Saturday, February 28, 2009


I was just over on CNN, listening to some right-wing wacko movie maker whining about the liberals in Hollywood, and started wondering again how that stereotype survives.

Let's list the Hollywood people who have run for office:

George Murphy - conservative Republican, elected as Senator for California

Clint Eastwood - conservative Republican, elected as mayor of some town or other in California

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Republican, elected as governor of California

Ronald Reagan - conservative Republican, elected as governor of California and I think something else.

Did I leave anybody out?

Update: Yes, I did!

Fred Thompson - conservative Republican, elected Senator for Tennessee

Shirley Temple - Republican, ran unsuccessfully for Congress

Sonny Bono - Republican, elected to Congress from California

Fred "Love Boat" Grandy - Republican, elected to Congress from Iowa

Ben "Dukes of Hazzard" Jones - a Democrat!, elected to Congress from Georgia

Helen Gahagan Douglas - a Democrat, elected to Congress from California

Charles "My Little Margie" Farrell - elected mayor of Palm Springs, California.

Republican Marching Orders

I guess we're in the era of the perpetual political campaign. Either that, or it's just a case of "kick 'em while they're down." Which is just fine with me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Can This Possibly Be True?

From yesterday's White House press briefing on Obama's budget proposals:

Q Peter, for those who are making more than $250,000, I understand that they're going to be limited in terms of the itemized deductions for their -- filing their taxes, including charitable contributions. Considering that at least one-third of charitable organizations last year took a real nosedive, and you have some big names -- the Salvation Army, Goodwill, American Red Cross -- how do you stop the bleeding when it comes to those charitable groups, considering that you're now taking away an incentive to actually contribute?

DIRECTOR ORSZAG: Well, let me be very clear. In the recovery act, the President supported -- and contained in the recovery act, there's $100 million to support non-profits and charities as we get through this period of economic difficulty.

In addition, the recovery itself will provide a strong boost not only to charities, but to the overall economy and to the people who contribute to charities. But I think the real question as you look out over time is the following: When a middle-income family makes a $1,000 contribution to a charity, they save $150 in their taxes. When Bill Gates makes that same contribution to that same charity, he saves $3,500 in his taxes. All we're saying is we think Bill Gates should get a $2,800 tax break -- still a lot larger than a middle-income family -- rather than the $3,500 one.
Aux barricades!

Update (February 28): I was so flummoxed by this example of tax shenanigans that I wrote Andrew Tobias, author of The Only Investment Guide You Will Ever Need, about it. He was kind enough to reply.

Somehow they screwed up the example – it should have read:

When a middle-income family makes a $1,000 contribution to a charity, they save $150 in their taxes. When Bill Gates makes that same contribution to that same charity, he saves $350 in his taxes. All we're saying is we think Bill Gates should get a $280 tax break -- still a lot larger than a middle-income family -- rather than the $350 one.
Now that makes perfect sense, because it's based on the tax rate at the different income levels. I guess I'd better go get the overturned cart out of my street.

In Love with Lincoln

Maira Kalman is in love with Abraham Lincoln, and tells us all about it. Worth your time.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Budget

I've been all over the web reading up on the Obama budget, and -- by far -- the best coverage is by ... (drum roll) ... the New York Times. I can tell you're not surprised I think so, because it sometimes seems like it's the only thing I read. It's not, but if it were, I could do worse.

David Stout in the Times has an excellent piece that gives you the flavor of the thing, which I quote extensively here [emphases are mine]:

The word “passion” is not always associated with “budget,” but to read the language in President Obama’s spending plan is to be reminded that a president’s budget is as much a political statement as it is a compilation of charts and graphs.

We arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington,” the president himself declares in his opening message.

Then, on to a section entitled “Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities.”

“While middle-class families have been playing by the rules, living up to their responsibilities as neighbors and citizens, those at the commanding heights of our economy have not,” the introductory section goes on.

For the better part of three decades, a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth has been accumulated by the very wealthy,” the document says in an unmistakable assertion that the Ronald Reagan era was not so much Morning Again in America as the dawn of a golden age for fat cats.

And for readers utterly lacking in subtlety, there is this: “Over the past eight years, policy was made behind closed doors. In many cases, unprecedented levels of secrecy have been invoked to block public scrutiny.” No surprise, the document continues, that the well-connected and those able to hire big-time lobbyists “were able to carve out huge loopholes in our tax code” while forcing middle-class folks to pick up the tab.

Moving on, we come to a passage condemning “the policy failures of the past eight years,” a time when “the needs of those in the room trump those of their fellow citizens.” Those in the room (not smoke-filled but still brimming with cynicism) were those closest to then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and perhaps even Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney themselves.
By golly, Obama is my soul mate!

Now that you know the flavor of the thing, get a fresh cup of coffee and read Jackie Calmes' summary of the budget document.

An interesting thing: When I started writing this post, this was a three-page summary written by Calmes and Robert Pear, with about five other contributors. By the time I went back to link to it, it had become a two-pager, written only by Calmes, with two contributors. Don't know what that was all about.

How It's Done in Chicago

Today's Chicago Sun-Times:

The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris is a federal tax deadbeat who landed a $75,000-a-year state job under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich five months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Blagojevich's administration hired Roland W. Burris II as a senior counsel for the state's housing authority Sept. 10 -- about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house.
The only thing surprising about this is that it took so long to find out about it.

Primates in the News

You've probably seen the story about the "pet" chimpanzee in Connecticut that had to be shot. And you've probably seen the story about the New York Post cartoon that conflated that story with the Stimulus Bill, in a way that was tasteless, at best.

If you can bear reading more about monkeys as pets, this column by Hilzoy is well worth your time (and it's a good read, besides).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bobby Jindal

I am wired to laugh at Republicans (on my kinder days), and that makes me an unreliable source for questions like, "How do you think Jindal did in the Republican response to Obama's speech last night?"

But watching him last night, I lost any concern about his being a Presidential candidate. Even the Faux News lineup apparently thought he was awful. One comment I read, that it was like watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, was pretty much on target, I think.

I was going to do a post on the whole thing, but Sherry at A Feather Adrift beat me to it. Okay, she's maybe a little over-the-top about Obama. But maybe not. Time will tell.

Update: Talking Points Memo gives you a taste of the whole thing in 100 seconds.

February 26 Update: It seems Bobby Jindal is another gift that keeps giving. To wit, Gail Collins' column this morning:

We will pass over Jindal’s delivery, which sounded a little like a junior high schooler’s entry into the Chamber of Commerce “I Speak for Fiscal Restraint” contest. The content was the thing: a message to the nation that the Republicans were not going to have anything important or useful to say about the current economic crisis [my emphasis, of course, but boy has she nailed that one!].

Absent any deep thoughts, the Republicans are going to complain about waste. The high point of Jindal’s address came when he laced into “wasteful spending” in the stimulus bill, and used as an example a $140 million appropriation for keeping an eye on the volcanoes in places like Alaska, where one is currently rumbling.

“Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.,” Jindal claimed.

I don’t know about you, but my reaction was: Wow, what a great stimulus plan. The most wasteful thing in it is volcano monitoring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Worst Driver in Ireland

From BBC News comes reassuring news that a driver who racked up more than 50 speeding and parking tickets in Ireland has finally been chased down by the police.

He had been wanted from counties Cork to Cavan after racking up scores of speeding tickets and parking fines.

However, each time the serial offender was stopped he managed to evade justice by giving a different address.

He was a Polish man by the name of Prawo Jazdy. Or was he?

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen may be an acquired taste.

But if you've acquired it, you'll be interested in this article in today's NY Times, and this review from the same paper a week or so ago.

If you have no idea who Leonard Cohen is, here's a sampling of his 40+ years of songs.

Everybody Knows

Famous Blue Raincoat

Who By Fire

Monday, February 23, 2009

Two Excellent Articles on Social Security

I love economists who have their own blogs. Paul Krugman gives the view from 40,000 feet of the entitlement issues facing us in Entitlements on the Back of an Envelope.

And Krugman links to an equally good article in today's Washington Post, called Deficit Hawks Attack Our Entitlements. The author, Robert Kuttner, concludes:

Since the early 1980s, [Wall Street banker, billionaire, former Commerce Secretary] Peter G. Peterson has been warning that future entitlement deficits would crash the economy. Yet when the crash came, the cause was not deficits but wild speculation on Wall Street.

Now, with 401(k) plans swooning and health benefits being cut, Social Security and Medicare are the two bedrock programs that keep tens of millions of elderly Americans from destitution.
Yep, that's right.

The mantra of people like Peterson is that we cannot afford Social Security. They've chanted it so often that it's now conventional wisdom. If you go to enough Washington parties, you just might think it's what all "responsible" people think.

But actually, we can afford Social Security. We just have to place a higher value on it than on tax cuts for Pete Peterson, or on reckless wars that bleed our treasures, human and otherwise.

Wingnuts on Parade

What's left of the Republican Party are doing their best to make themselves even more politically irrelevant, and social pariahs, too.

Governors Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) and Mark Sanford (South Carolina) have announced they may not accept Stimulus funds targeted for extending unemployment benefits. To steal a line from the great Tom Lehrer, unemployed conservatives in Louisiana or South Carolina must feel like Christian Scientists with appendicitis.

Sanford, who is jockying with Jindal for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, will not be outdone. In addition to refusing funds for unemployment benefits, he will refuse $42 million targeted for making government buildings more energy-efficient. These are major players in one of our nation's major political parties, folks.

But wait, the conservative downward spiral picks up steam.

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning (pictured) announced to his constituents that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was operated on for pancreatic cancer, will be dead within nine months.

Classy guy.

Update: Steve Benen appropriately calls Sanford "The Gift That Keeps on Giving."

February 24 Update: The NY Times editors take their cue from Sempringham:

What makes these bad decisions worse is that they are little more than political posturing by rising Republican stars, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. This behavior reinforces the disturbing conclusion that the Republican Party seems more interested in ideological warfare than in working on policies that get the country back on track.

Fortunately, as President Obama prepares for his first address to Congress on Tuesday evening, voters of both parties have noticed. About three-quarters of those polled in a recent New York Times/CBS News survey — including more than 60 percent of Republicans — said Mr. Obama has been trying to work with Republicans. And 63 percent said Republicans in Congress opposed the stimulus package primarily for political reasons, not because they thought it would be bad for the economy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dangerous Lunatics

This segment from Faux just leaves me speechless.

I won't embed it here, because it would make me feel dirty.

Every time I think that outfit can't go any lower, they prove I'm a fool.

More on Darwin Day

Something I didn't mention in my post about Darwin Day at our ridiculous little church is that (ahem) BBC radio was there.

You can find their report here. The St. John's Church part is at the very beginning (singing Happy Birthday to Charles Darwin), and beginning at about the 14 minute mark. You can slide the slider to that point, if you don't want to hear the whole 30-minute show.

Addendum: I would like to point out that, contrary to what the BBC reporter said, St. John's is not in a suburb of Chicago. We are in Chicago.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't Miss These Two

Two good columns in the Times today.

David Brooks regretfully acknowledges that helping the guy who bought too much house, even though it would serve him right if he got thrown out of it, might be in everybody else's best interests, in Money for Idiots.

Paul Krugman is pessimistic in Who'll Stop the Pain?

The Job

You may have seen this on McNeil/Lehrer.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Washington Navel-Gazers

It has been observed here before that the Washington-based media write only for each other and read only each other. Steve Benen at Political Animal has a perfect example.

The President of the United States makes speeches in front of American flags. Imagine that! The economy is going down the commode, and these guys are still writing about lapel pins. You can only read so much before you realize, "My God! These people are idiots!"

If you've got to write about this stuff, it would be nice to see a story about what a welcome improvement flags are over Bush's practice of appearing in front of a backdrop that repeats a reassuring phrase over and over. Like this:

It's all 1984 stuff. Bush would get up there to talk about Guantanamo, and the background would say "Protecting Our Children," over and over again. You can be certain those phrases had been focus grouped, and that people walked away from hearing a test speech about drilling on the continental shelf saying to themselves, "He's protecting our children."

That was the Bush Administration's definition of success.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Simply Cool

From Carrie Gabbe, via step-dad Ted (my brother). A great concept, but amazing that they actually pulled it off.

I hope you don't get the same repulsive "Get free money from the government and don't pay it back" ad that I just did. You Tube was great when it was great.

Short-term Senator?

The U.S. Senate keeps statistics for the longest serving Senators, but not for the shortest servers. I guess they're just footnotes somewhere.

Today the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune call for Roland Burris to resign, in light of his apparent perjury.

It looks like the man who wanted one more thing to put on his monument to himself will have two, instead.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Signs of Intelligent Life in the GOP?

An article in today's NY Times brought to mind one of the funniest stories so far this month: the story of how the Washington press corps has totally missed the boat in its reporting of the passage of the Stimulus Bill.

To hear the Beltway version of the story, President Obama failed miserably because he was unable to get the GOP to contribute in any meaningful way to this most important legislation in a generation. Obama tried to make the legislation bipartisan: he visited the Republicans on the Hill, invited them to a cocktail party, had his people sit down with their people. Nothing worked. The Republicans were determined that the bill should reflect their "values" (tee-hee), or the nation's economy be damned.

To the Beltway press, this was a failure of Obama's leadership. A good example is this short item from Crooks and Liars, in which NY Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg completely misses the point. You could be excused for thinking it's an audition tape for "Clueless."

Meanwhile, outside of I-495, we poor schmucks are praying the Stimulus Bill works, and works fast. We're not interested in Republican "philosophy," and we're scratching our heads wondering why the Congressional Republicans, with so much at stake for this country, refused to make a positive contribution to the Bill (and folks, "More tax cuts!" is not a positive contribution). Did they take their cue from their lord and master, Limbaugh, who has declared more than once that he wants the Stimulus Bill to fail? Offer another explanation.

So who won the week? Let's see — Obama gets the Stimulus Bill he wants and Congressional Republicans look like small-minded idiots. Hmmm. This is a tough one.

Frank Rich wrote about this on Sunday, in a very readable column I recommend highly. Here's a piece:

Less than a month into Obama’s term, we don’t (and can’t) know how he’ll fare as president. The compromised stimulus package, while hardly garbage, may well be inadequate. Timothy Geithner’s uninspiring and opaque stab at a bank rescue is at best a place holder and at worst a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the TARP-Titanic, where he served as Hank Paulson’s first mate.

But we do know this much. Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again.
I started this little essay with a title that suggests there may be thinking people left in the Republican Party. Where could they be?

We can rule out Washington. But look at this! It turns out that outside the Beltway, elected Republicans who are actually held accountable for solving problems — state governors — are embracing bipartisanship and the Stimulus Bill.

Leaderless after losing the White House, the [Republican] party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.

In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic — their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled — conservatism.

Governors, unlike members of Congress, have to balance their budgets each year. And that requires compromise with state legislators, including Democrats, as well as more openness to the occasional state tax increase and to deficit-spending from Washington.
I love the smell of late-night television mockery in the morning!

But fear not. In the Republican party, the right hand never knows what the right hand is doing.

What Happened?

Tonight, Frontline is doing a show on the financial crisis, and it looks like it will be good. Here's the promo:

Go here for excerpts.

I love the narrator's voice. That guy can make Mary Had a Little Lamb sound ominous.

One television critic I read said the show was partisan, because it had two Democratic politicians but no Republican politicians. The critic knows nothing about economics, but you've got to write something, I guess.

So in fairness, I will now present the Republican position:

"This happened because we didn't give enough tax cuts to the bankers. We will solve this with more tax cuts. And tin foil hats."

There ya are. Don't ever say we're not even-handed here.

Addendum: If you have enough time on your hands, Simon Johnson has a daunting web site called Baseline Scenario, and it has a helpful page of links called Financial Crisis for Beginners. If you've got a year or two of your life to spare, you could get a real education there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, What a Mess We're In!

I've been trying to educate myself about the economy, so my head hurts. But I've come across some great stuff, and if you're brave enough, you might want to give it a look-see.

Bill Moyers interviews Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund and professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, here. It's 20 minutes long, but the man is fascinating. At the time of the interview, he was worried Obama doesn't have the political will, or understanding, to nationalize any of the big banks, and that the banks will bleed us dry if he doesn't. Articles I've read subsequent to this interview suggest that Treasury Secretary Geithner's "stress test" for banks is effectively an assessment of whether they are solvent. If the answer is "no," they're under new ownership and management. We'll see.

I've read article after article about how disappointing Geithner's plan for the banks, announced last week, was. Conventional wisdom is that it was too vague. Most financial writers were looking for something more detailed. See Gretchen Morgenson's Sunday column in the NY Times, for example. The banks didn't like it, either, because it didn't bail them out. A notable exception was Stephen Pearlstein of the Washington Post:

Pearlstein's column about it is here.

We'll see. Maybe Geithner's plan was just vague enough.

I'll have more on this tomorrow. (Oh, boy!)

Update: I beat Andrew Tobias to the Simon Johnson interview by at least an hour and a half. You have no idea how smart this makes me feel. Anyway, Andrew Tobias says you should watch it, so now somebody who knows something is recommending it.

An Argument Against Intelligent Design

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings finds evidence against a benevolent deity in One More Reason Why I'm Glad I'm Not an Ant.

I am aware that some readers will find in this an argument for intelligent design, and I will just ask you to please keep your distance. Thank you.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Remembering Sarah

Remember that first week in September, right after McCain had introduced us to Sarah Palin, when her poll numbers were good, and it looked like McCain had done something exciting? Good people moaned that the Obama Campaign had to do something, and do it fast!

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, puts that in perspective. Of Palin, he says:

"She was our best fundraiser and organizer in the fall."

That sure is right. I hope she decides to run in 2012.

They're All Madoffs

Shutterhand's comment about tasseled loafers on Raw Milk Prices, below, came to mind when I came across this gem in today's NY Times:

A provision buried deep inside the $787 billion economic stimulus bill would impose restrictions on executive bonuses at financial institutions that are much tougher than those proposed 10 days ago by the Treasury Department.

The provision, inserted by Senate Democrats over the objections of the Obama administration, is aimed at companies that have received financial bailout funds. It would prohibit cash bonuses and almost all other incentive compensation for the five most senior officers and the 20 highest-paid executives at large companies that receive money under the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.


The restriction with the most bite would bar top executives from receiving bonuses exceeding one-third of their annual pay. Any bonus would have to be in the form of long-term incentives, like restricted stock, which could not be cashed out until the TARP money was repaid in full.

The provision, written by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, highlighted the growing wrath among lawmakers and voters over the lavish compensation that top Wall Street firms and big banks awarded to senior executives at the same time that many of the companies, teetering on the brink of insolvency, received taxpayer-paid bailouts.


Top economic advisers to President Obama adamantly opposed the pay restrictions, according to Congressional officials, warning lawmakers behind closed doors that they went too far and would cause a brain drain in the financial industry during an acute crisis. Another worry is the tougher restrictions may encourage executives to more quickly pay back the government’s investments since, in a compromise with the financial industry, banks no longer have to replace federal funds with private capital. That could remove an extra capital cushion, further reducing lending.


But some experts on executive compensation warned that the restrictions could unleash unintended consequences, like encouraging banks to increase salaries to make up for diminished incentive pay. Even then, they warned, banks were likely to lose top talent.

“These rules will not work,” James F. Reda, an independent compensation consultant, said on Friday. “Any smart executive will (a) pay back TARP money ASAP or (b) get another job.”
Like Shutterhand, I'm furious. Heck, I've been furious since we started down Ronald Reagan's Road to Ruin in 1980! I'm trying hard not to get emotional about it, because I usually regret that, but Mr. Reda's comment just makes me want to puke. These guys are not worth those salaries and bonuses. They don't know what they're doing. They have loyalty to nothing but their own bank account, and they've been robbing their depositors for decades. Let them leave. Let them get other jobs. Good riddance.

Update: A prof from Harvard Business School had a good article about how executive compensation has changed since the 1980's here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Warning: Another Church Post

And now for something completely different.

Tonight we celebrated Darwin Day at our ridiculous little church:

Why Darwin Day? Well, Darwin was born 200 years ago yesterday, and Darwin was an Episcopalian. That's all the reason we need to party. Okay, so maybe he was an Anglican, but in America Anglicans are called Episcopalians. (So far, at least.)

Why today and not yesterday, his actual birthday? Maybe you can party on a work night!

A band called Overman played for about an hour, and they were very good! I hadn't heard of them before this week, but we were lucky to have them. They sang a song about evolution which I couldn't understand the words to (the acoustics of church basements being what they are, and my hearing being what it is), but which is supposed to be very popular on iTunes; viz., it has actually made them some money.

They did a song about Mother Theresa which I did understand, and which was fine, fine, fine. You will recall that after her death, and after beatification activities had begun, it was revealed that Mother Theresa had actually been struggling with "the faith thing" for most of her adult life. The songwriter said that made him like her even more. Me, too.

And there was food! They called it "Primordial Soup," but I cut through the kitchen and saw a lot of Progresso Soup cans in the garbage. Draw your own conclusions. Actually, we should be thankful it wasn't really primordial soup. Here's Tim dishing out some hopefully faux Primordial Soup:

And there was dancing! Overman played a great blues number that would not allow feet to remain in place on the floor.

The person in the blue jeans with the clerical collar is our rector, Kara. The guy leaning against the pole is her husband, John. Give some people a little Primordial Soup, and they lose all inhibitions. (Not John, though.) Hey! That girl's holding a beer! Where'd she get that beer? I didn't know there was beer!

Anyway things were finished off with a birthday cake, and everybody sat down to watch a showing of Jurassic Park.

Yeah, you heard right, a birthday cake.

Hope that cake went well with your beer.

Yep. We're pathetic.

Update: Cross-posted from above. Something I didn't mention in my post about Darwin Day is that (ahem) BBC radio was there.

You can find their report here. The St. John's Church part is at the very beginning (singing Happy Birthday to Charles Darwin), and beginning at about the 14 minute mark. You can slide the slider to that point, if you don't want to hear the whole 30-minute show.


I've received a report that there may be a coding error somewhere on my page that is causing computer freezes, with a message that there is an error on line 53.

If that's the case, I'm in trouble because 1) I know nothing about code, and 2) I can't count to 53.

If you would be so kind, please let me know if you're having this trouble, too. I'm using Firefox on a Macintosh, and have no trouble. The trouble reporter is using MS Internet Explorer on Windows XP. If you're having trouble, or not having trouble, I'd appreciate a note in comments with a yea or nay, the browser you use, and the system you use. Of course, if your screen freezes up, you might have trouble doing this. In that case, just holler.


Raw Milk Prices

A great thing about reading blogs is that I've "met" fascinating people who are doing interesting things. If, like me, you're a regular reader of Midlife by Farmlight, you've gotten a real education in what life is like on a dairy farm. And suddenly dairy farmers are real people I care about.

So when I heard this NPR story about the downturn in milk prices (something that doesn't usually make the 10 o'clock news in Chicago), it meant something to me. I'm going out to buy some cheese. Wouldn't you like some extra cheese on your pizza?

Update: If you're planning to visit Midlife by Farmlight today, you'd better wear your goggles!

Idiot Watch

I know I'm supposed to be post-partisan and all that, but the Republicans did so much damage on their greedy binge, and they're so laughable now, that I just have to share a couple of snippets. From Krugman:

One might have expected Republicans to act at least slightly chastened in these early days of the Obama administration, given both their drubbing in the last two elections and the economic debacle of the past eight years.

But it’s now clear that the party’s commitment to deep voodoo — enforced, in part, by pressure groups that stand ready to run primary challengers against heretics — is as strong as ever. In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts.

And the rhetorical response of conservatives to the stimulus plan — which will, it’s worth bearing in mind, cost substantially less than either the Bush administration’s $2 trillion in tax cuts or the $1 trillion and counting spent in Iraq — has bordered on the deranged.

It’s “generational theft,” said Senator John McCain, just a few days after voting for tax cuts that would, over the next decade, have cost about four times as much.
I tell ya, set your own government up as your enemy, or as the wonderful Ronald Reagan put it, "The Problem", and not paying taxes sounds downright patriotic, doesn't it? How convenient!

And this snippet from a commenter on Andrew Tobias's blog goes right to the heart of Republican absurdity:

My favorite Republican tax cut proposal is the one to lower the corporate tax rate to 25% from 35%. Boy, now there's a real job generator! Can’t you just hear the boardroom conversation? "People are losing jobs by the millions! Demand is in the toilet! But now we have a real chance to hire workers we don’t need to produce goods we can’t sell, all because of the lower taxes on the profits we won’t have!"
And just yesterday I heard Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty saying, with a straight face, that we needed more tax cuts to spur the recovery. These guys are pathetic.

Disclaimer: I've used a picture similar to the one above to illustrate a post before, and explained that they're not real Republicans, but are good people dressed as Republicans. In fairness to them, I think I need to repeat that disclaimer.

Uncovering Nature's Unhidden Secrets

Since you are a Renaissance man or woman, you have wide interests -- and this article about tracking the migration of birds will appeal to you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good-bye Dubai

I read somewhere that The New York Times declared Dubai to be 2008's must-see vacation spot. How things have changed in just the past few months.

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town.
Gee, maybe they need some tax cuts. [Yes, that was sarcasm.] Read the whole story, it's fascinating.

As I understand it, the towers pictured above are not completed yet. I wonder if they ever will be.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

For Photographers