Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Give 'Em Hell, Bill

Well, Obama seems to have cashed out on his second term. All his life he's been a compromiser, and the times call for a fighter. It's not bad to be a compromiser, but it's the wrong time, wrong place.

There are some people who understand this. One of them is a Congressman from New Jersey (!), Bill Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. His district covers a good part of Bergen County (Teaneck and Tenafly, but not Bergenfield or Hackensack), and parts of Passaic and Hudson Counties.

Yesterday he ripped a new one in the House Republicans:

I like this guy!

Why isn't Obama talking like this? [Obvious answer: "Because he's not from New Jersey."]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


God, I love the New York Times.

Today there's an op-ed piece called "Confronting the Legacies of Slavery," in which the author, a history professor at Duke, advocates providing reparations to Haiti and the Caribbean islands for the effects of slavery on those nations.

Now, this is a delicate issue, and "the right thing to do" is far from obvious, from my point of view. Whatever the merits for the Caribbean, the discussion obviously leads to the question of reparations for slavery in the United States. I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of many responses to the article, and the wide range of opinions. Some examples:

Oddly, the article never gets around to revealing how much Haiti actually paid France [to compensate slave holders for the loss of their "property"]. It was 90 million francs. While Haiti was paying France its 90 million francs, the international banking community was loaning Haiti billions of dollars, much of which the Duvaliers stole. In addition to the loans, Haiti has consumed billions in foreign aid over the past three decades. The United States has been servicing Haiti’s IDB debt since 2005. The world has contributed $2.4 billion of aid to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.
You don't hear the Jews asking for reparations from the Egyptians, but Holocaust survivors and their children have demanded and received various forms of reparations from Germany. The fact that expropriation of Jewish property was legal under the Nazis doesn't mean that it was "rewriting history" for the Jews to demand it back. And slavery in the Caribbean is much closer in time to the Holocaust than it is to slavery in ancient Egypt or Rome.
Should the Romans pay the Brits because they took over the Isles way back when? How far back are you willing to go? People have misbehaved for centuries... should Germany start paying reparations to Israel, to the French, to the Russians,to... the Italians? Should the mostly black slavers in Africa pay reparations? Should Japan pay reparations to China? What about the European nations, and the US, that fought over China at the end of the 19th century.... The historical ledger can never be made even. Sometimes it's better to face the future. I agree Haiti needs help, but let's base it on today's world.
Most Germans would agree that paying reparations to Israel, as the representative of the murdered Jewish people, was good for Germany. It could not erase the crimes, of course. But an attempt at their recognition was made, an attempt at penance and at a symbolic reconstitution of what was destroyed.

Of course money cannot restore a life taken, whether taken by murder or taken by slavery. But to pay it, and acknowledge and shoulder the guilt or responsibility (in the case of later generations), is the first step towards alleviation.

I think the Caribbean slavery issue comes up because it is the closest chronologically to our current time, where we have the moral and economic space to consider the issue of reparations. This wasn't a conversation that would have been possible, or even contemplated, in any previous era.

So it's progress in a way that this issue is taken seriously; which ever way it falls out, I doubt it's going to materially hurt or help any of the countries in question.

This all occurred a very long time ago. Isn't it time to let it go? Dredging up this sad situation constantly only deepens the wound and supports the hurt. In addition to exacerbating the problem it deepens the rift between races creating an us and them mentality. When will we realize that our ancestors all did reprehensible things and acted in their own best interest. I would hope we have grown from their examples and applied these lessons.

Obviously Not! Someone somewhere is bent on perpetuation of this stain on our history. Where will it stop? Even if every black in these "slave" states received a million dollars, it would be in the hands of the slick carpetbaggers in a matter of a few month. Things would return to the present state - only worse for the loss of that money.

The reparations argument never goes anywhere because it's intellectually incoherent. The claims are ridiculously time-barred, to begin with. They are also hopelessly remote. Caribbean descendants of slaves shouldn't get reparations for the same reason Americans of Irish descent, or of Korean descent, shouldn't. The slowly evolving norms of a society are not the same as a compensable injury.

Dr. Dubois' argument about "undoing the divisions created by colonialism" and "ending racial discrimination" are especially ironic since none of her supposed "victims" are actually indigenous to the Caribbean. Whether African or European or Asian, the human beings living in the Caribbean today are newcomers. The native people were wiped out -- they're the ones who have a claim, if anyone does. This is just a terrible fact of history. But if you start awarding reparations to one group or another for their injuries, then you necessarily bring this fact into contemporary light. 

An Expert is Anybody Who Agrees with ME!

Guess who the Wall Street Journal considers an expert in health care policy!

Here's a hint for those old enough to remember:

Don't miss the "Corrections and Amplifications" at the end of the article.

Har, har, har! Har, har, har!

I'd say that about does it for the WSJ, now to be called the Wall Street Fox News. [Or is it the Wall Street Onion?]

Rupert Murdoch, take your bow.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Well, This is Unexpected ...

A recent poll in Kansas shows Governor Sam Brownback losing to Democratic challenger Paul Davis, 43 percent to 39 percent.
Of those who voted for Brownback when he ran for Governor in 2010, just 59% stick with him in 2014, and 25% defect to the Democrats. Though today Brownback leads 2:1 among Republicans, he trails 11:1 among Democrats. Independents split. Northeast and Southeast Kansas both favor the Democratic ticket; Western Kansas favors the Republican ticket.
Of those voting for Brownback today, 65% say their mind is made up, compared to 29% who say they may change their mind. Of those voting for Davis today, 69% say their mind is made up, compared to 26% who say they may change their mind.
Okay, the election is still a year off, and that's a long, long time in politics. But this is Kansas!


Though there have been lots of stories about future Tea Party challenges to Republican Congressmen who voted to end the shut-down, don't miss the stories about how the folks back home in Tea Party Congressional districts are disgusted with their Congressional representatives.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Taylor was Popular in North Dakota in 1994

The Washington Post brings us six decades of the most popular girls' names in the United States, state-by-state. It's really interesting to watch – sort of an attack of the zombie Jennifers.

Hat tip to Andrew Tobias for the link.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crazy Is the New Normal

Have you seen this week's cover on Bloomberg Businessweek, with Ted Cruz as the Mad Hatter?

The cover says: "The Tea Party Won. Ted Cruz and his band of deadenders took the U.S. through the lookingglass. Now crazy is the new normal."

The guy really is creepy.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Krugman Reads Sempringham

Ah, would that it were so.

Perhaps you remember this post, in which I quoted Kevin Drum's observations about a Sean Hannity/Fox News hilarity.

Paul Krugman was as amused as Kevin:
The other day Sean Hannity featured some Real Americans telling tales of how they have been hurt by Obamacare. So Eric Stern, who used to work for Brian Schweitzer, had a bright idea: he actually called Hannity’s guests, to get the details.
Sure enough, the businessman who claimed that Obamacare was driving up his costs, forcing him to lay off workers, only has four employees — meaning that Obamacare has no effect whatsoever on his business. The two families complaining about soaring premiums haven’t actually checked out what’s on offer, and Stern estimates that they would in fact see major savings.
You have to wonder about the mindset of people who go on national TV to complain about how they’re suffering from a program based on nothing but what they think they heard somewhere. You might also wonder about what kind of alleged news show features such people without any check on their bona fides. But then again, consider the network.
Consider the network, indeed!

Maybe I'm wrong, but am I detecting a new willingness to take on the Tea Party zombies? Certainly not from the likes of Chuck Todd, of course, but maybe real newsmen/women? These clowns almost sent the country into default, and they're determined try again!

Tea Party Funders Freaking Out

‘Desperate’ donors tighten purse strings on right-wing groups and ‘self-immolating’ GOP (via Raw Story )

Hard times have arrived for the Republican Party and particularly for right-wing pressure groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Heritage Action and the one-time lavishly funded tea party PAC, FreedomWorks. According to a report in Politico, heavyweight…

Why Are the Democrats So Silent?

When you talk to people these days (I try not to, but sometimes I have to), you're very likely to hear the "government is too big" statement. More often than not, it's couched in something that sounds serious and thoughtful, like concern about entitlements. It's now conventional wisdom: government needs to be smaller.

This kind of stuff makes me want to scream. It's like people have some kind of fantasy that in the 21st century we can live like the pioneers. Or that left to their unregulated ways Exxon, Bank of America, the Koch Brothers, and all the rest would behave honorably, with the best interests of everyone in mind.

Come on. Let's get serious folks. We need a government that's big enough to do what we want and need it to do. No bigger, but just that big. And what the first three-quarters of the 20th century show is that putting our government to work on things has had some really good results.

Bill Moyers recently interviewed Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator for Financial Times. The whole interview is worth listening to, and I recommend it, but I wanted to highlight the concluding comments.
BILL MOYERS: Would you agree that despite what happened this week and the political victory that President Obama seems to have won, would you agree that the conservatives have really won the argument about government?
MARTIN WOLF: I think that is true. What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one.
It helped, but it didn't help enough because it wasn't big enough. And they're not making the argument that government has essential functions which everybody needs in the short run. Well, we can see that with the national parks. But also in the long run the strength of America has been built, in my perspective, particularly in the post war period, since the Second World War on the way that actually the public and private sectors have worked together with the government providing enormous support for research and development.
It's been the basic support of America's unique position in scientific research. You look at the National Institutes of Health which are the most important medical research institutions in the world, these are all products of the willingness of the United States to invest in the long term interest. Then there's the infrastructure, think of the highway program, which was the most important infrastructure project under the Republicans interestingly.
And those arguments seem to have been lost. So I am concerned that the government that I think Grover Norquist once said he wants to drown in the bath. If you drown your government in the bath in the modern world, we don't live in the early 19th century, it's a different world, that the long term health of the United States will be very badly affected.
It's strange to me that a government which has obviously achieved very important things, think of the role of the Defense Department in the internet, has achieved such important things, that's just one of many examples, it should be now regarded as nothing more than a complete nuisance. And the only thing you need to do is to cut it back to nothing.
And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don't fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it. So it's only a question of how much you cut and how you cut it rather than, "Well, what do we want government for? What are the good things about it? What are the bad things about it? How do we make it effective? And how do we ensure that it's properly financed?"
The Moyers web quotes a citation of Martin Wolf as “the premier financial and economics writer in the world.” He certainly seems sane to me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Speaking of Disintermediation ...

... as we did in the post below, here's a good example of how it works.

People who watch Fox News aren't particularly interested in facts; they're interested in hearing things that confirm their opinions and prejudices.

Which is convenient for Fox News, because they're not interested in facts at all; they're interested in advancing the zombie political agenda.

So we have things like this, highlighted by Kevin Drum:
This is hilarious in a pathetic kind of way: last Friday, Sean Hannity invited three "regular families" onto his show to relate their horror stories about premium hikes and business-killing regulations under Obamacare. Eric Stern decided to call all three of them to find out what was really going on.
Answer: nothing. One of them was apparently just lying, and the other two hadn't even checked the exchanges, where they would have found that they could get better coverage for considerably less than they're paying now.
That's just sad. Hannity runs a big-time show with well-paid producers, but they apparently couldn't find even a single true example of someone who got screwed by Obamacare. How hard can that be? Even liberals acknowledge that some people will end up worse off. But Hannity's staff couldn't be bothered. I guess he figures his audience doesn't really deserve any better.
 Personally, I think Drum gives Hannity far too much credit.

Whither the GOP?

I was going to write a thoughtful essay about where American politics may be going, but let's face it: I'm not all that thoughtful.  So here are three interesting takes on things.

Felix Salmon at Reuters:
The problem is that, pace Weisenthal, you can’t just kill someone’s revolutionary nihilism. The Ted Cruz “filibuster” is a great example: it served no actual legislative purpose, and at the end of his idiotically long speech, Cruz ended up voting yes on the very bill he was trying to kill. That’s zombie politics, and the problem with zombies is that — being dead already — they’re incredibly hard to kill.
The point here is that the zombie army, a/k/a the Tea Party, is a movement, not a person — and it’s an aggressively anti-logical movement, at that. You can’t negotiate with a zombie — and neither can you wheel out some kind of clever syllogism which will convince a group of revolutionary nihilists that it’s a bad idea to get into a fight if you’re reasonably convinced that you’re going to lose it.
Yes, the President has won an important battle against the zombies. But while it’s possible to win a zombie battle, it’s never possible to win a zombie war. No matter how many individual zombies you dispatch, there will always be ten more where they came from. The Tea Party doesn’t take legislative defeat as a signal that it’s doing something wrong: it takes it as a signal that nothing has really changed in Washington and that they therefore need to redouble their nihilistic efforts. Take it from me: come February, or March, or whenever we end up having to have this idiotic debt-ceiling fight all over again, the Tea Party will still be there, and will still be as crazy as ever. A bruised zombie, ultimately, is just a scarier zombie.
From a Talking Points Memo piece, FreedomWorks chief zombie, Matt Kibbe:
"I think that's a real possibility because you're seeing this clash between the new generation and — to me, it's not just the old wing of the Republican Party versus the new wing —you're really seeing a disintermediation  in politics. It's already happened with the Democratic Party," Kibbe said. "It's happening with the Republican Party now. And grassroots activists have an ability to self-organize, to fund candidates they're more interested in, going right around the Republican National Committee and senatorial committee."
"That's the new reality," he continued. "Everything's more democratized and Republicans should come to terms with that. They still wanna control things from the top down and if they do that, there will absolutely be a split. But my prediction would be that we take over the Republican Party and they go the way of the whigs."
The "disintermediation" comment is pretty interesting. There are middle men being cut out all over the place: in politics AND in news. That's not necessarily a good thing. In fact, it could be a very bad thing.

Finally, from the bedrock of the old Grand Old Party, the U. S. Chamber of Commerce:
A battle for control of the Republican Party has erupted as an emboldened Tea Party moved to oust senators who voted to reopen the government while business groups mobilized to defeat allies of the small-government movement. 
“We are going to get engaged,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness.” The chamber spent $35.7 million on federal elections in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks campaign spending.
Meanwhile, two Washington-based groups that finance Tea Party-backed candidates said yesterday they’re supporting efforts to defeat Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, who voted this week for the measure ending the 16-day shutdown and avoiding a government debt default. Cochran, a Republican seeking a seventh term next year, faces a challenge in his party’s primary from Chris McDaniel, a state senator.


From Agence France-Presse:
Indian police Friday arrested and questioned 33 people aboard a ship operated by a U.S. anti-piracy firm for carrying guns and ammunition in Indian waters without proper permits, reports said.
India’s coastguard stopped and detained the ship off the Indian coast on October 12 after discovering the cache of weapons and ammunition, before escorting it to the southern port of Tuticorin.
Police then launched an investigation into the 10 crew and 25 security guards of the Seaman Guard Ohio which is registered in Sierra Leone and belongs to the U.S.-based maritime security firm AdvanFort.
The 35, who include British, Estonian, Ukrainian and Indian nationals, were detained on Friday over the stash of some 35 assault rifles and around 5,600 rounds of ammunition, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
The incident comes after a furore erupted in India last year over the shooting deaths of two Indian fishermen allegedly by two Italian marines off the coast of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala.
I suppose this is the equivalent of a bank hiring armed guards, but it surprised me anyway.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Malala Yousafzai

Sempringham readers are intelligent and well-read, so there's no need to explain this young lady's background. But I had to keep reminding myself that she is saying these things even though the scum of the earth shot her in the face.

Not only that, but she would strongly object to my calling them the scum of the earth.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And the Fur Flies

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don't miss McCain's reaction to Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) saying McCain supported Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Something Different

You may have heard the story about a young Florida girl in named Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who was harassed and bullied by other girls to the point that she committed suicide by jumping off a water tower.

Two arrests have been made in the case. I thought this press conference was remarkable. I have to say I share the sheriff's disgust with the girls' parents.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Now THAT's a Storm!

Tropical Cyclone Phailin, currently in the Bay of Bengal, will make landfall in northeast India tomorrow. Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog tells the story:
Very dangerous Tropical Cyclone Phailin, in the North Indian Ocean's Bay of Bengal, has put on an impressive burst of rapid intensification, going from a tropical storm with 65 mph winds to a formidable Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds in just twelve hours. Satellite estimates of Phailin's strength at 8 am EDT ranged as high as 135 mph. Satellite images show that Phailin, whose name means "a sapphire" in Thai, continues to intensify. The cloud tops of the very intense thunderstorms in the eyewall are expanding and cooling, showing that their updrafts are growing stronger and pushing the clouds higher into the atmosphere. Water temperatures are warm, 28 - 29°C, and the ocean heat content is very high, 80 - 100 kJ/cm^2--a level often associated with rapid intensification. With wind shear low, Phailin should be able to continue to intensify until an eyewall replacement cycle begins. It is very difficult for a tropical cyclone to maintain an eye diameter less than ten miles across before the inner core grows unstable and the eyewall collapses, with a new, larger-diameter eyewall forming from an outer spiral band. This process typically weakens the top winds of a tropical cyclone by 5 - 15 mph, but spreads hurricane-force winds over a larger area of ocean, resulting a larger storm surge, but less wind damage. With Phailin's eye diameter already down to a tiny 9 miles, an eyewall replacement cycle is likely to occur by Friday morning.

The models are in tight agreement that Phailin will track northwest into the northeast coast of India, with landfall expected to occur between 06 - 12 UTC on Saturday. The 11 am EDT Thursday forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts that Phailin will peak as a top-end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds 12 hours before landfall
Dr. Masters provides a list of the 35 Deadliest Tropical Cyclones in World History.  So far, only one has been in the 21st century.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Just the Crazies Like Them Now

Kevin Drum, in a post titled Nobody Sane Likes the Republican Party Anymore:
I've been reading all day that Republican favorability ratings plummeted in the latest Gallup poll, but I didn't think much of it. After all, favorability ratings for both parties have been pretty low for a while. But when I finally clicked through to look at the actual numbers, it was a lot more dramatic than I thought:

Wow. Republican favorability ratings have been hovering within a few points of 40 percent ever since 2006. Then Ted Cruz mounted his filibuster, Republicans starting threatening to crash the economy, and their favorability crashed ten points to 28 percent, the lowest in history. As we all know, the Crazification Factor is 27 percent, which means that literally nobody sane approves of the Republican Party any longer.
This demonstrates a surprising amount of common sense among average Americans. In a way, I'm heartened.
This really is amazing. I almost hope they keep it up.

Jon Stewart

Chicago Ted says he often doesn't get a chance to see The Daily Show, so this one's for him, especially considering Ripley's digestive issues.

Here it is.

How the GOP Lost the 2016 Election, According to Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a man without a party.

His Republican credentials are impeccable. An aide to Ron Paul in 1976, he went to work for Jack Kemp the next year. Later he was an aide to Iowa Senator Roger Jepsen. When Jepsen became chairman of the Joint Economic Committee in 1983, Bartlett became it's Executive Director.

He was big in the 1980's supply-sider circles, publishing two books on the subject. In 1987 he became a senior policy advisor in the Reagan White House, and the next year was a deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at George H.W. Bush's Treasury Department.

But since then he's been something of a gadfly for the Republicans. In 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis – a right-wing "think tank" [tee-hee, snicker, snicker] fired him for being critical of George W. Bush's economic policies. The next year he published a book called, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, which compared Bush to Richard Nixon, claiming they both abandoned conservative principles.

By the end of the George W. Bush Administration, it was clear that his mind had opened to "new" ideas. In The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, Bartlett defended his dalliance in supply-side economics, but – in the depths of GWB's Great Recession – he found reasons to praise Keynsians. This year he wrote in The American Conservative that "no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy's problems than Paul Krugman."

So Bruce Bartlett is a liberal's favorite conservative: one whose opinions can be influenced by empirical evidence (a/k/a: the facts).

Why all this run-up? Because Bartlett has recently written a very interesting series of articles on the history of the Republican Party since World War II. In order, they are:

The 1963 March on Washington Changed Politics Forever

How the March on Washington Flipped the Southern Vote

How the South Won the GOP and Lost the 2016 Election 

I would quibble with much of it, but having a coherent Republican perspective is refreshing.

If you can get interested in this sort of thing, I recommend them highly. If you can't, I don't.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


Washington, D.C. – A Grey-Haired Sane Republican (Sanus Republicanus), a species not seen in years, and which most Americans had assumed to be extinct, has been sighted in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Experts across the country were skeptical of early reports of the sighting, intimating that uneducated amateurs were behind them. Sanus Republicanus shares some characteristics with Tertio Modo Democratus (popularly known as Third-Way Democrats), they argued, and an untrained eye could easily confuse them.

The arguments ended, however, when this video of a Sanus Republicanus in its natural habitat was presented at this year's annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).

Although the specimen is undeniably a Grey-Haired Sane Republican, experts are no less concerned about the viability of the species. This is, after all, only one. A special committee of the APSA is formulating plans for a breeding program, should a female of the species ever appear.

And In Other News ...

President Barack Obama is apparently a direct descendant of John Punch, "the first documented African enslaved for life in American history."

"How can this be," you ask? "His father was Kenyan, not an African-American with 400 years of family history in this country."

And you're right. He's related through his mother!

This really is quite a country.

What Hath Reagan Wrought?

Kevin Drum on default:
How do you get across how insurrectionary this is? Raising the debt ceiling isn't a concession from Republicans that deserves a corresponding concession from Democrats. It's the financial equivalent of a nuclear bomb: both sides will go up in smoke if it's triggered. Ditto for the government shutdown. And ditto again for the piecemeal spending bills, which are basically a way for Republicans to fund only the parts of government they like but not anything else.
You can't govern a country this way. You can't allow a minority party to make relentless demands not through the political system, but by threatening Armageddon if they don't get what they want. It's not what the Constitution intended; it's not something any president could countenance; and it's reckless almost beyond imagining.

And most important of all, it's not something that should get written about as if it's just a modest escalation of normal political disagreements. It's not normal. At all. But how do you get this across? How do you get across just how non-normal it is that we're even talking about it?
Here goes your IRA:

Source: NY Times
If U.S. Government debt isn't secure, nothing is secure. Hold on to your hats, folks. Happy landing.

Articles Worth Reading

There have been some worthwhile articles about why we shouldn't be playing footsie with default:
Yale's Balkin explained on his Balkinization blog in June 2011: "Section 4 targets the worry that, once fully readmitted to the Union, senators and representatives from Southern states ... would deliberately refuse to repay debts incurred in suppressing the confederate rebellion." Still, he continued, the provision "was stated in broad terms in order to prevent future majorities in Congress from repudiating the federal debt to gain political advantage, to seek political revenge, or to try to disavow previous financial obligations because of changed policy priorities."
If you're particularly interested in the legislative history of this part of the 14th Amendment, the Balkin blog post Parloff links to will satisfy you.
[A] point worth making is that U.S. government debt is the only risk-free asset in the world. That debt undergirds the entire world financial system — precisely because the whole world has such faith in it. There is always demand for U.S. government debt. Almost every other asset you can think of is in some way measured against it. A default would destabilize the market for Treasuries. And that, in turn, would likely destabilize every other asset

The stock market would fall. Interest rates would rise — meaning, for instance, mortgages would become more expensive just as the housing market is starting to revive. Treasuries themselves would likely have to pay higher interest to investors, which would create a rather sad irony: a default would exacerbate the country’s long-term debt (the very problem the Republicans claim to care about).
 There are more points worth making, and Nocera's column touches on them.
  •  The New York Times offers an editorial, The International Fallout, that outlines the damage the GOP has already caused to American interests overseas. A snippet:
The biggest foreign policy casualty, so far, may be the cancellation last week of President Obama’s trip to Asia, which the president’s press secretary said was necessary so he could deal with the shutdown and the political stalemate in Congress. Even though he sent Secretary of State John Kerry in his place, this was the third time that Mr. Obama had canceled or postponed a trip to Asia, further hampering his efforts to make the region a centerpiece of his foreign policy.
In Mr. Obama’s absence, China was able to grab the spotlight. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who became the first foreigner to address the Indonesian Parliament, offered billions of dollars in trade to that country. Mr. Xi then visited Malaysia (another stop President Obama had planned) and announced a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” including an upgrade in military ties. Mr. Obama should reschedule his trip as soon as he comfortably can.
The fiscal chaos has also given China, America’s largest creditor, an opportunity to scold the United States.
Think about that for a while: a President of the United States is unable to leave the country because the opposition party has the country in turmoil.


Monday, October 07, 2013

I Can Hardly Wait!

[Sorry, I decided to delete this post. It was supposed to be funny, but the longer it was there, the less funny it got.]

On the Importance of Commas

Thanks to Dave for sending on this gem:

Adding only one comma still doesn't work.

OMG! I Agree with Scalia!

Much is being made across the liberal blogs today of Justice Antonin Scalia's interview in New York Magazine. I didn't find a thing surprising about it.

The Raw Story summarizes:
When asked about his morning media consumption, he claimed to “skim” The Wall Street Journal and Washington Times, but that he had given up on the Washington Post because it “became so shrilly, shrilly liberal.”
He told Senior that the Internet has “coarsened” people. “You can’t go to a movie—or watch a television show for that matter—without hearing the constant use of the F-word—including, you know, ladies using it,” he said. “People that I know don’t talk like that! But if you portray it a lot, the society’s going to become that way.”
On the topic of homosexuality and his judicial opinions on it, he said that “I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual,” but that none have ever come out to him, possibly because of his strident belief in Catholic doctrine. He then taunted Senior, leaning in and telling her “I even believe in the Devil.”
When she expressed shock at his literal belief in Biblical text, Scalia responded, “he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.” He then volunteered that while the Devil no longer “mak[es] pigs run off cliff,” he’s still quite active: “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” [Shades of The Screwtape Letters – Semp.]
“You’re looking at me as though I’m weird,” he continued. “My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.”
Nothing surprising about any of that. For years, Scalia has been rumored to be a member of Opus Dei, for the love of Francisco Franco!

In liberal blogosphere articles about the interview, the fact that Scalia objects to vulgar language in Hollywood movies (see paragraph two in the above quote) is repeatedly held up as evidence of how wacko he is.

Well, I'm on that wacko bus, too. I'm not a Puritan; I know that in some movies it's important to have the characters talk like the guys in Cook County Jail. But it's so prevalent now, even in movies that are presumably aimed at children, that I'd say Mr. and Mrs. Cornfed in Nebraska are perfectly justified to be resentful of those weird, liberal Hollywood people ("Do they talk like that around their own children?"), and be considering home schooling.

Being liberal doesn't mean you have to have the vocabulary of a sailor. [Sorry, Mike.]

Friday, October 04, 2013

Here and There

• A group called House Majority PAC is running ads in the districts of "at risk" Republicans, making sure their constituents know where their Congressman stands in regards to the shutdown. You can find samples of them here.

• You might remember Wendy Davis, the photogenic state senator from Fort Worth, who filibustered the Texas legislature right up to its constitutional closing time to prevent an anti-abortion bill from passing. Davis got such a name recognition boost out of it that she's decided to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. She'd be a long-shot even if she got it, though. Her Republican opponent has money out the wazoo.

• From Politico [yech], a hint that Texas Senator Ted Cruz will not be named Most Popular by his Senate class:
... [A]s the government shutdown heads into day three, a number of Republican senators privately blame the Texas freshman for contributing to the mess their party finds itself in. And now that they’re in it, they say it’s up to Cruz to help find a solution.
“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” said one senator who attended the meeting. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch.” [My emphasis]
• I've written before that I am convinced the core principle of the post-1964 Republican Party is racism. Everything else – "smaller government," opposition to Obamacare, taxation issues – has its roots in that.

Kevin Drum has an interesting post that does not support my thesis, though it doesn't refute it either. It turns out that a unifying fear of the loons that listen to right-wing radio is: being called a racist.

• Not far of that mark, a new book called Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America reports:
We also ask if people think Obama is destroying the country. We asked this question of all self-identified conservatives. If you look at all conservatives, 35 percent believe that. If you look at tea party conservatives and non-tea party conservatives, only six percent of non-tea party conservatives believe that vs. 71 percent of tea party conservatives.
To which Ed Kilgore responds:
71% think Obama is “destroying the country.” Wow. So is it any great surprise that these same people, and the House members who identify with them, are willing to go to dangerous lengths to mess up Obama’s signature policy achievement and force a significant change in the federal government’s direction? Who cares about the risk of destroying the economy if the destruction of the country itself is the current trajectory?

The Report from Bull**** Mountain

Jon Stewart keeps an eye on Fox News so we don't have to. Also because, like Anthony Weiner, it's a never-ending source of comic chutzpah.

Sorry, can't get the video to post correctly, so why don't you mosey on over to Talking Points Memo and have a laugh.

Where Do These Bozos Come From?

Cruz, Gohmert, and now this "profile in courage,"  Randy Neugebauer, who confronts a Park Service Ranger and tells her she should be ashamed of herself for enforcing the shutdown he has helped cause.  The purpose of this is what? A photo op? Film to show back home of him single-handedly taking on the Gummint?

This, my friends, is about the level of the Republican Party right now. It's really sad. There used to be a time when respectable people could be Republicans, too.

Addendum: Vice President Biden called the Park Ranger and told her he was proud of her. So am I. She handled it perfectly.

Food for Fox Fantasies

It appears that the unfortunate woman whose erratic behavior (to put it mildly) in Washington D.C., resulted in her death yesterday was suffering from post-partum depression.

Talking Points Memo reports that she "had begun to suspect she was under government surveillance and that President Obama was stalking her."

How long do you think it will be before Fox reports this as though it might have been true? When will Darrell Issa hold hearings?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Connection Between Boehner and Fargo

Jonathan Chait is more and more convinced that 80 wacko Tea Partiers in Congress will force the U.S. Government, for the first time in history, to default on the national debt.
[House Speaker John] Boehner does not seem to share his party’s sociopathic embrace of hostage tactics. Boehner resembles William H. Macy’s character in Fargo, who concocts a simple plan to have his wife kidnapped and skim the proceeds, failing to think a step forward about what happens once she’s actually seized by violent criminals. He doesn’t intend for her to be harmed, but also has no ability to control the plan once he’s set it in motion. In the end, Boehner's Speakership is likely to end up in the wood chipper, anyway.
If there really are any Republicans left who are not stark, raving mad, they don't have much time to get control of their party back. It will be ugly, but it's gotta be done. There are, after all, some things more important than being reelected.

Jon Stewart Does the Shutdown

Most galling is the claim that "no Republican" ever supported a shutdown. If you think that might be true, 1) you need to pay more attention to current events, and 2) take a look at the Maddow video three posts down.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Smoke It if You've Got It

Oh, to hell with the Banana Republicans. There's always this:


The Tea Party buffoons are going "Tra-la-la, Tee-hee-hee, Hooray! We've shut down the Gummint! "

Meanwhile, Digby at Hullabaloo offers this:
The WSJ reports, via The Atlantic which calls it the saddest paragraph you will read all day:
At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.
 To which I offer:


And this: The blood dripping from John Boehner's hands on today's NY Daily News cover is not hyperbole.

The Purpose of the Shutdown

Rachel Maddow gets what most television news folks don't:  For the Banana Republicans, the government shutdown was an end in itself.

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Mitch McConnell: “The President’s more than willing to negotiate with Iranians, I don’t know why he wouldn’t be willing to negotiate with us.”
Jon Stewart: “If it turns out that President Barack Obama can make a deal with the most intransigent, hard-lined, unreasonable totalitarian mullahs in the world, but not the Republicans, maybe he’s not the problem.”

God Has Answered My Prayer about the GOP

"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one:

'O Lord, Make my enemies ridiculous.'

And God granted it."

– Voltaire

Does History Repeat Itself?

The year was 1975, and New York City was in dire financial straits. Mayor Abe Beame had a plan, but what the city needed was a $1 billion line of credit. Congress passed a bill authorizing such, but President Gerald Ford, under pressure from Republican Party conservatives, promised to veto the bill. The New York Daily News' headline is still talked about:

At the time it was considered a hard-hitting headline.  Today, not so much . . . especially when you consider this morning's Daily News front page:

Oh, my!