July 02, 2011

Should we officially call Obama a neocon?

Will Obama snatch defeat from the jaws of debt talks victory?

That was the original title for this blog post, but I realized it had become something more ... the more that's the new title.

And, about that?

Answer at the end of this post.

Well, of course, would be the obvious example. If even David Brooks can find a blind-hog acorn by pointing out the problems with Obama's "consensus" style of what passes for leadership, you know this is a concern and not just inside the MSM.

On debt ceiling talks with the GOP, the L.A. Times nails it:
(E)ven if Obama were to gain all the tax-law changes he wants, new revenue would make up only about 15 cents of each dollar in deficit reduction in the package. An agreement by the Republicans to accept new revenue would be a political victory for Obama because "no new taxes" has been such an article of faith for the GOP.
That's just half the problem, though. Here's the bigger half:
Acquiescing to GOP demands would be the third major compromise for Democrats in the past year — a point of considerable frustration for the party's liberal base. Despite Democratic opposition, Congress voted in December to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and agreed this spring to steep budget reductions to avert a federal government shutdown.

Some Democrats believe Obama set the stage for the current situation by opening negotiations on deficit reduction this spring with a proposal that contained a 3-to-1 ratio between spending reductions and tax increases. Administration officials defend that move, saying the president began discussions at what one senior official called a "realistic starting point," not one designed to maximize his bargaining position.
Well, wrong, Preznit Kumbaya.

As with the stimulus package, you negotiated away the compromise in public before it was time to start compromising. And, this time, we can't even blame Rahm Emanuel for this. And, neither can you.

It's clear that you WANT to have "compromises" like this, Mr. Semiconservative, no longer even a neoliberal.

You're the same Preznit Grover Cleveland Obama who appointed all the members of that Catfood Commission, and never disavowed its work. For all we know, you're making a side deal with members of the Congressional GOP as we speak.

Seriously, shouldn't we start calling Obama a neoconservative? Given that he started from an affiliation with the "radical" reformer Saul Alinsky, similar to the left-wing roots of many of today's neocons, has connections to the University of Chicago, if not its economics school, has become boxed-in on his position vis-a-vis Israel and will probably shift further right, and is a clear global warmonger beyond the wet dreams of GOP neocons, we probably should.

I see I'm not the first on this ... two years ago, a Harper's article called him Barack Hoover Obama. I think the general comparison is true ... brainy but by the book, even though in pre-presidential lives, these people had operated outside the book at times.

However, there's a difference. I think Hoover, more than Obama, recognized the magnitude of the problem facing the country at that time. And, pre-FDR, there was little template for boldness.

Obama has the the advantage of seeing that template. He has the advantage of much more being developed in economic policy theory in 80 years since Hoover was president.

And yet ...

He chooses to be "incremental" in change. Or, not even wanting real "change" in fiscal and economic policy, whether on taxation, regulation, or other issues.

Why true progressives mistrust the MSM

Walter Russell Means, an allegedly liberal pundit/opinionator, shows how and why the MSM can be more anti-progressive in opinion pieces from the alleged liberal side of things than it can be on how it reports straight news.

This drivel of his can essentially be boiled down to the "shut up call" of, in essence, "we should all just learn to love neoliberalism."

Exxon still "spinning" on gobal warming

And, even suckering people who should know better.

It's all over the place that eXXXonMobil has gotten busted for giving past support to yet another anthropogenic global warming denier.

The "sucker," perhaps, too? Jamie Vernon, doing fill-in blogging for Chris Mooney at Discover, with this happy-dopey post about eXXXon's non-admission of guilt, taking off from a NYT blog which had some eXXXon spinning in it. Spinning like this, from Alan Jeffers, an ExxonMobil spokesperson who said:
“I am not prepared to talk about the individual grant requirements, but if their positions are distracting to how we are going to meet the energy needs of the world, then we didn’t want to fund them.”
To which, I said:

Jamie ... you're being naive (and maybe Chris is too). You said:

However, I was heartened by comments from Alan Jeffers, an ExxonMobil spokesperson who said, “I am not prepared to talk about the individual grant requirements, but if their positions are distracting to how we are going to meet the energy needs of the world, then we didn’t want to fund them.”

Note that eXXXon's Jeffers said zip, zilch, nada about AGW. He said eXXXon was worried about "if their positions are distracting to how we are going to meet the energy needs of the world."

In other words, for eXXXon, the bottom line is still the bottom line. IF the Soons of the world threaten its massive profits in trying "to meet the energy needs of the world," then they're a problem. If not, not.

July 01, 2011

Grover C. Obama

More and more, at times, Preznit Kumbaya, the current occupier of the White House, reminds me of his 20th-previous predecessor, Grover Cleveland, in his second stint, as our 24th president.

The continued iffiness of Congressional Republicans to do a deal on the national deficit, and the logistic difficulties of getting such a deal done by Aug. 2, are the latest reason why.

Cleveland showed leadership Obama didn't, it's true. He more deliberately sucked up to Wall Street and ignored the working class than Obama did. But the similarities are there.

Paul Krugman says President Obama never expected that the current GOP would play this level of hardball with debt-ceiling issues. That's why he was too dumb to link a debt-ceiling rise to his extension of the Bush Obama tax cuts.
Bear in mind that G.O.P. leaders don’t actually care about the level of debt. Instead, they’re using the threat of a debt crisis to impose an ideological agenda. ...

And the reason Republicans are doing this is because they must believe that it will work: Mr. Obama caved in over tax cuts, and they expect him to cave again. They believe that they have the upper hand, because the public will blame the president for the economic crisis they’re threatening to create. In fact, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that G.O.P. leaders actually want the economy to perform badly.
But, is Krugman right? Maybe Obama wants to be forced into a new "compromise" on this issue. Maybe we have yet to plunge the depths of how far he is beyond neoliberal to straight up conservative wannabe.

Maybe John Wiley Price IS a shakedown artist

Boy, there are times I miss living in Dallas, not just for the cultural life, but for the news world fun.

Hearing that Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price is under investigation by the FBI is indeed one of those times. Supposedly, the $100K found in his house might be related to ... some "gravy" from Kwanzaafest and/or the south Dallas County inland port deal, which hopefully this will kill deader than a doornail. (Some tax paperwork from Kwanzaafest is here.)

Of course, Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer is the go-to person on this, noting not only the "shakedown" angle that JWP tried to pull on Richard Allen and The Allen Group over the inland port, but about how the Dallas Morning Snooze is trying to pretend it's never kissed JWP's ass.

Here's the alleged "shakedown":
In 2005, Price led an effort to stymie development of a massive rail and shipping development called the Inland Port in the black part of the city. The Inland Port promised more than 60,000 well-paid jobs with benefits in an area of the city that has had a Third World economy since Reconstruction.

The main developer, Richard Allen, had just completed five years of land purchases, planning and permission-seeking from Dallas and other communities involved and was ready to start selling and leasing land. But Price decreed that the whole thing needed to be put on hold. He said lots more planning was needed before Allen would be ready for prime time.

This was just after Allen had shot down an attempt by four of Price's allies to get Allen to give them $1.5 million and a 15 percent cut of his family-owned company in exchange for their help making sure he didn't have any political problems with southern Dallas politicians.
Having lived in Lancaster during this whole time, I know people there and nearby were desperate for this to take off, even if it wasn't really viable. For Price allegedly to want to be handed a stake in Allen's company, including possibly some subcontracting jobs for best buds of his, at any cost, was beyond tragic.

Schutze is right. Here's my take on a butt-kisser from the Snooze back in 2009 (original article gone), specifically trying to soft-pedal JWP's "shakedown" attempt and what he said about it to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. More of my blogging on this here.

Now, this all said, I still wonder what state Sen. Royce West's angle is in this. He's a much smoother person than JWP, but ... does he still strike me as an "operator"? Just one with a bigger, as well as smoother, swing? Well ... what do you think?

Of course, with the economic slowdown having killed low-cost logistics storage, The Allen Group declared Chapter 11 18 months ago.

Meanwhile, it looks like JWP is also creative in the world of land acquisition.

June 30, 2011

Obama cluelessness behind debt gridlock

Paul Krugman nails it: President Obama never expected that the current GOP would play this level of hardball with debt-ceiling issues. That's why he was too dumb to link a debt-ceiling rise to his extension of the Bush Obama tax cuts.
Bear in mind that G.O.P. leaders don’t actually care about the level of debt. Instead, they’re using the threat of a debt crisis to impose an ideological agenda. ...

And the reason Republicans are doing this is because they must believe that it will work: Mr. Obama caved in over tax cuts, and they expect him to cave again. They believe that they have the upper hand, because the public will blame the president for the economic crisis they’re threatening to create. In fact, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that G.O.P. leaders actually want the economy to perform badly.
That said, there's a possible silver lining. Tim Geithner may leave the Treasury after a deal is reached. OTOH, Obama could replace him with ... Larry Summers. Or, almost as bad, Gene Sperling.

The Post lists other Clintonista retreads who could also be in the running:
In the past, analysts have discussed Roger Altman, an investment banker and deputy Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, and Erskine Bowles, a former Clinton chief of staff who co-chaired Obama’s deficit reduction commission, as possible candidates for the top Treasury post. Another Democratic economist popular with business is Laura Tyson, a business school professor at the University of California at Berkeley who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton.

Inside the Obama administration, budget director Jacob J. Lew or chief of staff William M. Daley could be viewed as qualified for the job, but the appointment of either would leave another big hole to fill. Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, could also emerge as a candidate. Sheila Bair, the outgoing chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., would be a dark-horse candidate.
Bair would be a dark horse because she's not a full-blown neolib. She'd get some sort of support from me.

Computer software confirms 'documentary hypothesis

Ever since the idea was first proposed more than a century ago by Julius Wellhausen, nonfundamentalist biblical scholars (of course, fundamentalist, by self-definition, aren't full-fledged biblical scholars) have postulated, developed and refined a "documentary hypothesis" for the writing, then later editing together of various sections of the Torah/Penteteuch, or the first five books of the Tanakh/Christian bible, which the nonscholars allege was written by Moses.

The hypothesis says that a "Yahwist," called the J author because Wellhausen was German, and the J has the y-sound there, ja, wrote large chunks, especially of Genesis, that focus on the use of the divine name. Theoretically, this author lived about 900 BCE in the southern "kingdom" of Judah after a united Israel (if it existed, as Old Testament minimalists question) split.

Another author, writing slightly later, is the "Elohist" or E author. He allegedly wrote slightly later, from the post-split northern kingdom of Israel, which included Ephraim (an "E" help mnemonic, as Judah is for the "J").

Then, a third author, a "Deuteronomist," is posited as the primary author of the book of Deuteronomy, just in time for Josiah, king of Judah, to "discover" about 621 BCE.

Fourth, a "Priestly' author wrote down all the ritual observances, the first version of the Genesis creation story, the dietary laws and similar stuff, after leaders of Judah were carted off to exile in Babylon.

Some say this person may have lived later and been the scribe Ezra, of the book of that name. Some postulate an original priestly author, but Ezra as a major redactor.

Well, at least between the priestly and nonpriestly sections, new computer research confirms the division. That's despite this background:
Three of the four scholars are religious Jews who subscribe in some form to the belief that the Torah was dictated to Moses in its entirety by a single author: God.
Just a reminder that religious fundamentalism isn't limited to Christianity.

Anyway, the computer software found multiple authors elsewhere, not just in the Torah. The software sees multiple authors in Isaiah, as do critical scholars.

Have fun working in America

It's not so nice to be an American, in the workforce. From a longer Truthout column:

Why you shouldn't believe Shermer's 'Believing Brain'

If you want to know why you shouldn't believe Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain," as well as why, for parts that are any good, you should go to more original resources, read my latest Amazon reviews.

A sample:
Here's derivative and blind spots intersecting -- Shermer briefly, but briefly talks about Kahneman's and Tversky's study in behavioral economics (without also citing Ariely, among others). One will learn much more about how irrational human behavior is in matters of economics, and related psychology, by going to the source. Shermer could have had a better book with a whole chapter just on this field.

So, why didn't he? I suspect because he knows how totally behavioral economics chops into little bitty pieces the claims of his beloved Ayn Rand and the Austrian School of Economics.
If you know Michael Shermer, and know he's not all he cracks himself up to be, you're not surprised by that. If you think you know Shermer, but don't necessarily worship the ground he walks on while thinking he is nonetheless a great skeptic, there's plenty more after those first two paragraphs of my review, so click the link and get enlightened.

June 28, 2011

#NissanLeaf sez: take THAT #JoeNocera

Last weekend, the New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera wrote a paean to the Chevy Volt that was so biased, I openly wondered if Chevy had paid him. He dissed hybrids like the Toyota Prius by claiming the Volt wasn't one (really? Chevy admits it is) and simply wrote off all-electrics, not just high-dollar ones like the Tesla, but hte everyday Nissan Leaf.

Well, that "dissed" Nissan Leaf just climbed Pikes Peak with no recharge. And, it beat some base-level gas-powered cars while still having 1/4 of a charge. How's THAT, Joe?

Schadenfreude for #GoddamSachs outsourcing?

If Think Progress is right about how high up the food chain some of these folks may be .... to be honest, I'm feeling a bit of schadenfreude. They probably defended globalization and the government bailout both.

On the "food chain level," TP cites Business Insider as saying these are primarily “high-paying, skilled positions in sales and investment banking.”

Business Insider adds:
The layoffs come at an interesting time. Banks are fighting tough regulations like capital requirements that they say will stem growth. Preparation for the regulations require banks to free up capital -- like the $1 billion Goldman plans to slash in the coming year. ...

So this news of the adverse effects that capital requirements will have on employment at Goldman Sachs should help the bankers' as they argue against the requirements in coming months. That's why this looks like a political move to discourage Washington from adding capital requirements above the 7% that Basel III regulations will enforce.
On that side, I'm a bit more saddened for those who will lose their jobs, to be pawns in a political game, but GS, and other megabanks, have done this in various ways for years.

Besides, since he's been Goddam Sachs' elfin toady, it would be fun to see a Congressional mix of libertarians, tea partiers and true liberals put Tim Geithner in the hot seat over this. Both for teh layoffs themselves AND for teh attempt to stiff the government.

June 27, 2011

Bachmann vs Bachmann on gay marriage

GOP Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann has gotten plenty of press play for saying she "respects" N.Y. state's "right" to pass a gay marriage law.

The reality?

She backs a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide. One that would pre-empt states that have already approved gay marriage.

And, in saying this, showed just how much an idiot she is:
Rep. Bachmann claimed that while New York's new law approving same-sex marriages which was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday was "up to the people of New York", the debate over defining marriage was "a state issue and a federal issue." She added that "federal law will trump state law on this issue."
Try to square those two sentences. You can't.

Note to wingnuts worried about China takeover: #nationaldebt

Only, it's China's debt, not ours.

Technically, it's not national debt, because it's at the local/regional level, but it's more than $1.65 trillion, in an economy still far smaller than ours, and with a government that provides fewer services than ours.

And, most of that is from "financing vehicles." Does this sounds familiar?
By the end of 2010, provincial, municipal and county-level governments had 6,576 financing vehicles. Three provinces, 29 municipal cities and 44 counties had more than 10 vehicles each.
Kind of like Texas Gov. Rick Perry's economic development fund? Or a Wall Street hedge fund? Or a bit of both?

Meanwhile, as bubbles continue to swell over there, Premier Wen Jiabao is worried inflation will break a 4 percent target.
Inflation there is supposed to get about 6 percent by the end of July. Meanwhile, speaking of those bubbles, China's economy is supposedly slowing down now. I'll bet that the unofficial growth rate, after subtracting out inflation, is near zero right now.

There's also the question if Chinese officials, like their Western economic governance counterparts theoretically, can "soft land" their economy out of rising inflation. I'm skeptical.

Somehow, I don't think Beijing is going to magically buy out the US of A.

June 26, 2011

Will Google end content farms and mills? No

Virginia Heffernan, whom the NYT apparently pays to write nonsense fluff on tech-communications issues, and did so before becoming an op-ed contributor there, thinks Google's tweaks to its content ranking system will be the bomb for AOL/Patch, HuffPuff/AOL, Demand/eHow, etc.


Apparently she's never heard of Amazon's trouble with spam e-books.

SkepticBlog now CensorBlog?

About a week ago, on the then-newest blog post at Skepticblog by libertarian and seeming pseudoskeptic Brian Dunning, I posted a link to his criminal indictment last year, asking if anybody had heard any follow-up info. I then noted that, since eBay, like Google, where Dunning said he had spoken recently in that blog post, is in Santa Clara County, Calif., making it likely he was killing two birds with one stone, if he doesn't live in the Bay Area.

Well, somebody at SkepticBlog deleted my comment to the post, and the whole thread of comments in response, too.

That said, "Max" has posted the link on what is now Dunning's latest post; let's see how long his stays up.