Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Glass is Half Empty: The Democrats 2012 Prospects

      Don't get me wrong, I'm an optimistic guy. It's not in my nature to see the glass as half empty. Still,, perhaps once in a while it's necessary to look at the glass in this way-usually I do see it half full. I'd like to believe Ari Berman, that 2010 was just a short blip in a longer "secular" Democratic surge. It may be to be sure. That's been my assumption.

    Part of it is I just can't believe that with the GOP's sorry record so many Americans still vote for them-I have no idea how it's possible, and agree with Delong that this party doesn't deserve to exist-though this is a democracy. It's one of those things that Marx called a "contradiction" that as a liberal I of course always think things will be great if only my party is in power. To be sure Marx hardly solved things-with those who were inspired by him, there was just one party.

    Certainly I'm with Delong in going after the GOP balls to the wall. Still, there is a decent bearish case for the Democrats right now.

    For me this makes no sense. I mean after the debt limit fiasco it was the GOP whose unpopularity reached unprecedented levels. The GOP is the party that has pushed all these reactionary abortion laws  and anti-female laws in state after state. It's the GOP who have all these hostile anti-Hispanic immigration laws. It's the GOP's values that Occupy Wall Street is so opposed to. Surely Americans have finally had enough of the GOP?

   Yes and no. At the national level, Obama should win this going away. However what's a source of concern is the congressional races. My guess is that even the RNC knows they aren't going to unseat Obama-beating an incumbent is never that easy anyway. Yes Obama successfully beat the GOP in last Summer's debt ceiling chicken game-as David Corn does a great job of documenting in his new book about Obama that just hit the stores.

     Trouble is, that helps Obama, but the early polls seem to show he doesn't have any coat tails. The polls seem to show the GOP with a good shot at taking back the Senate, while totally holding it's commanding House lead.

    According to Election Projection, Obama will blow out Romney-he leads in all the must win Republican states-Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. However, they show the GOP taking up 5 Senate seats and 1 House seat. This will give them both Houses of Congress. The also show the Republicans picking up 4 more Governors for a 33-16  lead-they do assume Scott Walker holds on in the recall, listing Wisconsin as a "weak GOP hold."

   If this happens Obama may be little more than a lame duck as he won't be able to pass anything-not that he really can now with a thin Dem Senate majority. True he'll be able to veto the GOP Congress-so what we'll have is more gridlock. Just what this country needs.

   If it does go down this way, then in 2014 it again won't look good as it will be an off year election-which usually goes to the opposing party-the GOP.

  To be sure, the one thing that you can hang your hat on is that this was the setup in 1998 with Clinton, and the Dems unexpectedly picked up 5 Senate seats.

  Obama may need to learn more from Clinton as his Administration may follow the same trajectory. Of course, this GOP is more obstructionist than ever. Then in 2016, the generic Republican will by definition lead the generic Democrat-it's just how American politics work. It's very tough for one party to hold power beyond 8 years.

   And of course if this generic Democrat did win-my guess is that the candidate won't be Biden, and I'm certain it won't be Hillary-then their odds of winning in 2020 are  as long as they come.

  The last time the Democrats won more than 2 terms in a row was Truman following FDR's 4 straight terms. It's very rare to see a party in US politics have two successive two term Presidents.

    Back to this year, one thing that hurts the Democrats this year a lot is that 21 Democratic seats are up for election with only 10 GOP seats up for grabs. The Dems have to play a lot more defense just to hold steady, the Republicans can afford to play offense.

    To be sure, in that poll I cited above, it's mostly the result of pundit picks rather than polls at this stage, and in many races the candidate has yet to be picked. Then again as we learn in economics, what's so hard about expectations is that we usually wrongly assume the future will look more like the present than it will
    What I don't get is why the Dems seem to always have so many more Senate seats up for grabs than the GOP-is it redistricting? Anyone know feel free to explain it.

    One more GOP advantage-they are making it harder to vote everywhere they can. The new voting laws are meant to make sure the wrong people-Democrats- can't vote.

    Anyway, this is the pessimistic view. There is a more bullish case for the Democrats. But that's usually the one I dwell on. In the long term I do think the GOP's playbook that has served them well since the 60s is not going to work so well in the future. The country is changing both in ethnic makeup but also in politics.

   You have to remember that in 1968 this was a totally different world. The country was suffering from fatigue from all the social upheaval-civil rights,, then the riots that followed civil rights. Antiwar activism, feminism, the uprisings on campuses across the country. There was also the Cold War. The GOP could position itself as the party of "law and order" and yes create a whole host of "wedge" issues where people could covertly vote their prejudices-the big wedge issue of the early 70s was, of course, busing.

   The country today is over 20 years after the Cold War, and has largely come to terms with the race and gender issues of the 60s-I don't mean there aren't still problems, of course, but few people today have the level of fear for say, black people, that they had 40 years ago. The country has changed, is changing.

    The country's ethnic makeup is changing, while at the same time the country is less racist. To put it bluntly, white people make up a smaller proportion of the whole, but white people themselves are much less racist than they were in 1970. The old GOP playbook still plays in many places regionally, but I do still think on the national level they are headed for some difficult years ahead. Congenitally speaking their platform is meant to appeal to older white males at the expense of women, minorities, and the young. This playbook won't work in the future.

Stephen Williamson: Wrong on Inflation, Wrong on Krugman

     His worry about "stagflation" hiding around the corner by now is more comic relief than anything else. Why even treat his absurd inflation phobia seriously? To paraphrase Jimmy Carter, Stephen Williamson suffers from an inordinate fear of inflation. However, the time for interventions are over for Williamson, he's beyond hope in his desire for deflationary policies.

    While he is sympathetic to ideas like Tyler Cowen's Great Stagnation theory, there's a chicken and egg problematic here. If we do have stagnation how much credit do austerity lovers like Williamson and Cowen actually deserve? For no doubt if we followed their policy prescriptions that's exactly what we would have.

     The trouble with the Stephen Williamsons of the world is that for them the nightmare scenario was the 70s, when in reality the nightmare scenario that is more meaningful to us throughout this crisis is the 30s. One thing that is not appreciated about the 70s is that in important ways it was better than 2008. The 70s never got into a deep recession and this is partly thanks to higher inflation rates-in a bad downturn there are two ways to proceed-as Minsky shows us-either asset price deflation or price inflation. In the 70s we had the lesser of the two evils, price inflation and so we never had a long, protracted recession like this one.

   Oh well, again, Williamson is a lost cause and even discussing this is more comic relief than anything. We can laugh at Williamson as long as we don't follow him down his dead end.

   On the issue of Krugman, he clearly is very exercised about him, and seems to consider Krugman a kind of blight on the existence of all that is good and true.

   "In the better world I'm thinking about, we would not have to put up with arrogant loud-mouths like Paul, Brad, and their "fellow-travelers." The world these people envision is one where lazy macroeconomics has free-rein. We would forget everything we have learned in the last 40 years or so. Better still, we could set the way-back machine to 1937. Why fuss with all those bothersome details? IS-LM is so easy - and so right. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you."

      See what I mean about him seeing this in existential terms? Williamson got a lot of push back in the comments section however, he actually got  over 200 comments-and counting. He furiously answered many of them continuing to inveigh against the Dark One, Paul Krugman. Noah Smith dropped in and wondered what he got out of attacking Krugman so much-it must be fun for him? Williamson sniffs,

      "I don't think it's good fun for some people to set out to destroy something they don't understand."

       See, here we catch Williamson being disingenuous. He makes it sound like Krugman is an ignoramus doing this for perverse kicks, that he is just offering up bold opinions with no substance behind it, Yet in another post he decries, "What Happened to the Krugman We Used to Know and Love?"

       "Someone forwarded a link to this post, from October 25, 1996, by Paul Krugman in Slate. This is an excellent piece. It's beautifully written and well-argued. I agree with essentially everything in it. It's bold, in that Krugman sticks up for Economic Science in the face of a barrage of criticism from what he thinks are loose-thinking innumerate "economists."

      "somewhere between 1996 and 2012, Krugman changed his tune. He stopped being defender-of-the-nerds and went over to the dark side. "

     Here Williamson is contradicting himself. How can Krugman be attacking ideas he doesn't understand if he used to be an advocate of these same ideas himself? What's happened is he changed his mind. Evidently this is not something that Very Serious People (VSP) like Williamson take very kindly to.


Trayvon Maritin, CNN and the "Rush to Judgment" Canard

     I am beginning to see that indeed CNN in particular keeps repeating this line, and suggesting that people have made their minds up too quickly. Piers Morgan in a heated exchange on his show with Toure tried to suggests that Toure lacks professionalism because he is convinced George Zimmerman is guilty of murder.

    This is wrong. Being a journalist doesn't mean you can't use your head. Honestly some things don't require endless analysis. It seems to me that CNN may be trying to urge us to give ourselves analysis paralysis.

    Fox News of course has made itself the apologist par excellence for George Zimmerman, his family and the Sanford police department. CNN's pro Zimmerman bias is much more subtle. But this idea that if you're responsible you must "not rush to judgment" is wrongheaded.

    First of all let's understand this. Do I personally believe Zimmerman is guilty of murder? Yes. However, this doesn't mean I'm "rushing to judgment." All I'm asking is what millions of Americans are asking for-that Zimmerman be arrested. As far as the idea that "there is no rush, let the State of Florida do a thorough job" it doesn't hold any water for me.

    This has already taken a month and a half and George Zimmerman is still free. Those who worry that things are moving too fast or being pushed to move to fast need not worry. It's too late for this to move fast. Most arrests don't require a month and a half and counting.  Remember for an arrest all that is required is probable cause. There is more than enough evidence for that. If people demanded that Zimmerman be sent to prison before a trial that would be rush to judgment. That''s not what's going on.


GOP Buddy Caldwell Trusts the Government

      Talk about man bites dog. If you believe the Lousiana Attorney General, he is at the Supreme Court fighting ObamaCare for a different reason than his Republican brethren:

    "ThinkProgress spoke with Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Caldwell opposes Obamacare and the individual mandate, but for a different reason than most of his fellow litigants: it props up the private health insurance industry. “Insurance companies are the absolute worst people to handle this kind of business,” he declared. “I trust the government more than insurance companies.” Caldwell went on to endorse the idea of a single-payer health care system, saying it’d “be a whole lot better” than Obamacare."

     "The worst thing you can do is give it to an insurance company. I want to make my point. All insurance companies are controlled in their particular state. If you have a hurricane come up the east coast, the first one that’s going to leave you when they gotta pay too many claims is an insurance company. Insurance companies are the absolute worst people to handle this kind of business. I trust the government more than insurance companies. If the government wants to put forth a policy where they will pay for everything and you won’t have to go through an insurance policy, that’d be a whole lot better."

     Ok, interesting and very surprising. Still don't buy it. This is very similar to the Firedoglake line. It has always struck me that the Firebaggers and the Republicans have the same basic position on this-
let's go back to the beginning and take our time. We can do better then.'

    As for Caldwell, I'm suspicious that he really would vote for single payer if he had the choice. I suspect then he'd be saying he;d be willing to do it with the private sector individual mandate but not with the government. who is the absolutely worst way to handle this kind of business.

    Even if you want single payer, there is no reason to insist on "all or nothing." We either have total single payer or we can't do anything to help the nation's 53 million uninsured at all?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Stephen Williamson is a Big Baby About Krugman

      Maybe it's Williamson's birthday. If so naybe we should give him a pass. Like the old song says, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." However, Willamson is at it again, whining about Krugman. More breast beating:

    "I wish I didn't have to do it, but it's time - once again - to stick up for economic science. Krugman has crossed the line (I know it when I see it) here. If it offends you that he offends me, then stop reading. You're not allowed to whine about Krugman-bashing. The guy deserves it, after all."

     Willaimson is going to stick up for "economic science." Here is Krugman's offending passage:

      " sense is that a lot of younger economists are aware, even if they don’t dare say so, that freshwater macro has been a great embarrassment these past four years, and that liquidity-trap Keynesianism has done very well. This will affect future research; it will, over time, break the stranglehold of decadent Lucasian doctrine on the journals."

     Willaimson comes back with:

      "What is "decadent Lucasian doctrine," and why the heck is it so decadent? Good questions. You'll have to grill Krugman on that. As far as I can tell, we are all "Lucasians" now, and that includes Krugman, who uses many "Lucasian" principles. Complaining about Lucas is something like complaining about the other Bob - Bob Dylan. The revolution happened long ago, and now everyone loves Bob and his influences are everywhere. Krugman might like it if the Bob "stranglehold" somehow let go of the profession. Too bad, Krugman, that's not happening."

     Willaimson sounds like nothing so much as a Mitt Romney-he thinks Lucas is "inevitable." Everyone agrees with Lucas, even if they don't.

     "In the better world I'm thinking about, we would not have to put up with arrogant loud-mouths like Paul, Brad, and their "fellow-travelers." The world these people envision is one where lazy macroeconomics has free-rein. We would forget everything we have learned in the last 40 years or so. Better still, we could set the way-back machine to 1937. Why fuss with all those bothersome details? IS-LM is so easy - and so right. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you."

    This better world of Williamson sounds like totalitarianism. It's sort of like what the Church Fathers once dreamed of. A world where orthodoxy doesn't have to "put up" with contradiction. Thankfully it's not our world and the young economists Krugman speaks of will be nothing like the flat-earther Stephen Williamson.

    Something is believed for a whole 40 years? Why that proves it's absolute truth.

Piers Morgan and Toure

     These two major journalistic figures have gotten embroiled in a bit of a brouhaha over the interview Piers conducted Thursday night with George Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman.

      After Toure and Piers got into it on Twitter when Toure tweeted that Piers did not challenge Zimmerman the way a professional journalist would. Morgan fired back with, "Toure you're such a hideous little twerp."

    Toure complained that "You do serious damage to America when you allow lies about this case to go unchallenged on CNN."

    So tonight they met on CNN. It was a pretty good interview-it was very intense and adversarial. Piers complained bitterly about Toure's accusing him of not being a professional. Toure's felt that he did not question Zimmerman enough and accepted too much-even a claim that George Zimmerman  was not doing the neighborhood watch but on his way to Target's.

   It got pretty rough, and Toure's said that at NBC they are laughing at CNN to give Zimmerman this forum to spread lies. Pierce countered that Toure was not a real journalist, that he is not professional as he's already made up his mind. Piers believes that he was critical of Zimmerman and didn't tell him he agreed with him but simply wanted to get his side of it and that getting Zimmerman was a big story that no real network would turn down.

   Toure then said that Piers didn't get it, that he doesn't appreciate the deep  feelings this touches in the American Psyche, that he's just a Brit after all, when Piers says he's lived here for 7 years, Toure is unimpressed.

    So who wins this grudge match? In some ways I think Toure lets himself get a little sidetracked. It isn't valid to claim that Piers can't get it as a Brit-he has been here a decent amount of time. I'm not sure that it's true that CNN shouldn't have interviewed Zimmerman at all. I agree it's a big story and worth airing as it contains a lot of information that's worth knowing about.

    However, some of Piers knocks on Toure doesn't make much sense either. The fact that it is his opinion that Zimmerman is guilty of murder hardly means he's not a real journalist. There is a rather tiresome narrative that we must not "rush to judgment" and say Zimmerman is guilty too quickly.

   The trouble with that is this has been going on for over a month. There are different levels of assessing guilt. George Zimmerman is entitled to a trial before a fair and impartial jury like anyone else. But there is more than enough information for probable cause which is all you need for an arrest. It does sound to me too like he's probably guilty-I have a hard time buying that he isn't. Again, he deserves a trial. But there must be a trial.

   And Toure is right when he protests that Robert Zimmerman hasn't spoken with Geroge much for years. Yet, Piers tried to protest claiming that Joe Oliver-of all people!-can corroborate that they have been close. Oliver of course himself knows nothing.


Krugman and Stephen Keen on Minsky

      I won't attempt to arbitrate the debate between Krugman and on Minsky at the moment. Stephen Keen definitely hurts Krugman to the quick by speaking of him as just another neoclassical economist and claiming that he doesn't get Minsky at all.

    "for those of us who are not new to Minsky, it is hard to recognise any vestige of the Financial Instability Hypothesis in Krugman’s work. This reaction is based not merely on Minsky’s explicit denial that his hypothesis could be modelled from a neoclassical perspective (Minsky 1982 , p. 5),
1 but on ways in which it is strictly incompatible with New Keynesian methodology."

    This is the paper Krugman co-authored with Eggertsson that Keen is questioning:

    "In this paper we present a simple New Keynesian-style model of debt-driven slumps – that is, situations in which an overhang of debt on the part of some agents, who are forced into rapid deleveraging, is depressing aggregate demand. Making some agents debt-constrained is a surprisingly powerful assumption: Fisherian debt deflation, the possibility of a liquidity trap, the paradox of thrift, a Keynesian type multiplier, and a rationale for expansionary fiscal policy all emerge naturally from the model. We argue that this approach sheds considerable light both on current economic difficulties and on historical episodes, including Japan’s lost decade (now in its 18th year) and the Great Depression itself/"

    Krugman comes back-albeit in a somewhat cursory way-by accusing Keen of "banking mysticism."

    "Reading the comments on my Steve Keen post, I had an insight: banking is where left and right meet. Both the Austrians — who believe that whatever the market does is right, unless it’s fractional reserve banking, which is somehow terrible — and the self-proclaimed true Minskyites view banks as institutions that are somehow outside the rules that apply to the rest of the economy, as having unique powers for good and/or evil"

     "I guess I don't see it that way."

     I'm not sure why Krugman is supposed to be neoclassical. Most neoclassicals are pretty critical of Krugman these days. It may be to the extent that Keen believes Krugman is a proponent of the Efficient Market Hypothesis and believes in equilibrium. I suppose it's true that even the New Keynesians largely believe in EMH, although with varying degrees of qualification. Of course if Keen is right that a New Keynesian treatment disqualfies you of using an effective model in understanding Minsky than that would explain it.

     Of any mainstream economist today Krugman even among the NKers is by far the one most willing to think outside the box. He questions even DSGE itself, and goes as far as claiming that he finds what for people like Sumner and Cochrane is a bugaboo-IS-LM-is if anything more accurate in getting the picture-Krugman says that the "fancier models" of DSGE are more helpful just as aids to check your work.

     It would seem that Krugman comes closet among mainstream economists to having an open mind and his Krugman's Insurgency the field of economics has recently roiled the consensus of mainstream macro. He has become the bane of the existence for people like Scott Williamson, who wonder were the good Krugman has gone before he went over to the dark side.

    For more on Krugman's Insurgency see Noah Smith at Noahpinion

    If I had to answer this I'd say a few things may be happening. One is that since taking up his position at the New York Times, Krugman has become more and more sensitive to reader backlash in calling him must another smug neoclassical-'yeah you're suffering, and I'm not but hey the market's efficient, so you have to deal with it, and maybe try making better choices as I have."

    Not that I believe his move is mostly due to this-he has changed his world view over time, you can see it by going through what he's written over the years. Is it a vice to do so or must we have the same view always, regardless of what changes in the world?

    Having said all this for Krugman, it is true of course, that none of this makes him right. And while he is the most unorthodox among mainstream economists today, that doesn't preclude that he is still too orthodox is some important ways-I won't try to answer this nay or yay, now just speaking in principle.

   It is however, interesting to consider Minsky on his own terms-apart from whether Keen is right that Krugman gives an inadequate look at him or not. Minsky has a lot to say about two things. One of course, is the "Minsky Moment" which describes the economy going into an overheated bubble. Since the crisis many, indeed many on Wall Street, have spoken of him now. Superficially his critique of the bubble economy might even sound Austrian.

   What I find particularly interesting about him however is what he says about deep recessions and depressions. An economy-previously in a bubble-that is about to go into a deep downturn has a couple of options according to Minsky:

    "As the boom collapses, the fundamental problem facing the economy is one of excessive divergence between the debts incurred to purchase assets, and the cash flows generated by them—with those cash flows depending upon both the level of investment and the rate of inflation. "

   "The level of investment has collapsed in the aftermath of the boom, leaving only two forces that can bring asset prices and cash flows back into harmony: asset price deflation, or current price inflation. This dilemma is the foundation of Minsky's iconoclastic perception of the role of inflation, and his explanation for the stagflation of the 1970s and early 1980s."

     This shows us the two choices very starkly. In the Depression, we pursued the "liqidantionist" line, that is to say, asset price deflation. This time, in 2008, we again saw a lot of asset price deflation. What is fascinating is what Minsky had to say bout the "stagflationist" 70s. In particular,, is his book, "Stabilizing and Unstable Economy" where he analyses the recession of 1975. This was in many ways worldwide, not just in the US.

    "The existence of a large, increasing proportion of disposable income that is independent of employment or the profitability of business is beneficial, for it sustains demand and thus sustains demand and thus avoids very deep and and sustained fall of the economy during a recession. On the other hand, the existence of such programs, combined with a tendency to expand their scope when the economy is in recession, if harmful, for they impart an inflationary bias in the economy. The increase in disposable income, even as employment and output decreased during 1973-75, is one reason prices kept rising during the recession."

   This was the time when we took the "road not taken" in 1929 or 2008. According to Minsky we would have had a Depression in 1975 except that in that case we went the route of price inflation. The very large government transfer payments, the automatic stabilizers made up for the loss in demand. Unemployment benefits in particular skyrocketed during the 1975 slump. This of course is what Keynesians like myself, Krugman, et al have urged in this slump.

  However, for Minsky this road is not without problems either. He does agree with the conservative reaction that there is something problematic about economic activity being so deeply dependent on government transfer payments. Though, to be sure he agrees with us liberals, that the alternative is a depression. Ultimately, neither road is good-they are both deeply problematic, though the price inflation route is at least in the short term better, Like much medicine there are deep side effects. Still, would you rather let the patient die, or give them the needed medical treatment and suffer some-even serious-side effects?

   In this same vein, I cam across this interesting essay by James Crotty, it was back in 1986, yet it still of interest today, certainly, though some of the predictions it makes have not been so prophetic-perhaps, unfortunately on some issues.

    The essay tries to bring together Minsky, with Keynes, and yes also Marx. Strange bedfellows? Crotty acknowledges this:

     "As I see it, Marx, Keynes, and Minsky might all be embarrassed to be found in bed together, but they are not such strange bedfellows after all. Each has his role to play in constructing a theory of political economy adequate to our needs."

     He sees all three as sort of complementing each other and making up for what the others lack. He seems to offer what he sees as a solution to the recurring problem in economics-do you allow debt-deflation or do you re-inlfate prices?

     Cotty seems to think that this is a problem of capitalist economies that could be solved by more social investment-the government taking a more-perhaps a much more-active part in making investment decisions for the economy. He quotes Keynes as mentioning something like this in The General Theory. He does point out that Keynes never really tells us how we might practically achieve this, politically. This of course is the problem of economics as a social science-it can't predict where the political waters may go.


    Cotty believes this was the strength of Marx-to do a better job of relating economic issues and needs to the political sphere. Ultimately, he himself doesn't really tell us what this social investment might look like. During the New Deal, here in the US we did see the government in the South particularly make a lot more investments-the TVA especially notably. Michael Lind has argued that until the TVA and then finally, WWII, the South was essentially a Third World country within the First World United States-the East was the true First World. The South was not fully modernized till WWII.

    Interesting, in any case. I'm not sure what the ultimate answer to this question is-I still am partial to Keynesian re-inflation though I recognize that Minsky's qualms about inflation can't be wholly dismissed out of hand.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where He Gets it From: George Zimmerman's Dad

      Listening to Zimmerman's father certainly doesn't do anything to make us feel that race was not the major determining factor in George's killing Trayvon Martin. What Zimmerman's father actually said was very similar to what Glenn Beck said when he got fired.

      He feels that there is something very unfair, indeed "hateful" about how "many groups" have treated his son. These groups are Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, and other African American groups.

      Who even knows what it was that the President said that the sick mind of this many finds "hateful." Certainly he might want to think twice about trying to help George as it gives us a much better idea of where he might have gotten his racists attitudes from.

     Not surprisingly, he made this comment during an interview on Fox and his statements are very similar to Sean Hannity's racist comments about this tragedy. Seems like there is always somewhere racist scum can get a hearing at-Fox News, etc.

     But the cluelessness of this man explains a lot about how Zimmerman got here.

Ann Coulter Doesn't Like Charlatans Yet Supports Romney

      Recently in a pitch of honesty Ann Coulter observed that there are more  charlatans in her
Republican party than among the Democrats. That is true by far. So evidently she does not like charlatans. On the other hand she supports Mitt Romney. So which is it? Talk about mixed messages. Romney just keeps on keeping on, he's the little engine that can't. His latest is to tell Jay Leno's audience that if you are 46 and with no health insurance you can drop dead.

     But to get health care if you haven't already spent lots of money on health insurance-"can't do it!' Romney declares.

      Yet Romney is the one who both passed the individual mandate in Massachusetts and urged Obama to do the same thing in a USA Today op-ed piece in 2009. Yet Romney is running on eliminating RomneyCare within hours of inauguration. And this pandering is supposedly going to work his campaign thinks.

     There is not a single thing authentic about Mr. Romney. Nothing. He has promised to literally "end" Planned Parenthood if elected, meanwhile him and his wife, Ann Romney used to be supporters of Planned Parenthood back in Mass.

     However nothing is more inauthentic than when he tries to be a regular guy. His "jokes" always fall flat, like his latest about how when his dad was trying to run in Michigan, he, Mitt, messed it up by talking about 'Wisconsin-where his dad had relocated costing lots of Michigan jobs.

    Add to this inauthentic streak of his, his congenital inability to empathize and is there any wonder that the more we hear about Romney the less we like him?

Firedoglake's Firebaggers Want to See ObamaCare Fail

     No real surprise here as someone who used to comment there regularly-till I got banned for something or other. To be sure David Dayen wrote a pretty good article about the SCOTUS fight over the ACA.

     This link was one Tuesday March 27.

     I know using words life "firebagger" seems problematic for some, but, when you come to it that's politics for you. In current America, you have the teabaggers on the Right, the Obamabots in the Center, and the firebaggers on the Left.

     Dayen's analysis was mostly spot on but then looking at the catty, snarky comments section reminds me of the good old days at FDL being the resident "Obamabot."

     TammanyTiger comes out with major snark, "So Verrilli did a terrible job."

     "As did the White House and the Democratic leadership in both Houses of Congress in coming up with this crap sandwich that Verrilli is trying to defend."

     "Just think: if the Court strikes down this awful bill, Barack Obama will go into the election with zero major legislative accomplishments. Whiffing on an entire presidential term is quite a feat."

       Sure, he whiffed an entire term. No accomplishments at all-he didn't kill Osama bin Laden and the economy didn't go from 10.1% unemployment losing 750,000 jobs a month down to 8.3% gaining over 200,000 jobs a month. But no doubt Tammany hopes it goes down as this is his fault, not the GOP Justices that vote against it-who were appointed by 'GOP Presidents. No, let's have Romney. He'll magically give us single payer.

     How about this from ECANhomics"

      "The other 8 are there to make you think there are 2 sides. On book salon a week or so ago, Ari Berman did not understand that O’s appointees are conservatives whose job is to vote the other side so voters won’t recognize how conservative they are until O is reelected, and appoints some real horror shows in his second term. (Wonder if Herman Cain is available.)"

       Yeah, love the logic. We should work hard to help the Republicans win this election to avoid Herman Cain. If Obama hires conservatives who vote liberal-then doesn't this kind of make them liberal? Again, the upside down logic.

       Shutterbuggery, goes off on a fantastic conspiracy theory:

        "Ever think Verrilli was *supposed* to do a terrible job? That way everybody gets a piece of the Victory Pie."

        Ok, so Obama desires "to whiff"he's deliberately taking a dive. Finally revisionist gives us what I think is the true FDL  general line:

       " I think it actually paves the way to SINGLE PAYER.The court striking this down is the best possible outcome IMO."

       Sure. If ACA goes down many people who are finally gaining health insurance, including women will lose it again, but it's all to the good, righteous firebagger cause-wanting to see Obama fail. I remember how mad they got over there when I pointed out that this desire they share with Rush Limbaugh. I mean can Mitch McConnell desire that Obama be a one term President more than the firebaggers?

     Somehow people with preexisting conditions losing benefits is going to magically give us the vaunted single payer, which is the only thing firebaggers find acceptable. It's all or nothing. If we can't have single payer in it's entirety today, well let's not do anything at all to help the 53 million uninsured Americans.

    I'm sure that if only Obama would fail universal Justice, Goodness, and Mercy will reign eternal upon the earth. I mean Mitt Romney telling an audience that "no, we don't play that game" of helping anyone without an ability to pay for insurance is a step up over the individual mandate.

    The logical way to proceed is the shortest distance between to points. What we learn from firebaggers is that the shortest distance to universal health care is not do anything that improves things if it doesn't immediately grant universal health care. No matter that by this logic we would never have had Social Security-in it's initially passed version in 1935, only about 5% of Americans were covered and it wasn't slated to start till 1942.

     So if ACA covers more than 50% of the uninsured that's not good enough and we shouldn't procced-there's no way that it could ever be extended in time like Social Security was. We don't care if women have already gotten help from it, and if many have already benefited. What we need to do is snatch it away from them, elect Mitt Romney, and start from the beginning. I'm sure that if the Republicans could only get all three houses of government we will have single payer by the evening of Romney's first day.

    We should also take away the new right that ACA gives the states to offer single payer or public option if they like. All that matters is seeing that Obama fails, gloating about his "whiffs" and this will magically give us single payer. Could road between Romney being elected and single payer be any clearer and straightforward?

Are the Ny Jets Super Bowl Champions?

     You'd think so by reading the back page headlines of the NY sports pages.  Which is fine. Hey as a Giants fan I wouldn't trade places with them in a million years. We won 2 improbable Super Bowls in 5 years so the Jets and coach Coughlin is about to sign a contract extension so the Jets can have their notoriety.

     Coughlin in his usual understated way said he had no doubt that New Yorkers know who the champions are. Actually Giants President and co-owner John Mara who quipped that the Giants plan to call a press conference for David Carr.

     Guess we should give the Jets their due-they are officially the boys of Spring. Of course the NFL starts in the fall. Can this work? It could but it seems to have very long odds against it. Really when you're doing QB math one plus one doesn't equal two, it doesn't even equal one.

     I want in on the pool that predicts how long it will take for Jet fans to start demanding Tebow. will it even take a game? It's not hard to get why Elway wanted Tebow out of Denver. He is the worst of all worlds from management's stand point. He's got a cult like following but it's still debatable if he has anywhere the skills needed to justify it. Of course the Jets-who claim to have decided against going after Peyton Manning-could/t resist. Yeah there's Jet logic for you. They want us to believe that they didn't want Manning but think Tebow is worth it.

    What's worse if you're a Jets fan: that it isn't true-more likely-or that it is. Enjoy the limelight now boys, cause we won't be talking about you next January.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mitt Romney-Palin's Gamechanger on Russia

    I watched the widely viewed Gamechanger cable movie recently about the McCain 2008 campaign's fateful decision to pick Palin as McCain's vice president.

   Going in I was under no illusions about who Ms. Palin is-and isn't-this is after all someone who was caught with the answers to debate questions written on her hands once.

   Still watching it was a little bracing. Yes I of course was aware that she doesn't know the difference between North and South Korea and that she claimed that she knew a lot about Russia because you can see it from Alaska.

     In the movie though you got the idea of just how illiterate she truly is on some pretty basic political questions. The campaign tried to give her a crash history lesson. They literally explained to her that Germany was our main enemy combatant in WWI and WWII.

    It also emerged that she has no idea what the Fed is much less what it does.

    Palin might be the most ignorant candidate ever on a Presidential ticket-though we should always be careful about such assumptions. I'm sure Bush's team had to be pretty thorough in briefing him though clearly she is on a whole new level even from him. In the end they decided to not try to explain anything to her and simply wrote her lines for her.

     Mitt Romney is supposed to be a person of some actual substance. He comes from a venerable tradition with his father the moderate Republican from Michigan and his own history of public service.

    However, Romney recently pulled his own Palin. Unable to check himself in his rush to capitalize on the mic being on and overhearing Obama in a discussion with the outgoing Russian President Medevev, Mitt went out and declared that Obama should not be making "secret deals" with Medevev as Russia is "by far" our biggest geopolitical enemy. Meanwhile no one other than maybe Sara Palin is so stupid as to know that this is far from the truth today, and last week he was saying the same thing about Iran-at least that's a little closer to reality.

     Romney seems to have no shame in how far down this road he will go in pandering. Not only is he a phony, shameless, panderer, but he's really bad at it.

Health Care Law in Trouble in Supreme Court Case?

       That was an early consensus of many media analysts yesterday. This was based on the tone of the questions of the conservative justices including Anthony Kennedy who many thought could give the law it's fifth vote-the four liberals are expected to vote for it.

        There were a lot of "slippery slope" questions that were of the reduction abusrdem form-'as the government can force or mandate private citizens to enter a market where can we draw a line?'

         Of course, the trouble with reduction absurdem arguments is they aren't always very compelling; they can simply be misleading as I think they tiresome question of the government somehow being left free to order us to eat broccoli was.

          Kennedy asked a question as to whether or not this new law indicates a fundamentally new relationship between private citizens and the government.

           A few observations. For one thing, this SJC challenge is nothing new-it was done for Social Security, the National Labor Board, and Medicare.  Whenever something new in this way is passed, there are conservatives that force it to the Supreme Court.

            Of course these previous challenges were met. The proviso is that these were more liberal courts-actually the court for FDR had been rather obstructionist-"the Four Horsemen of Reaction" till FDR suggested his court packing scheme.

            At the present, the distinction between the Affordable Care Act and Social Security and Medicare is that these are funded through straightforward taxation-the government is recognized as having this power.

            The slippery slope and reduction absurdem arguments are often misleading. There's no reason why we have to believe that the health care mandate will at some point mean we will be forced to have a gym membership, cell phones, or broccoli.

            One obvious difference is that health care is a basic need in the way that a cell phone or gym membership isn't. There is reason to wonder whether or not the health care market is different. With all the talk about it being wrong for some to have to pay for the health care of others, this is how private health insurance works by definition.

             Health care is only a profitable industry because there are much more healthy people who pay the premiums than sick.

              There is reason to think that Kennedy may get this,, at least he did say something later that suggested health care insurance may be different in terms of markets. Indeed, Kennedy did ask some tough questions of the plaintiffs' later on.

             You can definitely read too much into the questions. This is not by itself always much of a gauge. It may be that we will see yet another 5-4 win for conservatives, but not necessarily. The tone of questions is not enough to prove this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Laurence O'Donnell Hammers Joe Oliver

      Wow! If you missed Laurence tonight you missed a classic. I can't think of a more masterful job out of a tv news host. He simply blew away Joe Oliver tonight-with the help of New York Times Charles Blow and Jonathan Capehart.

     By the end of the interview it was pretty clear that Oliver is a complete fraud. He has been making the rounds, doing the tv interviews claiming to be a close friend of George Zimmerman and has vouched for Zimmerman as someone who acted in self defense-though he wasn't there, he's sure it was self-defense.

     What became clearer as the interview is that he is not a close friend or even a close acquaintance. The only meaningful connection Laurence was able to find was that they actually have worked for the same employer.

     By the end O'Donnell admitted to being puzzled why on the "gut feeling" Oliver claims to have that Zimmerman did it out of self-defense is committing his whole life now to speaking on his behalf. Laurence asked him how can he do this-how will he get paid?

    What I suspect is that Oliver is some sort of paid operative. That's certainly the implication of the interview though O'Donnell never quite explicitly states it. That would explain the fact that Oliver and Zimmerman were actually co-workers.

Scott Sumner's Freshwater Apologetics For the Housing Bubble

     Sumner is one of those Right wing economists who tries to claim that some very simple things that exist, don't exist at all. It's fascinating to me that when we discuss tax policy, the Right wing pundits and think tanks all come out with apologetic op-eds claiming that even to call someone rich is out of bounds, so when ever they discuss the question of wealth distribution they call the rich, "the rich" as if it's debatable whether anyone in the world is or has ever been in a position to be accurately described as rich.

    Another word that guys like Sumner try to pretend is somehow problematic is "bubble", so there was not bubble in 2004-2006, and the only problem was that the Fed let NGDP fall. In his latest, Sumner concludes there was no bubble based on a highly selective analysis of housing starts and the unemployment rate between 2006-2009. He looks at housing starts vs. housing completions and then the unemployment  rate and that tears it. Let's listen to his oh so facile analysis:

    First the numbers that cinch it:

     "an. 2006:  starts =  2,303,000,   completions = 2,058,000,  average = 2,180,000, U-rate = 4.7%"

     "April 2008: starts = 1,008,000, completions =1,014,000,   average =  1,011,000, U-rate = 4.9%"

    "October 2009: starts = 527,000, completions =  745,000,    average = 636,000.  U-rate = 10.1%"

      Really not clear what this is supposed to prove. In 2009, starts and completions where way down as was the average of starts and completions and the unemployment rate had swelled to 10.1% and this shows there was no bubble?

       Obviously he confuses the correlation of the bubble and high unemployment. No one thinks that during a bubble, certainly not a housing bubble' you're going to see unemployment spike, to the contrary you'd expect to see it low during the bubble. The idea is that bubbles eventually pop and when they do, the fallout will be a lot worse than otherwise would have been. If there is a bubble today, it will at some point lead to high unemployment tomorrow. To compare current housing starts and completions in 2006 to the unemployment rate of the time is comparing apples to oranges.

     The correct comparison would be housing starts and completions in 2006 and unemployment in 2009.  After wholly misconstruing the analysis, Sumner can declare with typical facileness that:

     "If the great housing construction crash of January 2006 to April 2008 didn’t “drive the economy too far from its full employment path,” I think we can safely assume that no housing crash will ever cause a recession in the US"

   "Too bad the Fed let NGDP fall in late 2008."

    Listen, no one believes in the virtue of simplicity more than me, but often the way Sumner and the rest of the Right wing apologists-Cochran, Lucas, et al.-use simplicity mangles it into a vice.  Is it not obvious that Sumner's whole NGDP is such a case of overstating his case by oversimplification?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

George Zimmerman's Attorney Craig Sonner Speaks Out

     There are definitely signs that the national outcry about the Sanford police department in Florida simply letting George Zimmerman go with physical evidence still on his body, and the loaded gun he had used to shoot Trayvon Martin dead still in his possession is forcing the resolution most Americans want to see.

     With Rick Scott now making the case a state issue, and with Sanford City Manager Bonaparte Norton having Sanford police chief Bill Lee step down-temporary or not, I tend to think that temporary is more for Lee's benefit, I think there's a good chance he won't be back in any case-clearly things are going in the right direction, which of course is the criminal investigation and trial of Robert Zimmerman for his actions. The idea that the Sanford police had decided that they had no basis to question Zimmerman's own explanation was absurd.

    What's interesting is that with Zimmerman's attorney Craig Sonner speaking out yesterday he said that while his client is arguing that this was self-defense he seems to think that they won't use the infamous Stand Your Ground law to argue for his innocence. Sonner says the thinks that's mostly applicable to a home invasion scenario and that his client will be arguing from the age old legal defense of simply self defense.

    From the point of view of Zimmerman this is probably very wise as that law is very polarizing and has a very bad reputation right now. However, it does beg some questions. From what we've heard since this case broke, Stand Your Ground has been used in a much broader way than simply defense of your home and property, even drug dealers have used it as a defense.

     Especially problematic, is the fact that Stand Your Ground is the reason cited by the Sanford police for why they had to accept Zimmerman's version of events.

     Sonner insists that his client is not a racist and that it's wrong to make this about race, that Zimmerman was actually a big brother to young black men and black women. Of course this doesn't prove that it wasn't a race issue. The anecdotes that Zimmerman's friends and family never thought of him as a racist hardly settles the matter.

      Unfortunately, Mr. Sonner cannot simply declare questions about racism out of bound. The reality is that we have those conversations with the police where he mentioned race, seemed to be preoccupied with blacks.

     The big problem is the question of the "vacuum." If not Trayvon's race, what was it about him that Zimmerman found so threatening that he shot him-while unarmed-dead?  At a trial, Sonner will have to explain what the perceived threat was if not race and a jury will decide if this is reasonable. We get that Zimmerman was very threatened but was this anxiety reasonable or was it due to an inordinate fear of black people?

     This is a question for a trial to figure out. Mr. Sonner simply cannot rule this question out of bounds before a trial. The real outrage is the way Zimmerman was allowed to leave with physical evidence and how the Sanford rested on his word alone. Zimmerman does deserve a fair trial as anyone else does, but he does not deserve to be able to avoid a trial. Hopefully we will have one soon. The American people demand this.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Brave New World 3.0: Windows 8 Will Have a Kill Switch

    The headlines about Microsoft's much anticipated Window 8 have been earth shattering the last few days. Turns out Windows 8-may-have a "kill switch." Interestingly there is a heavy metal group with that name.

    The fast and furious headlines declare "The Windows 8 Kill Switch: A Hacker's Dream Come True" , "Windows 8 Will Have a Kill Switch" by Vigilant Citizen and "The Kill Switch: They Can Remotely Modify Your Window" at The Hacker News.,2817,2400985,00.asp

     I love the sense you get of Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. Listen to Vigilant Citizen:

     "With the rollout of the Windows 8 operating system expected later this year, millions of desktop and laptop PCs will get kill switches for the first time. Microsoft (MSFT) hasn’t spoken publicly about its reasons for including this capability in Windows 8 beyond a cryptic warning that it might be compelled to use it for legal or security reasons. The feature was publicized in a widely cited Computerworld article in December when Microsoft posted the terms of use for its new application store, a feature in Windows 8 that will allow users to download software from a Microsoft-controlled portal. Windows smartphones, like those of its competitors, have included kill switches for several years, though software deletion “is a last resort, and it’s uncommon,” says Todd Biggs, director of product management for Windows Phone Marketplace."

   "Microsoft declined to answer questions about the kill switch in Windows 8 other than to say it will only be able to remove or change applications downloaded through the new app store. Any software loaded from a flash drive, DVD, or directly from the Web will remain outside Microsoft’s control. Still, the kill switch is a tool that could help Microsoft prevent mass malware infections. “For most users, the ability to remotely remove apps is a good thing,” says Charlie Miller, a researcher with the security company Accuvant."

    "The history of kill switches on smartphones and e-readers suggests they’re double-edged swords for the companies that wield them. In 2009, Amazon reached into users’ Kindles to delete e-book copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm that had been sold by a publisher without the necessary rights. The ensuing backlash caused Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to call the move “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.”

     "The reluctance of tech companies to set explicit policies for when they will and will not use kill switches contributes to the fear they’ll be abused. Civil rights and free speech advocates worry that tech companies could be pressured by governments to delete software or data for political reasons. “You have someone who has absolute control over my hard drive in ways I may have never anticipated or consented to,” says Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University’s law school in California. “If they use that power wisely, they actually make my life better. We don’t know if they use the power wisely. In fact, we may never know when they use their power at all.”

    We have the usual worries about "absolute control" of your hardrive without your consent. This kill switch then is not absolutely new but before they have been used on smart phones, this will be the first time they will be used largely on pcs. But to read the headlines it reminds us of the Cold War era with the headlines that  the Soviets just got the bomb. My take in this sort of stuff is to not want to put a lid on innovation. I understand in theory this can worry some about "absolute control without consent" but I usually feel like whatever the problems the main effect is to the good. This kill switch could be very helpful in dealing with virus issues-something I know all too much about.

    I rather incautisously look forward to the next development of the Brave New World. Let the techno-revolution continue. We got some big things coming out of the big three-Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Just as big as the upcoming Windows 8 is Google's coming Android terminal.


Pat Robertson Puts a Curse on Broncos For Trading Tebow

      He pointed out that Peyton has been injured and if he goes down again they won't have a QB and that "that in my opinion would serve them right."

      Actually this is nothing new for Robertson, he's been putting curses on people who think are "sinful" for years. Or more often just declaring that people who misfortune befalls deserve what they got, that it's punishment from God.

     So ,famously, after 9-11, he declared that we Americans had been punished for our liberalism. our permissiveness, our secular decadence and turning away from God. Turns out 9-11 was a case of us "reaping what we sow."

     After the earthquake in Haiti he said it was it's just desserts for turning to witchcraft in breaking away from France.

     His attitude is also symptomatic of a larger attitude I've noticed in many who love Tebow for his religiousity. Denver somehow did something wrong, or at least very "tacky"-this was the claim of a Wall St Journal op-ed for "doing this" to Tebow.

     Bare in mind that Tebow had a 46% completion rate and often throws for less than 100 yards in teh game and has far from proven that he is an NFL level quality QB-the jury is still out.

     This is a league that once saw the great Joe Montana benched and unceremoniously shipped of to Kansas City for the end of his career in favor of Steve Young. Yet, because Tebow is highly religious he somehow should be exempt from the rules of the NFL. This sentimental editorial at the WSJ of all places!

      A good point made on Boomer and Carton this morning is that the is NY-we don't have as many Bible thumpers out here. So Tebow may find a lot more cynicism. It will also be a real drag for all these Jet players who will have to keep answering questions about a backup QB.

      I got to admit a few things. One: I'm not a religious guy. I kind of see Tebow mania as a function that he's very white and very religious. More than being white, he is just so whitebread. It irks me a little. On the other hand I'm a Giants fan and find all this comic relief more than anything. Talk about send in the clowns. The clowns being Jets management.


Greg Smith, Goldman Sachs and Job Creating and Killing

      There has been varied reaction to Smith's recent op-ed in the NY Times that criticizes the culture at Goldman Sachs. The Right decries it as giving aid and comfort to "banker bashing", the Center sees it as largely uplifting and salutary that he as a former insider is setting the record straight, but then the hard Left is less impressed.

    Actually what the Left and Right both point out that he had a good run there before his sudden pang of conscience.

    "Vasant Ramachandran, a Stanford student, said he questioned why Smith spent 12 years working his way up at Goldman Sachs and only spoke out after the firm became an easy target in the media."

     "A hero or whistleblower reveals new information about something he feels is wrong when there is still time to stop it, at great social and personal cost to himself," Ramachandran said. "Mr. Smith reveals his discomfort with Goldman after he has reaped every benefit possible for 12 years and after everything that he says has already been said or established beyond the point of recovery."

     Jim Cramer on yesterday's show displayed his usual admirable facility for double, triple and even "quadruple" talk by saying that Smith someone did something wrong by saying something-that he wouldn't do something like that after profiting handsomely for 12 years-somehow it's bad form to rat out Goldman-but then saying that the company will do everything to make sure that this sort of thing is stamped out and praising Goldman for it's determination

     Evidently, Goldman has been reacting quite sharply to all this. It has apparently gone as far as to scour emails for the word "muppets."

     Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine who has some experience in the financial and brokerage industry. She told me that a friend of hers that works at Goldman Sachs here in NY recently got fired along with his whole office. What was the reason? Evidently since Smith's piece came out, they have been losing money and had to make the cuts.

    So whatever one thinks of /Smith's piece-I kind of found it unsurprising, I assume this sort of stuff happens; it's a little more interesting that it was from an insider-one impact of it is that a number of people have lost their jobs. Which is kind of interesting-many of us here get into some discussions and debates about what creates vs. kill jobs and is good for the economy but who would have guessed that Smith's piece actually would kill many jobs?

Norton Bonaparte Does the Right Thing: Bill Lee Resigns

     He seemed not to get it last night and I wrote about it in a previous post but he clearly did get the picture, so lets give him some credit. He initially was going to wait on some investigation starting in April but thought the better of it.

     UPDATE: Unfortunately he has later done some stuff behind the seens that shows he still doesn't really get it.

     What's with Norton Bonaparte anyway?

    Here is the previous post I wrote. This case has been a real lightening rod, that has touched a deep nerve in national psyche. So many people-including some conservative Republicans want justice for this young man, Trayvon Martin.

    This post has now already in one day become my most read post ever here at Diary of a Republican Hater.

    Today I'm happy to say that we have seen a lot of positive developments. Bonaparte got it and Bill Lee has "temporarily" stepped down. The Florida Governor Rick Scott has done the right thing and changed the attorney handling this case. The case is now going to be handled by the state and there will be a task force to review the whole process.

     There are positive developments though obviously, the goal is to achieve justice for Trayvon Martin. This means arresting George Zimmerman and holding him accountable in facing a criminal trial. If there's any case that he can make for genuine self-defense let him make it there.

    While most Americans get this there are still the usual flat-earthers like this fellow who didn't leave his name but left this comment on my previous post:

    "Geez, you all pick on everyone who doesn't jump and do what you want and when you want. Why not give Mr. Bonaparte a second to listen to everything before you make judgement. Funny how you don't want people to make judgment on Trayvon and his family, but it's okay for you. Double standards. I do live in Sanford, and he has done a pretty good job so far. So far what I see is a bunch of bullies calling for everyones job who doesn't jump when told to."

     Yeah. Geez is right. Yes let's take a "second" though it's already been over a month. Some things don;t require endless deliberation. As a former policeman was saying on Laurence O'Donnell pointed out tonight, this case is not hard. Someone was killed. We know who did it-George Zimmerman. Where is the confusion?

     I answered this anonymous commentator this way:

     "Anon what judgment on Trayvon and his family do you want to make? You really are shameless. It's not enough that they lost their son yet you want to smear his name and the family's name in death. "

    "Trayvon was the victim. Zimmerman murdered him. Sorry-there's not debate about this. He shot him dead. So I can judge him. I can judge that sorry police chief Bill Lee who between his racism and his love of guns let a murderer walk out with the murder weapon."

     "If you in anyway defend him, there's something wrong with you too."

    "You are a bigger bully than anyone. You probably are in love with Rush Limbaugh and get sexually turned on at the thought of a dead black kid or when women are insulted by Rush and company."

       Yeah, as you can see I don't have much patience for this kind of argument  right now. Calling people who want justice "bullies" the usual perverse spectre of blaming the victim-go talk to Rush. For the rest of us we demand justice for Trayvon Martin.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Disappointing Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte

      Laurence O'Donnell had him on last night and evidently, I'm not the only one who found him disappointing. Despite Laurence's questioning him and Al Sharpton also calling him out, he gave no sign that he really gets it.

     UPDATE: Due to this feeling Mr. Bonaparte later reversed himself

     NEW UPDATE: Today Bill Lee asked to resign and the City Commission inexplicitly refused to accept it. It is believed City Manager Norton Bonaparte applied pressure

     What's with Norton Bonaparte anyway?

     Now maybe I'm mistaken, maybe he wanted to be careful in the interview and not make news but you can't tell. As Laurence's next guests-two leading "hoodie" activists-commented, he seems a little too careful.

     He definitely was careful. I think even worse than careful is that he seemed too patient. As the City Manager of Sanford, he is the people's first representative. He's supposed to cry his residents' tears, share their pain, feel and express their anger. If he does feel what they feel, what all of us who feel the pain of Trayvon's friends, family and community he shouldn't be patient.

    If Mr. Bonaparte gets it, if he feels the people's pain he should understand the point O'Donnell and Sharpton were making to him-that police chief Bill Lee, needs to at the minimum be suspended and is not fit to continue his duties at this time.

    If you feel the pain of Trayvun's family then you're impatient. You aren't mollified that Bonaparte has promised an investigation on April 15-you feel a tremendous sense of outrage and urgency. Every day, every minute before April 15 that we have a murderer-Robert Zimmerman-free and the chief of the police department that let Mr. Zimmerman walk out with the gun he killed Trayvun with still loaded, secure in his job is an intolerable injustice. A moral travesty.

Jets Show Secret of Their Success in Getting Tebow

     Of course the Jets have not had too much success. And the way they've handled this gives us a good idea how it's been 43 years and counting since they've done anything.

     You've gotta hand it to them. They make two very big bad moves. Each one on its own was probably really wrong but together it's the recipe for disaster.

      First they give Sanchez a major contract extension a dubious move for a QB that has yet to really prove himself. He had two years left on his contract what was the need to do this?

      But ok, you gave him a brand new 5 year contract. How, now do you offer a major contract to Tim Tebow? How exactly is this going to work?

      Sanchez is going to start with Tebow on the bench? That in its own way is unfair to both of them. It forces Sanchez to always have to be looking over his shoulder. Every time he has a bad game, a bad quarter or makes a bad play there will be speculation if it's now Tebow time. Some people think that's good for QBs, I for one certainly don't agree that this is the way to make a QB play his best.

      It's not really fair to Tebow either. While I tend to agree with Elway that Tebow is basically wildly overrated, I do think that he at least as earned the right to get a shot at starting. Does he really want to be the understudy for the next 5 years?

     "The third option, which is to have Sanchez as the starter and Tebow as the occasional option for gimmick plays, has disaster written all over it. In the NFL, option plays only work when the defense doesn't know who's getting the ball. That's why the Miami Dolphins had so much success with the Wildcat in 2008 -- running back Ronnie Brown was the shotgun quarterback, and defenses didn't know whether they were coming or going. When the Dolphins tried option quarterbacks like Pat White in specific circumstances only, advanced defense sniffed those tactics out, and the Wildcat died a quick death at the professional level."

       The reality of it is that in the NFL QB by committee never works. When has a QB tandem ever worked? Never. If you try to just send Tebow in for certain plays it will be the worst of all worlds.

       In many ways that sums up the Jets. The needlessly signed a borderline QB to a long contract, then undercut that questionable move with another one. In the NFL you get one good QB-at most. You don't usually have a great backup as if he's so great he won't want to be a backup.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

George Zimmerman Needs to be Arrested

      Every moment this person remains free is a travesty. Whatever it takes. If the State of Florida is going to give him a pass then the Feds have to step in and do the job and while they're at it, they should invest the police department that let this man go on just his own word that "he felt threatened."

      As for this Stand Your Ground law, if it is so perverse it allows a murderer to go free then it be disregarded and overturned. In any case, Federal law trumps state law, so there's no excuse for throwing up our hands and saying "Gee we don't like this so well but it's the law!"

     Not surprisingly the sorry legacy of this law-the homicide rate has spiked since its passage in 2005 we have yet another Bush to thank, this time former Governor Jeb Bush. This law was supposed to prevent crime if you can believe anything so absurd.

      To be sure, you could have a reasonable law that allowed you to defend yourself-perhaps, I'm someone who suspects that the gun control advocates are probably right that if you possess a weapon you probably have increased rather than decreased your chance of getting hurt, or hurting someone else.. But this law is applied in a way that lets stone blooded killers go free-no this is not the first time.

     This case is made all the more appalling as Zimmerman clearly had a preoccupation with race and perhaps something of an obsession about crime-he had called the police 50 times over the last year. Some might argue that as a member of the neighborhood watch he was right to do this. Certainly it would have been better if he had stuck to calling the police rather than taking the law into his own hands. The neighborhood watch handbook tells you that you can't follow a suspect or carry a guy.

     But then Zimmerman's particular watch was not even recognized as legitimate neighborhood watch group. In a positive development the Sanford police chief Bill Lee who chose not to arrest Zimmerman has just received a 2-1 "no confidence" vote.  Laurence O'Donnell has the City Manager, Norton Bonaparte on his show who Laurence tells us has the police chief's fate in his hands.

Another Fun Day With Long Island Bus and the MTA

     This morning I was coming home from my night job and was waiting for my transfer at the Hempstead Terminal here in Nassau, NY.

     I went to the machine to refill my MetroCard as I do every week. Some weird discrepancy happened where I paid with my ATM yet the credit didn't make it onto my card. So my mistake, I ask one of the security guards for help. I probably made the mistake as I myself am a security guard and thought these were trustworthy guys.

   This guy first of all starts wrapping my knuckles about how my card is too bent and old. I'm just like whatever. I mean I've been using it for about 3 months and no trouble before. But he's determined to blame it on the physical condition of the card. My concern is whether the money was taken out of my account as it clearly had not been credited to the card.

   He took the card to another machine as the one I was using was now not working at all. Within two seconds the machine eats the card. So he wants to blame it on the card. I'm a litte ticked. He's telling me they'll pay for my bus, but that doesn't help me much. That's one bus ride but what about the $20 lost on my ATM and the $6 that were still on the MTA card that he just fed to the machine never to return?

  So I'm complaining to the other guards, just whoever's there. And they of course are all just like it's my problem for using an older card. I'm like that gives them no business taking my money, the MTA doesn't get free money because someone uses an older card. So the guy that lost my card is taking this attitude that it's my problem, not his fault mine because of the card's condition.

   They keep trying to tell me they'll pay for my bus-I've already missed one during all this. So I'm out $26, I've missed my bus, these people are trying to turn it around on me like I'm doing something wrong, I should just grin and bear it. Great service yet again. I finally got the paper work to send to the MTA, the machine numbers the problem happened and the receipts.

   But what these guys don't get is that, sure maybe in weeks I might get my money back. But there's time sensitivity. What if that's my last $20-which it almost is. Finally, I'm must like screw it. I buy a new MetroCard-so I've spent $40 on it now and don't even bother to take them up on their free ride. Just not worth even bothering with them.

  Thanks a lot MTA! Another satisfied customer at Long Island Bus. The lesson is that next time I have an issue, I won't even bother to talk to these jokers. Not worth the trouble.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oops! They Did it Again: Knicks Blowout Raptors 106-87

      Definetly becoming a habit now. Woodsanity continued with 5 Knicks in double figures. Stoudemire led all scorers with a very strong all around game-22 points on 8 of 13 shooting and 12 rebounds. Lin was next with 18 points and 10 assists, with again only 2 turnovers. This has been a clear difference so far with Woodson-in the early going at least Lin has cut down the turnovers.

      The was Anthony with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists though on only 5 of 15 shooting. Chandler also had 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting.

      “Everybody feels great. Having fun, enjoying the game of basketball, and that’s what it’s about,” Stoudemire said. “When you enjoy doing your job, then it makes it much easier to play and that’s what’s happening right now.”

      “Guys are playing at a very high, confident level right now,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We just want to bottle that up and move on and keep it going.”

      "They’re a tenacious, different team,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.“It’s amazing, their tenacity, the way they attack. If you don’t meet it, they take you out.”

       "It’s fun. It’s fun to watch,” Woodson said. “Make no mistake about it, it was our defense that got us the spurt that we needed, and you know that’s what good teams are supposed to do. We’ve just got to bottle it up, man, and just continue to do it.”

        The Knicks came into this game averaging about 112 and giving up 89 in their first 3 games under Woodson so this game score was in line. Don't know if they can last, sure is fun while it lasts.



Romney to Women: Vote For the Other Guy

     Yes he said that-literally. He's that desperate to nail down the Right wing vote and out-Santorum Santorum.

      Is he really this clueless? Does he honestly have no concern about the votes of women-the statistical majority? That's what he said though. After a few women questioned him and one declared she wanted free birth control, the rich man who was born with a silver spoon in his piously answered "If you want free stuff, vote for the other guy."

     He has no concern that women may do that? Does he have any plan at all to stem the tide? Yes as it turns out. We saw it tonight at his campaign speech after winning Chicago. He had his wife speak.

     This evidently is his and Santorum's last line of defense-having his wife by his side. It's ok to vote for Mitt Romney. He's promised to end Planned Parenthood but he brings his wife to his campaign stops.

       "Beyond simply threatening Planned Parenthood, which provides necessary health care for millions of women, Romney has also called for cutting funds for Title X — the only federal program devoted to family planning — from the federal budget. He endorsed the so-called Blunt amendment to allow any employer to drop health insurance coverage for contraception and other health services on moral grounds, and spoke out against requiring employers and insurers to provide birth control coverage in their health care plans at no additional cost. Given that track record, many women and health advocates may indeed be inclined to “vote for the other guy.”

      Yeah, he's doubling down. He's making a big gamble-that women care more about seeing him with his wife than health care and reproductive freedom.

Turns Out Laurence O'Donnell Was Right About Debt Limit Deal

     Anyone who remembers last summer's three 4 month marathon in Congress over raising the debt limit-I know most of us have been trying to forget every since-might recall that it was not a good time politically for Obama.

     Back then before Diary of a Republican Hater really took off, I spent a good deal of time over at Firedoglake, before I was banned for no real reason. It was a hotbed of Obama hatred-still is assuredly. There was all kind of alarmist talk about how Obama wanted to end Social Security and Medicare. After all there was a point in the negotiations when Obama was reported to indicate he was willing to do something to cut Medicare-many inferred that he had in mind raising the eligibility age to start receiving Medicare benefits.

    Really no one actually knew but there were media reports that he had agreed to some kind of cut to Medicare. Firedoglake was apocalyptic. This was it. Obama had wanted this all the time, had planned to get rid of Medicare and here was the proof.

    There was talk of a Grand Bargain were there would be a deal that would cut $4 trillion dollars from the deficit over the next 10 years-with about $3 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in tax hikes. . FDL-and other bastions of firebaggers kept railing that this is it. Obama was ending Medicare in exchange for a couple of measly tax hikes.

    What's interesting is that the GOP balked. Mitch McConnell totally retreated. After this FDLers were were out of breath proclaiming that McConnell offered to drop the Medicare cuts but Obama perversely was forcing him to do some, that Obama was very upset having his Grand Bargain foiled.

     The one voice crying in the wilderness with a very different take was Laurence O'Donnell. He explained Obama's actions as part of a brilliant game of three card Monte. Of course this didn't please the Firebaggers who wailed that it's wrong for Obama to ever play a political game he must be totally up front and take the political hits. They kept using the derisive term "eleven dimensional chess.":

     In their mind, O'Donnell deserved pillorizing because he suggested that there are two sides to politics-campaigning and the practitioner side that sometimes does indeed require three card Monte or even eleven dimensional chess.

     In retrospect what you can't help notice is how much things have changed since last summer. Does anyone ever talk seriously about deficit reduction anymore? And isn't it now clear that the recovery in the US has been so much better than in Britain and the continent-of course the continent suffers as well by having no control over their respective currencies, being wholly at the mercy of the ECB- precisely because they practiced austerity but there was no deep austerity here-the final deal is very tame compared to say what David Cameron is doing in Britain. Off the subject Sumner's magic formula of NGDP targeting but with fiscal austerity doesn't seem to be panning out to the extent you believe as many Market Monetarists do, that English Central Bank President Mervyn King does something along the lines of NGDP.

    Is it possible that Obama deserves some credit for this? In a new book by the editor at Mother Jones, David Corn, it turns out that he does.

    "Obama shifted his own tactics in 2011, Corn writes, moving from compromising with Republicans to challenging the tea party. The president, senior adviser David Plouffe and other top administration officials plotted a “secret strategy” — by not unveiling a specific deficit reduction plan and not instantly challenging the House Republicans’ budget cuts — to “draw the GOP into a trap.”

   Read more:

    Corn's book is available at book stores starting next Tuesday, March 27. It looks like  a good one. It also discusses that Obama told labor leaders after the defeat in 2010 that Fox was partly responsible by poisoning white males against him with endless pieces claiming that Obama "might be" a Muslim.

    "Fed by Fox News, they hear Obama is a Muslim 24/7, and it begins to seep in…The Republicans have been at this for 40 years. They have new resources, but the strategy is old,” Corn recounted Obama as saying.

    Fox News is trying to deny this.

    However at Media Matters the Fox's sorry history of race baiting is documented.


More on the High Gas Prices Canard

     Media Matters makes the point that what would do a lot to protect us from high oil prices is to lessen consumption which can be achieved by alternative energy and of course better fuel efficiency. So in point of fact Obama has done a lot that will serve us well in the long term, by his greatly increasing fuel efficiency standards, down the road.

    Of course these positive effects won't be felt immediately, which enables the GOP to play short-term games-this is their same strategy with the Affordable HealthCare Act. But Media Matters actually makes another point that I didn't think about in the past but is dead on, that as oil is a global market who owns it and sells it makes much less difference than talk of "energy independence" suggests.

    Of course this is a simple-that is to say simplistic- issue that the GOP thinks could work-it's a desperation move as nothing else is. The calculus is this-people do see gas going up week after week, day after day, and on the other hand most people don't know much about economics-most people, most Americans at least, are afraid of simply mathematics. It's a lot simpler to understand "Obama did this. He must be punished!" than that this is part of global supply and demand and that there is little that Obama or any President can do about this in the short-term.

   So Fox News of course has been going to town:

    "More Than Half Of Fox News Coverage Falsely Suggested Obama Is Responsible. Our results show that Fox News covered gas prices far more often than other news outlets -- more than CNN and MSNBC combined. 55% of Fox News coverage suggested that President Obama is to blame for rising gas prices. In total, Fox blamed Obama 144 times in two months - more than three times as much as all other news outlets combined. These figures include guest quotes if they were not challenged by the anchor or author."

     Meanwhile in the real world:

     "Energy economist Severin Borenstein, a professor at U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business, explained: "Oil prices drive gasoline prices and current oil prices are high. But $125 per barrel oil today is no more the fault of President Obama than $147 oil was President Bush's fault in June 2008. There is very little the U.S. president can do to change oil prices over months or a few years. U.S. oil production was up 13 percent in 2011 over 2008, but still remains less than one-tenth of the world oil market." [U.S. News & World Report, 3/2/12]."

     "In a U.S. News & World Report column, Cato Institute fellows Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor wrote: "President Obama is no more responsible for production increases than other presidents were responsible for production declines. Unfortunately, presidents get blamed for world market changes that occur during their time in office ... but generally, they do not cause them." [U.S. News & World Report, 3/2/12"

     Notice this last point was made by Cato men. One wonders if David Koch is successful in taking over Cato such honest analysis will be possible anymore.