Wednesday Reads: GOP, CBO and WTF

fbe2979d91223d5bb11cc7c5e36660f0Good Morning

My mind is not working properly today, after hearing the debate last night…the fear of America’s future in science and technology scares the bejeezus outta me.

Here in Banjoville, the county school system has been changed to a Charter School. The process will not be complete for a few years, which is fortunate because my kids are out of there in 2017…but I know that there are changes coming…and it is going to look like a Ham version of science when all is said and done.

Creationism in public schools, mapped. Where tax money supports alternatives to evolution.

Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science.

A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs. As the map below illustrates, creationism in schools isn’t restricted to schoolhouses in remote villages where the separation of church and state is considered less sacred. If you live in any of these states, there’s a good chance your tax money is helping to convince some hapless students that evolution (the basis of all modern biological science, supported by everything we know about geology, genetics, paleontology, and other fields) is some sort of highly contested scientific hypothesis as credible as “God did it.”

Go and see the map, it is frightening how many dots there are all over the country. And it makes the pleas from Bill Nye all the more important, that

“If we stop driving forward, looking for the next answer, we in the United States will be out-competed by other countries, other economies.”

I am going to give you a link dump of commentary on the debate last night between Bill Nye and Ken Ham:

Bill Nye, Ken Ham Creation and Evolution Debate | TIME.com

No debate about it, Bill Nye dissected Ken Ham in creation-evolution discussion | GlobalPost

Who Won Bill Nye’s Big Evolution Faceoff? – NBC News.com

Talking past each other: Bill Nye vs. creationist Ken Ham on evolution | Ars Technica

Yes, the Creation Debate Was Worthwhile- Mashable

Creation vs evolution: the debate that went nowhere- The Sydney Morning Herald

Bill Nye Takes On Creationist Ken Ham (VIDEO)- Huffpo

Students react to Nye-Ham debate | The Kentucky Kernel

Basalt, wood, and dodging straight answers: On Nye v Ham. iO9

this article through the reddit/r/everythingscience discussion thread on tonight’s debate, and thought I might find some interested fellows here.

At some point in the debate, Ham dragged up some anecdotal evidence about a 45,000 year-old piece of wood (maybe 450,000?) encased in what I think I remember as 4.5 billion year-old basalt. Nye sort of handwaved this away, saying perhaps the basalt “slid over” the younger material and never addressed it again, even after Ham brought it back up.

I’m pretty up on my creationism (sorry, ID) vs. evolution debate topics as I am an elementary school teacher and a former christian, but as this topic was novel to me I thought it deserved a bit of research. It seems to be similar to that classic creationist bit about polystrate trees.

Anyway, the article pretty much goes on to say that the person who made the original claim on the fossil essentially tucked it away in a drawer somewhere and won’t let anyone else look at it, hence why I designated it anecdotal above.

Check out that last link…some funny stuff there.

I think the whole thing can be summed up here:

So in consideration of the ridiculous exhibition of last night, by that I mean Ham and his followers…I have a shitload of science links this morning.

4,600-Year-Old Step Pyramid Uncovered in Egypt – Scientific American

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades.

The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet (13 meters), is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet (5 m) tall.

Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet (18.4 x 18.6 m). [See Photos of the Newly Uncovered Step Pyramid]

The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.

“The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,” said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made — a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.

Hmmm, that puts this pyramid outside the 4,000 year old Earth age right? But wait…it still can be explained by one thing….Gawwwwwd.

The ‘Pompeii of the early Cretaceous’: Researchers find stunningly well preserved specimens in China | Mail Online

Researchers have revealed one of the best preserved fossil sites ever discovered.

The fossil site in Jehol biota in the north-eastern region of China has revealed scorched tissue, and ‘re-crystallized’ sections of bone on fossil.

Experts say the site is similar to the effect of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 buried Pompeii, Herculaneum and other cities, entombing people and animals in suspended death poses.

The team studied 14 fossils along with the chemistry and mineralogy of the volcanic rock and sediment that formed the animals final resting place.

‘What we’re talking about in this case is literal charring, like somebody got put in the grill,” said George Harlow, a mineralogist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, one of the researchers of the study.

Okay, that is in a language I think many of those at the creation museum would understand, I mean….Sunday bar-b-que is a big deal around the bible belt.

An ancient ecosystem known as the Jehol Biota existed in north eastern China about 120 million to 130 million years ago.

It consisted of dinosaurs, mammals, early birds, fish, lizards and other creatures, with the red areas highlighted below having thrown up fossils.

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The animals lived among coniferous forests and lakes, in the shadow of volcanoes.
Fossils of these animals are found in the Yixian and Jiufotang rock formations, embedded in layers of volcanic material.

Hold up, 120 to 130 million years? Now that is for sure, most definitely outside the  6,000 year old Earth aka the Ham Young Earth belief system. I’ll point you to that iO9 link up top.

‘Severe reduction’ in killer whale numbers during last Ice Age

The scientists studied the DNA sequences of killer whale communities across the world.

They found a severe decline in whale numbers leading to a bottleneck and consequent loss of approximately 40,000 years ago when large parts of the Earth were covered in ice.

The only exception to this was found in a killer whale population off the coast of South Africa that retained high variations in genetic diversity.

As greater genetic diversity indicates larger population size, the researchers believe the South African community of killer whales escaped the bottleneck faced by other communities.

Genetic Diversity?

Madagascar’s tiny ‘sucker-foots’ give old bat new meaning | Reuters

You can call them the contrarians of the bat world.

While nearly all bats roost upside down from tree limbs or cave ceilings, two species of tiny “sucker-footed” bats currently found only in Madagascar roost head-up, typically in the furled leaves of a tree known as the traveler’s palm.

But these oddballs of the bat world once were much more common than they are today. Scientists reported on Tuesday the discovery in a desert in Egypt of the fossilized remains of two earlier extinct species of these bats – one that lived 37 million years ago and the other 30 million years ago.

What? Species? That doesn’t fit in with the Ham “kinds” graphic at all.

You really want to be scared: Study Guides – Answers in Genesis

Or how about this shit: | Answers in Genesis-Shop topic “Design”

I found myself looking through these titles of books, videos and shit…realizing my mouth was wide open…in disbelief? I don’t know, and Ham has the gall to say evolution in school is “indoctrination”?

Genes shed light on pygmy history

Scientists on Tuesday said they could fill a blank in the history of Central Africa’s pygmies, whose past is one of the most elusive of any community in the world.

At a key period in the human odyssey, these hunter-gatherer tribes shunned interbreeding with Bantu-speaking communities who were early farmers, according to a gene analysis.

The two groups first met when the Bantu groups, having acquired farming technology some 5,000 years ago, started moving out of the region of Nigeria and Cameroon into eastern, central and southern Africa.

Again with that whole greater than 4,000 years ago theme?

Whoa…

Well, as I was writing this post last night, my computer froze up and I just abandoned the post to finish this morning. So I guess like a Beatles song, this thread will play like two different blog post in one?

The big stink this morning?

The Best Of The Bad Reporting On Obamacare, The CBO And Jobs

The Congressional Budget Office issued a new report Tuesday on the federal budget deficit, Obamacare and jobs — and Official Washington exploded.

It all centered on one line about how the health care reform law would affect employment. CBO actually said that Americans would choose to work less, for various reasons, and that if you translated the fewer hours worked into full-time jobs, it would equal 2.5 million by 2024 (2.3 million by 2021). It didn’t say that Obamacare would cost the country 2.5 million jobs, but Republicans said so anyway.

But it wasn’t just the GOP, which had a political incentive to take advantage of economic jargon. It was the political press as well. They either misrepresented what the report said — or shrugged off the actual facts, opting instead to speculate on what the political spin would mean for the horse race.

The mememorandum page is so taken up with this CBO/Obamacare shit, I had to put a link up.

While I was there, this next article popped out at me…Justice Scalia: “You Are Kidding Yourself If You Think” SCOTUS Won’t Vote in Favor of Internment Again – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Enjoy that latest nugget of crap from Scalia’s mouth.

Another WTF moment: Gun lobbyist Larry Pratt: U.S. blacks need ‘attitude’ lessons from ‘happy’ Africans | The Raw Story

My state of Georgia was in the news recently displaying the horrible leadership skills of Governor Deal and Mayor Reed, well…here is yet another area that Georgia is failing in. (And I don’t think this is going to fix it) Bill filed to privatize Ga. child welfare services | AccessNorthGa

A bill has been filed in the state Senate that would have Georgia move toward privatizing some state child welfare services.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Renee Unterman of Buford and Fran Millar of Atlanta would allow faith-based and community-based organizations to apply for “fixed-price” contracts to handle services including adoption, foster care and case management. The law would be contingent on the state receiving a federal waiver.

While on the subject of faith-based PLUB control…Women’s rights country by country – interactive | Global development | theguardian.com

But take a gander…La Course Will Include Women In Le Tour de France For The First Time

Also check out the latest candidate news:

RALEIGH: Clay Aiken makes it official: He will run for Congress | State Politics | NewsObserver.com

Sandra Fluke, Wendy Davis, And How The Fight For Reproductive Rights Is Inspiring Women To Run For Office | ThinkProgress

Victoria Jackson Files To Run For Tennessee County Commission Seat

There is a look back at:  How 10 years of Facebook design tweaks have shaped the way we behave on the Web | PandoDaily

And here is a graphic look at: The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic – latimes.com

Let’s end this post with a little humor: Walmart to Pay $25 Billion to Move the State Capitol of Arkansas to Bentonville | Rock City Times

BENTONVILLE – Gov. Mike Beebe and officials with Bentonville-based Walmart Stores Inc. have confirmed an agreement that, if approved by the Arkansas Legislature, would see the retailer pay the state $25 billion over five years in return for moving the State Capitol to Bentonville.

The $25 billion would essentially fund all state government operations for the next five years – which is the timetable for moving state operations to Bentonville.

“It certainly is an unusual move, but from a practical standpoint it makes sense. As we continue to increase our influence over state government officials, it becomes an issue of efficiency,” said Walton Richman, a spokesman for Walmart.

So….what you all reading about today?


Sunday Reads: Falling Stars… Special Stars… Stars and Death

6685e9eb12abfab6b9c28d0da315c1f8Good Morning

August is a special month on TCM, it is when they have their Summer Under The Stars programming…where every 24 hour day is devoted to one special classic movie star.

We lost a few movie stars this past month, Dennis Farina and Eileen Brennan to name a couple…and in just the last two days…gone are a former Munchkin from the movie The Wizard of Oz, a 70′s actress that helped define the cultural changes facing women, sex, drugs and dysfunctional relationships in film…and a woman who blamed it all on the Bossa Nova.

54ef768a40c255242e9d32fb0cd4b90bAugust is also the time of year for meteor showers…of the Perseid kind.

Before we get to the stories of these fallen stars, let us take a look at some of the news making headlines this morning.

And I guess I should give you a heads up, this is one very long post…so get your coffee/tea/orange juice/prune juice/beer/champagne mimosa, or whatever it is you drink when you get up in the morning/ afternoon, because you will be sitting here a while reading this.

The man who kidnapped Hannah Anderson has been killed, but at least the Missing teen found safe in Idaho wilderness – The Washington Post

From the BBC News – Indonesia volcano eruption: Six dead on Palue from hot ash covering the beaches near the volcano.

The volcano had rumbled the past year…and it finally erupted.

Earlier Saturday at UCLA, UN Ambassador Samantha Power Gives First Public Speech – ABC News

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power used her first public speech Saturday night to urge young activists to demand results and criticized the UN and red tape-mired bureaucracies that don’t always prioritize progress.

Power told the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit at UCLA that ideology and entrenched methods sometimes get in the way of the work of the UN, but praised those who get results and focus on problem-solving.

“Bureaucracies are built. Positions become entrenched. And while the United Nations has done tremendous good in the world, there are times when the organization has lost its way, when politics and ideology get in the way of impact,” she said.

7645dc51e4efe05da24daa360c90dabbThis next story is ironic, in a twisted religious right-wing nut kind of way. Religious family abandons U.S., gets lost at sea

A northern Arizona family that was lost at sea for weeks in an ill-fated attempt to leave the U.S. over what they consider government interference in religion will fly back home Sunday.

Hannah Gastonguay, 26, said Saturday that she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us” when they took their two small children and her father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May.

But just weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their small boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress. They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile where they are resting in a hotel in the port city of San Antonio.

Their flights home were arranged by U.S. Embassy officials, Gastonguay said. The U.S. State Department was not immediately available for comment.

The island Gastonguay picked out is a small place in the middle of nowhere, it is out in the Pacific Ocean halfway between Hawaii and Australia….and they just took a small boat out for this major trek across the largest body of water in the world? What in the hell would make a person do such a thing? Could it be Satan? Nope…Could it be Jeeeeezuz? Maybe….but I tend to think it was, the stupid.

Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don’t believe in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,” she said.

U.S. “churches aren’t their own,” Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence.

Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with.”

The Gastonguays weren’t members of any church, and Hannah Gastonguay said their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer.

“The Bible is pretty clear,” she said.

Well, seems pretty clear to me that sailing off across the Pacific in a small boat can be dangerous.

In May, Hannah, her 30-year-old husband Sean, his father Mike, and the couple’s daughters, 3-year-old Ardith and (8 month old) baby Rahab set off. They wouldn’t touch land again for 91 days, she said.

[...]

At one point a fishing ship came into contact with them but left without providing assistance. A Canadian cargo ship came along and offered supplies, but when they pulled up alongside it, the vessels bumped and the smaller ship sustained even more damage.

Do you think the first fishing boat saw that the small boat was full of stupid, anti-woman, geezuz praying, gay-hating, religious tea-bag nuts and got the hell out of there? The prefect of police in Chile says that the Gastonguays did not have the knowledge, ability or expertise to navigate to Kiribati….(no shit) and what will the family do when they finally do get back to the states?

Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”

I suggest next time they try a country that does not require them to cross the world via ocean voyage to get there.

Bebe Daniels

Bebe Daniels

And since I touched on the abortion subject…let’s take a look at a few links on that chestnut.

Georgia Officials Are Forcing Through Abortion Restrictions That Lawmakers Didn’t Approve | ThinkProgress

STUDY: Even When Abortion Inspires Mixed Emotions, Women Say It Was The Right Decision For Them | ThinkProgress

This link to a post by Amanda Marcotte is something you may have missed,and I think it is an interesting point…but there hast to be much more to it than this:  Abortion in Europe and America: To understand the difference, you can’t ignore religion.

Please give this article a full read…US abortion ban should not be foisted on Central African Republic: The UK and other donors must ensure US aid restrictions do not deny vital support to women raped in conflict

In his May 2013 report to the security council, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, noted the conflict’s devastating impact on women and girls, highlighting continuous reports of sexual violence including rape, gang rape and sexual slavery.

Mass sexual violence is not new to CAR. After failed coup attempts in 2001, widespread sexual violence was documented in the country from 2001 to 2003. Some of those crimes are being prosecuted by the international criminal court. The ICC prosecutor noted that “[t]his is the first time the prosecutor is opening an investigation in which allegations of sexual crimes far outnumber alleged killings”.

I will just put this link here, with a warning…if you want to get angry, read it. It is about our special star out of the Lonesome Star State: On Abortion, Wendy Davis Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About – The Daily Beast by Kristen Powers

Just a few more links before we get to the Hollywood good times stories, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


What I learned this Week from our Country’s Republicans

I_have_flying_monkeys____by_Cor104There are several lessons I learned from the Right Wing this week.

First, it’s perfectly acceptable to kill young black men walking home from grocery store trips simply because you don’t want them in your neighborhood and they freak you out.

But we all know where the mind goes when the word “profiled” is used, especially in a case like this. Besides, from Zimmerman’s continuous calls to the Sanford Police Department involving African American men to his nonemergency call that tragic night in February 2012, race was omnipresent in this case.

So, no wonder it struck more than a few people as a little odd when Florida Assistant State Attorney John Guy told the jury during his rebuttal closing argument that the Zimmerman case was not about race. But what he did was brilliant. He used race to take race off the table and he did it by pulling a reverse Matthew McConaughey.

The 1996 movie “A Time to Kill” is set in Mississippi and stars McConaughey as country lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance. He takes the case of Carl Lee Hailey, a black man who shot and killed the two white men who raped and tortured his daughter. Hailey doesn’t stand a chance with the all-white jury, but Brigance makes a dramatic closing statement that left me in tears when I saw it in the theater 17 years ago this month.

Brigance asks the jury to close their eyes as he tells them a story. “I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves,” he says. “This is a story about a little girl walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this girl. Suddenly a truck races up. Two men grab her.” And then Brigance describes every abominable thing the men did to her. Choking back tears of his own, Brigance concludes his closing with a powerful request of the jury.

I want you to picture…
…that little girl….
Now, imagine she’s white.

Guy asked the Zimmerman jury to do the same thing but with a twist. Rather than switch the race of the victim, he switched the race of the defendant.

“This case is not about race; this is about right and wrong,” he told the all-white jury of women. “What if it was Trayvon Martin who shot and killed George Zimmerman? What would your verdict be?,” Guy asked. “That’s how you know it’s not about race.”

Whether we want to admit it or not, we know the answer to Guy’s question. If the verdict would be guilty for Trayvon if he were the accused murderer then it must be the same for Zimmerman. Now, we wait to see if the jury agrees.

Second, women have less rights than the clumps of cells attached to their bodies because MotorCycle Safety, Masturbating Fetuses, and Men that want to believe all kinds of crazy things about biology based on religious tripe.  Regulation is not for industries that can kill hundreds of workers or guns that can kill thousands.  It’s for tampons and some one else’s uterus.

When North Dakota’s Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law in March, Bette Grande was thrilled. The Republican state legislator had spent months lining up support for a bill that makes it illegal for women to end a pregnancy because the fetus is shown to have Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. Set to take effect in August, the law also bans abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks.

Anti-abortion activists praised Grande’s work. “It’s the right thing to do,” she says. “I don’t worry about the political fallout; I worry about the life of the unborn child.” Yet she concedes the campaign wasn’t quite homegrown. She didn’t come up with the legal justification for the legislation or all the arguments to persuade fellow lawmakers to sign on. A lot of that was provided to her by a group of activists 1,500 miles away in Washington. Americans United for Life gave Grande a cut-and-paste model bill it had drafted, along with statistics and talking points—“good, factual information regarding abnormalities and the discrimination that occurs inside the womb,” she says. “My colleagues didn’t need a whole lot of persuasion after that.”

Familiar in Washington for its 40-year effort to make abortions harder or impossible, Americans United for Life is now having more success outside the capital, offering itself as a backstage adviser to conservative politicians trying to limit state abortion rights. The group’s leaders say they hope Grande’s success will give encouragement to lawmakers in other places, including Texas and North Carolina, that are debating anti-abortion bills AUL is helping to promote. “Our organization has attempted to inject, if you will, a bit of competition between the states,” says Daniel McConchie, vice president for government affairs. The group ranks states by how much they’re doing to reduce abortions (Louisiana ranks first; Washington, 50th). “People come to us and say, ‘What else do we need to do to boost our ranking?’ ”

So far this year, 17 states have enacted a total of 45 new restrictions on abortion, many of them with AUL’s help. The group is explicit about its larger goal: to provoke a Supreme Court challenge to one or more of the state anti-abortion laws, giving the court’s conservative justices a chance to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “In order for the court to actually reconsider Roe, it has to have an active case before it,” says McConchie. “So we work with legislators to pass laws that will essentially spark the right kind of court challenge and give them the opportunity to reconsider the question.”

To increase the number of laws—and therefore potential test cases—the group publishes a 700-page anti-abortion field guide called Defending Life, which contains 48 pre-written bills politicians like Grande can copy. Among the most popular is a bill to limit or outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. That’s one of the restrictions Texas Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis temporarily derailed on June 25 with her pink-sneakered filibuster.

Republicans are acutely aware of the political risk in pressing for new abortion laws. The GOP is already struggling to make up lost ground with women voters, who increasingly favor Democrats and are more likely to regard abortion as a top voting issue. In Defending Life, AUL suggests one way around this problem is to emphasize women’s health when talking about abortion laws. “Legislative and educational efforts that only emphasize the impact of abortion on the unborn are insufficient,” the book says.

Third, if you happen to believe he existed and had some kind of extra special relationship with a universal creator, Jesus does not want us to feed the poor or house the poor or take care of our children.  He wants us to subsidize the wealthy as they fit themselves into heaven via the eye of the camel.  This is from the excellent mind and keyboard of Charles Pierce.

Witness yesterday’s callous and shameful fandango regarding the Farm Bill. Last week, a traditional Farm Bill failed to pass the House because the flying-monkey caucus thought it was insufficiently harsh on people who use food stamps. So, yesterday, as Democrats went fairly far up the wall, the flying-monkey caucus went one better. They simply took out the food stamp provisions entirely and passed a Farm Bill containing all those sweet, gooey subsidies and gifts to big agribusiness. They were very, very proud of how clever they had been, and they exhibited their shiny red rumps to all the world.

By splitting farm policy from food stamps, the House effectively ended the decades-old political marriage between urban interests concerned about nutrition and rural areas who depend on farm subsidies. “We wanted separation, and we got it,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, one of the bill’s chief authors. “You’ve got to take these wins when you can get them.”

Do we need to mention that Mr. Stutzman is a member of the Class of ’10, when the country decided with malice aforethought to elect the worst Congress in the history of the Republic? Do we need to mention that this bill has no chance of passing the Senate, or of being signed by the president, or of ever becoming law in this country? Of course, we don’t. That isn’t what this brutal act of maladministration was about. That isn’t what this House is about any more. We’ve made jokes about how Eric Cantor has Boehner’s balls buried in a Mason jar in his backyard. As far as governing the country goes, the rest of the House is more along the lines of Origen of Alexandria who, when he found himself tempted by the sins of the flesh, seized a knife and, as Flann O’Brien’s vision of St, Augustine puts it, deprived himself in one swipe of his personality. Whenever the House majority feels itself tempted by the sin of actually governing, out comes the blade and all of them sing soprano harmonies.

They do this to demonstrate that government cannot work. They do this so that they can go home and talk at all the town halls and bean suppers to audiences choking on the venom that pours out of their radios and off their television screens about how government doesn’t work, and how they stood tall against it, and against Those People who don’t want to work for a living. (When Stutzman says he’s a “fourth-generation farmer” who doesn’t want the Farm Bill to be a “welfare bill,” the folks back in LaGrange County don’t need an Enigma machine to decode what he’s saying.) They do this out of the bent notion, central to their party’s presidential campaign last fall, that anyone on any kind of government assistance is less entitled to the benefits of the political commonwealth. And they all believe that; the only difference between Paul Ryan and Marlin Stutzman is that Ryan has been a nuisance for a longer period of time. That the country rose up and rejected that notion in a thundering manner is irrelevant. What does the country matter in the Third Congressional District of Indiana? There, they believe government cannot work, and they elect Marlin Stutzman to the Congress to demonstrate to the world that it cannot.

Our Congress is now a cut-rate circus with nothing but eunuchs as performers. Some of these people, like Stutzman and his colleagues in the flying-monkey caucus, become eunuchs by choice. Some of them, like John Boehner, are drafted into the position. Their job is to be forcibly impotent so that the government itself becomes forcibly impotent. They are proud of what they do. They consider it a higher calling to public service that they decline to serve the public. They sing a soprano dirge for democracy in Jesus’s name, amen.

Whether we want to admit it our not, we are experiencing an overthrow of democracy in this country.  A radical, religious-based, white minority that mostly dwells in the wonderland of the confederacy has completely taken over one of our major political parties.  It has strategically planned and plotted do this since nasty Pat Robertson sold evangelical votes to corporate, libertarian-leaning assholes in the 1980s.  They can’t pass things through the system and so they are now abusing the process of governance in every possible way they can.  They have spent decades insisting that courts be stacked with ideologues and religious nuts. They have made money the central priority in elections.  They are drowning our Republic in their gilded bathtubs.  This cannot stand.  This is the second civil war and again, we must take the side of Lincoln and the rights of people to overthrow the tyranny of an ignorant and ugly minority intent on enslaving us to plutocracy and bigotry.  No Republican official should be left standing when this is all over.  Vote them out of office with every pull of the lever regardless of what the other choice may be.


Friday Reads: the long and wonky road

barrett-600Good Morning!

I am grading essays and papers on currency crises (circa 1999-2002) and financial crises (the last one) and basically all those kinds of crises the tend to come from out of control speculation and the government encouraging the wrong kinds of things.  This mostly happens because rich people donate to the campaigns of politicians and own newspapers and media outlets.  Politicians want to get reelected and get more powerful and more rich.  Rich businesses and investors want to get more powerful and rich. It’s kind of the perfect alignment of shared interests based on lust and greed and all the baser instincts.  Isn’t it terrible when the facts get in the way?  So, they just ignore them or consider them an alternative liberal opinion.  It drives me nuts.

So, BB asked to me write something about what I research and teach and usually regurgitate to you. You know that the austerity narrative has theoretically fallen apart.  Well, it’s also falling apart via the numbers, data, facts and reality   So, let’s start out with some very bad, awful, terrible horrible Dubya Bush Policy 10 years ago and why tax cuts for the rich still don’t do good things for the economy or now, even the investment markets. This is written by economist Bruce Bartlett who was an adviser to the Reagan administration.

Ten years ago this month, Congress enacted the third major tax cut of the George W. Bush administration. Its centerpiece was a huge cut in the tax rate on dividends. Historically, they had been taxed as ordinary income, but the Bush plan, enacted by a Republican Congress, cut that rate to 15 percent. The tax rate on ordinary income went as high as 35 percent.

This initiative originated with the economist R. Glenn Hubbard, who had been chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers when the proposal was sent to Congress. Mr. Hubbard was a strong believer that the double taxation of corporate profits – first at the corporate level and again when paid out as dividends – was a major economic problem.

During the George H.W. Bush administration, Mr. Hubbard had been deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy and wrote a Treasury report advocating full integration of the corporate and individual income taxes.

Mr. Hubbard had also spearheaded enactment of big tax cuts in 2001 and 2002 that he said would jump-start the American economy. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post on Nov. 16, 2001, he predicted that the soon-to-be-enacted 2002 tax cut, which President Bush signed on March 9, 2002, would “quickly deliver a boost to move the economy back toward its long-run growth path.”

Mr. Hubbard predicted that it would create 300,000 additional jobs in 2002 and add half a percentage point to the real gross domestic product growth rate.

There is no evidence that the tax cut had any such effect. The unemployment rate remained above 5.7 percent all year, rising to 5.9 percent in November and 6 percent in December. The real G.D.P. growth rate fell each quarter of 2002, and by the fourth quarter growth was at a standstill. Hence the need for yet another big tax cut.

The idea of the 2003 legislation was to raise dividend payouts, thereby bolstering personal income, and raise the prices of common stock, which would improve household balance sheets. As President Bush explained in his signing statement, “This will encourage more companies to pay dividends, which in itself will not only be good for investors but will be a corporate reform measure.” He also said the dividend tax cut would “increase the wealth effect around America and help our markets.”

The Treasury Department issued a fact sheet on July 30 asserting that the decline in dividends had been a cause of the weak stock market and noting that dividend payouts had risen since enactment of the tax cut on May 28.

Subsequent research, however, found that the increase in dividends was a short-term phenomenon and mainly at companies where stock options were a major form of executive compensation. A 2005 Federal Reserve Board study found that the United States stock market did not outperform European stock markets after the dividend cut. Nor did stocks qualifying for lower dividend taxes outperform those, such as real estate investment trusts, that did not qualify for lower dividend taxes. Non-dividend paying stocks slightly outperformed dividend-paying stocks, and many corporations that did pay higher dividends scaled back stock repurchases by a similar amount.

So, this is yet another example where Republican economic policy is totally out of step with outcomes, data, and reality.  Yet, they keep repeating that it works the way it doesn’t work just because, remember, the agenda is greed, power, and more wealth to the already greedy, powerful and wealthy.    The deal is they get it wrong, got it wrong, and continue to get it wrong but that doesn’t stop them from trying to weasel their way into a narrative that says, hey, this really isn’t wrong.  There’s still some validity there and all economists must be liberals like Paul Krugman who are just talking up their philosophical line.  Take austerity economics, please.  I mean it.  Take it and those idiots who push it to hell and leave them there.  Still, the very serious people want to take this very seriously even when it is just plain seriously wrong.  Take Michael Kinsley, please.  He can report from Hell.

I’ve spent a rather alarming portion of this week wading into intellectual pissing matches, so I’m loath to respond to Michael Kinsley’s response to last week’s brouhaha over austerity policies. But one paragraph does merit some pushback. After noting the backlash to his last column, Kinsley writes the following:

There are two possible explanations. First, it might be that I am not just wrong (in saying that the national debt remains a serious problem and we’d be well advised to worry about it) but just so spectacularly and obviously wrong that there is no point in further discussion. Or second, to bring up the national debt at all in such discussions has become politically incorrect. To disagree is not just wrong but offensive. Such views do exist. Racism for example. I just didn’t realize that the national debt was one of them.

Kinsley assumes that it must be the second explanation, and then goes on from there.

I can’t speak for anyone else who pushed back against Kinsley’s column from last week. Speaking for myself, however, I blogged about it because Kinsley was “spectacularly and obviously wrong.” I say this because almost everything I wrote in my response to Kinsley I knew at age 18 after taking Economics 101 in college.

To explain, let me focus on Kinsley’s motivation for thinking that the austerians have a point:

Austerians believe, sincerely, that their path is the quicker one to prosperity in the longer run. This doesn’t mean that they have forgotten the lessons of Keynes and the Great Depression. It means that they remember the lessons of Paul Volcker and the Great Stagflation of the late 1970s. “Stimulus” is strong medicine—an addictive drug—and you don’t give the patient more than you absolutely have to.

This is wrong for three reasons, one pedantic and two substantive. First, to be pedantic, the austerity debate is about the wisdom of using expansionary fiscal policy — i.e., running a significant federal budget deficit — to alleviate downturns. Paul Volcker was the chairman of the Federal Reserve and thereby responsible for setting monetary policy. He had nothing to do with fiscal policy. This is a distinction that I learned in my first few lectures on macroeconomics. So either Kinsley phrased this badly or he’s confused about what this debate is about.

It just keeps coming down to the fact that most journalists and politicians simply do not know what they are talking about when it comes to 120922020914-molly-ows-old-horizontal-galleryeconomics.  So, they assume an economist like Paul Krugman has a liberal bias on all things–including the color of the sky and the laws of gravity and demand–and they make the worse assumption that those arguing Republican policy these days must have a valid point when the only point is, yes, you know it … to deliver more wealth, power and influence to themselves and their friends that already have it.  Some times a lie really is just a lie.

Here’s a good blog post by Jonathan Bernstein that’s just oozing with the issue.   There is no argument or theoretical question about austerity.  But that’s not stopping the punditry.

A wonderful example of the myopia of the deficit scolds…

The background is that Michael Kinsley wrote a particularly bad column last week about “austerity,” a key point of which was based on factually incorrect memories of what went wrong in the 1970s; as you can imagine, this earned him plenty of corrections and dismissals from people who used access to accurate economic and government policy statistics.

Kinsley was quite taken aback by this, apparently, and wrote a follow up to defend himself. Dan Drezner has already pointed out that Kinsley is still relying on the same inaccurate memories that got his first column into trouble, but I actually found a different part of Kinsley II more interesting, in which he thinks he’s caught Paul Krugman in a contradiction.

Kinsley writes:
Paul Krugman takes credit for good economic news whenever it happens. On Krugman’s blog site (“The Conscience of a Liberal”) last week were two bits of prose side-by-side. One was an ad for his latest book, End This Depression Now! “How bad have things gotten?” the ad asks rhetorically.” How did we get stuck in what now can only be called a depression?” Right next door is Krugman’s gloat about the recent pretty-good economic news. “So where are the celebrations,” he asks, “now that the debt issue looks, if not solved, at least greatly mitigated?” Greatly mitigated? By what? Certainly not by anyone taking Paul Krugman’s advice. He has been, in his own self-estimate, a lone, ignored voice for reason crying out in an unreasoning universe.

What’s the problem? The linked post by Krugman isn’t a gloat about good economic news! It is, to be sure a gloat; it’s a gloat about deficits…Krugman goes so far as to call lower deficits “progress,” although as I read it he’s really just saying that lower deficits should be counted as progress from the point of view of the deficit scolds.
What’s happening here is that Kinsley is projecting onto Krugman a classic deficit scold mistake; Kinsley is conflating the federal budget deficit with the economy. Krugman isn’t doing that; it’s purely Kinsley’s invention.

It gets, however, to exactly why Kinsley was buried under a large pile of abuse after his first column. Well, in part; the other part, as Krugman notes elsewhere, is “the existence now of a policy blogosphere…which makes bluffing harder.” Say something factually inaccurate these days, and you’re going to get slammed; it seems that some pundits who preceded that development find it hard to get used to it.

I still have no idea why journalists feel they just know everything about economics compared to say, knowing everything about Brownian motion or performing brain surgery.  It’s the same with politicians.  They just seem to confuse a really complex subject that most people really struggle with in college and never take beyond that with something like a political science class or a journalism class.  You don’t even get real economic stuff until you way up there in school.  The introductory stuff is like the ABCs and they don’t even seem to grasp that.  Anyway, stop confusing getting facts wrong with just another opinion …

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It’s the Messengers and the Basic Message

gop-conspiracy-nutsYou have to wonder if there’s any hope for a political party that has to train its elected officials on what to say about rape and how to talk to women and minorities.  They need more than just simple work on their message, their messengers, and their milieu.  Is it possible to get personality, conscience, and brain transplants for so many people?

Here’s just an example of the insensitivity and tone deafness: “House Republicans Meet at a Former Slave Plantation to Practice Talking to Black People”.  

Besides partaking in discussions about the debt ceiling and gun restrictions, GOP congressmen and women will also be getting schooled in the fine art of how to have “successful communication with minorities and women.”

One might presume that people elected to high office in America have at least a general understanding of how to talk to and about minorities and women without saying unimaginably offensive things, but one would be wrong. Far too many Republicans have a remarkable way of saying the absolutely wrong thing time and again about everything from rape to Kwanzaa. Sadly, a lesson about why it’s wrong to equivocate about a woman being raped or why it’s not a great idea to make all your House committee chairs white men is exactly what the GOP needs.

And what better place to talk about making inroads with oppressed groups than in a room named after a famous Williamsburg plantation, located in the tony Kingsmill Resort, which itself is on the site of another plantation? The GOP has heard your complaints, blacks and Latinos and women, and they’re going to try to suss it out while sitting atop dead slave bones.

The Press hasn’t really had any access but drivel keeps dribbling out of the Williamsburg Back to Recreating Reality and History Fest.  I’m not holding out much hope that they’ll come out of their echo chamber with any radical paradigm shifts.

What we do have: The itinerary of the half-week meting. Among the panels:

- Polling Session (“What Happened and Where Are We Now?”), featuring Dave Winston (who produced Boehner’s poll which suggested that cuts-for-a-debt-limit-hike were popular), Kellyanne Conway, and the Tarrance Group’s David Sackett.

- What is the Role of the Republican Majority in the 113th Congress? with Bill Kristol and the influential-among-conservatives WSJ columnist Kim Strassel.

- American Trends — How Is America Changing?, with election prognosticator Charlie Cook.

- Who Speaks for Middle America?, with National Review’s Kate O’Berine and Ramesh Ponnuru, and EPPC’s Jim Capretta

- How to Communicate Principles in Today’s Media Environment, with Ari Fleischer, Frank Luntz, and onetime Bachmann/Romney debate coach Brett O’Donnell.

Common Ethics Pitfalls, with two attorneys from Wiley Rein LLP.

- Successful Communication with Minorities and Women, with a female moderator (Rachel Campos-Duffy), a female consultant (Ana Navarro), a female congressman (Rep. Jaime Herrera Buetler), and three congressmen who are neithor female nor minorities: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Rep. Scott Rigell, and Rep. Frank Wolf.

I’ve decided that a lot of their problems have to do with the fact that most of them have blind faith and think that’s a good thing.  They keep offering up things that have never worked and will not work.  Blind faith suggests you should just do it regardless of anything but blind faith.  As long as they operate from this frame,  they have no hope of ever becoming relevant again.

All you have to do is look at various quotes on evidence from great minds and you’ll get the major difference between a great mind and today’s crop of republicans.  This is one of my favorite quotes on the difference between those really seeking the truth and solutions and those that just cling to whatever belief they really, really, really want to believe.

In scientific study, or, as I prefer to phrase it, in creative scholarship, the truth is the single end sought; all yields to that. The truth is supreme, not only in the vague mystical sense in which that expression has come to be a platitude, but in a special, definite, concrete sense. Facts and the immediate and necessary inductions from facts displace all pre-conceptions, all deductions from general principles, all favourite theories. Previous mental constructions are bowled over as childish play-structures by facts as they come rolling into the mind. The dearest doctrines, the most fascinating hypotheses, the most cherished creations of the reason and of the imagination perish from a mind thoroughly inspired with the scientific spirit in the presence of incompatible facts. Previous intellectual affections are crushed without hesitation and without remorse. Facts are placed before reasonings and before ideals, even though the reasonings and the ideals be more beautiful, be seemingly more lofty, be seemingly better, be seemingly truer. The seemingly absurd and the seemingly impossible are sometimes true. The scientific disposition is to accept facts upon evidence, however absurd they may appear to our pre-conceptions.

Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin

Republicans have faith in pre-conceptions that-even when proven wrong continuously–they believe just require a little cosmetic messaging makeover so the rest of us will see where they are coming from and embrace their ideology.  They don’t seem to understand that those of us that find blind faith to be defined as “embrace of complete ignorance” don’t find anything they say the least bit compelling as a result.  They assume they just need to become better dog whistle whisperers and the dogs, the cats, the dolphins, and all manner of animals will come.

nyt-cartoon-gopPaul Ryan came out of the snakepit long enough to dribble the usual economic memes that completely deny economic theory, evidence,  and policy needs.  They continue to link the debt ceiling increase–which is necessary because they’ve already spent a lot of money–to spending less money on things they hate which usually gives them hard little willies.  They want to punt yet again on the debt thing until they figure out a way to get their way without looking like the jerks the really, truly are.

The House’s Republicans, assembled at a retreat outside Williamsburg, Virginia, are discussing the “virtues” of passing a short-term increase in the federal debt limit.

So says Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin.

“We are discussing the possible virtues of a short-term debt-limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and White House involved in the discussion,” Ryan told reporters outside the private meetings.

So, Politico thinks they have all the answers to the GOP’s problems.

Internal GOP polls back the GOP image problem: A mere 11 percent of respondents thought national spending and deficits were the most important issue facing the American public. Thirty-five percent pegged the economy as the top issue. The GOP has had a tough time connecting the two.

Yes, the GOP has a tough time connecting the two because every one knows their austerity pogrammes have nothing to do with creating jobs and economic well-being and everything to to do with their faith based economics which basically keep enriching and empowering their billionaire donor base and corporate overlords.   Perhaps, as Tiger Beat on the Potomac suggests, they need to focus on a bigger question?

Times have changed for Republicans. For much of the past decade, they have been rallying around making permanent the Bush-era tax rates. Now, many have voted to let those rates lapse on high-income earners while keeping low middle-class rates. Now tax reform — long a Republican mantra — seems a distant possibility.

The fractured majority, the last bastion of power for Republicans in Washington, faces a more existential question: What does it mean to be a Republican during a second Obama term? How can they exact legislative victories from Obama while driving forward their own agenda in a town where they have just a sliver of control?

And what exactly is a Republican agenda at a time when complicated fiscal issues — on which Republicans used to have a distinct polling advantage — are at the fore?

Let me suggest something here.  Repugopunity1blican policies hurt every one but the extremely wealthy.  They declare very long wars with very large, unpaid bills for non-US Defense related purposes and none of them die for any of it.  They assign women, minorities, and GLBTs to less-than-equal citizen status based on specific religious whims and allow the proliferation of assault weapons while they hide up in gated fortresses.  The force us to rely on dirty, climate destroying fossil fuels all the while ignoring the extreme weather around us and the resulting disasters.  They give their friends monopoly profit from death, pestilence, and war. None of this makes the majority of Americans happy and the majority of Americans want none of it if you actually poll them honestly.   None of this brings economic prosperity.  None of this increases US median incomes, quality of life, or public safety, health or security.  In short, we continually get the same agendas that have been proven disastrous and costly over and over and over again.  We tell them no in elections and polls. They just regroup to find better ways to tell us just have a little more faith.  Then, their rich asshole benefactors like Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers spread money around trying to convince every one in the country that up is really done.  We’ve seen this repeatedly since the 1980s. A lot of us have wised up to it.

Here’s another Tiger Beat on the Potomac Report from Williamsburg on what Pollsters told House Republicans.  Be sure swallow all liquids  before reading this.

House Republicans heard it loud and clear Wednesday: They are unpopular, and need to change their ways.Speaker John Boehner’s House Republican Conference is more disliked now than when it took the majority two years ago, lawmakers and aides here found out. After taking a bruising in the 2012 elections, the Republican Party needs an image makeover and the GOP must learn to relate better to voters.

Ya think when polls show that communism in America is more popular than House Republicans that all they need is an image makeover?

David Winston, a top GOP pollster and close adviser to Boehner, unveiled the House Republicans’ most recent favorable rating based on his own analysis: It came in at a barrel-scraping 27 percent.

House Democrats’ numbers are a full 19 points higher at 46 percent. Winston’s analysis: Neither party is popular, but the GOP is less so. The lawmakers heard that the way to turn things around is for the party to pivot squarely to the economy and jobs — the chief concerns of most voters.

After an election dominated by a steady stream of gaffes by the GOP’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and some of its highest-profile candidates, some of the speakers at Wednesday’s retreat counseled the GOP on how to turn things around. Doing so will be paramount as the party enters a period of tense conflict with President Barack Obama over fiscal matters like the nation’s debt ceiling and the sequester.

Domino’s Pizza CEO J. Patrick Doyle explained to House Republicans how he remade his company’s brand.

At the tail end of a panel, Winston and fellow Republican pollsters Kellyanne Conway and Dave Sackett urged the GOP to work hard to relate better to voters. That’s why, the pollsters said in a question-and-answer session, Romney lost his bid for the White House — because no one identified with the aloof-seeming wealthy former venture capitalist whom Democrats painted as way out of touch with the average voter.

Romney may not have been likable but his message–that 47% of us are grifters–was even more unlikable and the voting public resoundingly defeated all of that.  I’m still waiting to hear the results from this panel:   the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, journalist Kate O’Beirne and James Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute will explore “Who speaks for middle America?”.  It’s going to be a bit like watching Marlon Perkins describing what it’s like to wrestle a tiger by standing in front of the video showing some one else doing it.   Can any one think of three people less likely to get the middle class than those three?  Maybe they could’ve gotten George Will, Tom Brokaw, and David Brooks to do it less believably than that.  I’m actually thinking Romney could probably do a better job.  At least, he never spent most of his days in the Washington DC beltway elite bubble.

I’m still of the opinion that the Republican party needs to go the way of the WHIGS.  I can’t see them ever rising above representing any one but the American Equivalent of the Saudi Royal Family and the Taliban ever again.  But then, I’m a researcher so I always test my hypotheses against evidence rather than begging you all to just take it on blind faith.