Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Call me naive"

"Republicans don't have a sustainable position."

I like that.

Unfortunately, Republicans in Washington are crazy. And they're holding a gun to fiscal sanity's head.

On a related note, the president gives a one hour press conference, so clearly, he's a dick.

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Our liberal media

Monday, June 27, 2011

Even slaves knew the cause was slavery

This is fascinating. The slaves and their owners knew what the Civil War was about and the former weren't taking any chances in case the North, less certain about the South's reasons for secession, got wobbly.

Many of the runaways had their own good explanation: they understood, even if many whites still did not, that this war might soon turn into a struggle for their freedom. In late August, a correspondent for the New-York Tribune interviewed two recently escaped Virginia slaves who were passing through Philadelphia. The white journalist was astonished to find the two black bondsmen quite well-informed on current war news and political developments. He added:

They say all the negroes now want is for our Government to arm them. Let such a fact be once generally known — the willingness of [Abraham Lincoln] to receive, train, and arm them — and he can have, almost immediately, more men than [Jefferson] Davis has or ever can muster. They are longing to be permitted to fight for freedom. They fully understand the nature of the contest going on.

Even far below the Mason-Dixon Line, on the isolated cotton plantations of the Mississippi Delta, the struggle over secession had fanned the embers of the slaves’ long-smoldering dreams of freedom. “The runaways are numerous and bold,” wrote a Vicksburg woman on June 19. “The house servants have been giving a lot of trouble lately — lazy and disobedient,” she recorded on another occasion, noting that they seemed to be anticipating a Union decree of emancipation when Lincoln reconvened Congress for its emergency session on July 4. (Independence Day, she noted with relief, came and went without any such inconvenient liberation.)

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Avoiding Armageddon

The negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, which threaten to roil markets around the globe should House Republicans and President Obama not come to an agreement, could be rendered moot by the president with a stroke of his pen.

John Dimsdale Here's how the argument goes: When Congress passes spending bills, it knows there isn't enough cash to pay for it all. By approving those obligations anyway, Congress is implicitly committing the government to borrow the money to meet them. By later imposing a limit on borrowing -- which is what the debt ceiling is -- Congress is illegally counteracting its own laws.

Norman Ornstein: Let's face it, the reality is having a separate vote on the debt ceiling makes no sense.

Norman Ornstein follows Congress and the executive branch for the American Enterprise Institute.

Ornstein: The debt ceiling is a reflection of the debts that you have already incurred. And every time Congress passes a budget, it's obligating itself to future debts.

So when it approves a budget, Congress requires the president to meet those obligations -- by borrowing if necessary. If he continues to borrow, the president would have to ignore the second congressional mandate: to not breach the debt limit.

In the inevitable legal challenge to such a decision, University of Baltimore law school professor Garrett Epps cites a clause in the 14th amendment to the Constitution.

Garrett Epps: Section four says the validity of the public debt of the United States, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties in suppression of rebellion, shall not be questioned.

That amendment was adopted just after the Civil War when southern lawmakers were questioning the union army's debts.

Epps: That language would provide a serious basis for going outside the congressional debt ceiling process.

But snubbing the debt ceiling would be a "nuclear option," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. He doubts President Obama will go for it.

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Blue Monday, Spenser Davis Group edition

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk

Three lies



Drop the "guest status

And by "bipartisan," he means "bipolar"

In the world of Mitch McConnell, words have no meaning.

“President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit,” Mr. McConnell and Mr. Kyl said in a joint statement. “He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”

In fact, addressing our deficit will require raising revenue. And a "bipartisan" plan would require something known as "compromise," in which "both" sides give up something -- Democrats agree to painful spending cuts in discretionary spending and Republicans agree to eliminating tax loopholes (note how far the debate has already moved in Republicans favor when we are talking about "loopholes" and not "marginal tax rates").


Thursday, June 23, 2011

"This is not a budget; this is a cause."

Gary Gutting sorts through the facts versus the convictions about Medicare.

Putting it this way, it became clear to me that everyone agreed that either plan, if implemented, would significantly reduce government spending on medical care. The debate was about each plan’s further consequences. Roughly, critics of Ryan’s plan claim that it will require seniors to pay far too much for their medical care, while critics of Obama’s plan claim that it will keep seniors from receiving needed medical care.

At this point, it seemed that the debate was over empirical questions: What would be the effects of each of the policies? In principle, such questions should be answerable by objective economic analysis. So I began reading Congressional Budget Office reports, articles in The Economist, and opinions by columnists from Ross Douthat to Ezra Klein. My expectation was that I would find a stalemate, with strong arguments on both sides off-setting one another. But as it turned out, my judgment was that the empirical probabilities supported Obama over Ryan. Of course others as or more qualified than I have concluded otherwise.

More importantly, I realized that the relevant economic facts were soft (relatively malleable). Even if they pointed in Obama’s direction, they did not decisively refute Ryan. Economists with strong (relatively inflexible) convictions about the privileged role of markets and the dangers of government regulation could develop alternative interpretations of the facts that supported Ryan’s position. Such strong convictions would be irrelevant if they were ungrounded prejudices. But there is clearly a higher level of economic discussion on which the free-market economists as well as their opponents have developed what they see as a powerful historical and even philosophical case for their convictions. Paul Ryan was, perhaps, gesturing to this level of conviction when he said, “This is not a budget; this is a cause.”

The moral of my story is that understanding and effectively taking part in a debate requires awareness of the level at which we and our opponents are operating at any given point. When we are arguing from the facts, there is a reasonable possibility of convincing one another. When we find ourselves arguing about convictions, the ordinary point-counterpoint of political debate becomes ineffective. We can and should argue about convictions, but this can seldom be done fruitfully in the context of specific policy disputes. Once we’ve pushed the debate on Medicare or any other policy matter to the point where convictions become the sole basis of disagreement, it is time to vote.

Indeed, it is.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Magic jobs

Bill Gross, the founder of PIMCO, aka, "The bond king," has a message to his investors and to Congress:

"Solutions from policymakers on the right or left, however, seem focused almost exclusively on rectifying or reducing our budget deficit as a panacea," Gross writes. "While Democrats favor tax increases and mild adjustments to entitlements, Republicans pound the table for trillions of dollars of spending cuts and an axing of Obamacare. Both, however, somewhat mystifyingly, believe that balancing the budget will magically produce 20 million jobs over the next 10 years. President Obama's long-term budget makes just such a claim and Republican alternatives go many steps further. Former Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota might be the Republicans' extreme example, but his claim of 5% real growth based on tax cuts and entitlement reductions comes out of left field or perhaps the field of dreams. The United States has not had a sustained period of 5% real growth for nearly 60 years."

Both parties, in fact, are moving to anti-Keynesian policy orientations, which deny additional stimulus and make rather awkward and unsubstantiated claims that if you balance the budget, "they will come." It is envisioned that corporations or investors will somehow overnight be attracted to the revived competitiveness of the U.S. labor market: Politicians feel that fiscal conservatism equates to job growth. It's difficult to believe, however, that an American-based corporation, with profits as its primary focus, can somehow be wooed back to American soil with a feeble and historically unjustified assurance that Social Security will be now secure or that medical care inflation will disinflate. Admittedly, those are long-term requirements for a stable and healthy economy, but fiscal balance alone will not likely produce 20 million jobs over the next decade. The move towards it, in fact, if implemented too quickly, could stultify economic growth. Fed Chairman Bernanke has said as much, suggesting the urgency of a congressional medium-term plan to reduce the deficit but that immediate cuts are self-defeating if they were to undercut the still-fragile economy.

Emphasis added.

Unfortunately, as Brian Buetler points out, the GOP is too beholden to ideological purity and Dems are just too, predictably, scared.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Blue Monday, Neil Young edition

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our national pastime

CAUTION: Extremely blue.

This was directed primarily at John McGraw's Baltimore Orioles, only a few years before American League president Ban Johnson would move the team to New York to become the Gordon's Highlanders, aka New York Americans, a name soon to be shortened by the headline writers to the New York Yankees.

Of course, McGraw had by then moved on to the National League's New York Giants.

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Making love not stupid self-destructive violence

Well, when opportunity knocks, why, indeed, don't we do it in the road?

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Fox News outdoes itself

Stossel has a Republican nomination candidate "debate" an Obama impersonator.

While elsewhere on the Republican Network we are reminded of all the "hoods" Obama invites to the White House.

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Blue Monday, Etta James edition

Friday, June 10, 2011

Listerine presents

For Newt.

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It's Zell!

No Newtineer he. Loyal to the core that man.

Zell's probably thinking, "I just can't quit that man's bold ideas."

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Porn stars follow my every tweet, too

So, I've been kinda general, but specifically about Weiner and his weiner. I just didn't think it was worthy of much notice. I thought when he started telling the media that he didn't know if it were his undies or not he was surely going to crash soon, but I have from the very start been tired of the press' obsession with Weiner's harmless sexting after they completely ignore the felonious behavior of John Ensign. Prolly cause there were no pictures to ogle in the latter case.

And I am torn. On the one hand, I agree with Riley that Weiner should resign to spend more time with his inner 14 year old. On the other hand, it really is none of our business.

One thing for sure: the French, who have been said to be "searching their souls" in reaction to Dominique Strauss-Kahn's allegedly violent penchant for hotel maids and female reporters, can, looking at the uproar over a tweeted photo, be once again relieved they are not Americans.

But, ultimately, this is where I come down on Weiner's foolishness -- he was doing the Lord's work and now he won't be for a very long time.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

His expertise IS the disqualifying factor

Michael Grunwald does a pretty good summary of our Serious Times.

Until yesterday, my favorite symbolic moment of the Obama era was the rejoicing of the right after the President’s hometown failed to land the 2016 Olympics. Because any bad news for Obama is by definition good for America, even if it happens to involve bad news for America. But now I have a new favorite: the defeat of Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board after Republicans declared him “unqualified.” What makes this so perfect is not just Diamond’s status a Nobel Laureate economist, but his specific expertise in unemployment and the labor market. Because anyone who understands unemployment and the labor market is by definition unqualified to participate in economic policy.

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Blue Monday, Lightnin' Hopkins edition

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

When the government won't act, climate change will

It's often been said that the only thing that lifted the United States out of the depression was World War II -- one massive stimulus package.

It seems possible that climate change's devastating effects may serve a similar role.

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