Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Farce

So this is what it takes to make fair-weather friends like David Brooks become disenchanted with Obama... a millionaire tax? How perfectly sad. Now we see clearly where the Right's allegiances lie: in protecting the assetts of the ultra-wealthy. Ask people whose annual incomes exceed $1,000,000.00 to contribute a bit more, and you've gone off the deep end. How dare Obama call for shared sacrifice that actually demands that those who can afford to pay more, do so? After all, as Brooks so helpfully points out, a guy who brings in $1,000,000.00 a year today is really only left with $700,000.00 after taxes at current rates. If that ain't struggling to get by, then the phrase has no meaning.

It's pretty clear at this point (if there ever was any doubt) that guys like Brooks supported Obama purely for "Nixon in China" reasons. They felt that he was the one guy most likely to be able to sell a dismantling of the Great Society to Democrats.

What a farce.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quote for the Day

People close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Bachmann is often influenced by the last person she speaks with on an issue rather than maintaining discipline in communicating a message.

-An anonymous source "close to the Michelle Bachmann campaign" as cited by the New York Times.

I suppose that as long as we can ensure that the last person she speaks to before making a policy decison is sane, reasonable and well informed on the issue at hand, a Michelle Bachmann presidency would work out just fine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Prodigious Anger

And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

It is hard not to be terribly depressed after watching last night's Republican/Tea Party debate. Rage is the one emotion that emanates from this crowd, blind rage fueled by ignorance and bigotry and a seemingly religious hatred of anything they naively deem "socialism." Perhaps the standout moment (and one that's making waves in the blogosphere) is the point at which the audience cheered the prospect of letting a 30 year old uninsured man die if he found himself in the position of being unable to pay for a needed medical procedure. At least one, perhaps two members of the audience, taken by much the same fervor with which the evangelical shouts "hallelujah" in church, could not contain his fury and screamed out loudly "Let him die!"

It was an amazing moment, to be sure. Yes, Wolf Blitzer's hypothetical involved a healthy young man who foolishly and irresponsibly chooses to forgo purchasing health insurance (presumably to spend the money on more pleaasurable pursuits). One could well argue that the audience would have reacted differently to the example of an individual too poor to afford health insurance (though in arguments that I have personally engaged in with conservatives, let me assure you many would have reacted in exactly the same fashion).

Still, for an audience supposedly so reverent of "Judeo Christian values" it is astonishing that they would react so violently to a hypothetical that is merely a variation on the New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son, as recounted in Luke , Chapter 15: 11-32 --a classic tale illustrating the virtue and praiseworthyness of compassion and forgiveness.

Maybe they just didn't see it. Maybe it takes a liberal atheist such as myself to make the connection.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life on Charon

Just watched the tail-end of Fareed Zhakaria’s interview with Donald Rumsfeld. Pretty astonishing. The two takeaways on Rumsfeld’s views:

1) The US is not spending enough on defense. We can spend a lot more, as evidenced by the fact that at one point in our history we were devoting 10% of GDP to defense spending.

2) Rumsfeld’s one regret is that post-9/11 we weren’t vocal enough about the treat of radical Islamic extremism.

The first claim is astonishing enough: sure US military spending as a % of GDP is lower than it was at the height of the Korean and Vietnam wars. But to point to those years as sustainable limits is absolutely absurd. Furthermore, while military spending as a % of GDP may have been higher then, it is also true that in real, inflation-adjusted adjusted dollars, we are spending much more than we were even at the height of the Vietnam war (graph and source). Finally, in recent decades, Federal receipts as a % of GDP have run about 18% of GDP source. So a 10% upper limit means spending up to 55% or so of Federal revenues on defense!

The second claim is just a joke. The notion that over the past 10 years the American people haven’t been subjected to a steady enough barrage of hysterical Phillipics warning us of the threat of “radical Islamic extremism” can only be held by: (1) an idiot (2) a liar (3) a full-time resident of Pluto’s moon Charon. Which one is Rumsfeld? I'm going to be charitable here and suggest that maybe the guy was abducted by aliens sometime after he resigned as Secretary of Defense.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dark Ages

Paul Krugman offers his thoughts on what has happened to the economic profession over the last few decades:

We’ve entered a Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which much of the profession has lost its former knowledge, just as barbarian Europe had lost the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Was only able to watch a few minutes of the debate last night. The questioning was surprising incisive, to NBC's credit. Huntsman, to my mind, came off at the best prepared and most presidential cadidate. It's a sign of the extreme rightward turn of the GOP that he's also the candidate with the least real prospects of getting the nomination. Rick Perry seems to have stolen the GOP base's heart, and it's also telling just how transparently shallow and disingenuous his answers were. The question on health care was especially apposite. Contrasting Massachussetts' 5% rate of uninsured to Texas 27%, Brian Williams asked Perry why voters should favor his approach to Romney's (and by implicit extension Obama's). That Perry could claim with a straight face that excessive goverment regulation is the cause of Texas' uninsurance problem simply highlights the extent to which slogans have substituted for thinking in the GOP. After all, is Massachussetts any less regulated than Texas?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nothing special

Nothing much to say right now. Just feel like writing something. The day after the labor day weekend has a few bloggers returning to their blogs. Andrew Sullivan has some worthwhile observations on the current state of the Obama presidency. For the most part, I think Sullivan has it right. The Obama administration can boast some impressive acheivements (the rescue of the U.S. auto industry alone is a huge credit on his legacy) but the weak economy and the terrible jobs picture makes those acheivements moot, in many respects. It matters little at this point that the alterative policies that the GOP has floated would have dragged the world into a far worse state. For that reason, I doubt even the GOP would have followed their own policy proposals were they in power. As much as the right likes to portray John Maynard Keynes as the Devil incarnate, once they find themselves in power Republicans are hardly averse to turning the U.S. Treasury into their personal checkbook. How many stimulus checks did the Bush administration mail out between 2000 and 2008?

Now, this new pack of Teabaggers in Congress is another story. If you thought the debt cieling debate made John Bohener sweat, imagine what it would have been like to fight his own party to pass a budget championed by a Republican president! That day may yet come. One thing is certain: one of the very early steps the next president will have to take in 2013 is a raising of the debt ceiling. Should that event ocurr under a Republican president, it will be interesting to see if the result is internecine warfare or outright hypocrisy. My bet is we'll see just enough contrived protest to mollify whatever remnants of the Tea Party are still around at that time. But I suspect that rank hypocrisy is just a little less likely. Like the militia crazies that melted back into the woodwork when G.W. Bush came to power, the Tea Party will likely dissolve should a Republican president be elected. These movements are basically engineered by plutocrats, even if their members don't fully realize the extent to which they are merely following someone else's script.