Monday, March 31, 2014

If Hillary Runs in 2016, This WILL BE Her Stand on Reproductive Rights

Courtesy of Upworthy:

Now, conservatives, what part of REDUCING ABORTIONS THROUGH THE USE OF CONTRACEPTIVES don't you understand?

The Truth About Obamacare in One Short Article

Paul Krugman surpasses himself in his description of the problem with the Republican problem with Obamacare. After reading it, I realize that the GOP has been more than disingenuous about the whole thing (granting that it might be that some of them are inordinately stupid and can't analyze their way out of a brown paper bag).

Here's why the GOP can't replace Obamacare with a plan suitable to conservative sensibilities:
But Ross Douthat, in the course of realistically warning his fellow conservatives that Obamacare doesn’t seem to be collapsing, goes on to tell them that they’re going to have to come up with a serious alternative.
But Obamacare IS the conservative alternative, and not just because it was originally devised at the Heritage Foundation. It’s what a health-care system that does what even conservatives say they want, like making sure that people with preexisting conditions can get coverage, has to look like if it isn’t single-payer.
That's it in a nutshell. If we can't please the conservatives with a plan of their own device, we can never please them.
I don’t really think one more repetition of the logic will convince many people, but here we go again. Suppose you want preexisting conditions covered. Then you have to impose community rating — insurers must offer the same policies to people regardless of medical history. But just doing that causes a death spiral, because people wait until they’re sick to buy insurance. So you also have to have a mandate, requiring healthy people to join the risk pool. And to make buying insurance possible for people with lower incomes, you have to have subsidies.
And what you’ve just defined are the essentials of ObamaRomneyCare. It’s a three-legged stool that needs all three legs. If you want to cover preexisting conditions, you must have the mandate; if you want the mandate, you must have subsidies. If you think there’s some magic market-based solution that obviates the stuff conservatives don’t like while preserving the stuff they like, you’re deluding yourself.
So I'm not deluding myself. What are we left with?
What this means in practice is that any notion that Republicans will go beyond trying to sabotage the law and come up with an alternative is fantasy. Again, Obamacare is the conservative alternative, and you can’t move further right without doing no reform at all.
That's it. This is about denying Obama and the Democrats anything resembling a victory. It has nothing to do with ideological differences. The GOP already won the ideological battle. Dems gave them their dream healthcare reform. The GOP rejected it because Obama. That's the only thing that makes sense.

Right? What am I missing? I suspect nothing.

Update. A poll shows Obamacare support eclipsing opposition for the first time. Progress...

When Economists Embarrass Themselves, Eugene Fama Edition

I've taken a few days off blogging because the political news was so depressing. It's still depressing, but that's no reason to leave the real world.

And yet people do. Most recently I was reminded of that while reading an article linked to a Paul Krugman blog post. Krugman needed to make the point that some people stubbornly hang on to the notion that markets are efficient even when they act so irrationally and inefficiently that they blow up the world economy. To make this point, Krugman linked to a past New Yorker interview with Eugene Fama.

Fama is a Nobel laureate and professor of Economics at the University of Chicago (where, coincidentally, both my parents did their undergrad work), which almost by default makes him a "freshwater," efficient-markets, business-cycle economist and thus prone to making absurd claims about markets, cycles, and bubbles.

Calling out a Nobel laureate just because he serves the interests of the right always feels tough, but Fama here seems insane (not to put too fine a point on it). You be the judge. Here's Fama a couple of years after the real estate bubble popped -- and a decade after the tech stock bubble collapsed (interviewer in italics, Fama in regular):
Many people would argue that, in this case, the inefficiency was primarily in the credit markets, not the stock market—that there was a credit bubble that inflated and ultimately burst.
I don’t even know what that means. People who get credit have to get it from somewhere. Does a credit bubble mean that people save too much during that period? I don’t know what a credit bubble means. I don’t even know what a bubble means. These words have become popular. I don’t think they have any meaning. [emphasis mine.]
I guess most people would define a bubble as an extended period during which asset prices depart quite significantly from economic fundamentals.
That’s what I would think it is, but that means that somebody must have made a lot of money betting on that, if you could identify it. It’s easy to say prices went down, it must have been a bubble, after the fact. I think most bubbles are twenty-twenty hindsight. Now after the fact you always find people who said before the fact that prices are too high. People are always saying that prices are too high. When they turn out to be right, we anoint them. When they turn out to be wrong, we ignore them. They are typically right and wrong about half the time.
Are you saying that bubbles can’t exist?
They have to be predictable phenomena. I don’t think any of this was particularly predictable.
Ummkay. There's so much wrong with that excerpt (reading the whole article doesn't change that), but here's a quick set of observations. One, Fama doesn't even know what the term bubble means? Two, bubbles can only exist if they're predictable? Why? (Remember, Fama doesn't know what a bubble "means.") Three, many people predicted the popping of both the tech and the real-estate bubbles. I saw both coming and agonized over them but didn't successfully pick the timing of their respective pops. Paul Krugman was one of the writers that alerted me to the real estate bubble. Talk was all over the map about the tech, or dot-com, bubble, but I definitely recall that many commentators saw the bubble coming. And plenty had been written about it prior to Fama's 2010 remarks.

Read the rest of the Fama interview. It's depressing that someone of his stature appears willfully ignorant, but there you are.

Addendum. Here's Krugman again on bubbles (you know, the ones that don't exist in a Fama-based world).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What Atrios Said about the Contraception Case before the Supremes

Atrios, in his usual pithy way, gets it:
I'll let the lawyers chat about the actual legal issues, though on these sorts of things I think it's mostly pointless. It ain't about the law, it's about the outcome. The issues are whether we privilege a specific set of supposedly Christian beliefs* (the Court would never do it for any of those other "fake" religions), and whether medical care for women is as important as medical care for men.

*Nor would they do it for most supposedly Christian beliefs, just the ones relating to restricting and punishing female sexuality, because that's all it's about anymore.
That's right. Don't want people having sex, especially the sluts.

Flight MH370 Proves the Need for Better Government

The U.S. might have prevented this mess, but surely would handle it better.

I don't mean to disparage the Malaysian people or its government, and I don't mean to make a large point. However, what we've witnessed in the past couple of weeks is an object lesson in parsing the famous Reagan quote, "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."

Some Americans -- essentially Republicans, conservatives, libertarians -- live to condemn so much of what government does. But when we need what government does best, these self-same Americans want even more of it. Disasters cry out for government services; often only government can manage the resulting chaos. I could go on -- you know what I'm talking about.

Malaysia tried but failed in so many ways, large and small, to manage the disappearance of Flight MH370. That mismanagement continues. The U.S. government, on the other hand, would have handled it well. We're good at that sort of thing because of the infrastructure of our command-and-control offered by sophisticated, experienced agencies.

When you hear Republicans wanting to cut taxes, shrink government, eliminate programs, think about what kind of country you want. I for one am willing to spend money for a competent, prepared government when I need it. I hope you are, too.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is America at War with Itself? (2nd Amendment Edition)

The Japanese: virtually a zero percent chance of getting shot.

The 2nd Amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The 2nd Amendment is a mess because it's clear to anyone who's ever read it that it was intended that early American citizens be free to be armed in order to participate in a militia for the common defense. One can also clearly extrapolate from the Amendment that early Americans were, by the Constitution, extended the right to have hunting weapons and to have weapons for individual defense, both of which would be a necessity in a country expanding into a rugged frontier.

No problems, right? Right. No problems and that remained so for a good two hundred years. The problem begins somewhere in the 20th century when technology begins to produce weapons that are just too deadly. Rational citizens should be able to agree on that.

Now, to shorten this discussion, I'm going to assert a few things:
  1. The American gun lobby, most notably the NRA, is intent on fostering the sales of every kind of weapon imaginable, without taking safety into account because that infringes on the right to sell absolutely any kind of weapon, its accessories, and ammunition.
  2. A portion of the American people, approximately one third, interpret this liberty to be important enough to desire to own a gun, or a variety of guns.
  3. A great majority of the American people -- up to 91 percent favor background checks -- feel that the ownership of guns should be controlled.
  4. It's widely acknowledged that gun lobbies have hijacked the political process and allow a very vocal minority to prevent the majority of Americans from enjoying the kind of gun control that makes them feel safe. This vocal minority doesn't care and openly advocates for unregulated gun ownership.
I don't believe any of these assertions are open to question. If they are, it's due to a willful refusal to observe reality.

Okay. As an armed society, the germane questions are: Who are we armed against? Are we over- or under-armed? How many people would make the claim that we are under-armed and why?

The answers as I see them:
  1. We are armed against each other.
  2. For some portion of the citizenry, we are armed against our government.
  3. A minority portion of Americans are over-armed. This is the unavoidably correct answer to this question, given the fact that there are more guns in the U.S. than there are citizens, and this includes all children.
  4. A large majority of Americans are unarmed.
  5. If you think we're under-armed, you're in a fringe portion of the citizenry.
Since we are number one in gun violence in the world without having any serious armed conflicts with our government, we can only conclude that we are armed against each other.

A serious question: Who is safer, those who are armed against each other or those who choose not to be armed at all? (Answer: It's safer to be unarmed.)

What is it about each other that we fear the most? Do we fear the other is armed? What is it about America that has us so afraid of each other that we need so many guns?

These are serious and real questions. But they are best understood when you take into account that the percentage of households with guns has steadily declined from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to just 34 percent as of 2012. A huge proportion of America doesn't want a gun in the house. That means that only 34 percent of Americans feel they're at war with each other.

Just for context, read this article about how Japan eliminated gun violence. (I've lived in Japan.) Read this article about guns in the Netherlands. (I've lived in the Netherlands.) Read this article about guns in Switzerland. Closer to home, read about guns in Canada.

Annual gun deaths per 100,000:
U.S.--10.3 (2/3 are suicides)
Switzerland--3.84 (vast majority are suicides)
Canada--2.38 (vast majority are suicides)
The Netherlands--0.46 (more than half are suicides)
Japan--0.06 (almost all are suicides, many years with zero gun murders)
Rule of thumb: less restrictive laws, more gun deaths. Required training and registration, fewer gun deaths. Almost impossible to get a gun, fewest gun deaths.

Conclusion: America is at war with itself. Unfortunately, Americans don't see it that way.

The Dutch: a .0002 percent chance of getting killed with a gun.

Why do I emphasize the Japanese and the Dutch when discussing the 2nd Amendment? Mostly because neither country has a 2nd Amendment...or any reference to gun rights in their constitutions.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pretty Sure There Are No Good Guys Anymore

Google's Schmidt, Brin, and Page

Imagine a movie about a couple of dozen large tech firms conspiring to fix wages for over a million people worldwide. Then start to think who you'd have star in it. Next, after you find out that the plot is right out of the headlines and included some of your biggest heroes of the tech world, you decide you can't trust anybody anymore.

If they can fix wages, what makes you think they give a shit about your privacy or what they share with the NSA?

I'm sick. Feel like an idiot. Then begins a seething rage, peppered by thoughts of how I couldn't live without their stuff. They're fucked up, and we're fucked.
Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.
This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.
Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

According to multiple sources familiar with the case, several of these newly named companies were also subpoenaed by the DOJ for their investigation. A spokesperson for confirmed that in 2009-10 the company was investigated by the DOJ, and agreed to cooperate fully with that investigation.  Other companies confirmed off the record that they too had been subpoenaed around the same time.
Although the Department ultimately decided to focus its attention on just Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar, the emails and memos clearly name dozens more companies which, at least as far as Google and Apple executives were concerned, formed part of their wage-fixing cartel.
A confidential Google memo titled “Special Agreement Hiring Policy,” dating from November 2006, divides the company’s wage-fixing agreements into two categories: “Do Not Cold Call” and “Sensitive Companies.” Below that, the Google memo offers a brief chronology and list of companies:
The following companies have special agreements with Google and are part of the “Do Not Cold Call” list.
The first entry marks the beginning of Google’s participation in the wage-suppression scheme:
Effective March 6, 2005:
• Genentech, Inc.
• Intel Corporation
• Apple Computer
• Paypal, Inc.
• Comcast Corporation
Until now, neither Paypal (owned by eBay), Comcast nor Genentech have been publicly mentioned as part of the wage-suppression cartel. Nor have they been publicly named in criminal or civil actions relating to this particular case, although both the DOJ and the state of California are currently pursuing a separate but related antitrust suits against eBay.
Really fucked up stuff.

Pixar's John Lasseter: great movies, not so great treatment of workers?

Saturday Night Music

Yeah, these guys, The Mavericks:

Actually out of Miami, but such a perfect border state sound, with echoes of Elvis, rockabilly, and the origin of it all, rock 'n' roll-wise.

How to Make Conservative Sausage, George-Will-Style

Hey, I'm a rhetorician and bending facts is
part of the game. Why are you on my case?

George Will, Bile-Duct Emeritus of the Washington Post, goes with the classic gambit: "I can build my case using the predictable drivel from the intellectuals" at the "think tank" American Enterprise Institute.

More often than not, the American Enterprise Institute rates the moniker "think tank" because they "think maybe we should use this bullshit," as if legitimate thinking were involved. And they're not alone. The Heritage Foundation were the ones who gave cover to Paul Ryan's famous budget that would drive the unemployment rate to 2.8 percent within ten years. When someone -- on the left -- pointed out how preposterous that figure was, Heritage scrubbed their website of the figure and said, "Never mind!"

George Will, bless his heart, must needs go back to the AEI well nonetheless, for when you need distorted statistics, no one does it better.

Today, Will undertakes to cast as nasty a set of aspersions on liberals as he can, using his usual erect, spanked, and tortured syntax. Right out of the gate Georgie goes:
Critics of Rep. Paul Ryan’s remarks about cultural factors in the persistence of poverty are simultaneously shrill and boring. Their predictable minuet of synthetic indignation demonstrates how little liberals have learned about poverty or changed their rhetorical repertoire in the last 49 years.
So much is wrong with that paragraph, but I can at least point out that historically, it's simply inaccurate. I assume the bracketing dates of those 49 years are Johnson's declaring war on poverty and today. Let's look at events along this continum:
  1. Social Security Act 1965 (Created Medicare and Medicaid) – July 19, 1965
  2. Food Stamp Act of 1964- August 31, 1964
  3. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which created the Community Action Program, Job Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), centerpiece of the "war on poverty" – August 20, 1964
  4. Elementary and Secondary Education Act - April 11, 1965
  5. The Office of Economic Opportunity midwifed a number of programs, including VISTA, Job Corps, Head Start, Legal Services and the Community Action Program.
The above information is from Wikipedia and demonstrates that a lot of work was started in the immediate aftermath of Johnson's war declaration. Here's a look at what the near-term results were from the programs, also from Wikipedia:
In the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3% in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1% in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2% ever since.
Progress was made on poverty. Reducing poverty by 36% within a decade and keeping it from rising to old levels is not nothing. it's something. Also, liberals who "learned little in 49 years" have in fact added many programs:
  1.  Earned Income Tax Credit, 1975 (bipartisan)
  2. Welfare Reform under Clinton, 1996. (bipartisan)
  3. PPACA, 2013 (Obamacare)
  4. A slew of current poverty initiatives from Obama, read this article spelling them out. These included expanded preschool, new job training programs, and more.
Don't be surprised by the inclusion of Obamacare. A healthy society is a productive one, and healthy workers work better. And millions of Americans who didn't have healthcare have indeed signed up for coverage.

In the article above about Obama's new initiatives, Paul Ryan's plan is mentioned in contrast:
Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) is at work on a GOP budget plan that aims to overhaul the nation’s welfare system, in part by cutting spending on programs that Ryan argues have locked people into poverty.
The GOP's approach is simple: Aid to the poor locks them into dependency, so let's cut programs so the poor are not locked into dependency. The GOP plan after that? We're waiting.

George Will's article railing against the failure of the War on Poverty is actually wrapped around the criticism Paul Ryan rightfully earned (Will doesn't think so) from his ill-disguised comments that black men have no culture of work, that this is generational, and because of the breakup of the inner city families, young black boys are not learning the benefits of work because they've no role models -- absent black fathers. To drive the point home, Ryan cited Charles Murray, who has well-known views on the inferiority of African-Americans.

Will supports these views by saying, hey stupid liberals, it's the breakdown of the family that's caused this state of affairs -- you know, that black people don't grok the value of work, not like us whiteys -- and brings in American Enterprise Institute "thinker" Nicholas Eberstadt to secure some bonafides to Will's shaky-ground hypotheses. Here's a sample:
All other things being equal, the family dependency rate was on a relentless rise between 1979 and 2009: after controlling for the reported unemployment and family poverty rates, dependency was nevertheless increasing by over four percentage points every decade. On this track, it will only be a matter of time before a majority of Americans are seeking and obtaining "antipoverty" benefits from the government — regardless of their wealth or their employment prospects. Entitlement recipience even means-tested entitlement recipience — is now a Main Street phenomenon in modern America: a truly amazing turn of events for the nation of legatees to the Declaration of Independence. Entitlement dependence comes at great cost — and as Moynihan warned nearly forty years ago, "It cannot too often be stated that the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it."
What is this "relentless rise?" Eberstat puts it as follows, as reported and commented on by reliable Berkeley economist Brad DeLong:
The breathtaking growth of [personal] entitlement payments over the past half-century is shown in Figure 1. In 1960, U.S. government transfers to individuals from all programs totaled about $24 billion. By 2010, the outlay for entitlements was almost 100 times more. Over that interim, the nominal growth in entitlement payments to Americans by their government was rising by an explosive average of 9.5 percent per annum for fifty straight years.
That will alarm his readers. It certainly would alarm me. But I know that that 9.5 percent number is not the right headline number.
Inflation averaged 4 percent per year from 1960 to 2010. That means that real spending growth was some 5.5 percent a year. Real GDP grew at 3.1 percent a year from 1960 to 2010. We would expect government spending to grow about as fast as GDP. Subtract that number from 5.5 percent, and you get 2.4 percent per year. That 2.4 percent per year, not 9.5 percent, is what should be the actual headline number.
There’s more: One-seventh of our current transfers are the result of the downturn, as Barack Obama and company followed the advice Joseph gave to Pharaoh to spend more during lean years and run budget surpluses during fat years. That spending is temporary, appropriate, and not at all worrisome. More than a third of today’s federal transfer payments are the Medicare and Medicaid health programs. If you worry about a culture of dependence destroying our national work ethic—as Eberstadt does—you should put those to the side, for very few quit their jobs saying, “I don’t need to work, because government programs will pay my doctor and hospital bills.” Even if you are sure that cash transfers induce people to give up looking for work, you have to recognize that you can’t charge food or entertainment to your Medicaid card. The right headline number for thinking about whether we really are “a nation of takers” is cyclically adjusted spending on non-health government transfer programs as a share of potential GDP. And that number has a growth rate of 1.2 percent per year.
Busted! AEI thinkers at work jacking up numbers, playing to their audiences, while DeLong shows a solitary fact:
Now, I can correct in five minutes the 9.5 percent per year number that Eberstadt headlines down to the 1.2 percent per year number that gives a more accurate, more empirical, and less ideological picture of what is going on.
But I know the numbers.
Many people, Mitt Romney and his peers at the head of the Republican apparat included, do not. So when they see alarming numbers and charts like those that A Nation of Takers throws at them—increases from $24 billion to $2.3 trillion in annual entitlement spending; 100-fold growth; 9.5 percent a year, a doubling every eight years—is it any wonder that they deeply believe in their hearts of hearts that America has become a nation of moochers?
George Will hears what he wants to hear and adds and subtracts along the same lines, but it doesn't make it so.

One more tidbit to place Nicholas Eberstadt in the proper class of AEI bullshitters. Here he is in another paper I found where Eberstadt answers the question,“Which country has a higher fraction of men age 35-39 participating in the labor force – the U.S. or Greece?” Perfectly fine question. How does he answer it?
And Greece, given its ongoing public debt and finance travails, is at the moment a sort of poster child for the over-bloated, unsustainable European welfare state. Be all that as it may: the fact is that a decidedly smaller share of men in their late thirties has apparently opted out of the workforce in Greece than in the United States. By 2003 — well before the Great Recession — 7.2 percent of American men in this age group were outside the workforce, as against just 3 percent in Greece.
Classic slight of hand: We Americans are so lazy that basket-case Greece beats us in labor force participation. The trick here, though, is that Eberstadt picks a four-year age cohort 35-39 (where's the rest of the data?), and he picks Greece because Greece is the poster child for welfare state collapse but chooses a year, 2003, well before the collapse so the stats would show "even Greece works harder than we do." American inner city losers! What are the real stats, at the peak of the Greek collapse?

Greek unemployment hit a new record of 25.4% in August as five years of recession and government spending cuts continued to take their toll, with young people hit hardest.

The Greek statistics office ELSTAT said the seasonally-adjusted jobless number rose to 1.27 million in August, up 352,000 from the same month a year earlier when the unemployment rate stood at 18.4%. In July 2012, the figure was 24.8%

Nearly 6 in 10 workers under the age of 24 are now without a job. A third of workers aged 25-34 are unemployed, ELSTAT said.

The figures underscore the social cost of a recession that has cut the size of the Greek economy by about 20% since 2008, and efforts by the government to rein in its soaring budget deficit -- projected to hit 190% of gross domestic product next year. 

There's a little apples-and-oranges going on here in that comparing the unemployment figures from 2012 with the workforce participation dropout rate in 2003 is comparing people who want to work now but can't with those who could work back then but didn't want to. But Eberstadt was only interested in finding a stat that proved Americans are lazier than Greeks.

And Paul Ryan circuitously says those Americans who don't want to work are inner city blacks.

And George Will defends Paul Ryan by citing a study that says Americans are lazier than Greeks.

And so the snake eats its tail, proving liberals suck, and the poor suck, and liberals are shrill and boring (the requisite slap at Paul Krugman! Epic win!)

What does Krgthulu have to say about Ryan and the rest of the clowns? (Surely he doesn't mean you, George):

The countries that rode out the crisis best had relatively large welfare states by European standards, while those that did worst had somewhat smaller than average social expenditures.
I don’t think this is causal; what happened instead was that during the years of europhoria, money flowed from Europe’s wealthy core, with its well-established welfare states, to less developed economies on the periphery, which then went bust. The size of the welfare state probably had nothing to do with it either way. But then that’s the point: the right-wing theory of the crisis gets no support from the facts.
There you have it: the circle is squared, so to speak. The stronger the European welfare state, the better they survived. Starting with Ryan, passing to Will, relying on Eberstadt, then critiqued by Krugman, and you have a shrill liberal, in my view, with an assist from also-ran shrill liberal Brad DeLong, firmly in command of the facts and using them in a truthful way.

What a concept. The American Enterprise Institute and their attack dogs come up pretty limp. Better luck next time, George.

A quite relevant addendum. Te-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic explains why progressives might not have the proper frame of "the black condition":
"I'm not the president of black America," Barack Obama has said. "I'm the president of the United States of America."

And the president of the United States is not just an enactor of policy for today, he is the titular representative of his country's heritage and legacy. In regards to black people, America's heritage is kleptocracy—the stealing and selling of other people's children, the robbery of the fruits of black labor, the pillaging of black property, the taxing of black citizens for schools they can not attend, for pools in which they can not swim, for libraries that bar them, for universities that exclude them, for police who do not protect them, for the marking of whole communities as beyond the protection of the state and thus subject to the purview of outlaws and predators.

The bearer of this unfortunate heritage feebly urging "positive habits and behavior" while his country imprisons some ungodly number of black men may well be greeted with applause in some quarters. It must never be so among those of us whose love of James Baldwin is true, whose love of Ida B. Wells is true, whose love of Harriet Tubman and our ancestors who fought for the right of family is true. In that fight America has rarely been our ally. Very often it has been our nemesis.

Obama-era progressives view white supremacy as something awful that happened in the past and the historical vestiges of which still afflict black people today. They believe we need policies—though not race-specific policies—that address the affliction. I view white supremacy as one of the central organizing forces in American life, whose vestiges and practices afflicted black people in the past, continue to afflict black people today, and will likely afflict black people until this country passes into the dust.

There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society. The black freedom struggle is not about raising a race of hyper-moral super-humans. It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are.
 It's a classic mistake reformers make, whether liberals or conservatives -- especially when they set about reforming "others." Coates has it, in my view, almost pitch-perfect in summing up both the history and the continuity of "white supremacy." If there's a culture of failure somewhere that weighs on African-Americans, it's much whiter that it is black. And all the oppressors are not conservatives. Do-gooder progressives can be smart and on the side of the blacks and still have their thumbs on the wrong side of the scale. Coates is right to point that out. In the end -- to repeat -- what's it all about?
It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are.
So, sorry, Ryan, Will, Murray, Eberstadt, et al. This is what a social welfare state dedicated to both income and opportunity equality is all about: the right to live like the normal human beings they are.

Normal human beings, not hyper-moral, super-human beings.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Just a Reminder (If I Ruled the World, or at Least America)

My first rule is: Don't act like a dick. Christians put it another way: Do unto know the rest.

My second rule is: Don't envy anybody. That doesn't mean I think we shouldn't fight for equality, not at all. It just means that I've caught myself envying someone, only to watch that someone's life blow up, and mine didn't. So don't envy anyone. You might be envying a soon-to-be dead man. Shit happens.

My third rule is: Don't put up with assholes' bullshit. That's a hard rule to follow, and I haven't always done it. If your boss is an asshole and you need the money, well... Or the asshole is president and you're not the Supreme Court or something. Worse, you have to figure out who the assholes are, as is the case with, say, the police, who at any given time could be part of the problem or part of the solution. Anybody who's been attacked or robbed is really wanting the police. Anyone protesting in e.g. Berkeley, Oakland, or maybe UC Davis likely has found out that the cops are NOT on your side. Occasionally, you're heating up frozen dinners and by mistake they break down your front door and shoot you by mistake.

My fourth rule is: Follow the money. If you wonder why the schools are great in Palo Alto and they suck in East Palo Alto, chances are the money is in Palo Alto. If all the people in the Congress are all multi-millionaires, chances are they're going to vote in ways that make people with money feel good. If you hear someone making the case that we shouldn't punish people because they have all the money, the chances are good they're saying that because they want more money.

My fifth rule is: Feel good if you've got just enough money but not too much. Sure, it's hard to draw the line because, like, how much do we really need? Hard to tell. But I'm so much happier that I'm not in some gated community or being driven around in a big black car, or whatever. I absolutely love the middle-middle-middle class because we're all working and playing and life is really sweet even if we don't have much. The simple things, like a good homecooked meal, or a great VW (can't afford a BMW), or a great walk up a country road, these are all golden. Flying to a gated community by private jet, or to a resort that ordinary people can't afford, or eating food that's better than a really really good pizza is, I don't know, useless to me. Give me a night of bowling, or an afternoon of golf on a public course, or the best turkey burger I ever tasted. I'm happy.

You can make up these rules, too. They're not hard. One last rule is: Root for the other guys and gals. All of them. If you're cheering for someone and you have the feeling the dude's a dick, you're on the wrong side. Find out why you're on the wrong side. Fix it. And start rooting for everyone.

That's socialism. That's small-d democracy. And, believe it or not -- and you can take it from this atheist -- that's Christian.


There Is Reality, and Then There's Charles Krauthammer

Garry Kasparov said earlier that the way to get to Putin is through his cronies. Obama gets that and has set that in motion. Kasparov, a leading Russian dissident, approves.

But, oh noes!, Charles Krauthammer views Obama's attempts to counter Putin's aggression as "pathetic." We should be arming the Ukrainians. Great. Charlie, you want the Ukrainians to go to war with Russia? No? Then WTF?

Investors inside and outside Russia love what Putin is doing. Just look at the graph above of the recent activity in the Russian stock market.

Then read this Reuters report about the effects of U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia -- mostly on Putin's oligarch cronies and their banks.
In one immediate consequence, U.S. credit card companies Visa and MasterCard stopped providing services for payment transactions with Russia's SMP bank, owned by the Rotenberg brothers, the bank said.

President Barack Obama said Washington was also considering sanctions against key economic sectors including financial services, oil and gas, metals and mining and the defense industry, if Russia made military moves into eastern and southern Ukraine.

Diplomats said the mere mention of such a possibility would chill investment in Russia, charging an immediate price for Moscow's action in Crimea and serving as a potential deterrent to going further.
This, apparently, is how the game is played. Chess champion Garry Kasparov gets it, and, it seems, so does Barack Obama.

But we forgot. Obama plays chess, and the neocons play poker. Of course, this is reality and not really about games.

Garry Kasparov Hearts Obama's New Putin Sanctions

...and writes a WaPo op-ed about it.
Obama and Europe’s leaders keep trying to play by the rules even though Putin has ripped up the rule book and thrown the shreds in their faces. Kremlin elites were right to laugh at Western sanctions Monday on a few of Putin’s political hacks — the step was a joke. The laughter in Moscow surely died down on Thursday, when Obama personally made a stronger statement and announced new sanctions against oligarchs and assets that matter to Putin. Even better was Obama’s threat to sign new orders allowing stiffer penalties to a legal framework that Putin’s allies know how to exploit. This tells Putin that the West can change the rules, too. Now it is a question of resolve, of following this good first step with a second and third until Putin backs down.
Let's hope Kasparov is right, and Obama is willing to go further.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Putin's Problems Begin (Or Let's Hope So)

Vladimir Putin: Horsing around with Ukraine might not pay off.

So it begins. Standard & Poors downgrades Russia's economic outlook to negative. This, so it seems, is only the beginning and, as a matter of fact, has been underway for a while.

Now, according to the Moscow Times, it's set to a new, permanent battered status:
Before Ukraine and Crimea entered the center stage of geopolitics — in what Ian Bremmer of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group recently called "the most seismic geopolitical events since 9/11" — there was still hope that Russian stock valuations might increase. Analysts hoped that the fact that central Moscow feels and looks like a European capital — with better-dressed people and more money — could eventually erase images in investors' minds of old men in furry hats saluting missiles on Red Square. If Putin returned to his early 2000s reformist form, investor concerns about him would be assuaged. And eventually, investors would appreciate that corruption and the business environment in Russia are, at worst, comparable to other emerging markets.
But the hopes of a re-rating of Russian stocks are officially dead. Russia's Ukrainian adventure has shown that it is not only the rest of the world that still views Russia through a Cold War prism: That is how the Kremlin sees itself. Putin has backed up his theatrically menacing exterior with actual force. He acted like the bad guy because, well, he is a bad guy.
Global investors never really bought the illusion that Russia is just a snowier, bad-food version of China or India, or Brazil — and thus deserving of the higher valuations usually assigned to those markets. Now, investors' doubts have been confirmed.
Today, Russia suffers from low levels of investment and enormous — and rapidly increasing — capital flight. The current crisis will exacerbate the ongoing economic slowdown. Wealth creation — for investors and for millions of Russians — is permanently stunted. And there will not be any fundamental improvement in the perception of Russia for a long time.
Permanently stunted. Ouch. Good move, Putin. How are your oligarchs feeling now, huh?

the bond markets aren't doing so well, and neither is the ruble:
Russia paid a heavy financial price on Monday for its military action in Ukraine, with stocks, bonds and the rouble plunging.
Moscow's forces remained in control of Ukraine's Crimea region on Tuesday but markets partially recovered on hopes of easing tensions after Moscow ordered troops on exercise in western Russia back to base.
But the turmoil has forced bankers to try to assess damage to corporate deals and share sales and to calm clients.
This was before the annexation of Crimea, but the handwriting is on the wall. Remember, this is all before sanctions even started, and it may grow worse as newer, heavier sanctions begin to bite. Of course, the EU may pull its punches for fear of an energy shortage -- Russia supplies much of the EU's energy needs -- but fear of a bolder Russia may force the EU to stand firm with the U.S.

This should get interesting, but Putin may be chastised by his cronies more and more as time goes by. The thing is, though, Putin might not care.

Breaking: The U.S. begins to ratchet up pressure on the oligarchs. Stay tuned.

WaPo: We Own the World, Obama, Start Acting Like It

Fred Hiatt: an editorial philosophy
only a neocon could love.
According to the editorial board of the Washington Post -- by which we mean war-lovin' Fred Hiatt -- we should press our NATO noses right up against the glass of Moscow and give Vladimir Putin a real reason to squirm, and Obama is a chump for not thinking that way.

What's more, the thought that we invited Putin's adventurism by taking the Baltics and stuffing them in NATO's pocket, that's somehow anathema to Fred Hiatt's sensibilities, so we should just ignore that. After all, it's up to us to realign Europe. How in hell could that make the skin on the back of Putin's neck crawl? Buck up, Vlad, because, you know, freedom!

Sorry, Fred, but some Russian experts feel we did provoke him (though others dispute that). You know that cornering a rattlesnake is a sure-fire way to make it strike. Putin just did just that. It was a small strike but just enough to upend the balancing act that was a New Europe. Putin more or less said, 'No, this is the New Europe, and we're in it, asshole." Not very polite of him, I admit, the little brat. But you know the saying: He did it because he could.

Okay, we get it, Vlad. It's interesting to note that little land grabs -- most likely all that Putin's Russia dares to do -- are the price the West must pay for pushing up against Russia's borders. Hiatt says Obama doesn't get it. Hell, even John McCain gets it, as Atrios noted today. Here's quintessential McCain, and by extension neocons from DC to the end of time:
I do not see a military option and it’s tragic.
Think Progress catches the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol hoping that America can catch war fever again because it's always so much fun. We must find our way back home, to war, where we belong!
Bill Kristol: C'mon, America,
rediscover your love of war!
“American war-weariness isn’t new,” Kristol wrote in a piece published on Monday. “Using it as an excuse to avoid maintaining our defenses or shouldering our responsibilities isn’t new, either. But that doesn’t make it admirable.” 
So that's what's wrong with Obama. He doesn't want war in Europe, even though, according to John McCain, it's "tragic" that it's not an option. Which is it, guys? Admit it, you don't even know. But Obama's weak because there's nothing to be done about Putin's playing chicken. It's not like he bombed Wichita. He grabbed a small province that once did belong to Russia, and it's halfway around the world, and we can't do a damned thing about it, militarily at least. And it's "tragic."

It is a violation of international norms and laws, and the West has to act. But the fact is Russia and Putin are going to pay a higher price than Putin can currently foresee for this little adventure, and down the road the price he pays will be revealed. That it doesn't amount to much now makes all these chicken hawks have little face twitches. Sorry, chicken hawks, but twitches is all you get this time.

What did Fred Hiatt say the last time he saw a war coming his way? Let's see:
During the past decade the United States vowed many times to disarm Saddam Hussein, who made no secret of his hatred and enmity toward the United States; but when the Iraqi dictator resisted, the United States chose to abandon its vows rather than use the force that would have been needed to enforce them. In every case, the calculation, stated or unstated, was the same: Pay tribute, don't make trouble, and maybe nothing worse will happen.
In the ruins of Lower Manhattan in September 2001, most Americans saw evidence that this calculation was incorrect as well as craven. The nation's enemies would not be deterred or mollified by a gentle response; they would be emboldened. President Bush rightly concluded that the nation had to defend itself more vigilantly but also that no defense could succeed unless accompanied by an offensive against the terrorists and the states that sheltered them.
Washington Post, 2/13/03
I know how bad you must feel, Fred, when you try to come to terms with what a fucking idiot that statement made you look like. Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9/11, and we actually did disarm him long before we invaded him, just like Hans Blix and Scott Ritter said we did.

So, according to your logic, Senator, if
we could go to war, it wouldn't be tragic?
Acting like a bonehead now on Ukraine, Fred, by saying that Obama doesn't understand Putin isn't going to fix what a bonehead you were on Iraq. It just reminds us of your responsibility in the run-up to the war. People died, Fred, a lot of them, and a lot of young men and women don't have hands or legs or both. Congratulations on your tough stands!

But you can stop now. Please.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This Woman Just Won the GOP 9th District Congressional Primary in Illnois

In the stranger-than-fiction category, Susanne Atanus just won the primary in Illinois' 9th district. She'll face incumbent Democrat Rep. Jan Schakowsky in the fall. Here's Atanus in a candidates' availability for a local paper:

Mmmkay. I'm sure Jan Schakowsky has her work cut out for her.

(h/t Daily Kos)

Note. Yes, I listened carefully, and Atanus does seem to want to "get rid of the indexes" -- that would be the S&P 500, Dow Jones, and NASDAQ -- because they're "rippin' off, robbin', and draining the middle class." Uh....a champion of the middle class!

Nate Silver Riles Up the Base. (That would be pundits who read him.)

(Updated below)

Nate Silver has a new FiveThirtyEight. Uh oh.

I like Nate Silver, and I haven't minded his quiet arrogance because so far it's been well earned. His newly rejuvenated FiveThirtyEight blog is, however, angering people on both sides of the debates, for what I consider odd reasons. I do admire, however, those posting the complaints.

Here's a fan of Nate's, Paul Krugman:
What worries me, based on what we’ve seen so far — which isn’t much, but shouldn’t the site have debuted with a bang? — is that it looks as if the Silverites have misunderstood their mission.
Nate’s manifesto proclaims his intention to be a fox, who knows many things, rather than a hedgehog, who knows just one big thing; i.e., a pundit who repeats the same assertions in every column. I’m fine with that.
But you can’t be an effective fox just by letting the data speak for itself — because it never does. You use data to inform your analysis, you let it tell you that your pet hypothesis is wrong, but data are never a substitute for hard thinking. If you think the data are speaking for themselves, what you’re really doing is implicit theorizing, which is a really bad idea (because you can’t test your assumptions if you don’t even know what you’re assuming.)
Okay. Next, we've got a literary writer at New Republic, as reported by TPM:
Silver's venture relaunched on Monday under a fox logo -- an allusion to Greek poet Archilochus' saying “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” If Silver is the fox, he considers the opinion columnists he loathes to be the hedgehogs, and FiveThirtyEight to be the antidote to the chattering class' blathering.
"Plenty of pundits have really high IQs, but they don’t have any discipline in how they look at the world, and so it leads to a lot of bullshit, basically," he told New York Magazine.
Wieseltier blasted Silver for that "slander," arguing the data guru has more of the hedgehog in him than he'd ever admit.
"The new technology, which produces numbers the way plants produce oxygen, has inspired a new positivism, and he is one of its princes. He dignifies only facts," he wrote. "He honors only investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, and data journalism. He does not take a side, except the side of no side. He does not recognize the calling of, or grasp the need for, public reason; or rather, he cannot conceive of public reason except as an exercise in statistical analysis and data visualization. He is the hedgehog who knows only one big thing. And his thing may not be as big as he thinks it is."
Okay. Finally, Ryan Cooper, whose work I've liked at Washington Monthly, wrote about FiveThirtyEight at The Week:
Here's where we find Silver's ideological commitment, I think: contrarianism. Note how he hates opinion columnists in part because they aren't original. This quite awful piece is absolutely dripping with the stuff. (Read a thorough debunking here.) And Silver has some history here when it comes to climate change. When writing about the subject in his book The Signal and the Noise, Silver devoted a lot of space to "the highly questionable claims of a University of Pennsylvania marketing professor named J. Scott Armstrong...with close ties to fossil fuel industry front groups," according to climate scientist Michael Mann (thanks to David Dayen for the pointer).
I had been under the impression that media journalist Jay Rosen had successfully pushed the pitfalls of "ideology-free" journalism into the mainstream, but apparently we've got to learn it all over again. If Nate Silver wants to patch up his stumbling enterprise, and not just make an extremely expensive Freakonomics knockoff, that's where I would start.
Universally panned. Uh oh. Atrios sums it up well:
I hope one thing people have learned from this sucky blog is always avoid people who believe that they float above it all, that unlike the rest of you blinkered ideologues they have The Facts.

Nothing against expertise and facts, just against those who think they have unique access to The Truth. 
When you lose Atrios, you, in my view, fall in to that category of "probably had it coming."

Update. Krugman offers Silver some more advice:
Now, about FiveThirtyEight: I hope that Nate Silver understands what it actually means to be a fox. The fox, according to Archilocus, knows many things. But he does know these things — he doesn’t approach each topic as a blank slate, or imagine that there are general-purpose data-analysis tools that absolve him from any need to understand the particular subject he’s tackling. Even the most basic question — where are the data I need? — often takes a fair bit of expertise; I know my way around macro data and some (but not all) trade data, but I turn to real experts for guidance on health data, labor market data, and more.
Sounds reasonable.

Update 2. Esquire's Charles Pierce points out that there are sound reasons Nate Silver takes the tone he does, and sounder reasons why the pundits he disdains deserve it:
What is left out here, of course, is that Silver was proven right, and Brooks and Scarborough -- and Byers -- were proven to be talking out of their respective asses. And if that parenthetical doesn;t sum up the essence of TBOTP, I'm Mike Allen's bagman.
Bartender, a double Prestone, and see what the pundits in the backroom will have.
It's bad when Charlie starts to hit the anti-freeze again. Anyways, there's differing opinions on Silver, don't you know.

Tom Friedman Reminds Us Why We're Screwed

In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, Tom Friedman had a good article today. Example:
There are a lot of people who seem intent on restarting the Cold War — in both Moscow and Washington. I am not one of them. But if we’re going to have a new Cold War, then I have one condition: I want a new moonshot.
he Space Race and the technologies it produced weren’t purely an offshoot of the U.S.-Soviet missile competition, but they were certainly energized by that competition. Well, if we’re going to go at it again, this time I want an Earth Race. I want America to lead in developing an energy policy that will weaken the oil-and-gas-autocracy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and, as a byproduct, produce the technologies that will mitigate climate change, make America a global technology and moral leader and ensure that the next generation can thrive here on Earth. 
nd as opposed to the stimulus/deficit debate, in the energy case, there really is now the raw material for a “Grand Bargain” between Democrats and Republicans — if President Obama wants to try to forge it. Such an energy grand strategy would be a first. It’s shocking how devoid of strategic intent U.S. energy policy has been. Both political parties have repeatedly let our economy be hostage to Middle Eastern and Latin American oil despots and to energy booms and busts.
Great, Friedman, just great. However, one thing Friedman is good at is looking for third ways and grand bargains. In the first case, there are no third ways, and in the second case, there are no grand bargains.

So, thanks, Tom, for a good article reminding us that we're screwed. The only grand bargain we're going to find these days is at Walmart, and they sell crap and cheat their workers. We're doomed. Nice try.

See, Charlie, I propose third ways and grand bargains. That's WHAT. I. DO.

Random Thoughts About Oil

Oil + American Oil Men + Presidential Power + Middle East = ?

In 2000 we elected two oil men to the presidency and vice-presidency. What did we expect would happen?

Thank god they didn't start any wars in the Middle East or something.

Now reflect. What did happen?

Texas oil billionaires, the Koch Brothers

The Supreme Court rules on Citizens United, allowing essentially unlimited cash to flow from corporations into political campaigning.

The Supreme Court: Five men decided Citizens United.

What did they think would happen? What do you think will happen?

Exactly which mission was that? Who nominated Roberts and Alito?

What did we think would happen?

We are so screwed.

House Budget Committee Comes Out Firmly Against Facts

Paul Krugman notices -- so we don't have to -- that real wages have fallen for the bottom 60 percent of men over the last 45 years.The House Budget Committee, chaired by Paul Ryan, has just released its "poverty report." Does it mention this fact?

No. That would be, as Al Gore famously framed it, an inconvenient truth.

Here's that truth:

Who gets all that new income? As we go up the income scale, the upper crust.

One would think that would be vital information. One would be wrong, unless one were in the Republican Party, or Paul Ryan's version of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Surprise: Bill Maher Is Bill Maher

"I call God a dick and you're surprised. Who are you, Rick Santorum??"

And religion is religion. Who goes crazy when they hear Bill Maher, celebrated atheist that he is, rail against religion? Nobody who doesn't need their head examined, that's who.

Over at TPM, they zero in on Maher's latest beef, Noah:
The target of the comedian's [Bill Maher's] wrath was the blockbuster epic "Noah," which centers around a biblical tale that's routinely drawn Maher's mockery.
He rolled his eyes at polls showing that a majority of Americans believe the story of Noah's Ark and said the Genesis flood narrative is "immoral."
"It's about a psychotic, mass murderer who gets away with it and his name is God," Maher said. "Genesis says God was so angry with himself for screwing up when he made mankind so flawed that he sent the flood to kill everyone — everyone. Men, women, children, babies. What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he's mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie."
"Hey God, you know you're kind of a dick when you're in a movie with Russell Crowe and you're the one with anger issues," Maher added, punctuating a zinger that has been met with gasps.
"This May Be Bill Maher's Most Intense Rant Against Religions – All Of Them - Yet," read the headline over at the Huffington Post.
Michelle Malkin's acolytes at Twitchy asked, "Can Bill Maher get more absurd?"
Yes, Bill Maher can get more absurd. That would be if he suddenly found religion.

Anyway, I hear that Darren Aronofsky added six-armed angels because, like, the Bible is so boring, or something.

Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner should have collaborated on this one, don't you think?

Our Forefathers Loved That Ole Time Religion?

George Washington: our first atheist pinko libtard socialist?

Clearly they didn't not. So when Michele Bachmann or Ted Cruz say different, don't believe them. Daily Kos put out a neat compendium of our forefathers' feelings religion-wise:
"Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects."
- James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)
"There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness."
- George Washington, address to Congress (1790)
How 'bout them apples, ye olde constitutionalists? Read the whole list to get the real gist.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What One Paul Said About Another

Paul Krugman nails Paul Ryan.
There are many negative things you can say about Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the G.O.P.’s de facto intellectual leader. But you have to admit that he’s a very articulate guy, an expert at sounding as if he knows what he’s talking about.
So it’s comical, in a way, to see Mr. Ryan trying to explain away some recent remarks in which he attributed persistent poverty to a “culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working.” He was, he says, simply being “inarticulate.” How could anyone suggest that it was a racial dog-whistle? Why, he even cited the work of serious scholars — people like Charles Murray, most famous for arguing that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Oh, wait.
 Wait indeed. Concerning dog-whistles, remember that Ronald Reagan launched his campaign for the presidency with a speech about states' rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town famous for the murders of civil rights workers. Do you think the Old South didn't hear that whistle loud and clear?

Paul Ryan might have heard it, too:

Hey GOP, We Know How You Feel About the American Worker

When people want to feel superior, they must first look for someone inferior. It's a familiar pattern. Bullying originates in this dynamic: Find someone to dominate, and you gain dominion. Then have fun, regardless how perverse. Individuals do this, as do entities such as countries, even packs of countries.

As it is with politics, so it is with business. In fact, it's what's perverse about capitalism, that unbounded the capitalist finds dominion at the expense of someone who then has less capital. When classes of people are involved, some classes win while others lose.

Those who win this game are firmly in its thrall. Those who lose, not so much. When politics divides along these lines, you have the hardhearted Republicans and the more empathetic Democrats. If you doubt this, you haven't been listening to Paul Ryan lately, or Rick Santorum recently, or Mitt Romney in his famous 47-percent speech. So-called up-and-comers Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have chimed in, as well. Let's go to the video:

When you cite Charles Murray when you talk about "this tailspin in our inner cities" and "But, I mean, a boy has to see a man working, doesn't he?" "Absolutely," and "generations of men not even thinking about working," a rational man might think Paul Ryan is as good as stating that blacks, generations of blacks, are lazy and shiftless, wouldn't he? I sure draw that conclusion.

There's nothing to misunderstand in Rick Santorum's views on this.


Mitt Romney made a boo-boo when he said that out loud. But it was what's in his heart.

Now, Marco Rubio's first initiative is to give ALL of the federal anti-poverty dollars to the states to spend in "innovative" ways, by which he means any way they like. Yay, that'll be efficient, with 50 bureaucracies instead of one. And his other initiative is to cancel the earned income tax credit and replace it with wage subsidies, so that those making crap wages will have their income raised with federal dollars. Anybody notice the slight of hand here? Instead of raising the minimum wage, the cost of which corporations would have to absorb, Rubio wants to use taxpayer dollars now used to subsidize the working poor to give the working poor raises, so that corporations don't have to. Freaking brilliant.

The first initiative is welfare for the states, and the second is welfare for the corporations, paid for by federal dollars previously reserved for the poor. How is this not standing still? How is this not institutionalizing permanent low wages?

By "these workers" he means the long-term unemployed. Giving them help does them a disservice. Making them find jobs they haven't been able to find or dumpster dive in order to eat, well, that just makes sense to Rand Paul.

As for the Democratic stance, without a doubt their calls for extending unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage, and fighting to stop massive food-stamp cuts, while falling for now on deaf ears, at least prove on which side of the debate they stand. The Dems don't wish to throw the poor off the cliff. Time and again, the Republicans want to or already have.

There are observers out there who think these Republican proposals -- mostly in the form of "don't do anything" regardless of how they look like proposals to "do" something -- are "ideas." In fact, for fun, read this article in The Week that maintains the Republicans are becoming the Party of Ideas again. Holy crap.

Here's an example of a new Republican with new ideas:

I leave you, without comment, to contemplate the wisdom and insights of Ted Cruz.