Monday, January 31, 2011

we must not crucify our economies upon a cross of ...rubber??

OK. That's what Paul Krugman said. And he makes good sense.

An increase in interest rates right now would strangle the developed economies. Inflation is a problem in China and a few other developing countries, and those countries are the ones that need to cut back their economies, not the developed nations. The only inflation at the moment is in a few commodity items, and that is directly the result of the rapid expansion of the economies in underdeveloped nations.

Once again a group of bankers are proving that bankers are idiots.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

America's right wing oligarchs confer

The wealthy American oligarchs who are making war on the American middle class and working class are conducting in a coordination meeting to plan out how to use the Citizen's United decision to flood the American political scene with well-funded right wing candidates. The meeting is being conducted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Here are a few of the attendees according to Think Progress:
  • Richard DeVos, billionaire cofounder of Amway
  • Diane Hendricks, billionaire widow of Ken Hendricks who founded Abc Supply which has become the largest U.S. wholesaler of roofing, siding, windows and gutter supplies.
  • Herman Cain, founder of Godfather's Pizza
  • Ken Langone , an investment banker and founder of Home Depot

  • Ronald Erickson, CEO of Holiday Companies, a Minnesota based petroleum retail and wholesale convenience business with operations in twelve states across the Upper Midwest and Alaska
Think Progress also links to this listing of attendees at the Koch Brothers conference in 2010.

Remember, these are the people that Wall Street banks exist to cater to. These people and the Wall Street banks between them have been directly responsible for outsourcing most of American middle class jobs in the last half century. They have also centralized the banks and set them up to be free of usury laws so that the banks can gouge the middle class. This same group with their Wall Street Bankers is also primarily responsible for the policies that created what Ben Bernanke has called the greatest financial disaster ever. We know this disaster today as the Great Recession.

It is my opinion that American troops remain in the middle east today because the wars there support the excessively bloated Pentagon budget which pumps up the investment returns these individuals get. They and the oil companies had a similar reason to urge George Bush to invade Iraq. (There were other reasons, but these were at or near the top of the list.)

Now they are gathering together to determine how the Citizen's United decision by the Supreme Court will permit them to secretly leverage the use of their money in American politics to make themselves even richer at the expense of the Middle and working classes.

Addendum 5:06 PM
While the above addresses the effect that money and great wealth is having on American politics, Kevin Drum last Friday blogged on how much effect FOX News was having on elections. In summary, FOX seems to be having only a slight effect on actual votes, but it has had a massive effect on setting the American political agenda.

Notice that Glenn Beck from FOX is attending the Koch brothers convention, too. He and FOX as a whole are a major elements in the Oligarch's propaganda army.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The American conservatives depend on a fantasy of Europe to frighten American voters

Paul Krugman responded to the very misleading official Republican response to the State of the Union by Representative Paul Ryan. Ryan's image of Europe is pure fantasy. Ireland and Britain have had their recent financial crises precisely because they followed the prescription being peddled by Ryan and the American conservatives! 2006-2007 Ireland was running a budget surplus, and had one of the lowest debt levels in the advanced world.

So what went wrong? The answer is: out-of-control banks; Irish banks ran wild during the good years, creating a huge property bubble. When the bubble burst, revenue collapsed, causing the deficit to surge, while public debt exploded because the government ended up taking over bank debts. And harsh spending cuts, while they have led to huge job losses, have failed to restore confidence.

The lesson of the Irish debacle, then, is very nearly the opposite of what Mr. Ryan would have us believe. It doesn’t say “cut spending now, or bad things will happen”; it says that balanced budgets won’t protect you from crisis if you don’t effectively regulate your banks — a point made in the newly released report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which concludes that “30 years of deregulation and reliance on self-regulation” helped create our own catastrophe. Have I mentioned that Republicans are doing everything they can to undermine financial reform?

What about Britain? Well, contrary to what Mr. Ryan seemed to imply, Britain has not, in fact, suffered a debt crisis. True, David Cameron, who became prime minister last May, has made a sharp turn toward fiscal austerity. But that was a choice, not a response to market pressure.

And underlying that choice was the new British government’s adherence to the same theory offered by Republicans to justify their demand for immediate spending cuts here — the claim that slashing government spending in the face of a depressed economy will actually help growth rather than hurt it.

So how’s that theory looking? Not good. The British economy, which seemed to be recovering earlier in 2010, turned down again in the fourth quarter. Yes, weather was a factor, and, no, you shouldn’t read too much into one quarter’s numbers. But there’s certainly no sign of the surging private-sector confidence that was supposed to offset the direct effects of eliminating half-a-million government jobs. And, as a result, there’s no comfort in the British experience for Republican claims that the United States needs spending cuts in the face of mass unemployment.
Essentially Ryan's speech demonstrated that he does not know the economic status of Europe and he clearly does not understand macroeconomics.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Who coulda known??

When Edward P. Mangano ran for county executive of Long Island's Nassau County as a libertarian tax-cutting Tea Partier, he promised that if he were elected he would cut taxes, cut spending and that the county would become a Tea Party Paradise. Everyone could "keep their own money and be richer!"

It was predictable. Everyone wants to cut taxes and cut spending - they just don't want the services they depend on cut along with it. Don't listen to those with experience, and especially ignore the guys who actually look at those pesky numbers and make decisions like accountants! They are pretending they are better than the voters and are lying to them, right?

The incumbent Mangano ran against knew that the county voters would not cut the services. They were unwilling to part with them. He ran against Mangano by telling the truth. The voters bought the lies of the Tea Party scammer and rejected the experience incumbent. Where was the media? Oh, wait. The media, especially FOX and the right wing radio gasbags were pushing the scam!

It's been a little over a year. The inevitable has happened. Nassau County is in a financial crisis that it cannot deal with, so the state has taken over Nassau County's finances.

The Tea Partiers are now trying the same scam on the government of the United States. That's what all the shouting in the House of Representatives is all about now that John Boehner and the conservative Republicans have taken over. And what are they shouting?

Cut taxes, cut spending and that the nation will become a Tea Party libertarian Paradise.

Tell me. When the nation buys the Tea party Libertarian scam and then collapses, who takes over? The United Nations? The World Bank? Forget it. The inevitable collapse of the United States finances if the scam is put into practice cannot be nearly as easily dealt with as the collapse of Nassau County finances will be.

[H/T to Steve Benen at Political Animal.]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's hard to take the Republicans in Congress seriously

President Obama was in full professor-mode last night, and the Republicans were simply angry destructive children playing at being adults and trying to get people to pay attention to them. No one showed that more than Eric Cantor who was the serious child playing dress up and trying to act adult but having no comprehension of what was actually happening around him. As if that were not enough childishness for one night, Cantor was followed by the Congressional Republican court jester, Michelle Bachmann. CNN decide the crazy children were so cute that they had to display her like a doting grandparent who shows off his grandchild acting silly and gushes "Oh, how sweet."

The best response from the grownups that I have seen this morning comes from Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Post. This is how he characterizes the best the Republicans had to offer last night:
Republicans, it turns out, have no public investment strategy, just as they have no health-care strategy and no agreed-upon blueprint for reducing federal spending. What they have are poll-tested talking points, economic delusions and an overwhelming partisan instinct to say "no" to anything Barack Obama proposes. In their response to the president's State of the Union message, they remind us once again that they are not serious about economic policy and not ready to govern.

In framing his retooled economic and political strategy, the president emphasized using public money to leverage private investment and innovation, once a popular Republican theme.

In the short term, administration officials expect the bigger boost to the economy is likely to come not from jobs directly funded but from additional private investments spurred by increased confidence and a renewed sense of national purpose - "our Sputnik moment," as Obama called it.
The Republicans owned the Federal Government from 2001 until their idiocy got so clear that Democrats were brought back in the Run Congress in 2006 and Obama was brought in to replace the failed George Bush in 2008.

Face it. What did the Republicans do for America? Two unnecessary wars, the destruction of the financial underpinning of the federal government after Clinton had set it on the way to fiscal surpluses, the destruction of the great city of New Orleans through mismanagement of the rescue and rebuild process after Katrina hit it and the greatest economic disaster since 1929 which was completely avoidable if the adults had been in charge in Washington and on Wall Street.

With the two wars still bleeding American taxpayers and killing American troops and the unemployment at close to 10% (a number that is carefully held down by conservative definitions) all the Republicans can offer as rebuttal to Obama's State of the Union speech last night was the sedate unrealistic ignorance expressed by Eric Cantor and the loud primal scream of frustration that Michelle Bachmann awkwardly displayed.

Why are the Republicans acting so idiotic in public when America is suffering so from the first decade of Republican mismanagement during the Bush administration? People with money (e.g. The Koch brothers, Howard Ahmanson, Jr. and Houston's Bob Perry. Then there is the Wall Street money, the insurance lobby money, the Military Industrial Complex money protecting its contracts, and many more.) are stirring up the American crazies and the Republican politicians need those crazies if they are to continue to hold their elected offices. Without those well-financed special interest groups, America could have a marginally sane opposition party. as it is we get Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachmann.

So last night as the serious adults tried to work out how America will deal with the most challenging period it has undergone since the Great Depression and WW II, the Republican Party responded by offering the rantings of self-centered ignorant children playing dress-up and keeping the adults from doing serious work.

The Republicans are not ready to govern, and they are doing everything they can do to stop the Democrats from governing, just as America needs its best minds working to determine how to deal with the disasters Republican government have left us with. Last night put it all on display.

Oh, and the media did not show that it has a serious purpose, either, as it catered to the crazy children running the Republican Party and released an advance copy of the SOTU speech early.

Addendum 1:25 PM
This, from Steve Benen comparing Michelle Bachmann's idiocy to the speech by the more polished Eric Cantor, is interesting. They spouted the same nonsense.
But here's the funny part: substantively, Bachmann's nonsense was roughly identical to the foolishness repeated by Paul Ryan in the official Republican SOTU response. Note Media Matters' fact-check of Ryan's speech and then check Media Matters' fact-check of Bachmann's speech. The similarities are striking -- with a few exceptions, they had the exact same message.
So who is handing them their talking points? This message is obviously centrally controlled.

Really. Who is it that controls this idiocy? I have hinted at a few of the culprits above. With the Citizen's United decision from the corporate-owned U.S. Supreme Court, though, tracking that information down soon enough to make a difference politically is going to be almost impossible.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

They're off! Who will the Republicans nominate for 2012?

I'm wondering about the Republican nomination. Will the crazies cancel each other out while the sane Republicans nominate Romney?

I mean, Palin (won't run), Bachman (dies in the first states), Giuliani (won't actually run), Gingrich (sells books, won't run), Huckabee might get 20%. Who else is Fox "news" grooming in its candidate stable?

I know almost nothing about Thune, and Pawlenty is remarkably forgettable. But neither seems to be ready for the money primary against Romney. Other than them there are no apparently credible "surprise" candidates currently in the wings warming up to undertake an Obama-style outsiders campaign by someone new.

I left Rick Perry off the list but I think Rick Perry may have been serious when he said he was not going to run and his efforts to deal with the currently $27 billion (and counting) Texas shortfall of revenues vs expenses will clobber any chance he might have had. That deficit is roughly a quarter of total anticipated revenues in a low-tax low-service state that spends on almost nothing now except health care and education. Texas is going to look like Arizona on a much larger scale. Perry has no more chance to run for President than does Arizona's Gov. Brewer.

Who does Romney have to run against to get the more sane voters in the Republican primaries? The crazies are going to cancel each other out and leave the field to Romney by default. That makes the nomination Romney's the same way 2008 belonged to McCain. That's a problem of its own, of course.

The problem McCain had was that the social conservatives detested him and he couldn't get a majority at first. It was only when everyone else was proven unable to get the nomination that they settled on McCain. But the social conservatives still detested him, so he was forced to go with one of theirs - Palin. He also had to abandon all his carefully established sensible persona to cater to the Dominionists who want a Biblical-based government over the Constitution. It didn't get McCain elected (nothing could have done that right after Bush) but Palin on the ticket kept the social conservatives from sitting at home and not voting. The choice of Palin and the shift of political positions to appease the radical Christianists avoided a Goldwater-style blow out.

I see the same social conservative - movement conservative split doing much the same thing this year and next, with the Tea Partiers acting as the wild card. The social conservatives don't like Romney any more than they did McCain. But the party is going to reluctantly go with Romney and try to patch up with the social conservatives.

With money behind him, I think that still means Romney and a social conservative to be named later as their ticket. No one is going to love it, but they can unify the Republicans after the nomination through their hatred for Democrats and especially for Obama.

The hatred will be above ground mostly lies and hatred for liberals, and below ground it will be another round of Racism. Anti-immigration will fit about half-way in the middle of that, with anger at any immigrant mixed with race hatred for Mexicans.

That's my best guess right now. Of course, in fall of 2007 I was expecting Guiliani to be the Republican nominee. This time, though, I don't expect Romney to self-destruct the way "G" did.

One last thing - This is going to be the Citizen's United Presidential race in 2012. It's going to be massive amounts of corporate money and wealthy family money, combined with the radical right organizing power of FOX News against the grass-roots organization and fund-raising power of Obama. Since the Citizens United money will be mostly secret (no one will know who is paying for the ads) the lies from the right are going to swamp the airwaves. It will all be seasoned with more shootings like that of Gabby Giffords in Tucson. (See link below.)

This is a prediction for the next 21 months, and we all know that predictions run into reality and become unrecognizable. It'll be interesting to see how close this one turns out to being true.

Addendum: 01/24/2011 at 11:56:37 PM CT
I predicted these shootings above, but I really expected them to take longer to happen. Apparently they are already in progress. Police fear 'war on cops' At least 11 shot in 24 hours; death toll apace with 2010 uptick . This is from MSNBC This evening.

The only questions are (1)whether the shootings will be more frequent and (2) whether the quite inadequate media will bother to report them or aggregate the reports to show what is happening.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What happened in Tucson Saturday?

The tragic shooting at the Safeway in Tucson is now widely known. Now the background is just beginning to make it into the news. Today the news begins to present a description of Jared Loughner who was and is a very disturbed individual. But any description of Loughner should also be considered in the context of America's political climate.

CNN today describes Jared Loughner's behavior leading up to the shooting in an article entitled "Loughner's dad feared he was 'out of control,' neighbor says."
Tucson, Arizona (CNN) -- The father of Arizona massacre suspect Jared Lee Loughner had a front-yard argument with his son the morning of the killings and had told a neighbor the 22-year-old was "out of control," according to neighbors and investigators.

The shaven-headed youth had quit a community college in October after being suspended and had been warned not to come back without a mental health evaluation. Postings attributed to Loughner on websites including MySpace and YouTube show "classic signs of psychosis," one expert told CNN.

Loughner had complained for years about U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- the apparent target of Saturday's bloodbath, according to a law enforcement official.


The morning of the shooting, he had argued with his father, Randy Loughner, in the front yard of their Tucson home, Richard Kastigar, the head of the Pima County Sheriff's Department's investigations bureau, told CNN's "John King USA." The younger Loughner was in the front yard with a bag, possibly a backpack, when his father asked him what he was doing with it, Kastigar said.

"Jared mumbled something back to his dad, and his dad said he didn't understand what was said. It was unintelligible," Kastigar said. "And then Jared left. The father followed. The father got in his vehicle and tried to locate his son and followed the direction that he went and he could not locate his son."

Randy Loughner thought his son "went into the desert some place," Kastigar said. But by Saturday afternoon, he and his wife returned home to find police waiting for them, neighbor Stephen Woods said.

"His hand went on his head. He seemed very upset. His wife was crying. I assume that's when they told him," Woods said. Randy Loughner "was just holding his head, saying, 'No. No.' "


Searches of their home after the killings turned up a 2007 letter from Giffords, thanking Jared Loughner for attending a 2007 event similar to Saturday's. An envelop in the same strongbox was scrawled with phrases like "die bitch" and "assassination plans have been made," Kastigar said.

A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNN Loughner asked Giffords a question at the 2007 event and was unhappy with her response.

"He never let it go," the source said. "It kept festering."

Online, Loughner ranted about poor grammar, illiteracy and "mind control" and argued that space shuttle missions were faked and that people could make their own currency.

"In conclusion, reading the second United States constitution I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar," he wrote in one piece posted to YouTube. "No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver! No! I won't trust in God!"

Alan Lipman, director of the Center of the Study of Violence at Georgetown University, said the postings show "classic signs of psychosis."

"People were looking for whether he was on the left or the right. He was neither," Lipman told CNN. "He was incoherent. Those were signs, classic signs you'd see in a psychiatric unit of formal thought disorder."

And forensic psychologist Kathy Seifert called the postings "absolutely psychotic." Loughner should have been evaluated for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism or other mental illnesses, she said.
The article continues to discuss Loughner's behavior in school and the reason why he was barred from Pima County College. It is clear that he was getting mentally worse over recent years.

In a separate article CNN states Alleged Loughner postings paint disturbing picture. This describes Loughners writings online.
(CNN) -- NASA has never flown a manned space shuttle mission.

There was no Mars rover.

People can make their own currency.

From February 2009 through September 2010, someone using the name "Erad3" made these and a series of other assertions -- unusual at best, disturbed at worst -- on the website

Erad3, according to site co-owner Mark Allin, was almost certainly Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old man accused of killing six people and injuring 14 others last weekend, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.

The site, Allin said, focuses on "alternative news" and information "not covered by the mainstream media." Allin noted that all 130 messages from Erad3 were posted from Loughner's hometown of Tucson, and many of them bear a striking resemblance to postings made by Loughner on the popular social media site YouTube.

Investigators are examining the postings on Allin's site, according to a law enforcement source.

The messages from Erad3 -- riddled with grammatical errors -- often became the object of ridicule, scorn or sympathy from other contributors.

"The ranting about proof, (your) inability to make a coherent sentence gives you away red handed," one person wrote. "It won't be long (until) you have been banned once again!"

"You sound absolutely bonkers," added another.

"I think you're frankly schizophrenic," said a third. "That's not an amateur opinion and not intended as an uninformed or insulting. ... You clearly make no sense and are unable to communicate. I really do care. Seek help before you hurt yourself or others or start taking your medications again, please."

Erad3 replied with a series of unrelated arguments before concluding with a brief expression of thanks for the writer's concern.

None of Erad3's postings mentions Giffords or a desire for violence, unlike language used in documents found in Loughner's residence. They do, however, appear to reflect a strong urge to break free of any constraints -- real or imagined -- imposed by government officials.
So it is quite clear that Jared Loughner was known to be a very disturbed individual. What happens when a person this disturbed in surrounded by images of violence and threats? Consider the language that has been spread through the media recently. Congressman John Dingell lists just a very few statements that have been widely publicized:
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), by contrast, ran through a litany of now-infamous statements by high-profile politicians, leaving blank the names of people and issues under threat.

"Let me read some statements that I have seen to be pretty awful," he said on Wednesday.

Here they are in order:

* Quoting Sharron Angle: "People are looking towards the second amendment remedies and saying my goodness, what can we do to turn our country around."

* Angle again: "The first thing we need to do is take out blank." The exact quote: "The first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

* Quoting Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN): "I want people in blank armed and dangerous on this issue [of the energy tax] because we need to fight back."

* Quoting Glenn Beck: "I want to kill blank with a shovel." The exact quote: "I want to kill Charlie Rangel with a shovel."

* Beck again: "Every night I get down on my knees and pray blank will burst into flames." The exact quote: "Every night I get down on my knees and pray Dennis Kucinich will burst into flames."

* Quoting Texas GOP candidate Stephen Broden: ''Our nation was founded on violence. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.'­­­­­' The exact quote: ''Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.'­­­­­'

* Quoting Sarah Palin: "Don't retreat, reload."

* Quoting would-be Alan West chief of staff Joyce Kaufman: "If ballots don't work, bullets will."
So take a very disturbed individual whose father states was out of control and place him in a state with the most lenient gun laws in the nation.
On November 30, Jared Lee Loughner went to a Sportman's Warehouse in Tuscon, Ariz., and purchased a Glock 19 semiautomatic weapon, after passing an instant background check.

He allegedly used that weapon in the January 8 shooting rampage that killed at least six people and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 13 others in Tuscon.

Arizona's gun laws, among the most lenient in the country, allowed Loughner to conceal and carry his firearm without a permit, explains Washington Post reporter James Grimaldi. Grimaldi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, wrote a piece on Sunday about Arizona's gun laws.

"Essentially, there is very little obstacle to purchasing a weapon in the state of Arizona," Grimaldi tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "There are laws that require you, federally, to be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun. But basically state law permits anyone 21 and older to own a firearm and also, to carry it concealed in the state. That's different than many other states, many of which have stricter gun laws."

In January 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill which repealed an Arizona state law that required gun owners to have permits to carry concealed weapons. Arizona's previous governor Janet Napolitano, now the Homeland Security secretary, had vetoed previous attempts from the gun lobby to scrap the permit requirement.

Arizona also allows gun owners to carry their weapons almost everywhere in the state, including government buildings and inside the state Capitol. Exceptions exist for private businesses and doctor's offices.

"There's a proposal [in Arizona] that would allow teachers and students to carry [weapons] into classrooms and that was meant to be a hedge against what happened at Virginia Tech," says Grimaldi. "It's permitted in a bar [to carry a weapon] in Arizona if the person who has the weapon is not imbibing in alcohol. It's also permitted on school grounds currently if the person is picking up or dropping off a child as long as the weapon is unloaded and the gun owner remains in the vehicle."
It cannot be determined at this time why Jared Loughner focused on killing Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The politicians who spread violent rhetoric through the media did not cause him to conduct teh shooting, but they certainly gave him permission to shoot his enemy. The gun freedom in Arizona did not cause the shooting, but every social system that might have prevented the shooting was removed, most recently when the Arizona Governor signed a bill which repealed an Arizona state law that required gun owners to have permits to carry concealed weapons.

The NRA suggests that if everyone carried weapons shooting events like the one in Tucson would not happen, but an individual who carried a legal weapon was in the Safeway when Congresswoman Giffords was shot. He is reported to have come out to the parking lot where he saw a man holding a gun and nearly shot him. The man hold the gun was the Colonel who had taken it from Jared Loughner. The actual shooting had taken less than 15 seconds so that others with weapons could not have stopped it, and as the near shooting of one of the innocent victims showed the danger of death by innocents is quite high.

The one other thing that is obvious is that it was clear for a long time before the shooting that Jared Loughner needed psychiatric care and did not get it. Such care is not normally available and the laws across the nation do not encourage the courts to force a troubled person to get medical care for psychiatric problems.

What happened in Tucson was not just the actions of a single mad man. It was that, of course, but American society also set it up so that the inevitable crazy individuals are encouraged to commit murder, are given all the tools needed to do it and all of the preventive measures such as care for the mentally ill are being removed. Arizona is the leading low-tax low-service state which will always be ripe for this kind of event.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Media clams both sides equally guilty of excesses

Ross Douhat of The New York Times states it clearly. "if overheated rhetoric and martial imagery really led inexorably to murder, then both parties would belong in the dock." But he's wrong. It's not both sides equally. No one is threatening right-wing leaders with violence or "second amendment remedies" as the Republican nominee for Nevada Senate did.

It's the right-wingers in America who are threatening violence, and that is exactly what they did when they sent individuals carrying firearms to Democratic political rallies. Firearms are a symbol that violence is being threatened. They use the rhetoric that guns are for defense, but that's only true for people working for the government. Anyone else who carries a gun does so because he he afraid, angry at someone else, or insane. He displays it to threaten violence and to intimidate those he is threatening.

Why do I exempt people with the government? Because the first function of a government is always to maintain social stability and the government must maintain a monopoly on the legitimate right to use violence to maintain social stability.

Notice that social stability was NOT maintained in the parking lot of Safeway. There were people there with legal concealed weapons, but the shooting started and was over in less than 15 seconds. Untrained carriers of so-called defensive firearms got to show up in time to see the blood and bodies on the ground. The violence was ended by unarmed civilians before the gun-carriers even realized there was a problem.

The only reason anyone other than a licensed peace officer carries a firearm in a crowd is as a symbolic threat to perform violence ("I'm a bad-ass! Fear me!" or "Better cater to my whims! "I'm armed!" or "You can't threaten me! I'm armed and dangerous!") or in preparation of a terrorist action. The weapon is always a symbol of violence and intimidation.

It is the right-wing that does the threatening of violence because they are the ones most likely to practice it on their political opponents. There is no equivalence on the left.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Right-wing hate-mongers and the unstable individuals they direct and encourge to act

Steve Benen wrote about the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Gifford in Tuscon, AZ:
it seems there are two main, big-picture observations that are being bandied about. The first is that this is an excellent time for political pugilists to appreciate the power of language, and come away from this tragedy exercising better judgment. There's a level of toxicity in our discourse just isn't healthy, and it tears at the societal fabric that holds the country together.

The second is that Loughner, by all accounts, is clinically ill, and what might set off an armed mad man is necessarily unpredictable. To this extent, the political/rhetorical environment isn't to blame for yesterday's events; the sickness of a disturbed young man is.

I'm inclined to think the two points aren't mutually exclusive.
It's true. The two points aren't mutually exclusive. An unstable person with a tendency to act out his fantasies is more likely to do so when he is given permission by others to act.

There are indications that Laughner is such an unstable individual. Laughner was rejected by the Army as unsuited to join, and the community college he had been attending has expelled him until he could demonstrate that he was not so mentally deranged that he would not be a danger to other students there. As news about him is reported it's pretty clear that he does not have the ability to predictably control his actions. So he has already been recognized as an unstable individual. What does the current political climate in America do to individuals like Laughner?

There are unstable individuals out there who are more likely to go shooting someone, but what has happened is that the right-wing hate-meisters are setting a climate that gives these individuals targets to hate and they also set a climate that further gives them permission to go after those targets. Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk name the targets. Sharron Angle - the Republican nominee for Senate - publicly told him to consider "Second Amendment remedies." The only thing missing in the connection is a direct statement to the crazy individual "Now. Go shoot so-and-so."

Sara Robinson wrote an article that listed the similar incidents between January and June of 2009. Chip Bertle summarizes
the dynamic.
Hannah Arendt described the process of demagoguery leading to violence as it occurs in totalitarian regimes ranging from Hitler to Stalin. The demagogue frames the target, but leaves off a direct call for violence. But the message is clear. Unstable people often act first. Political ideologues, however, can be mobilized as the process continues to act as a group.
This really is how organized terrorism begins.

I consider it very likely that soon right-wing politicians and pundits are going to start traveling with open armed guards "because the climate is so dangerous to public figures." (Another market for Blackwater/XE?) That will be another major step towards creating a violent political climate.

One other thing to consider. The right wing repeats the idea "Guns don't kill. People kill."

Yeah? Watch movies and monitor the tone of the movie when the scene with someone pulling out a gun and cleaning, loading or just checking it. The music gets more ominous as does the entire tone of the movie. Other weapons have similar responses, but a gun has a much stronger one normally. A gun is a symbol of preparing for violence.

So if the climate around you is threatening, it is traditional in America to reach for a gun. Then if something startles you or threatens you, what happens next? Someone gets shot at or even killed.

Guns may not kill, but they make it a lot more likely that someone will get badly hurt or killed.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Right-wing lack of self-awareness version 9575+

This really is funny. The right-wing bible magazine National Review has actually published:
a piece from a money launderer (Ralph Reed) defending a money launderer (Tom DeLay) against money-laundering charges.
Apparently conservatives have not yet come to grips with the fact that money laundering with the intent to conceal the source of money can be a crime.

Look at this definition of money laundering from the International Economics Glossary:
The conversion of large amounts of money the source of which one wants to hide (e.g., from drug trafficking) into a form that appears to be legitimate. The process often involves multiple international transactions across currencies and financial institutions in order to obscure the source.
Here is a more detailed description of money laundering:
Money laundering is usually described as having three sequential elements - placement, layering and integration - as defined in a report by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2002,7):
The first stage in the process is placement. The placement stage involves the physical movement of currency or other funds derived from illegal activities to a place or into a form that is less suspicious to law enforcement authorities and more convenient to the criminal. The proceeds are introduced into traditional or nontraditional financial institutions or into the retail economy. The second stage is layering. The layering stage involves the separation of proceeds from their illegal source by using multiple complex financial transactions (e.g., wire transfers, monetary instruments) to obscure the audit trail and hide the proceeds. The third stage in the money laundering process is integration. During the integration stage, illegal proceeds are converted into apparently legitimate business earnings through normal financial or commercial operations.
Not all money-laundering transactions involve all three distinct phases, and some may indeed involve more (van Duyne2003).
Essentially, though, money laundering is a process of moving funds from a source to a destination in which such funds are not legal. The laundering process is a set of transactions conducted with the intent to conceal the original source and nature of the funds from those who ultimately receive those funds.

That fact that using funds that are illegal at the destination is a crime seems to have escaped the notice of the editors of the National Review.

{h/t to Steve Benen at Political Animal]

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Wonder where the right-wing gets it's misinformation about the financial impact of repealing the Affordable Health Care Act? Try Tom Coburn.

Conservatives are claiming they can repeal the Affordable Care Act without increasing the budget deficit in the future. Many of them seem to believe this, or at least think they have support for this lie. Red State has published a propaganda piece which has come from Senator Tom Coburn. It will get rather wide distribution among the right wingers. It is, however, little more than word salad that makes no real sense.

Here is what Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has posted as an explanation for why the repeal of the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) would lower the federal deficit:
Beyond the headlines, it’s important to look at what CBO actually said…..
  1. Repeal Reduces Health Insurance Costs for Americans. "In particular, if H.R. 2 was enacted, premiums for health insurance in the individual market would be somewhat lower than under current law…”
  2. Repeal Reduces Federal Spending on Health Care. “Last March, CBO estimated that enacting PPACA and the relevant provisions of the Reconciliation Act would increase the “federal budgetary commitment to health care” by about $400 billion over the 2010–2019 period; CBO uses that term to describe the sum of net federal outlays for health programs and tax preferences for health care.7 In contrast, CBO estimated that enacting that legislation would reduce the federal budgetary commitment to health care during the decade after 2019.”
  3. CBO Reviewed the Repeal Bill, But a Detailed Analysis is Still Forthcoming. “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reviewed H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, as introduced on January 5, 2011. That bill would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, Public Law 111-148) and the provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-152) that are related to health care….. CBO has not yet developed a detailed estimate of the budgetary impact of repealing that legislation, although it is working with the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to complete such an estimate in the near future. Because Congressional deliberations on H.R. 2 could begin very soon, CBO is providing in this letter a less-detailed preliminary analysis of that legislation.”
  4. The Promised Deficit Reduction From the Overhaul Has Changed Slightly. “The projected increase in deficits will not be exactly the same as the reduction in deficits that was originally estimated to result from the enacted legislation….[because] the economic outlook is now somewhat different…. Some of the funding provided by the legislation enacted last March has been obligated or spent… Subsequent legislation has already modified the laws enacted last March.”
  5. Now Repeal “Costs” $145 Billion. “CBO expects that enacting H.R. 2 would probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012–2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion..”
  6. But CBO Was Forced To Score the Initial Bill –Full of Smoke and Mirrors – as it Was Written. “As with all of CBO’s cost estimates, those estimates reflect an assumption that the provisions of current law would otherwise remain unchanged throughout the projection period and that the legislation being considered would be enacted and implemented in its current form. CBO’s responsibility to the Congress is to estimate the effects of proposals as written and not to forecast future legislation.”
  7. CBO Admits Actual Costs of the Overhaul Could Be Much Higher. “Projections of the bill’s budgetary impact are quite uncertain…..However, CBO’s staff, in consultation with outside experts, has devoted a great deal of care and effort to the analysis of health care legislation in the past few years, and the agency strives to develop estimates that are in the middle of the distribution of possible outcomes. As a result, CBO believes that its estimates of the net budgetary effects of health care legislation have a roughly equal chance of turning out to be too high or too low.”
  8. So, if the Current Law Were Changed Significantly (As Many Experts Anticipate), Repealing the Overhaul Could Reduce the Deficit.

    “The budgetary impact of repealing PPACA and the provisions of the Reconciliation Act related to health care could be quite different if key provisions of that original legislation would have subsequently been changed or not fully implemented….. Current law now includes a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. For example, PPACA and the Reconciliation Act reduced payments to many Medicare providers relative to what the government would have paid under prior law. On the basis of those cuts in payment rates and the existing “sustainable growth rate” mechanism that governs Medicare’s payments to physicians, CBO projects that Medicare spending (per beneficiary, adjusted for overall inflation) will increase significantly more slowly during the next two decades than it has increased during the past two decades. If those provisions would have subsequently been modified or implemented incompletely, then the budgetary effects of repealing PPACA and the relevant provisions of the Reconciliation Act could be quite different—but CBO cannot forecast future changes in law or assume such changes in its estimates.”
[Note: I have changed the quote above to add numbers instead of dots. This permits me to analyze the document paragraph by paragraph below. ]

Here is my analysis of the word salad above.

Item 1. above states that the insurance companies will lower the price of health policies in the individual market if PPACA is repealed. No source is provided for this, but I am quite certain that Senator Coburn has a written promise from the insurance companies that they will lower prices. Yeah. Right.

Item 2. above is truly strange. Sen Coburn compares the CBO anticipated total federal outlays for health care during the period from 2010 - 2019 to the net federal outlays and tax preferences for an unknown period. Beyond being nonsense, this is at best an apples to oranges comparison. There is no "contrast" in the numbers for the third sentence to compare to. Besides, the third sentence is about the period after 2019. This three sentence paragraph is complete gibberish.

Item 3. above complains that the CBO detailed analysis on the proposed H.R. 2 repeal of the Affordable Care Act was not complete and final prior to the Republican House even considering the bill. Well, Duh! There has not been any proposed H.R. 2 before today. There is no telling what will happen to it in Congress. This paragraph is another space filler with no information in it. It is meaningless word salad.

Item 4. above states that the conditions under which the CBO estimate of the costs of the AHCA they presented in March may be slightly different today because some conditions have changed since then. In other words, today is not exactly the same as last March was. There is, of course, no indication that the changes since they are in fact significant. Again, this is a filler paragraph designed to look like something was actually being said. It is more meaningless word salad.

Items 5 and 6 above need to be considered together. First item 5. points out that where ever the Coburn people got their numbers the cost of repeal would be $145 billion between 2012 and 2019. This number is the center of the entire document Coburn is trying to wish away. According to TPM this number itself is sharply low-balled from the current $230 billion over the same period of time.
Today, CBO forecast that the 10-year cost of repealing health care reform is actually $230 billion. That's nearly $100 billion higher than one might have expected, given that just under a year ago, the same budget analysts concluded that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit by $143 billion in the first decade.
Item 6 above tries to justify the quotation marks that Coburn put around the "Costs" before he stated $140 billion. The excuse? The CBO estimate from last March was based only on the way the bill that was passed as of the time of the estimate, March 2010. Therefore it was purely smoke and mirrors. It does not estimate changes that Congress might make to the bill. Yep. Word salad again.

Item 7 above pulls out the statement that any honest analyst making a prediction of future costs is going to have to make. "Projections of the bill's budgetary impact are quite uncertain ....." but they developed a best case scenario, a worst case scenario and a most likely scenario and this was the most likely. Gee. Yogi Berri is alleged to have said It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. So somehow this crap published by Tom Coburn is supposed to be as reliable as the best estimates of the CBO? Just like everything above except paragraph 5 which presents a sharply low-balled cost figure, this paragraph is more crap word filler with no real meaning.

Item 8 above suggests that if the Affordable Care Act were repealed significantly and then repealed, repealing the overhaul might reduce the deficit. So if unspecified changes are made in the law and then it is repealed, there might be reductions in the deficit.

Yeah, right, and if I buy a lottery ticket tonight and it happens to win next Saturday, then I just might possibly become a wealthy man. This paragraph is yet more crap word filler - but less likely than my suddenly coming into lottery wealth.

Essentially Senator Coburn has explained why the ACA can be repealed without increasing the deficit by placing a low-balled CBO estimate of how much CBO said months ago it would cost to repeal the act between seven paragraphs of gibberish and irrelevancies to try to hide the low-balled figure. It's not even good propaganda. But RedState published it.