Friday, September 30, 2011

Due process is now optional

I need to move back into my vehicle soon so that I can't turn on CNN. This morning, I'm watching Obama celebrate America's unprecedented assassination of an American-born American citizen. I first wrote about this in April 2010.

Just last week, I felt shame as America executed Troy Davis. Davis may or may not have been guilty, but he at least got a trial, though the trial itself was an embarrassment. Anwar Al-Awlaki didn't even get a trial. He wasn't even charged or indicted. We will never get to see evidence against Al-Awlaki because it is classified.

I guess we are supposed to shut up about Constitutional rights and trust that Obama is acting in our best interest to protect us from the evil terrorists, ala Bush. I'm not OK with that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Piling On David Brooks

Paul Krugman links to Dean Baker, a fellow economist who's views on economics are often ignored in favor of those of non-economists like David Brooks. The title of Baker's post really says it all -- David Brooks Is Upset at Liberals Who INSIST on Applying Arithmetic to Economics -- but here's a snippet.
So how is anything about stimulus disproved because a stimulus that could have been expected to create maybe 3 million jobs was not adequate in a downturn where we needed 10 million jobs? There are no tricks here, this is all arithmetic and it is all right there in black and white.

But, Brooks does not want to be bothered by arithmetic. He wants his readers to support his plans for tax reform, for cutting Social Security and Medicare. In other words he wants his readers' support for doing all the the things that David Brooks always wanted to do, but he now says that we absolutely have to do because of an economic crisis caused by the incompetence of the people who always wanted to do these things.
This echoes what I said about Brooks here and here. I know I've been hammering Brooks frequently, but I will continue to do so. I know smart people that listen to this guy. Maybe I can change that. You know who you are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

CNN's Alison Kosik - Professional Liar

We're house sitting for someone with cable, so I flipped on CNN a couple days ago. The host, TJ Holmes, was contrasting Republican versus Democratic views on Social Security. First, he showed footage of the Republican debates, where social security was labeled a Ponzi scheme that's going broke. Then, Bernie Sanders gave the opposing view, stating that social security in it's current form can fully meet it's obligations for 27 years.

To get to the truth between these opposing views, Holmes called on Alison Kosik. She was reporting with the Wall Street floor as a back drop (so she's obviously credible!). She claimed that Social Security will "run dry" in 25 years. Over and over, she used the phrase, "run dry". Even CNN's crawler at the bottom of the TV screen said, "Social Security to Run Dry by 2036".

I know nothing about TJ Holmes, but I tip my hat to him for his follow up question. I really hope it was deliberate. He asked Alison Kosik if that meant Social Security payments would just stop in 2036. She responded that it wouldn't work like that, as Social Security would still be able to pay out 77% of benefits.

Whoa! That's a funny definition of "running dry". I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy by nature, but when my glass is 77% full, I'm not quite ready to order another drink.

Alison Kosik, with an assist by TJ Holmes, exposed herself as a professional liar. She was specifically tasked with revealing the truth about Social Security, and she knew the truth. She knew it. The truth was that Bernie Sanders was essentially correct, and the Republicans were absolutely wrong. Instead of saying so, she attempted to perpetuate the myth that Social Security is going to "run dry". This is because Alison Kosik is rich and selfish. She will never need Social Security, so she doesn't want to pay into Social Security. It's really that simple. Unfortunately, mass media is full of people just like her, so plenty of Americans who aren't rich believe that Social Security is broke, bankrupt, or going to run dry. It's not.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rush Limbaugh Never Lets Me Down

OK, I'm now driving across Montana. As we approach Billings, I switch through the channels and catch the voice of Rush Limbaugh. It had been a few years, so I decided to listen to his show for a while to confirm that he's the same old jackass I remember.

With his first few breaths, he claimed that the stock market was tanking because Obama and Bernanke had run out of ammunition (no chance of QE3). Then, he complained about how Obama's policies, including QE1 & QE2, had wrecked the economy. How does the man's head not explode? He's basically saying that if Obama does X, it will be a disaster, and that if Obama doesn't do X, or can't do X because the Republicans block it, that will also be a disaster. Confirmation in less than 5 minutes. He never lets me down.

Ron Paul Should Run as a 3rd Party Candidate

Listening to progressive radio, I heard a lot of callers voicing support for Ron Paul. The next day, he was interviewed on NPR. Again, he got a lot of support from the callers. This is a guy who finished a close second to Michele Bachmann in Iowa, and he has loyal followers who listen to progressive radio and NPR. Wow.

His only appeal to me is his opposition to our military adventures, but that seems primarily driven by his crank economic views. On NPR, He actually claimed that the financial crisis is a validation of Austrian economics. That blows me away. The government can still borrow money at record lows and inflation is below 2%. That's not validation. That's utter repudiation.

Still, there are obviously a lot of Paul supporters from both sides. This makes me wonder about a third party run. He did well in 2008 and his supporters tend to be very enthusiastic. He doesn't get much love from his fellow Republicans, and he's not running for re-election to his house seat. Therefore, he shouldn't fear pissing off the party establishment. The media ignores him now, which they couldn't do if he ran as a third party candidate. Furthermore, if he really thinks the future of America depends on returning to the gold standard, how can he not run?

Note, this is not a prediction. Logically, I can't see why he wouldn't run as a third party candidate, but Ron Paul's logic is very different from mine.

Sometimes the High Road is a Dead End

Trying to find a good radio station while driving through Chicago, I came across someone that sounded like Rush Limbaugh. He was calling someone un-American, not for being a Kenyan socialist, but for wanting to cut spending. I was intrigued. Who is this guy? It turns out that it was Ed Shultz. I had heard of the Ed Show on CNN, but I didn't know he also did radio. He is one of many talk show hosts on a progressive radio network that we heard in Chicago and again in Madison.

I have mixed feelings about what I heard. I have long complained about Democrats tying their own hands behind their backs, so I like the idea of having a progressive radio network to counteract Fox and Clear Channel. At the same time, it irritated me that Shultz was labeling some American citizens as un-American. Another host used the term "Republicon" so frequently you'd think he was earning royalties each time he said it. It's easy to make a strong progressive argument without resorting to these juvenile tactics, so what's the deal? Is there really a market for left wing values wrapped up in the rhetoric of the right? If so, I'm not sure I want those people on my team--either the hosts or their listeners. Then again, that's just the attitude the right wants me to have. It's a classic ends versus means dilemma. Hmmm...

If the choice is between manipulating people to get them to support policies that ultimately benefit them versus manipulating people to get them to support policies that ultimately hurt them, I'd obviously prefer the former. However, I worry that I am presenting a false dichotomy. I would certainly prefer a third option--an option where people demand solid arguments and respond rationally, but then I think about Iraq, the health care debate, and the focus on the national debt instead of unemployment. Sadly, it seems there really are only two choices. Sometimes the high road is a dead end.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

For Labor Day

Following a summer of extensive manual labor, I am annoyed with the push for more Americans to go to college. It's not that I think going to college is a bad thing, but it's just not the answer to our economic woes. College is not a panacea. A college degree may give one applicant an advantage over another, but that advantage disappears when everyone has a college degree. Furthermore, if everyone had a college degree, we'd still live in a country where we need people to pick fruit, roof houses, fix roads, repair cars, etc.

Instead of pushing a one-size-fits-all college solution, we should be ensuring those doing the physical labor can make a decent living, but we are doing just the opposite. Leaders on both sides of the aisle think we should be increasing the retirement age. They say this is just common sense, as people are living longer. I've heard this argument over and over, but it is highly misleading. People are living longer, but it is mostly the financially stable people that are living longer. From 1977 to 2006, life expectancy for 65 year old men rose by 6 years for those in the top half of the income distribution, while increasing a mere 1.3 years for those in the bottom half. That itself is a disgrace in the richest country in the world. And which half do you suppose is doing the physical labor? It's not fair to ask those people to spend their extra 1.3 years on the job.