Daily Archive: October 13, 2012

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Europe: Up or down in flames?

Oh, boy.  I thought pre-emptively awarding Obama the Nobel Pleas Prize was the feeblest, most child-like display of “please, daddy, don’t euthanize Fluffy the Furniture Slayer,” imaginable, and then the fucking pig farmers hand one to the economic collapse known as Europe, which means bombs are being autographed as I type.   Don’t say you didn’t have a seat at the table of this end-of-growth, post-industrial horror show.  How ’bouts we start off this nine-course, debt-deflationary extravaganza with some tasty civil wars in the peripheries as central bankers tighten their sphincters around your neck? Talk about a kiss of death…  

Fairy Tale Artists

Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can’t be objective about Nixon.- Stockton

Martha Raddatz and the faux objectivity of journalists

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Friday 12 October 2012 09.01 EDT

At best, “objectivity” in this world of journalists usually means nothing more than: the absence of obvious and intended favoritism toward either of the two major political parties. As long as a journalist treats Democrats and Republicans more or less equally, they will be hailed – and will hail themselves – as “objective journalists”.

But that is a conception of objectivity so shallow as to be virtually meaningless, in large part because the two parties so often share highly questionable assumptions and orthodoxies on the most critical issues. One can adhere to steadfast neutrality in the endless bickering between Democrats and Republicans while still having hardcore ideology shape one’s journalism.

The highly questionable assumptions tacitly embedded in the questions Raddatz asked illustrate how this works, as does the questions she pointedly and predictably did not ask.



That Iran is some major national security issue for the US is a concoction of the bipartisan DC class that always needs a scary foreign enemy. The claim is frequently debunked in multiple venues. But because both political parties embrace this highly ideological claim, Raddatz does, too. Indeed, one of the most strictly enforced taboos in establishment journalism is the prohibition on aggressively challenging those views that are shared by the two parties. Doing that makes one fringe, unserious and radical: the opposite of solemn objectivity.

Most of Raddatz’s Iran questions were thus snugly within this bipartisan framework. At one point, she even chided Biden for appearing to suggest that Iran may not be actively pursuing a nuclear weapon: “You are acting a little bit like they don’t want one”.



In sum, all of Raddatz’s questions were squarely within the extremely narrow – and highly ideological – DC consensus about US foreign policy generally and Iran specifically: namely, Iran is a national security threat to the US; it is trying to obtain nuclear weapons; the US must stop them; the US has the unchallenged right to suffocate Iranian civilians and attack militarily. As usual, the only question worth debating is whether a military attack on Iran now would be strategically wise, whether it would advance US interests.

One can say many things about the worldview promoted by her questions. That it is “objective” or free of ideology is most certainly not one of them.

Exactly the same is true of Raddatz’s statements and questions about America’s entitlement programs.



That social security is “going broke” – a core premise of her question – is, to put it as generously as possible, a claim that is dubious in the extreme. “Factually false” is more apt. This claim lies at the heart of the right-wing and neo-liberal quest to slash entitlement benefits for ordinary Americans – Ryan predictably responded by saying: “Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.” – but the claim is baseless.



That Medicare is “going broke” is as dubious and controversial a claim as the one about social security. Numerous economists and fact-checking journalists have documented quite clearly why this claim is misleading in the extreme.

Yet this claim has also become DC orthodoxy. That is because, as the economist Dean Baker has explained, “Social security and Medicare are hugely important for the security of the non-rich population of the United States,” and “for this reason” many Washington media outlets and think tanks “hate them”.

Nonetheless, Raddatz announced this assertion as fact. That’s because she’s long embedded in the DC culture that equates its own ideological desires with neutral facts.



That is what this faux journalistic neutrality, whether by design or otherwise, always achieves. It glorifies highly ideological claims that benefit a narrow elite class (the one that happens to own the largest media outlets which employ these journalists) by allowing that ideology to masquerade as journalistic fact.

These establishment journalists are creatures of the DC and corporate culture in which they spend their careers, and thus absorb and then regurgitate all of the assumptions of that culture. That may be inevitable, but having everyone indulge the ludicrous fantasy that they are “objective” and “neutral” most certainly is not.

The Normalization of Political Depravity

It was a bright, cold day on the campaign trail, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

In The Lyin’ King, Denis Campbell observes that Mitt Romney has repeatedly told more than 700 lies since he began campaigning for president in 2011 . . .

Mitt Romney is nearly to China with his digging now.  When even National Public Radio, the mildest, least controversial of any network leads with “Romney Goes On Offense, Pays For It In First Wave Of Fact Checks,” you know you are in trouble.

But Romney was right out of trouble again when the media shifted rapidly from exposing his lies to characterizing his deceit-saturated debate performance as “strong” and “commanding.”  The Romney/Ryan campaign’s calculated decision to blatantly lie their way to Election Day and the media’s subsequent abandonment of all journalistic responsibility are only the latest examples of how political depravity has been normalized by the politicians complicit in it and the “journalists” who cover political campaigns.    

Political depravity is the new normal.  Bush v. Gore legalized it, the Patriot Act compels submission to it, Citizen’s United. makes it permanent.  Americans are being subjected to blatant voter suppression, massive surveillance, a vast expansion of police power, and relentless government violations of the Bill of Rights. Obama is further to the right than Nixon was, the Wall Street/corporate establishment has absolute control over Congress and the courts, journalism is dead, unions are dying, and we’re all on a one-way ride to serfdom on the Austerity Express.    

One would think that Republicans would be satisfied.

They’re not.

Billionaire Thinks Raising His Taxes Is a Dumb Policy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Last week, Bill De Blasio, New York City’s Public Advocate and possible mayoral candidate, proposed raising taxes on NYC residents making over $500,000 to provide funds for “more pre-kindergarten classes and after-school activities for students in grades six through eight”:

Mr. de Blasio argued that improvements in early childhood education were critical to improving the city’s long-term economy and its middle class. He estimated that the new programs would cost about $500 million, which could be generated through a small tax surcharge on New Yorkers who earn $500,000 or more. [..]

A person earning $1 million in annual income would pay an additional $2,120 under Mr. de Blasio’s plan, which was modeled after a similar surcharge used to hire new police officers under a 1990s anticrime initiative of Mayor David N. Dinkins, Mr. de Blasio’s former employer. Any new surcharge would require approval by the State Legislature.

New York’s three term billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg was horrified stating that Mr. De Blasio’s proposal was “about as dumb a policy as I can think of.”

Capital New York reports that Bloomberg– whose net worth as the country’s 10th richest person increased from $22 billion to $25 billion over the course of six months this year— responded to a question Monday about de Blasio’s tax, saying, “Well if you want to drive out the 1 percent of the people that pay roughly 50 percent of the taxes, or the 10 percent of the people that pay 70-odd percent of the taxes, that’s as good a strategy as I know. That’s exactly the ways to do it, and then our revenue would go away, and we wouldn’t be able to have cops to keep us safe, firefighters to rescue us, teachers to educate our kids.”

Mayor Bloomberg has flip-flopped from his position in 2008 backing NY State Governor David Paterson’s tax on millionaires:

I can only tell you, among my friends, I’ve never heard one person say I’m going to move out of the city because of the taxes. Not one. Not in all the years I’ve lived here. You know, they can complain, ‘Ugh, I got my tax bill, it’s heavy.’ But my friends all want to live here.

The “good” Mayor has been in England, where he maintains a home and a business, addressing Britain’s governing Conservative Party on Wednesday. He compared his governing style to the right wing austerity government of Prime Minister David Cameron:

Mr. Bloomberg noted that both he and Mr. Cameron had taken office amid crises – the mayor in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the prime minister during the world economic crash.

Mr. Bloomberg said he and Mr. Cameron had each made difficult decisions on the economy, a reference to the sweeping austerity measures Mr. Cameron has introduced. Balancing his own city budget, Mr. Bloomberg said, involved “raising taxes and cutting spending, and let me tell you, that didn’t make me the most popular man in New York.” [..]

Conservative officials, who have felt hampered by their coalition government with a liberal party here, also expressed admiration for the New York police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, who visited London before the Olympic Games this summer. “They run things a bit like we’d like to,” one official said, “if we didn’t have to worry about inconveniences like compromise.

The British conservatives would love to be able to crack down o civil liberties as Bloomberg and his private army, the New York Police Department, has. What our world traveling mayor failed to point out to his austerian buddies was that NYC’s rich make 40 times more that the average poor person living in the city. Nor would he have mentioned that NYC’s poverty rate reached its highest point in a decade rivaling some Sub-Saharan countries:

Median household income in the city last year was $49,461, just below the national median and down $821 from the year before (compared with a national decline of $642). Median earnings for workers fell sharply to $32,210 from $33,287 – much more than the national decline.)

New Yorkers at the bottom end of the income spectrum lost ground, while those at the top gained.

Median income for the lowest fifth was $8,844, down $463 from 2010. For the highest, it was $223,285, up $1,919.

In Manhattan, the disparity was even starker. The lowest fifth made $9,681, while the highest took home $391,022. The wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites made more than 40 times what the lowest fifth reported, a widening gap (it was 38 times, the year before) surpassed by only a few developing countries, including Namibia and Sierra Leone.

It is well past time that taxes on the wealthiest were raised, and not in just New York City. Richard (RJ) Eskow thinks the tax rates for the highest earners should be doubled:

Forget the “Buffett rule.” It’s not enough. What’s more, “letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich” isn’t enough either — although it might get us halfway there.

As for that “Simpson Bowles” so-called “deficit reduction” plan: It’s a hoax, another ploy to give the ultra-rich yet another huge tax cut — unless you believe that the lobbying fairy will magically grant a wish that’s never been granted before: an end to billionaires’ loopholes.

If you buy that — which I don’t — then the plan’s just grossly unfair.

The real moment of truth Washington won’t face is this one: It’s time to admit that we can’t rebuild our economy — or balance the Federal budget — without raising taxes on the very wealthy. That’s what Simpson, Bowles, and all their highly-funded friends won’t tell you: We need to raise their taxes a lot.

And by “a lot,” I mean doubling them.

Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about imposing sharp increases on incomes over $250,000 or even $500,000, at least not until the economy’s healthier. At those levels an expiration of the Bush tax cuts would probably be enough. But once you hit income of a million dollars a year and over, we should go back to the higher tax rates that were in place for millionaires during the Nixon years.

Not a bad idea, at least until the economy has stabilized and there is a handle on regulating Wall St.

Oh and Mr. Bloomberg, do NYC a favor, resign and stay in England.

Cartnoon

This weekend we’re going back Marty.  Back to Super Marionation!

OK, so I’m a huge sucker for Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and cheesy not-so-low-budget Speculative Fiction.  This is episode 1 of 26 UFO episodes some of which are currently available on YouTube.

UFO Episode 1- Identified (Part 1 of 4)

Parts 2 through 4 below the fold.

Living in a World of Idiots

You should never take psychological tests as a parlor game.  I was with some friends and when they got to the analysis of my answers the scoring guide said- “How does it feel to live in a world full of idiots?”

Smuggish Thoughts (Self-indulgent)

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

October 12, 2012, 1:40 pm

It is a truth not universally acknowledged that it’s possible to be a highly successful academic and still have a somewhat fragile sense of self-worth. You get your papers published, you get tenure, maybe you win some prizes; all this says that your colleagues believe that your stuff is right, that you really do know something about your subject. But do you really? Or are you just good at self-marketing?

Some, maybe many, academics don’t care; they’ve carved out a nice career and life, so it’s all good. But if you are truly serious about your work as opposed to your career, the question of whether your knowledge is real is always with you.



‘ve had a wonderful career, getting all the major gongs, yet as late as 2008 it was still possible for that small self-doubting voice in my head to whisper that being a facile modeler and a pretty good writer might not mean that I really knew how the world works.



Well, events provided an acid test. If you believed in the little models I and others were using, you made some very striking predictions about how the world would work post-crisis – predictions that were very much at odds with what other people were saying. You predicted that trillion-dollar deficits would not drive up interest rates; that tripling the monetary base would not be inflationary; that cuts in government spending, rather than helping the economy by increasing confidence, would hurt by depressing demand, with bigger effects than in normal, non-liquidity trap times.

And the people on the other side of these issues weren’t just academics, they were major-league policy makers and famous investors.

And guess what: the models seem to work. It appears that I wasn’t just a successful self-marketer, that I really did and do know something.

So that’s great – except that it turns out that one form of anxiety has just been replaced with another. It’s great to have confirmation that you weren’t just playing career games; it is, however, not just frustrating but terrifying to watch decision-makers ignore all the hard-won evidence and knowledge, and repeat the mistakes of the 1930s. The good news is that I’m not Sammy Glick; the bad news is that I’m Cassandra.

Triumph of the Wrong?

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: October 11, 2012

The latest devastating demonstration of that wrongness comes from the International Monetary Fund, which has just released its World Economic Outlook, a report combining short-term prediction with insightful economic analysis. This report is a grim and disturbing document, telling us that the world economy is doing significantly worse than expected, with rising risks of global recession. But the report isn’t just downbeat; it contains a careful analysis of the reasons things are going so badly. And what this analysis concludes is that a disproportionate share of the bad news is coming from countries pursuing the kind of austerity policies Republicans want to impose on America.

O.K., it doesn’t say that in so many words. What the report actually says is: “Activity over the past few years has disappointed more in economies with more aggressive fiscal consolidation plans.” But that amounts to the same thing.

For leading Republicans have very much tied themselves to the view that slashing spending in a depressed economy – “fiscal consolidation,” in I.M.F.-speak – is good, not bad, for job creation. Soon after the midterm elections, the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives issued a manifesto on economic policy – titled, “Spend less, owe less, grow the economy” – that called for deep spending cuts right away and pooh-poohed the whole notion that fiscal consolidation (yes, it used the same term) might deepen the economy’s slump. “Non-Keynesian effects,” the manifesto declared, would make everything all right.

Well, that turns out not to be remotely true. What the monetary fund shows is that the countries pursing the biggest spending cuts are also the countries that have experienced the deepest economic slumps. Indeed, the evidence suggests that in brushing aside the standard view that spending cuts hurt the economy in the short run, the G.O.P. got it exactly wrong. Recent spending cuts appear to have done even more harm than most analysts – including those at the I.M.F. itself – expected.

Which brings us to the question of what form economic policies will take after the election.



Republicans, however, are committed to an economic doctrine that has proved false, indeed disastrous, in other countries. Nor are they likely to change their views in the light of experience. After all, facts haven’t gotten in the way of Republican orthodoxy on any other aspect of economic policy. The party remains opposed to effective financial regulation despite the catastrophe of 2008; it remains obsessed with the dangers of inflation despite years of false alarms. So it’s not likely to give up its politically convenient views about job creation.

And here is where Herr Doktor Professor makes what lambert strether calls a “category error”.  Everything he says about Republicans is equally true of Barack Obama and the Democrats.

On This Day In History October 13

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 13 is the 286th day of the year (287th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 79 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1792, the cornerstone for the White House in laid in Washington, DC.

In 1800, President John Adams became the first president to reside in the executive mansion, which soon became known as the “White House” because its white-gray Virginia freestone contrasted strikingly with the red brick of nearby buildings.

Architectural competition

The President’s house was a major feature of Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant’s’s plan for the newly established federal city, Washington, D.C. The architect of the White House was chosen in a design competition, which received nine proposals, including one submitted anonymously by Thomas Jefferson. The nation’s first president, George Washington, traveled to the site of the federal city on July 16, 1792, to make his judgment. His review is recorded as being brief, and he quickly selected the submission of James Hoban, an Irishman living in Charleston, South Carolina. Washington was not entirely pleased with the original Hoban submission, however; he found it too small, lacking ornament, and not fitting the nation’s president. On Washington’s recommendation, the house was enlarged by thirty percent; the present East Room, likely inspired by the large reception room at Mount Vernon, was added.

Construction

Construction of the White House began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792, although there was no formal ceremony. The main residence, as well as foundations of the house, were built largely by enslaved and free African-American laborers, as well as employed Europeans. Much of the other work on the house was performed by immigrants, many not yet with citizenship. The sandstone walls were erected by Scottish immigrants, employed by Hoban, as were the high relief rose and garland decorations above the north entrance and the “fish scale” pattern beneath the pediments of the window hoods. The initial construction took place over a period of eight years, at a reported cost of $232,371.83 ($2.8 million in 2007 dollars). Although not yet completed, the White House was ready for occupancy on or circa November 1, 1800.

Shortages, including material and labor, forced alterations to the earlier plan developed by French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant for a “palace” that was five times larger than the house that was eventually built.] The finished structure contained only two main floors instead of the planned three, and a less costly brick served as a lining for the stone facades. When construction was finished the porous sandstone walls were coated with a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein, and lead, giving the house its familiar color and name.

As it is a famed structure in America, many replicas of the White House have been constructed.

Bean

Heart Shaped Box

Hah.  The hottest band in the world at the peak of my DJ career.  Did anybody dance?

No!

Rock hates Republicans.

Did Paul Ryan “borrow” story about his daughter from Kurt Cobain?

by John Aravosis, Americablog

10/12/2012 12:08pm

Ryan is reportedly a Nirvana fan, the band that Kurt Cobain started and starred in. We’re to believe this is just a coincidence? Maybe.  Or maybe Paul Ryan plagiarized the story about his daughter?

What’s more likely is that Ryan named his daughter Bean because Cobain named his daughter Bean. But that wouldn’t have made a very good right-wingy story, for Ryan to explain that he named his kid after a grunge rock star who killed himself. Or even to say that the name was inspired by Cobain. So, better to borrow Cobain’s story and not even mention it.

Keep in mind that while it’s entirely possible that Paul Ryan had his “Bean” experience without knowing of Cobain’s, Ryan has a history of making up personal stories to embellish his image.  There was the time he claimed he climbed 40 of the Rocky Mountains.  Or the time he claimed to have run a marathon under three minutes.



And who can forget Ryan’s claim to have 6% body fat.  When you consider the source, it’s a valid question to ask.

So, even Paul Ryan’s most intimate part of the debate, talking about his Catholicism and abortion beliefs, might be phony.

Popular Culture 20121012: Rituals for the Deceased

I originally was going to write about the new Dark Shadows motion picture, but circumstances have intervened.  It turns out that my dear friend’s mum’s twin brother died either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, alone except for his little dog.  My friend called me around 9:30 Thursday morning to go next door and try to comfort her mum, and I was honored to do so.

Her mum was a basket case.  She and her brother were Christmas Day babies, 65 years ago Christmas past.  I have a brother, but not a twin, and my brother and I are separated by 14 years.  She and her brother were separated by fewer than 14 minutes, so they grew up together.

I did comfort her, and she cried in my arms.  I could not do much except to try to let her know that I really care, and she appreciated that.  Now for the culture part.

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