Thursday, August 18, 2011

Having Trouble Posting On Threads?

I've received word from someone who says Blogger won't accept his posts. If anyone else is having trouble, let me know at It's been giving me trouble too, so I may well be migrating to wordpress. Other suggestions for non-google-related free blog hosting sites also appreciated.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

John Stewart Agrees with Me About Ron Paul

Looks like I'm not the only one who has noticed that Ron Paul is being ignored by the media despite his popularity among voters:

Apparently Fox News is among the worst offenders. Huh. I was irritated that CNN gave him short shrift. I had no idea Fox was in on this.

Do The Elites Need an Eye-Opening Ass-kicking?

There's much controversy today over the colorful way in which Texas Governor Rick Perry has expressed his disagreement with the fiscal policy of Ben Bernanke.

And boy, are the panties atwist.  Perry must be interpreted literally, they insist. Not figuratively, That's not allowed.

Look, Perry is not circumspect. He's not an "iron fist in velvet glove" guy. He's just an iron fist guy. He doesn't pause and carefully chose words in order to find clever ways to say nasty things that don't sound nasty at first. Many are sure this is a bug. But how many regular folks will find it to be a refreshing feature?

Ordinarily, I don't go down the road of criticizing elitism. I usually find it to be a dumb anti-intellectual meme favored by know-nothings.

But when it comes to political speech and analyzing it, that's overwhelmingly the province of the elite. Well educated folks who are all wonky about politics, Like me, and like the posters I talk with at  Donklephant  and  Rise of The Center.:

  • People who have big vocabularies. 
  • People who enjoy reading lots of stuff, sometimes high-brow and with sophisticated analysis. 
  • People who then enjoy writing their opinions carefully and at length, using just the right words.

Such folks have a built-in bias for taking care with how one expresses one's views. So they generally fall right into line with interpreting quickly expressed ideas literally when they should quite obviously be interpreted figuratively.

Time after time after time, I have seen that the regular  non-wonk world has little patience with such nonsense. And I agree with them. How is it that so many well-educated hard-thinking Americans has developed this blind spot for the difference between literal and figurative expression? Maybe the only way to rid them of this blind spot is to just kick their asses really really until it goes away. Figuratively of course, not literally, for the dense among you.

Oh, and just let me add, to fend off ill-targeted drive-by comments: I voted for Obama in 2008 and plan to vote for him again in  2012. I don't like or support Rick Perry.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It Bothers Me That Ron Paul Gets Less Coverage

I'm not a Ron Paul supporter. But while he came in second in the Iowa straw poll, all the media seems interested in talking about is Mitt Romney versus Rick Perry. Look, they reporteded every utterance by  Sara Palin for the last 2 years. They've lately been giving Michelle Bachman the same platform. Donald Trump was treated as serious and viable.Wolf Blitzer is the Donald's lap dog, for chrissake.

If they can do all those things, then they can cover Ron Paul every bit as much. He's more popular than most of these other folks. And even if you don't agree with him, it's easy to see that he's a more useful voice. On issue after issue  he makes decently-reasoned cases for his positions that go well beyond the talking point pablum of a Palin, a Bachman, a Perry. That deserves an audience.

I don't want major news outlets to decide what the story is going to be. It's not their role to cut to the chase. Right now, they are supposed to be telling the story of which folks Americans might prefer to be the protagonists next year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Last Time I Get Burned Like This

So here's the theme song for the 2012 elections. Vote for Republicans OR democrats? I don't think so.

Don't Get Fooled Again, Folks!

In congressional nitwit ping-pong, the people are the ball and the parties are the paddle. Back and forth we go between preferring the half-truths of one party, then the other. How will democrats seek to make their next shift back towards full power?

For starters, pay attention, and use your memory. Looking back just a little ways, it's quite easy to see that irrespective of how the GOP may have behaved recently, there's simply no reason to now entrust democrats with the keys to the car again.
  • Informed independents sat and listened for over a year while democratic supporters claimed that Obama care (which I supported, BTW) was revenue positive according to the CBO. Every time dems were told that this was based on cuts to medicare providers that would NEVER happen, they utterly ignored this and simply repeated that the CBO was trustworthy. 
  • Prior to that, for years and years, we all listened to democratic supporters who insisted that social security would not become a burden to the federal budget until after an accounting device called the social security trust fund was used up. And who was right? Not democrats.

Look, NO ONE can claim with honesty that democrats as a group have given a true shit about deficit spending. What little there is has come with way too much arm twisting. They've only just begun to grudgingly concede that it's an issue. And no one can tell us how many actual votes there are for SS and medicare reform within the democratic party. Here's the real kicker:
Democrats are trying to position their entire party as the reasonable ones almost exclusively on the back of their President's public pronouncements, none of which have been supported by actual details.
In other words, we have no idea how "willing to deal" they actually are. How recently was it that both Nancy Reid and Nancy Pelosi declared SS and medicare sacrosanct? Has it been weeks? Days? Hours? What sorts of changes are now supportable in their view? 

Sure. Republicans got serious religion about our debt only after they were ejected. But it's been a strand in their DNA for quite awhile.  And what has gotten any of the democrats "willing to deal" at all? Republican intransigence. 

To believe that the democrats are the white hats in this is naive. And to believe that they would substantially tackle America's debt problem if only they were freed from Republican intransigence is a fool's mileage.

Don't get fooled again.

It's not about blame, it's about responsibiiity. Further it's about Americans as a group opening theiu eyes and seeing that congress as an institution won't take that responsibility. So we'll  have to replace them with folks that will.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Forecast Calls For Pain, Pt. 2

In the immediate aftermath of the debt ceiling debacle, subsequent credit downgrade, market tankings, and renewed fears over a double dip recession, what's the congressional prognosis? What's the next chapter in As The Incompetent Nitwits Turn? The forecast calls for pain. Again.

When we last left our heroes, they had begun retreating to their lush summer homes to recuperate from the exhausting effort of not budging on anything, changing their minds about nothing, and blaming the other side for everything. They left us with the promise to work from a committee geared towards compromise.

Riiiiiiiight. Today, the names of the committee members are trickling out. Let the vicious, mean-spirited squabbling begin resume continue. Let each side tell us why the other side's choices demonstrate bad faith while theirs are the height of wisdom and good faith.

Now, notice that neither party's diarrhea-mouthed PR flacks can even manage to keep their mouths shut about who gets on the committee. The sniping can't even wait until the committee gets to work and floats preliminary proposals. Really?

So, are we actually supposed to believe that this committee is going to do a single thing to get us closer to the scope of compromise we're going to need to bridge a defict gap between 2.2 trillion dollars of revenue and 3.7 trillion dollars of spending? How stupid, how guileless, how innocently faithful would we have to be?

I don't believe it for a second. Not one second. Republicans have shown nothing if not an invigorated commitment to opposing revenue increases no matter what else comes up on the table with it. They won't support restoring the previous top tax bracket rate. And they won't support any proposal that closes corporate tax loopholes while lowering tax rates if that proposal results in any immediate additional government revenue. And democrats won't heave even a smidgen of social security or medicare revisions onto the table without that. I'm calling it now. The absolute best we can hope for out of this committee is bitterness, gridlock, vitriol, and another last minute deal that does the absolute bare minimum. Along with yet another empty promise to try harder and do better next time.

Time for regular Americans to notice that we've been in an abusive relationship with both Democrats and Republicans in congress. And they're never going to change. Thy take us for granted, they beat us, and then they make empty promises that this time they're really going to change. Time to walk out. Or else we keep getting what we deserve.

UPDATE: John Avlon reports on CNN that not a single member so far named has any record of bipartisan compromise. They're all staunch partisans, says Avlon, and the committee is a recipe for more gridlock. What a shocker. It occurs to me that the should have made each party choose the OTHER party's members.

The Wisconsin Recall and The Predictable Spin

In Wisconsin's recall election, Democrats failed to unseat enough Republicans to retake the state legislature and turn back changes to collective bargaining rights that infuriated unionized state workers.
The predictable spin from the Republican Party is that this outcome represents a broad vindication of the GOP's agenda.

But it's not. A broad variety of recent polls shows that a majority of Americans do not stand with the conservatives on their hard line positions. This out come represents a narrow vindication of a GOP position,  one that happens to coincide with the views of a solid majority of Americans.:
 Regular everyday Americans DO resent sweetheart deals for unionized government workers where they exist.
It's not hard to understand:

• Where unionized government workers have very generous state pensions that will leave them WAY better off than most taxpayers footing that bill, they resent it.

• Where unionized government workers have much more highly subsidized health insurance than most taxpayers footing that bill, they resent it.

• Where unionized government workers have much better job security than most taxpayers footing that bill, they resent it.

And THAT, my friends, is what has been vindicated.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Creativity and Balls

The "why" behind the idea of avoiding tax increases harmful to economic growth basically says this:
Higher taxes divert to the government needed capital that would otherwise primarily become investment dollars. These investment dollars finance creative, sometimes risky, but ultimately economically beneficial new ventures. These new ventures create tomorrow's jobs.
And that's what we need, jobs. It's the only thing everyone seems to agree about. We're poised to suffer a 15 month debate over who is more in favor of jobs. And sadly, we're all going to get sucked into the false pretense that jobs are created by policy and politicians instead of by creativity and . . .wait for it . . . risk-taking. Also known as balls. 

 But in today's environment, where is the shortage of capital, of investment dollars? Interest rates are extraordinarily low. You can't even pace inflation with a savings account or a bond or a money market fund. There's no capital shortage. 

There's an excess of capital, in the hands of all the folks who have done very well. And it's all very risk averse. In that environment, it's hard to make a plausible argument that an upward tweak in the top bracket is going to kill job creation. There's almost no job creation to kill. What little exists is related directly to enterprises that can increase profits by adding labor. Investment capital is piling up, looking desperately for somewhere appealing to go. 

What we need is creativity and balls. Instead we're beset by rigid, simplistic, outdated ideology and fear.

Belching Clouds of Black Spew

I used to like Real Clear Politics. Along with the predictable rants, you'd get yhoughtful ideas from smart well-informed people. A smart independent could quickly and safely identify partisan cheerleading and skip it. In return,  one or two articles would provide real food for thought. Mental Nutrition. Insight. Cause to re-think or adjust my own ideas.

Used to be worth the trip from time to time. But not so much lately. Both parties in congress have been scared witless by the debt ceiling debate. Not to mention  their inability to spin positively from a debacle that the whole rest of the world can clearly see was of congress's own political manufacturing. As always, such fear has led to the usual sprint down into the basement, filled with the dirty coal of blame and old rhetoric. Each party's furnace has been rapidly filled to max and stoked. The twin smokestacks of half-truth are now belching forth vile clouds of black spew.

If RCP can't do any better than to collect and sort the simplistic bull crap that each party is trying to feed us, then their traffic deserves to dwindle. Now, that has always been part of its job, but there was always decent content to go with it. Right now, if you're an independent, there's nothing to see. Just move along. To the rise of the center or the daily beast or donklephant. Anywhere they're making some sense instead of fingerpointing.

The Cleanest Dirty Shirt

On the Tuesday after S+P downgraded US debt from AAA to AA+, the dominoes continue to fall. The national spectacle of the debt crisis debate is rippling in a way which will make it hard for anyone to claim that the embarrassing debt ceiling show was not a big deal. Maybe you can argue it shouldn't it have been, But guess what, it turns out that perception DOES matter. Oopsie! And the perception is that our nation simply doesn't have its shit together.

This is about our government's large and undiminishing gap between revenues and expenditures. As it relates to both our credit and our fiscal sustainability, no one outside the US really cares what pastiche of polices are used to close the gap. They just care that we close it. That means both liberal and conservative sacred cows (social security, medicare, no new taxes) need to go up on the block.  

The most noticeable trend in the immediate aftermath of the downgrade has been an increased flight to quality and security: to gold, and into the currencies (and bonds, probably, if there are any) of countries with sound balance sheets. For the time being, american treasury notes are still among the cleanest dirty shirts in the opinions of investors. But this downgrade has clearly made global investors substantially more committed to shopping for clean shirts. This is the end of the beginning of the realization that America needs to live within its means. 

Countries that produce more than they consume won't keep propping us up. We're clearly operating on borrowed time, no pun intended. I am deeply pessimistic that our current congress can come up with any solutions that amount to more than inadequate half measures coupled with WIMPY promises that they'll gladly pay us tuesday for a hamburger today.

What we all need to do as Americans is to let BOTH PARTIES know that they are sadly mistaken if they think we're going to just keep ping-ponging between their nitwit paddles. Republicans and democrats have never been more in the way than they are today.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Does "A Failure of Leadership" Mean in August 2011?

In the aftermath of President Obama's capitulation to a debt ceiling deal that did not include tax hikes, he is being widely criticized for a failure of leadership. That makes me wonder what effective presidential leadership is supposed to look like when a divided congress disagrees fundamentally about the right approach on, well everything.

What does a solid independent middle bloc of Americans support when it comes to bringing our deficit under control?
• Reforming SS and medicare to include things like means testing? Yup.
• Closing corporate tax loopholes while lowering the rates, to broaden the tax base? Yup.
• Making serious attempts to cut discretionary spending broadly by level funding at federal agencies across the board?  Yup.
• Saving money on the big military budget by winding down our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq while also making cuts and consolidations in all service branches? Yup?
• Ending the tax break for top bracket income earning and restoring the previous top bracket rate? Yup.
OK. Add up all those positions. Who has supported most of them. Congressional Republicans? Congressional Democrats? Or Obama? Noiw, if you believe that OBama has failed yo lead, describe to me the Oval Office Critter that could, in this climate, forge a legitmate consensus? because I can't envision it.

This is not a crisis of leadership. This is a crisis of inflexible, cowardly, politically self-interested followers. There are good reasons why there's no such thing as a successful cat herder. Obama tried anyway, because he is in the very small group of national politicians who BOTH has the entire nation's interests at heart and understands that politics is the art of the possible. Until we have a congress that gets the latter, the DC farce of 2011 will endure.

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Institution Needs An Enema

Standard and Poor's has just downgraded US credit from AAA to AA+. For the first time ever.. Let that sink in. For the first time ever. Ever.

We deserve it. Let's not waste time pretending we don't. After the sad spectacle of the last 6 weeks or so, the inadequacy of the outcome, plus our absymal deficit and debt, we deserve it. Let's skip the denial part. S + P isn't the only ratings agency that has taken this action, so shooting the messenger just doesn't work.

The United States credit rating has been downgraded because in the span of 11 years we have gone from a balanced budget to spending about $1.72 for every dollar we collect. The 2010 budget estimate figures show that we collected about 2.2 trillion dollars, and we spent 3.7. That's the problem, and the cause of this downgrade. The rest is static.

The soundbites in the immediate aftermath of the downgrade announcement should make it crystal clear to all Americans that the folks in congress are uncommitted to working together to address the issue. Or unable. The only thing either side seems eager to do is blame the other side for being unable to do the right thing. The debt council negotiations are certain to be a fiasco. I wish there was a way to bet money on it.

I'm convinced that the best way past this is for Americans to join together and sign our own pledges for the election of 2012. We should all promise to vote for every single non-incumbent congressional candidate (senate or house) that seems reasonable and promises to work outside the confines of partisan ideology to close the gap between government spending and government revenue by every means necessary.

Nothing will straighten up our alleged leaders better than an extremely loud shot across their bow. We need 60-70-80% turnover in the house and the ouster of most senators running for re-election. This institution needs an enema.