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Alcibiades's Journal - Archives
Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion
Wed Sep 07th 2011, 11:42 AM
Which is exactly who he said he was. I don't understand why so many of my fellow progressives made the mistake of assuming any differently.

I made the choice to support Obama early in the primary season, right after Edwards dropped out. Yes, it was "settling" for an electable moderate candidate, but, after 8 years, that was a choice I was willing to make, and it's one I'd make again: he's governed better than the electable alternatives would have.

Folks have said that there are lots of things they wish the president would have done when the Democrats were in the majority, but they forget that health care reform sucked all the air out of the room. This was the greatest legislative accomplishment of any Democratic president in my lifetime, so I'll "settle" for that.

There was a fake memo from Karl Rove circulating recently that encapsulates nicely what is going on:


http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/27/1...

I believe this e-mail to be a complete and total fraud (he says some things that would never be said even in a "confidential" e-mail, including "Anybody but that grotesque, hideous beotch from the Klondike!", "Look, we suckered all those nutjob Christian fundies out of their votes and their money. LIberals are almost as easy to fool!" and "Mmmwahhh" Even Karl Rove does not bother to actually type out an evil laugh, much as a dying man would not write "Castle Aaargh.") Nonetheless, it is true, eve if its attribution is false. Just look at the join date of the loudest of the complainers: you'll find few who were here before 2008.

Despite the claims of the right, I did not expect Obama to hike the top marginal tax rate to 90% and confiscate the wealth of the capitalist class and give it to working people. And he has done some things that i strongly disapprove of, such as trading the investigation (not the prosecution, but the mere investigation) of the crimes committed under Bush to secure the confirmation of Eric Holder (it's nonsensical to trade away the principle of the rule of law to secure the confirmation of the attorney general).

NONETHELESS

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You simply cannot underestimate what the value of having Obama in the White House has been. For those of you who thought he was going to govern like Noam Chomsky would have, I'm sorry. Meanwhile, back in Realityland:

President Obama has appointed 96 federal judges. I am willing to bet that all of them are better than any of the judges we would have seen from McCain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_feder...


Obama is siccing Eric Holder on the banksters. Why did it take so long? Because these cases are complex. Maybe you don't do complexity, but that's the fact, Jack.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-1477442...


He promised to end the war in Iraq, and he's ending it. The worst-case scenario is that we will have 3-4,000 troops in Iraq after the withdrawal deadline. You know damn well McCain would have found a way to keep us there forever.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/...

It's not "ponies and unicorns": these are real differences. Should we try to push this administration in a more liberal direction? Absolutely. But any activist Democrat who does not see what this president has accomplished is worse than the Republicans.

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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion
Tue Jul 19th 2011, 02:12 PM
You have to make a distinction between the Fordist model that grew this economy and the corporate model that is destroying it.

Ford himself was a problematic figure, not least because of his labor relations and his antisemitism, but he understood that a mass consumer economy required that workers be paid a living wage, so that there would be mass consumers there to consume the products of mass production. Also, companies of his era had a home address. They were closely-held, with families and individuals in charge.

Today, we have created the era of the transnational corporation that cares about nothing but profit, and stock value. This has led to an emphasis on perverse incentives for executives, who are not owners but managers, and there is no home address. Responsibility is diffuse. If Carnegie Steel did something bad, blame could be laid at the doorstep of one man: today, there is the CEO, but, as we have seen, the CEO can claim ignorance if called to account, as Ken Lay and others have done, and they can also weasel out by claiming that they sought to maximize shareholder value. Also, individuals can be moral, but corporations cannot. A Carnegie or a Bill Gates can leave bequests for charitable works: corporations are immortal and don't worry about the afterlife, so they do no such thing.

There's much to be done, such as eliminating corporate personhood and putting labor on the boards of corporations. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion
Mon May 09th 2011, 10:57 PM
I didn't really notice kids until our son was born in 2005. I'm now a stay at home dad for him and my daughter, who is two and a half. I spend a lot of time at parks and on playdates and various places where folks bring their kids. What I've noticed in the six years I've been a parent has been that more and more kids are strapped into something for more and more of their lives. They are strapped into a highchair, strapped into some bouncy chair, strapped into a carseat/infant carrier, and then strapped into a stroller. Fine. But then, when their kids start walking, a curious thing happens: some parents don't ditch the stroller. They still go around with their two year old as if they were an infant. Then the kids turn three and four, and they're still in the stroller.

There's nothing wrong with these kids. It's the parents. It's driven, I think, by two things:

Laziness
It's not altogether easy to keep track of your kids as you walk around. They have to be taught not to dart into traffic, eat bird poop and go in the van with the nice man with the puppy. But you know what? If you put the effort in early, the kids learn. I got rid of the stroller as soon as my kids could walk, and it's been a success. Neither of them has been abducted or hit by a car. It would probably be easier to just strap them in: you have to keep track of them. It's called parenting. Parents today obsess about these developmental milestones--how is it that we fail to notice that our kids are capable of walking? If they can walk, they ought to walk. I might add that many folks I know who keep their kids indoors at all times and stroller-bound at all other times report that their kids are constantly waking up at night. Not my kids: they sleep, well, like babies. Kids need to get their energy out.

Consumerism
I've seen moms roll up at the park, unpack their elaborate $300 stroller, put their kid in it, and push their stroller less than 100 yards to the playground, where they unload the kids, who immediately run around as if they had just escaped from some sort of prison. Why? The stroller is a status symbol. What's the use of having a top-notch stroller if it stays in the back of the Honda Odyssey? Besides, the stroller is where they keep all their other shit: a diaper bag with a week's worth of diapers, a tub of wipes, half a pantry full of food, and a case of bottled water, because you wouldn't want your kid to use the public water fountain at the park. God forbid you don't have a week's worth of supplies at a two-hour playdate. Oddly, the one thing these moms ever seem to bring is something like a ball for their kids to , you know, play with at the playground.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion
Mon May 09th 2011, 11:28 AM
Peggy Noonan three years ago:

"There was no grousing about John McCain, and considerable grousing about the Bush administration, but it was almost always followed by one sentence, and this is more or less what it was: "But he kept us safe." In the seven years since 9/11, there were no further attacks on American soil. This is an argument that's been around for a while but is newly re-emerging as the final argument for Mr. Bush: the one big thing he had to do after 9/11, the single thing he absolutely had to do, was keep it from happening again. And so far he has."

"If a president presides over prosperity, whether he had anything to do with it or not, he gets the credit. If he has a recession, he gets the blame. The same with war, and terrorist attacks. We have not been attacked since 9/11. Someone—someones—did something right."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1228437880...

Peggy Noonan today:

"Let’s start with credit where it’s due. The U.S. Navy SEALs did it and deserve our profound thanks and deep admiration."

Of course, if it had been done under Bush, she'd have credited him up front, on line one. She does go on, grudgingly to credit Obama, but quickly turns to criticism over not proving Osama's death. Hey, wait, I had thought conservatives were supposed to join in, in lockstep, behind the president when he feels secrecy is necessary to protect our safety and that of our troops? Oh, right, that's only when there's a Republican in the White House.

Any other examples of this sort of thing? Let's start a list. Google up phrases like "Bush kept us safe" and compare and contrast these folks with what they are saying today.
Any other examples of this sort of
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion
Thu Apr 21st 2011, 10:08 AM
You need to make a distinction between what is part of the party platform for voters and what we know from political science. Of course it's not desirable to tell voters that they are ignorant and make vote choices on an irrational basis, but we know empirically that this is true, at least for many voters, enough to provide the margin of victory in many elections.

It would be great if voters behaved according to the prescriptions of normative democratic theory, but that's not what we have seen. It's lamentable that more people don't know this: political science, as a discipline, has not been very good at disseminating what it has learned to the public, even to the most knowledgeable folks who might be interested. The article OnyxCollie cites is an old one, dating to 1964, but it's remarkable the extent to which Converse's findings have formed the basis for subsequent research, and how his central findings have largely been confirmed: this is all the more remarkable given the extent to which there are many political scientists from diverse schools of thought who seem to desperately want this to be falsified. You can quibble over the numbers, but what Converse found has been very robust:

1. It is possible to create an ordinal ranking of the public by assessing their level of political knowledge.
2. There are some people at the top of the scale who seem to exhibit a consistent and ideological set of political behaviors. These ideological voters are fairly few in number.
3. There are a much larger number of people who are essentially "low-information voters," who know less about politics, and behave in ways that seem to be fairly random. This group is much larger than the former group.

For many people, this is a depressing finding. It should be noted, BTW, that while Converse does see the level of political information as correlated with education, he does not claim that it is determined by it: in fact, he specifically rejects the conclusion that his findings are the result of some ignorant "lumpenproletariat" that is incapable of knowing its own self interest or acting in ways that are consistent with what it believes.

Here's a good lit review on the subject of rationality and the electorate by Larry Bartels. As a side note, I recommend anything and everything Bartels has ever written--if nothing else, googling this up I found he he has a new book "Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age", which I will have to pick up.

http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/how_stup...

My favorite joke about political scientists is that we study politics, but don't practice politics. I would like to think that the basic observation that most of the public is rather poorly informed is not entirely disheartening: it leaves room for activism. We also know that activism has an effect, that, for example, a well-run GOTV campaign can increase the turnout of your voters by as much as 10%.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion: Presidency
Mon Apr 18th 2011, 10:20 PM
Which is a racist agenda. When they put out signs that have the preisdent with a bone in his nose, compare him to an ape, etc., it reveals what everyone ought to know but they will deny: the tea party people are the one and the same as the John C. Calhoun people, the Nathan Bedford Forrest people, the Lester Maddox people, the George Wallace people. Same people, same culture, same attitudes, same lies, same propaganda.

Key to their success has been to appeal to the basest of racists through dog whistle politics, using coded messages that are not overtly racist, while getting the message out to their grand order of secret knights that they are out to defend decent white folks everywhere. For example, they use images such as the Cadillac driving welfare queen to denounce our social services as inherently a giveaway to undeserving, lazy minorities. The public image is simply the Cadillac driving welfare queen, who "happens" to be black, but of course they don't choose her because she's black. Same with Willie Horton. He was chosen because he was a criminal, who happened to be black. The blackness is a coincidence. They are not racist.

But what do these folks really think? We cannot look into their souls. Whenever accused of racism, they deny it. They have legions of black friends, it was only a joke, one only sent to a few friends. That's why this is important: the fact that a tea party member, a member of the central committee of the Orange County GOP, an official representative of what used to be the party of Lincoln, privately sent this to "a few people–mostly people I didn’t think would be upset by it." They do this while putting people like Herman Cain forward in an attempt to whitewash their racism. And yet, privately, they are photoshopping the face of our first black president onto the body of an ape. The fact that she sent this only to a few people who (she thought) would not be offended shows that she knew this crap is racist.

That's why this is important. We cannot ignore it. You cannot understand American politics today without understanding the whole history of race in America, at least from Lincoln, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Klan, the civil rights movement, the inception of the GOP's southern strategy, all the way up to the Tea Party. You have to call these people on their bullshit anywhere and everywhere.






Now see if there is any similarity between this sort of thing and the sorts of racist depictions of black folks you would have seen in Jim Crow era:



The racist images of today ought to be put side by side with re racist images of yesteryear, because it shows that these are the same assholes up to the same old tricks. depicting black folks as being like apes or monkeys with simian features is part and parcel of their bag of tricks, and we must never hesitate to point this out.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion: Presidency
Tue Mar 22nd 2011, 11:20 PM
isn't that the very definition of a dead letter? The fact is that presidents have specifically avoided taking actions that would "comply" with the War Powers Resolution, but simply have claimed to act in a manner that is "consistent" with it. I didn't pull this out of thin air: I am a political scientist, and this is what I was taught. And, if you look, you'll find that Congress itself has taken notice of it, so much so that they have investigated the question of the extent to which presidents have complied with the War Powers Resolution. And their research finds essentially what I said in my post earlier:

"Except for the report of June 28, 1993, Presidents Bush and Clinton did not cite the War Powers Resolution in their reports related to military activities in Iraq in the period after the 1991 Gulf War. Rather, they submitted them “consistent with” P.L. 102-1, which required the President to submit a report to the Congress at least once every 60 days
on the status of efforts to obtain compliance by Iraq with the U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in response to the Iraq aggression."

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:...

They have, in other words, found a way to comply with it without acknowledging its constitutionality. This is one of the many things Congress could change, but chooses not to : instead, as noted in the congressional report cited above, most of the action in Congress has been over the question of whether to abolish the War Powers Resolution, not to strengthen it. Despite the fact that, as you say, the authorizations of use of force have been hotly contested and presidents, especially Bush, have given Congress reason to regret their choices.

I am not in any way endorsing the status quo: I lament it greatly, which a more careful reading of my post might lead you to believe. But to understand that it is the status quo and how it might be changed, you have to first understand that it is. As a legal matter, it might be contested: but among the political scientists who study the reality of the relationship between Congress and the presidency, it is not a question: the president, in practice, has almost unchecked authority. I'm not citing common sense, but rather my knowledge of a rather voluminous literature on the subject.

The examples you cite further strengthen my point: no one was really punished in Iran Contra. If Congress took their constitutional responsibilities seriously, they would have impeached Reagan: they did not. The whole debacle surrounding the Iraq War was far worse than Iran Contra, but again, Congress did nothing, other than to sign off on an authorization of the use of force the commander in chief did not formally acknowledge as necessary in any event.

Put all that, and your rather hostile tone, aside for a moment, and remember this: 90 days. You ask whether what Obama did was legal, and that's the answer: the real effect, perversely, of the War Powers Resolution is to give presidents the ability to deploy US forces anywhere, at any time, for any purpose, for 90 days. The fact that Obama has not made an effort "consistent with" the War Powers Resolution could be a sign that he expects our involvement in Libya will last less than 90 days, at which point he'll still be free to act in a manner consistent with it. Or not. This president cannot even get a budget passed: I doubt that spending a lot of political capital on getting votes for something he probably does not even think will be necessary is high on his agenda.

But again, let's address the central question: why has Congress abdicated the responsibility for oversight of the war function it gave itself? This is a Congress that has allowed the president to torture people in violation of international law, for God's sake. If they're not going to take that fundamental challenge to the rule of law on, why does anyone think they will get serious about the War Powers Resolution, especially when the people most likely to want to oppose the president, the Republicans, do not themselves believe it to be constitutional.

This goes to the larger question of why it is that Congress delegates anything at all. There is a whole literature on this, but the essential answer is that Congress has other things to do. The latest literature on the subject holds that they have not abdicated this responsibility, but prefer to exercise it selectively, particularly when it seems that those to whom they have delegated authority are likely to do something to which they would either assent or to which they are largely indifferent. This does not mean, however, that Congress has ceded its power entirely: if a problem gets big enough, they can take action. The War Powers Resolution is a good example of this, but its inadequacies ought to be obvious at this point. What was needed after Bush lied us into war was the sort of outrage that gave us the War Powers Resolution: instead, we got nothing, and the effect is that the status quo remains in force: the president has the authority to do anything, anywhere, for 90 days, and can ask for approval, which will always be granted, BTW, if he thinks it will go on longer.

What I understand to be political science's understanding of the relationship between the president and Congress when it comes to questions of war is simply this: the president does what he wants, whenever he wants, to whom he wants. He will be able to continue to do this until Congress says no. Which they never do, individual histrionics notwithstanding. The fact that they failed to do anything even when Bush lied to Congress, the UN and God is further proof of this. Maybe that will change. I hope it does. That would be great. In my opinion, the best use of our time and effort would not be to give Congress new authority, because they have been reluctant to exercise the authority that they have, but to continue to elect presidents who can be trusted to exercise the authority they already have. Libya? I'm not all that mad at the president on that one yet. I still trust that he thinks this will not be a quagmire. His failure to prosecute the war criminals from the last administration, however, is something I find utterly inexcusable. For what it's worth.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion
Fri Feb 11th 2011, 11:30 PM
The president has heard of these ideas: they were taken straight off the president's Save Award website.

Allow government travelers to purchase discounted and non-refundable airline tickets

Refundable government airfare prices typically are two to three times higher (usually several hundred dollars more) than non-refundable tickets purchased by the public.

Inasmuch as cancellations and itinerary changes are unusual, it makes more sense to allow government travelers to purchase discounted and non-refundable tickets. Paying the minimal cost for itinerary changes (typically $75) or cancellations, which are relatively rare, far outweighs the justification for purchasing expensive refundable government tickets. Such a policy should result in an enormous savings to the government.

As an incentive to employees, perhaps a gain-sharing option could be applied, similar to that presently used for savings on lodging, in which travelers could recover a portion of the savings over the cost of a refundable government fare ticket


Save $20 billion by eliminating farm subsidies

Save up to $20 billion in US taxpayer money per year by eliminating or reducing farm subsidies. Each year, taxpayers fund billions in handouts to farms, mostly corn farms, which leads to market distortions, higher food prices, and higher fuel costs.

Farm subsidies began in the Depression era to keep farmers from starving and losing their land. Now, 72% of subsidies go to large farm corporations, not to needy family farms.

Cutting costs by reducing paper and getting cheaper plane tickets is all well and good, but to really save significant portions of money, you have to go for the big reasons why we are so deeply in the hole and our economy is still dragging.



Stop encouraging wasteful spending at the end of the fiscal year.

At the end of every fiscal year, emails are sent out advertising that we have money that we "need" to spend. This is ridiculous. Organizations should be able to to carry over money to the next year instead of spending it to prevent a reduction in next years budget. There are several projects that I'm aware of that are facing the chicken and the egg problem. We need to buy a new system that will save xx dollars each year, but since the money can't be incrementally saved to make the purchase, the cost of the system needs to be added on as and unfunded project which takes forever to approve. This equates to extra costs and time for implementation. For every year delayed, that much more money is lost in savings. This problem is probably biggest inefficiency I can think of.

Often times the end of year money is spent to replace items that don't need replaced. I have seen so much perfectly functional office equipment thrown in the trash for not other reason than to make room for the new, but when we need money for operation reasons, the account is empty.

**************
THIS SAME IDEA HAS BEEN POSTED 5997 TIMES. Go to the site and check. Every government employee I have ever known has talked about this. How about giving everyone a small bonus for NOT spending all their money?
**************

Sell Fired Brass Back To Manufacturers

Annual military weapons training at every training installation worldwide produces thousands of tons of expended brass cartridge cases, which are generally sold through DRMO on the open market - a process that is currently hemorrhaging money (estimated at over $20M per year in real dollars for Army alone). Over the past four years China has been one of the largest buyers of this material. Because of its alloy, this brass is mostly used for ammunition, not other purposes. Congress currently receives a periodic report from Defense on Qualified Recycling Program materials - data is easily quantified through database (DENIX). Manufacturers now buy raw materials and create new cartridge cases at ever-increasing cost for materials (market cost of raw brass and zinc almost quadrupled from 2007 - 2008), and would be willing to use fired cartridge brass since it is already alloyed. By returning fired brass to a servicing storage installation or regional installation, it could be inspected, segregated, and consolidated on a national scale and sold to the manufacturer for re-manufacture (smelting, forming, etc.) at a lower cost than raw materials which have not yet been alloyed to make cartridge brass. Suggest mandating return of fired cartridge brass to a local or regional collection facility, and establish a Defense revolving fund that reimburses training installations worldwide for their collection and shipping costs, and reimburses collecting installations for their inspection, storage, and shipping costs from the proceeds of the sale. Reinvest any remaining proceeds of the sale in the ammunition acquisition program to reduce future product procurement costs

Greens Fees
Increase the Greens Fee at all USAF golf courses (to include the down-range courses). This will not lessen the amount of golf played by the members of the USAF but the additional funds will offset any money wasted by it's members spending the their duty hours on the fairway.

*********
(NOTE: THE GOVERNMENT IS STILL MAINTAINING GOLF COURSES? SERIOUSLY? WE'RE LETTING FOLKS FREEZE BUT NOT TOUCHING THE DOD GOLF COURSE BUDGET?)
*********

Oh, and then there are conferences. The site has 402 suggestions regarding conferences. I know a lot of government employees who have to travel to mandatory conferences and trainings, some of which are redundant, unnecessary and completely useless.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Dec 02nd 2010, 08:59 AM
We fixed Social Security back in 1983. Remember? The 1983 Social Security Amendments were supposed to fix the problem that are now being addressed by the President's Deficit Commission. At the time, the Amendments instituted a hike in FICA taxes, but these were not put in any sort of "lockbox": instead, they were used as a slush fund for massive defense spending.

For sure, this has the fingerprints of Greenspan and Reagan all over it. I'll let the economist Allen Smith explain how the scam worked:

1) President Reagan appointed Greenspan as chairman of the 1982 National Commission on Social Security Reform (aka The Greenspan Commission)

2) The Greenspan Commission recommended a major payroll tax hike to generate Social Security surpluses for the next 30 years, in order to build up a large reserve in the trust fund that could be drawn down during the years after Social Security began running deficits.

3) The 1983 Social Security amendments enacted hefty increases in the payroll tax in order to generate large future surpluses.

4) As soon as the first surpluses began to roll in, in 1985, the money was put into the general revenue fund and spent on other government programs. None of the surplus was saved or invested in anything. The surplus Social Security revenue, that was paid by working Americans, was used to replace the lost revenue from Reagan’s big income tax cuts that went primarily to the rich.

(See more at http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/04/how-rona... / )

Obviously, this scam passed Congress. A no prize to whoever can guess which Co-Chair of the Deficit Commission voted for this scam.



So the fix Alan Simpson voted for in 1983 has apparently not worked: moreover, he now endorses benefit cuts for retirees that would effectively mean reneging on the obligations the government started to issue to the trust fund under the Amendments, obligations that were passed under the premise that they would be sacrosanct.


Also worth noting that Max Baucus, another Commission member, was among the Yeas, along with the current Vice President.

Is it a conspiracy yet?
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Dec 01st 2010, 10:28 PM
Now that we have had time to reflect on it, it is clear that what the catfood commission wants to do will be horrible, especially for folks in my generation. While it's pretty easy to get folks who are currently retired fired up about these things, it's harder for folk who won't retire for 30 years to see what these folks are up to--which is why generation x folks need to stand up and take notice now, because tomorrow will be too late.

If this is really about balancing the budget, why slash the top tax rate from 35 to 29%? If cutting taxes were the panacea that has been supposed, the Bush tax cuts would have broken the business cycle and ushered in an era of permanent prosperity. Instead, they have only added to the national debt, and unemployment stands at 10%--far worse than when the tax cuts were enacted. If anything, there is reason to suspect that low tax rates for the top bracket increase unemployment, because that has been our recent experience.

The deficit commission claims that this massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans is needed to offset ending certain tax expenditures, but this claim makes no sense. Why take away the mortgage interest deduction for the middle class and use the savings to slash the top tax rate? There is also a certain generational aspect to this that is profoundly unfair. For years, members of generation X saw the prices of homes go up and up and up. While this benefited the few who were in a position to own a home when they were quite young, for many more it kept them out of the market for single family homes and in the rental market. The one upside of the bursting of the housing bubble has been that many of these folks have finally been able to buy a home: part of their calculus in so doing has no doubt been the mortgage interest deduction. Now the deficit commission comes in and claims that these new homeowners, the few people whose decision to buy in a down market has been the only thing keeping prices from collapsing completely, are to be denied the mortgage interest deduction, a deduction enjoyed by the very people who kept voting for the folks who ran up the deficit in the first place. This is the worst sort of generational warfare, taking food out of the mouths of children in young families, and using the savings to finance tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Taxing employer expenditures for health insurance is simply insane. The president's promise on health care reform was "If you like the insurance you have, you can keep it." So much for that. When you couple this with the plan to force people to buy health insurance, the net effect of this will be that most Americans will pay far more out of pocket for health care than they do today. Almost every private-sector employer will drop coverage.

Then there's the plan to steal from future retirees. When the Congress decided to open up the social security trust fund to finance profligate military spending in 1984, their critics said that they were ripping off retirees. Now, the deficit commission aims to prove these critics right. For years, the SSA has maintained that the non-marketable securities it holds are every bit as real as actual treasuries. Now, the deficit commission effectively wants to renege on these obligations by paying out less to generation x as they start to retire--the same people who will not have the benefit of the mortgage interest deduction, the same people who will be dropped by their employers, the same people who will be forced to buy their own insurance on the private market just as the baby boom becomes eligible for medicare.

We is screwn.

The folks in their late 30s and early 40s today will be the ones eating the catfood.
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Posted by Alcibiades in Latest Breaking News
Mon Sep 27th 2010, 03:39 PM
I know we haven't spoken in a while, but it's me, your President. Remember how you helped me to become elected in 2008? God, that was awesome! I know I have not been returning your phone calls, that we still have 50,000 troops in Iraq, that the war in Afghanistan has become the longest in our nation's history, that I fought for a bill that would require you to buy health care coverage you probably will not need and certainly cannot afford, but we're in a real bind here: the Davids went over the numbers, and it's not looking good.

What, there's still combat in Iraq? Yeah, I hear you, but the combat mission is over! It's been accomplished, you see. Plus, we won't actually phase in penalties for not having health insurance until 2014. That's when you get the exchanges, and also get refundable and advanceable premium credits and cost sharing subsidies to eligible individuals and families with incomes between 133-400% FPL to purchase insurance. Hope you understood that. Is advanceable even a word? Boy, I hope it is. You're welcome! Now get out there to knock on doors and explain this stuff to elderly cranks who want you to get off their lawns.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion: Presidency
Tue Sep 21st 2010, 03:23 PM
At the tea party events I've seen you do see many of the same homeschool fundie moms with their kids in homemade clothes you see at antiabortion events.

But the Moral Majority is not the wellspring of this culture: instead, it is related to it via a common ancestor: the traditional southerner, mainly of scots-irish origin. The common thread of "limited government" (a political theory term that does not appear in the constitution and has been hijacked by the TPM, BTW) comes directly down to them from the earliest days of the Republic:

Antifederalists: Mainly Southerners, pro-slavery, against the Constitution, against the strong federal government it would establish, supporters of the Articles of Confederation, which at that point had already left the nation a shambles.

Most of these same people opposed the policies of Alex Hamilton, under Geo Washington, in the creation of the First Bank of the United States, a conflict won decisively by the Federalists, establishing a private bank to act as the central bank of the US (and if Congress can do that, it can effectively do anything under the commerce and necessary and proper clauses).

These folks become "Republicans," i.e. the party of Jefferson. Part and parcel of their ideology was a belief that political democracy was undergird by a social democracy, in the sense that political equality was partly a result of the self-sufficient nature of the people, who mainly existed as agriculturalists on free or cheap land. These folks, it was thought, wouldn't need much in the way of government, though they wouldn't object if the government did something wacky like buying huge parcels of land, forcibly removing the people who really owned it, and giving it to white people to farm with the slaves they "owned."

Fast forward to the Nullification Crisis and John C. Calhoun. Same people, same ideology. Calhoun claimed that "state sovereignty" meant states had retained the right to nullify federal law (sound familiar?) He claimed that the states created the US, and therefore retained rights such as nullification: more radical voices wanted secession. The hyperbole of the nullifiers and secessionists is their main link to the TPM today.

Secessionists in the south: same people.

The period after reconstruction is often given short shrift, and I'll do so again, here: basically the theme that government is the friend of the negro, and that the negro is bad, and so government is bad, and will work with the aid of corrupt persons to aid the lazy and shiftless negro is established. This has been a major cultural and political theme of these people for decades: in this, the Moral Majority and TPM are the same.

Opponents of the New Deal: same people.

WWII isolationists: same people, with the caveat that their small government argument also has a more consistent, small military, less interventionist approach. This bit of their programme is quickly dropped as the nation mobilizes against the Axis, never to return. From this point on, these people are consistently militaristic.

Proponents of Vietnam: Same people.

George Wallace/Lester Maddox and the rest: Anti civil rights people were the same people. Folks forget it, but "small government" was a big part of their agenda.

That's the political stuff. Left out what Aimee Semple McPherson and her progeny did to the religion of these people. Rest assured, though, they are all the same people, and they think we will not notice.







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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Sep 20th 2010, 10:37 AM
I'm working on a little project about the tea party movement, so I wanted some numbers on tea party strength in the various states, but couldn't find any good data. The best I could find was a wikipedia list of the various tea party protests

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tea_P...

My initial hypothesis was that this is basically a regional movement. You see these folks with signs that basically extol the same ideas held by southern politicians from John C. Calhoun to George Wallace, so I had the idea that this was some sort of dead-end movement that arose in reaction to the election of Barack Obama, with the idea that they would take to the streets not simply as the result of the election of the first black man to the presidency (though that's certainly true), but that the legacy of southern culture has created an ideology antithetical to the ideals of the modern Democratic Party, and that they would pretty much have taken to the streets in response to any Democrat. I grouped the states into three groups: slave states in 1860, free states in 1860, and territories, also including AK and HI, even though these last two were not even territories in 1860 (they are empty cells anyway). This would be interesting for many reasons, not the least of which being that we don't usually expect temporally remote independent variables to exert much influence on the dependent variable. The competing hypothesis is the one that seems to be assumed by the MSM: that the TPM is a broad-based movement disaffected by politics as usual, and that there is no regional bias in its activities.

I found I needed a new hypothesis, that my hypothesis and the null hypothesis are incorrect on their face.


Here are the sums of the reported tea party protests in 2009 by state. Since I wanted a measure that does not simply measure actual tea party protests, which is not available in any event, but the attendance reported by the TPM, I used the highest end estimates (which were wildly overblown in many, many cases). In those instances where no number was provided or some other descriptor was provided (i.e., "small"), I just used 50. Whenever the number was simply given as "thousands," I used 5,000. The dependent variable here is not really actual tea party movement attendance, so much as it is the attendance in the most fevered imaginings of the tea party movement.


Slave states
TX 43940
MO 2700
AR 0
MS 550
AL 250
GA 14070
FL 27123
TN 11650
SC 4925
NC 1835
VA 1115
WV 80
MD 2850
DE 0
DC 80050
LA 700
KY 5500

Free states
CA 22300
IA 0
WI 15000
IL 4700
MI 1250
IN 2740
OH 57655
NY 22600
VT 0
ME 0
NH 0
RI 1000
MA 500
CT 3000
NJ 3500
PA 14075
MN 2100

Territories
WA 8250
ID 5000
MT 275
NV 1000
UT 100
NM 0
AZ 13500
OK 10060
NB 340
KS 700
ND 1500
SD 3000
CO 5550
WY 0
HI 25
OR 1000
AK 0
total 398058

Notice anything? Obviously, both though my original hypothesis and the media hypothesis seem disconfirmed, though mine may still look pretty good when I convert these numbers into a per capita basis, which I will do momentarily.

I have an idea, which I will post later. I want to see what you think caused differences in reported tea party attendance in 2009.
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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Aug 25th 2010, 11:50 PM
Today, the GOP talking point is that Al-Waleed bin Talal is "just an investor," yet how is it that there are photos of him together with Murdoch, and that Murdoch is also invested in Al-Waleed bin Talal's media company? That's not simply an "investment." Why is there no talk of how long he's been a major News Corporation stockholder? Since at least 1997, when he owned 5%. Given the long-term nature of these holdings, the cross-ownership between the two principals, and the fact that they are both international media moguls, wouldn't it be fairer to describe their relationship as a long-term, strategic global business partnership, rather than some chance association?

This is also not the first time Fox has covered Al-Waleed bin Talal. In 2008, in an article detailing the Saudi Supreme Judiciary Council's fatwa against "immoral" media companies, there appears this:

"Among the most viewed Arabic satellite networks is Rotana, which airs movies and music videos. It is owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman and member of the royal family whom Forbes ranks as the world's 13th richest person."

http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Sep12/0,4...

Why is Al-Waleed bin Talal mentioned by name in the article, when the fatwa in question did not name him (and certainly could not name him, given that he is a Saudi prince)? Did Fox run this article at his behest, to serve as some sort of warning or influence international public opinion? And why, given that his status as a prince and a billionaire and the world's 13th richest person are somehow relevant, is his status as a major New Corp stockholder not also relevant?

Also, Jon Stewart is not the only person to take note of this connection: Joseph Farah of worldnetdaily has also been critical, and he's hardly someone Glenn Beck fans can simply dismiss as liberal.

FOR YEARS Fox has made much of every little connection. You see Glenn Beck with his asinine little charts that aim to "prove" ridiculous assertions on the basis of the most tenuous connections. We're supposed to be very concerned that Muslims want to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan, even though there are already mosques there. We are supposed to be worried that the president is somehow secretly Muslim. We're even supposed to worry that the logo of the Nuclear Security Summit logo somehow resembles a crescent, or that the president shook Chavez's hand. Look at the clip. The president shook Chavez's hand for about a second, and that's somehow concerning, but Murdoch can be in business with HRH Al-Waleed bin Talal for at least 13 years, a known donor to Islamic charities and mosque funder (he's probably built dozens, at least!), someone reputed to send checks to the families of suicide bombers, and yet there's not supposed to be any concern?

It's not that, by showing HRH Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal in a bad light (without naming him, natch) somehow shows that Fox is actually independent of his influence. What it shows is that all the xenophobia, Islamophobia and hatred Fox profits by engineering is all based upon a fraud. Fox is not even sincere in their fear and outrage, otherwise they would never do business with HRH Al-Waleed bin Talal. And if all that outrage is simply a cynical attempt to manipulate people, then you have to ask what else they are lying about.

The last time I checked, it was pretty much everything.

















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Posted by Alcibiades in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon May 10th 2010, 08:22 PM
A subjective understanding of what women felt in the 1950's, or data on the frequency of abortion before Roe? Most of my understanding of that time comes from my reading of second-wave feminists. This is an era before women had their consciousness raised. My mother was one of them--a girl who grew into a woman who joined the feminist movement. We spoke about this sort of thing a lot, about how, when she got pregnant in 1962, at the age of 19, her boyfriend scraped together the money to marry her, and how he also paid for the abortion she had at that time. Not because she didn't want kids: she did, and a 19 year old being married and having a baby wasn't so unusual then, but she didn't want to give birth to a child to whom she would also, biologically, also be an aunt.

OK, I know, that's an anecdote. Only one data point. Suffice it to say, though, that I've thought a lot about this subject since I was eight and had this conversation with my mother, who was also struggling with depression. But when I think about her situation and that of Raquel Welch, three years earlier, who was married to the father of her baby, who wasn't subject to years of sexual abuse at the hands of her own father, and who did, in fact, deliver the baby she was carrying, I think it's safe to say that she didn't entertain the idea as seriously as my mother did.

The problem with someone like a Raquel Welch is that they project their own cases onto other people--exactly the issue you raise. Maybe she did flirt with the idea of an abortion at the time, or maybe it occurred to her years later, when she was bogged down with two young kids and not enjoying the glamorous life which she had imagined she would lead, and would actually get to lead later. Looking back on it, she may think she was frivolous, and may even imagine that most women who get abortions do so for reasons she would consider frivolous.

I have no fucking problem calling her out on her bullshit, because I would rather have a hundred women get legal, safe abortions for reasons Raquel Welch would consider frivolous than to force one daughter to carry her abuser's child to term.
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