Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just Never Enough Money For Critical Needs – Unless the Needs Are For Sports Stadia in Atlanta

In That Case, Plenty

Although it is not in good shape, the Coliseum in Rome is still standing.  The Coliseum in Los Angeles is many decades old, and it is still in use.  But in Atlanta, Georgia, a state with a lot of problem of the poverty and social and educational nature there are football and baseball stadiums that need replacing after only a few decades.  For example the baseball field where the Braves play.

Gosh, what an ugly, outdated, terrible facility in which to play major league baseball.

Turner Field, named for Ted Turner, the Braves’ former owner, was an outgrowth of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. After the Games, the 85,000-seat Centennial Olympic Stadium was converted for baseball and its capacity reduced by more than 30,000.

The new ballpark calls for just over 41,000 seats, which would make it like many others built for baseball since the 1990s.

The impetus for the Braves moving is the expiration of their lease at Turner Field after the 2016 season and upgrades that would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” John Schuerholz, the team’s president, said in a video statement issued Monday.

For example, the football stadium where the Falcons play.

As the Braves leave downtown, the Atlanta Falcons have plans to stay. The N.F.L. team has announced plans for a $1.2 billion stadium with a retractable roof to be built just south of the Georgia Dome, where it now plays.

For example, some decrepit neighborhoods where many inner city children play.

Yeah, nothing there, nothing to see, move on.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Poor Defendant Convicted and Executed Due to Incompetent Counsel – No Problem

Rich Defendant Convicted of Murder Claims Incompetent Counsel – Let Him Out

[Update:  Mr. Skakel has been released on bond.   Can't have the rich and privileged in jail with the common criminals, can we?]

One of the truly awful legacies of conservative justices on the Supreme Court is the failure of convicted felons facing the death penalty to get new trials because they had incompetent lawyers defending them.  Yes, those accused of capital crimes are entitled to representation, but all too often that representation is inadequate, inexperienced and in some cases just plain incompetent.  Yet the claim for relief is usually turned down by the courts and more often than not the convicted is executed or forced to serve a long jail sentence.

Of course these rules do not apply if one is rich, despite the fact that being rich means being able to hire the best attorneys available and so that defense should almost never be allowed on an appeal.  But this is not reality, as the case of Michael Skakel illustrates.  Mr. Skakel is in the news for two reasons.  The first is that he is, erroneously, linked to the Kennedy family.  Mr. Skakel is related to the woman who married Robert Kennedy, and thus the lazy press constantly refers to him as a Kennedy or Kennedy relative when he is not.  But it makes a good story and sells newspapers so the error persists.

The second reason why Mr. Skakel is in the news is that despite having the money to hire the best attorney for his defense in being accused of murder, he is now successfully appealing that conviction on the basis of inadequate counsel.

The family’s perseverance and deep pockets — Mr. Skakel’s grandfather was an industrial magnate — have brought Mr. Skakel to a pivotal moment: Last month, a judge in Superior Court in Rockville, Conn., overturned the 11-year-old verdict. On Thursday, when Mr. Skakel appears in a Stamford courtroom for a bail hearing, he could walk free while he awaits a new trial.

How did he do this?  Money of course, lots of money.

STAMFORD, Conn. — Since Michael C. Skakel’s conviction in 2002 in the 1975 murder of his Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley when they were both 15, Mr. Skakel and his family have spared no expense in their efforts to clear his name.

They hired expensive lawyers, private investigators and expert witnesses, one at $250 an hour. They fired Mickey Sherman, the defense lawyer who failed to win his case in 2002, and hired Hubert J. Santos, a prominent Hartford lawyer. They brought in Theodore B. Olson, a solicitor general of the United States under President George W. Bush, to petition the Supreme Court. They tracked down witnesses in Tampa, Fla., and Spain. They hired lawyers to mount an offensive on news organizations that broadcast misinformation about Mr. Skakel and sued the celebrity news personality Nancy Grace for libel.

Now while we are personally disposed towards believing Mr. Skakel guilty of murder, because in his original trial he had a more than adequate defense counsel,

Mr. Skakel and his supporters spent more than $2 million on his defense in the first trial, according to court records. 

we really don’t know or care if he is able to buy his way to a new trial and possible acquittal. If there really is not enough evidence to convict him, he is entitled to be set free.  What is important here is the distinction between money and poverty, between being successful at claiming inadequate counsel, despite spending millions on his defense, for a rich person who gets a new trial and being unsuccessful at claiming inadequate counsel for a poor person who gets executed. 

But it may be that if Mr. Skakel is acquitted he will spend the rest of his life trying to right the wrongs of the not so wealthy who cannot afford adequate counsel.  Maybe he will devote his wealth to providing indigent defendants facing the death penalty with the same quality of defense that he has for himself.  But probably his reaction to such suggestions is that he did not get special treatment, that any poor defendant on death row in Texas has the freedom to spend millions on a claim of inadequate representation.  Yeah, we’ll go with that one.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Looking for Something to Be Thankful For, Look No Futher

Thanks Italy - You May Not Celebrate Thanksgiving But You Have Certainly Contributed to Ours.

From the New York Times

Berlusconi Expelled From Senate in Italy

ROME — Having spent months manufacturing procedural delays or conjuring political melodrama in hopes of saving himself, Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday could no longer stave off the inevitable: Italy’s Senate resoundingly stripped him of his parliamentary seat, a dramatic and humiliating expulsion, even as other potential troubles await him.

Tea Party Favorite Lisa Fritsch in Texas Illustrates What is Wrong with Ultra Conservative Philosophy

A Willingness to Let Other People Suffer Rather Than Violate Their So-Called Principles

Thanksgiving probably means nothing to these people

The New York Times has a story about a candidate for the Republican nomination in the race for Governor next fall. 

A Tyler native and seventh-generation Texan, Ms. Fritsch said she unwittingly became a Republican in the second grade. After asking her mother why they did not sign up for federal welfare benefits so she would not have to work so hard, Ms. Fritsch said her mother pulled her car over to the side of the road.

“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘I would rather us both starve than for me to put you on a path where you didn’t have dignity and you would feel like a victim,’ ” Ms. Fritsch said. “At that moment, I was transformed.”

Notice the things that are horribly wrong in the above passage.  First there is the idea that getting government benefits is wrong.  It is not.  Second is the idea that getting government benefits reduces the dignity of a person.  It is does not.  Third is the concept that getting government help makes one feel like a victim. That is not true.

But the real revelation here is the statement that Ms. Fritsch’s mother says she would rather have her child starve than receive help.  What kind of parent says something like that, even in hyperbole.  And also what is truly revealing is that attitude here, that Conservatives are more than willing for other people to suffer horribly rather than offend the philosophies of those same Conservatives. 

That is not a political philosophy. That is cruelty, plain and simple.  And yes, Conservatism has for many, not all but many Conservatives, evolved into a cruel and indecent political force.  We do not know the details of Ms. Fritsch's childhood, and we hope that she had the basic necessities.  But if it turned out that she suffered from hunger and symptoms of mal-nutrition and did not have the basic pleasures every child should have when she was young, we would not be surprised.  We would be sad and sympathetic, but not surprised.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Barry Ritholtz Reminds Everyone How Conservatives Get It Wrong

That’s Not News, Just a Reaffirmation

Three years ago some conservative economists and politicians published a letter in the Wall Street Journal warning of dire consequences if the Federal Reserve pursued a policy of purchasing bonds to keep interest rates at near zero levels.  And now economist Barry Rithholtz has called them on it and called the media to fault for not reporting their erroneous prediction and concerns.

One of my biggest complaints about the media is the lack of accountability. People say things on TV in print an on radio, and then . . .  Poof!  No consequences. They influence public perception of issues, affect policy debates, drive legislation.

This is a perfect example of a stern warning of currency debasement and inflation due to QE. Let me point out this was made 3 years ago today — hence, it has been terribly wrong.

And here is part of the truly egregiously wrong position of these eminently wrong persons.

We believe the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchase plan (so-called “quantitative easing”) should be reconsidered and discontinued. We do not believe such a plan is necessary or advisable under current circumstances. The planned asset purchases risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.

Of course inflation has been about as close to zero as possible, and the only debasement that has taken place is the debasement of the discussion due to people like the signers of this letter taking positions which are not justified by any basic economic theory or reality.

As for employment, well job growth from November 2010 until this month has been from approximately 130.3 million employed to 136.5 million employed.  Yes that is over 6 million new jobs for those conservatives who signed the letter and cannot do actual math.  It is correct that not all of this growth has been the result of Fed policy, but the forecast that Fed policy would not promote job growth is violently contradicted by reality.  But of course facts, logic, statistic and reality is known to have a conservative bias.

Those who signed this letter, which includes prominent and well know conservative economists, conservative academics and conservative politicians were just plain wrong.  Of course that is not unusual, which may be an explanation of why it is not considered news.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Republicans Claim Health Care Reform is a Terrible Thing; Vow to Repeal It When They Are in Power

Republicans Claim Ending the Filibuster is a Terrible Thing; Vow to Continue it When They Are in Power

Well that makes sense – to a person from Mars.

Obama and the Democrats Have a Secret Weapon to Fight Their Collapse in the Polls

In One Word – Republicans

The pundits, the serious ones, the ones that get to publish in major newspapers and talk on major network and who usually are totally, completely and utterly wrong and writing the obituary of the Democrats because of the awful health care reform rollout.  Some are comparing the current situation of Democrats with that of Republicans and President Bush after Katrina, where massive incompetence led to deaths and a Democrat revival.

But Democrats have one big thing, may only one thing going for them.  They are not Republicans.  The face of their party is not Ted Cruz or Rand Paul.  They don’t have the spooky Mitch McConnell or the golden tanned John Boehner out front.  They are supporting Medicaid expansion, not trying to prevent health care from reaching low income families, they are not condemning the gay and lesbian community and they don’t want to cut Social Security and privatize Medicare.

And the latest thing they are not drug addicts.

[Update:  Mr. Radel has pleaded guilty to possession.  He has vowed not to resign from Congress.  Apparently he feels that those who violate the law need representation in Congress, and that he is just the person to do it.  Republican leadership has had no comment.]

Rep. Trey Radel charged with cocaine possession

Trey Radel | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO
Family man and drug addict - But at least he's not John Edwards

Rep. Trey Radel, a Florida Republican elected in 2012, will be in court Wednesday on charges that he possessed cocaine.

Radel, 37, was charged with misdemeanor possession of cocaine in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday.

Now this is not say Democrats don’t have their alkies and the druggies. And they do have John Edwards  But Republicans are the party of family values.  They want everyone else held to a higher standard.  And no, it’s not ok for Rep. Radel because he has a traditional family.

Radel, in a statement released by his office, made no mention of resigning from the House. He said he struggles “with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.”

So let’s see how the party of the American family reacts here, and remember that no matter how bad Democrats are, they are not Republicans.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Of Course This Forum Will Publish on Thanksgiving Day

Just Too Many Economic and Political Programs Masquerading as Turkeys Out There to Do Otherwise

Ross Douthat in the New York Times Writes a Sordid Commentary on John F. Kennedy – And Exposes Himself, Not the Late President

Is There No Limit on Conservative Bile?  - Apparently Not

The New York Times, in its quest to represent different views on its editorial pages, a quest not even remotely seen on the pages of conservative publications, has employed people like David Brooks and Ross Douthat.  The great failings of their writings is more a testament to the lack of intellectual content and grace of the conservative movement than it is a testament to the failure of  publications like the Times to find decent, provocative and intellectually sound conservative writers.  Such people may just not exist.

In the Sunday edition the Times published, one hope reluctantly, the ravings of Ross Douthat waxing forth on President Kennedy.  Kennedy’s grace and charm and intellect and commitment to using government as a positive force stands as a monument in opposition to modern conservative thinking and thinkers, who have none of that.  And so that monument must be torn down.  Here is Mr. Douthat doing the conservative duty.

Which brings us back to that notorious sinner John F. Kennedy. What exhausts skeptics of the Kennedy cult, both its elegiac and paranoid forms, is the way it makes a saint out of a reckless adulterer, a Camelot out of a sordid political operation, a world-historical figure out of a president whose fate was tragic but whose record was not terribly impressive.

Really, a "notorious sinner”.  Yes Mr. Kennedy cheated on his wife, and that is a terrible personal failing.  But if Mr. Douthat is looking for “notorious sinners” in politics shouldn’t he focus on people like Richard Nixon, Kennedy’s opponent in 1960.  Or if he wants to write about modern “notorious sinners” there is the U. S. Senator from Louisiana who preaches family values while engaging with prostitutes, a Representative from Florida is admitted to using cocaine and will not resign from Congress, and the hundreds of other politicians who committed far greater sins than Mr. Kennedy but who get a free ride because they are conservatives.

And then there is the “sordid political operation”.  Really, what exactly was that.  Kennedy did spend a lot of money, his father had a lot of money, but compared to the modern Republicanism of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and the hundreds of millions from billionaires polluting the campaigns today, Kennedy’s spending was nothing.  And no there was none of the spin and distortion of a modern conservative political campaign.  Also, there is not even the hint of impropriety, of any illegal activity, of any “workaround” of the regulations of the political system.

Kennedy won a crucial primary in West Virginia, a heavily Protestant state that at that time was not expected to vote for a Catholic.  He did so by retail campaigning, by convincing the citizens of that impoverished state that he cared about them and that his programs could help them.  He didn’t win by generating hatred, he won by generating hope.

And finally, the charge that his record was not terribly impressive is kind of true, but conveniently omits that fact that he was killed three years into his Presidency.  Kennedy set the stage for the  civil rights movement, probably the greatest single political and social accomplishment of the last half of the 20th century.  He set Keynesian economic in place, and removed the threat of a Great Depression from the U. S. for decades until conservatives decided that de-regulation was the way to go and created the Great Recession.  He brought grace and humor to politics.  The Peace Corps remains in place, he united Europe as allies of the U. S. and one can only imagine how great a President he would have been in his second term after obliterating Barry Goldwater if he had lived.

Mr. Douthat carelessly uses the term sordid, but at least he is qualified to do so.  His column reeks of that characteristic, he obviously is familiar with the concept, and must surely know how it applies to himself rather than John Kennedy.  Or maybe not, cluelessness is the hallmark of conservatives.

The Biggest Enemy of Progressive Policy and Ideas Turns Out to Be – Wait For It - Progressives

With People and Actions Like This Conservatives Are Not the Problem

The sorry state of the nation’s political discourse and action is in part the result in irrational hatred and intransigence on the part of conservatives, but those folks are gradually having to give way in the line to attack progressive by the progressives themselves.  Consider this self inflicted idiocy.

  1. MSNBC has hired Alec Baldwin (really they did) to host a show.  Now they have had to suspend him, and hopefully can him because of slurs he has made.  Of course they also have someone called Martin Brashir who made a lot of tasteless remarks about Sarah Palin, and the only reason that is not in the news is that no one has ever heard of the gentleman and no one watches his show.  And then there is the hiring of the offspring of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow by the network, a hiring of an individual with no qualifications whatsoever.

  1. The Secretary of Education just made remarks about opposition to educational standards,
Susan Walsh/AP - Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued to face criticism Monday over reported remarks that seemed to dismiss “white suburban moms” for opposing higher academic standards.

At a gathering of state school superintendents Friday, Duncan spoke about the opposition to the Common Core standards, which are being implemented in 45 states and the District of Columbia with the aim of creating a national baseline for education.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said, according to media reports. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”

            And now looks like an utter fool.

  1. The rollout of health care reform, well, that speaks for itself in the annals of idiocy, no further comments needed.

  1. The Administration has been exposed for spying on U. S. allies, something for which there is no apparent need other than the goal of irritating our friends and turning them into enemies.

  1. Did we mention the implementation of health care reform?  Oh we did, well that deserves two entries.

  1. The Democratic Party remains non-existent in many parts of the country, and there appears to be no interest by the White House to do anything about it.

  1. Anyone betting that the White House would not agree to reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits?  Anyone?

  1. Other than Hilary Clinton who exactly is a Democrat and qualified to be President?  Joe Biden?  C’mon man.  Joe Biden?

The Democrats do have one thing going for them.  Republicans.  Yeah the nation may hate the inability of Democrats to govern effectively, but whenever independent voters are made aware of Republican ideas and policy goals they usually turn reluctantly to the Democrats.  Really, that’s all the progressive have, the idea that they are not as bad as the opposition.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

This Just In – Conservatives Led by Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain Heartbroken Over Agreement To Prevent U. S. From Going to War with Iran

“Doesn’t the President Understand His Role is to Cause American Young Men and Women to Die in the Middle East” They Lament

Senate Republicans Plan Massive Retaliation Against Democrats for Ending the Filibuster on Nominees

News That Didn’t Happen – But Might

In a hysterical reaction to the change in the rules of the Senate to require only a majority of Senators to approve Presidential nominees (“majority rule has no place in a democracy” one senator fumed) Republicans announced the following actions to retaliate against the Democrats.

  1. Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham have declared actual war on Democrats and will insist on the Air Force bombing Democratic headquarters.

  1. Senator Ted Cruz has said he will ask his father to serve as a pastor to the Senate and lead the group in prayers.  “That’s a terrible thing to do to anyone” said Senator Cruz, “but if anyone deserves having to listen to my father rail against immigrants and minorities and basic rights, it’s the Democrats”.

  1. Senator Rand Paul will take to the Senate floor to read the entire works of Ayn Rand.  This practice had been thought to have been banned by the Geneva Convention.

  1. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has vowed to give up frequenting prostitutes as a form of protest, saying he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice if that will help.  Senator Vitter said he would not be bound by this vow when the Senate was not in session, or in odd or even numbered years.

  1. Former VP nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said the change to end filibusters against judicial nominees was just another blow in the war by liberals to make Christmas greetings illegal in the United States and that in order to protest the action she personally would wish every Jewish person she knows (both of them) a Merry Christmas every time she saw them.  “I will do the same thing to my Muslim friends too, if I ever have one” she said.  “Blame it on the Democrats if they don’t like it” Ms. Palin intoned.

  1. Mitt Romney said he would move to change the rules so that 47% of Senate Democrats would be ineligible to vote.  “It is well known that 47% of Democrats are just takers” the former Presidential nominee said, “and so should not be allowed to vote.”

  1. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a physician, said that he would require any nominee by a Democratic President to have a proctology exam as part of his Senate confirmation hearing.  “We know these people are hiding something, and we’re going to find it” the former doctor said while looking for his rubber gloves. 

College Sports, a Once Proud Tradition, Becomes a Not So Funny Joke

But No One Will Look Back on this Era and Laugh

The University of North Carolina played Old Dominion University Saturday and the score was 80 to 20.  Okay, UNC always has a powerful basketball team that is capable of winning big.  But this wasn’t basketball, this was a football, in fact a football game that was cut short by agreement on both sides that it was ludicrous to continue.

North Carolina, having a so-so year in football was not the only major college team playing a patsy in late November.  Alabama, ranked number 1 and the defending national champions played ChattanoogaSouth Carolina engaged Coastal Carolina, a school not even known to have a football team.  Clemson beat The Citadel and Florida State embarrassed themselves by embarrassing Idaho.

One can make a rational although not winning argument that major college teams playing patsies at the beginning of the season is acceptable.  Those games are like the exhibition games that pro team play before the season starts, and college football at major universities is nothing if not a professional sport.  But there is no reason to play these games late in the season, the Boston Red Sox do not play the Pawtucket Little Leaguers in late September.

Who exactly enjoys these games?  Certainly not the players on the losing team who leave the stadium humiliated.  Certainly not the players on the winning team who leave the stadium knowing they beat a team that was not capable of competing with them.  Certainly not the fans in the seats who paid big bucks to watch a farce.  In fact one would be hard pressed to find a single person in North Carolina or Viginia who was not disgusted with the ODU/UNC game.

One rationale for college sports is that it teaches young men and young women sportsmanship and how to handle both winning and losing.  It is supposed to build character, but like the goal of colleges and universities to educate, the goal of college sports to improve the character of the participants has long gone away.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Princeton Asks Students to Stop Kissing

Today’s News in Futility

There is a health problem at Princeton, apparently meningitis is a risk to the university population, so Princeton’s response is this.

Fearing the spread of a meningitis outbreak that has caused seven people at Princeton University to be hospitalized this year, university officials have warned students to stop sharing drinks and to avoid kissing. 

Right.  Students should stop kissing.  Next they the school will ask them to do things like go to class, study, and takes tests.  Just another illustration on how out of touch from reality anyone is who is associated with higher education.

On a more serious note the university is considering using a foreign vaccine, one not approved for use in the United States.

Under New Jersey law, meningitis vaccinations are already required for almost all undergraduates at Princeton and other four-year colleges in the state. But the strain of the illness at Princeton — serogroup B — is not covered by the vaccine that is widely available in the United States and that protects against most strains of the disease
Another vaccine, Bexsero, does, but has been approved only by authorities in Europe and Australia. In response to the Princeton outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have received special permission from the Food and Drug Administration to import Bexsero. The university’s trustees could decide as early as Monday whether to distribute it, Martin Mbugua, a university spokesman, said. Barbara Reynolds, a C.D.C. spokeswoman, said the vaccination would be voluntary.

And after the crisis has passed maybe Princeton could study the situation and try to explain to the rest of us why a vaccine approved in Europe and Australia, and presumably safe and effective is not approved in this country.  Oh, we're America, if we don't approve of something,  it ain't approved.

Democrat John Edwards, Former Senator, Former VP Nominee and All Around Sleazebag is Opening a Law Office

No, It is Not Called “Scumbags ‘R Us – But It Could Be

In the last decade the nation has been treated, if that is the correct word, to the spectacle of the major parties nominating John Edwards and Sarah Palin for Vice President.  Really, is there something wrong with this country, did we do something to offend the Almighty and this is the revenge we get placed upon us.  Seriously, how did the U. S. deserve national nominees this bad.

Ms. Palin turned out to be politically intolerable, Mr. Edwards  turned out to be personally intolerable.  And now Mr. Edwards is re-starting his law practice.

From left, David Kirby, John Edwards and his daughter Cate. The three will work at the new firm, Edwards Kirby.
Ethics, we don't need no stinkin ethics

Now, Mr. Edwards is returning to his roots and opening a new law practice. The plaintiffs’ firm, Edwards Kirby, reunites him with his former partner, David F. Kirby, and includes on its payroll his eldest daughter, Cate Edwards.

“The reason we formed this firm is because we all believe in the same thing — in standing up for the disenfranchised and those who need an equal chance,” Mr. Edwards said in a telephone interview from his offices in Raleigh, N.C. “That’s why we exist.”

Mr. Edwards and his partner and his daughter may all believe in the same thing, but it’s not standing up for those who need help and support.  If that were the case he would still be in public office, and would not have put his own wanton desires ahead of the job he was elected to, serving the nation in the Senate.  So what does he believe in?  Well collecting big fees is probably the thing he and his colleagues in his firm have in common.  That and the ability to tolerate the intolerable behavior that Mr. Edwards has exhibited in his private life.  And Mr. Edwards is probably pretty lucky, because how many people are there that could stand his presence and be qualified to practice law?  Maybe he has found the only two in the universe that would partner with him.

Friday, November 22, 2013

L. Gordon Crovitz of the WSJ Laughingly and Ineptly Rewrites the History Of President Kennedy

Has the Journal Abandoned Its Low Standards for No Standards?

With the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy there has been renewed interest in the man and his Presidency.  Kennedy was the finest, most idealistic political leader of the post war era, even if his personal attributes were not all that admirable.  He stood for an active government, a government involved in making people’s lives better not in making wealthy people wealthier.

But this cannot be allowed to stand for conservatives, and so the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal are featuring a short essay claiming, and yes we are not making this up, that JFK was a raging conservative and that it was only after his death that the liberal media machine recast him as a crusading progressive.

Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, a surprising fact has been rediscovered: In his time, he was not considered a liberal.

"Understanding Kennedy as a political conservative may make liberals uncomfortable, by crowning conservatism with the halo of Camelot," Ira Stoll writes in his new book, " JFK, Conservative." Yet "it could make conservatives uncomfortable, too—many of them have long viscerally despised the entire Kennedy family, especially John F. Kennedy's younger brother Ted."

Mr. Stoll makes a strong case that in 1960 "the anti-Communist, anti-big government candidate was John F. Kennedy. The one touting government programs and higher salaries for public employees was Richard Nixon, " he writes.

And what is the basis of this clearly bogus, phony and utterly ridiculous claim.  Well there is this.  See Kennedy’s top legislative agenda in 1962 was cutting tariffs, and then cutting taxes.

After making tariff reduction his top legislative goal for 1962, Kennedy announced that "the most urgent task confronting the Congress in 1963" was cutting marginal income-tax rates—not an antipoverty program or a civil rights law. "The soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now," he said. Liberal adviser John Kenneth Galbraith reported that Kennedy told him to "shut up about my opposition to tax cuts."

Now that may sound like a conservative agenda, but free trade (which was not his top legislative goal in 1962, this is simply made up history), with adequate protection for those members of the labor force who are, through no fault of their own displaced has always been a part of the liberal agenda.  And no, the Kennedy tax cuts were not conservative supply side economics, they were designed to provide fiscal stimulus, they were the epitome of Keynesian economics, they were an attempt to deliberately create a budget deficit to spur the economy. 

And Kennedy, like almost all progressives at the time was seriously anti-communist and pro-freedom.  Conservatives of course took that philosophy and translated it into McCarthyism, a witch hunt against anyone who disagreed with them or who cited freedom of speech to justify their disagreements.  Kennedy was pro-civil rights, while conservatives conveniently want to forget that the major obstacle to legislation protecting the rights of minorities to do basic things like vote, have equal and integrated education and to enter public facilities without the fear of racist rejection wall pure conservatism.

Kennedy took on big business when it tried to use its quasi monopoly power to push through its agenda.  He championed a strong defense, but not a wasteful one.  He started things like the Peace Corp and anti-poverty programs and was viciously attacked by conservatives.

In short, the Kennedy Presidency was nothing like modern conservatism, and it was the embodiment of progressive liberal policy, policy that has since proven to be 100% correct.  Conservatives cannot stand that, and so rags like the WSJ must apparently try to remake history to support their own failed policies and positions.  How dumb do they think we are?  Well they probably think the public is as dumb as they are, an utter impossibility. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lacking Real News, the Right Wing Media Fabricates a Phony Story About Manipulation of Unemployment Data Before the 2012 Election

But That Won’t Keep the Right Wing Fantasists From Piling On

Jack Welch, a former head of GE and a political partisan made headline in 2012 by contending, without any evidence whatsoever, that the unemployment rate was manipulated by the administration prior to the 2012 election to help the President get re-elected.  Now the New York Post, a right wing rag published by Fox News parent (who else) has a story that purports to have evidence that this happened.

  . . .Was manipulation responsible for lowering the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent in September 2012 from 8.1 percent in August, a big deal when the numbers came out in October 2012, just weeks before the election?

That’s the contention of an article Tuesday in The New York Post by John Crudele headlined “Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report.” And it seems to confirm the suspicions of Jack Welch, the former G.E. chief executive whosaid on Twitter at the time, “these Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate so change numbers.”

How was this done?  This way, supposedly.

Mr. Crudele’s article begins with an employee of the Census Bureau, which collects the data for the unemployment rate report, who says he was told by higher-ups to “fabricate” results of the surveys he was supposed to be doing.

The Labor Department had targets for how many households the Census Bureau needed to poll each month, and when it fell short in the New York and Philadelphia regions, “Philadelphia filled the gap with fake interviews,” the Post article states. To make matters worse, “a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking re-election in 2012 and continues today.”

Of course it turns out the story has more holes in it than that block of Swiss cheese that was bought for holiday cooking.  For example, there is this.

So let’s look at the facts in question. For starters, the former Census Bureau employee named by Mr. Crudele in the article Tuesday hadn’t worked for the agency since August 2011, more than a year before the election, according to the Census Bureau.

Gosh, that casts a lot of skepticism on the story.  And what about this.

But what if it continued after he left, with pressure from supervisors in the Philadelphia office? Well, as James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute notes, the jobless rate for Pennsylvania actually rose in September 2012.

In fact, as Mr. Pethokoukis points out, the big drops in unemployment that month were in states nowhere near the supposedly tainted Northeast – instead happening in California, Utah, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina.

And how easy is it to fudge the unemployment rate number?  Not very easy it turns out.

The methodology of the Census Bureau’s survey also makes the manipulation argument seem far-fetched at best. For starters, the household survey is based on 54,000 household interviews per month. The typical field representative handles about 37 cases a month, although that varies by office.

So if a few employees in one office fudged the numbers one month, it would certainly be troubling and cause for a top-to-bottom investigation, but it would not be enough to alter the nationwide figure by much. In addition, in each 15-month period, the Census Bureau goes back two or three times and re-interviews a handful of the original subjects to make sure the results were gathered correctly.

“Making up entire caseloads would be caught,” said a veteran Census Bureau field manager on condition of anonymity, because she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. In terms of the former employee, she said, “No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t move the number.”

And was there later independent confirmation of the numbers that were reported and the drop in unemployment?  Well yes. And what about the later revisions that always take place?  They indicated the numbers were overstating unemployment not understating it.

When the numbers were revised on Feb. 1, 2013, the B.L.S. concluded that the first estimate of job creation in September undercounted activity by 6,000 positions, while the figures for the next three months were revised upward by 150,000 jobs from the initial count.

Indeed, while three-tenths of a percentage point is a big drop for one month in the rate, it was followed by steady downward movement in unemployment levels, or what you’d expect if the numbers were right in the first place, as Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider writes.

And a former Bush appointee, who was carried over by the Obama administration also casts doubt on the story.  He admits some stuff could have been made up, BUT

Mr. Hall was commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2012 under both President George W. Bush and President Obama, and was appointed to the job by President Bush. Before that, he was the chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, again under President Bush, from 2005 to 2008. He is now a senior research fellow at the free-market-oriented Mercatus Center of George Mason University.

In other words, he doesn’t have a dog in the hunt politically. “I’m skeptical,” he said. “It sounds like a workplace performance issue. This is somebody being lazy, or a supervisor really cutting corners. It’s certainly not evidence of an attempt to move the numbers.”

So what we have here, lacking any further evidence or any other credible commentary is a hatchet job, a job of reporting a story without any facts, logic or data to back it up.  In short, a typical Fox News, Rupert Murdoch piece of fiction masquerading as news.  Garbage in, garbage out by the Kings of News Garbage.

Here’s the Health Insurance Program for All those Members of Congress, Including the Ones Desperately Trying to Deny Coverage to Low Income Families and People Without Insurance

Members of Congress – Just Like Everyone Else – Not

The ultra conservative Congresswoman from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann recently made the new by saying she lost her health insurance and was having great difficulty getting replacement and wasn’t even going to try.  Turns out Ms. Bachmann is an idiot (ok, not news but worth repeating).  See if you are in Congress there’s lots of choices, lots of help and lots of subsidy.

On the website run by the Obama administration for 36 states, it is notoriously difficult to see the prices, deductibles and other details of health plans offered by different insurers.

It is much easier for members of Congress and their aides to see and compare their options on websites run by the Senate, the House and the local exchange.

Lawmakers can select from 112 options offered in the “gold tier” of the District of Columbia exchange, far more than are available to most of their constituents.

Aetna is offering eight plan options to members of Congress, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield is offering 16. Eight are available from Kaiser Permanente, and 80 are on sale from the UnitedHealth Group.

And what about help, getting help.  Not to worry, your local Representative or Senator has plenty of that.

While millions of Americans have been left to fend for themselves and go through the frustrating experience of trying to navigate the federal exchange, members of Congress and their aides have all sorts of assistance to help them sort through their options and enroll.

Lawmakers and the employees who work in their “official offices” will receive coverage next year through the small-business marketplace of the local insurance exchange, known as D.C. Health Link, which has staff members close at hand for guidance.

“D.C. Health Link set up shop right here in Congress,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate to the House from the nation’s capital.

Insurers routinely offer “member services” to enrollees. But on Capitol Hill, the phrase has special meaning, indicating concierge-type services for members of Congress.

If lawmakers have questions about Aetna plan benefits and provider networks, they can call a special phone number that provides “member services for members of Congress and staff.”

And what about getting some government money to help pay the cost?  Plenty of that.

Lawmakers and their aides are not eligible for tax credit subsidies, but the government pays up to 75 percent of their premiums, contributing a maximum of $5,114 a year for individual coverage and $11,378 for family coverage. The government contribution is based on the same formula used for most other federal employees.

Why don’t conservatives who say they favor a private market solution to health insurance just go out and purchase individual coverage?  And why don’t conservatives who say the government shouldn’t be in the health insurance business go out and purchase individual coverage?  And why don’t conservatives who say those who receive government benefits are takers, part of the 47% that just expects the government to provide for them,  go out and purchase health insurance in the private sector?  Oh, they are crazy, not stupid.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rep. Paul Ryan Gets Great Press in the Washington Post for His Phony Anti-Poverty Policy Crusade

Memo to Jeff Bezos – You Need to Really Start Watching Your Investment

[Editor's note:  Nothing funny in the following story, just pure rightous indignation.]

Poor people are to Republicans the same way investors are to Bernie Madoff, people to be fooled and exploited for their votes, particularly low income rural families.  So it is no surprise that Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wi) the recent VP nominee is spinning out the political rhetoric by taking on a “tour on poverty” and trying to give the impression that he cares about the low income and their problems and is looking for solutions.  The surprise is that the Washington Post is being fooled into writing a non critical examination of Mr. Ryan’s activities.

Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year’s failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp.

Since February, Ryan (R-Wis.) has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods with another old Kemp ally, Bob Woodson, the 76-year-old civil rights activist and anti-poverty crusader, to talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation.

Yeah, quietly doing this, and at the same time having a large article in the Washington Post about his 'quiet' work.  And of course the problem for people like Paul Ryan is not the lack of resources to help people who need help, it is not the fact that in an unequal society those who grew up in middle and high income families had so much more opportunity and education than those who did not  and not that the problems of health care, mental health, and support for low income families requires substantial government resources.  No the problem is the very government programs that help low income families.

“Washington has gummed up the works,” Ryan told the Iowa crowd. “It’s made it harder for people to get ahead, and the idea of upward mobility, of equal opportunity, is slipping farther and farther away from people who haven’t seen it for generations. . . . We can restore America as the party of equal opportunity to show how these ideas can prevail.”

To call this what it is may be impolite, but garbage is garbage. Garbage is thinking that low income families are poor because of government programs that try to help them.  What nonsense.   And what about the solutions?

Ryan’s new emphasis on social ills doesn’t imply that he’s willing to compromise with Democrats on spending more government money. His idea of a war on poverty so far relies heavily on promoting volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs, including the tax code. That’s a skewed version of Kempism, which recognizes that “millions of Americans look to government as a lifeline,” said Bruce Bartlett, a historian who worked for Kemp and has become an acerbic critic of the modern GOP.

That’s right, no new help, no new programs, no reform of existing programs, just wishing the problem will go away through volunteers.  Is Mr. Ryan so out of touch with the real world that he has no idea how it works?  The Republican solution to lack of food and nutrition for low income families, cut food and nutrition assistance.  The solution to lack of job training, cut job training spending.  The solution to problems of health care among low income families, deny them the benefits of expanding Medicaid.  Problems with health care expenses for low income elderly, privatize Medicare.

And how did Mr. Ryan himself succeed?  Did he do it all on his own?  No.

(Nikki Kahn/ The Washington Post ) - After a period of disappointment and reflection, Paul Ryan is now trying to move beyond the failed campaign and his role as the GOP number-cruncher.
Rep Ryan, contemplating going to the government provided gym from his government provided job with his government sponsored health care he gets with his government job he got with his government provided education benefits so he can concentrate on the damage government help does to low income families and how bad government aid is for everyone except Paul Ryan.

Unlike Romney, Ryan is no child of privilege. His dad died when he was 16, and he paid for college with a mix of Social Security survivors checks and maxed-out student loans, according to his brother, Tobin Ryan.

 Gosh Paul, you made good after getting a lot of help from the government. Paul was a 'taker', one of Mitt Romney's 47%.  After is father died according to Republican dogma Paul should have dropped out of school and worked, but instead he accepted cash payments from the government.  Not a loan, nothing he paid back, just good ole welfare checks. So Paul could laze around, hang around school and not have to work.

And now for years Paul has had a great government jobs, culminating in his present one with $175,000 a year salary and benefits that would make a potentate envious.  Health care for Mr. Ryan, no problem, all government sponsored and subsidized. Good grief, how can anyone treat this person as nothing more than a miserable selfish hack.

The key, Winship said, will be coming up with incentives “that are consistent with conservative values about personal responsibility and smaller government.” One idea: giving poor parents vouchers or tax credits to invest in their kids’ educations.

Oh, and poverty can be solved by changing the tax code.  See cutting taxes on capital gains will really help low income people, none of whom of course have the capital on which to make gains.  And there is the old conservative stand by, vouchers.  The idea that giving maybe 5 to 10% of the low income student population access to good schools and cutting support for education for the remaining 90-95% of students will somehow cure poverty is sos rediculous that maybe the dollars government spent on educating Mr. Ryan were truly wasted.

And specifically what does Mr. Ryan want to do?

The takeaway for Ryan, a Catholic, has been explicitly religious. “You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul,” he said last week at the Heritage forum. “Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people.”

How to translate spiritual redemption into public policy? So far, Ryan’s speeches have been light on specifics.

And the great thing about “spiritual redemption” as a policy for helping low income families, it doesn’t cost the government anything and thus leaves plenty of room to cut taxes for the Mitt Romney crowd.  Maybe Mr. Ryan is thinking that if all the poor just became religious hypocrites like Paul Ryan they would cure their own poverty.

SOS to Jeff Bezos, you really need to start paying attention to what you invested in.  There is still some good reporting, but right now much of it is suitable only for wrapping the trash and tossing the whole thing in the garbage bins. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All those Americans Who Should Now Take Statins After the Medical Professions Re-Examined the Issue

Never Mind

America's unending march towards prescription drug madness suffered a setback as it turns out the method by which doctors are supposed to determine who should go on statins is terribly flawed.

Mark Graham for The New York Times
Dr. Nancy Cook and Dr. Paul M. Ridker of
 Harvard Medical School found that a new 
online calculator used to assess heart 
treatment options overestimated the risks
 that many people face.

Last week, the nation’s leading heart organizations released a sweeping new set of guidelines for lowering cholesterol, along with an online calculator meant to help doctors assess risks and treatment options. But, in a major embarrassment to the health groups, the calculator appears to greatly overestimate risk, so much so that it could mistakenly suggest that millions more people are candidates for statin drugs.

So what to do now, oh, maybe this.

The apparent problem prompted one leading cardiologist, a past president of the American College of Cardiology, to call on Sunday for a halt to the implementation of the new guidelines.

“It’s stunning,” said the cardiologist, Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “We need a pause to further evaluate this approach before it is implemented on a widespread basis.”

Well, that is partially right.  What is also flawed is the American approach to medicine, the dependency on prescription drugs to correct a bad lifestyle and the interdependence between profit maximizing drug companies and the medical profession that prescribes their usage.

And yes, the problem is not news, it was known over a year ago. It's just that the medical research activity in this area was too incompetent to understand the problem, to know about the problem or to even suspect the problem or to even solve the problem after they were told about it.  (Yeah, these are the people who have tremendous influence on your health care decisions, what a great bunch.).

The problems were identified by two Harvard Medical School professors whose findings will be published Tuesday in a commentary in The Lancet, a major medical journal. The professors, Dr. Paul M. Ridker and Dr. Nancy Cook, had pointed out the problems a year earlier when the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which originally was developing the guidelines, sent a draft to each professor independently to review. Both reported back that the calculator was not working among the populations it was tested on by the guideline makers.

That was unfortunate because the committee thought the researchers had been given the professors’ responses, said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, co-chairman of the guidelines task force and chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University.

Drs. Ridker and Cook saw the final guidelines and risk calculator on Tuesday at 4 p.m., when a news embargo was lifted, and saw that the problems remained.

Hey, it’s not like this is brain surgery. This is not rocket science It’s only heart surgery.  Everybody feel good about taking their doctor’s recommendations now?

Dick Chaney Learns a Hard Lesson – It’s Difficult to Control Your Daughters Liz and Mary in the Age of Facebook

Embarrassing to the  Former VP? – No, He Cannot Be Embarassed

It used to be that one good thing about family quarrels is that for the most part they were kept in the family.  But with Facebook and the heated political arena it seems that is no longer the case.

Dispute Over Gay Marriage Erupts in Cheney Family

Dick Cheney with his daughters, Mary Cheney, left, and Liz, at the Republican National Convention in 2000.
The happy sisters and Dick

. . . .

Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching “Fox News Sunday” — their usual weekend ritual. Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same-sex marriage, describing it as “just an area where we disagree,” referring to her sister. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney took to her Facebook page to blast back: “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”

See Mary Chaney is running as an ultra, ultra conservative trying to oust ultra (sorry Mie, only one ultra) conservative Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi in a Republican primary next year.  And to do that she has to be violently opposed to equality for gay and lesbian couples.  The problem, her sister is part of a married same sex couple.

And although Mary Chaney and her wife are the targets of a hate attack here, it is Liz Chaney who wears the adopted victimhood mantel.

People who have spoken to Liz Cheney say she is irritated that her sister is making their dispute public and believes it is hypocritical for Mary Cheney to take such a hard line now, given that she worked for the re-election of President Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage.

But our real concern here, apart from enjoying an ultra ultra conservative like Liz Chaney skewered on the rack of hypocrisy is the fact that the feud is being fought in part on Facebook posts.  Here is Mary Chaney's spouse totally destroying  her sister in law’s integrity on Facebook.

“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Ms. Poe wrote. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”

Yeah, a delightful turn of events, but we are just not sure social media improves people’s lives, and this is certainly evidence for that position.

And finally, not only is this showing an ugly side of Liz Chaney, her position is not even good politics.  Almost all voters respect a person who stands up for their family, and they have little respect for a person who would throw her sister and sister in law under the bus to gain a few political points. Liz Chaney's stance will hurt her in her quest for votes in Wyoming, not help her.  So in addition to be a bigoted person she is also a politically inept one.  Not exactly a prescription for winning an election.