Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve Music

Since I've been researching "work," as in some people can't find any, you can understand I looked for "work" songs. Found this one. It's a little gross, like a Miley Cyrus bomb, but then again, like Miley might say, it's not for me to decide what Iggy Azalea does to express herself. And I get that this is how Iggy says she arrived at a place where she could work. Good for her. (A bit explicit, as the 'Tube makes clear.) Happy 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ted Cruz: I'm part Canadian. Ewww!

When I exorcize my Canadianness, I'll be really special!

Ted Cruz decides to exit the Danger Zone and remove any trace of his birth in Canada by dumping his dual citizenship. His constituency demands nothing less!

Or not, but why take the chance? And besides, everybody knows we respect people who think being Canadian -- in any way -- is similar to wearing the Mark of Cain.

Ted Cruz instinctively knows being Canadian can be harmful to your health.

Employers: Hire the Long-Term Unemployed First!

An inexplicable, massive pattern of employers discriminating against the long-term unemployed in their hiring practices has led to a large population of people unlikely to get a job, any job.

That population is the very group of people many of whom have just lost their unemployment-insurance payments because of Republican intransigence and Democratic pragmatism.

As Matthew Yglesias of Slate explains, " But mostly it's cruel."

Read Yglesias' article -- with links to studies -- to understand why it's so cruel.

Democrats: Bludgeon the crap out of Republicans until they pass an extension, fer chrissake. It's a winning issue. Hint: Champion popular issues, and 2014 is yours for the taking!

And, if you're an employer, please, hire those who have been out of work longest first. One, they need it more than anyone else, two, they'll be so grateful they're likely to be incredibly loyal, dedicated workers, and, three, it'll be good for the economy, just like it would be if you hired someone else, perhaps even more so.

So do it. It's easy, and it's smart. What's more, it's one of the most humane things you could do this year.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Benghazi Caused by the Video? Wait, That Can't Be Right...

"Admit it, Sec. Clinton, this is a document I'm holding, isn't?!?"

The obsession with the ugly attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, has been a lingering if incoherent narrative bridging the two Obama administrations, and no one pursued it more vigorously than House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.

The controversy cost Susan Rice her shot at Secretary of State -- though she recovered nicely, getting appointed National Security Advisor -- when she appeared on Meet the Press and indicated the attack was a spontaneous reaction to a crude video that put the prophet Muhammad in a bad light. The problem was that everyone knew it was a well-planned attack by elements of al Qaeda in Lybia, and Ambassador Rice was fully discredited.

Funny thing. It turns out, after a long investigation by the New York Times that the attack was, in part, a spontaneous attack prompted by the video, with an assist from local militias that weren't as friendly toward Americans as they had hoped. What's more, al Qaeda wasn't involved.

I don't need to list all the Republican politicians or the endless list of Fox News anchors, pundits, and correspondents that look pretty stupid after this story has appeared, but they were legion. Of course, they've all emerged in the past few days to apologize, right?

And Fox wasn't alone in the madness. Media Matters for America has released its Misinformer of the Year award for 2013 and it's not a person this time but the entire CBS News division for, among other things, its brutally botched blockbuster 60 Minutes report on what really happened at Benghazi, botched because none of it was true except that it was Benghazi where none of it really happened. Top-notch journalism!

CBS News was responsible for other breaches of journalistic practice -- read the whole piece -- but none was so embarrassing as the Benghazi fiasco hosted by Lara Logan, war correspondent extraordinaire.

Lara Logan doing her impression of someone apologizing.

Logan remains on leave from the show.

Now that the Times report is out, this little scene from a Senate committee looks pretty unnecessary, don't you think?

In all fairness to CBS News, Fox News spent months saying Benghazi Benghazi!!! at the top of their voices. Here author Tom Ricks puts them in their place:

Ouch! Can we move on now?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Night Music

John Prine doing Blaze Foley's unbelievable "Clay Pigeons." Foley was shot and killed by the son of a friend, who was found not guilty by reason of self-defense. Foley was forty.

Happy Saturday.

When Believing in Work Is Not Enough

Your home, ten minutes after the bank decides to foreclose. Looks the same, right?

Though, truth be told, I've often considered work to be an intrusion into my otherwise slovenly existence, I've worked all of my adult life, often with two to three jobs at a time. The reasons I did this were not always clear to me; I suspect having kids might have been a factor. Also, too, if you're addicted to travel, you have to find ways to pay for it.

I say this to make clear that when I protest the inhumanity of our current state of income inequality, and pose the question what are we going to do about it, I mean that an apparent answer strikes me that we're likely to do nothing about it at all. And that's because I feel many of us have been disenfranchised: We simply do not have access to the levers of government that can affect these things. It's depressing but true.

And when I pose the question of how many of us feel that we'll be better off in five, ten, or twenty years, I do mean to say that, given the wealth distribution curve, our lack of access to the levers of power, or lack of access to opportunity generally, most of us aren't likely to have a more glittering future.

Of course, I can imagine some of you saying, "If you don't have enough wealth, why don't you just get a job, or a better job, or two jobs, or work hard to get a raise at your current job, or move to North Dakota where they have a labor shortage? Or maybe you could start your own business or come up with the next big tech thing. Or go back to school and get some training and quit your grousing!"

My answer to that is that there's absolutely nothing wrong with anything you suggest. And I am absolutely sure that the overwhelming majority of Americans who are in need of more income -- or any income, for that matter -- have tried all of the options and that many of them in fact have improved their economic situations.

But the key point is that while hard-working America does soldier on with all the Randian fervor we can muster, we're still falling behind while the very wealthy are capturing the bulk of the new wealth. The rich are getting richer, and most of us are not. That's why they call it income inequality.

It's not called work inequality or lazy inequality or welfare inequality. It's called income inequality because our incomes are not only unequal, they are wildly so.

I didn't get a raise during the last five years I taught high school, while the amount I had to chip in for my benefits steadily increased. During the last three years, I had more and more unpaid furlough days, too. And what's funny was that, given the economy, I was supposed to feel grateful that I even had a job, and I guess I was grateful.

During that whole time, the banks and insurance companies were getting bailed out and very few bondholders were "getting a haircut." That was reserved for public servants like myself.

After listening to "our failing schools" screeds for quite long enough, I looked at my situation and retired at 62, fed up with being under-appreciated and underpaid. I was grateful I had the good sense to max out my the two annuities I qualified for as a teacher and maxed out my IRA contributions yearly, too. And I was satisfied that working at as many as three schools at a time while also doing private tutoring and writing a weekly local tech column had provided enough of a retirement that I could afford a modest lifestyle. I'd made it, just barely, but I'd made it.

But while I was making it, I had friends around me working their asses off to have a nice home in Brown's Valley, an F-150 and a Honda Fit in the driveway, and something resembling a decent August getaway with the wife and kids. And all of a sudden it's 2008 and half of them have maxed out credit cards and houses under water. Some of them got foreclosed on, some let their houses go in short sales, and others limped by with interest-only loans, knowing that when they retire, they'll let the house go for almost no profit and move to a manufactured home in some more affordable state.

In the meantime, the income distribution curve will continue to diverge.

Looking at this chart convinces me that we're screwed and those fierce believers that say, "Why don't you just get a job, hippie freak?!!" don't really understand how our country works right now.

I had seven years of college and my last five years resembled that down slope on the end of the blue line on the graph, much as the rest of the 90 percenters' income did, as well.

So, when working harder doesn't get you ahead, we've all got problems as a society. Of course, if you've got enough money and access to power, it might not bother you as much.

But don't believe anybody who says Americans deserve to live like this, and don't believe any rich conservative warning against "class warfare." That's just code for "we've got it, and we're not giving you any of it."

So far, they've won the argument. So far.

Wealth Distribution Isn't Like You Think It Is

Everyone in America should watch this video every morning. Or maybe they shouldn't. Hard to tell. But do watch it at least once.

Yeah, makes me mad, too. I do wonder, though, how many of us think, "Yeah, that's about the way it should be." And then I wonder, if things got worse, how many of those same people would say, "Now that's better."

Now, if your instinct is to respond, "No, I don't think many people think that's the way it should be," or that, "No, I don't think, if the rich got even richer, that many people would say 'That's fine with me,'" then I wonder how many of us would say, "We should fix this," or "I know how to fix this."

Then I wonder how many of us will say, "I know how we could fix this, but I doubt we ever will, at least not now."

If that's the case, how are we all going to be in five years? Ten? Twenty? How many of us can say, with any certainty, that we'll be richer? Then recall the wealth distribution curve as shown in the video, and then ask yourself the question again. What are the chances that many of us will be more prosperous? And if we actually are more prosperous, at whose expense will that be? What will the source of that prosperity be?

These are hard questions, and I don't want to seem glib. Nor do I want us all to slit our wrists. But if we can't answer these questions to our satisfaction, then what are we going to do about it?

Which might be the toughest question of all. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Two Approaches to Shelter for the Homeless

One approach I just learned about from DailyKos, which linked to the original story in a Madison, Wisconsin TV report. It's about tiny homes for the homeless. I've been fascinated by tiny homes for years, wondering if I could ever shrink my footprint so small.

 You can view the report here. This approach makes sense to me because of the safety and dignity of it. Cramming the homeless into gym-like settings with no privacy and mats on the floor won't attract or keep the homeless for long. This solution might work, though I can see problems ahead, such as where do you find the land, what if they're abandoned, etc. I'd like to see more and follow the progress of this venture.

Then there's the progress they're making in Phoenix, Arizona, with homeless veterans. They've housed them all. Read this report on it.

Two points stick out. One, I didn't know that Barack Obama and VA head Eric Shinseki had set a goal of eliminating homeless veterans by 2015 or that they're 24% of the way there. And, two, Phoenix is eliminating the requirement that one be clean and sober to get housing. Studies have proven that giving the homeless the stability of a home -- when coupled with counseling -- makes it easier to win the battle against alcoholism and drug abuse and also lowers the taxpayer burden of paying for trips by the homeless to the ER and rehab facilities.

Kudos to these efforts. I might point out, too, that federal funds are critical in paying for these efforts. Government help is often essential for reaching societal goals.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, Bill O'Reilly, from an Atheist Who Loves Christmas! You Lose!

It's kind of sad that Bill O'Reilly both launched and lost the War on Christmas. Atheists love Christmas, and to borrow a phrase from John Lennon, I'm not the only one.

Happy Xmas (The War Is Over):

John Lennon also released, earlier the same year, "Imagine," in which an important line went, "Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too." He, like me, find no conflict, as an atheist, in celebrating the birth of an ancient revolutionary, Jesus, who apparently, as Sarah Silverman suggests, was "murdered by people who don't like new ideas."

Hey, O'Reilly, here's lookin' at you, kid.

Seriously, Merry Christmas. It's almost dinner time. Think I'll open a bottle and get ready to greet the guests. Peace out.

Paul Krugman Poses a Question and Gets a Great Answer

Paul Krugman's post today asks whether corporations can prosper in a moderately depressed economy because it would allow them a monopsonistic relationship with labor. His answer is nuanced, but yes, corporations might manage high profits in a down economy while workers would languish.

But it was a spot-on comment -- among others not so bright -- that really stated what I believe has become the reality across America. Here's Jack A. from California:
I hope that Prof. Krugman will follow up on his now two comments on why/how corporations may enjoy enormous profits in a depressed economy, with "official" unemployment at 7% (and who knows what the unofficial rate is), and care little or nothing about employment.

If profits are not significantly related to providing anything like full employment, then shouldn't we re-think some of the fundamentals of a capitalist/market economy? If profits are the highest goal, and millions of lives must be sacrificed to sustain them, what is the economic justification for such an economy? What is the moral justification?

The argument that the market economy is the best system to provide jobs and a decent living for workers, may no longer be tenable.

If that is the case, then the jobs v. inequality argument takes on new meaning. At some level, the issues of jobs and inequality are related. But it seems a more direct path to change if the emphasis is upon the huge gap in inequality that has opened up in our time, not tweaking the system to churn out a few more jobs.

Such an emphasis would include tax reform, strengthening of the social/economic net, support for education at all levels, infrastructural projects, etc. The driver of these changes, however, may be the energy and passion of both the employed and unemployed who are the losers in the current system, and who are destined to lose even more unless it is changed.
There it is, and there is the basis for my argument in favor of a guaranteed income (Switzerland recently entertained it as a proposition on a national ballot). Once our market economy reaches a point where it prospers while leaving aside a large number of its participants from that prosperity, the economy no longer serves the purpose of offering the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, another means of the distribution of the spoils of production is required for the entire economy to prosper.

There are a lot of ways to achieve this in a society. The guaranteed income is one. Another, introduced to me by my friend Tobi, is the carbon footprint tax, in which someone with a low carbon footprint would actually receive tax credits that amount to an income while those with a large carbon footprint, say, the wealthy with their private jets and yachts, would pick up the tab. A similar effect would be visited upon the business world, with low-carbon-footprint firms receiving credits and large fossil-fuel enterprises subsidizing the clean energy crowd's energy costs. Talk about aligning incentives.

I like Tobi's way because it redistributes income with the added virtue of tilting the world toward clean energy with a marked assist to abating global warming. But there may be more than one way to skin a cat, to choose a metaphor that PETA might not appreciate.

If efficient markets fail a society, it's time that society finds a fix for those markets. But, as Krugman points out, fat chance. What he says is true: Corporate America will pour millions into Fix the Debt -- with its emphasis on cutting "entitlements," meaning reducing income redistribution -- while spending not a nickel on efforts to Fix the Economy. Oh well, that's what revolutions are for.

With incomes down 14% since their 1972 peak, this revolution is a long time coming. To me, it's none too soon.

Footnotes. To avoid such a revolution, establish a guaranteed income. Studies show it minimally decreased the incentive to work and led to higher graduation rates, fewer hospitalizations, fewer work injuries and car crashes, and fewer psychiatric hospitalizations and mental-illness consultations. Read the professor's report here.

As for a carbon tax approach, read this. Peruse the entire Carbon Tax Center site to learn how it can be revenue-neutral -- thus not harming the overall economy -- while achieving good policy ends.

Breaking News: Duck Dynasty Is Reality TV, Not Reality!

Exhibit A, the Robertson boys playing golf:

After an exhilarating day of duck hunting, our heroes explore their yuppie roots.

Thanks, Alex Pareene, who pointed us to here.

Rand Paul: Young People Not Interested in GOP Because Money

Rand Paul is starring in his own new movie: "Blow Hard: The Republicaning"

The New Republic caught Rand Paul admitting that the GOP is the party of money. Rand Paul to Laura Ingraham:
Young people, they don’t really associate with Republicans on taxes and regulations. Not that they oppose us, they just don’t have any money so they don’t care much about those issues. But they’ve all got a cellphone, they’re all on the Internet, they’re all concerned about Internet freedom — and they’re concerned about privacy. And these are precisely issues where we can grow our youth vote.
"...they don't have any money so they don't care much about those issues." Okay, let's parse this. Wait, no parsing involved. Rand sez: We're the party of money.

Of course, the GOP is not just the party of money, they're the party of "we've got the money, you don't get any." How do I know this?
  • Minimum wage increase? Oppose.
  • Give the poor more money for food? Oppose.
  • Give the unemployed more money? Oppose.
  • Give school districts more money to educate? Oppose.
  • Give Head Start more money to help little kids and their parents? Oppose.
  • Give the National Institutes of Health more money to fight disease? Oppose.
  • Give tax breaks to the wealthy? Support!
  • Lower the corporate tax rates? Support!
  • Give subsidies to oil companies? Support!
  • Give subsidies to agribusiness? Support!
  • More and bigger defense contracts? Support!
  • Cut Social Security? Support!
  • Privatize Medicare? Support!
Thanks, Rand. It's good to know what a libertarian's priorities are. And it's good to know that your interface with young people is "I've got a cellphone, too! I like the Internet, too!"

My Christmas Wish List

Santa isn't a Democrat, and the Grinch isn't a Republican, but I could be wrong.

Here's a list of what I'd love to see if it were possible:
  • Expansion of Social Security, including Social Security Disability.
  • Expansion of Medicare to cover everyone.
  • Add price negotiation to Medicare Part D.
  • The realization -- by the mainstream media and the political class -- that economic stimulus is a must in a recession and throughout the recovery until the country reaches both full employment and potential GDP.
  • An equal realization -- by the same mainstream media and political class -- that austerity doesn't grow the economy, it stifles it.
  • A movement over time towards more progressive income tax schedules, like we had before Ronald Reagan.
  • An awareness that sales taxes are regressive and harmful for the poor and lower classes, and that "raising fees" instead of marginal rates is also regressive.
  • Real gun control, including background checks, a ban on all assault weapons and large clips, across-the-board registration processes for everyone wishing to own a gun, training requirements for anyone wishing to possess a gun, limits on the lethality of ammunition, a broad curtailment of open-carry, concealed carry, stand-your-ground or castle laws, plus a general understanding that loose gun laws lead directly to death and injury to all classes and ages of people.
  • Raising the minimum wage until it's a living wage -- $15 is a start.
 Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

They Get Started on Christie

A day or two ago I warned that Christie would be taken down. Now it continues. Read this WaPo story about Chris Christie the bully. They're just getting started...

Gavin Newsom Was So Right

This Atrios post reminded me of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's "crazy" decision to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses back in 2004. Most everyone sort of knew that the courts would put a stop to it, but for a few fabulous days a different kind of love -- only in its design -- overflowed the corridors and steps of San Francisco City Hall. When the courts did step in to put an end to the uprising, Newsom famously declared:

Newsom was blasted, by many in the gay community, for the above remarks, which were fashioned into campaign ads in favor of California's Proposition 8, the measure that banned same-sex marriage in 2008.

Now, nine years later, same-sex marriage is legal in Utah. Utah! Many in California remember it was the Mormon Church that spent the most to pass Proposition 8. The CA Supreme Court later overturned the law.

Newsom was way out in front of this, much to his credit. He deserves to be celebrated. And "like it or not," it will be the law of the land everywhere. It's just a matter of time.

What Americans Might Not Get About Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden, more or less, in his own words:
It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula.
In his interview with The Post, Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the ­classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.
“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.”
People who accuse him of disloyalty, he said, mistake his purpose.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
What entitled Snowden, now 30, to take on that responsibility?
“That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model,” he said. “They elected me. The overseers.”
He named the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
“Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions” in committee hearings, he said. “Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. . . . The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do. The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”
“It wasn’t that they put it on me as an individual — that I’m uniquely qualified, an angel descending from the heavens — as that they put it on someone, somewhere,” he said. “You have the capability, and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability but they don’t do it. So somebody has to be the first.”
Read the whole article to get a sense of a man who is nothing like those who want to condemn him imagine him to be. I gauge him to be smarter, more insightful than those he has exposed. How smart does a man have to be to behave like this in front of Congress?

That, right there, caught on tape, is a criminal offense. That James Clapper hasn't been charged and likely will not be charged speaks to something else entirely. But Clapper's statement strikes me as exceedingly stupid. Yes, he may think he's so important that he's above the law, and in a sense that might even be true, but doesn't he get that he, while escaping indictment himself,  has effectively indicted the whole intelligence establishment and brought it low in the eyes of the world?

And, with YouTube, it's always having to say you're sorry for as long as there are servers with that snippet of video to reside on.

YouTube. I wonder if Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA -- Clapper is National Intelligence Director -- is sorry that he lied so much before Congress. The first 2:00 is enough, but watch as much as you like. It's a masterful performance:

Again, Gen. Alexander, mild-mannered as he is, is a very dangerous man vis-à-vis the rights and freedoms of American citizens. Is he a patriot? I don't think so.

Is Edward Snowden a patriot? Clearly, in my view, he is. And that's what Americans have to come to understand about him, and how stark the contrast is between him and our intelligence puppet masters.

Note. Here's a lengthy video from last year by Democracy Now. Watch it to get a true feeling of the scope of betrayal by our intelligence community, under both Bush and Obama.

All I Want for Christmas Is a Really Good Hack List

  1. a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work.
"a hack scriptwriter"
synonyms: journalist, reporter, newspaperman, newspaperwoman, writer.
No one had done more lately than Alex Pareene to wake us up to both the joys and dangers of the hack journalist class centered around our nation's capital.

Here's a link to Salon's hack-list page. At the top is Pareene's Presidential Hack List. It's frightening to realize who Barack Obama reads. Second is a link to this year's Hack List, topped by Politico's Mike Allen. The rest are mostly links to hack lists past.

Read them and weep.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Edward Snowden: Person of the Year (Sorry, Pope Francis, You're Cool, But...)

(Updated below)

Dude rattled their cages, didn't he?

I'm casting my vote with Eugene Robinson. Snowden is Person 2013.

Update. Here's a link to a WaPo article by Snowden's chief U.S. reporter that worked with him. Snowden comes off as a pretty sharp guy who knows what he's doing, and he's already won. (Actually true.)

Could It Be a Question of Empathy?

I suspect it might. Caught this on Upworthy:

Really, really messed up.

Just Found Out Who Ruined Our Country

Liberals! I had no idea.

Liberals in their native habitat.

But don't let them into civil society, they go crazy!

Jane Fonda consorting with the enemy.

I suppose Jane did have a defense (one she might not claim today): The Vietnamese weren't the enemy.

But liberals are! Who knew? Jonah! And Erick!

Wow. Gen X Is So Screwed. And We Weren't Even Paying Attention.

Just caught this Gizmodo item in a facebook post by a friend. Wow. Just read it.

Weird for me to think about this. I had more than one marriage and two kids far apart in age. So one's a Gen Xer, and one's a Millennial. We boomers have let both generations down.

Again, as Atrios would say, shit is fucked up and bullshit.

Must be the Millennials' fault.

Or not.

BTW, my generation:

Of course, that could have been just an act. It didn't seem like it back then.

What I can say is, after all the years in between and how everything turned out, what happened? My feeling has always been two things happened: Ronald Reagan and AIDS.

This chart, which shows The Great Divergence clearly beginning during Reagan's first term, is pretty compelling:

Somewhere around 1982, incomes for the rich took off and ours didn't. Even worse today. Yep, Reagan. As for AIDS, here's a picture of life before AIDS:

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sorry Gen Xers and Millennials. We got some things right and some things wrong. But don't blame us. We lived life as best we could, just like you do. I will say this: I wish it would have turned out better. We, most of us, had high hopes. Maybe too high.

Obamacare Is an Attempt to Provide Better, Cheaper Healthcare for More People. Who's Against That?

Who's against that? The answer is not that many. And they're largely Republicans who would do almost anything to prevent the law from working.

I thought I had this shit stopped. Now even Ted Cruz can't make a dent.

Obamacare polls right now around 46-49%. If you pull the number who oppose Obamacare because it doesn't go far enough -- about 14% -- and add it to Obamacare supporters (who by and large would have preferred a public-option or a single-payer system as well), you start to see 60-37% support or better for abandoning the status quo and improving healthcare availability for American citizens.

So who's against it? Republicans who offer no ideas of their own (I discount the made-up bullshit, like tort reform and selling insurance across state lines, that even the Republicans know is bullshit). That's who's against it. And are they arguing for a different policy prescription? No, they're sabotaging the law by not expanding Medicaid in their states, passing laws that disallow Navigators -- Obamacare advocates hired to help with the rollout -- from doing their jobs, and by running disinformation campaigns aimed at discouraging groups, like young adults, from signing up for it at all.

This is not just mean-spiritedness, to be fair. This is ideological. Conservatives worry that Obamacare will work, thus demonstrating that government programs can work and do offer a true public service to the people. This scares the crap out of conservatives because they feel it could lead to acceptance, for a long time to come, of liberal solutions to societal problems.

That's right. Conservative Republicans, in this case as in many, want liberals to fail to help Americans, even though these programs are popular.

The real solution is for Democrats to loudly and unceasingly embrace these ideas and press for them at every turn. Why? Because people like these ideas. They're popular!

Let's really mess them up and not fight each other, okay?
People love these ideas and they'll love us, too.

How Long Will It Take Chris Christie to Disappear?

Remember rising star Marco Rubio? What has he done for you lately? After his ill-fated State-of-the-Union response, he's pretty much dead, both as a 2016 presidential candidate and a Senate leader. Who listens to him anymore? Was it because of this?

No. It didn't help. But what really knocked him back -- likely for good -- was that he was for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

And what of Bobby Jindal? He was a true Republican wunderkind, a southern conservative intellectual with really brown skin, a true trifecta. Is he headed to the top of the ticket in 2016? No. Who listens to him anymore? Was it because of this?

No. It didn't help. But that's not what will keep him out of the 2016 limelight. What has hurt Bobby Jindal is, well, what has he actually done? Pushed school vouchers? Proposed to eliminate the income tax and raise the sales tax and then decided to do neither? Saved his state's bacon? What? Who talks about him anymore? Wait, he defended "Duck Dynasty." Jindal's back!

Then there was Ted Cruz. He came on like a house afire. Then he made defunding Obamacare his raison d'etre. How'd that work out? A government shutdown that nearly crashed the Republican Party, which got saved because the Obamacare website crashed. Now, the Republican Party is back from the brink and Barack Obama's polls are in the toilet. Where's Ted Cruz? In the toilet, too. Obamacare? Still around.

What about Rand Paul? Yes, exactly. What about Rand Paul? Well, he made a rather cruel quip about how unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed is a "disservice" to them, but that shouldn't hurt his chances with his own crowd, right?

He just seems mean-spirited there. But what really knocked him from the top of the charts was a pretty long string of plagiarism charges. Nothing makes a libertarian hero look pretty small like proof that he steals his ideas. I mean, personal responsibility and all? Watch him drift out of sight.

Paul Ryan just negotiated a two-year budget deal with Patty Murray. He got tons of great press for that and reminders to us all that he was, after all, the Veep candidate just last year, and so it's not stupid that he could be considered a contender for 2016, and, well, right on cue, reporters started to ask him and he got coy and said the usual stuff. Then what happened? Conservatives -- tea-party types -- started blasting him for not living up to conservative ideals in the budget fight, you know, for compromising and all that. But don't worry. No one will use a picture like the one below against Ryan.

So Paul Ryan does what any far-right guy does when he's challenged by the far-right. He starts promising that there will be no debt-ceiling deal without the Republicans "getting something for it." Prediction: In about two months or so, when we're up against the debt ceiling and Paul Ryan doesn't get squat except maybe another aborted government shutdown, his name will be mud in the mainstream press and the tea party will like him again. Progress!

Lastly, Chris Christie got re-elected in his blue state by a really big margin. He sort of got slapped around by two pals shutting down the George Washington Bridge and people who want to knock him down a peg might manage just that, but big whoop. What will knock him down a peg are two things. One, he's got to govern for two years before 2016 gets going, and what's he going to do, cut education again and screw up public-sector pensions some more? That's rather played out. And two, there's this:

Sure, it helped him win re-election in a blue state. But that picture is going to make a lot of political ads in 2016, and it's not going to win him many core Republican primary votes.

We'll see. I've made my case. Maybe Paul Ryan and Chris Christie, even Rand Paul avoid the rabbit hole. I ain't buying it. The Republican Party has trouble with rising stars. why? They keep falling.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Sunday Thought: Marx Was Right!

In 1848, Karl Marx began his seminal work, The Communist Manifesto, with this sentence:
“The history of all hitherto existing human society is the history of class struggles.”
Boy, did he get that right. The current existing human society is wrought with class struggle. It's what defines the key differences in the political philosophies of liberals and conservatives, and highlighted somewhat less in the policy prescriptions of the two major parties. Actual Democratic and Republican politicians differ much less in their actions, regardless of rhetoric, than liberals and conservatives because actual politicians of both parties are more or less bought and paid for. Sad but true.

Income inequality is the direct result of the war between labor and capital, with capital kicking labor's ass for a long time now. There is no moral basis for this whatsoever, regardless how conservatives claim that people get what they deserve, based on hard work and determination.

Some people are born lucky, some are born unlucky. Some people make their own luck, some people can't.

In the pitched battle between the classes, capital has the upper hand. It can only be countered by labor getting organized.

This is where Marx remains relevant. Come on, labor, get organized. No one's going to help you otherwise. Of course, you could always try prayer.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Night Music

Here's another singer brought to my attention by the "Americana" PBS special. He's Jason Isbell, and his song is "Cover Me Up." I had actually heard from him before from his Drive-By Truckers days. I just didn't know the band well enough to remember him. I like this cut a lot.

Happy Saturday.

Has Judgment Day Arrived? Same-Sex Marriage in Utah!

Utah?? Oh, no, it's the End of Days.

Who knew the Apocalypse could just sneak up on us like that? Damned activist judges! Don't they get that they're bringing on the end of the world?

It's possibly that an "activist" judge, Obama appointee Robert J. Shelby, knows that calling the same-sex marriage ban in Utah unconstitutional will not actually bring on the Four Horsemen. But it did bring dozens and dozens of gays to the Salt Lake County Clerk's office where they got legally married.

A state Supreme Court did the same thing in New Mexico last week. I don't know where these judges get the idea that discriminating against gays is unconstitutional, unless reading the U.S. Constitution tends to make a judge think that way. Who knew?

Utah's Republican governor, Gary Herbert was not pleased. Utah's attorney general vowed an immediate appeal.

In the meantime, the gay train keeps rolling. Maybe it's because equality is appealing, as it should be in America. I seem to remember that was sort of a theme around here, right? You know, freedom, liberty, equality, right?

Leading Mormon intellectual Mitt Romney may find this a bitter pill to swallow.

Sorry Mitt, even Utah!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Verdict: NSA's Massive Surveillance Is Illegal and Doesn't Work. Congress: So What?

NSA: How big is too big, how much is too much?

My headline is by way of a prediction: The NSA will largely be left intact, with little or no curtailment of operations or limits placed on what they can do to whom, regardless of the constitutional questions surrounding its practices. Why?

Simple. Dick Cheney pushed an idea -- later driven home by the Ron Suskind book, The One Percent Doctrine -- that if there's a one-percent chance of something bad happening, we should go all out to stop it. We just can't take chances!

That would be the equivalent of finding out that a Bolivian may be planning an attack on the U.S., so let's lock up all Bolivians for the foreseeable future. Check.

If there's a one-percent chance -- or a needle-in-a-haystack's chance -- that someone who used a phone might later do something bad, and we could have possibly, however unlikely, uncovered it, then we have an obligation to snoop into everything to avoid missing some bit of information somewhere that might have prevented it.

Again, that's like placing GPS devices in all cars to track all of them because someone might steal one of them. Actually, that makes more sense than saving forever the billions of bits of data we're collecting daily.

Anyway, the White House and Congress will almost definitely not limit the NSA. In fact, I'd put my money on Congress passing a bill -- and the president signing it -- that is called the NSA Accountability Act, which in fact gives the NSA more powers to do things more secretly only except more judges will keep an eye on them secretly without ever stopping them from snooping everywhere.

Thanks, Dick Cheney, thanks a lot. (With special kudos to enablers like Senator Dianne Feinstein.)

If it keeps America safe -- torture, limitless snooping, riot police and a Bradley
armored vehicle in every hamlet -- then Dick Cheney is "comfortable" with it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Duck Dynasty Shocker! They're Racist Homophobes!

One of these kind folk spouted ignorance. Who would have thought?

Like Jonathan Capehart, I don't watch "Duck Dynasty." I watched them for a few minutes a couple of times and decided I liked ZZ Top better.

So, the offending Ducker, Phil Robertson, has been suspended "indefinitely." Big whoop. We'll see what follows.

Capehart reacts just about how we all should.

Sarah Palin reacts just about how we all shouldn't. Bless your heart, Sarah. You just keep defendin' free speech!

Sarah Palin defendin' ignorance. Who would have thought?

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal chimes in:
Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana.
Then Jindal goes on to condemn political correctness and defend free speech. That's mighty white of you, Bobby!

Bobby Jindal hangin' with a Ducker. Jindal to the Duckers:
If you're from Louisiana, it's your constitutional right
to be as racist and homophobic as you like.

Now, just when I thought this post was over, WorldNetDaily also comes to the defense of Phil Robertson. That's mighty Christian of you, WND! Excerpted from Robertson's defense of his GQ statement:
“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it. … All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/12/duck-dynasty-star-ignites-wrath-of-gays/#fEvYzRsQzO2HB5Jp.99
"For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it. … All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups."
For your edification, here's WND's mission statement:
WND, formerly WorldNetDaily, can best be explained by its mission statement: “WND is an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism, seeking truth and justice and revitalizing the role of the free press as a guardian of liberty. We remain faithful to the traditional and central role of a free press in a free society – as a light exposing wrongdoing, corruption and abuse of power.

“We also seek to stimulate a free-and-open debate about the great moral and political ideas facing the world and to promote freedom and self-government by encouraging personal virtue and good character.”
I'm so glad they're encouraging personal virtue and good character by rushing to defend Phil Robertson, who said:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
Very virtuous indeed.
“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it. … All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/12/duck-dynasty-star-ignites-wrath-of-gays/#fEvYzRsQzO2HB5Jp.99
“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it. … All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/12/duck-dynasty-star-ignites-wrath-of-gays/#fEvYzRsQzO2HB5Jp.99
“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it. … All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/12/duck-dynasty-star-ignites-wrath-of-gays/#fEvYzRsQzO2HB5Jp.99
“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it. … All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/12/duck-dynasty-star-ignites-wrath-of-gays/#fEvYzRsQzO2HB5Jp.99

Always Something There to Remind You: David Brooks Is an Idiot

David Brooks racking his brain. Something happens, but you don't know what it is.

I have friends, liberal ones, who like David Brooks. He's their "favorite conservative." Fine. Favorite conservatives are the most dangerous because they pour enough sugar on top to, well, be a liberal's "favorite."

Now, how does an idiot become a leading voice on America's leading newspaper? I don't know, maybe you'd have to ask Ross Douthat -- at least he's "sincere" -- or William Kristol -- at least he's openly hostile -- to find out. I prefer reading Alex Pareene and his annual Hack List of people whose journalism is a form of intellectual Halloween. David Brooks was born to be on Pareene's Hack List.

Read Pareene on Brooks. This year Pareene uses each Hack's own voice to skewer them. Nailed it!

Then read David Brooks' column skewering himself while being pretty much of a prick. Also read the fawning comments.

Then read Joe Coscarelli's NY Mag attempt to figure out WTF Brooks is talking about. Also read the comments and marvel that commenters aren't necessarily stupid after all.

Then go volunteer at a food bank for an afternoon to cleanse yourself and to make amends for backsliding and reading a David Brooks' column after you swore you'd never, ever do it again.

But, please, don't feel good about yourself for doing it. That would be ironic or something.

Bonus! Josh Barro writes a snarky piece about David Brooks and snark! Win-win!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Breaking News: Edward Snowden Is a Hero, Not a Criminal

(Updated below.)

Seriously, if what he revealed showed the NSA was doing bad stuff, how is he a criminal?

Yes, this was inspired by a "Breaking News" heading across the top of WaPo's online front page:
The White House is expected to release later Wednesday the report of a surveillance review board that has recommended modifying the National Security Agency counterterrorism program that collects virtually all Americans’ phone records.
The recommendation that the NSA no longer keep the phone database — estimated by some former officials to contain more than 1 trillion records — is among a set of sweeping technical reforms aimed at restoring public confidence in the spying apparatus, said individuals briefed on its contents.
...In sum, the panel took aim at some of the most controversial practices of the 35,000-employee signals intelligence agency, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., which has been in the news constantly since June when documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began appearing in the press.
I think we'll be following this growing story that just yesterday had a federal district judge determining that the NSA's activities with phone records were quite likely unconstitutional.

Free Edward Snowden! Oh yeah, he is free. Okay, drop the charges!

National Intelligence head James Clapper: I'm a good guy, and Edward Snowden's not.

Update. I don't often read Maureen Dowd anymore, but this morning's headline, "Spying Run Amok," caught my eye:
After a federal judge here said in a ruling on Monday that the N.S.A.’s collection of phone data on all Americans was “almost Orwellian,” an assault on privacy that would leave James Madison “aghast,” a civil liberties group that had plastered a D.C. bus with the words “Thank you, Edward Snowden!” said it saw a “significant increase” in donations to expand the campaign.
Whatever we think of Snowden — self-aggrandizing creep or self-sacrificing crusader against creepy government spying or sociopath with stolen documents, as The Wall Street Journal put it, or someone who should “swing from a tall oak tree,” as John Bolton told Fox News — it is absolutely clear that the N.S.A. went wild with technology that allowed it to go wild. These technological toys turn everyone into thieves.
...“It’s one thing to say that people expect phone companies to occasionally provide information to law enforcement,” [Judge Leon] wrote, “it is quite another to suggest that our citizens expect all phone companies to operate what is effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation with the government.”
Though the Justice Department tried to justify the mammoth hoovering by insisting on the need for speed, the judge pointed out that the N.S.A. couldn’t cite a single instance in which its haystack of data had produced the needle to puncture an imminent attack.
It’s always the case that technology is invented and used before its consequences are known. And it is also true that terrorists want to hurt us.
But Judge Leon struck a blow for the proposition that our moral and legal values regarding privacy are not obsolete just because some government employees out in suburban Maryland in a secretive agency with its own exit off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway got carried away with their cool new toys.
Indeed, Mo.

Why Did Mitt Romney Lose, and Is It Relevant?

Yes, it's relevant.

My take on why Mitt Romney lost has always revolved around the fact that he was a flawed candidate, and heaven knows he wasn't very good. But why was someone who was good enough for Harvard, good enough for Wall Street, good enough for the Mormon Church, good enough for the Olympics, good enough for Massachusetts, and, inevitably good enough for the Republican Party, not good enough for a majority of the American people on November 6th, 2012?

An article about the coming Netflix documentary called "Mitt" got me thinking.

Mitt Romney: a lion in winter, or a cub scout?

Let me say in advance that I abhorred most of Romney's positions, just as the article's author, Paul Waldman, makes clear. I felt a visceral disconnect between Mitt Romney the man and the American people who need to rely on leadership to take them, not necessarily to the promised land but at least to a spot somewhat better than the one they are currently occupying.

Mitt Romney was not that man. But, if he lost because he was flawed, why was he flawed? Waldman points to an answer. It was because, as he got close to that brass ring, as he could smell a lifelong dream coming true, the ground shifted beneath his feet. The Republican Party shifted, but good.

Romney was the classic, almost too perfect, establishment Republican. Unfortunately, that Republican Party, which did exist in its basic shape since mid-20th-century America, no longer existed in 2012. It had morphed into an army of angry Christian white men and their supplicant wives, likely because John McCain lost to a black man. Thus emerged a set of extremists not only ready to cash in on the angst of the tattered GOP -- think Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and a frightening array of super PACs -- but also ready to take advantage of the angry Christian white men who were "losing America," who were ready to vote against their own interests because Republicans, I suppose, looked and talked more like them.

Mitt Romney now needed to harness the energy of that Republican Party without alienating moderates, women, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Jews, and he couldn't do it. He could have won in some alternate universe, some Pleasant Valley, U.S.A. landscape filled with trees that were just the right height, women who admired their men, and men with jaws as strong as, well, Mitt Romney's.

That world is gone, for now, and so is Mitt Romney. I can't say I'll miss him. I can say that the Republican Party that left Mitt behind is a witch's brew of ignorance and malcontentment, and I like it a lot less than the flawed candidate it helped to defeat.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Republican, Mostly Southern, Governors Bring Healthcare Suffering to Their Constituents

This is what pissy, petulant Republican governors have brought to the healthcare problems in their states, in one simple graph:

Greg Sargent flags this Kaiser Family Foundation study that shows just what will happen in the 25-plus Republican states that are refusing the federal Medicaid dollars to pay for healthcare for the poor and very poor:
As of now, over two dozen states are not opting in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, thanks largely to hostility to the law among GOP governors who are turning down huge sums of federal money that could otherwise go towards expanding coverage to their own constituents. Result: untold numbers risk falling into a “Medicaid gap,” making too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid, yet too little to qualify for subsidies on the exchanges.
We now have a new look at the consequences of this: Millions will likely remain uninsured, and racial and geographic disparities in access to coverage will worsen.
Two new studies released by the Kaiser Family Foundation today illustrate this in new detail. You can read them here and here, and they take a close look at who makes up the population of those who fall into the Medicaid gap. The key findings:
* Some 4.8 million uninsured non-elderly American adults nationwide are likely to fall into the Medicaid gap.
* Some 79 percent of those who fall into the Medicaid gap are from the south (where Republican governors have disproportionately decided not to opt in).
* Those falling into the Medicaid gap are disproportionately non-white. Some 53 percent of them are black, Hispanic or “other.”
* Some 47 percent of those falling into the Medicaid gap — over 2.2 million people — are white. If attacks on beneficiaries of the Medicaid expansion as freeloaders and takers have “racial undertones,” as National Journal argued the other day, this is a reminder that huge numbers of poor whites will also be impacted by the refusal of GOP governors to opt into the expansion.
This is indefensible behavior. Unfortunately, because of the massive misinformation campaign undertaken by outside pressure groups, some funded by the arch-conservative Koch brothers, and news outlets, like the reliable Fox News, as well as the always awful Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, many of the citizens of these states think it's the right thing to do, opting out, that is. Hopefully, when the news of all the poor getting healthcare in the blue states -- and the occasional Republican one -- the people will put pressure on their obstinate governors and legislatures to get them the help they need. Or they may not. Such is the power of conservative misinformation machines.

This is the most recent news on Pennsylvania's situation.

The poor waiting for healthcare: Sometimes 2-3 hours, sometimes forever.

To Distort or Not to Distort, Charts and Graphs Edition

Both "sides" can do it. What we'll visit today is how statistics can be graphed to create a narrative that supports your political or policy views. In this case, the question is how Barack Obama led to more debt, or whether he did at all.

First, let's look at, in my view, a proper representation of Obama's performance regarding debt. Did he cause a huge spike in debt, or did he inherit a lot of debt and then add less than other presidents have in the past? Here's the chart I find accurate:

Barack Obama inherited a very elevated deficit from George W. Bush. That deficit was maintained for a number of years, partly due to a number of automatic stabilizers, such as unemployment insurance, welfare benefits, tax credits, and food stamps. These programs can go up in cost automatically as the number of those in need increase. Deficits arise when the government wishes to continue programs to keep the economy stable by maintaining aggregate demand. This spending is not always throwing good money after bad. Every dollar of aid is money that is pumped into an economy that sorely needs to avoid precipitous drops in economic activity. So it's a two-fer, in that badly needed aid helps citizens that then spend it into the economy. (Though deficits are not always about maintaining economic levels. Sometimes, as with many Republican presidents, deficits are driven by higher defense spending and tax cuts.)

Another look at the same data tells another kind of story:

This is very much the same data, but the story it tells is that Obama did not increase spending the way George W. Bush did in all of his years, though Obama has not reduced much spending either. A case can -- and should, from my perspective -- be made that spending should have increased as stimulus at a time when rates were low (below zero, in fact) and infrastructure spending would have lifted the economy, with a resulting increase in government revenues from taxes. Nonetheless, this chart shows that Obama has not been a big spender.

Now, let's look at a bit of a deceptive chart:

This chart shows the relative rise in debt for five presidents. It's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't represent an increase in the national debt as commonly understood. This shows all publicly held debt, also known as "gross federal debt," which includes debt held by the public. This also includes consumer debt. Consumers grew their share of debt under George W. Bush and have deleveraged during Obama's time. So it looks like the "debt" has gone down under Obama. Technically this is true, but it's not true about the national debt, which has soared under Obama.

Obama's soaring deficits were inherited from the Great Recession under George Bush. A strong case -- already made in this piece and firmly held to be true by non-austerians -- can be made that the federal government had no choice but to maintain these spending levels, which have gone down because of the sequester and lessened in terms of debt by the modest tax increases brought on by the expiration of the upper-end Bush tax cuts.

The point is the chart is misleading. It's unnecessarily misleading because the case for Clinton and Obama not raising spending and debt as much as the three Republicans in the chart can be made with distorting data. But to see how statistics in charts and graphs can really distort the truth for a political point, let's look at what the Heritage Foundation has produced to trash Barack Obama.

The distortion here is that the deficits handed off to Obama by Bush are attributed to Obama as if he created them. No, he inherited them, and since then they've started to fall and continue to fall. But if we don't want to show that Obama's deficits are falling, we project way into the future what spending on defense, Social Security, and Medicare will do to our national debt if we don't increase revenue -- which we can, by the way, to pay for them.

This is distorting data two ways: One, it represents all public debt as being the same as national debt, which is different, and two, it projects bad new out to make it look as if Obama and the Democrats -- the liberal "big spenders" -- are destroying our children's future. That future doesn't happen if the right choices are made.

But let's rub it in:

Sure, project high debt out as far as the eye can see and it looks pretty grim. And this is our future because ???

To finish this data fest, here's Obama's recent falling deficits. One look:

This shows that deficits rose under Johnson (Vietnam), Ford (stagflation), Reagan and Bush I (defense spending, tax cuts), and Bush II (defense spending, tax cuts, Great Recession). Shortly after Obama took over, deficits began to fall precipitously, mostly because of the economic recovery, albeit slower than hoped because of austerity politics. Another look:

Deficits resulted from the Great Recession and have been falling ever since and are projected by the CBO to continue to fall. Why?

Job growth, of course. 2013 (stats not included here) has seen continued tepid job growth. It's not enough to get us back to full potential, but it is helping to fix the deficits, for now.

Yes, I make the case that things have gotten better (slowly) under Obama. Distorted data graphs can make things look worse (or better). Moral? Look at how the chart or graph is put together and who's constructing it. People have agendas, and people will distort.