Thursday, January 31, 2013

Small Town (Like Really Small) in Kentucky Takes Huge Step Towards Fairness, Equality and Anti-Discrimination

Blasting the Stereotype of Opposition to Those Who Lead Different Lives

No one except those in the immediate vicinity of the place have heard of Vicco, Kentucky.  In fact the town is so small, under 500 people, that probably some of the folks who live there have not heard of the town.  But it is an actual village deep in the heart of coal and Justified country.  And now it has done something to make the New York Times.

Vicco, Kentucky - Real America in More Ways Than One

The City Council, called a “Commission” in that area did this.

The Commission approved the minutes from its December meeting, hired a local construction company to repair the run-down sewer plant and tinkered with the wording for the local curfew. Oh, and it voted to ban discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity — making Vicco the smallest municipality in Kentucky, and possibly the country, to enact such an ordinance.

Why?  Because the town thought it was the right thing to do.

Claude Branson Jr., 56, a retired coal miner who sits on the Commission — and the only commissioner, he proudly notes, with a mullet haircut — said recently that Mr. Cummings’s presence had not played as much of a factor in the vote as had “the whole broad perspective of the world.”

“We want everyone to be treated fair and just,” he explained.
In Vicco, at least, officials just assumed that such a belief is self-evident and therefore not that big of a deal.

And yes there was opposition, but not the kind of “I hate you, you are a bunch a evil, Godless . . .” type of opposition.  No the opposition (one Commissioner) was civil, reasoned and acceptable of the concept that there will be honest disagreements which do not require hatred and vitriol.

The commissioners hashed through their questions and doubts, which Mr. Ashley did his best to answer and allay. But one commissioner, Tim Engle, who has known Johnny Cummings since forever, said he needed to change his vote.

“Tim stated that due to his religion, that he had to vote no to the above-mentioned ordinance,” a clerk’s notes of the meeting said.

“There are things we’re not going to agree on, and that’s perfectly fine with me,” Mr. Engle said, according to the local newspaper, The Hazard Herald. “That’s what the debates are for ... that’s what this group’s here for. I want them to do what they think’s right and what they think they need to do.”

Wow, only in America (and every other country where equality is a right granted by creation and guaranteed by government).

And there should be a special note to Conservatives who violently oppose the gay and lesbian community and want to use government to enforce their own bigotry and hatred.

 Look folks, when you have lost Vicco, Kentucky you have lost entirely.  Recognize it and get over it.

Old Technology Never Dies – Carbon Paper Lives

Reports of Its Death by Xerox Machine were Greatly Exaggerated

This post is being written on a computer whose operating system is Window XP.  XP is so many version behind the current Windows operating systems that the author is not quite sure how many new versions there have been.  The old technology lives (primarily because it is good enough for what is needed, and quite frankly the newer versions of Windows are must creative time wasters, but that’s another Post).

The ability of old technology to survive is one of the more amazing aspects of modern life. And now comes word that carbon paper is still around and still being used.  This is astounding.  Carbon paper’s fame reached its pinnacle when it was used as a reason why company after company did not pursue the copy technology that ultimately became the Xerox company.  The reasoning of those who rejected making copiers, the world had carbon paper that made copies for less than a penny apiece.  What else was needed?

Carbon paper—a stalwart of office life for two centuries, the ally of dissidents and the smudger of countless fingers and clothes—now seems as antiquated as the countess’s love letters. The last makers of manual typewriters, Godrej and Boyce in India, stopped production in 2009. As the keys that once imprinted up to five blurred copies fall silent, the thin films that pioneered duplication seem destined for the bin.

Well Xerox copying and its descendents are now ubiquitous, and carbon paper is the stuff of business museums.  Or maybe not.

New York cops occasionally use carbon paper for evidence vouchers (using $1m-worth of new typewriters bought in 2008). A firm called Swintec supplies prisons in 44 American states with around 5,000 electronic typewriters annually (made with transparent plastic to hamper smugglers). Inmates must use carbon paper: the jails like copies of all outgoing post. Jim Gordon of Form-Mate, Canada’s last carbon-paper maker, recalls prisons’ “desperate” appeals after other suppliers went bust. . . .

In Britain Barclays, a bank, still provides carbon paper in its customers’ business deposit books; and a few fogeyish Post Office branches use it for some receipts (for passports, for example). But other uses are odder still. Pigeon fanciers use it to log racing times in specially designed clocks. A blue, film-coated version checks the height of dental fillings; a heavy-duty black sort helps guide stonemasons’ chisels. Mr Murphy sells 40,000 sheets of red carbon paper every year to potters: it transfers drawings onto clay (when fired, the pigments vanish).

There is a point here, that the ultimate and complete demise of many technologies just does not happen.  And the carbon paper story should be of some comfort to those who have a Polaroid camera still in the attic, or a slide projector sitting dustily in the closet.  Hang on folks.

Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan Has Gone From Clever and Insightful to Mean and Mad

 On Her Own – Or Is She Just Following Orders?

It is no secret that the editors of the Wall Street Journal hate and despite President Obama on a deeply personal level.  The animosity permeates almost all of their opinions and opinion writers.  But until recently Peggy Noonan, the Saturday voice of the paper did not share this intense disdain.

But now things have changed, and in recent columns Ms. Noonan has become almost unhinged (and certainly in obvious error) about the President.  Her most recent column is a sad example of the fall of a once very good observer.  The attacks are personal and unsupported.

Finally, it became obvious this week that the Republican Party top to bottom has to start taking Barack Obama seriously. All the famous criticisms of him are true: He has no talent for or interest in sustained, good-faith negotiations, he has no real sense of alarm about the great issue of the day, America's debt. He's a chill presence in a warm-blooded profession.

So what are her complaints?  Well he doesn’t take the debt seriously.  And he is intent on doing the job he was elected to do and not be a nice goofy person, like Ms. Noonan’s hero Ronald Reagan.  And he is trying to take from the rich to support programs for the poor (isn’t that what government does?)

He doesn't care if you like him—he'd just as soon you did, but it's not necessary for him. He is certain he is right in what he's doing, which is changing the economic balance between rich and poor. The rich are going to be made less rich, and those who are needy or request help are going to get more in government services, which the rich will pay for. He'd just as soon the middle class not get lost in the shuffle, but if they wind up marginally less middle class he won't be up nights. The point is redistribution.

Of course the truth, which rarely matters in Conservative circles says differently. Under President Obama the stock market has performed wonderfully, and the wealthy have made massive gains the last four years while median family income has declined.  And no, his programs will not make the rich less rich, it will slightly reduce the growth in their wealth, which is a huge difference from what Ms. Noonan is saying.

And Ms. Noonan does not like Mr. Obama’s style,

He is not going to negotiate, compromise, cajole. Absent those efforts his only path to primacy in Congress is to kill the Republican Party, to pulverize it, as John Dickerson noted this week in Slate, to "attempt to annihilate the Republican Party," as Speaker John Boehner said in a remarkably candid speech to the Ripon Society.

Although if she really does not like these things she ought to start with her own home, the WSJ.

But if finally comes down to this.  Mr. Obama won but he really didn’t win.

In 1932, FDR won the presidency with 58% of the vote to Herbert Hoover's 40%. In 1936 it was even better: Roosevelt won 61% of the vote to Alf Landon's 36.5%.

In 2008, Mr. Obama beat John McCain solidly, 53% to 46%. But last year, against a woebegone GOP candidate, he won just 51% of the vote, to Mitt Romney's 47%. (Yes: ironic.)

Mr. Obama received 66 million votes in 2012—but four years earlier he received 69.5 million.

His support went down, not up.

So facts, logic, insight and all the other things that make for great writing on political and economic issues are now gone from the last surviving rational writer at the WSJ.  About the best one can hope for is that Ms. Noonan’s employers have forced this on her as a condition to stay at the paper, and that one day decency and integrity will return to her. 

Sadly, don’t look for it soon. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MSNBC Morning Host Joe Scarborough Argues That Paul Krugman’s View Are Opposed By All of the World’s Leading Economists

And He Names Names – Except None of Them Are Economists

Maybe Because There Aren't Any

If the last five to six years have proven anything it is that the Keynesian analysis and policy positions of Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist and columnist for the New York Times have been absolutely dead on right.  But Conservatives can’t have this, so one of their leaders, former Republican Congressman turned morning MSNBC host Joe Scarborough says it is just not true.

Paul Krugman is shown. | AP Photo
Krugman's view runs counter to conventional wisdom across the Western world, Scarborough writes. | AP Photo

Still, it was fascinating having Mr. Krugman on for the reason that his worldview runs counter to almost all mainstream economists and he got a Nobel Prize for his efforts.

Of course other than those economists who have abandoned their intellectual integrity to appeal to right wing politicians, and European economists who have imposed their policies on Britain, Ireland, Greece, Spain etc with disastrous results, almost every mainstream economists believes exactly what Mr. Krugman has been saying.  So who is it that Joe is talking about.  Oh people like this.

But maintaining calm was not as easy for Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, who agrees with former Joint Chief chairman Michael Mullen, that longterm debt poses the greatest threat to America 's national security. Richard took exception to the suggestion that deficits don't matter and that longterm debt can be pushed to the side for years to come . Mr. Haass, Admiral Mullen and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles all believe that entitlements and debt are the most pressing challenges we face as a country over the next few decades.

Uh Joe, Richard Haass is not an economist.  Michael Mullen is a soldier, he is not an economist.  Erskine Bowles is not an economist.  Who else you got?

You can add my liberal co-host, Mika Brzezinski, to that group. Mika let out a gasp when Mr. Krugman suggested Medicare and Medicaid shortfalls should be ignored. She compared Krugman's "head-in-the-sand" approach to the one taken by climate change deniers.

Sorry Joe, in case you haven’t actually met your co-host here’s an insider tip.  She is not an economist.

Okay Joe, get back to us when have real economists, real independent thinkers and not the sycophants who had hoped to have a position in a Romney administration are on your side.  And we will give you plenty of time, after all it’s going to be a long day in the woods hunting. And when you do please be sure and state Mr. Krugman’s positions correctly, not like you did above.

Banks Can Learn – Short Sales in California Now Exceed Foreclosures

Gosh – Only Took Them About Five Years to Learn Basic Economics

When a bank holds a mortgage that is underwater, that is the amount of the mortgage is greater than the value of the home, and the owners have stopped paying the bank generally has two choices.  The first one is to foreclosure, in which case the bank takes ownership of the house, throws out the occupants and tries to sell it on the open market to recoup the mortgage amount.

This rarely does any good for anybody.  The bank has to maintain the house, pay the taxes, market the house and assume all of the problems of ownership, including repairs and maintenance.  Foreclosure for a bank usually leads to a huge loss.  The occupants, or former occupants that is, are now without a home.

A second option is for the bank to accept a short sale, a sale where the proceeds are less than the amount of the mortgage.  This is the far better solution for the bank, as their recovery is typically far more than what they would get had they foreclosed.  So what have banks been usually doing?  Foreclosing.  Why?  Because they are stupid, or because they don’t know any better, or because they mistakenly believe they can make more money by foreclosing (they can’t) or because they just enjoy throwing people out on the street.  Take your pick

But banks are apparently learning the basic economics, and in California at least short sales are now more prevalent than foreclosures.

In recent months, short sales — in which banks allow homeowners to sell for less than they owe — have surpassed sales of foreclosed homes in California for the first time since the start of the housing crash in 2007, according to real estate research firm DataQuick. The transactions now represent about a quarter of the market, a surge driven by rising home prices, government crackdowns on foreclosures and banks' increasing capacity to process the deals.

Wow, so banks can learn.  Yes it has taken them half a decade, but hey, remember who is in charge here.  That’s right, all those boys and girls who sat in the back of the class and finished in the back of their class.  So despite how lacking in smarts they were then, maybe they have picked up some now.

Charles Krauthammer Uses His Column As a Advertisement for Republicans – Abandons All Sense of Integrity

Conservative Washington Post Columnists Just Becoming Republican Shills

The Washington Post is a financial disaster, the Wall Street Journal makes a lot of money.  So in the last several years the Post has tried to emulate the Journal and bring blatant Republican advocates on board as so-called ‘opinion’ writers.  The most egregious of these is Jennifer Rubin, who essentially just functioned as a conduit for the Romney campaign.

For a long time Charles Krauthammer served as an intelligent and witty commentator, but with the election of Mr. Obama he just went full force Republican advocate and full time Obama hater.  His most recent column is a good example of how pure partisan beliefs are driving his thinking.  He just spends his valuable space telling Republicans how to govern.  Unfortunately he doesn’t do that very well.

The big dilemma facing the House was how to handle the debt ceiling.

The more prudent course would be to find some offer that cannot be refused, a short-term trade-off utterly unassailable and straightforward. For example, offer to extend the debt ceiling through, say, May 1, in exchange for the Senate delivering a budget by that date — after four years of lawlessly refusing to produce one.

and Mr. Krauthamer suggested what the House ultimately did.  How has that played out for Republicans?  No one cares if the Senate passes a budget, the government seems to function quite nicely without one.  And no, the House cannot tell the Senate what to do, really, they can’t under our Constitution, something one would think a renown Conservative would know.

And despite evidence to the contrary from the election, Mr. Krauthammer still believes the country wants Conservative ideology.

Want to save the Republic? Win the next election. Don’t immolate yourself trying to save liberalism from itself. If your conservative philosophy is indeed right, winning will come.

Really Mr. Krauthammer, do you even know the outcome of the last election happened in the last election? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

North Carolina Republicans Might Deny Right to Buy Lottery Tickets to Those on Welfare

The Dismal Political Economist Agrees! – And Would Take It Even Further

Radical Republicans have captured the government of North Carolina, which is unusual since the state is somewhat moderate in its politics.  Of course they had tremendous help from the Democrats, who lack state wide leaders and are largely in disarray.  So radical legislation, here we come.

But surprisingly the North Carolina Republicans have proposed something that even moderates and progressive can agree with.  They might ban lottery sales to those who receive welfare benefits.

No You Are Not a Winner - But Come Back and Play Again

State lawmakers are discussing draft legislation that would prohibit lottery retailers from knowingly selling tickets to customers who receive public assistance, such as food stamps, or are in bankruptcy, Pat Gannon at the Insider reports. “We’re giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we’re taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities,” said Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake.

Of course there are practical problems here,

He acknowledged it would be difficult for lottery clerks to know whether players get government help. But he suggested that in obvious cases, such as when customers pay for groceries with food stamps, they shouldn’t be allowed to buy lottery tickets at the same time.

But if Republicans would just go further and ban lottery sales for all residents than that would solve the implementation problem.   Lottery tickets are not gambling, the state will always win. And about the best that can be said for state lottery programs are that they are a tax on stupidity, and in theory the more you tax something the less of it you have. 

But lottery sales tend to be a regressive tax, so banning them altogether is probably good policy.  And maybe the state can deal with that ‘stupidity’ problem with better education, which would be a benefit to all.

Treasury Secretary Designate Jack Lew Could be a Great Secretary of the Treasury

Of Course, Compared to Timothy Geithner Kermit the Frog Would be a Great Secretary of the Treasury

To the sounds of thanks from a grateful nation, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner is stepping down.  No those thanks are not for his four years of service, the thanks are that he is leaving.  Mr. Geithner couldn’t even do his own taxes and he may have counseled Mr. Obama to give in to Republicans on an earlier debt ceiling battle, a catastrophic position if ever there was one.  And there is this.

In congressional testimony in early 2009, Geithner garbled the explanation of the administration’s financial-crisis response so badly that Representative Connie Mack (R-Fla.) urged him to resign “for the good of the country.” 

And this

In Poland in 2011, Geithner annoyed a group of European finance ministers by offering unsolicited advice about the unfolding debt crisis. Jean-Claude Juncker, the group’s president, said, “we are not discussing” such matters “with a nonmember of the euro area.”

One can only hope that the lure of making big bucks on Wall Street will keep him from ever serving in government for the rest of his life.

Replacing Mr. Geithner is Mr. Obama’s Chief of Staff, Jack Lew.  Mr. Lew brings an impressive resume to the job.

White House chief of staff since last January, he’s served as budget director for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. That gives him unrivaled expertise in budget battles with Congress. 

And someone has given Mr. Obama the backbone to stand up to Republicans (at least for now) and we hope it is Mr. Lew.  As for Mr. Lew, he appears to have the exact requirements for the job of dealing with Republicans.

House Republican aides say that during the debt limit talks, Lew was more interested in explaining to his opponents why they were wrong than in negotiating. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor even asked to negotiate instead with National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling or Geithner. “If they could get away with it, they’d make Jack Lew a persona non grata on Capitol Hill,” Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says of the Republicans. Lew’s friends see his relentlessness as a good thing. “There’s a quiet ferocity to him,” says White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe. “He knows this inside and out.”

Mr. Lew could, and did make a lot of money in banking,

He’s passingly familiar with the canyons of Wall Street, too. In 2008, the year before joining State, he earned about $2 million as the chief operating officer forCitigroup’s (C) alternative investments unit.

but gave that up for government services.  So he may be that very rare individual, a person not only willing to serve, but eminently qualified to do so.  And the fact that an editorial in the Wall Street Journal came out in strong opposition to the appointment merely confirms that this could be a great selection.

Real Men Carry Handguns in the Pockets – Well Maybe Some Are No Longer All Real Men

Does the NRA Know About This?

Very infrequently this Forum will post a full news article without comment, because the article speaks for itself.  The following, from the British Newspaper The Independent is one such report.  Note the last paragraph.

A security guard in Trinidad and Tobago accidentally shot off his penis with an illegal gun, local press is reporting.

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reports that the 33-year-old man was carrying a .38 caliber handgun in his pocket when it went off, shooting him in the groin.

Police attending a report of a gunshot coming from a parked car in the town of Rio Claro found the guard slumped over the wheel and bleeding from his groin.

The man had a .38 caliber gun and had four rounds of ammunition in his pocket.

The guard was then transported to San Fernando General Hospital where he remained under police supervision.

At the hospital police discovered the guard did not have an ownership license.

Adding insult to already unpleasant injury the man is now expected to be charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Although shocking, accidental penis shooting accidents are not uncommon, and incidents were recorded in Florida, Arizona and Washington in 2012.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Democrats Continue on Their Road to Losing the Senate in 2014

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin The Next To Leave – Only Hope for Democrats Is . . .

For reasons beyond comprehension of anyone who has the slightest knowledge of politics, President Obama and the Democrats seem intent on losing control the U. S. Senate in the next election.  First of all Mr. Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry to be the next Secretary of State, thus opening up his Senate seat to Republican Useful Idiot Scott Brown.  In West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller will retire, making that seat an almost certain switch.

Now Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa announced that he is leaving, and the Republicans have a huge opportunity to pick up his seat.  As for Democrats, they seem to be hoping that actress Ashley Judd is a viable candidate in Kentucky for the seat of minority leader Mitch McConnell.  Really, they do.

So what is the Democrat’s plan?  Well here it is.  The Democrats are planning on retaining control of the Senate by having the Republicans nominate ignorant, stupid, and extremely extreme and unattractive candidates.  Will it work?  Well it did in 2010 and 2012.

As for Iowa, the Democrats do have a chance there.  It is almost as though Iowa and Kansas flipped a coin and Iowa won, and got a population of nice, normal rational people while Kansas got the group that is so dedicated to preserving life that they think murdering doctors is alright and so that is what they do.

More Evidence that the State of Mississippi is Closer to a Fascist Country Than a Democratic One

Using Police State Tactics on School Children Who Misbehave

That the United States is divided in its political philosophy is not news.  That the state of Mississippi, which is one of the most conservative areas of the country engages in questionable governmental practices is not news.  That in Mississippi school children are repeatedly referred to the police for various misconduct in school is news.

The report, which is to be released Thursday, found that in one Mississippi school district, 33 of every 1,000 children were arrested or referred to juvenile detention centers; that in another, such referrals included second and third graders; and that in yet another, only 4 percent of the law enforcement referrals were for felony-level behavior, the most often cited offense being “disorderly conduct.”

“The school-to-prison pipeline is nothing new in Mississippi, and it is certainly not unique to Meridian,” the report says. “In fact, it is a problem that has plagued Mississippi schools statewide for years.”

Wow, what is it these children are doing that would merit involvement of the police?  Well there is this.

the report described episodes in which a child was taken home by the police for wearing shoes that violated the dress code, and a school where misbehaving students were handcuffed for infractions as minor as not wearing a belt.

And yes, this ugly, blatant, cruel misconduct is not confined to a few incidents.

“Police who were initially put in schools to handle matters of safety have become involved in ordinary day-to-day disciplinary infractions,” said Erika Maye, a spokeswoman for the Advancement Project, a Washington-based group that helped prepare the report. The Mississippi chapters of the A.C.L.U. and the N.A.A.C.P., and a group called the Mississippi Coalition for the Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse, were also involved.

In August, the Justice Department released a letter of findings charging that the police in Meridian routinely arrested children at schools without probable cause, merely on the referral of school personnel. The letter found that students had been incarcerated for “dress code violations, flatulence, profanity and disrespect.”

So now we know why conservatives really want the police in schools. 

The authors of the report looked at 115 school districts in the state and found that while black students made up half the student population of those districts, they were more than three times as likely as whites to receive out-of-school suspensions.

Yeah, those Mississippians sure need to keep ‘those people’  in ‘their place’.

Republican Launch a 'No Budget – No Pay' Campaign Under the Assumption That Ordinary Americans Care Whether or Not There is a Formal Federal Budget

But They Don’t – Really They Don’t

A basic rule in politics and positioning is that if you have to explain something, you are losing.  To the maximum extent possible a winning position is one that is self evident.  But Congressional Republican are caught up in the ‘inside Washington’ game where they think things they care about is what the public cares about.

In order to save face in their temporary cave-in on the debt ceiling issue House Republicans have put in place a law that suspends the debt ceiling for three months and requires the Senate to pass a budget resolution.  For some reason they think American will rally to their side from this tactic.

From the Washington Post

The GOP’s measure would impose a new requirement on Congress, key to winning support from a broad range of their own members: Both chambers of Congress must adopt a budget by April 15, as required by law, or have their congressional pay withheld until the start of the new Congress in 2015.

“All we’re saying is Congress: follow the law. Do your work. Budget,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the party’s former vice presidential candidate, explaining the measure on the floor.

Now the average American has no idea what any of this means.  They do know that the Federal government has continued to operate more or less for a couple of years under rather contentious conditions, and they have no idea why a budget resolution is needed or why it makes any difference or even that a budget resolution has to exist.  So Republicans are going to spend the next several months trying to explain this to Americans who don’t care and don’t want to waste their time thinking about this issue.

The only thing Americans want is for Congress to work together to pass meaningful and effective policy, and how that gets done is something working families just don’t have time to fool with.  That’s why they elect people to represent them to do this.

So good luck Republicans in trying to shift the debate here to something no one cares about or understands.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Britain, You Cannot Have an Olympics Every Quarter Even If . . .

They Are the Only Thing That Caused Economic Growth For the Past Five Quarters

[Update:  In an incredible statement the economic spokesperson for Fidelity said this.

"The more time that passes, the clearer it is that America's gradual and delayed approach to fiscal tightening is the right one," said Trevor Greetham of the investment group Fidelity. 

Wow, and it only took four years.]

The GDP for Britain for the 4th Quarter Has just been released and guess what everybody, it is negative.  Ok, not a hard guess since British economic policy imposed by Conservatives has been an anti-growth policy.  Here is the chart showing British quarterly changes in GDP for the past four years.  Yeah that one quarter where it was positive did coincide with the Olympics.


How has the British government reacted.  Well, Chancellor George Osborne, a hard line Conservative who is the driving force in current British economic policy says he will confront the problem.

Britain’s economy shrank 0.3 per cent in the final quarter of last year, bringing it closer to a possible “triple-dip” recession and piling pressure on the coalition government.

Chancellor George Osborne, whose austerity programme has come under increasing criticism as the economy has faltered, said he would “confront” the UK’s problems and not “run away” in response to the data, which was worse than economists had predicted.

which many people might regard as admirable except for the fact that the main reason the problem exists is because of Mr. Osborne’s policies.

What happened to the nice recovery that was occurring in late 2009 and 2010?  Oh yes, British voters voted to put the Conservative party in power.  That's all the explanation really needed.

In the meantime have the dismal results in Britain, along with even more dismal results in Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain made any difference in the beliefs of Europeans leaders who have implemented this insanity?  No, of course not.  Eventually the economies of these countries will improve and at that time the leadership can declare vindication.  Much the same way a weather forecaster who always predicts rain the Sahara will be vindicated on the one day in five years it actually does rain.

Fox News Fires Sarah Palin, Takes a First Step Towards Recovery

Maybe Some Day They Will Be a Real News Channel

Late on Friday is where everyone releases news information when they don’t want anyone to pay attention to the news.  So it was entirely appropriate that late Friday the world found out (as though the world cares) that Sarah Palin would not be returning to Fox News as a commentator.

Gone From Fox News - Hopefully the First Step Towards Being Forgotten

Sarah Palin has parted ways with Fox News after a three-year run with the network, according to reports.

Real Clear Politics reported Friday that the former Alaska governor will no longer be a paid contributor on Fox News. Palin joined Fox News in 2009, after she resigned as Alaska governor.

Of course, like every other story involving the former Governor of Alaska this one had to contain some element of falsehood.

“It’s my understanding that Gov. Palin was offered a contract by FOX, and she decided not to renew the arrangement,” a source described as “close to Palin” told Real Clear Politics. 

Yes anyone who has observed Gov. Palin over the last several years knows that Ms. Palin would never turn away from getting paid, so this decision was Fox News not Ms. Palin.  And here’s hoping Fox News will use this first step of recovery from its addiction to spreading right wing propaganda and maybe really become a news network.  Given the state of news reporting in America, more and better is just urgently needed.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Irish County Council Votes to Allow Drunk Driving – Really

Why Would They Do That – Well, Assume Those Voting in Favor Were Pub Owners - Oh, Okay

The inexplicable tolerance in America for drunk driving does not extend to much of the world, particularly Europe.  So it is truly newsworthy when a county legislature in Ireland votes to allow drunk driving.

Councillors  in rural Ireland have come up with a novel way of tackling the problem of drink driving – by making it legal. The plans backed by Kerry county council, in south-west Ireland, would allow police to issue permits that give permission for some people to have “two or three” alcoholic drinks and still drive.

Why would governing body do such a thing?  Well it’s for the children the old people

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who proposed the motion, said the new rules should apply to “older people” who live in isolated areas. He argued that current laws, which limit most drivers to no more than one drink, were forcing an older generation to stay home.

“All the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had, the music and the singing, that’s all being lost to the younger generation because these older people might as well be living in Japan and Jerusalem,” 

Oh, ok, old people, people who maybe shouldn’t be driving at night anyway are being forced to stay home because they cannot get  liquored up and go dancing and singing.

Of course, that’s only a pretext isn’t it.  If one looks behind the scenes there is this.

There was also controversy over the fact that a number of councillors who approved the measure, including Mr Healy-Rae, are pub owners, and as such could benefit from the rule-change. Mr Healy-Rae denied that this had influenced the vote.


The Results of Spain’s Conservative Austerity Program Are In –

Why Did Those Imposing This Program on Spain Expect Anything Else?

European Leaders apparently have no obvious grasp of the obvious.  They have set as their main economic target not economic growth, or increased employment but a decrease in government deficits.  As a result, in countries like Spain they have implemented the following policies.

Aiming to narrow its budget deficit to 4.5% of gross domestic product, from around 9% of GDP in 2011, the government has raised income and sales taxes, slowed the growth of pension payments and cut unemployment benefits. Public administrations have also been discarding workers, cutting back purchases and putting a brake on investment.

So what happened?  Exactly what any C- student in Econ 101 would have predicted what would happen.

Spain's unemployment rate reached a record 26% in the fourth quarter, the latest sign of deepening recession even as growing investor appetite for the country's government bonds brings relief from the country's debt crisis.

Oh, that happened.  What else?

This week brought another negative number from the Bank of Spain: The economy contracted 1.7% in the fourth quarter from the same period of 2011, its worst quarterly performance in more than two years. And the International Monetary Fund weakened its forecast for Spain's economy by 0.3 percentage point, saying it anticipates a 1.5% contraction this year.

But wait, if the policy is so bad, how does one explain this?

The downturn contrasts with recent signs of investor interest. Spain this month has sold about 15% of its bond-issuance target for 2013.

The yield on 10-year Spanish government debt is now about 5%, the lowest since March of last year, according to Tradeweb.

Spanish banks, which were shut out of wholesale financial markets for most of 2012, have issued billions of euros in new bonds in recent weeks.

Easy explanation. The European Central Bank and other European countries have said they will not let Spanish creditors fail.  So no, Spain will not be able to borrow in pubic markets and pay back its outstanding debt.  But with a nice rich European Central Bank behind it, it won’t have too.

Will European leaders ever learn the lesson that austerity and contraction leads to contraction?  Don’t look like it, does it.?  But then the ones forcing this policy on Spain and other countries are doing very nicely themselves, so why should they care if unemployment in Spain is 25%.  They are not part of the 25%.

Mitt Romney Now Says No, He is Not GoiMitt Rong Away

Just More Bad News for Republicans

Surfacing like an early groundhog Mitt Romney went to Washington to be thanked by his donors for wasting their money.  But Republicans across the land were horrified by this news that came out of the honorary luncheon.

Romney told top Washington bundlers, donors and senior campaign leadership in a meeting Friday morning that he would help out GOP candidates for governor in 2013, during the upcoming midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race, according to two people who attended the meeting.

At Democratic National Committee Headquarters a spokesperson could not keep a straight face as an announcement was read that said in part “Mitt Romney, the gift that just keeps giving”.

Mitt Romney is pictured. | AP Photo
Mitt Romney's False Wave Goodbye, Just Like Most of His Other False Actions

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mitt Romney (Remember Him?) is Coming Out of Seclusion and Going to Washington

And For the Obvious Reason

(Be sure and see the update posted tomorrow)

There is a theory in economics called ‘revealed preference’ which in its simplest form suggests that one can determine a person’s economic priorities from their behavior.  For example, there is  Katie Couric the former anchor of the CBS Evening News.  Ms. Couric was not a newsperson, at least in the opinion of many people and looking at her post CBS career, where she chose to be an afternoon talk show host just confirms that.

This brings us to Mitt Romney, the former Republican nominee for the Presidency.  Mr. Romney is resurfacing on a trip to Washington.  Is this the long awaited re-entry into public life by Mr. Romney, where he will comment in detail on public policy?  Well, no.

Mitt Romney is pictured. | AP Photo
Romney will attend a luncheon in his honor at the J.W. Marriott.

Mitt Romney may not have attended President Obama’s second inauguration on Monday but he’s returning to Washington on Friday.

The former GOP presidential candidate will attend a luncheon in his honor at the J.W. Marriott, according to the National Journal.

Yep, classic Mitt.  His first act after the election was to go on a corporate board.  Now he returns to Washington not to re-enter the public arena, just to be toasted by his wealthy base. 

But then, the whole race for Mitt Romney was really not about the Republican party, or policy positions anyway, it was just about Mitt..  

New Version of the F 135 Joint Strike Fighter Has Great Technology – And a Few Minor Problems

Like the Fuel Tank Exploding

The latest jet fighter plane developed by the United States and made available to our allies (at a nice price, thank you) is a fantastic work of technology.  Britain is buying a bunch of them to replace its Harrier fleet.

The F-35 has a top speed of 1,300mph and a range of 1,450 miles, while the Harrier could reach a speed of 700mph and had a range of 350 miles. The older aircraft also had no radar transparency or stealth capabilities, while the F-35 has both. . . .
The F-35 is also designed to be practically invisible to radar. Its shape has no right angles, which reflect radar waves, and a special “fibre” coating make it difficult to detect on any enemy radar.
Low heat emissions and an ability to carry armaments in an internal weapons bay instead of mounted on wings and underneath the fuselage further enhances its stealth capabilities. . . .

Pilots are fitted with helmets which allow them to see 360 degrees, and displays all the data they need inside the visor.

The cockpit also features an all-glass digital instrument panel and a speech recognition system. Each aircraft has more than 24 million lines of “software code”.

Gosh, 24 million lines of code in its programmable systems.  Wonder what could go wrong there?  As for the plane itself, there are a few problems.

The production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – the world’s most sophisticated and expensive combat aircraft – has been derailed after engineers discovered that the jet’s fuel tank could explode if struck by lightning. . . .

Well that’s an easy fix, the plane just will not be used when there is the threat of a storm.  Really.

The report from the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office states that all test flying within 25 miles of thunderstorms is “not permitted” until a device in the fuel tank which maintains correct oxygen levels is redesigned.

We  are sure any enemy will co-operate and not launch attacks when the weather is expected to be inclement.  Wouldn’t be sporting of them, right old chaps?  But there is another problem which really isn’t a problem.

The fear of an exploding fuel tank is just one of a series of problem to befall the F-35 programme. A design fault in the fuel tank has also prevented the JSF being able to rapidly descend to low altitude.

See, given the problems with the plane a rapid descent may happen almost automatically when the plane is involved in actual combat.  Particularly if there are clouds in the sky.

Another Casualty of the 2012 Election – Karl Rove Has Lost His Political Compass

Advocates Republicans Advocate Specific Spending Cuts

Doesn’t He Know That is What They Are Trying to Avoid

Understanding the American electorate with respect to government involves invoking schizophrenia.  Americans really do not like government, and if you ask them if government spending should be reduced they will answer strongly in the affirmative.  However once specific programs are identified their opinions reverse, and they dislike cutting any specific program.

Professional politicians understand this, which is why, for example, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan refused to spell out any programs other than support for Big Bird that they would cut.  They wanted to cut Medicaid, the programs that stands between poor people and death by disease and injury and disabilities, so they proposed to block grant it to the states, thus avoiding the cuts themselves.

Karl Rove, the supposed political genius of the Republican party (at least in his own mind) doesn’t understand this, or at least not any more.  Yes he understands the cutting spending by not mentioning programs part.

For example, in December 2012 76% of respondents in a Battleground Poll favored across-the-board spending cuts and 73% in a Rasmussen survey believed government should cut spending rather than increase it. In a September 2012 Public Notice Poll, 74% did not believe federal spending has helped the economy, while 86% said it has not helped their own personal situation.

And Republicans are on board.  But what they want is for Mr. Obama to take the heat for naming specific programs.  But Mr. Rove, in a burst of political naïveté wants to throw Republicans to the wolves, and proposes Republicans name the programs they would cut.

The GOP congressional leadership is right to say that they will not negotiate in private with Mr. Obama, and that tax increases are not on the table, especially after the president received $620 billion in new taxes to end the "fiscal cliff" crisis.

But this means House Republicans must pass a measure pairing specific spending cuts with a debt-ceiling increase that will have few, if any, Democratic votes.

Democrats have to be reading this and laughing, and wishing and hoping Republicans would be dumb enough to follow this advice.  Of course, maybe they are.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lord Northampton, Lady Northampton Agree on Divorce – She Gets 17 million pounds – He Gets to Keep Most of His Fortune - The Transhumanist Gets the Girl

Comic Relief in the Time of Winter Stress

Assuming that the British Newspaper the Telegraph is not an off-shoot of The Onion we have this wonderful story about a love triangle in Britain that has now been settled with a divorce.  Here are the players and some highlights.

the 7th Marquess of Northampton has called a truce with his soon-to-be ex-wife. The divorce – prompted by Lady (Pamela) Northampton’s affair with a Romanian multi-millionaire – will cost him in the region of £17million.

Lady Northampton, 61, will receive a £4million apartment in Pimlico in central London as well as cash and possessions worth about £13million.

Well let’s hope she can live on that.  And Who is Lord Northampton?  Well to us he is just plain ‘Spenny’.

Lord Northampton, born Spencer Compton and known as “Spenny” to friends, is one of Britain’s most colourful aristocrats, once dubbed the “Mystic Marquess” for his fascination with Freemasonry and spirituality.

And Mrs. Spenny, just a regular gal who hit the marital jackpot.

Lady Northampton, born Pamela Haworth, is from altogether more humble stock, having been born into a working-class family in Lancashire.

And the Romanian (why are they always Romanian?) lover, well he’s quite a generous fellow and is a transhumanist, a state we all aspire to.  Even gave the Northamptons the gift of genome mapping.

Dr Stoicescu, who lives beside Lake Geneva in Switzerland and made his money through a pharmaceutical business, describes himself as a “transhumanist”, convinced life can be “extended through nanotechnology and artificial intelligence”.

He became only the second person to have his genome mapped, at a cost of £220,000, and later paid for Lord and Lady Northampton to go through the process. 

And of course there is the usual appearance of recorded conversations, this time with a nice twist.

The couple also became embroiled in a separate privacy action, now ended, over secret recordings of Lady Northampton’s phone conversations, discussing her private life with her 87-year-old father.

Bizarrely, the recordings were made by her stepmother, a hairdresser from Staines in Middlesex, and passed on to Lord Northampton.

Well, there you have it.  Personally we’d like to hear the story of the 87 year old father and his hairdresser wife, we bet it’s a doozy.

Republicans Preview in Virginia How They Plan to Fix the Next Election

If You Cannot Win Fairly, Win Anyway

It is no secret that part of the Republican strategy is to ‘game’ the system, use legal tactics of dubious ethical content to thwart the will of voters and create Republican victories where they are not warranted.  The mainstay of this strategy is to change the way electoral college votes are cast in Democratic states.

Republicans would change the rules in Democratic states where they control the legislature by moving from a winner take all system to one where electoral votes are split up on a Congressional District basis.  This would allow Republicans to win some electoral votes in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and others that are fairly reliable Democratic states.  Of course, they would not change the rules in states like Texas, where a statewide Republican win is assured.

In a preview of the strategy Republican state senators in Virginia snuck in a provision in a bill to redistrict the state senate so that they would probably gain another seat.  How did they get this passed when the state senate is evenly divided?  Easy, they waited until a Democratic state senator was out of the office and boom, passed the measure.

The revised plan cleared the Senate on a party-line vote of 20-19. Missing this afternoon was Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, D-Richmond, who was in Washington for President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.

 The law now goes to the House of Delegates where Republicans have the votes to pass the bill.  So unless the Republican Governor intervenes, and he almost certainly will not, Republicans will have hijacked a state senate seat to improve their chances of controlling the state senate after the next election.

So why would anybody trust Republicans at any level of government?  No one know the answer to that.

Great Golfer and Humanitarian Phil Mickelson Makes a Triple Bogey on His Tax Situation

Overstates His Tax Burden and Makes Some Rookie Mistakes

This Forum really likes golfer Phil Mickelson.  He is a wonderful human being, a talented athlete and a dedicated family man.  But recently he seemed upset over the level of taxes that he is paying.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press
Phil Mickelson, who tied for 37th
 at the Humana Challenge,
 said his income tax bracket 
could lead him to “drastic changes.”

“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and theSocial Security and state, my tax rate is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what to do.”

But it seems to us that Mr. Mickelson has made an error on his scorecard.  Yes his federal rate is now 40%, and his stated state tax rate is about 13.3%, but state taxes are deductible from federal taxes, making the effective state rate around 9%.  So his income taxes are 49%.  Add to this self employment (what he probably calls SS tax) and a few other small items and you maybe get to 53-54%, which is high but not 62-63%.

Mr. Mickelson is right that as a self employed high earner he pays pretty high taxes.  But consider this.

Mickelson, the reigning champion at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, has more than $67 million in career earnings since turning professional in 1992. Last year, he was ranked by Forbes magazine as the seventh highest-paid athlete, with $47.8 million in earnings, including $43 million in endorsements.

and remember that this is what he gets for playing golf.  Admittedly he plays golf very well, but still, it’s playing golf.

So even with his high tax rate is there anyone out there who would not trade places in an instant with Phil?  Really anyone?  Is there no one who would not leap at the opportunity to make $20 million or so after tax for playing golf and shilling for a few companies?

  Didn’t think so.