Saturday, October 25, 2014

Conservatives Are So Patriotic, They Want to Secede from the Union

The Republican brain trust: They're so patriotic.
Why the Republicans are more trusted on foreign policy -- when we need a war the Republicans make sure we get one-- I've never been able to fathom. Truman and Johnson got us involved in Korea and Vietnam respectively, so the wars-of-choice issue breaks both ways. Democrats don't have a sterling record, either.

But where the Republicans-as-the-party-of-Patriots meme flies off the rails is with their secession talk. Throw in the "Second Amendment remedies" and "I've got this gun if the government tries to take away my rights" talk, and the Republicans credibility goes to hell.

Republicans heave the Party-of-Lincoln thing at us because he was great, then turn around and hate on America because government is bad. Which is it, folks?

The mainstream media -- especially inside the Beltway -- has a fallback position: Republicans are the party we should trust in a war because freedom or something. Of course, the same Beltway press is the first to remind us that Hillary Clinton might have trouble winning the presidency because she supported the AUMF resolution enabling Bush's Wars. Weird, huh?

You betcha. So weird that Rand Paul was all libertarian free-thinker when he said foreign entanglements blow. Then someone reminded him that if he wants the GOP nomination in 2016 he has to flip-flop and say except when we want to go to war, fuck yeah!

Weird? Not really. It's par for the course. a former Reagan staffer says the Southern states should secede because government blows and after all it's "legal." Real Party of Lincoln stuff, there. He even wants to call the new nation Reagan, I guess because the GOP has by now morphed into the Party of Reagan. That's a different cake recipe, don't you know.

Digby at Hullabalo points out the obvious twist to this ridiculous conundrum: The GOP is the new "blame America first" crowd. Hippies, you're off the hook. Move to Colorado and get stoned. Hating on America has a new constituency, and it's Republicans.

Now, everyone go out and vote accordingly. It's easy! Just remember that the Republicans love America so much, they want to leave it. Go figure.

This ancient bumper sticker is no longer about the Hippies...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Conservatives Get Their News From Fox. Who Knew?

What exactly do conservatives like about Fox News? The facts? Nah...

Holy obviouser-than-heck, Batman, a new Pew study finds that while liberals spread their favorite news providers over a large cluster and trust a good portion of providers beyond that, conservatives are broadly distrustful of most news outlets and rely primarily on Fox News for their "information."

I use information in scare quotes because Fox News has been caught red-handed doing a very bad job of informing its viewers. This might be old news, but it remains apt: A 2012 study found that Fox News viewers were less informed than people who didn't view the news at all.

Now more of this is coming to light. Amanda Marcotte at Salon has a good rundown of the new studies by Pew. Key paragraphs:
The findings were astounding. Out of the 36 news sources, consistent liberals trusted 28, a mix of liberal and mainstream news sources. Mostly, liberal respondents generally agreed, holding out a little more skepticism for overtly ideological sources like Daily Kos or ThinkProgress, but not actually distrusting them, either. The only news sources liberals didn’t trust, generally, are overtly right-wing ones, such as Fox News, the Blaze, Breitbart, or Rush Limbaugh’s show.
Conservatives, on the other hand, saw betrayers and liars around every corner. Consistent conservatives distrusted a whopping 24 out of 36 outlets and mostly conservative respondents distrusted 15 and were skeptical of quite a few more. The hostility wasn’t just to well-known liberal sources like MSNBC. Strong conservatives hated all the network news, CNN, NPR, and the major national outlets, except the Wall Street Journal.  Respondents who are mostly conservative fared better, but were still hostile to the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as skeptical of mainstream organizations like CBS and NBC News.
Conservatives watch Fox News because they're wildly distrustful of other sources, in part, I assume, because Fox News breeds this distrust. Liberals, on the other hand, spread their sources of information around because they're more apt to look for facts to inform their opinions rather than have their opinions ratified.

Now, I'm a liberal, and I listen to MSNBC -- I have Sirius XM in my car -- and I do so because I want to follow politics. MSNBC has a liberal slant, I grant that, but I'm in it for the political news, and I get that from them because they're obsessed with political rather than "news news," such as car crashes and car chases and murders in Dallas. I admit, though, that I'm comfortable with MSNBC's politics. I won't admit that "both sides do it." MSNBC has a liberal bias, which is also reality-based.

I watch Fox News from time to time, but not for the news. I watch to find out what they're up to, and generally they're fear-mongering and condemning Barack Obama and shouting Benghazi, IRS, and ISIS and Ebola and Obama! I wish that were an exaggeration, but it's not.

Also read the Ezra Klein article at about this. Aside from some pretty cool graphs that demonstrate the growing political polarization over the years, you'll find out that we are more polarized but not more extreme. That's an important distinction.

The far right is just as conservative as it's always been, and the far left is where it's been for a long time. What's changed is that, unlike in the past, there are much fewer conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. Those days are over.

Finally, we as a nation tend to fear the results of the other side's winning an election, that the world as we know it will come crashing down if "they" win. While innately we know that's not true -- Bush spent money like a sailor, and Obama didn't dismantle the surveillance state Bush assembled -- each side does like to hold to its stereotypes. I do it, almost against my will.

It'll only get worse in the near-term. I actually long for the days when the shifting electorate puts more power in the hands of minorities, be they women, gays, blacks, Latinos, or Asian-Americans. We could use some fresh blood.

Let's go out with a taste of Fox News talking about media bias. Rich!

By the way, the graph showing how biased the "mainstream media" is against Republican news was provided by Media Research Center, described by Wikipedia as " politically conservative content analysis organization based in Reston, Virginia, founded in 1987 by activist L. Brent Bozell III." Here's a taste of where Bozell is coming from. It's not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yes, I'm for Dem Senators, but Joni Ernst, Seriously?

Needs a gun because government? Where have we heard that before?

Okay. Joni Ernst has a slim lead in the Iowa senator race to replace Democrat Tom Harkin. Maybe we should emphasize "slim." That's the only thing that can explain her recent actions.

First, let's take a trip to crazytown for just a minute. Here's Joni back in 2012:
Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family – whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”
Of course, your next, first step is to get elected senator so you can, you know, join that government.

We remember Sharon Angle's "Second Amendment remedies," a comment that Ms. Angle rode from a lead against Harry Reid to oblivion in 2010. Maybe that's Joni's angle here.

That would be stupid, one would think, but I suspect the calculation -- most likely in parallel with Sharon Angle's -- is fire up the base! Consider them fired up.

But that doesn't explain why Joni is dodging the media, most especially the print press:
The cancelation was made public by The Des Moines Register's Rekha Basu, a columnist for the paper in a Facebook post [...]
Meeting with editorial boards of the newspapers most likely to endorse you (or not) has been de rigueur for quite a while now, so one has to wonder what she's dodging. People think they know:
Earlier in the week, the Des Moines Register, arguably Iowa's most prominent newspaper, called Ernst out on her support of a Personhood measure in a blistering editorial on Tuesday.
Specifically, the editorial criticizes Ernst for saying during the last U.S. Senate debate between her and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), that a Personhood amendment to the state Constitution that she supported "is simply a statement that I support life."
"Ernst's assertion that a personhood amendment is "simply a statement that I support is naive," the editorial said. "Amending the Iowa Constitution is a big deal. And it's a rare event, having been done fewer than 50 times since the constitution was adopted. A proposed amendment needs to be approved by both the Iowa House and Senate in two consecutive general assemblies and then approved by voters in the next general election."
When asked about it, Ernst spokesperson, Gretchen Hamel, dealt directly with the issue by pointing over there and saying, "Oh! Look! A pony!"

Stay classy, Ms. Ernst. Go back to castrating hogs.

Who's squealing now, Joni?

Please Explain Again Why the GOP Doesn't Want You to Vote

The Overpass Light Brigade of Milwaukee goes right at the heart of it.

Daily Kos flags the new election strategy of the GOP (well, not so new): Don't let 'em vote, they're too stupid!

As usual, though, Media Matters does a good job of covering the myriad conservative attacks on voting. Not surprisingly, Fox News is leading the way with the "women are too dumb to vote" movement.

National Reviews' Kevin Williamson goes all in with his "Five Reasons You're Too Dumb to Vote" column, saying "Voting is the most shallow gesture of citizenship there is."

I didn't know that! Jeez, I could have avoided voting all these years if...

Bottom line about this is that it's only the Republicans and their Fox News shock troops pressing this attack on voting. It's as if first we try different tacks to keep you from voting and then tell you, hell, voting is not all it's cracked up to be, so if you're too dumb to vote, well, that's OK!

And this is the party of Our Founding Fathers, the Constitution rocks!, and, uh, Patriotism, and "They hate us for our freedom!"

Except, uh, don't vote. You're too stupid.

Oh, yeah, I forgot. The Constitution originally only gave the vote to white, male landowners. I see where this is going. The white males of the moneyed class want their jobs back.

Hey, Lena, you and your kind can go ahead and have sex if you want. Just don't vote.

And these people think there's no war on women (and the young, and blacks, and Hispanics)?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Noah Smith Risks the Wrath of #GamerGate So I Don't Have To

Dudes, if you're looking for the ladies, you might not find them here...

I've always admired Noah Smith, up-and-coming econ blogger, who's worth taking seriously, even when he's not being serious.

In the post herein linked, he might be more serious than at first blush. He's on to something when he analyzes Omega, Beta, and Alpha males and the relative proclivity toward violence and aggression in general. Read his piece. It's somewhat important. Here's a taste:
It seems to me that a big problem in the world consists of angry young men doing aggressive things. One example of this is terrorism. Another is online intimidation and harassment of women, like we've seen with #GamerGate. Another is random outbursts of violent crime. I don't know why young men are so much more prone to aggression than other groups - most people just wave their hands and say "testosterone", while I tend to just shrug and say "whatever". But anyway, it's a fact, and pretty much everyone knows it.

One thing I have sort of noticed, however - and here we leave the realm of well-established fact and enter the realm of Noah Talking Out of His Digestive Tract - is that when young men feel like they can't get sex, they tend to feel angry and resentful toward the world. Actually, I've noticed that women, when they feel like they can't get sex, also seem to feel unhappy and grumpy. But since young men tend to be more aggressive than their female counterparts (see previous paragraph), the frustration that comes from feeling like one isn't able to get sex seems often to translate into aggression in men, but far more rarely in women.
Now, just to offer a little insight into what he has to say, let me say I've watched the mechanics of this for a good portion of my life. I've known some Alpha males, and I'm not one of them. In my active days as a musician, I was (mostly) a bass player. Bass players are usually Beta males, if only because lead guitars and lead singers hog all the Alpha space. But for me that was okay.

I quickly realized that Beta was just fine. I didn't even have to try. I had all the Beta females to work with because what choice did they have? (Me, and my Beta bandmates.) All the Alpha females were busy pursuing the Alpha males, which was okay by me.

We tend to think the Alphas are the best, but I never bought that, just like I never bought that being rich was all that big of a deal. Out in the working world, where you had to earn your happiness in the rough-and-tumble, now there's a life full of richness and rigor. I'd rather drink in a working class bar that the Top of the Mark.

While the Alphas were doing the Big Alpha Mating Dance, I was finding all the cool, relaxed ladies, and they were a blast. No drama, no problem. My Alpha friends had a corner on Drama, boy did they. If they didn't have any Drama, they whipped it up but quick, because, hey, they were Alphas. Sparks had to fly!

As for the problem with Omegas -- those for whom none of this feels natural -- I agree with Noah. Chill, stop thinking there's no one or nothing out there for you. Life is everywhere. Omegas are just Betas with a fear factor, or something.

And, like Noah, I'm no expert. But that's how it went for me, most of my life, and I've been happy, whatever that is. No, I know what that is. It's feeling alive, and knowing it, and accepting it. Opportunity is everywhere! (Please don't mistake my statement to be tacit approval of conservatives' notion that there's an equality of opportunity. There isn't, but I'm not talking economic cul-de-sacs here.)

That's what's missing in many Muslim countries, and it leads to angry young men. Let the ladies out, dudes! Let them be equal, and they'll hang with you but quick. Yes, that's an over-simplification, but apt, nonetheless. Not knocking Islam, but... Okay, I'm knocking Islam. It's got a big problem with the Love Thing. And that's just not okay, and where does it get you?

The other side of the Omega conundrum: Would Arab men be so angry if they
could score girl friends? Probably not... (Where are the women in this picture?)

Note. Reading the comments on Noah's post, it occurs to me that there isn't an easy consensus on this topic, you know, who has sex and why. For us to say, hey, relax, there's someone out there for everyone, well, just because we believe it may not make it so. The stars of Sleepless in Seattle were Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, for chrissake.

No, it's possible that a certain number of Omega men are going to be unsuccessful and hecka pissed. Maybe they'll be trouble all our days. Wish it weren't so. Of course, are the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries cool because more people are getting laid? Maybe. Hmm...

Chris Christie Gives Up the Game on Voter ID

Chris Christie: We tried lying, let's try telling the truth. If no one carps, it's all good.

Ed Kilgore of Political Animal tags NJ Gov. Chris Christie and his tongue slip. Or was it one? You judge:
When I said yesterday that the right to vote was increasingly being treated as a partisan political game, I had no way to know that a very prominent Republican politician would supply an instant illustration, per a report from the Bergen Record:
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they’re the ones controlling “voting mechanisms” going into the next presidential election….
Read the rest for true cringe inducement. We're getting into I-didn't-think-I'd-live-this-long-to-see-this territory. Yuk.

...adding that I grew up in an era when I thought Richard Nixon was a creep and Lyndon Johnson was a great man. Neither was categorically true. I'd take either of them now, for Pete's sake.

How to Support Multiculturalism in Developing Countries

The answer, apparently, is you don't, or can't.

Dudes in Pakistan: Our allies in the war on terrorism? Maybe not these guys.

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast gets the right message from the Ben Affleck-Bill Maher face-off on Real Time. Can we in the developed world, where there is an infrastructure for multicultural acceptance and tolerance, support the view that other cultures have a right to their particular cultural views? Theoretically, but, er...

Affleck might think that we need to respect Islam as a world religion in order to be "liberal," but when Islam is used to suppress freedoms the West takes for granted, how "liberal" is he being? Whose human rights are we furthering when we grant developing nations the right to be seriously fucked up in the name of multiculturalism?

Interesting stuff. Foundational, even.

Note. Humanists like me have serious trouble with Christians who distort Christ's message. Sure, in Christ's day, women had extremely limited rights, but a reading of the Sermon on the Mount, for example, as well as other passages in the New Testament make it clear Christ was departing from the views of the Palestine in which he was formed. Now, American Christians hold "Christian" views that suppress women, oppress them, actually. How are these Christians superior to Muslims in much of the developing world?

Supporting multiculturalism doesn't excuse oppressive Christians in the West, nor does it offer shelter for Muslims whose treatment of women should be roundly condemned.

In other words, saying respect for diversity means they get to treat their women badly. No, it doesn't!

Note 2. My first note should not be construed to mean I focus on fundamentalist religionists' treatment of women. It's only an example. There is much to condemn whenever and wherever violence and repression exist in the world. Religions, however, do cause much of the world's problems. Then, of course, there's wealth and money.

The Republicans Love the Poor

Republican lawmakers at the state level help the loan sharks in our market economy. How? By raising the interest rates and fees the poor and ignorant pay for quick-fix loans. How is this not the Republican Party helping the rich steal from the poor?

Read the comments on the above linked article. Nobody thinks this is good for the country. Why anyone would support today's Republican Party amazes me. And yet...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hillsong Church Finds Earliest Pope That Had Sex with Fish

Wait, I might have mixed up three articles in that headline. It's confusing on Monday mornings.

Ancient fish having sex. No pope. My bad.

This scientific article is the only one that makes any actual sense. We've found fossils of the oldest creatures who had sex. Of course, certain Christians might have a problem with this news. First, SEX! And, second, FOSSILS! Certain Christians don't believe in sex or fossils, well, certainly fossils.

Another article talks about how the American bishops put the kibosh on Pope Francis making nice with the gays. It seems he's "tearing up the rule book." There's apparently a rule that you don't make nice with the gays or something. Tell that to the world of people under thirty, you white-haired geezers in red and purple beanies.

Apparently the Hillsong Church, an inclusive Christian megachurch has found a way past the dilemma:
"Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent," [New York Hillsong pastor] Lentz told CNN. "And I'm still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people.  You won't find it, because He never did."
Lentz's wife, Laura, chimed in: "It's not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That's their journey."
To which the head of the Southern Baptists retorted something like "Jesus didn't have to say it to let us know He hated on the gays." Okay, the head of the Southern Baptists didn't exactly say that. The head of the Hillsong Church told the New York pastor to knock it off because Paul...

To recap, there were three articles in which some Christians somewhere were unhappy about something because the Earth is about 4000 years old and St. Paul wasn't down with teh gay, so shut up, Pope.


I've got a feeling the American bishops haven't heard the last from Pope Francis.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Holy Crap. Obama Might Reaffirm Bush Stance on Torture

Don't let this happen.

Bush: We don't have to be humane outside our borders. Obama might go there.

The Obama administration has to decide its stance on torture before a meeting in Geneva next month. Word is there's resistance from the military and intelligence services not to rein in their "options."

As with the NSA, power corrupts, and has corrupted Barack Obama. Will he go all in next month? I wouldn't be surprised.

What say you about a nation of thugs? And what are we if not that, if we say "but we didn't torture in Milwaukee, only in Poland, and, er, Afghanistan, and, er..."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Yes, McDonald's and WalMart Get Free Money from the Government


McDonald's: They make money the old-fashioned way. They screw their workers.

As if it weren't obvious. Minimum-wage workers need public assistance to get by these days. That means we, the taxpayers, pay part of the pay corporations avoid paying themselves. And that's good how?

Turns out raising the minimum wage would save the government -- and us -- billions. Who knew?


Friday, October 17, 2014

David Brooks Squishes Politics into a Can of Sardines

The fish of low idealism: Oily and salty. But they pack so neatly!

Not to knock David Brooks or sardines, but... Okay, yes, to knock David Brooks slightly, but only because, to avoid talking -- as he has this election cycle -- about the state of the right wing he ostensibly supports, Brooks has waxed philosophic in order to remove himself from the toxic swamp his conservatives have wallowed in as they pursue their crusade to destroy Obama.

And Thus doth our Mr. Brooks, in his column, "The Case for Low Ideals," elevate "low idealism" to its vaunted perch as the best we should aspire to. I only slightly knock dear David because his politics have become so slight.

A commenter on his column, Gerard, said it best:
There's a weariness and resignation masquerading here as realism. Whole societies can believe in high ideals and bring them to fruition. The German and Dutch nationwide initiatives to quickly move towards green energy come to mind. Mr. Brooks is reflecting a country that doesn't really know what it wants and is too divided and anxious to use its collective imagination and energies.
If I had David Brooks' job -- to represent conservatism as a positive position to govern from -- I'd be weary, too. I'll grant him that. But to squish politics into philosophic mush?

Why so squishy, Brooks? Is it because of what commenter Sceptique said?
The "the high idealism that surrounded that 2008 campaign" was about education, sustainable energy, infrastructure, and medical care. Too much to ask Republicans to support.
Ouch. A party that wants to drown government like a baby in a bathtub -- blame Grover Norquist for that image, not me -- might not be a party about which one could use the word "ideal," though the word "low" does seem apt.

I'm a philosopher, not a conservative pundit. No, really. Can I go home now?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

New Jersey unemployment line: Equal opportunity suffering
while businesses sit on money.

I believe Atrios, a favorite political-economic blogger of mine, coined the phrase -- often used in his blog posts at Eschaton -- Why We Can't Have Nice Things. His meaning, essentially, is that certain economic policies keep the shrinking middle class and working class from sharing in the fruits of the American economy. Those certain economic policies are austerian, conservative, Republican, freshwater, whatever you want to call it.

In certain ways, we've recovered from the financial crisis of 2008 that brought on the Great Recession, but what's kept the recovery from being broad-based is the refusal of the political right to allow aggregate demand to rise through government stimulus. While businesses have seen their balance sheets filled to the brim as they sit on cash -- due to severe trimming of workforces, thus producing profit that isn't shared by workers -- that same workforce can't increase aggregate demand because businesses won't hire them due to low aggregate demand, and government can't grow that demand through stimulus spending on things like aging infrastructure, education, and research-and-development because of political resistance. Hence the no-nice-things predicament.

Now, conservative politicians and their think tanks and economist shills in the freshwater schools like the University of Chicago love to cite the theory of "crowding out," in which public investment (government spending) crowds out private investment (companies investing in capital goods to increase supply). The conservatives love this theory because is justifies being against both stimulus spending and redistribution -- such as government spending on unemployment insurance extensions and other safety-net programs that kick into higher gear automatically during downturns -- saying that it can't possibly help because anything the government does will either raise taxes or raise the deficit, thus driving up interest rates and reducing private investment.

A weird basis for this is the belief held by real-business-cycle economists (yes, freshwater folks) that all actors are rational and tuned in: If I, say an auto mechanic, hear a tax increase might be coming, I immediately stop spending and start saving to pay for the impending tax increase. (Have you ever done that? I didn't think so.) So even talking about raising taxes or increasing the deficit will shock the markets, the economy, the world, and conceivably cancel, retroactively, the Big Bang. I mean, why exist at all if taxes or deficits are going up?

On the other hand, is that the real world you live in? I certainly don't. For shits and giggles, recall the horrible effect the Clinton 1993 tax increase had on the U.S. economy, you know, the one that led to the greatest period of growth since WWII. I guess we weren't rational enough.

Another aspect of rational expectations is that, if I think something is going to happen, say a stock boom, I'll get into the market and partially cause the boom to happen. So actors acting rationally will alter what happens based on their rational expectations. RBC economists believe this in spite of the fact that it's how stock bubbles, dot-com bubbles, and real estate bubbles happen, you know, through the herd effect, which is what happens when a large bunch of people turn out to think they have rational expectations but instead go crazy until they panic and bring down the whole shebang. But then that never happens because RBC types don't believe in bubbles. They believe in efficient markets. You know, the ones that keep going kablooey. But no bubbles! Here's freshwater economics at its best, Eugene Fama of, yes, U of Chicago:
New Yorker Magazine: 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.
Eugene Fama: 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.
Great. I feel better now. Another example: There can't have been a housing boom and people borrowing way over their heads to purchase and purchase homes until the valuations on their homes not only exceeded their expectations but caused an entire market to go haywire and crash with a fury, taking down all the rational players, Wall Street and banks included. No, that couldn't happen. Why? Because rational actors like Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Warren Buffet, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner (Robert Shiller's comments on Geithner begin about 2:25) said it couldn't.


The problem is that the crowding out theory is bunk, especially in our current situation in which conservative policies have precluded stimulus spending and private businesses haven't increased investment because of low aggregate demand in spite of the fact that real interest rates are at or below zero, which means that this is the time for the government to spend like crazy because the money will practically be free.

Why? Let's start with the paradox of thrift. Since the financial bubble popped, firms and individuals have embarked on an ongoing deleveraging to reduce the high levels of debt and risk that caused the financial bubble. But since your spending is my income and vice versa, if we both save, both our incomes will decline. How do we increase demand and grow the economy if we sit on cash rather than go out and spend? We can't. Our thrift reduces our incomes and thus our savings, so the economy suffers and we can't get out of our hole. Another way of saying it is austerity literally sucks.

What to do? Keynes and the Keynesians (saltwater economists) say economic stimulus with its multipliers, and the classical school of economics (freshwater economists) says there's no such thing as lack of aggregate demand, there can only be lack of aggregate supply. Refer back to crowding out to understand why they maintain what they do, but saltwater economists want to help labor to increase demand to grow the economy, and freshwater economists want to help businesses to increase supply to grow the economy. Another way of saying that is liberal economists are on the side of labor, and conservative economists are on the side of capital. Unfortunately, depending on who wins, we have what Thomas Picketty described in his massive tome, Capital, which explains how income inequality grows.

Since crowding out is a charade, the only justification for taking the conservative economic stance is to prevent government spending, thus reducing taxes, especially on the rich, who then happily support the conservatives and their professional economic shills.

And we are frozen in time, with no way for the average American to have nice things. Now, if you want an economics lecture that clearly demonstrates that curtailing investment is counterproductive when interest rates are unbelievably low, which they have been for almost six years, watch this very informative Kahn Academy illustrated lecture, and I'll shut up.

If you want to see a series of lectures that explain how interest rates impact investment -- or should impact investment! -- go here. It's very illuminating. Then vote for politicians who will not squander the opportunity to spend on infrastructure and other things that will increase employment, drive up demand, and reduce the suffering among the masses, because interest rates are at zero and money is cheap! Spend now, the paradox of thrift is killing us.

We deserve nice things. The rich already have them. To fix this, give people -- not business -- free money. If people have money, they will spend it and business wins, too. See how easy that is?

Monday, October 13, 2014

The REAL Political Bottom Line: It's All About White, Male Privilege

The Nixon Cabinet: What's wrong with this picture? It would never occur to them.

I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to sort through the difference between outright activist racism (white power, anyone?), institutional racism (I'm not racist!), and implicit racism (like I said, I'm not racist!). Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it's all about privilege and the maintenance of privilege. I'm white, you're black, game over. I win. (Even if you didn't know you we're in the game...).

Then I looked at patriarchy versus, yep, feminism, and, again, it's about privilege. I'm male, you're female, game over. I win.

Then I looked at gays versus straights, and, okay, you get it.

What I got was the Republican Party, as currently constituted, is a white, male, Christian privilege maintenance machine.

Today's Republican leadership (Cantor's out, but). Since Nixon, any change?

See any change, any what progressives might call progress? Nope.

Clearly, the Democrats are only marginally better, but they are better. What's more, their entire future depends on their attempt to embrace blacks, Asians, Latinos, women, gays, Native Americans, the poors, and whatever marginalized population isn't adhered to white, male privilege. (The Christian thing works for white males because it justifies paternal authority and helps bring wives aboard the white, male train.)

Some white, male Democrats might also long for the 1950s and 60s because they ran things. But they know it's not gonna be Daddy's world forever, so they know how their bread's gonna get buttered before too long.

Final flash: It just so happens that what's good for our diverse communities is also good for the country.

So, c'mon, get on board the love train!

Republicans need not apply.

The Greatest Country in the World Shows Again Why It Isn't

Of course the chart above tells the key story: Americans have forgotten what makes a country work and thrive. We put competent systems in place, that's what. Let's face it, this kind of breakdown results from the toxic misapprehension of the Ronald-Reagan type.

"Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." --Saint Ronnie's first inaugural address.

No more dangerous words are ever spoken in a democracy. Government is the repository, the cauldron, of democracy. Declare it the enemy, and the enemies of democracy will thrive instead. There are some public goods that can only be achieved by government, i.e. the people working together.

The knee-jerk counterargument is that when government fails, it's the government's innate inability to do something well. The real counterargument to government-as-the-problem is fix the problem. Now, certain people -- those with access to and control of capital -- will want to frame the solution to a government failure as a private-sector response. Why? Because it's an attempt to move public moneys to private pockets. This is the nature of the capitalist beast, and it's rarely in the public interest.

But the failure here is that the wealthy behind their gated communities -- let's face it, the wealthy don't live with us in the general population -- and, thus, the wealthy aren't tuned in to the general welfare system that would stop an Ebola outbreak or a resurgence of polio. They feel safe and apart.

Which is why we have such a dysfunctional healthcare system, including our public health infrastructure: Simply, the moneyed class run their own operations. How many of you expect to run into Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or George Clooney at your local public health clinic -- or the local Kaiser clinic, for that matter -- getting a TB test or the latest shingles booster? None of us do. The public health clinic is for the dispossessed. I should know: As a teacher, a TB test was required every few years, and we sat waiting our turns with the masses served by our public-health system.

Republicans, I'm afraid, are responsible for this mess, this eroding of public goods, because they serve their masters in the privatization scheme that takes public dollars and puts them in private pockets. What's left? Underfunded public health systems that can't cope with an Ebola outbreak in Dallas. Who's fault is that?

It's the government's!

What a facile, cheap shot. Assholes, otherwise rightfully known as the enemies of the people.

What is breaking down in Africa? The public sector. Private sector to the rescue? Not a chance.
Who is coming to the rescue? The U.S. government -- our armed forces -- and NGOs.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Who's Responsible for this War Mess?

I got an idea:

Never forget.

This Is How America Keeps the Peace

Somehow these guys don't look ready to serve and protect.

Today's WaPo tells a story -- that isn't at all random -- of what justice has become in the good ole USA. Yes, we understand the law very well:
Police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.
The details are contained in thousands of annual reports submitted by local and state agencies to the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, an initiative that allows local and state police to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize. The Washington Post obtained 43,000 of the reports dating from 2008 through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The documents offer a sweeping look at how police departments and drug task forces across the country are benefiting from laws that allow them to take cash and property without proving a crime has occurred. The law was meant to decimate drug organizations, but The Post found that it has been used as a routine source of funding for law enforcement at every level.
If you don't think this is fucked up, your sense of "law and order" is, well, fucked up. To read a story of how this over-militarization of our police isn't a force for good, click here. Also, think of the facts behind the phrases I put in bold in the article. Is this what you want out there? Why?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Is CNN the Stupid News Network?

Wolf ought to look into the stupid situation at CNN.

Maybe yes, maybe no. But they don't do themselves any favors by having segments like this with religious scholar Reza Aslan. Now, before you see the CNN piece, a little background. In this embarrassingly obtuse interview with Fox News -- where, to be clear, it's Fox being obtuse -- we see how a truly propagandistic network approaches a religious scholar when its goal is to soil Islam:

This embarrassment of an interview is so obtuse, I've wracked my brain and can't come up with something to compare it to. You may notice, if you watch the whole thing, that the interviewer, Lauren Green, sticks to a script throughout the interview without apparently noticing that Aslan successfully and patiently refutes her entire set of talking points. To call her behavior bizarre is to be nice to her.

Now, on to CNN, where obtuse, again, is an apt word:

I'm not a defender of Islam. In fact, I'm an atheist who believes that religion is often not a force for good, whether it's in Northern Ireland or Saudi Arabia. But the ignorance on display by CNN hosts Alisyn Camerota and Don Lemon -- and Bill Maher, for that matter -- is stunning. And, once again, as Aslan gently schools the CNN hosts, they stick to their script without giving an inch.

Ignorance is a terrible thing to waste for some people. CNN isn't wasting a drop of it. In fact, they're wallowing in it.

Let's be clear: These CNN hosts are practicing a bankrupt style of interview. They state a bunch of things that are patently untrue -- though widely believed -- and refuse to acknowledge when Reza Aslan is making complete sense. In this, they reflect the pervasive ignorance of Americans in general.

We can't get anywhere in working with the Muslim world if we can't get past our boneheadedness. We may live in the Greatest Country in the History of Man, but we also live in one of the friggin' dumbest.

If we can't understand them, at least we can bomb them. We've got that going for us.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Understanding Racism, Sexism, Agism, etc.: It's All About Privilege

Black lesbians: Talk about three strikes.

This recommended Daily Kos diary about white privilege was an eye opener for me, not because of what it had in it, but from following one link to another.

First, I clicked on a link and read "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack," not realizing the Daily Kos post was not really about that. Yet, I not only found it clarifying about how those of us who enjoy the privilege of being white -- and, about half the time, male -- don't seem to realize it's not good enough to not be racist or sexist, but it also contained a link to the "Combahee River Collective Statement," which originated the phrase, "identity politics," while discussing both the plight and the solutions to the problems of black feminist lesbians.

Why I'm so into this discussion -- and why I was so taken by the statements in the above three links -- is because I've been surprised by the position of some of my white friends that "I'm not a racist, period." I love these friends and respect them no end, but on this point I can only answer, "That's bunk."

The question that truly begins to get answered in the links above is that white privilege -- and in my case, white male privilege -- is something we get gifted. We don't earn it, we luck into it. Then many of us stand back and enjoy the lives we lead with tut-tuts of "Those racists are shitheads" and think we've washed our hands of it. Sorry, bullshit.

I've always known this about myself, that I got a head start. Add that I was born into an intellectual family that valued education -- both my parents were teachers with excellent educations themselves -- with all the privileges that attend that accident of birth. I grew up to be smart, inquisitive, and ambitious and thinking that is was my natural state of affairs, which it actually was. The point is that it was no accident.

I was really taken by the Combahee River Collective Statement, and without going into the whole thing -- do read it! -- I want to point out what I noticed in an early part of the preamble, if you will:
Before looking at the recent development of Black feminism we would like to affirm that we find our origins in the historical reality of Afro-American women's continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation. Black women's extremely negative relationship to the American political system (a system of white male rule) has always been determined by our membership in two oppressed racial and sexual castes. As Angela Davis points out in "Reflections on the Black Woman's Role in the Community of Slaves," Black women have always embodied, if only in their physical manifestation, an adversary stance to white male rule and have actively resisted its inroads upon them and their communities in both dramatic and subtle ways. There have always been Black women activists—some known, like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, and thousands upon thousands unknown—who have had a shared awareness of how their sexual identity combined with their racial identity to make their whole life situation and the focus of their political struggles unique. Contemporary Black feminism is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters.
It was that last line that got me, that spoke of the "personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters." What, no mention of the white heterosexual males who are, at heart, feminists, who, like me, never let his wives or girlfriends ever do his wash and always did at least half of the cooking? Hey, where's the "Oh yeah, Calvin, he's cool," where's that?

It's not there for one stark reason: No matter what, we white heterosexual males are part of the problem and can't be part of the solution if only because of the work required to even begin to bridge our innate, culturally attenuated ignorance of what's really going on even in our own heads, our own hearts.

Maybe in the next century, maybe. Meanwhile, the best we possessors of privilege can do is not act stupid and not support the abuses of that privilege we see all around us. Fight it everywhere we can, and don't expect our black lesbian sisters to think we're cool. We aren't cool, and they aren't our sisters, even if we can all trace our roots back to Lucy in the Great Rift Valley. After what's transpired in the last, I don't know, thousands and thousands of years, we don't make much progress overnight.

But a decent start is to say, yes, I get how I'm privileged, and I won't pretend otherwise.

So far to go, so, so far.

I almost forgot. The point of the Daily Kos post was actually the Dear White Racists letter. It's unmellow, to say the least, and maybe, in tone, off-putting -- score one for the internets -- but there's a lot in there. So to the guy in the picture above, this is for you:
And here's the subtle point that you folks either can't or won't grasp. White privilege is especially the responsibility of white people to fix, not because we're all racist schlubs like you are, but because white privilege itself means that we're the ones who have the power to change it. Black people don't have that power, again because of white privilege, and not because they aren't sufficiently careful in the way they phrase their complaints about being mistreated. It's our problem and our responsibility as white people to fix not because whites are collectively guilty, but because it is the responsibility of ALL PEOPLE to fight for decent treatment for ALL PEOPLE. It just happens that, because of our shithead ancestors and a helping handful of historical accident, we white people are the ones who can do something about it. When the finger on the trigger is white, it's pointless to ask a black guy to lower the gun.
And quite frankly, given all the shit that our black fellow citizens have put up with, and all the shit they have to deal with every. fucking. day., if some of them lose their tempers and say things that aren't carefully calibrated to kiss your privileged, hypersensitive asses, well, is that actually surprising? You lose your minds when black people just complain verbally about being kicked. Imagine how tough it would be for you to keep your cool if someone was actually doing something to you instead of just talking.
Finally, yes, I know this is pointless. You want to be offended to fluff your fragile egos, and you want black people to please shut the fuck up and stop harshing your mellow. I hate to break it to you, but as long as people are being murdered by the state, given draconian sentences for crimes that in many cases they haven't even committed, and being held in poverty and privation and a constant state of fear, those of us who actually give a shit about our fellow citizens are going, at the very least, to make some noise about it.
In the meantime, if you can't be bothered to do your duty as an American to protect your fellow Americans with the considerable power at your disposal, at least shut the fuck up and stop making an ass of yourself.
That's about right.