Thursday Mashup (3/21/13)

March 21, 2013
  • Last Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Gideon v. Wainright in which the High Court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires the states to provide defense attorneys to criminal defendants charged with serious offenses who cannot afford lawyers themselves (this was the basis for the great TV movie called “Gideon’s Trumpet” starring Henry Fonda – here).

    As noted here, though…

    The issue is by no means settled. In his recent New York Times editorial “The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50,” Lincoln Caplan contends that “After 50 years, the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright is mocked more of than fulfilled,” at times because of the lack of funding for public defender offices, in other cases due to incompetent counsel. He concludes, “There is no shortage of lawyers to do this work. What stands in the way is an undemocratic, deep-seated lack of political will.”

    Indeed – as noted here, Georgia shifted the burden of providing counsel to its 159 counties; this was an issue in particular for capital murder cases involving the death penalty (don’t know if it was an issue here or not) – apparently Georgia is responsible for more executions than any state except Texas (I think that’s what the author meant to say instead of “Houston”). And it’s not much better in the “Sunshine State” (here); New York State has issues also as noted here (lest anyone think I intend to pick on “red” states only).

    And from here

    The Supreme Court has carved out other exceptions to the right to counsel after an arrest. It has allowed law enforcement officials to have ex parte contacts with defendants to determine whether the defendant is in fact represented by counsel (sic). It has also allowed ex parte communications that are made with the consent of defendant’s counsel; those made pursuant to discovery procedures, such as subpoenas; communications in the course of a criminal investigation; communications necessary to protect the life or safety of another person; and those made by a represented person, so long as the person has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived the right to have counsel present. These exceptions apply to all persons, regardless of whether they can afford their own attorney.

    And as noted here

    No one wants to pay for more public defenders. Or, better put, few people in political power care enough about the gross injustices being done to poor people to spend more money trying to ensure they receive adequate representation. “Inadequate funding is the primary source of the systemic failure in indigent defense programs nationwide,” concluded Harvard Law School student David A. Simon in a thoughtful law review piece published a few years ago. “Of the more than $146.5 billion spent annually on criminal justice, over half is allocated to support the police officers and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute cases, while only about two to three percent goes toward indigent defense.”

    (Criminal justice experts Stephen B. Bright and Sia M. Sanneh) don’t just blame lawmakers. “Many judges tolerate or welcome inadequate representation because it allows them to process many cases in a short time,” they write. And the problem is made worse, they contend, because the “Supreme Court has refused to require competent representation, instead adopting a standard of ‘effective counsel’ that hides and perpetuates deficient representation.” Not only that, Simon adds, but the justices have “neglected to specify which level of government — federal, state or local — must serve as the guarantor” of the right to counsel nor the “method by which states should administer their public defender programs.” No one is responsible, in other words, because everyone is in charge.

    Let us hope that this HBO documentary, due to air this summer, helps to shed some more light on this travesty.

  • Further, I give you the latest from the fake outrage factory here (ZOMG! There goes that Marxist preh-zee-dint of ours again)…

    Yesterday during the White House daily press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked by “just a blogger” if President Obama planned to cut back on his lavish vacations and travel at a time when the country is hurting economically. Carney’s answer wasn’t “no,” but rather a long drawn out “Obama is focused on jobs.”

    This question came just one week after it was revealed the Obama’s are living at a cost of $1.4 billion per year.

    This is an attempt to re-spin the finding here from last year that the Obama White House spent $1.4 billion on vacations, which was totally ridiculous when it was first pronounced for the reasons noted here (actually, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs did an even better job of dispensing with this nonsense here).

    Memo to clownhall.com…the purse strings of the federal government rest with the House of Representatives. Neither you nor your wingnut brethren have any right whatsoever to complain about the effects of the sequester, particularly when Obama and the Senate Democrats have been proposing alternatives that don’t totally screw over many more people than necessary in this country and leave the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch untouched as usual.

    Meanwhile, Man Tan Boehner, that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv and the rest of the Repug “young guns” (with Mikey the Beloved pledging his supine acceptance) are bound and determined to shove austerity down our throats whether we like it or not, all to make Congressional Democrats and Number 44 look as bad as they can.

  • Next, BoBo of the New York Times is back, as noted from here

    There is a statue outside the Federal Trade Commission of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.

    Today, liberalism seems to have changed. Today, many progressives seem to believe that government is the horse, the source of growth, job creation and prosperity. Capitalism is just a feeding trough that government can use to fuel its expansion.

    For an example of this new worldview, look at the budget produced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week. These Democrats try to boost economic growth with a gigantic $2.1 trillion increase in government spending — including a $450 billion public works initiative, a similar-size infrastructure program and $179 billion so states, too, can hire more government workers.

    Oh yes, how dare those baaad, dastardly Dems try to hire more “government workers” (police, fire, teachers – you know, those lazy, gold-bricking swine…snark). And of course, David Brooks won’t tell us that the U.S. House Repugs and their economic warfare on said workers (as part of the austerity I noted earlier) is one of the biggest drags against our economic recovery (here).

    Oh, and BoBo also tells us the following about taxes (Brooks is responding to Back to Work, the plan of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, which would indeed raise the top-end rate to 49 percent – for anyone making $1 billion or more – I’ll acknowledge that there could be a “bite” when you calculate state and local taxes with it, but I’m sorry, I don’t see that as a “game changer”; maybe try to factor in a tax credit for these folks when we return to prosperity? Just a thought…)…

    Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

    And high earners aren’t avoiding taxes now? Really?

    And Brooks also trots out the “higher taxes will cause me to work less” argument, supported by former Bushie Greg Mankiw among others – I think it is important to consider this in response, mainly that such thinking is counter-intuitive to human nature (wouldn’t you want to work more to make up lost earnings?) – also, deferring taxation this way might end up putting more of a burden on your kids if you’re a parent.

    As noted here, though, BoBo has been wrong about income inequality for years (and as noted here, Brooks once blamed women for it – nice). And for good measure, he once defended the “one percent” here (Matt Yglesias responds also here – h/t Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton).

    In conclusion, I just wanted to note that I did a search for “unemployed” or any variation thereof in Brooks’s column, and I came up empty, which isn’t surprising I know (love to see how Brooks would do having to work one or two “McJobs” in an effort to make up for his cushy pundit paycheck and related perks).

  • And never to be outdone when it comes to self-righteous indignation, the Murdoch Street Journal whines as follows here (about Medicare Advantage, which, quite rightly, is being targeted for a budget cut)…

    The tragedy is that Medicare Advantage architecture is far from perfect and HHS could save money if it wanted to, in particular by targeting the private fee-for-service plans that mimic all of traditional Medicare’s dysfunctions except with an element of private profit. But that approach conflicts with the Administration’s political goal of strangling Medicare Advantage in the crib.

    (Conservatives just love to punctuate their literary flourishes with violent imagery, don’t they?)

    As noted here

    Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.

    And as noted here

    Private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage are often able to attract healthier Medicare beneficiaries by offering cheap — but bare-bones — health plans. When those healthier seniors encounter a medical problem that’s too extensive for their private coverage, they switch over to the more generous traditional Medicare program in order to take advantage of its more expansive benefits. That in turn, raises spending in the traditional Medicare pool

    And just go ahead and call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but based on this poll from last December, I would say that most of those people polled want traditional Medicare to be left alone (despite all of its “dysfunctions,” something the Repugs would do well to get through their thick heads in light of this).

  • Finally, Irrational Spew Online bloviates as follows here

    Elizabeth Warren was slated to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans stopped her confirmation, so now she is leading the charge to confirm Richard Cordray to that office.

    But nobody should be the head of this monstrous Dodd-Frankenstein by-product. The structure and powers of the CFPB, as created by Congress, put it outside our constitutional system. Most significantly, Congress allotted the bureau an independent source of revenue, guaranteed its insulation from legislative or executive oversight, and gave it the power to define and punish “abusive” practices.

    Actually, this tells us that the CFPB can have its rules vetoed by something called the FSOC, and no other regulator is subject to this kind of a check (so much for operating “outside our constitutional system”). Also, this tells us how Warren has called out the Repugs on their BS over Cordray in particular and the CFPB and Dodd-Frank in general.

    And as noted here (in the matter of supposed “insulation from legislative or executive oversight”)…

    “Since his first confirmation hearing in September 2011, Director Cordray has appeared before this Committee more than any other financial regulator,” said (South Dakota Democratic U.S. Senator Tim) Johnson. “During that time, he has proved to be a strong leader of the CFPB. He has completed many of the rules required by Wall Street Reform, including a well-received final [Qualified Mortgage] rule. He listens, and has crafted strong rules that take into account all sides of an issue. He has laid the groundwork for nonbank regulation. He has brought to light the financial challenges faced by students, elderly Americans, servicemembers and their families. He has taken important enforcement actions against banks that took advantage of customers. So I ask my colleagues, what more can Richard Cordray do to deserve an up-or-down vote? I hope we can finally put aside politics and move forward with Richard Cordray’s confirmation.” – Consumerist, 3/19/13

    The Daily Kos post tells us that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote was 12-10 along party lines. Every Democrat supported him. Every Republican opposed him.

    As mad as I get at the Dems at times, I get even madder at people who say they’re the same as Republicans. The latter bunch just wants to keep fleecing us, fighting unending wars for little or no purpose, fouling the environment at will, sitting on their collective hands while austerity tries to wreck our fledgling recovery, allowing weapons of death to continue flooding every school, movie theater, and gathering place of any kind in this country, and continually trying to demonize the opposition party instead of working with them on behalf of the best interests of the majority of the people of this nation (oh, but they’re “pro-life,” aren’t they? Not if you’re actually born, they’re not).

    And unless you’re rich, if you know all this and still support these fools, frauds and charlatans (at least on the national level anyway – I’ve encountered precious few good Republicans on the local level, though not recently), then I have no tolerance for your point of view.

    Your willful ignorance continues to be the ruin of this country. Heckuva job!

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    Tuesday Mashup (7/17/12)

    July 18, 2012
  • To begin, here’s former Bushie Doug Feith in the pages of the Murdoch Street Journal yesterday (here)…

    In the 16 months since the revolt began (in Syria), the Obama administration has neither promoted humanitarian “safe zones” on Syria’s Turkish border, nor provided arms to the rebels. It has not helped establish a no-fly zone, nor has it supported NATO military strikes against Assad’s forces.

    In response, I would tend to side with foreign policy expert Joshua Landis, who said here that Obama was “smart” to stay out of Syria for the following reason…

    “America is not good at nation-building in the Arab World. We’ve seen this in Iraq. We’ve seen this in Afghanistan. Syria is not an easier country. It has the same divisions.”

    Uh, yep. And besides, as noted here, Obama promised to provide “non-lethal” aid to the rebels and stepped up sanctions against both Iran and Syria here (not a panacea I know, but something).

    And besides, as noted here

    For Obama, military engagement with Syria may not be feasible from either a policy and political perspective. Syria, unlike Libya, has greater defense capabilities, and administration officials doubt a bombing campaign could be accomplished quickly and relatively bloodlessly. Engaging U.S. forces in Syria would also run counter to Obama’s foreign policy campaign narrative, which is built on being the president who ends wars, with the Iraq conflict coming to a close under his watch and the Afghanistan campaign winding down.

    In addition, as noted here

    U.S. President George W. Bush had a falling out with the Assad regime over Iraq and vigorously contested its domination of Lebanon, but his hardball tactics weren’t really designed to undermine its grip on power. American officials denounced the lack of democracy in Syria and held high profile meetings with secular opposition leaders, but gave the cold shoulder to the Muslim Brotherhood. Washington wanted Syrian cooperation in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza, and for that it needed a stable government capable of honoring its commitments.

    Though outraged by the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (in Western capitals, arguably the most personally well-liked Mideast leader of his day), European governments steadily reconciled with Damascus as its allies subsequently battled for supremacy over Lebanon’s pro-Western March 14 coalition. When EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana visited Assad in March 2007, the subject of reform and human rights in Syria didn’t even come up.[3]

    I don’t know if it would have mattered if Former Commander Codpiece had bothered to broker the subject with Assad, but there’s no percentage at all in ignoring the subject altogether.

    Continuing with Feith, I give you the following…

    By refusing to act on Syria, the president is missing an opportunity to advance U.S. security interests in the Middle East, while benefiting Iran, the principal sponsor of the Assad regime. And by suggesting that America lacks international legal authority to act, he is undermining U.S. sovereignty. Presidents have traditionally striven to bolster America’s sovereignty and freedom of action, but Mr. Obama evidently sides with the global legalists who see national sovereignty as a problem to be overcome, not a principle to be cherished.

    Oh brother…

    I’ll tell you what – when it comes to overseas matters such as this, particularly in the Middle East, I inevitably turn to Juan Cole, who provides more typically cogent analysis here as to why we should stay out of arming the Syrian rebels.

    And let’s not forget Feith’s awful track record on Middle East foreign policy management overall, noted in horrendous detail by yours truly here (as well as the ludicrous charge that Obama is “anti-Israel” here).

  • Next, I give you the following from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    In 2010, Florida Democrats mercilessly attacked then-candidate Rick Scott over his record at Columbia/HCA, a company Scott founded that eventually became the largest private, for-profit health care company in the U.S. Democratic candidate Alex Sink spent much of the campaign alleging impropriety and scandal because Columbia/HCA paid $1.7 billion in fines to the U.S. government, never mind that Gov. Scott was never charged or even questioned in the matter.

    For the record, it should be pointed out that Lex Luthor Scott was investigated for the following, as noted here

    …federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal — specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001.

    The doctor payments were among 10 different kinds of fraud identified by the Justice Department in its 10-year probe of the company, records show. Three years after Scott left Columbia/HCA, the company admitted wrongdoing, pleading guilty to 14 felonies — most committed during Scott’s tenure — in addition to paying two sets of fines totaling $1.7 billion…

    Whether or not Scott was aware of his company’s questionable conduct, the breadth of the problems raises questions about Scott’s leadership, management experts say.

    Oh, and by the way, this isn’t technically illegal either (not as far as we know), but it still stinks to high heaven (take a bow, all you voters in the Mickey Mouse state who elected this fraud over Alex Sink two years ago).

  • Finally, I give you the following hilarity from BoBo (here)…

    Let’s say you are president in a time of a sustained economic slowdown. You initiated a series of big policies that you thought were going to turn the economy around, but they didn’t work — either because they were insufficient or ineffective. How do you run for re-election under these circumstances?

    Do you spend the entire campaign saying that things would have been even worse if you hadn’t acted the way you did? No. That would be pathetic.

    OK, to begin with, this tells us that the stimulus was successful (should be conventional wisdom by now…oh well), as was the bailout of the auto industry (sorry, BoBo).

    And on the subject of “things would have been even worse” had Obama not won election, I think we should consider the following from this March 2008 article in Salon…

    On domestic policy, (Repug presidential candidate John) McCain’s nostrums for the bad economy are job training and “tax cuts.” As Paul Krugman once pointed out, “tax cuts” were Bush’s response to each and every economic problem that arose, however unrealistic they were. Half of all the benefits of Bush’s 2003 tax cut went to millionaires, and the sad impact on ordinary Americans of consequent lack of services and the diversion of wealth to the wealthy, has now become amply apparent. The more economically literate Republicans have caught on to Bush’s “tax cut” shell game. Ironically, John McCain used to be one of them, declining to sign on to some of Bush’s tax cuts. No more.

    By “tax cuts,” Republicans such as McCain mean lowering specific federal taxes on income and capital gains. This step would harm federal income, which will fall anyway if there is an extended recession, and would mainly benefit Americans in the top income brackets. A federal government with less income will be less able to pay for the services and job training ordinary workers and middle-class people need, especially in bad times. Moreover, in a recession, you want the government to spend more money, not less, which cannot be accomplished by reducing its income. McCain, like Bush, seems firmly stuck in 1929.

    This isn’t surprising I suppose, when you consider that John W. McBush said repeatedly that he didn’t know much about the economy, or words to that sorry effect, as noted here. Also, on the subject of Obama’s alleged “socialism” (please – some interesting food for thought on that here), I should point out that McBush’s VP nominee, Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin Dontcha Know, set up something in Alaska, with everyone in the state getting about $3 grand each from oil company fees, that looks more like socialism than anything concocted by Number 44, as noted here.

    Oh, and did you know that BoBo once said that President Obama wouldn’t fit in at an Applebee’s salad bar, or something (particularly funny since Applebee’s doesn’t have salad bars, as noted here), and told our chief executive to “Go visit a factory for once” a matter of days after he had already done so (here)?

    But of course, we can’t expect BoBo to admit that he, along with Mr. “Chunky Reese Witherspoon” himself, are nothing but conservative quota hires for The Old Grey Lady, installed to merely propagate right-wing talking points as opposed to undergoing the frequently arduous work of crafting enlightening commentary whose stated purpose is to educate and inform, providing the vital information upon which we citizens can make informed decisions.

    That would be pathetic.


  • Tuesday Mashup (5/22/12)

    May 22, 2012
  • I neglected to point out the following recently (until now) by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History, on the pages of the Murdoch Street Journal (of course – here)…

    Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa—and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.


    Like this guy, jackass? Nice job to blow him off (along with just about all else from your wretched presidency) and leave for Number 44 to clean up.

    Apparently, some in our corporate media will go to any lengths in an effort to “rebrand” our 43rd president as some kind of a statesman or a visionary on foreign policy.

    Part of me wishes there were a punch line to that remark, but the joke is so unbelievable that I can’t think of anything to top it.

  • Next, the Moustache of Understanding returned to form in the New York Times Sunday (here)…

    Microsoft still does more than 80 percent of its research work in America. But that is becoming harder and harder to sustain when deadlock on Capitol Hill prevents it from acquiring sufficient (H1B) visas for the knowledge workers it needs that America’s universities are not producing enough of. The number of filled jobs at Microsoft went up this year from 40,000 to 40,500 at its campus outside Seattle, yet its list of unfilled jobs went from 4,000 to almost 5,000. Eventually, it will have no choice but to shift more research to other countries.

    Naah, it’s not because our august captains of industry are rapacious, unrepentant pirates who plead for tax cuts while the middle class that built the products that made them rich are forced to settle for ever-smaller pieces of the proverbial financial pie. Don’t you see? They “have no choice” but to do the whole “engulf and devour” thing elsewhere instead.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    D.C. is filled with mills that produce bogus studies to provide Congress with rose-colored glasses that deprive reality. Some studies spin H-1B workers as “entrepreneurs.” Others make absurd job claims, such as that each H-1B worker creates six additional jobs (Do the math here: With around 100,000 H-1B visas a year, that would make H-1B the single largest job creation factor in the economy.)

    In fact, the opposite is true. The largest users of H-1B visas are foreign offshoring companies. They use H-1B visas to provide on-site support for projected moved to other countries. In that model, each H-1B worker here is a proxy for even more jobs lost.

    In spite of a long parade of damning audits on the H-1B program, Congress has done nothing to clean up the mess. Deliberate loopholes in the law allow employers to replace Americans with lower-paid H-1B workers. Working in the computer industry, I have witnessed employers openly replacing hundreds of Americans with cheaper worker on H-1B visas.

    H-1B supporters rarely forget to remind the public that the statute requires H-1B workers to be paid “the prevailing wage.” They invariably forget that, 20,000 words later, the statute redefines the term “prevailing wage” in such a manner that an employer can legally pay a software engineer in Edison, N.J., $34,133 a year less than the median wage.

    How is it possible that Americans can be fired in their own country, be replaced with foreign workers, and Congress does nothing for decades? H-1Bs, bailouts to Wall Street, and subsidies to politically connected business are all symptoms of the same problem: a government that is controlled by special interests that are antithetical to those of the American people.

    And on top of that, this post from 2008 tells us of a recruiter who pretty much debunked the entire mythology that there aren’t enough “knowledge workers” in this country to fill the available jobs (God forbid that employers haven’t fine-tuned their resume-screening software, or you’re out of luck, Mr. or Ms. Unemployed American Worker).

    Rest assured, though, that apologists like Friedman will always return twice a week on the pages of The Old Gray Lady to reinforce the status quo (and possibly get in a plug for the economic “virtues” of China also, along with the wonders of the Internet, of course).

  • Finally, I give you BoBo, trying to sanitize the business exploits of Willard Mitt Romney on the matter of GST Steel (here)…

    Private equity firms like Bain acquire bad companies and often replace management, compel executives to own more stock in their own company and reform company operations.

    Most of the time they succeed. Research from around the world clearly confirms that companies that have been acquired by private equity firms are more productive than comparable firms.

    This process involves a great deal of churn and creative destruction. It does not, on net, lead to fewer jobs. A giant study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard, the University of Maryland and the Census Bureau found that when private equity firms acquire a company, jobs are lost in old operations. Jobs are created in new, promising operations. The overall effect on employment is modest.

    In response, I would suggest that you read the following from here (Bain bought a controlling interest in GST for $8 million, sold $120 million worth of bonds, and then paid themselves a $36 million dividend…they repeated this trick with another steel mill, combined both as “GS Industries” and ended up about $378 million in debt between the two)…

    During all of this they constantly cut both the workforce and safety standards of both plants while failing to invest even minimal money into the plants upkeep much less towards making any capital improvements. Finally in 2001 “GS Industries” now over $500 million in debt declared bankruptcy and closed the plants.

    It then became apparent that Bain had also declined to adequately fund the workers pension plans, employees suddenly out of work were now faced with the additional loss of promised severance pay, health insurance, and life insurance. In 2002 the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation had to commit $44 million to make up the shortfall towards funding only the basic pension payments. The workers never did receive their promised insurance benefits…

    So in this instance Romney and Bain not only cost over 750 workers their jobs and forced two previously fairly healthy businesses into bankruptcy. They also managed to line their pockets with millions of dollars while doing so and before forcing a government agency to step in and pay $44 million towards their bad pension debt.

    If this is Mitt Romney’s idea of how to “create jobs and restart the economy” I don’t think I want anything to do with it.

    And by the way, let us not forget this priceless little moment concerning the presumptive Repug nominee and our not-completely-still-moribund economy

    I would be curious to see what would happen if the New York Times was ever acquired by a private equity firm similar to Bain. I would hope that a lot of the paper’s talented news professionals wouldn’t have to worry about their jobs, but, as the process of “creative destruction” unfolded, I would like to know how “modest” the effect would be on BoBo’s future employment.


  • Tuesday Mashup Part One (8/31/10)

    August 31, 2010

  • 1) In response to this story, I would like to ask the following questions:

    Where is the U.S. Congressional committee with subpoena power looking into the massive thievery of taxpayer funds designated for the reconstruction of Iraq (a topic that is noticeably missing in this triumphal column on the subject by BoBo today)?

    Where is Attorney General Eric Holder and his arrest warrants for those allegedly responsible for this genuine scandal?

    And why aren’t the members of our prior ruling cabal being called to account by our media and all of our institutions of government (and why is this story basically being ignored – yes, I know, everyone is focused on the economy, but that really isn’t an excuse, is it?).

    And why isn’t this person being called to account first for the insulting stupidity of her remarks on this subject from December 2008, noted by Think Progress?

  • 2) And speaking of investigations, look at what Fix Noise is telling us (here)…

    The Veterans Affairs Administration is spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year to maintain hundreds of buildings – most of them vacant – that have fallen into such a state of disrepair that many of them are considered health hazards, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

    Exactly how much it costs to maintain the run-down and abandoned buildings is a matter of dispute. The General Accountability Office estimates that the VA has spent $175 million every year since 2007. But the VA disputes that figure, saying it spent $85 million on the buildings in 2007 and only $37 million last year.

    Whatever the figure, the timing couldn’t be worse for the VA, as tens of thousands of American troops, many of whom have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, prepare to return to the U.S. and will require the expensive medical, psychological and support services it provides.

    Wow, talk about being “late for the party” – by about three years in this case…

    For you see, Fix Noise and their brethren basically ignored the scandal of how the VA was run when it was first reported by Anne Hull and Dana Priest of the WaPo here, including the particularly infamous “Building 18” of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, described as follows…

    When (a) wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

    And how did Fox and its right-wing brethren react at the time? I think Steve Young captures that pretty well here.

    But of course, now that Dubya is long gone (thank God) and we have a Democrat in the White House, Fix Noise is paying attention, as well as concocting propaganda that Obama was pushing a plan to get our vets to pay more for health care (here) and encouraging them to commit suicide (here – particularly despicable even for Fox).

    That, however, is very much in keeping with the “M.O.” of this bunch, as noted here.

  • 3) Finally, we have a particularly propagandistic screed from Cal Thomas (here)…

    President Obama may have experienced his Walter Cronkite moment over the economy.

    Responding to Cronkite’s reporting from Vietnam four decades ago that the only way to end the war was by negotiating with the North Vietnamese, President Lyndon Johnson was reported (though never confirmed) to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

    Now President Obama appears to have “lost” New York Times liberal economic columnist Paul Krugman. Krugman, who enthusiastically supported the president’s redistributionist and stimulus plans, has bowed to the reality that they are not working. In a recent column titled “This is Not a Recovery,” Krugman took issue with the president and Vice President Joe Biden that we have experienced a summer of economic recovery. “Unfortunately, that’s not true,” he wrote. “This isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters. And policymakers should be doing everything they can to change that fact.”

    And of course Thomas then launches into a commercial for the RNC and its supposed economic platform, which of course is a rehash of every bad idea over the last 30 years or so that got us into this mess to begin with.

    I realize that only a fool would actually expect Thomas to tell the truth, but it’s particularly galling for him to take Krugman’s statements so thoroughly out of context, given that Krugman also said the following (here)…

    In the case of the Obama administration, officials seem loath to admit that the original stimulus was too small. True, it was enough to limit the depth of the slump — a recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says unemployment would probably be well into double digits now without the stimulus — but it wasn’t big enough to bring unemployment down significantly.

    Now, it’s arguable that even in early 2009, when President Obama was at the peak of his popularity, he couldn’t have gotten a bigger plan through the Senate. And he certainly couldn’t pass a supplemental stimulus now. So officials could, with considerable justification, place the onus for the non-recovery on Republican obstructionism. But they’ve chosen, instead, to draw smiley faces on a grim picture, convincing nobody. And the likely result in November — big gains for the obstructionists — will paralyze policy for years to come.

    And besides, given this incorrigible dreck, Thomas really should stay away from any historical references whatsoever.


  • Tuesday Mashup Part One (8/24/10)

    August 24, 2010

  • 1) Interesting stuff from BoBo in the New York Times today (here – not necessarily good, mind you, just interesting)…

    …in general, the culture places less emphasis on the need to struggle against one’s own mental feebleness. Today’s culture is better in most ways, but in this way it is worse.

    The ensuing mental flabbiness is most evident in politics. Many conservatives declare that Barack Obama is a Muslim because it feels so good to say so. Many liberals would never ask themselves why they were so wrong about the surge in Iraq while George Bush was so right. The question is too uncomfortable.

    Uh, actually the question isn’t “uncomfortable” at all.

    In as much as the surge “worked,” it did so also because of the ethnic cleansing that preceded it and because of the Sunni Awakening, which basically went after al Qaeda operatives in concert with the fine work of our military (and as you might expect, I see no equivalency between this matter and that of Repugs who will never believe Obama is anything but a SCARY MUSLIM SCARY MUSLIM SCARY MUSLIM SCARY MUSLIM!!!).

    And if BoBo needs more proof that Iraq can hardly be called a success, I give you this from one of Brooks’ former colleagues (and a highly unlikely source, I know).

    When that country has a government that actually functions and shares power between its perpetually warring (either politically or for real) factions (and can provide more than a few hours of electricity per day for residents of Baghdad), THEN Brooks can crow about how wonderful Mesopotamia supposedly is now.

  • 2) Next, I give you the latest from Tucker Carlson’s scribble page (here, on a bit of a similar theme)…

    Expect to hear a lot about how much the Iraq war cost in the days ahead from Democrats worried about voter wrath against their unprecedented spending excesses.

    The meme is simple: The economy is in a shambles because of Bush’s economic policies and his war in Iraq. As American Thinker’s Randall Hoven points out, that’s the message being peddled by lefties as diverse as former Clinton political strategist James Carville, economist Joseph Stiglitz, and The Nation’s Washington editor, Christopher Hayes.

    I’ll cut to the chase a bit here and tell you that the right-wing argument is that the “stim” costs more than the Iraq war, so Obama is more at fault for our deficit than Dubya.

    Yes, sadly, I’m serious.

    In response, I give you the following (here, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)…

    The events and policies that have pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term, however, were largely outside the new Administration’s control. If not for the tax cuts enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush that Congress did not pay for, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were initiated during that period, and the effects of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (including the cost of steps necessary to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term.

    In rather stark terms, Paul Krugman (h/t Atrios) tells us here that, if ever there was a time to borrow like crazy and create all kinds of “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, it is right now, with a 10-year Treasury rate of 2.53 percent.

    But of course, if we do that, the invisible bond vigilantes will descend from the planet Klorp in their spaceships, capture our women and children and enslave us in debt forever, so we won’t (and that explanation is only a shade stupider than what passes for conventional wisdom on this subject these days).

  • 3) Finally, this post from Forbes tells us the following (staying with the economy a bit)…

    No matter how many Obama economists say that stimulus has a positive multiplier, it’s simply not true. Stimulus spending does not stimulate. Because it takes resources from growing sectors of the economy and pushes them to shrinking sectors of the economy– it de-stimulates. It taxes and borrows from good business models to support bad business models.

    It’s simple math. Enlarging government means shrinking the private sector. History is clear: The larger the government share of GDP, the higher the unemployment rate.

    Well, for stimulus spending that supposedly did not “stimulate,” the CBO told us last May that it is projected to create a total of 3.7 million jobs (here – and yes, I know this is familiar territory).

    However, the reason I’m highlighting this story is to counter it with this Daily Kos post, which tells us the following…

    Businesses aren’t creating jobs, and they have no intention of doing so unless they see signs that consumers will again resume spending. Consumers won’t be spending as long as they have nothing or too little to spend. It’s a feedback loop. There is only one way to break it. It has to be the government. The government has to create jobs. Infrastructure. Clean energy. Mass transit. There are plenty of social goods for government to fund, and there are plenty of people who are willing and able to be trained and employed. It has to happen. And only the government can do it.

    I also wanted to highlight the Forbes story for this item…

    But before you think that we have slipped into pessimism, we expect growth to accelerate in the year ahead and we expect the unemployment rate to fall further.

    I think the true Repug “base” just tipped its hand here.

    Anyone who thinks that our august captains of industry in this country are merely impartial observers in our electoral process (particularly after the horrific Citizens United ruling, which opened the proverbial floodgates of corporate campaign donations) must also believe that those zany teabaggers are scholars of Constitutional law.

    They have a vested interest in seeing that the Democrats get trounced this fall (and here is the proof). Whether or not that happens (and let’s do all we can to make sure it doesn’t), they will do what is in their best interest regardless.

    And if that means a bit of a hiring uptick which ends up getting much more than offset by further gains in their wealth (which would tie neatly into the story line that even a modest Repug victory in Congress is a “miracle cure” for the economy), well, lah dee dah, lah dee dah….


  • “Doughy Pantload” Jonah’s “Out Of Gas” Again

    June 2, 2009

    jonah_goldberg_card
    Jonah Goldberg at the NRO plugs a couple of columns on the G.M. bankruptcy here (by David Brooks and someone named Paul Ingrassia).

    And in doing so, he tells us the following…

    Read either of them and then ask yourself whether the bureaucracy at GM could be even half as bad as most of the bureaucracies in the federal government, which have never — ever — been subjected to real competition and all that entails.

    So much stupid, so little time…

    I’ll assume that by “competition,” Goldberg means privatization of government under prior presidential administrations.

    And under former President Clinton, this tells us that he reduced the federal work force by approximately 230,000, saved $118 billion, and eliminated 16,000 pages of government regulations.

    His successor, on the other hand, federalized K-12 education in this country under No Child Left Behind; concocted a Medicare prescription drug benefit that rewarded his benefactors in the health care biz at the expense of seniors; and, ultimately, added $345 billion to the budget in his first term and $287 in his second (all of this is noted here – I definitely don’t agree with the orientation of the writer, I should add, but I think he makes some valid points).

    To be fair, though, I should note that, according to here, “Under President George W. Bush, annual spending on contracts rose to $423 billion in 2006 from $208 billion in 2000, according to the Obama budget unveiled this week” (and concerning Iraq, as noted here, the result was predictable).

    And by the way, given the sorry financial straits of the newspaper business, it’s beyond hilarious to read BoBo preaching to another industry that it should “heal thyself” while his own suffers from the effects of overly inflated estimates of its assets; an ideological bent in its content that, while pleasing to its owners, is hopelessly out of kilter to its dwindling readership; and a complete and total inability to retool its business model to accommodate the dominance of online readership over its traditional print product (though I’ll admit that the Times has been smarter than most companies in its adjustments, as opposed to the “amateur hour” on display here).


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