Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Great Newspaper Destroyed

Paul Krugman, who writes for the New York Times, on the Wall Street Journal:
Frankly, there was a time when I thought the Journal was better on business/economic news than the Times. But no longer; and it’s not just things like referring to the estate tax as the “death tax” in news stories. Overall, coverage is getting cruder, with more tendency to report opinions as if they were news, and substitute prejudices for real analysis.

... There’s a pretty good chance that we will end up with only one great national newspaper.
Call it the Rupert Murdoch Effect.

Jobs First, Then the Deficit

Politico receives its share of scorn, most of it richly deserved. The columnists dwell on cocktail circuit trivialities, their attention spans are short, and their insights are conventional, to be generous. Ideas that take more than a paragraph to express are not their forte.

But let me point you to a collaborative column by David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office and a deficit hawk, and Lawrence Mishel, President of the liberalish Economic Policy Institute, which is running on Politico right now.
President Barack Obama is in a difficult position when it comes to deficits. Today's high deficits will have to go even higher to help address unemployment. At the same time, many Americans are increasingly concerned about escalating deficits and debt. What's a president to do?

The answer, from a policy perspective, is not that hard: A focus on jobs now is consistent with addressing our deficit problems ahead.

The difficulty is that many politicians and news organizations often cast deficit debates as a dichotomy: You either care about them or you don’t.

But this is rarely accurate. The fact that the two of us, who have philosophical differences on the proper role of government, find much to agree on about deficits is a testament to the importance of dropping this useless dichotomy and finally talking about deficits in a reasonable way.

As in every economic downturn, federal revenues have fallen steeply because individuals and corporations earn less in a recession. High unemployment also results in higher expenditures for safety net programs, like Medicaid, unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Not surprisingly then, a huge recession can yield a huge deficit. Efforts to put people back to work and help restore the economy, like the recovery package passed last February, can also increase short-term deficits.


That’s why we agree that job creation must be a short-term priority. Job creation plans must be targeted so we can get the greatest return on investment. They must be timely, creating jobs this year and next. And they must be big enough to substantially fill the enormous jobs hole we’re in. They must also be temporary — affecting the deficit only in the next couple of years, without exacerbating our large and growing structural deficits in later years.

Funding key investment and infrastructure projects to promote economic growth and offering a job creation tax credit are among the policy ideas that meet all these standards. In addition, temporarily renewing extended unemployment benefits can lead to more jobs throughout the economy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Garrison Tells It Like It Is

Thanks to my sister, Kay, for sending this column from Garrison Keillor.
It is a large moment for Democrats, learning to stick with a good man through a rough period when the people who crave disillusionment have become disillusioned. It's like a winter vacation in the Caribbean when it rains buckets and you eat some bad shellfish and a shrieky teenager says you've ruined her life forever. You smile, take a shower and organize a volleyball game. You have to work at it. It's work.
The rest is here, and manages to wrap in Sarah Palin, Warren Beatty ("15 women, maybe 18, 25 tops"), and J.D. Salinger.

In his following column, Keillor has the same take on the Tea Party folks that I do, only funnier, and well written.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's Happening in Afghanistan?

Kudos to the NY Times for its reporting in the past couple of weeks on the operations around Marja, Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold. This assessment of how the Afghan troops are doing seems even-handed, if pessimistic.

Do you think C.J. Chivers is hoping to have something to do with getting Captain Amanullah replaced? The Captain would do well in Chicago politics.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Take 30 Seconds to Learn and Laugh

Apropos of nothing, I came across this little Indian commercial. You might have to pause the video to read the explanation of the vermilion dot at the beginning – it goes by faster than I could read it.

All Things Pakistan

There is a large Pakistani community in Chicago, though I suspect not as large as it was before September 11, 2001. When they came to the Social Security office, Pakistani males seemed, as often as not, to be verbally abusive toward the female employees, though merely contemptuous of the males. They were also heavily involved in efforts to "game the system" to obtain Social Security numbers they should not have.

So you see, I did not have a high opinion of the Pakistanis I came into contact with. The fact that the Pakistan government played footsie with the Taliban for so long did nothing to improve my opinion.

That's changing now due to blog called All Things Pakistan. If you go there now, you'll find a funny recipe for a dish called rice masala. The author writes in a pre-Fannie Farmer (i.e., pre-standardized measure) world for people who don't usually cook (Pakistani men?).

Most of the posts are about Pakistani culture and politics, and are a window into a world I don't know anything about. The poly sci major in me finds it pretty fascinating.

But I got off the track at the very beginning of this post, because what I wanted to do was share this little video I found there:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Don't miss this NY Times story about the Tea Party movement.

I've been pretty dismissive about them until now, thinking they'll get tired of it all in a year or two. Here's a story about a somewhat similar movement in France that went nowhere.

But these people are living in an alternate universe.

They're anti-tyranny. Here's proof:
At a Tea Party protest in Las Vegas, Joe Heck, a Republican running for Congress, blamed both the Democratic and Republican Parties for moving the country toward “socialistic tyranny.” In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican seeking re-election, threw his support behind the state sovereignty movement. And in Indiana, Richard Behney, a Republican Senate candidate, told Tea Party supporters what he would do if the 2010 elections did not produce results to his liking: “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.”
They're against the tyranny of democracy, I guess.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Land of Lincoln – 21st Century Edition

This from Talking Points Memo:
The little-known pawnbroker who won this week's Democratic primary election for Illinois lieutenant governor was arrested in 2005 after his prostitute girlfriend alleged that he put a knife to her throat and pushed her against the wall -- an incident that could create a major headache for Governor Pat Quinn.

Scott Lee Cohen denies that he laid a hand on the woman, and says he didn't know she was a prostitute -- he thought she just worked in a massage parlor.
Where do we get these creeps? What is it about these guys (John Edwards, David Vitter, John Ensign, this cretin) that makes them think they're doing us some kind of favor by running for elective office? It seems like the only people who are ashamed are their poor families.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Between 20% and 50% Insane or Stupid

Bruce Bartlett is one of those Reagan wiz-kids who started this country on it's 30-year decline. Now he's shocked at what he's done.

According to Bartlett: "I can only conclude from this new poll of 2003 self-identified Republicans nationwide that between 20% and 50% of the party is either insane or mind-numbingly stupid."

He might be underestimating. Take a look at those poll results.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Tomorrow's Election

Today's Gail Collins column had an interesting note at the bottom it:

This column appeared exclusively in the Web edition of The New York Times on February 1, 2010.

It was a better column about tomorrow's election in Illinois than I've seen anywhere, including the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times. Hey, those papers have to try to survive in Chicago. Gail Collins doesn't.

Collins failed to mention that we've got former Governor Blagojevich's sister-in-law running for office, too. She is another daughter of the Chicago councilman that helped put Blago into office in the first place.

The local television and radio stations should have a very nice rainy-day fund by now, considering all the political ads they've been running, and they're nearly all negative, of course. There are some real crack-pots running for office (the Republicans) and some real sleeze-balls (the Democrats). It's a tough choice (not).

What a wonderful city.

Races to watch:

Does Mark Kirk (R) get skunked by the Tea Party candidate in the Republican Senatorial primary? (I doubt it.)

Does Joe Laiacona beat Deb Mell (the sister-in-law) for State Representative? (I doubt it. This is Chicago.)

Does Alexi Giannoulias, the 33-year-old "bank executive" whose bank is under federal oversight, get the Democratic Senatorial nomination to take Obama's seat? Is this the best the Democratic Party can offer up?

Does Dan Hynes, who went negative from Day 1 and gave the Repugnants lots of ammunition to use against his opponent, should the opponent win, beat Pat Quinn, who took the governor's chair when Blago was booted?

Oh, it's just too ugly.