One of the things that drives me crazy as an economist and a citizen looking at this so-called “fiscal cliff” is that our fiscal strife has been created by the people least likely to suffer from its resolution. Congress gave the Bush administration authority to start a series of unfunded, reckless wars that have lasted well over a decade. Congress passed the Bush administration’s reckless tax cuts and generous loopholes that have benefited the few at the cost of the many. The Bush administration’s and Congress’ lack of oversight and deregulation of the financial services’ industry created a low-risk, gambling casino with the national investment and savings accounts and the debt markets. This led to a huge recession. These are the roots of our fiscal problems. But, the discussions around cleaning up messes in the District mostly surround Social Security which has nothing to do with the national debt and deficit and items that have become more necessary to average Americans since Congress and the Bush Administration broke the country with its bad policies.
Here’s some of the latest examples. Closing loopholes and unnecessary deductions for certain constituents is a good idea. However, which of these things are on the chopping block? Inkling its way up the priority list is the major middle and working class deduction and source of household wealth: the mortgage interest deduction. I have no problem with eliminating second mortgages, mortgages on boats, and mortgages on second properties. These benefit very few people and really serve little policy purpose. Capping the deduction–with an annual COLA adjustment to the median price and below-based mortgages is also fine. However, what are we likely to see?
As the Obama administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill scramble to defuse automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect Jan. 1, a herd of sacred cows — from Social Security and Medicare to deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest — are in danger of losing their untouchable status.
Members of both parties have largely steered clear of detailed proposals so far. But plans put forth in the past year by President Obama and Mitt Romney to place limits on annual total tax deductions are likely to crimp the mortgage-interest deduction for certain taxpayers. Top congressional Republicans also have expressed openness to limiting total tax deductions as part of an overall budget deal. In addition, the presidentially appointed Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission suggested scaling back the mortgage-interest deduction as part of its own set of tax-related proposals.
Current law allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on mortgage balances up to $1 million, including on second homes, as well as on $100,000 worth of home-equity loans. The deduction overwhelmingly benefits wealthier families, partly because they tend to have larger mortgages and pay more interest, and partly because most low- and middle-income Americans do not itemize deductions on their tax returns. It also tends to favor homeowners on the East and West Coasts, as well as those in large cities such as Chicago, where average home prices are higher.
Edward Kleinbard, a tax expert and law professor at the University of Southern California, said the mortgage-interest deduction represents the kind of government “extravagance” that the country no longer can justify, given its fiscal troubles.
“We simply cannot afford wasteful government subsidy programs anymore, and this is one of the most important examples of that,” Kleinbard said. “It’s very much a subsidy to those Americans who need it least.”
Mitch McConnell continues to service Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth. He’s back on his high horse for no tax increases for the wealthy. Ending tax cuts for the wealthy endlessly shown to have no ill-impact on the economy. There is also no real benefit to extending them.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) slammed the door Thursday morning on Democratic demands to raise tax rates on families earning more than $250,000 per year.
“We’re insisting on keeping tax rates where they are, first and foremost, to protect jobs and because we don’t think government needs the money in the first place,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“The problem, as I’ve said, is that Washington spends too much. But if more revenue is the price that Democrats want to exact, then we should at least agree to do it in a way that doesn’t cost jobs and disincentivize rates, as we all know raising rates would do,” he said.
McConnell’s comments came a day after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shot down a proposal by a senior GOP lawmaker, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, to agree to extend tax rates only for families earning below $250,000 and resume the battle against higher tax rates on the wealthy next year.
Boehner said President Obama and Democrats should focus on finding ways to cut spending and reform entitlement programs.
The fate of the Bush-era tax rates — which will expire for all income levels in January — has dominated the debate over the slew of tax increases and spending cuts that are set to begin next year.
McConnell scolded the president Thursday for sticking fast to his campaign pledge to seek higher taxes on the rich, and made clear that raising tax rates on anyone is unacceptable.
The debate over Medicare is likely to be equally absurd. Medicare needs some reworking. Most of its problems comes from the pharmacy benefit which currently allows Big Pharma to price gouge participants and the taxpayers. But, you wouldn’t know that from the conversation. Republicans are playing games with Amercan’s health. They appear to be clinging to the Ryan’s voucher plan which would be disastrous for the majority of retired seniors.
The austerity crisis talks have hit a peculiar impasse. The problem isn’t, as most analysts expected, taxes, where Republicans seem increasingly resigned to new revenue. It’s Medicare. And the particular Medicare problem isn’t that Democrats are refusing the GOP’s proposed Medicare cuts. It’s that Republicans are refusing to name their Medicare cuts.
Politico quotes a “top Democratic official” who paints the picture simply: “Rob Nabors [the White House negotiator], has been saying: ‘This is what we want on revenues on the down payment. What’s your guys’ ask on the entitlement side?’ And they keep looking back at us and saying: ‘We want you to come up with that and pitch us.’ That’s not going to happen.”
That’s partly politics. If nothing else, Republicans are respectful of Medicare’s political potency. Recall that a core Republican message in both the 2010 and 2012 elections was that Democrats, through Obamacare, were cutting Medicare too much. Republicans, already concerned about their brand, don’t want to rebrand themselves as the party of Medicare cuts.
But it’s partly policy, too. The fact is that short of converting the program to a premium support system — a non-starter after they lost the 2012 election — Republicans simply don’t know what they want to do on Medicare.
Scour the various outlets for Democratic policy ideas and you’ll find plenty of proposed Medicare cuts. President Obama’s 2013 budget, for instance, includes hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts (see pages 33-37), and caps the program’s long-term growth at GDP+0.5 percent. More recently, the Center for American Progress released a 46-page proposal for cutting Medicare by almost $400 billion.
Republicans, meanwhile, have focused their energy on a long-term effort to convert Medicare to a premium-support model. Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget kept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts for the next 10 years and proposed to convert the program to a premium-support model in the future. Mitt Romney’s platform proposed reversing Obamacare’s Medicare cuts and offered a vague framework for converting the program to a premium-support model in the future.
If you dig deep into the Republican think tank world, you can find a few proposals that focus on the near-term.
The current fiscal ‘cliff’ framework appears to place a lot of burden on those least able to take it as well as those least responsible for creating the problems.
Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion — and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had a 30-minute phone conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.
No doubt, there will be lots of huffing and puffing before any deal can be had. And, no doubt, Obama and Congress could easily botch any or all three of the white-knuckle moments soon to hit this town: the automatic spending cuts and expiration of the Bush tax cuts, both of which kick in at the end of this year, and the federal debt limit that hits early next.
Go to the Politico story for a concept of what’s at stake and at issue.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday there had been “no substantive progress” in fiscal-cliff negotiations in the two weeks since congressional leaders met with President Obama.
Boehner, addressing reporters after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Capitol, called on the White House to “get serious” about the talks and warned of a “real danger” that Jan. 1 would come without a deal if President Obama did not offer up specific spending cuts he would be willing to accept.
“Despite claims that the president supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” Boehner said. “Secondly, no substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House in the last two weeks.
“Listen, this is not a game,” he added. “Jobs are on the line. The American economy is on the line, and this is a moment for adult leadership.”
The Speaker criticized the president for holding “campaign-style rallies” instead of engaging in serious talks.
I’m not sure where my brother got that phrase, “you move…you lose” but he always says this when someone gets up and he gets their seat…or if one of the kids doesn’t grab their plate of cake and ice cream quick enough…he will snatch it and say the same thing. Well, I guess now California’s Governor Brown can say it to Florida’s Rick “Voldemort” Scott. Rejected rail funding becomes California’s gain, yup…Florida’s residents have lost big time.
High-speed rail funding rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott officially became California’s gain Tuesday as the Department of Transportation granted nearly $1 billion to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
In February, Scott rejected about $2.4 billion from DOT for a $2.6 billion high-speed train line from Tampa to Orlando, declaring in April that the money should go back to taxpayers or be used for deficit reduction.
So instead of creating jobs for his state, Scott just kicked his constituents in the ass and poked his fingers into the eyes of Floridian workers who need jobs.
It’s not the first time California has profited from a Republican governor’s decisions to reject rail funding. After Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich tossed back a combined $1.2 billion in 2010, more than $610 million of that money was redirected to California’s high-speed rail.
The total federal commitment to California’s high-speed rail projects is now about $3.9 billion, $3.5 billion of which is specifically for an initial 130-mile segment in the sparsely populated Central Valley. Combined with about $2.6 billion in state funds, CHSRA says it has enough money to design and complete the Central Valley portion, which is projected to create about 100,000 jobs over five years on the way to producing a rail system that can achieve 220 mph train speeds.
Well, at least the funds aren’t disappearing into thin air… like those non-Koch investment accounts at MF Global.
Speaking of Koch…and their 1% brethren, Grover Norquist hails victory after supercommittee deal fails. Take a look at this interview Norquist gave the Guardian while he was on the road to Florida for Thanksgiving.
The lobbyist, who runs Americans for Tax Reform, has a tight hold on the Republican party, having secured written pledges from almost all its members of Congress that they will not vote for a single tax rise. Any Republican who fails to sign that pledge faces a tough primary challenge. Any Republican contemplating supporting even a minimal increase will be reminded of that written promise.
All six Republicans on the supercommittee were signatories.
It was the tax issue that broke the supercommittee. The Democrats insisted on increases: the Republicans refused. It was the tax issue that led one of the Democrats, John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, to describe Norquist as the 13th member of the committee.
Norquist, who boasts of having ensured that Republicans have not voted for tax increases for at least the last two decades, recalled running into Kerry in the Senate, and the Democrat asked him to chat about a possible deal. “Kerry spoke about tax rises and I thought ‘Good luck with that. It is not happening.'”
How can someone have so much control over elected officials?
Back to the Guardian article, Norquist then takes the conversation to a flashback, where Grover is a kid, and gets the brilliant idea for his diabolical plan to destroy any American who is not filthy rich.
Norquist, aged 55, has been in politics since childhood. Both his parents were Republicans but more moderate than their son. At an age when other children were still watching cartoons, he said he bought the entire works of Hoover from the local library. He took the train from his home in Weston, Massachusetts, to Boston to work in the Nixon campaign office in 1968.
Returning from school one day, he had the idea that has dominated the Republican party for nearly 30 years, the single most important dividing line between Democrats and Republicans. “The thought I had when I was 12 was that the Republicans should brand themselves as the party that would not raise taxes.”
Can you see Lil’ Norquist plotting his ambush…I imagine him as a young Mr. Burns rubbing his hands together and saying… “I’ll be the most powerful political puppet master that ever lived. Splendid.”
The article ends with an acknowledgement that of all the GOP candidates, only Huntsman has not signed Grover’s Pledge.
All the Republican presidential candidates have signed it, with the exception of former diplomat Jon Huntsman, an outsider who has never managed to get above single digits in polling. Norquist blames his poor showing on failing to sign the pledge, describing it as a strategic mistake to show a willingness to compromise on tax. Other Republicans seeking office show little inclination to make the same mistake of crossing Norquist.
Sickening isn’t it?
Well, let’s move on to some encouraging news, this executive decision out of Oregon about Capital Punishment: Oregon Executions to Be Blocked by Gov. Kitzhaber – NYTimes.com
Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon on Tuesday said he would halt the execution of a death row inmate scheduled for next month and that he would allow no more executions in the state during his time in office.
“It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach,” Gov. Kitzhaber, a Democrat elected last fall, said in remarks delivered in Salem on Tuesday afternoon. “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”
Kitzhaber, who has served two previous terms as Governor, talked about the execution orders he signed when he was Governor:
“They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years,” Gov. Kitzhaber said. “I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.”
He did not commute the sentences of the inmates on death row, so they are just getting a bit of a reprieve, until the next Governor takes office and starts the execution clock running again.
There is another Oregon politician in the news today, Boston Boomer sent me this link last night: Senator plans first ever Internet-fueled filibuster | The Raw Story
In the coming weeks, a new and unprecedented thing just might happen in the U.S. Senate: the Internet will filibuster a bill.
Specifically, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) will filibuster a bill — the Protect IP Act, which aims to fundamentally change the structure of the Internet — with a little help from his friends and admirers online.
In a website launched this week by the left-leaning political action committee Demand Progress, Wyden promises that if the Protect IP Act comes up for a vote in the Senate, he will stage an old-school standing filibuster and speak for as long as his lungs have wind.
You may find his plan interesting…
To bolster his speech, Wyden plans to read off the names of people who stand united with him against proposed rules that would fundamentally change the structure of the Internet.
So far, over 60,000 petition signatures have been collected, his staff said, and that number is growing quickly.
He is planning to do a standing filibuster, they do not have the votes to sustain it, so they are hoping to slow down the process, and make members of Congress think about the consequences of their actions. Any names that are not read will be added later to the congressional record.
The Protect IP Act is heavily sponsored by the entertainment industry and the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbying group, which sees it as a means to prevent online piracy, which they claim costs jobs.
But its detractors, companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Aol, see the bill a little differently. While Protect IP — and its House version, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — would make it easier for U.S. authorities to crack down on websites accused of pirating movies, television shows and music, it would also allow the government and copyright owners to disable credit card processing for sites they claim are engaging or enabling copyright infringement, all without a court hearing.
The legislation is so broad it could be used to target online anonymity tools used by human rights activists, according to technology advocacy group The Electronic Frontier Foundation. The software Tor, for instance, which has been used to protect activists in Tunisia and Egypt, could be targeted because it can be used to hide one’s IP address when illegally downloading copyrighted content.
But wait…there is more…
Corporations could also use SOPA claims to force companies to stop processing donations to whistleblower sites like WikiLeaks that post documents protected by copyright or containing trade secrets. The bill would additionally require Internet service providers to “take technically feasible and reasonable measures” to block “rogue” sites from their customers, essentially creating a massive Internet blacklist.
So give that website a look-see: Stop Censorship — Take Action Before Senate Vote | Demand Progress
One last link for you today. I was thinking about the intricate artistic beauty of Japan’s Kimono the other day. I remember there was an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that had many vintage Kimono on display. So when I saw this link in my Reader last night, I had to include it in today’s post. Kimono culture – a dying art?
Beautifully patterned kimonos may be enduring cultural symbols of Japan, but the industry that produces the garments is in steep decline – and it is feared that soon there could be no craftsmen left with the skills to make them.
In “Mastering the Art of the Kimono” – for BBC Radio 4 – the BBC’s Japan correspondent Roland Buerk investigates the crisis facing the industry, and meets some of the people who make, sell and wear the colourful gowns.
There is a slideshow video preview at the link… the last few images are amazing. If you want to see some of the various techniques used in Kimono Design, take a look here: Japanese Kimono Design Techniques. Kimonos with Painted, Embroidered, Kasuri, Shibori, and Gold Foil Designs
This site by Marla Mallett has pages and pages of information on textiles, and lots of images to look through. If you have some time check it out!
Well, that is it for me, I’ll see you all later today for the Evening News Reads, I’ve been looking forward to getting back to my regular blogging schedule. So what are you reading and blogging about today?
Herman Cain made another wacky comment about Libya yesterday. First up, he tried to “clarify” his recent brain freeze on Libya at a press conference in Florida. Think Progress has the transcript.
Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that Qadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you’ve got Taliban and Al Qaeda that’s going to be part of the government? … Do I agree with not knowing the government was going to — which part was he asking me about? I was trying to get him to be specific and he wouldn’t be specific.
And then there’s this from the same Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel interview in which Cain appeared not to know anything about Libya, also from Think Progress:
JOURNAL SENTINEL: Would you favor a military strike against Iran to stop that country from developing a nuclear capability?
CAIN: That is not a practical, top-tier alternative and here’s why. If you look at the topography of Iran. Where are you going to strike? It’s very mountainous. That’s what makes it very difficult. Secondly, that would be a decision that would need to be coordinated and discussed with our friends in that part of the world like Israel. But for the United States to unilaterally go in and attack Iran to try and stop them, I would want to consult with the intelligence community, the commanders on the ground in that part of the world, which I have stated before. But we should — I don’t have all the information necessary to make that decision.
Mountains? As Think Progress explains,
But yes, Iran does have mountains. However, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted the other day, the principle reason that an attack on Iran would be a bad idea is not because it is mountainous, but because it won’t achieve the objective of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition to that, a strike would all but end the reform movement in Iran, spark a wider regional war and incentivize the regime to weaponize its nuclear program.
As everyone knows by now, Cain has been provided with Secret Service protection, and he’s been telling audiences that he got it because of his high poll ratings and because he’s being “hounded” by the press. From the NY Daily News:
The media horde hounding Herman Cain was not the reason the U.S. Secret Service gave him a security detail, a federal official said Friday.
“Media coverage or the number of media covering is not a factor in the decision of whether or not a candidate needs USSS protection,” a Department of Homeland Security official told the Daily News.
The GOP presidential hopeful — who has been a walking headline in recent weeks due largely to claims he sexually harassed at least four women — has faced threats and racially-fueled rhetoric, The Associated Press reported.
Cain refused to answer questions about the threats.
“The thing about Secret Service is ‘secret,’ so it would not be appropriate to discuss anything about it,” Cain said. “We wanted to move to that next level because of my ranking in the polls and the additional scrutiny I’ve been getting.”
“We’re not scared of you guys…and gals,” an exuberant Cain told reporters.
Is it just me, or are other people beginning to feel like they’ve gone down the rabbit hole and smoked some of whatever that caterpillar was smoking?
There was that recent recent remark from Cain, “We need a leader, not a reader.” It turns out that was a quote from The Simpsons movie. And what about the quote he used at the end of a debate in August:
“A poet once said, ‘Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.'” (Aug. 11 Republican debate)
That was a direct quote from the Pokemon theme song, sung by Donna Summer!
Well, I guess I’m going to have to start watching more TV, because apparently Rachel Maddow explained the whole thing to her audience about a week ago. She says it’s performance art.
Is is possible that Cain could really be scamming the Republicans just to show how stupid they are? Exactly what’s going on here anyway? Actually even some Republicans are getting confused by Cain’s antics. (Warning: link goes to Hot Air)
I can’t tell if he’s joking or not, which is a recurring theme lately in some of his pronouncements about foreign policy. He was joking, I think, when he said he’d offered to make Kissinger secretary of state again. He wasn’t joking, I thought, when he answered a question about whether his grasp of foreign policy is too slight with “9-9-9,” although the Standard’s John McCormack theorized last night on Twitter that maybe he was actually saying, “Nein, nein, nein,” in which case he was joking. The fact that we’ve reached the point where no answer is too goofy to be instantly ruled out as non-serious seems … problematic.
Cain brought up the GOP debate on foreign policy two days earlier.
“That’s a tough subject. You don’t want to get your facts mixed up,” he said.
He defended his view that presidents and presidential candidates don’t need to be immersed in the fine print of world affairs – they simply need to be leaders who can surround themselves with the right people and sift through their advice.
“I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy. Just thought I’d throw that out,” he said, a dig at his critics.
“I want to talk to commanders on the ground. Because you run for president (people say) you need to have the answer. No, you don’t! No, you don’t! That’s not good decision-making,” said Cain.
Mitt Romney isn’t as practiced a joker as Herman Cain, but some very weird stuff has been coming out about him. The Boston Globe had an article that I’m not allowed to read, because they’ve locked everything behind a pay wall worse that the one at the NYT. Luckily, some other sites did get access to the article, so I’ll link to them. From Alternet:
On their way out of the governor’s office and onto the presidential campaign trail, aides to Mitt Romney almost completely obliterated their electronic records, deleting emails, purchasing hard drives, and replacing computers, a investigation by the Boston Globe found. “The governor’s office has found no e-mails from 2002-2006 in our possession,’’ an aide to the current governor, Deval Patrick, told the Globe. Meanwhile, 11 Romney aides — many of whom went on to work on Romney’s 2008 campaign — purchased their state-issued computer hard drives as they left state employment.
Like other states and the federal government, Massachusetts has a law that requires such files be preserved for the state archives. Moreover, Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees the state Public Records Law, “said it appeared odd” that aides could purchases state property. “I don’t sell things to people who work for me,’’ Galvin said.
WTF?! Okay, my guess is they didn’t want the citizens of Massachusetts to find out that they did nothing while Romney was Governor except work on their boss’s future presidential campaign. Plenty of people are trying to find out what they’re covering up though. Romney and his aides claim everything they did was legal–although they haven’t provided any evidence that’s true.
Next to these two nutcases, Newt Gingrich just looks like a normal corrupt politician.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A confident and at times defiant Newt Gingrich defended himself Friday against growing questions about his lucrative consulting career, and he acknowledged that how he handles the vetting process will determine whether he can be “a legitimate front-runner” for the Republican presidential nomination.
Calling his recent surge toward the top of the polls “almost disorienting,” Gingrich fielded questions at a news conference here about his myriad money-making ventures in the decade since his tenure as House speaker ended. They include consulting contracts with Freddie Mac, the quasi-public mortgage company, and millions of dollars from health-care corporations seeking access to him.
“Somebody who’s a front-runner for the presidency of the United States should get a full vetting,” Gingrich said. “It’s the nature of the process. If I’m able to answer them [questions] in a way that the American people feel comfortable, then I’ll be a legitimate front-runner.”
Enjoy it while you can, Newt. It won’t last. But for now, the other four crazies in the clown car–Bachmann, Perry, Paul, Santorum–have been virtually eclipsed, and of course Huntsman was never even in the car.
And then there are those jokers on the so-called Super Committee. According to The New York Times, they’re still at a “deep impasse.”
Just 72 hours before a deadline to present Congress with a plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit, members of a joint Congressional committee remained at a deep impasse on Friday after Democrats rejected a new Republican proposal devised with the help of Speaker John A. Boehner.
Pessimism mounted among members of the committee about their ability to strike a deal by Monday and avert a high-profile failure that would demonstrate anew the inability of the two parties on Capitol Hill to reach consensus about how to attack the nation’s mounting public debt. The partisan divide was also showcased Friday by a vote in the House to reject a Republican-backed constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
Despite time running out on the committee created by the summer agreement to raise the federal debt limit, negotiations were in disarray, with Republicans and Democrats even disputing what precisely divided them. One panel member said that he still had slim hope for a deal but that it would take an extraordinary development to end the stalemate and avoid a series of automatic cuts in 2013 that would reduce federal services and make substantial reductions in Pentagon spending.
Whatever. I hope they fail and have to explain to the American people why they’re drastically cutting Medicare and Medicaid.
And now for some real earthshaking news. I don’t have the ability to explain it to you, but even I know it’s big. From the Journal Nature:
At the heart of the weirdness for which the field of quantum mechanics is famous is the wavefunction, a powerful but mysterious entity that is used to determine the probabilities that quantum particles will have certain properties. Now, a preprint posted online on 14 November1 reopens the question of what the wavefunction represents — with an answer that could rock quantum theory to its core. Whereas many physicists have generally interpreted the wavefunction as a statistical tool that reflects our ignorance of the particles being measured, the authors of the latest paper argue that, instead, it is physically real.
“I don’t like to sound hyperbolic, but I think the word ‘seismic’ is likely to apply to this paper,” says Antony Valentini, a theoretical physicist specializing in quantum foundations at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Go read it. I’m sure we’ll be hearing much much more about this once the paper is published. That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?
It’s amazing what kind of nonsense the right wing can come up with when their interests and myths are threatened. Here’s the latest Faux News canard about Occupy. It’s an ACORN plot! If any one believes that, I have a few bridges across the Mississippi I’d like to sell them. The Crescent City Connection even comes with tolls!!
How can a group that folded 19 months ago secretly conspire to bolster Occupy protests? Apparently, “sources tell” Fox News that people who used to work for ACORN have now taken on roles helping organize Occupy protests. In fact, Fox News reports that the former director of New York ACORN and his aides are now working for New York Communities for Change (NYCC), which is turn supporting demonstrations.
I’m not sure why this would be especially interesting if true — if folks who used to be involved with one group then started playing a role with another, who cares? — but as it turns out, a spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street said the NYCC isn’t playing a role in the protests anyway. But don’t worry, Fox News’ unnamed “source” said the group really is up to secret misdeeds, adding, “And yes, we’re still ACORN, there is a still a national ACORN.”
It’s safe to assume that Fox News has reliable contacts among progressive activist organizations, right? There’s bound to be plenty of former ACORN staffers and Occupy activists eager to dish to the Republicans’ cable news outlet, right?
Please. It’s really no wonder at all why Fox News’ audience ends up believing so much nonsense.
They do believe the nonsense, which makes Fox News watchers very dangerous in the voting booth.
Dems on the Super Committee are offering up Medicaid and other ‘entitlements’ in order to get tax increases from Republicans. It didn’t work, but you have to wonder exactly what all they’re willing to put on the table.
Republicans have pressured supercommittee members to reject any deficit-reduction deal that raises taxes — including stimulus spending for the economy would almost certainly be a non-starter for most in the party.
Democrats have said from the beginning that the supercommittee should produce a “jobs plan” that includes “investments” to help the economy.
The supercommittee is charged with devising a plan that will cut at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years from annual deficits, but deep divisions exist on the panel over whether to raise taxes and cut entitlements to meet that goal.
The members met again Wednesday afternoon and Democrats were looking to see if the GOP would present an alternative path to the grand bargain.
You may recall that the grand bargain was the giveaway President Obama offered to Boehner last summer during the debt ceiling talks. More details are available at this WAPO link.
The panel has floundered since meetings began in September. If the supercommittee fails to reach agreement to trim borrowing by at least $1.2 trillion through 2021, automatic spending cuts of an equal amount would be triggered in January 2013. These cuts would strike especially hard at the Pentagon, an outcome that Republicans are eager to avoid.
Ralph B posted this tidbit downthread last night. Chelsea Clinton is said to be considering a congressional run.
Clinton has been approached by “the right people” in the New York Democratic Party, according to one source in Albany. While no decision has been made, Clinton is said to be “actively considering” a Congressional run from New York State in 2012.
Chelsea Clinton, 31, is the only child of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The discussions of running Chelsea Clinton for a house seat grew out of the redistricting plans currently underway in the New York State legislature in Albany.
The plan is to identify an open seat for Clinton in or around New York City where she currently resides with her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. While no specific district has been determined, New York City and Westchester are said to be the focus with New York’s 18th District considered a strong possibility. The 18th encompasses much of Westchester County, just south of where her parents have maintained a home for the past 12 years.
The Daily Beast reports that Herman Cain was delinquent in paying taxes in 2006. Additionally, he fought paying the bill.
According to court documents obtained by The Beast, Cain and his wife, Gloria, were served in February 2008 with a tax lien totaling $8,558.46 for unpaid income taxes and penalty due for the 2006 calendar year.
Gordon said Cain had filed with the IRS and won a six-month reprieve in paying his 2006 federal taxes as he was undergoing his treatment for stage four lymphoma and believed that filing should also have bought him time with the state of Georgia. “In Georgia, a taxpayer can submit a copy of his federal extension to request an extension of state income taxes,” Gordon said.
But instead, the state sent a notice of overdue taxes in October 2007, and then proceeded with the tax lien four months later, he said.
Cain’s accountant fought the Georgia Department of Revenue on behalf of his client well into 2008 and the two sides finally settled the matter in November 2008. A court formally withdrew the state tax lien on Dec. 8, 2008, court records show.
Gordon said the campaign was researching the exact date on which Cain made the payment to extinguish the lien
Dodd-Frank is rife with so many loopholes and exemptions that the largest Wall Street banks – larger by far then they were before the bailout – are back to many of their old tricks.
It’s impossible to know, for example, the exposure of the Street to European banks in danger of going under. To stay afloat, Europe’s banks will be forced to sell mountains of assets – among them, derivatives originating on the Street – and may have to reneg on or delay some repayments on loans from Wall Street banks.
The Street says it’s not worried because these assets are insured. But remember AIG? The fact Morgan Stanley and other big U.S. banks are taking a beating in the market suggests investors don’t believe the Street. This itself proves financial reform hasn’t gone far enough.
If you want more evidence, consider the fancy footwork by Bank of America in recent days. Hit by a credit downgrade last month, BofA just moved its riskiest derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a retail subsidiary flush with insured deposits. That unit has a higher credit rating because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (that is, you and me and other taxpayers) are backing the deposits. Result: BofA improves its bottom line at the expense of American taxpayers.
Wasn’t this supposed to be illegal? Keeping risky assets away from insured deposits had been a key principle of U.S. regulation for decades before the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
The so-called “Volcker rule” was supposed to remedy that. But under pressure of Wall Street’s lobbyists, the rule – as officially proposed last week – has morphed into almost 300 pages of regulatory mumbo-jumbo, riddled with exemptions and loopholes.
It would have been far simpler simply to ban proprietary trading from the jump. Why should banks ever be permitted to use peoples’ bank deposits – insured by the federal government – to place risky bets on the banks’ own behalf? Bring back Glass-Steagall.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.9 percent to 120.25 as of 11 a.m. in Tokyo, set for the highest close since Sept. 9. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures added 0.8 percent. The 17- nation euro climbed 0.5 percent to $1.3979 and rose 0.3 percent to 106.26 yen. Treasury 10-year notes erased earlier gains. Copper, zinc and lead jumped more than 1.4 percent in London and crude climbed 1.9 percent in New York.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the euro region’s bailout fund will be leveraged by four to five times, and investors have agreed to a voluntary writedown of 50 percent on Greek debt. Sarkozy plans to call Chinese leader Hu Jintao today to discuss contributions from the Asian nation to a fund European leaders may set up to fight the crisis, a person familiar with the matter said.
The news of a deal is “certainly mildly positive news for markets,” Adarsh Sinha, head of strategy for Group of 10 foreign exchange at Bank of America, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong. “We have got a plan out but a lot of the details aren’t in place.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Greek bondholders voluntarily agreed to write down the value of Greek bonds by 50%, which translates to €100 billion and will reduce the nation’s debt load to 120% from 150%.
Sarkozy said the leaders agreed to boost the firepower of the EU bailout fund, known as the European Financial Stability Facility, “by four or five fold.” He added that officials have negotiated additional funding from the International Monetary Fund.
The writedowns were one of three inter-related problems political leaders must solve to devise a comprehensive solution to Europe’s debt crisis. They must also determine how to leverage a government-backed bailout fund and stabilize the banking sector.
EU leaders had pledged to resolve these issues Wednesday at their summit in Brussels. But given the bondholders’ resistance, it was unclear until the early hours of Thursday if the leaders would be able to follow through.
Earlier, the European Council issued a statement saying heads of state had agreed to raise capital requirements for banks vulnerable to losses on euro-area government bonds.
Under the terms outlined by EU officials, banks would be required to sharply increase core capital levels to 9% to create a buffer against potential losses. The amount to be raised would be determined after accounting for declines in the value of euro-area government bonds, including debt issued by Greece.
Based on market rates in September, banks will need to raise a total of €106 billion to meet the new targets, according to the European Banking Authority.
So, that’s the headlines that have grabbed my attention today. What’s on your blogging and reading list today?
There are some very important timely links I want to bring to your attention, so I have just a couple things to mention before I get to the meat of this evening’s news post.
When I saw the image of the newest website in the Obama 2012 Campaign arsenal, I honestly thought it was a GOP wingnut site…look at this screenshot:
Well, this is what Tommy Christopher over at Mediaite had to say about it. Barack Obama | Attack Watch | Fight the Smears | Mediaite
The Obama campaign has launched a new version of 2008′s “Fight the Smears” website (also a rejected Windex slogan) that debunked guano from every source, but with some new twists. AttackWatch.com does a 180 on the old site’s shiny, happy design, and includes a nifty crowd-sourcing feature that allows supporters (or not) to report an attack, and even to attach a file. Hmmm, we’ve got a report from a supporter named Haywood D’jablowmee, let me just open that attachment…
In an email to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said, “There are a lot of folks on the other side who are chomping at the bit to distort the President’s record. It’s not a question of if the next big lie will come, just when — and what we’re prepared to do about it.”
I love this next bit of commentary:
Great. Sounds like a terrific content-generating resource for right-wing bloggers, too. Everybody wins!
…If there’s a guy at OFA whose job it is to sift through these submissions, his is officially the worst job in the world. Let’s not even think about what kinds of attachments that poor guy is going to have to look at.
Wow, I don’t know what to say about this site…it bothers me.
Here’s the full text of OFA’s “AttackWatch” email:
Expose the attacks
If you’re someone who cares about seeing a campaign focused on substance between now and November 2012, I need you to become a part of one of our most important teams.
It’s called AttackWatch.com, and it launches today.
Here’s the deal: We all remember the birth certificate smear, the GOP’s barrage of lies about the Affordable Care Act, and the string of other phony attacks on President Obama that we’ve seen over the past few years.
There are a lot of folks on the other side who are chomping at the bit to distort the President’s record. It’s not a question of if the next big lie will come, just when — and what we’re prepared to do about it.
AttackWatch.com is exactly what it sounds like: a resource that allows us to nip these attacks in the bud before they show up on the airwaves and in emails — and then fight back with the truth.
By signing up, you’ll be on the front lines — you’ll hear about false claims as soon as they come up, and we’ll count on you to spread the truth to your friends and personal networks and let us know about new smears whenever you hear them.
Will you sign up now to be a part of AttackWatch.com?
I remember the smears from 2008 well, and I’m sure you do, too.
They didn’t just attack Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They went after everything this movement is built on, and everyone who supports it.
This time, they’re not just out to personally attack the President — they’re also out to mislead Americans about the record of accomplishments that he’s compiled. Just the other day, a Republican financier actually quoted Saddam Hussein in telling a group of millionaire donors that defeating President Obama will be “the mother of all wars.”
We’re launching AttackWatch.com today to make sure we’re ready for the attacks we know are coming — and armed with the ability to fight back quickly.
Sign up for AttackWatch.com now, and let’s get the facts out:
Obama for America
Hey, at least you can donate your $5 bucks and feel like you are part of the “team” right? But what’s with that “friend” intro…are they channeling McCain?
Personally I think Obama should be worried about the “livid” people he represents.
Some jobs numbers came out today that should be a warning to the Obama Administration..but they aren’t listening to any advice from the left anyway… Georgia jobless rate hits highest level in 6 months | The Biz Beat
Georgia’s unemployment rate hit its highest level in six months, rising to 10.2 percent in August from 10.1 percent in July, the state labor department said Thursday.
There has been no improvement from a year ago, when the state’s jobless rate was also 10.2 percent.
August marked the 49th consecutive month Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 9.1 percent, the labor department said.
The August unemployment rate increased because 5,500 new job seekers — as well as more of those already unemployed — were unable to find work.
The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for at least 27 weeks — increased by 3,000 to 254,100. There were 15.5 percent more long-term unemployed than in August of last year. The long-term unemployed account for 52.7 percent of Georgia’s 482,321 jobless workers.
Oooo, that “thair” Georgia Works program sure does look like a good idea!
According to the Georgia Work Ready site:
Georgia Work Ready is transforming our state’s workforce into our number one competitive advantage. By ensuring Georgia workers have the best skills and training opportunities, we can guarantee businesses have the talent they need to succeed today and the resources they need to meet future challenges.
Yeah, the program is working out just fine: Georgia Works Not Working; Just Twelve Applicants in August | FDL News Desk
YMMV, but for me the worst element of the mostly-fine American Jobs Act is the plan modeled on Georgia Works, the job training program for the long-term unemployed. Businesses get free labor (let’s face it, there’s not a whole lot of “training” that goes into the perfunctory data entry or office slug jobs that would likely be filled here), and the worker gets to show up without the hope of a job at the end. It may be a foot in the door with a particular company, or it may be a two-month distraction from a deeper job search, with nothing to show for it at the end. It’s just an unpaid internship in the end, and if companies are getting away with that, why wouldn’t they just cycle through another round of unpaid interns under the guise of “training” rather than make a hire?
Dayen points out that only 12 applicants signed up in August, bring the total of people who have applied to Georgia Works up to 92…and that is since February of this year.
The Democrats got a kick in the balls today from the Orange Tangerine himself: Boehner says no new taxes for debt panel in economic speech on Thursday – The Washington Post
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected Thursday any increase in tax revenue and instead said that a special committee seeking long-term debt reduction should find $1.5 trillion in savings entirely from cutting federal agency spending and slash popular entitlement programs.
Nothing new there, we expected it…right?
Moving on to crime in America, Casey Anthony is getting headlines again: Casey Anthony ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in costs | Reuters
Judge Belvin Perry ruled that Anthony must reimburse $97,676.98 in investigative costs incurred between July 15, 2008, when Anthony first told detectives that her daughter had been kidnapped by a nanny, and September 29, 2008, when detectives determined Caylee likely was dead rather than missing.
I could really give two batshits about this ruling…that $100,000 is a drop in the bucket to what she is going to get in movie deal cash…There is something way more important in the crime news today…
(Here is the meat I was talking about.)
To update y’all on the Troy Davis case: Troy Davis supporters deliver 600,000 petitions to Pardons and Parole | jacksonville.com
Supporters of condemned murderer Troy Davis delivered more than 600,000 petitions today to the Pardon and Paroles Board seeking to prevent his execution scheduled on Wednesday for killing off-duty Savannah policeman Mark MacPhail.
Also present was Gary Drinkard, who spent six years on Alabama’s death row before he was exonerated. He brought petitions from 25 others who had also avoided a death sentence through new evidence proving there innocence.
“We were there,” he said. “We know what it’s like.”
The case has drawn attention from across the globe. Politicians, entertainers and professional athletes have lent their names to groups supporting Davis. Many are participating in a social-media campaign on Twitter and Facebook on his behalf.
The Parole Board holds a hearing Monday with lawyers for Davis. Because it’s not bound by the rules of evidence and other court procedures, Davis supporters said today they hope the board will use its discretion on his behalf.
I hope the Board does the right thing…but I want to bring another execution up for discussion…
There is another man in Texas who is scheduled for execution later today. I don’t think he will get any stay of execution from Perry, but at least there are people trying to do the right thing.
Lawyers for a death row inmate in Texas who was sentenced to death on the basis of testimony from a psychologist who argued he was a risk to the public because he is black are making frantic eleventh-hour efforts to spare him from the execution chamber on Thursday.
If their pleading fails to sway the Texas authorities, Duane Buck, 48, will be put to death by lethal injection at 6pm local time. His lawyers are appealing to the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, to use his powers to delay the execution to allow for the case to go to resentencing given the racially tainted nature of the original punishment.
Here is some background on this case: US Supreme Court asked to halt Texas execution amid questions about racial reference at trial – The Washington Post
Duane Buck, 48, faced lethal injection for fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment. In an appeal to the Supreme Court on Thursday and in a letter to Perry, Buck’s lawyers said a psychologist testified that black people were more likely to commit violence. Jurors in Texas must decide on the future danger of an offender when they are considering a death sentence.
“The State of Texas should not condone any form of racial discrimination in the courtroom,” attorney Katherine Black wrote Perry, urging the governor to use his authority to issue a one-time 30-day reprieve for Buck. “The use of race in sentencing poisons the legal process, undermines the reliability and fairness of the sentence, and breeds cynicism in the community toward the very institution entrusted with protecting the rights of all persons equally.”
Buck’s case is one of six convictions that then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn — a political ally of Perry who is now a Republican U.S. senator — reviewed in 2000 and said needed to be reopened because of the racial reference.
I am posting this next quote from Tim Murphy at MoJo in full because I think it is too important not to…The Elephant in the Room in the Duane Buck Case | Mother Jones
Barring a last-minute reprieve from Governor Rick Perry, sometime after 7 p.m. on Thursday Duane Buck will become the 235th person to be executed in Texas in the last decade. Buck’s case has drawn attention because of the role race-based testimony may have played in obtaining the death sentence. As I reported previously, a psychologist summoned by Buck’s attorney testified under cross-examination that Buck’s race (he’s black) made him a greater threat to society; that testimony was then cited in the prosecutors’ closing argument.
Buck’s case is noteworthy because the racial argument was made so explicitly, and under oath. But the reality is that race is a determining factor in capital punishment sentencing whether a psychologist says so out-loud or not. As Amnesty International notes, “the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim.” Among other things, they point out that:
- A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American.
- A January 2003 study released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is African-American.
- A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. In addition, killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes to deciding what charges to bring.
That kind of institutional bias means that it’s a lot harder to point to specific cases, a la Buck, in which race impacted the sentence—which means that, unlike Buck, most defendants will have a hard time making the case that their sentencing was in any way mishandled. But taken in sum, the numbers are pretty damning.
I won’t be here to update the Buck Execution situation, so if anyone has some news about it, please post it in the comments…I would appreciate it tremendously.
Let’s end on a funny note, because it is too damn upsetting to think that Perry’s execution numbers may be increased by one in just a few hours.
Here is a clip from Jon Stewart, about the NY District 9 Special Election. The funniest part for me is the parody Stewart does of the “New York Jewish Mother” who answers the phone when Ed Koch robo calls to offer his support for the GOP candidate.
I will check back later tonight after the UCMS football game…I hope I do not come back to bad news out of Texas…