Evening News….History, Hillary and Coprolite

88523948895929343_dQRlZJ2i_cGood Evening

Some interesting links for you tonight, all along the theme of bullshit, a piece of shit and more bullshit.

First let us get to the real turd of the evening, this is an ancient…prehistoric nugget. We are talking about a dump taken before time…before the era of the dinosaurs…imagine, Tapeworm Eggs Found in 270-Million-Year-Old Shark Poop.

270 million years ago, a shark pooped near the coast of Brazil. That poop was fossilized and preserved into a coprolite, which is the scientific term for fossilized poop. Scientists found that shark poop, and have been carefully studying it. We don’t know exactly what they were looking for, but we do know what they found — and it’s gross.

By carefully dissecting the shark poop into thin cross-sections, paleontologist Paula Dentzien-Dias of the Federal University of the Rio Grande found a group of 93 tapeworm eggs. The eggs are so small, about one-and-a-half times as wide as a human hair, and only found in one section of the coprolite sample.

“Luckily in one of them, we found the eggs,” said Dentzien-Dias. Lucky indeed! Where would we be without this story of fossilized tapeworm eggs inside fossilized shark poop?

The coprolite dates back to the Paleozoic era, before even the dinosaurs. That puts these tapeworm eggs at about 140 million years earlier than any intestinal parasites found in vertebrates, meaning they’ve been a problem for much longer than previously thought.

The scientist can’t tell what species of shark the coprolite is from, but what I find so intriguing is that tapeworms, like roaches, seem to have been around since the beginning of time.  Of course, don’t tell anyone from the religious right this news, cause the world is not that old!

2/1 Luckovich cartoon: Evolution | Mike Luckovich

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Another fish story for you, Video Documents Thought In Fish Brain For The First Time

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics believe they’ve captured a world first video — images of a thought making it’s way through the brain of a zebrafish. It’s not a particularly complicated thought — essentially ‘Hey, that looks like it could be food.’ — but the fact that the team has imaged the very stuff of even simple thought for the first time is really kind of amazing — not unlike magic.

[…]

Researchers were able to image visual perception in the fish using a new tool designed just for the purpose — a super-sensitive fluorescent probe that detects neuron activity, causing neurons to light up when they’re activated. In this case, the images are of the activity in neurons as a zebrafish watches a paramecium flit around it, registering the movement of its prey. After this strong first showing, they’re hopeful that examples of the probe could be used to learn more about the ill-understood circuitry of the brain, and how connections between brain cells work together to produce thought or register and act on perception.

Video at the link.

This next article is thought provoking, Yoon Young-kwan: Asia Feels Like Pre-War Europe

Whether east Asia’s politicians and pundits like it or not, the region’s current international relations are more akin to 19th-century European balance-of-power politics than to the stable Europe of today.

Witness east Asia’s rising nationalism, territorial disputes and lack of effective institutional mechanisms for security co-operation. While economic interdependence among China, Japan, South Korea and the members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations continues to deepen, their diplomatic relations are as burdened by rivalry and mistrust as relations among European countries were in the decades prior to the First World War.

You can read more about this at The Scotsman.

Ah…now for the bullshit, a few links that make you scratch your head and wonder.

A new theory about Gandhi making headlines in The Telegraph, The truth about Mahatma Gandhi: he was a wily bigot, not India’s smiling saint.

The Indian nationalist leader had an eccentric attitude to sleeping habits, food and sexuality. However, his more controversial ideas have been written out of history

This week, the National Archives here in New Delhi released a set of letters between Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and a close friend from his South African days, Hermann Kallenbach, a German Jewish architect. Cue a set of ludicrous “Gay Gandhi” headlines across the world, wondering whether the fact the Mahatma signed some letters “Sinly yours” might be a clue (seemingly unaware that “sinly” was once a common contraction of “sincerely”).

The origin of this rumour was a mischievous book review two years ago written by the historian Andrew Roberts, which speculated about the relationship between the men. On the basis of the written evidence, it seems unlikely that their friendship in the years leading up to the First World War was physical.

It is a juicy article, go read the rest of it.

Maybe Seinfeld was on to something?  Gandhi his bald head in oil…

Then you have the bullshit, Conservative Former SNL Star Victoria Jackson Deletes ‘White History Month’ Article

Former Saturday Night Live star and current conservative celebrity Victoria Jackson has made a second career as a mascot for deranged opposition to President Barack Obama that includes calls for secession, statistical analyses of the white baby population, and comparing America to The Big Bopper on Election Night, but it looks like restraint has finally gotten the better of her. Wonkette’s Rebecca Schoenkopfcalled Jackson out earlier today for posting an article suggesting that the persecuted, underrepresented White Christian Male needs some scale-balancing, asking “Why is there a Black History Month but not a White History Month?”

Jackson also featured a video that lists “Things To Thank White People For,” which curiously did not include Baywatch (but does include “recorded music” without noting that black people invented all of the good recorded music) and listed some white accomplishments, on her own, for the ungrateful non-whites who control everything:

Just for the record, white men invented rockets, space travel, airplanes, the automobile, the English language, the U.S.A., most medical advances, electricity, television, telescope, microscope, Ivy League Universities, the computer, the Internet, and on and on. I think white men should be praised and respected. White Christian Conservative Men especially, should be loved and adored. They were the backbone and originators of the greatest nation on earth. We need more of them now.

I’m pretty sure that rockets were invented by Chinese people, and Ivy League Universities aren’t really inventions, and the first man to give his life for this country was black, and since black people did help out with that whole syphilis thing, maybe medical advances aren’t a fair example, but point taken. White people rule. That is the point, isn’t it?

You can read Jackson’s bullshit here: Google cache of Victoria Jackson’s White History Month

There is new information coming to light on the 10th Anniversary of the Columbia Explosion. Columbia Shuttle Crew Not Told of Possible Problem With Reentry

What would you tell seven astronauts if you knew their space shuttle was crippled on orbit?

It was a question that faced NASA’s Mission Control considered after initial suspicions that something might be wrong with the shuttle Columbia as it was making its doomed reentry in 2003.

Wayne Hale, who later became space shuttle program manager, struggled with this question after the deaths of the Columbia crew 10 years ago. Recently he wrote about the debate in his blog, recalling a meeting to discuss the dilemma:

“After one of the MMTs (Mission Management Team) when possible damage to the orbiter was discussed, he (Flight Director Jon Harpold) gave me his opinion: ‘You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System). If it has been damaged it’s probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don’t you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?”

A bleak assessment. Orbiting in space until your oxygen ran out. The dilemma for mission managers is that they simply didn’t know if the space shuttle was damaged.

The doomed astronauts were not told of the risk.

To me, that sounds like bullshit, these are scientist and pilots…they can handle the news professionally and should have known.

Makes me think of that line in Apollo 13, when the capsule is still shallow during re-entry:

Okay, lets end this post with some pictures, Hillary Clinton: 2 Decades in the Spotlight (Photos)

Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, will be Hillary Clinton’s last day as Secretary of State, ending a career in the public eye that has spanned more than two decades. While the question on everyone’s mind is “will she come back?” let’s take a look at what she has done.

Just go to that gallery link and enjoy!

This is an open thread.


The Melodramatic, Pearl-Clutching, Islamaphobic Senate Hagel Death Panel

I’ve been watching the Senate Committee that’s been grilling Hagel as party of his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense.  It’s difficult to hagel-mccain-hearing-sgspell out all the agendas going on here.  It seems to be a combination of revenge, neocon fantasy memes, and pro-Israel jingoism.  In short, it’s more hyped-up melodrama than substance.  It also has convinced me that it’s time for Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain to retire. So, I’m going to try to link to some of the more bizarre hyperventilating by the revenge and war-thirsty set of Senators.  Much of it is coming from the same folks that drug us into the Iraq mistake.  It appears that some of the criticism is based in the same kinds of hyped up Islamophobia and blood thirst that characterize the Cheney crowd.  Here’s an example of neocon drivel.

The latest example: neoconservative  Kenneth Timmerman writing today in the Washington Times that “the Iranian rulers love Chuck Hagel.” Timmerman also writes that he is “Tehran’s best friend in Washington.” That line is part and parcel of the larger smear campaign waged ever since Hagel’s name was floated. Neoconservatives like Bill Kristol have accused Hagel of being “pro-appeasement of Iran.”

Timmerman’s column offers no evidence for his assertions, as is to be expected. But it’s a useful window into how the right is trying to torpedo Hagel’s nomination.

The reason why Hagel is being smeared as an “appeaser” of Iran is because he has voiced mild skepticism over how U.S. policy towards the country has been conducted. In the past, he has been skeptical of unilateral U.S. sanctions on the country and has cautioned against hastily rushing into a military attack. But he has also backtracked on many of his heterodox positions. The backtracking is the price Hagel had to pay to get nominated in the face of vociferous opposition from neoconservatives like Timmerman.

The personal revenge scenario seems to revolve around John McCain who might as well be singing “He was my man, but he done me wrong” as he hammered away Hagel today.  He wants some one, any one, to vindicate him and his continual war drum beat for Iraq.  Evidently, the war came between the two BFFs.  (You can also view Hagel’s opening pitch at this WAPO/Cizilla link.)

The most obvious break in the McCain-Hagel relationship came in the early 2000s over the war in Iraq. While Hagel, like McCain, voted for the use of force resolution against Iraq, he was always wary of America going it alone in the conflict and, as time wore on, became a more and more outspoken critic of the war.

McCain, on the other hand, remained a stalwart defender of the necessity of the war and went on later in the decade to become the face of the surge strategy to put more troops in the country.  Hagel opposed that strategy and panned it repeatedly.

“Quite simply, the split began over the length and cost of the Iraq war and Hagel’s decision to not support the surge, which John took as a personal insult,” said one McCain ally granted anonymity to speak candidly about the relationship. “It’s very sad.”

While a disagreement over the right course of action in Iraq might have been the biggest factor in the dissolution of the friendship, politics also played a role in the split.

While Hagel was intimately involved in McCain’s 2000 presidential bid — he served as national co-chairman and was in New Hampshire the night the Arizona Senator won the Granite State presidential primary — by the time McCain ran for president again in 2008 Hagel was much less on board.

Not only did he not endorse McCain, but Hagel also didn’t entirely dismiss the idea of serving as then Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee. (Hagel’s wife endorsed Obama in the 2008 race.)

Then, in 2012, Hagel endorsed the candidacy of former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) in the Cornhusker State’s open seat Senate race, a move that badly rankled McCain, who had endorsed Kerrey’s opponent — Republican Deb Fischer — and campaigned with her the day after Hagel made his endorsement of Kerrey public.

Adding to their policy and political disagreements, there was (and is) the fact that McCain and Hagel are similar enough in terms of their personalities — hard charging, irascible, certain that their deeply-held beliefs are correct — that they were always destined to be either best friends or the exact opposite.  Put simply: The very personality traits that made McCain and Hagel fast friends in the mid 1990s is what has driven them apart in the last few years.

Miss Lindsey has gotten the vapors over the nomination of Senator Hagel and appears to be worried he’s anti-Semitic.  He’s probably more worried about an evangelical/tea party candidate primarying him if he doesn’t support the so-called “holy land” and rebuilding of the temple that’s going to bring on the end times. He’s also probably playing the role of McCain henchmen too.  I have no idea why any one in a cabinet position has to take a loyalty oath to a foreign country given they’ll be enforcing the president’s policies anyway, but there it is.  He’s not loyal enough to Israel’s right to do anything it wants to without question.

Miss Lindsey even said he got “chills up his spine”.  Again, Lindsey appears to want some kind of loyalty pledge to an ally but, again, a foreign country.

The weirdest moment with Miss Lindsey came when he asked Hagel to name names.  This rather took me back to the days of black-listing but the right wing appears to find it a big win for the one with the chilled spine.   He also wanted Hagel to name the particular lobby and made sure to list the right-wing christian groups that are just dying for Israel to build that temple so the big war can get started.

Sen. Lindsey Graham grilled Hagel over a 2006 interview in which he said that the “pro-Israel lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Congress.

“Name one person here who’s been intimidated by the Jewish lobby,” Graham demanded. “Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing due to pressure by the Israeli or Jewish lobby.”

“I don’t know,” Hagel replied. “I didn’t have a specific person in mind.”

“So you agree that it was a dumb thing to say?”

“Yes,” Hagel admitted. “I’ve already said that.”

Right after characterizing this exchange as Lady Lindsey ‘crushing’ Hagel, we get this statement written by the article’s author Grace Wyler.  It seemed to me that Wyler just proved Hagel’s point.

Pro-Israel groups and Republican defense hawks have leveled harsh criticism against Hagel in recent week. In addition to the “Israel lobby” comment, their grievances include Hagel’s past opposition to multilateral sanctions on Iran and his support for open negotiations with Hamas.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why we just can’t be on the side of peace and human rights instead of blindly supporting any country.  But then, I don’t believe in any weird end times story that doesn’t come from scientific evidence and I don’t want to see perpetual war and human rights violations anywhere in the world.  I frankly don’t care who the perpetrator is, it’s freaking wrong.  I don’t know about you but I hold people I call my friends to higher standards than people I wouldn’t even want to talk to on the street.  Besides, the current Israeli government is a put-together coalition of a lot of neocon and right wing groups that doesn’t appear to really represent that many Israeli citizens who would like to see more diplomacy and negotiations.
John Avalon has an interesting post at CNN called “A reality check for Chuck Hagel bashers”.  It’s worth a read.

But let’s be honest: Hagel’s cardinal sin among neo-conservatives was his outspoken opposition to Bush-era foreign policy in Iraq and his decision to break Republican ranks and not support the 2007 Iraq surge.

Good people can disagree on policy and personnel; my wife and I disagree on the Hagel nomination. A confirmation hearing can usefully clear up any sincere questions. But a look at the facts, armed with a sense of perspective, suggests that it might be Hagel’s most vociferous critics who are outside the historic mainstream, not Hagel himself.

Hagel’s unvarnished independence is well-known in Washington, but his opposition to the quagmire of the Iraq war is not idiosyncratic. It is philosophically consistent with being a small government conservative and a Vietnam veteran, suspicious of calls to war by people who won’t have to serve in the combat zone.

He still carries shrapnel in his chest from being wounded in Vietnam. After his war service, he said, “I made myself a promise that if I ever got out of that place and was ever in a position to do something about war — so horrible, so filled with suffering — I would do whatever I could to stop it. I have never forgotten that promise.”

This doesn’t mean Hagel is some kind of pacifist. But as the first enlisted man to serve in combat to be nominated for secretary of defense, he does have a grunt’s-eye view of war and a commitment to making it a last resort, consistent with our national interest — hence his reasonable regrets about the invasion of Iraq and his caution about charging into a war with Iran.

Again, the beltway believes that this all started back in the Bush days.  One interesting right wing freak out mentioned by Avalon particularly disturbed me.

And yet, the accusation that Hagel is out of the mainstream on Iran and Israel percolates because it is in the talking points. An early broadside came from The Weekly Standard, which published an anonymous e-mail, allegedly from a Senate aide, reading, “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.”This is a serious accusation and a transparent attempt to intimidate. Anti-Semitism is a rightfully toxic charge. Israel is America’s closest ally in the world, along with the UK. But in a recent interview with his hometown paper in Lincoln, Nebraska, Hagel said that his record demonstrates “unequivocal, total support for Israel.”

In his memoir, Hagel devotes an entire chapter to “The Holy Land: Israel and The Arabs,” full of calls for negotiated peace with statements like this: “There is one important given that is not negotiable: A comprehensive solution should not include any compromise regarding Israel’s Jewish identity, which must be assured. The Israeli people must be free to live in peace and security.”

For what it’s worth, five former ambassadors to Israel have endorsed Hagel’s nomination, and former Israeli Consul Gen. Alon Pinkas has clarified that Hagel is “not anti-Israel.”

This is another conversation that bothers me.  I have no idea what you can’t be critical of Israeli policies without being labelled anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.  I think the best thing for Israel would be lasting peace in the middle east.  I don’t think everything they do works to that end.  This includes putting a huge prison-like wall around an entire populace, stopping humanitarian aid, and breaking agreements by allowing settlements in places that settlements should not be.  I think their current government is what we’d see if Dick Cheney were ever to creep into the presidency frankly.  Just because I think the Bush/Cheney years were basically indefensible does not mean I hate my country or myself as an American.

So, in some ways, this hearing is simply a replay of NeoCon trying to justify their actions that every one pretty much sees as misguided now with the exception of the right wing.  It’s another example of how the Republican party is not going to change and how many Democrats enable their silliness on so many issues.  Again, this display was a great argument for the people in Arizona and South Carolina to retire their senators and spare the rest of us this kind of reverse morality play.


Thursday Reads: Happiness is a Warm Gun

beatles reading4

Good Morning!!

Listening to that gun violence hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday was truly mind blowing. It’s very difficult for me to understand how someone like Crazy Wayne LaPierre or Gayle “Guns Keep Women Safe” Trotter can actually be permitted to testify before Congress. It was also mind-blowing to hear these people (Senators and pro-gun advocates) attacking “the mentally ill” and video games, yet no experts on mental illness or the effects of video games were invited to testify.

My mind was so blown by what I saw and heard yesterday that I have been unable to think of much other than gun violence and the refusal of our “leaders” to do anything about it. So this will be a gun-oriented post. First some information about the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TPM Muckraker: NRA Spent Big To Help Senate Judiciary Republicans

The biggest recipient of the NRA’s money is one of the committee’s newest members: freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who got a $344,742 boost in independent expenditures from the NRA during his race against former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona. According to Public Campaign’s figures, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has received $136,639 from the NRA, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, has received $78,526. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the only Democrat on the committee who has received an NRA donation. Leahy’s Green Mountain PAC has received $7,000.

Patrick Leahy sells out pretty cheaply. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: Senate Judiciary chair rejects Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban.

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee did not endorse colleague Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban at a packed Capitol Hill hearing on guns Wednesday in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called for “common sense reform,” that closes loopholes in current gun laws and enforces background checks. Buthe did not endorse Feinstein’s tougher ban. “I know gun store owners in Vermont,” Leahy said. “They follow the law and conduct background checks…why should we not try to plug the loopholes in the law that allow (criminals and the mentally ill) to buy guns without background checks?”

The rebuffed California Democrat plans to hold her own hearing in her Judiciary subcommittee on her legislation, which is strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also refused to back a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity clips. Reid’s position reflects the political fact that a whole bevy of conservative Democrats do not support Feinstein’s ban.

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HuffPo: Senate Judiciary Committee Includes At Least Seven Gun Owners.

* At least 7 of 18 committee members own guns (7 committee member refused to answer the question)
* Senator Leahy was champion marksman in college
* Senator Sessions has about a dozen firearms

And guess what Lindsey Graham has in his closet with him?

“I have an AR-15 at home and I haven’t hurt anybody and I don’t intend to do it,” Graham declared on Wednesday at a Judiciary Committee hearing.

We’re all relieved to hear that, Senator.

Read the rest of this entry »


Incestuous Amplification and the Beltway Feedback Loop

PaulKrugman_TiredSo, all you kind folks that get up way too early in the morning for my tastes and habits sent me to the Morning Joe website to watch Paul Krugman commit beltway heresy.  I actually had to play it twice to believe my eyes.

I am reminded of the occasional student that would turn up in a freshmen class and proceed to school the professor on his subject.  I saw this when I went to university and I experienced it when I taught freshmen classes.   For some reason, all your education, experience, research, and accolades matter naught before people who are absolutely convinced they are right because they just are. I’ve been watching for  the internet reactions and they’re wonderful.  None is better than Krugman’s response who likens it to the drumbeat leading up to the invasion of Iraq.  Even though the evidence was weak and called bogus by experts, we invaded a country with the incestuous amplification of the villagers who really wanted to be war correspondents.

No matter how much proof we have that austerity makes things worse and the current deficit is cyclical, there are a bunch of those in the press that insist they’re not, well … just because they really love the idea of Simpson-Bowles and the unnecessary suffering that would be induced by a study that their committee wouldn’t even approve.  I don’t know why they want to induce unnecessary suffering but maybe it has something to do with not being impacted but being able to report from the middle of homeless and starving grannies.

Krugman called it “Incestuous Amplification, Economics Edition”.

Back during the early days of the Iraq debacle, I learned that the military has a term for how highly dubious ideas become not just accepted, but viewed as certainties. “Incestuous amplification” happen when a closed group of people repeat the same things to each other – and when accepting the group’s preconceptions itself becomes a necessary ticket to being in the in-group. A fundamentally flawed notion – say, that the Germans can’t possibly attack though the Ardennes – becomes part of what everyone knows, where “everyone” means by definition only people who accept the flawed notion.

We saw that in the run-up to Iraq, where perfectly obvious propositions – the case for invading is very weak, the occupation may well be a nightmare – weren’t so much rejected as ruled out of discussion altogether; if you even considered those possibilities, you weren’t a serious person, no matter what your credentials.

Which brings me to the fiscal debate, characterized by the particular form of incestuous amplification Greg Sargent calls the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop. I’ve already blogged about my Morning Joe appearance and Scarborough’s reaction, which was to insist that almost no mainstream economists share my view that deficit fear is vastly overblown. As Joe Weisenthal points out, the reality is that among those who have expressed views very similar to mine are the chief economist of Goldman Sachs; the former Treasury secretary and head of the National Economic Council; the former deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve; and the economics editor of the Financial Times. The point isn’t that these people are necessarily right (although they are), it is that Scarborough’s attempt at argument through authority is easily refuted by even a casual stroll through recent economic punditry.

The Krugman view on the economy isn’t an outlier in the community of economists.  That’s because we know theory and we know the empirical evidence that supports the theories.  Here’s a list of 10 People that disagree with the narrative of the deficit scolds as compiled by Joe Wiesenthal at TBI.

But actually there are plenty of economists and economically-literate minds who think that, to varying degrees, the deficit is not what we should be worrying about.

For Joe Scarborough’s sake, here’s a list of people. With each we’ve linked to comments they’ve made about their (lack of) worry about the deficit.

Anyway, that was just a partial list, but one that covers conservatives, liberals, Wall Street economists, and former government officials.

The funny thing is that polls show that the American public isn’t all that worried about the deficit either.  The economy and jobs outpolls the deficit concerns by about 2 to 1 in polling from all kinds of pollsters.  David Atkins–writing at Hullabaloo–calls it the problem of the Kool Kids Table.

Here at Hullabaloo we call it the Kool Kids Table, a pathway to power and social acceptance inaccessible to those who don’t hold the “right” views.

Do I believe that everyone in Joe Scarborough’s sphere of influence knows that Keynesianism is accurate and that Krugman is right, but chooses to say otherwise because it pads their bank account? Of course not. It takes a conspiracy theorist and an idiot to believe that. Washington is corrupt, but it’s not that corrupt.

No, most of these people believe what they say. I don’t doubt that Scarborough’s perplexed shock is genuine. Just like I believe that most of the conservative theologians who burned Giordano Bruno at the stake believed that our solar system was the only one of its kind. After all, anyone who believed otherwise wasn’t taken seriously and didn’t advance in the Church hierarchy. Everyone who was anyone knew better, and since Bruno refused to accept the conventional wisdom he had to be shunned and ultimately silenced. Bruno’s ideas were unserious and dangerous. The man had his head in the sand and couldn’t see what seemed obvious to everyone else.

Perhaps one day the Church of the Austerians will belatedly apologize to Keynes, Krugman, Stiglitz and all the other great economists whose names have been dragged through the mud. But not likely soon, and not during their lifetimes. In our own sordid lifetimes, Popes Simpson and Bowles will continue to bestow favors upon their cardinals, giving communion only to the Kool Kids who deserve it.

It is actually a freshman economics problem to argue that now is a very bad time to focus on the deficit.  It’s very simple math.  There are 4 actors paul_krugmanin our economy.   That would be businesses, the foreign sector, households and the government.  During a bad economy, the first three actors generally pull back.   Households tend to save and pay down debt, businesses don’t order as much inventory or expand because households are pulling back, and the foreign sector is generally impacted by the US economy and will slow down its buying too unless the dollar should become very weak and our prices fall dramatically. US policy normally doesn’t let that happen.

So, the idea is that the government–using its taxing and spending policy–can make up for the fall off in economic activity.  It can buy things from the private sector or do things like public works and directly offer households jobs and income and businesses a reason to expand.  It can also do this by handing money over to state governments to do the same.  All the activity of the four actors contributes to our GDP so if all four of them are pulling back, we get a recession.

We know this not only by talking about it in conceptual terms but also by studying the great depression and the austerity policies of countries like the UK. The UK fixated on austerity and–as a result–has had miserable economy experience and is now fallen into another recession.  As Krugman explains, we’ve done relatively better because we had some stimulus.  Had it been politically feasible to make it stronger, we’d have had a much stronger recovery.  It’s not just a matter of embracing a Keynesian mindset, it’s just a matter of knowing the math or what’s called the national accounting identity. Remember, it’s an identity which means it’s true by definition. You can’t have four negative numbers summed together on one side of an equation with out the other side being negative too.

We also know that we’ve been in worse situations with deficits. Notably, the post-World War 2 period saw huge government deficits. Our economy expanded, we had extremely progressive taxes, and we paid the deficit down. They sky did not fall down because we ran up huge deficits during the War. In fact, buying war bonds that financed the war was seen as patriotic. We personally supported government spending this way. We did not do the same thing in our following wars and skirmishes. Bush Two put two very expensive and long, drawn out wars on the deficit while lowering taxes and decreasing the progressiveness of the tax system. This policy behavior is a huge problem.

The truth is that Keynes himself never suggested an economy run a perpetual recession.  The fiscal policy prescription is to run a deficit during recessions, run towards a balanced budget in a Goldilocks economy where everything is just right, and run a budget surplus in an overheated, inflationary economy.   It seems we never hear any of this from the obnoxious freshman student that sits in the front row and insists his high school reading of Ayn Rand tells him something completely different. We also never hear this from ideologues who really have a completely different agenda in mind.  Their agenda is basically just to drown government in the bathtub and they don’t want any thing to work.

The problem is the kids at the Koolaid Table never, ever learn and are more motivated by access to power than access to knowledge.  It’s evident in that they keep playing the deficit hawks running around yelling the sky is falling and they’ve done so for about 5 years.  Or, as Krugman puts it:

KRUGMAN: “People like me have been saying for five years don’t worry about these deficit things for the time being, they’re non-issues, other people have been saying imminent crisis, imminent crisis … how many times do they have to be wrong and people like me have to be right before people start to believe us?”

Krugman must have an endless amount of patience to continually sit down with a group of these obnoxious freshmen.  I wonder at  how he does it day-in-and-day-out.


Gun Advocate Gayle Trotter: “Guns Make Women Safer”

Listening to the pro-gun testimony at the Senate Judiciary Hearing today has been a bizarre experience. The three people testifying against limits on gun ownership are Crazy Wayne LaPierre of the NRA; David Koppel, adjunct professor at the University Denver; and Conservative Attorney Gayle Trotter of the Independent Women’s Forum, who is totally stealing the show.

From TPM:

“Guns make women safer,” she said. “Over 90 percent of violent crimes occur without a firearm, which makes guns the great equalizer for women. The vast majority of violent criminals use their size and their physical strength to prey on women, who are at a severe disadvantage. In a violent confrontation, guns reverse the balance of power.”

Some background on Gayle Trotter from HuffPo:

Guns haven’t always been Trotter’s specialty. A tax lawyer by trade, Trotter appears to have published her first op-ed about gun control issues this past fall, when she urged voters to “cling to your guns” in a piece published on the conservative website The Daily Caller.

Two months before the gun-control piece came out, Trotter argued that President Obama “has the idea of government completely wrong” in an op-ed on Fox News Channel’s website. Obama, Trotter wrote, “is a card-carrying member of the jet-setting liberal class that wants to bargain with the American people to win their votes.”

Trotter’s presence at the Senate hearing appears to be tied to her status as a Senior Fellow at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, a nonprofit whose mission is to “to expand the conservative coalition” by pitching conservative ideas with a specifically feminine focus. According to its website, IWF’s mission is two-fold: “increasing the number of women who understand and value the benefits of limited government, personal liberty, and free markets,” and “countering those who seek to ever-expand government.”

Since April of 2012, Trotter has produced a few dozen op-eds and media appearances for the group, on topics ranging from Obamacare to Trotter’s opposition to the Violence Against Women Act. Before becoming a senior fellow, Trotter was the group’s lawyer. In March of 2012, before she started posting on IWF as a senior fellow, Trotter identified herself as general counsel for the group in a blog post about Obamacare, published by The Huffington Post.

If you’re not watching this hearing, you’re missing a show that’s funnier than Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show.   Of course Crazy Wayne has been entertaining too and the adjunct professor from the University of Denver–supposedly a constitutional expert–has made quite a few jaw-droppingly bizarre remarks also.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who looks and sounds as if he’s at death’s door, got Crazy Wayne to admit that the NRA is opposed to requiring background checks for people who purchase weapons at gun shows.  That was quite a coup, achieved after powerful efforts by Crazy Wayne to dodge the question.

Watch the hearing at the C-Span website.

The Washington Post is publishing a running transcript of the hearing.  Read it here.

This is an open thread.


MA Gov. Deval Patrick Appoints Former Chief of Staff to Fill John Kerry’s Senate Seat

William "Mo" Cowan

William “Mo” Cowan

From The Hill:

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has appointed William “Mo” Cowen, his former chief of staff, to fill former Sen. John Kerry’s (D) seat until a special election is held this summer….

“Mo’s service on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger Commonwealth for the next generation has earned him the respect and admiration of people throughout government,” Patrick said in a statement announcing the appointment.
Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had also pursued the seat, but his outspoken interest might have undermined his chances of winning the appointment.

Patrick will make the official announcement at 11AM this morning.

Some background on Cowan from The Boston Globe:

Cowan, 43, was first hired by Patrick as his legal counsel in 2009 and was then promoted to chief of staff in 2010. Last November, Cowan stepped down from the $144,000 a year job.

Cowan is a North Carolina native and Duke University graduate who came to Boston to attend Northeastern University Law School in the early 1990s – and never left the region. One of the city’s leading African-American lawyers, Cowan is a former partner in the politically connected law firm of Mintz Levin.

Cowan will become the first African-American to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since Edward Brooke held the seat as a Republican from 1966 to 1978….

Cowan’s selection was quickly praised by Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar

Patrick and Cowan built up a strong friendship over the years, in part, because both men have risen from difficult childhoods to prominence in Boston and in the state. Patrick also served as a mentor to Cowan when both were practicing lawyers.

Much more at the link.


Wednesday Reads: Do it again…

coffee birdGood Morning

This is going to be a quick post since I did not realize that today is Wednesday.

Lindsey Graham is again showing us what it means to be an asshole, as he declares:  ‘Clinton Got Away With Murder’ On Benghazi, Will Hold Hagel Unless Panetta Testifies

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is still searching for the silver bullet, that one piece of testimony that will prove once and for all that the Obama administration lied during the aftermath of the Benghazi attack.

Appearing on Fox News last night, Graham made clear that he was unsatisfied with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony last week, saying, “I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi. Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view.” Graham’s quest for the truth has now led him to current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Panetta, who has not testified before Congress about the role he played during the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in the Libya city, is due to step down from his position at the Pentagon in the coming weeks. Graham now insists that Panetta would have to provide answers on what happened that night to the Armed Services Committee, on which Graham is a member. What’s more, as he told Fox News host Greta Van Sustren, Graham now intends to place a hold on Panetta’s proposed replacement, Chuck Hagel, until he gets the answers he wants.

Honestly, when will the Republicans stop these dickish ways and quit their obstructive tactics?

When I see the way some of the GOP are reacting to the proposed immigration reform, it makes me think there is an underlying desperation in their attitude. GOP Rep Says He Opposes Immigration Reform Because Latinos Are Uneducated, Will Never Support Republicans

Republican senators in the so-called Gang of 8 working to enact comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship argue that repairing the broken system would attract Latino voters to the GOP. As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) explained during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week, “We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.” In November, President Obama “won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 percent.”

But some Republicans disagree. Responding to the bipartisan framework, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) echoed the rhetoric surrounding immigrants and Democratic voters throughout the 2012 election and suggested that Hispanics would never vote for Republicans who don’t provide them with government hand outs:

“It’s amnesty that America can’t afford,” Barletta said Monday. “We have to stop people from coming in illegally. This will be a green light for anyone who wants to come to America illegally and then be granted citizenship one day.” […]

“I hope politics is not at the root of why we’re rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they’re going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken,” Barletta said. “The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.”

Another right-wing PAC is in the news…Top Conservatives Run PAC That Funded White Nationalists, according to Mother Jones:

wo prominent conservative movement officials who hold leadership positions for several right-wing groups—Ron Robinson and James B. Taylor—run a political action committee that donated thousands of dollars to a white nationalist organization, according to public records. And for several years Taylor was vice president of another white nationalist organization.

Robinson and Taylor are each board members of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which cofounded the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and runs the conservative youth group Young Americans for Freedom. (YAF owns and manages the Ronald Reagan Ranch, trains conservative journalists, and calls itself “the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement.”) And Robinson, YAF’s president, is on the board of two other conservative groups: Citizens United, which brought the landmark Supreme Court case of the same name, and the American Conservative Union, which operates CPAC.

With these positions, Robinson and Taylor are at the center of mainstream conservative infrastructure. But each also sits on the three-person board of America’s PAC, a far-right outfit that in 2004 gave $5,000 to the Charles Martel Society, a white nationalist group, according to the PAC’s filing with the Federal Election Commission. Taylor, YAF’s former executive director and a current board member, founded America’s PAC in 1983. Both his and Robinson’s names appear on America’s PAC letterhead before and after the donation to the Martel Society. Since 2004, America’s PAC has raised and spent over $5 million, giving donations to dozens of Republican candidates.

And what is with the name Charles Martel Society? That name came up a lot in my medieval history classes…

The Martel Society is named for Charles Martel, who stymied a Muslim invasion of Europe by winning the Battle of Tours in 734. It was founded in 2001 by William Regnery II, an heir to a conservative publishing fortune and a “prime mover and shaker in white nationalism publishing,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist extremism. The Martel Society is best known for publishing The Occidental Quarterly, which is sort of the Nature of academic racism, and its sister online publication, The Occidental Observer. The Anti-Defamation League has characterized the Quarterly as “racist” and the Observer as “anti-Semitic.” The Observer maintains an archive of stories on the topic of “Jews and the financial collapse,” and the Quarterly once awarded a $10,000 prize for books on the “group evolutionary strategies” of Jewish people. According to records America’s PAC filed with the FEC, its donation to the Martel Society was a “grant.” The Charles Martel Society did not respond to a request for comment.

I hate when these people use history in a twisted way to further their agenda.

The NRA is doing it again, they are going up against Gabby Giffords husband today, via CBS News: NRA vs. Giffords’ husband at Senate gun control hearing

Today, the debate over gun control gets its first congressional hearing since President Obama proposed sweeping reforms to help tackle escalating gun violence in the United States.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a shot to the head two years ago during an assassination attempt that left six people dead, are among those slated to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One congressional source tells CBS News that Giffords herself is expected to attend the hearing; she is expected to accompany her husband but is not scheduled to testify.

Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., “wants to move legislation, and he wants to do it quickly,” his spokeswoman Jessica Brady told CBSNews.com. Today’s hearing will offer a platform for a “respectful and productive conversation” about “where there is potential for success in passing legislation this year.”

Meanwhile, in Alabama, there is a hostage situation: Man shoots Alabama bus driver, holds child hostage underground

A man boarded a school bus in Alabama, police said, shot the driver, took a 6-year-old boy hostage and hours later was still holding the child in an underground bunker early Wednesday.

The incident started Tuesday afternoon and continued early Wednesday morning with authorities still desperately trying to free the young child.

Late in the evening Tuesday, the man had the child in some sort of underground bunker or storm shelter, and authorities were communicating with him through a PVC pipe, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.

“We will continue to work diligently through the night in an effort to bring closure to this incident as quickly as possible,” the Dale County Sheriff’s Department said at 11 p.m. CT.

Hours later, the hostage situation was still ongoing, WSFA reported. More than 13 hours after the ordeal had began, the child was still underground.

Sigh, I will keep you up to date on this story, the boy is still being held hostage.

Two more links, Israel Boycotts U.N. Human Rights Review, Council Awards Deferral For First Time Ever

Israel became the first nation to skip a U.N. review of its human rights record without giving a reason – and then won a precedent-setting deferral Tuesday.

The president of the U.N.’s top rights body, Polish diplomat Remigiusz Henczel, declared Israel a no-show at a meeting in Geneva and then reconvened the 47-nation Human Rights Council to decide what to do.

Israel had asked Henczel in January to postpone the review but did not provide a public explanation.

“This is a rather unique step which has never happened in the past,” said German U.N. Ambassador Hanns Heinrich Schumacher.

But after a debate, the council unanimously agreed to defer the review until its next session in October and November at the latest.

This move will set a precedent for any future request to hold up any Human Rights Council reviews…and it comes at a time when Israel’s questionable treatment of Ethiopian women is making headlines:  Israel’s Ethiopian Birth Control Story Reflects A Broader Problem

On Sunday it was reported that Israel has finally admitted to systematically depressing the fertility of the Ethiopian immigrant community (information first reported five years ago) by injecting Ethiopian-Israeli women with the long-acting birth control drug Depo-Provera without informed consent.

In some cases, women were first given the drug while still in transit camps; in other cases, it seems women were regularly injected after arriving in Israel. Some women apparently knew they were being given birth control but were told they wouldn’t be let into Israel if they didn’t agree; others report being told the shots were “inoculations.”

And as one Secretary of State is preparing to leave, her replacement finally got the go ahead from the Senate…Senate overwhelmingly backs Kerry to lead State Department 

The Senate overwhelmingly approved Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) as the next secretary of state Tuesday afternoon, with three Republican “no” votes.

The vote was 94 to 3, clearing the way for Kerry to formally take over from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday.

Clinton has given her last interview as “Madame  Secretary,” here is the transcript from ABC: Transcript: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s ‘Nightline’ Interview on Benghazi Testimony, Stepping Down

Be sure to keep an eye on the weather today, it looks like there will be a mess of storms.  So, what are you reading about today?