer

We’ve been told over and over again the top 10% have to have low taxes so they’ll invest it and create jobs. They invest it in each other, they horde it and they spend very little on it in entrepreneurial enterprises. They’re sitting on so much cash that no honest argument can be made that tax rates are at levels that a disincentive to investment or job creation on their part. The Right has always claimed that we can cut spending to find our way to fiscal paradise. That was never true and untrue now more than ever, just ask anyone in Europe. The wealthy are whining because of greed. They just want your conservative neighbors to believe the fairy tale about them creating jobs if only they had a few dollars to spare, but big bad gov’mint is taking all their hard earned profits and buying stuff for the United Nations. The top 10% is going to win no matter how the tax cuts are finally settled. It is mind boggling to believe that someone with millions of dollars in assets is going to be really upset if they have to start paying the same marginal tax rates they did during the Clinton boom years. The real purpose of the tax cuts for the Right is to edge a little closer to not just gutting Medicare and other safety net programs, but to do away with the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency and anything else that protects the average citizen. Taxes will thus never be low enough until we reach the point where Monsanto can exercise its God given right to poison entire counties with impunity and the anti-rationalist can teach their children that humans were created out of space dust a couple thousand years ago with no competing science based narrative. I have read Democratic bloggers talk about their personal experiences trying to convince relatives of how dangerous the conservative movement is. That despite all the flag waving the last thing conservatives hold dear is the best interests of the country. Many Americans just find it hard to believe that a movement that talks so much about values has so little of them. Making the USA into a permanent Pottersville wasteland is hardly the dream of most Americans when you get the conversations down to specifics. If companies such as Walmart brought back have their exported jobs to the U.S. and paid their average retail workers a living wage they would still make billions. But money equals power for them and less power for the average citizen, and that’s the way they want it. Even if people have to die to keep it that way, Wal-Mart’s strategy of deniability for workers’ safety

The Bangladesh factory supplied clothing to a range of retailers, and officials who have toured the site said they found clothing with a Faded Glory label — a Wal-Mart brand. Wal-Mart says that the factory, which had received at least one bad report for its fire-safety provisions, was no longer authorized to make its clothing but one of the suppliers in the company’s very long supply chain had subcontracted the work there “in direct violation of our policies.”

If this were an isolated incident of Wal-Mart denying responsibility for the conditions under which the people who make and move its products labor, then the Bangladeshi disaster wouldn’t reflect quite so badly on the company. But the very essence of the Wal-Mart system is to employ thousands upon thousands of workers through contractors and subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, who are compelled by Wal-Mart’s market power and its demand for low prices to cut corners and skimp on safety. And because Wal-Mart isn’t the employer of record for these workers, the company can disavow responsibility for their conditions of work.

We’re not talking about a company that is forced to do what it does to make a fair profit. We’re talking about a company and a nation wide mentality when if they can make a hundred million doing things this way, hey, they can make even more if they export more jobs and give more workers the shaft. They’ll scream anti-American Marxist at anyone who criticizes them. I remember reading about Marx and the standard for being a Marxist has found a new definition according the current Republican Partay – anyone who believes in reason and decency. I think these figures are a little low because I have read other papers that say people tend to lie about their virtues or lack of them, Wall Street Professionals Admit: Yes, Lots of Us Are Corrupt

Is Wall Street corrupt? Responses vary depending on whom you ask. But ask the folks who work in the financial services industry and you’ll get a surprisingly clear answer: “Yes.”

A recent survey of 500 financial services professionals, conducted by market researcher Populus at the behest of law firm Labaton Sucharow, turned up some surprisingly candid results from the folks surveyed. For example:

39% of financial industry insiders surveyed “reported that their competitors are likely to have engaged in illegal or unethical activity in order to be successful.”
And this was more than just suspicion. “26% of respondents indicated that they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace.”
Nearly one in four “believed that financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct in order to be successful.
Nearly one in three said they themselves felt “pressured by bonus or compensation plans to violate the law or engage in unethical conduct.

Add in the ones who say they would engage in corrupt activity if pressured to by their company and you have almost half of Wall Street either engaged in criminal activity or willing to under the right circumstances. And even some irony for dessert,

All of a sudden, the epidemic of mortgage fraud, the Bank of America (BAC)-Merrill Lynch bonus debacle, the Madoff scandal — all of it starts to make sense. Suddenly, you start to understand why Goldman Sachs (GS) CFO David Viniar, when asked earlier this week whether decreased profitability at his firm was a cue to cut costs after he had just noted that Goldman was paying out 44% of all corporate revenue as compensation for his employees, responded simply that “we aren’t going to cut our way to prosperity.”

Another moving holiday story of sacrifices  by the hardest working people in America.

It pays to be rich, it does not pay so much for work. Or at least does not value work like the old fashioned values conservatives pretend to believe in,

American workers more productive than ever and getting less of the rewards

Romney and Republicans Embrace The Failed European Economic Model For America

Steel Arch Bridge Niagara 1898. The steamboat is the small, but majestic Maid of the Mist. I have no desire to return to those good ol days, but it would seem more like you were going on an actual adventure when stepping on to an old steamboat than piling into to the air-conditioned, DVD player equipped, leather cushioned SUV of today.

Distributing surplus commodities, St. Johns, Ariz. 1940. This is one of Russel Lee’s famous Depression era color photographs. It is interesting to me for a few reasons. One is that there are a lot of radical Right myths about FDR and The Greta depression on the net. One of them is that FDR purposely destroyed tons of edible food in order to prolong the Depression and dependence on government assistance. The two others is that poverty tends to have a black face in modern culture wars and this giving away commodities to poor whites took place in a state now largely run by people who claim they are and have always been utterly self-sufficient. Self sufficiency is a goal that most people strive for, but everyone needs a little help sometime during their lives. There should not be such a stigma attached to that basic fact of life.

Republican and Retired General Colin Powell endorses President Obama

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday endorsed President Barack Obama for reelection, arguing the president has improved the poor economy he inherited and sharply criticizing Mitt Romney’s foreign policy’s positions a “moving target.”

“I voted for him in 2008, and I plan to stick with him in 2012,” Powell said of Obama on CBS’s “This Morning.” “I’ll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month.”

One of the most coveted endorsements remaining in the 2012 presidential race, Powell said Obama walked into a horrendous economic situation and has begun to turn it around.

“I think, generally, we’ve come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude,” said Powell, who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of state. “It doesn’t mean all our problems are solved.”

While Powell, a Republican, said that he had the “utmost respect” for Romney, he charged that the former Massachusetts governor hasn’t outlined how he would pay for increased defense spending or for his proposed across-the-board tax cut.

Powell had even harsher words for Romney’s foreign policy, questioning his changing stances on withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The governor who was speaking on Monday night at the debate was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier,” Powell said.

“I’m not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy,” he added. “I don’t sense he’s thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have. He gets advice from his campaign staff that he then has to modify as he goes along.”

While in the Bush administration, Powell regularly clashed with neoconservatives, some of whom are now advising Romney. Powell said he has “trouble with” some of Romney’s “very strong neoconservative views.”

While Powell has endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate in back-to-back elections, he said he remains a Republican.

“I think I’m a Republican of more moderate mold and that’s something of a dying breed, I’m sorry to say,” Powell said.

Powell stills carries a lot of weight with conservative leaning and moderate conservatives. Though his moderate credentials are questionable. He just seems moderate when compared to the extreme far Right positions of a party that jumps when Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers say jump. Most Republicans have become utter sycophants of the smiley faced plutocrats whose visions for America resembles more that of a 17th century monarchy than an enlightened democratic republic. I’m not going into everything that is wrong and boneheaded about conservatism in its modern incarnation today, but the Romney-Ryan agenda exemplifies an aspect of conservatism that is leading to its eventual demise, Conservatives used to care about community. What happened?

To secure his standing as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has disowned every sliver of moderation in his record. He’s moved to the right on tax cuts and twisted himself into a pretzel over the health-care plan he championed in Massachusetts — because conservatives are no longer allowed to acknowledge that government can improve citizens’ lives.

Romney is simply following the lead of Republicans in Congress who have abandoned American conservatism’s most attractive features: prudence, caution and a sense that change should be gradual. But most important, conservatism used to care passionately about fostering community, and it no longer does. This commitment now lies buried beneath slogans that lift up the heroic and disconnected individual — or the “job creator” — with little concern for the rest.

The Romney’s of America’s business community cannot even lay legitimate claim to being job creators – unless one means creating jobs in China or India. Because of shipping costs they do not even save that much money per unit of whatever. What they accomplish is making wealthy investors even richer and simultaneously dis-empowering labor in the U.S.

True, conservatives continue to preach the importance of the family as a communal unit. But for Nisbet and many other conservatives of his era, the movement was about something larger. It “insisted upon the primacy of society to the individual — historically, logically and ethically.”

Because of the depth of our commitment to individual liberty, Americans never fully adopted this all-encompassing view of community. But we never fully rejected it, either. And therein lies the genius of the American tradition: We were born with a divided political heart. From the beginning, we have been torn by a deep but healthy tension between individualism and community. We are communitarian individualists or individualistic communitarians, but we have rarely been comfortable with being all one or all the other.

The highlighted text is a subtle but important distinction – liberals love individualism, but acknowledged that is a concept that can go a bridge too far. Conservatives do not in fact live in a bubble of self-reliance but they pretend and insist that they do. As another pundit recently wrote conservatives have lost all perspective all the context of the complex ingredients that went into making their wealth, or even just providing them with a pretty job, and the comfortable lifestyle that goes with it. It’s the make-believe theory of economics, they just believe and that makes it so. They may not literally click their ruby slippers together, but they do inside their mental cocoons. Nick Kristof has a preview of a Republican-Romney economy. Having listened to conservatives describe anything European as a model for the road to serfdom for years, these quotes are jaw dropping – Romney’s Economic Model

In the last few years, Germany and Britain, in particular, have implemented precisely the policies that Romney favors, and they have been richly praised by Republicans here as a result. Yet these days those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput.

Is Europe a fair comparison? Well, Republicans seem to think so, because they came up with it. In the last few years, they’ve repeatedly cited Republican-style austerity in places like Germany and Britain as a model for America.

Let’s dial back the time machine and listen up:

Europe is already setting an example for the U.S.,” Representative Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, said in 2010. (You know things are bad when a Texas Republican is calling for Americans to study at the feet of those socialist Europeans.)

The same year, Karl Rove praised European austerity as a model for America and approvingly quoted the leader of the European Central Bank as saying: “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect.”

Representative Steve King of Iowa, another Republican, praised Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for preaching austerity and said: “It ought to hit home to our president of the United States. It ought to hit all of us here in this country.”

“The president should learn a lesson from the ‘German Miracle,’ ” Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, a Republican, urged on the House floor in July 2011.

Also in 2011, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, denounced Obama’s economic management and said: “We need a budget with a bold vision — like those unveiled in Britain and New Jersey.”

O.K. Let’s see how that’s working out.

New Jersey isn’t overseas, but since Sessions and many other Republicans have hailed it as a shining model of austerity, let’s start there. New Jersey ranked 47th in economic growth last year. When Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010 and began to impose austerity measures, New Jersey ranked 35th in its unemployment rate; now it ranks 48th.

Senator Sessions, do we really aspire for the same in America as a whole?

Everyone knows that Greece made the grand austerity bargain and who knows when their economy will recover. Spain has had farmers and workers who just months ago were struggling, but getting by, now they’re literally starving. Greece austerity has given rise to radical political movements that is typical historically, getting a foot in the door by blame shifting and massive amounts of xenophobia – remind you of any political movements here in the U.S.

All this is exactly what economic textbooks predicted. Since Keynes, it’s been understood that, in a downturn, governments should go into deficit to stimulate demand; that’s how we got out of the Great Depression. And recent European data and I.M.F. analyses underscore that austerity in the middle of a downturn not only doesn’t help but leads to even higher ratios of debt to economic output.

So, yes, Republicans have a legitimate point about the long-term need to curb deficits and entitlement growth. But, no, it isn’t reasonable for Republicans to advocate austerity in the middle of a downturn. On that, they’re empirically wrong.

I generally don’t like The Economist – they flirt with a disturbing brand of quasi-libertarian-conservative economics, but when they have looked around at the available choices in the past they have picked both Democratic and conservative presidents. As I write this they have not made an endorsement this years, but they’re not crazy about Romney, The Economist Pounds Romney on the Economy

Two weeks ago, The Economist surveyed several hundred academic and business economists as to which White House hopeful would be a better steward of the economy. The results were clear, especially among the professional economists of the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Our main finding should hearten Mr Obama. By a large margin they rate his overall economic plan more highly than Mr Romney’s, credit him with a better grasp of economics, and think him more likely to appoint a good economic team.

That outcome shouldn’t have as a surprise to the editors. Like the Republican leaders who called President Obama’s rescue of the U.S. auto industry “the road to socialism” and “the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism,” The Economist opposed the bailout that ultimately saved over a million American jobs. But in April 2010, the magazine acknowledged its error, proclaiming, “An apology is due to Barack Obama: his takeover of GM could have gone horribly wrong, but it has not.” And when candidate Romney earlier this year penned an op-ed echoing his jaw-dropping boast that “I’ll take a lot of credit” for the salvation of Chrysler and GM, The Economist was having none of it…

ConWorld urban conspirators are still tooting their bizarre claims about Libya and a cover-up, About Those Shocking, World-Changing New Libya E-Mails

The next bend in the Libya story — sorry, Libya scandal — began last night, when CBS News and other organizations scooped a series of e-mails from the State Department, on 9/11. At 4:05 p.m., State e-mails that the Benghazi consulate is “under attack.” At 4:54, the “firing has stopped.” At 6:07 p.m., “Ansar al-Sharia [has claimed] responsibility” for the attack.

Allahpundit explains why this is should be so disturbing.

The White House had plenty of reason to suspect more was going on than a protest that got out of hand, even from the very beginning. But that would meddle with one of O’s strongest reelection narratives, i.e. the president who demolished Al Qaeda (read this for a stark illustration of how certain key supporters are helping him out with that), so we didn’t hear about it until Eli Lake and CNN and Reuters all but dragged it out of him.

One problem. In the same story that breaks the news and gives readers the e-mails, CBS News prints an unaired answer that Obama gave Steve Kroft on September 12. It was his first interview after the attacks.

You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.

The next day, Obama was in Colorado, where he addressed the killings in Libya.

A couple of days ago, for four Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Libya… So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.

Obama didn’t pretend that this was merely “a protest that got out of hand.” The trouble, when we look back at the timeline, is that reporters didn’t really glom onto the Libya story for a few days. When they did, by the Sunday shows and September 19, you had administration spokespeople soft-peddling the “target Americans from the start” story.

Before that, though, if you followed the story, you knew that Ansar al-Sharia took credit for the attacks, and that Obama was calling them “acts of terror.” This is the oddity of the story we now call “Benghazigate.”

The entire “scandal” rests on when President Obama started calling the attack an act of terrorism. He is on tape with CBS calling in a likely act of terror almost immediately. Even if he had waited a few days to get more clarification about minute details, so what. Allahpundit  and other contributors at Malkin’s Hot Air still owe America an apology for all the lies they told their readers about Iraq.

Remember reality TV star Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) who complained about how hard it was to get by on his $175k per year salary. he has not been taking any smart pills since then, Reality TV has-been (and congressman) Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)  would totally love Planned Parenthood except …

A reminder: What Planned Parenthood actually does
You know how Republicans are always saying things like “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that,” mostly because Republicans are deeply stupid and think The Onion is a real news source, and Planned Parenthood really did a build a 900,000-square-foot $8 billion abortionplex with taxpayer money? Come for the abortion, stay for the disco and sushi!

What Planned Parenthood actually does is irrelevant because, as Sen. Jon Kyl taught us, Republican talking points about Planned Parenthood are not intended to be factual statements. They’re more like … oh, what’s the word? … bullshit.

Like, for example, this fecal gem from Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Real World, Season 6), in his debate with Pat Kreitlow:

In regard to Planned Parenthood – ya know, listen – Planned Parenthood offers a lot of checkups and procedures for women. I think a lot of that care is really good, especially for folks who can’t afford it. But the contention that comes around Planned Parenthood is that they are the largest abortion provider in the country, and so they are able to take taxpayer funds to then in essence, use for abortion. And I think this issue could be solved completely if Planned Parenthood would stop doing abortions. There would be no issue with funding on Planned Parenthood. So I think it’s a pretty easy issue to resolve to make sure women get care and coverage for procedures that they need, and I think it’s an important part of our society.

Oh, if only Planned Parenthood would stop doing that thing it doesn’t actually do—using taxpayer dollars for abortion—Duffy and his fellow Republicans would totes love it! And stop trying to defund it every five seconds. Goal Thermometer

But, alas. Since Planned Parenthood doesn’t use taxpayer funds for abortion, on account of how Republicans can’t stop passing bills that say Planned Parenthood isn’t allowed to use taxpayer funds for abortion, Republicans like Duffy have no choice but to pretend Planned Parenthood does that anyway and then be righteously indignant about Planned Parenthood doing that thing it doesn’t actually do.

Conservatives are ridiculous enough when they get around to discussing real issues, they’re even more ridiculous when they start making up issues to have an argument about so they can whip up support to do something about something that is not happening. Like China drilling for oil off the coast of Florida. Sean might want to have his brain checked for bed bugs.

Colbert Deconstructs Fox’s Endless Libya Scandal-Mongering

Fox’s coverage of the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi has increasingly been prone to extreme paranoia, excluding key evidence, and plain misinformation. Last night on his show, Stephen Colbert examined how Fox has been covering the Benghazi attack and why the network may be covering it that way.

Video at link.

Meadow Sunrise wallpaper – There Are Two Americas And The Conservative One is Not Merit Based

Meadow Sunrise wallpaper

 

Former Senator John Edwards went off the rails, but he was right about their being two Americas. The bottom 50% of income earners live in a relatively capitalist and merit based economy. One in which you work more hours or work harder/smarter or maybe take a night class to upgrade your skill set, is rewarded with a little more money. The opposite is also true for that America. Screw-up or be incompetent and you are probably going to pay for that. You’re certainly not going to be rewarded. The other America, the one where John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) live plays by different rules. It is an America where implementing disaster is rewarded. It is an America that rewards gross incompetence. It is an America that rewards not having a proper skill set. Conservative Republican Leaders’ Spokesmen Reveal They Don’t Know Anything About Tax Policy

During a town hall meeting today, Doug Edwards, the former Director of Consumer Marketing for Google, asked President Obama to please raise his taxes. “I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants, infrastructure, and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am,” Edwards said, noting that he is unemployed by choice because he was “fortunate enough to work for a start-up down the street here that did quite well.” “It kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of the tax cuts that have been benefiting so many of us for so long,” he said.

The spokesmen for both House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — Brendan Buck and Brad Dayspring, respectively — proceeded to mock the exchange on Twitter by densely insinuating that the man only wants taxes to go up because he is unemployed and wouldn’t have to pay them:

These two — either out of ignorance or because they’re being disingenuous — completely missed Edwards’ point and the point behind the “Buffett rule” that the administration has proposed. Many people, Edwards included, make their income through investments, which are taxed at a much lower rate than wages. The Bush tax cuts not only lowered income tax rates, but also the rate on capital gains, taking it all the way down to 15 percent.

When asked after the event if he supported raising the capital gains tax, Edwards replied that he did. This jives with what billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said:

The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot…I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.

Remember, it was the raging socialist President Ronald Reagan who totally equalized the treatment of investment income and wage income, rejecting the argument that investors needed to pay a lower tax rate. Edwards, meanwhile, is earning enough income from his stock options in Google to donate all of the proceeds from a book he wrote to charity, while supporting three children.

But the spokesmen for the two most powerful congressman in the House managed to miss the point entirely. When it was pointed out to Dayspring that Edwards was still likely making investment income, all he could respond with was “he is welcome to pay more.”

Since conservatives used to like to compare government budgets to household budgets, let’s do that. John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) both voted to spend all the families money plus max out all the credit cards and then borrowed money to spend on more stuff. Now they’re apparently clueless about where the money is going to come from to pay for the financial wreckage they left for President Obama to clean up. Making the people who benefit most from a stable government and infrastructure pay more, is apparently unfair to these two hypocritical clowns. Even though many wealthy Americans think they should be taxed at a higher rate – say rates similar to those under Reagan or Clinton. Americans wonder why government is broken, it is because we have utterly incompetent spinmeisters like John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA)  in Congress. They screwed over America for eight years during the Bush era. They’re screwing over America now. If things go their way they’ll be screwing us all for the foreseeable future.

Cantor was among the leaders of the conservative clown posse that was actually hoping and working for the U.S. to default on the debt ceiling. Cantor has a combination of qualities which are highly esteemed among conservatives – maliciousness and willful stupidity.

I like the summary in this post about President Obama’s speech  in California – Obama and Reality Versus The Republicans

At a fundraiser in San Jose, Calif., Obama said that some in the audience might be former Republicans “but are puzzled by what’s happening to that party,” and voters should back him if they believe in a “fact-based” America.

    “I mean has anybody been watching the debates lately?” Obama said. “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.

    “It’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have healthcare. And booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay.”

    The remarks represent some of the most direct and combative for Obama so far as he has struck out on the campaign trail in earnest following the July debt-ceiling debate and the August break.

    Obama continued his critique of Republicans, saying of the boos in the audience at recent GOP debates: “That’s not reflective of who we are.”

    “This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country,” the president said. “2008 was an important direction. 2012 is a more important election.

Miller spreads the false impression that the two parties are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, sort of mirror images of each other. In reality, we have one centrist party, the Democrats, and one far right extremist party. The best way to advance  center-left, pragmatic solutions to our problems at this point in time is to vote Democratic next year.  The other alternatives, the far-right Republicans or  the imaginary solution of a third party, will lead to failure.

We’re back to Obama not being the reincarnation of FDR we had hoped he would be. Here’s a great idea let’s further fracture the Democratic Party with a third party that has an ice cubes chance in hell of gaining traction. Obama doesn’t have to be perfect to be seen as progress. Anyone want to go back to Bush-Cheney or to a Rick Perry or Herman Cain or Mitt Romney who would all double down on the crazy, and throw in another Antonin Scalia on the SCOTUS for the cherry on top.

COKE CEO: The US Is So Screwed-Up Now That China Is A Much Better Place To Do Business. Another multimillionaire who has never done an honest day’s work in his life, living off the corporate gravy train saying that China – a capitalist country with an authoritarian government is peaches. This guy does realize he sells carbonated sugar-water and junk food for a living. In 2010, I have no reason to think things will change much this year, than COCA-COLA CEO  John F. Brock made $19,114,318.00 yet Coca-Cola only paid $8 million in taxes. The median household income ( two wage earners) in the U.S. is around $52k. Brock made as much as 368 American households or 736 people. I doubt he did work equal to that or has the intellectual gifts of all those people combined ( I know some scientists, two mathematicians and a surgeon who make far less). I guess the subject of that article, Muhtar Kent, is Coke’s new CEO. All anyone should ever hear from Kent’s mouth is thank you world for rewarding me with far more than I will ever rightfully earn.

In case you missed it – The Crumbling Case for Cutting Spending to Stimulate the Economy

Empirical support for the view that sharp, immediate cuts in government spending would be good for the U.S. economy was never strong, and it’s getting weaker.

The Economist is on the case, highlighting two new studies showing that austerity and growth don’t mix in the short term.

 

Frank Rich has an epic rant – In Praise of Extremism, What good did bipartisanship ever do anybody?. I’m not so sure about some of the specifics, he berates Obama for even trying the Jobs Bill. He is correct about one thing. Never underestimate the power of crazy. Bush and Cheney were off the charts ideologues. They failed. What did the far Right learn. They should have failed bigger. They should have gutted all financial regulation. They should have cut taxes completely or only had taxes on people who earn minimum wage. They should have let people without insurance drop dead. They should have deported gay citizens along with the immigrant grape pickers and dishwashers. I wrote just recently that even right-wing seniors would forgive Perry for wanting to gut Social Security. As of today it seems they will not forgive him for one thing, in-state tuition for immigrants. I remember writing about the tea baggers and the rise in xenophobia on the Right two years ago. I said never underestimate the ability of the Right to gain traction on issues that are relatively incidental to the real core problems the country is having today. Thus the Al Capone of New Jersey, Chris Christie has a shot at becoming the new winger poster boy.

So who are these guys? In July, Christie attended a meeting with a “who’s who A-list of successful fundraisers,” as FOX News put it to discuss a possible presidential bid. The group reportedly included several billionaires, including its host, Home Depot co-founder and venture capitalist Kenneth Langone, who appears to be the most enthusiastic driver of the Christie boomlet.

[  ]…Another key Christie backer: FOX News CEO Roger Ailes. According to New York Magazine, Ailes begged him to run before the presidential race got under way and brokered a meeting between Christie and Rush Limbaugh.

Forget what anyone else thinks – Rupert Mudoch’s Fox News will decide who will be the Republican presidential nominee.