Saturday: A Grab Bag For Your Reading Pleasure

in other news2

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the State Department released its report on the Keystone XL Pipeline, apparently giving it their seal of approval. The original NYT headline on their story by John Broder was “A 2000-Page Lubricant for Keystone XL.” At some point it was changed to “Report May Ease Path for New Pipeline.” I guess the first was was a little too graphic for the Gray Lady, but the two combined sound even more lewd–or is is just me? Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

The State Department issued a revised environmental impact statement for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline on Friday that makes no recommendation about whether the project should be built but presents no conclusive environmental reason it should not be.

The 2,000-page document also makes no statement on whether the pipeline is in the United States’ economic and energy interests, a determination to be made later this year by President Obama.

But it will certainly add a new element to the already robust climate change and energy debate around the $7 billion proposed project. The new report does not make any policy recommendations, but its conclusion that the environmental and climate change impacts are manageable could provide Mr. Obama political cover if he decides to approve the pipeline.

Although the study will help guide the president’s decision, it does not make the politics any easier. Environmental advocates and landowners along the route have mounted spirited protests against the project, including a large demonstration in Washington last month. They say they view Keystone as a test of Mr. Obama’s seriousness about addressing global warming.

And of course, as Broder points out, “the pressure from industry, the Canadian government, most Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, local officials and union leaders” is also intense.

Are you getting the feeling this is a done deal? Isn’t John Kerry supposed to be an environmentalist?

The “sequester” cuts have begun, and guess who has an op-ed in the NYT about it? Brace yourself.

Singing the Sequester Soap Opera, by Joe Scarborough. I’ll skip the fake-poetic introductory paragraphs {Gag} … go to the link and read them if you desire. Actually, all the paragraphs are over-the-top, IMO. Joe’s point seems to be that Obama “overplayed his hand”

Americans who endured the grimmest warnings from President Obama and his administration need not fear that the cuts will jeopardize military readiness; limit our nation’s ability to forecast hurricanes; compromise food safety; lead to outbreaks of E. coli; undermine airport security; and cause older Americans to go hungry.

The Republicans have won this round, according to “Morning Joe,” because no one is going to feel any pain whatsoever.

…this year’s reductions will not do great damage to domestic and defense programs. Congress will have $85 billion less to spend this year, but the Congressional Budget Office projects that the actual cuts implemented this year will amount to only $42 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget. That means that politicians will have to cut a little more than a penny out of every dollar that it spends this year.

Does Mr. Obama really want to claim that his administration, which has added $6 trillion to the national debt, is unable to save a penny out of every dollar it spends? Does he really expect Americans to believe — after four years, the banking and auto bailouts, several stimulus bills and a run of record deficits — that our $16 trillion economy cannot absorb $42 billion of spending reductions?

Good to know, Joe. Thanks for that comforting message. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if your predictions are accurate.

Oddly, WBUR in Boston is reporting that thousands of Federal workers in the city are facing furloughs:

Thousands of people work in the John F. Kennedy Federal Building at Boston’s Government Center. It’s actually twin 26-story buildings. On Thursday, the word “sequester” seemed to be on the lips of federal employees going in and out. Bethany Seed said she’s not looking forward to Monday, when she might be handed a furlough notice.

“For me, personally, a furlough would be a problem because I’d still be paying for full-time child care,” Seed said. “And I’d be losing my pay from work. So it’s not something I would like to see happen.”

Seed is an economist with the U.S. Department of Labor. When you hear things like jobless numbers, she works on those statistics. Her boss — not her director supervisor, but way up the chain — is Seth Harris, the acting U.S. labor secretary, who was visiting Boston Thursday.

“Unfortunately, a sizable number of my workers are going to be subject to furloughs,” Harris said. “It’s going to vary from agency to agency across the department. We’re going to lose about six days of work from our employees on average. That’s a big loss.”

But Seed can now breathe a sigh of relief, because “Morning Joe” has decreed that no one will be hurt by the “sequester” cuts. Or did he only me no one who is important to him will be hurt? Again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

In contrast to Know-Nothing Joe Scarborough, Bob Cesca seems to know a little bit about the issues–at least this piece at HuffPo made sense to me: The Sequestration Fight Is Based on Lies and Stupidity. Here’s the introduction; if it grabs you too, please read the whole thing at the link.

As a political writer, being outraged by certain issues and policies is like rocket fuel. I’m not an angry guy by nature, but there’s a universe of things in politics that anger me and, combined with an almost involuntary drive to seek and disseminate the truth, I’m never really at a loss for topics to cover.

But the sequestration issue has been one of those rare items that frustrate me to the point of being incapable of spending time on it. When I read about sequestration, my brain seizes. The stupidity of it all simply confounds me to the point of being speechless. For me, this is a shocking and rare predicament.

It’s not even the chronic brinksmanship — the reoccurring doomsday countdowns and the Republican-manifested economic sabotage that’s behind it all. It’s not the Keynesian in me who opposes the very notion of deficit reduction during a sluggish recovery. Granted, these are both points of irritation, but the characteristic of the sequester that ought to force us all into complete apoplexy and subsequent outrage-induced catatonia is the epidemic of ignorance regarding the status of the federal budget deficit.

This post by David Atkins at Hullabaloo is also well worth a look: Alternate Universe Land.

Sinkholes and a Missing Governor

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Florida man who disappeared into a sinkhole. This morning NPR (via AP0 reported:

Engineers worked gingerly to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.

Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy.

Engineers were expected at the home to do more tests after sunrise Saturday. They spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running various tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot was dangerous. No one was allowed in the home.

“I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet,” Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a “very large, very fluid mass.”

Apparently sinkholes are endemic in Florida, so much so that homeowners must have insurance for the possibility that their home may be sitting on one.

“You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese,” Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. “Any house in Florida could be in that same situation.”

A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state’s environmental agency.

Assumption Parish sinkhole

Assumption Parish sinkhole

Yikes! So…what about that sinkhole near New Orleans then? Residents angry as Assumption sinkhole keeps growing

BAYOU CORNE, La. — The Assumption Parish sinkhole is a lot like a living, breathing thing. More than 200 days after it mysteriously started swallowing up the swamp, hundreds of residents are still under a mandatory evacuation order.

Geophysicists say the cavern that caused the sinkhole at the surface is still collapsing, leaving Bayou Corne residents wondering if there will ever be an end in sight….Geophyisicists [sic] now say the western side of one of the brine caverns is collapsing, filling in from deep in the Earth, causing the sinkhole at the surface to expand and contract.

Former residents of the area would like some answers.

Many of the ones they keep getting are conflicting and confusing, especially from the state and the company that once mined the collapsing salt cavern Texas Brine.

“The cause of the sinkhole is the subject of pending litigation. At this point, I don’t think it’s proper to have any discussion about what the cause is and whether we accept what anyone has said regarding the cause of the sinkhole,” Troy Charpentier, an attorney for Texas Brine, told the committee.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources flat-out testified at the same hearing, “The cavern collapse led to the sinkhole and created a path for the natural gas to come to the surface.”
But Secretary Stephen Chustz slipped out a backdoor, with his press secretary only offering an interview with himself after the hearing without giving us the chance to ask him any questions.

Hmmmmm… What about the governor then?

From David J. Mitchell at the Baton Rouge Advocate: Inside Report: Sinkhole critics: O, Governor, where art thou?

For months now, a vocal group of activists and residents has found fault with Gov. Bobby Jindal over his absence from the scene of the Bayou Corne sinkhole.

Why, they ask, has he not made the commonly seen leadership visit to a disaster area that, while brief, boosts morale and provides hope?

Sinkhole activist John Achee Jr., a regular critic of Jindal and state government’s handling of the sinkhole and salt dome regulation, leveled this complaint again during a Feb. 19 joint hearing of the House and Senate committees on Natural Resources.

He called Jindal’s absence “disheartening” and “very concerning.”

Jindal’s office issued a response, saying that the good governor gets updates on what’s happening and that he thinks “abundant resources” have already been provided. Translation: “I couldn’t possibly care less, so f&ck off, loser!”

Odd and Ends

I just had to share this story from Gawker about a nervous mom and her fight to find out where her son had got off to: World’s Most Embarrassing Mom Makes Peruvian Government Hunt Down Her Son When He Stops Posting on Facebook. I have to say I’m much more sympathetic to the mom than Gawker is. I think someday the young man will grow older and wiser and will look back and understand how much his mom loves him. I’d much rather have a mom like that than one who doesn’t worry when I disappear into the wilderness for months.

I’m running short on space, so I’ll end with this oldie-but-goodie from 1996 by the great Joan Didion at The New York Review of Books, in which she ripped Bob Woodward and his clunky writing from stem to stern: The Deferential Spirit. It’s long, but please go read it–even if you read it back in 1996. It’s priceless!

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Morning Joe Reads A Book

morning joe

Or maybe he got someone else to read it for him? In any case, the New York Times Sunday Book Review asked Joe Scarborough to review a serious book of political history, Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage. in the February 17, 2013 edition.

How low has the Sunday Book Review sunk that it would not only publish an essay by Scarborough, but also highlight the brief review with a separate “Up Front” introduction? I haven’t seen the cover of the print edition, but it sounds as if Scarborough’s piece was printed on page 1!

Charles Pierce wrote a pithy reaction to the Times’ decision in his “What are the Gobshites Saying These Days” post on Monday.

…let us pause for a moment and congratulate the editors of The New York Times Book Review for handing a serious work of popular history to whatever’s left of Joe Scarborough after Paul Krugman picks the rest out from between his teeth….

the Review has fallen on some pretty hard times when they have a story meeting and someone says, “We got this new book on Eisenhower and Nixon. Who should we get to review it?” And someone else says, “I know. How about that guy who runs the Morning Zoo on MSNBC? He’s really popular with the people who get drunk in front of the TV and pass out during Rachel’s show the night before.” And this is what you get for an author ID.

Joe Scarborough is the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Lovely. They should let Barnicle review the next Royko anthology.

At least Mike Barnicle used to be a working journalist.

Pierce links approvingly to this post by Dan Kennedy at Media Nation: Joe Scarborough doesn’t know much about history.

If you’re going to try something as cheeky as letting cable blowhard Joe Scarborough review a serious book about political history, you should at least make sure you’ve got a safety net in place. But the New York Times Book Review doesn’t even bother, letting Scarborough step in it repeatedly in his review of Jeffrey Frank’s “Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage.”

Here’s the first paragraph of Scarborough’s review:

It may be the closest of political relationships, but it rarely ends well. Vice President Thomas Jefferson challenged President John Adams for the top spot in the vicious campaign of 1800. President Andrew Jackson mused sardonically about executing Vice President John C. Calhoun. In the modern era, Lyndon Johnson seethed at slights real and perceived during John Kennedy’s thousand days, then turned around and humiliated his own vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Even Dick Cheney and George W. Bush fell out by the end of their tumultuous terms. But perhaps the most intriguing — and dysfunctional — political marriage in history was the one between the subjects of Jeffrey Frank’s meticulously researched “Ike and Dick.”

Kennedy wonders if Scarborough knows that

the Constitution originally stipulated that the candidate who received the most votes from the Electoral College would become president and that the person who came in second would become vice president. Perhaps that’s too much math for the famously innumerate Scarborough.

I didn’t know that either, but I think if I were writing a review for the New York Times, I would have found out before using that as my introduction. Kennedy explains that Jefferson and Adams, who couldn’t stand each other, ran against each other in 1796. Adams got more electoral votes and so they were forced to serve together, but their mutual dislike did not grow out of their political alliance as Scarborough implies.

Ike and Dick fishing at Camp David

Ike and Dick fishing at Camp David

Kennedy points out two other more serious misstatements in the review. In the paragraph above, Scarborough suggests that Lyndon Johnson’s insecurities stemmed from Jack Kennedy’s mistreatment and that led Johnson to humiliate his own Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Scarborough isn’t really clear about this, but he seems to be drawing analogies to the Eisenhower-Nixon relationship. He seems to claim–perhaps based on his reading of Frank’s book–that Nixon’s neuroses stemmed from his difficult relationship with Eisenhower. But Nixon was a psychologically troubled person long before he met Ike and suggesting otherwise is inaccurate. Likewise, Johnson had plenty of psychological issues before he got involved with Jack Kennedy. Dan Kennedy writes:

As anyone who’s read Robert Caro’s “The Passage of Power” knows, Johnson, like Nixon, suffered from a world-class case of insecurity long before he ever met John Kennedy. The truth is the opposite of what Scarborough claims: both Nixon and Johnson were uniquely unsuited to suffer the slights that are inherent to the vice presidency long before they assumed the office.

Finally, Kennedy points out the ludicrousness of the following passage from the Scarborough piece:

A fascinating subplot in Frank’s story details Nixon’s role in pushing the administration on the issue of civil rights. Long criticized as the author of the Republican Party’s racially tinged “Southern strategy,” Nixon is shown by Frank to be a determined advocate for the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as well as a trusted ally of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson.

Yes, Nixon was supportive of Martin Luther King during the 1950s, and did try to get Eisenhower to push for African American civil rights, but Scarborough completely ignores Nixon’s later rejection of King during the 1960 presidential campaign and his [Nixon’s] development of the “Southern Strategy” in 1968. If those later events weren’t included in Frank’s book, a competent reviewer would have called attention to them. In fact, if Scarborough had googled, he could have quickly found an article by Franks himself that points out Nixon’s later involvement in blatant racism. Franks writes in The Daily Beast, January 21, 2013:

There once was a real connection between the two men, but it more or less ended with RN’s spineless behavior during the 1960 presidential campaign, after Dr. King was arrested on phony charges stemming from a traffic violation. Coretta Scott King had been terrified; she worried with good reason that her husband might be killed en route to Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, and she appealed to the Nixon and John F. Kennedy campaigns to intervene.

Nixon, however, demurred; he said that it would be “grandstanding” to speak out, according to his aide William Safire. Nixon’s real motive, though, seems clear: it was a close election and he was willing to lose black support if it meant gaining a new harvest of white votes in the once-Democratic south. Eight years later, this approach became the carefully considered “Southern strategy.”

The Kennedy brothers then stepped in to help King.

John and Robert Kennedy helped to win Dr. King’s release, and soon enough their campaign distributed two million copies of a pamphlet titled “‘No Comment’ Nixon Versus a Candidate With a Heart, Senator Kennedy” to well chosen voters. It can’t be proved that this made the difference in an election in which the popular vote turned out to be the closest ever (Nixon and Kennedy were separated by about 112,000 votes out of sixty-nine million cast), but it’s a fact that President Eisenhower in 1956 got some 40 percent of the black vote and that Nixon in 1960 won just 32 percent—not bad by modern Republican standards, but still a steep drop. Four years later, facing Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Johnson won 94 percent of the black vote, which set a demographic pattern that endures.

We already knew that Morning Joe doesn’t understand economics; we now know he’s history-challenged as well. In addition, I have some problems with the clarity of his writing. Here are a couple of examples.

Paragraph 2 begins:

Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president memorably said that being No. 2 was in effect not worth a bucket of warm spit.

Which vice president? FDR served with three: Henry A. Wallace, John Nance Garner, and Harry S. Truman. If you said John Nance Garner, you’re correct. And he didn’t qualify the judgment with “in effect” either. Was Scarborough just to lazy to look up the quote?

This reminds me of problems that many college freshmen have in their writing–they either don’t provide enough context or they assume knowledge the reader may not have. They also tend to use unnecessary qualifications instead of just making straightforward statements.

In paragraph 3, Scarborough writes:

“Ike and Dick” is a highly engrossing political narrative that skillfully takes the reader through the twisted development of a strange relationship that would help shape America’s foreign and domestic agenda for much of the 20th century.

Really? Perhaps that judgment came from the book; but it’s a pretty sweeping statement that needs to be backed up with specific examples. But Scarborough doesn’t offer any. When he does provide more context, as he does in paragraph 5, he leaves out important details. He briefly mentions a “secret Nixon fund” that led to Eisenhower trying to dump Nixon from the ticket in 1952, and says that Nixon survived; but Scarborough never even mentions what saved him–the Checkers speech!

The entire review is only a little over 1,000 words. Surely Scarborough could have added a few more historical details and specific examples to back up his assertions.

If I were grading this review for a college course, I’d probably have to give it a C+, or maybe a B- in these days of grade inflation. The grammar and sentence structure are okay; but the review itself is short on context,  the historical inaccuracies are problematic, and the lack of specific examples makes for rather boring reading. Frankly, I’m disappointed in the New York Times for publishing it.


The Agony and the Idiocy

Some one needs to take the shovel away from Joe Scarborough.  He’s about ready to wind up in Siberia with that hole he’s digging himself.  I’ve joe_scarborough_cardnever seen such obsessive compulsive self-destructive behavior.  The man cannot admit he’s wrong and knows nothing about economics.  He also doesn’t appear to know the difference between an economist and a lawyer and a foreign policy expert.  I expect that one of these days he’ll have heart failure then go to his Politico blog to instruct another lawyer on how to do his surgery correctly.  Maybe, he’ll start giving lectures on the origins of the universe to Neil Degrasse Tyson next.

Who knew one man could become apoplectic convincing every one he wasn’t beaten up in a one-sided match of wits by Nobel Prize Winning Economist and ubernerd Paul Krugman over 2 weeks ago?  He’s written the second of two  “I know you are, but what am I?” blog threads at Politico in two days.   What Scarboroughs’s become is your run-of-the-mill internet troll who is now blog stalking Dr. Krugman.  Only “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” would continue to give this pathetic man a platform for what looks like a developing psychological disorder. We thought he’d over done it on Nate Silver and the presidential poll analysis.  But, nope, he’s back and convinced he knows enough about investment and econometrics to analyze the whims of investors.

021613krugman1-blog480Yesterday’s Scarborough rant was so bad and so wrong, I actually stepped into it.  Scarborough relentlessly insists that Krugman is wrong and that all the rest of us economists think he’s wrong too.  To prove his point and to try to get back for being shown up on his show, Mourning Joe used an article written by  Princeton economist and Paul Krugman colleague Alan Blinder.  The only problem is that Blinder is basically saying the same thing Krugman’s been saying all along.   Scarborough not only proved Krugman’s point, he totally missed the point–and the headline–of the Blinder article as well as ascribing the article to the wrong publication.  Mourning Joe must’ve read only a sentence and ignored the rest.  Does that first sentence not read “Today, there is no deficit crisis” or do I need to up my script for my reading glasses?

 Today, there is no deficit crisis. Tomorrow, there will be no deficit crisis. But in ten years, we will have a massive problem of exploding health care costs. Now that’s a crisis to worry about.

But, to Mourning Joe, this means:

But the same could not be said of a fabulously misleading Business Insider post that claimed to list 11 economists who shared Krugman’s debt-denying views. Never mind the fact that most of the links provided actually undercut Krugman’s reckless position and supported my view that the most pressing fiscal crisis is not next year’s deficit but next decade’s debt.

The Business Insider link to an Alan Blinder piece was particularly supportive of the “Morning Joe” panel’s view. Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman and Princeton economics professor, warned of “truly horrific problems” caused by long-term debt, health care costs and interest on the debt. Paul Krugman’s Princeton colleague even shared my conclusion that the coming Medicare crisis will be so great that Democrats won’t be able to tax their way out of it.

Far from supporting Mr. Krugman’s extreme position, the link to Professor Blinder’s New Yorker article undercuts his Princeton colleague’s exaggerated “In-the-end-we’ll-all-be-dead” approach to U.S. long-term debt.

Then he added a short list of noneconomists--including Ed Rendell who is paid lobbyist for deficit hawk group Fix the Debt associated with Simpson &  EB who make about $40,000 a speech as travelling austerians–as proof that all economists think Krugman is as extreme on economics as Wayne LaPierre is on gun safety laws.  Considering Krugman’s name resides on a well-known trade model, he’s published in just about every prestigious peer-reviewed journal possible, and he’s got one of the best-selling set of text books in the country right now, I’d say Joe just won’t admit he’s way out of his league.  Krugman calls Scarborough desperate.  Frankly, he gone way beyond that to pathetic to me.

First up, the sad story of Joe Scarborough, whose response to my anti-austerian appearance on his show has been a bizarre campaign to convince the world that absolutely nobody of consequence shares my views. Why is this bizarre? Because while I could be wrong about macroeconomics (although I’m not), it’s just not true, provably not true, that I’m alone in arguing that the current and near-future deficit aren’t problems.

I actually wrote about all of this over two weeks ago (1/30/2013) when the incident first happened, so it seems all deja vu to be at this again.  But let me tie this to a bigger problem again.   Hillary Clinton left the Benghazi hearings uttering something profound.  These hearings were some of the more bizarre things I’d ever watched until the Hagel hearings started and the obsession with conspiracy theories went nuclear.  Clinton said some ‘‘just will not live in an evidence-based world’.  This includes Joe Scarborough who thinks his “analysis” in his latest little short blog blurb shows Krugman as being wrong, wrong wrong. This is what he thinks is a “TA DA”! moment.  I would expect better analysis from Macro 101 students.  I would also expect any student in basic statistics or econometrics to have a hey day with his methodology which doesn’t even broach the high school level.  But, he’s real proud of it and thinks it puts Krugman in his place.

Investors may be growing skittish about U.S. government debt levels and the disordered state of U.S. fiscal policymaking.

From the beginning of 2002, when U.S. government debt was at its most recent minimum as a share of GDP, to the end of 2012, the dollar lost 25 percent of its value, in price-adjusted terms, against a basket of the currencies of major trading partners. This may have been because investors fear that the only way out of the current debt problems will be future inflation.

More troubling for the future is that private domestic investment—the fuel for future economic growth—shows a strong negative correlation with government debt levels over several business cycles dating back to the late 1950s. Continuing high debt does not bode well in this regard.

I can tell you that the minute all the econ and finance professors who blog get a hold of this, there will be laughter so loud that it will leave the blogosphere and escape to a permanent home in the universal annals of Pathos.  Frankly, I can already see using this in a first level, midterm statistics class, corporate finance class or economics class.  How many wrong things can you point to in this analysis in just 45 minutes?  Go!

Joe probably eyeballed domestic investment numbers and debt levels then labelled it correlation so he can jump an infinite number of sharks to go AHA!!!!  GOTCHA PROFESSOR MORIARTY errr Krugman!!   He also appears to be blissfully unaware of Fed policy concerning the dollar which basically sets the supply of our currency and the fact that supply interacts with the demand for our currency to set exchange rates. Oh, and the dollar’s been up against the major currencies (especially the EURO) since Dubya left office, so one of his arguments is just factually wrong.  The USD has been up against the Yen for well over a year and then up then flat against the Pound Sterling for years so I’m not sure which currency he’s worried about in that basket.  It’s even been flat against the Cayman Islands Dollar which I’m sure is more of interest to him than anything else.  It’s way down against the Chinese Yuan but then, I wouldn’t consider that a problem at all.

I’m tempted to go there and there and all the places I  could go with this, but  I won’t because most of you probably don’t want a stats lecture and I don’t have all day.  Let me just say that there are a lot of factors that drive investment, which is the least logical component of the national income accounts; and to single out one possible factor without controlling for any of the other factors is a fool’s errand. It shows complete ignorance of investment, finance, and economics so we can add a few more things to the list called what Joe doesn’t know.  Actually, worse than that is that he appears to have gotten this blather from an anonymous “senior economist” from the Rand Corporation.  Is he misquoting another economist or did some one actually write this for him?  Worrying either way!!

Joe, however, is more importantly a symptom of the much bigger problem identified by our former Madam Secretary.  We have an entire political party that insists it’s right when clearly, the overwhelming amount of evidence says its wrong.  For this analysis, I’m closing with something by Kevin Drum who occasionally can find the nut. We deserve a better press.  We deserve better than Joe Scarborough littering up the air waves under the guise of “news” instead of misguided memes and propaganda.

It seems to me that something has happened over the past three months: the nonpartisan media has finally started to internalize the idea that the modern Republican Party has gone off the rails. Their leaders can’t control their backbenchers. They throw pointless temper tantrums about everything President Obama proposes. They have no serious ideas of their own aside from wanting to keep taxes low on the rich. They’re serially obsessed with a few hobby horses — Fast & Furious! Obamacare! Benghazi! — that no one else cares about. Their fundraising is controlled by scam artists. They’re rudderless and consumed with infighting. They’re demographically doomed.

Obviously these are all things that we partisan hacks in the blogosphere have been yapping about forever. But the mainstream press, despite endless conservative kvetching to the contrary, has mostly stuck with standard shape-of-the-world-differs reporting.

Recently, though, my sense is that this has shifted a bit. The framing of even straight new [sic] reports feels just a little bit jaded, as if veteran reporters just can’t bring themselves to pretend one more time that climate change is a hoax, Benghazi is a scandal, and federal spending is spiraling out of control. It’s getting harder and harder to pretend that the same old shrieking over the same old issues is really newsworthy.discuss!!!

This brings me back to Boston Boomer’s Valentine’s Day morning rant based on a phone discussion we had the night before.  Why-oh-Why am I writing about this again?   Why-oh-why can’t we put this kind of nonsense to bed like all sane people who know the earth is not flat, an apple will fall to the ground if dropped from a tree, and if you every one stops spending and only a few families have decent incomes, the economy will contract and say stay contracted? Don’t folks like Scarborough and the AEI know we buried Say’s Law  Failed Hypothesis a  long time ago?  (Kinda like we buried that zombie Laffer curve! But some folks just want to believe the universe revolves around the earth and the entire set up is only a few thousand years old. Hmmm, like Mark Rubio.)

I’m not sure that last question was rhetorical or not, but hey, it’s a thread and there’s a discussion, so discuss amongst yourselves …

Here’s the topic:

Joe Scarborough, pathetic or desperate?  or   Why oh Why can’t we Have a better press corps? Joe Scarborough edition

or  The Deficit Hawk Delusion: What the Krugman-Scarborough Slugfest Is Really About?

DISCUSS!!!


Thursday Reads: Animal Psychology, Republican Race-Baiting, Obama’s Drone War, and More

Good Morning!!

Before I get to political news, here’s an interesting story that has nothing to do with the upcoming 2012 elections: Suicidal dogs and bipolar wolves. It’s an interview with Laurel Braitman, a PhD candidate at MIT and the author of an upcoming book, Animal Madness. As someone who strongly believes that animals have personalities and strong emotions, I’m looking forward to check out her book. Here’s just a bit of the interview, conducted by Malcolm Harris of New Inquiry Magazine.

MH: How did you get involved in writing about mental illness in other animals in particular?

LB: I was doing something completely different but I had gone to graduate school for history of science at MIT. I had originally gone there to do research on the aquarium fishery in the Amazon basin. But I had a dog at the time, my partner and I had adopted a Burnese Mountain Dog. And he was fine for the first six months and then he went spectacularly crazy. He developed a debilitating case of separation anxiety. If we left him alone he would destroy himself, the house, anything in the way. He nearly killed himself at least once. So I had to take him to the vet hospital after he jumped out of our 4th floor apartment, and they said I had to take him to a veterinary behaviorist who would give him a prescription for Prozac and Valium. I was stopped in my tracks. I had heard there were some animals taking these drugs, but I never thought of myself as the kind of person who would put an animal on Prozac. But I found myself in a desperate situation with a 120 pound dog and I tried all these things and they didn’t work, so I became that person that puts her dog on antidepressants. Prozac didn’t work for him really, but the Valium did, at least in the short term. And I began to get curious about how these drugs got into vet clinics in the first place and if there was something to this. Was my dog responding to these drugs in the some of the same ways that people do?

I ended up switching what I was studying because I couldn’t find anything written about the history of this. My PhD research is now the story of what the last 150 years have to tell us about mental illness in other animals. Can they be crazy? Who says they’re crazy? How did the industry around animal mental health come to be? And how do we make other animals feel better? That’s the question that interests me most. Once you notice that another animal is disturbed or anxious– what do we do then? I’ve spent the last few years traveling all over the world to talk to people who are making it their life’s work to help these animals – whether they are elephants or dogs or birds.

What a brilliant idea!

And now, once again we move from the sublime to the ridiculous–and offensive. The Romney campaign is up to it’s old dirty tricks, sending their meanest surrogates out to race bait again. First up, Newt Gingrich says Obama is “not a real president.”

“[Obama] really is like the substitute [National Football League] referees in the sense that he’s not a real president,” Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Tuesday night. “He doesn’t do anything that presidents do, he doesn’t worry about any of the things the presidents do, but he has the White House, he has enormous power, and he’ll go down in history as the president, and I suspect that he’s pretty contemptuous of the rest of us.”

Unbelievable! And there’s more:



“This is a man who in an age of false celebrity-hood is sort of the perfect president, because he’s a false president,” he said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t do the president’s job.”

 ….

“You have to wonder what he’s doing,” Gingrich continued. “I’m assuming that there’s some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us don’t understand. Whether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while or watch ESPN, I mean, I don’t quite know what his rhythm is, but this is a guy that is a brilliant performer as an orator, who may very well get reelected at the present date, and who, frankly, he happens to be a partial, part-time president.”

It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Next up, John Sununu: Obama Is “Absolutely Lazy And Detached From His Job”

“Look, let me tell you what the big problem with this president is in my opinion. He is absolutely lazy and detached from his job. When he doesn’t go and attended 60% of the detailed presidential daily briefings that come from the CIA and thinks he can just skim it, skim the summary paper on his iPad instead of sitting down and engaging in what — I was in the White House with George Herbert Walker Bush. He took that brief everyday. George W. Bush took it everyday and I believe that Bill Clinton took it everyday. This president thinks he’s smarter than those guys and he doesn’t have to engage in the discussion. That’s the most important half-hour of the day for a president who has to protect the security of the United States,” Romney surrogate John Sununu said on Hannity.

Watch the video at the link, if you can stand it. Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I think I have a few interesting links for you this morning, so let’s get right to it.

Those New Orleans cops who killed two people on the Danzinger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina got real prison time yesterday.

Four New Orleans police officers were sentenced to 38 to 65 years in prison for convictions including violating the civil rights of two people killed a week after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt in New Orleans sentenced a fifth officer today to six years in prison for covering up the crimes.

A federal jury in August convicted officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso of opening fire on unarmed black civilians on the city’s Danziger Bridge and conspiring with others to cover up their actions. The fifth, homicide detective Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, was convicted of conspiring to make the shootings appear justified.

“We hope that today’s sentences give a measure of peace and closure to the victims of this terrible shooting, who have suffered unspeakable pain and who have waited so patiently for justice to be done,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in an e-mailed statement. “The officers who shot innocent people on the bridge and then went to great lengths to cover up their own crimes have finally been held accountable for their actions.”

Finally, some justice at a time when we are becoming aware of so many cases of African Americans being killed without any repercussions for the killers.

Last night I wrote about the judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the Justice Department to attend a hearing and be lectured about the President of the United States daring to make a few comments about his belief that the Supreme Court would not overturn the ACA. The hearing turned out to be even more ludicrous than I could have imagined. Jeffrey Toobin called it a “judicial hissy fit.”

An appeals court judge who claimed President Barack Obama was challenging the authority of federal courts was just throwing a “judicial hissy-fit,” according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

“Totally extraordinary and totally inappropriate,” Toobin said. “This was a judicial hissy-fit.”

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith on Tuesday demanded a “three page, single spaced” letter from the Justice Department regarding the authority of the federal courts to strike down laws passed by Congress. Obama said Monday that the “unelected” Supreme Court should not to take the “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” step of striking down the Affordable Care Act.

“What the President said was entirely appropriate, entirely within his rights as an American citizen to express his opinions about this law,” Toobin continued.

“He wasn’t intimidating the Supreme Court. He couldn’t intimidate the Supreme Court if he wanted to. He was simply saying that he believes this law is constitutional, and this judge, doing this ridiculous patronizing act to the Department of Justice has simply made himself look ridiculous.”

A three-page, single spaced letter? Good grief! Of course the right wing nuts are overjoyed and crowing over this. Remember when they were so much against “judicial activism?” Remember just recently when Newt Gingrich talked about the dictatorship of the judges (or similar words)?

Eric Holder also defended the President’s remarks:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department will respond “appropriately” to a federal appellate judge in Texas who demanded a letter recognizing federal courts’ authority to strike down laws passed by Congress.

Holder spoke a day after 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith questioned President Barack Obama’s remarks this week about an “unelected” court possibly striking down the president’s health care overhaul. Smith, during oral arguments in a separate challenge to the health law, asked the Justice Department for a three-page, single-spaced letter affirming the federal court’s authority.

When asked during a Wednesday news conference in Chicago what an appropriate response to Smith would be, Holder said, “I think what the president said a couple of days ago was appropriate. He indicated that we obviously respect the decisions that courts make.”

“Under our system of government … courts have the final say on the constitutionality of statutes,” Holder said. “The courts are also fairly deferential when it comes to overturning statutes that the duly elected representatives of the people, Congress, pass.”

Spencer Ackerman at the Danger Room got hold of a memo written by Philip Zelikow, who was an adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in which he said that the torture techniques that had been supported by the Bush Justice Department amounted to war crimes.

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

Zelikow first revealed the existence of his secret memo, dated Feb. 15, 2006, in an April 2009 blog post, shortly after the Obama administration disclosed many of its predecessor’s legal opinions blessing torture. He briefly described it (.pdf) in a contentious Senate hearing shortly thereafter, revealing then that “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.” [….]

Zelikow’s memo was an internal bureaucratic push against an attempt by the Justice Department to flout long-standing legal restrictions against torture. In 2005, he wrote, both the Justice and State Departments had decided that international prohibitions against “acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture” do not “apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries.” Those techniques included contorting a detainee’s body in painful positions, slamming a detainee’s head against a wall, restricting a detainee’s caloric intake, and waterboarding.

Zelikow wrote that a law passed that year by Congress, restricting interrogation techniques, meant the “situation has now changed.” Both legally and as a matter of policy, he advised, administration officials were endangering both CIA interrogators and the reputation of the United States by engaging in extreme interrogations — even those that stop short of torture.

Of course Zelikow couldn’t know back then that the next President, supposedly a Democrat would defend the war criminals in court and refuse to release videos and photos that would reveal the horrors of what the CIA had done.

Former Senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern, who is 89, has been hospitalized in Florida. His daughter Ann McGovern told the AP that her dad

was admitted to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., on Tuesday evening for tests to figure out why he occasionally passes out and loses his ability to speak, she said.

“He’s comfortable. The tests are continuing to see if they can determine what’s causing this,” Ann McGovern said.

Hospital officials said the elder McGovern is in stable condition. McGovern splits his time between Florida and South Dakota, where he was a South Dakota congressman from 1957 to 1961 and a U.S. senator from 1963 to 1981. He has been hospitalized several times in recent months, including for exhaustion.

South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said McGovern looked great and was in good spirits when he attended the party’s annual fundraiser, named in his honor, last weekend in Sioux Falls. Nesselhuf said the former senator, who gave a 20-minute speech at the affair, resists efforts to schedule rest periods during such events because “he wants to do everything.”

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough came out and said what most people who have been watching the Republican clown show are thinking: Mitt Romney has no chance to win the presidency in 2012. In fact, Republicans are already looking ahead to 2016.

Joe Scarborough: Nobody thinks Romney is going to win. Can we just say this for everybody at home? I have yet to meet a person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV, and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails. I obviously don’t care. I have yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican Congress, that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election.

Duh! Who wants to vote for a man who has made himself into a laughing stock?

Have you heard about the giant feathered dinosaur fossils that have been found in China? They were as big as a bus and had fuzzy feathers all over them.

The discovery of a giant meat-eating dinosaur sporting a downy coat has some scientists reimagining the look of Tyrannosaurus rex.

With a killer jaw and sharp claws, T. rex has long been depicted in movies and popular culture as having scaly skin. But the discovery of an earlier relative suggests the king of dinosaurs may have had a softer side.

The evidence comes from the unearthing of a new tyrannosaur species in northeastern China that lived 60 million years before T. rex. The fossil record preserved remains of fluffy down, making it the largest feathered dinosaur ever found.

If a T. rex relative had feathers, why not T. rex? Scientists said the evidence is trending in that direction.

“People need to start changing their image of T. rex,” said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who was not part of the discovery team.

Those are my picks for today. What are you reading and blogging about?