SocraticGadfly: 9/4/11 - 9/11/11

September 10, 2011

#Rick_Perry_False_Prophet: Pray 9 more months away

Let's see if Rick Perry's prayers are stronger than the mix of global warming plus the return of La Nina.

The National Weather Service says there's a good chance of above-normal temperatures through the rest of this year and straight into next summer. At the same time, there's a good chance of below-normal precipitation for Texas for the rest of this year and into next spring. 

For the rest of this year, you can see the chances of above-normal temperatures. Note the lightest shaded area has a 33 percent chance of above normal temperatures, the medium shade 40 percent. (We won't talk about that angry red shade. Follow the top link to get a number of additional temperature and precipitation prediction maps for the rest of this year and next spring; Texas is looking high, or hot, and dry, for the foreseeable future.

eXXXon words deny AGW, but its actions

Say something 180 degrees opposite. Joe Romm nails it.

Per Romm, it's clear eXXXon is on the side of the "reality based community" in its actions, too; this year's Arctic sea ice has hit another record low.

Is Lincoln-Obama like Revere-Palin?

Yes, this is the latest wingnut bullshit, that what Barack Obama said about Abraham Lincoln is as historically ignorant as what Sarah Palin said about Paul Revere, as a Human Events blog claims.

The reality? As I emailed back:
First, to equate this to Palin on Revere is ridiculous and you know it.

On the legislation issues, presidents can indeed “mobilize.” Lincoln did so, especially with follow-ups to the initial [railroad] act; history records his multiple conversations with Oakes Ames. Lincoln did push for the Morrill Act, too.

On the transcontinental railroad and its finances, it doesn’t get built – period – without the triple federal subsidy of direct payment, alternating land-grant sections, and federal backing for railroad bonds.

You, sir, are either historically clueless yourself, more of a hack than you’d like to admit, or a mix of both. (They’re not mutually exclusive.)

Oh, and I’m a Green Party voter, so I’m not saying this to defend Obama, but rather to challenge deliberate inaccuracies of people like you.
That said, wingnuts won't listen.

On this issue, contra the blogger's take on Boehner's reaction, wingnuts don't like to be reminded that the GOP is so far away from being the "Party of Lincoln" it would need a warp drive to get back to being that.

That said, the real takeaway is that this is yet more one reason why Obama as Preznit Kumbaya is deluded. And was, two-plus years ago.

September 09, 2011

#Rick_Perry_False_Prophet: Pray harder

Time for a new Twitter-hashtagged header, even as I await Google Plus adopting hashtags.

The story behind that? Predictions of a new La Nina for Texas right around the corner are getting more insistent. And, it's clear, nearly four months on, that Perry's first round of calls for prayer didn't work.

Ergo, per tea partier-level logic? He's a false prophet.

And, as Deuteronomy 13 tells us, false prophets are supposed to be stoned to death.

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder ...  you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. ... You must purge the evil from among you. ... Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death.
Deuteronomy 18:20 makes this clearer and blunter:

But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.
Beyond that, Zecharaiah 13:3 says people aren't supposed to be prophesying in general today:

And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, 'You must die, because you have told lies in the LORD's name.' When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him.
So, all good, bible-fearing Texans, you know what to do. Rick Perry has claimed to be a prophet, and used his call to prayer as an attempted sign. It's a false sign of the false god of the GOP and his ego.

So, start picking up stones. (And, contra John 7:53-8:11, if you accept the reality of climate change, you are without sin on this one.)

Meanwhile, back to the reality of science, not the false prophecy of making your ego a god.

Texas' peak wildfire season is in the fall. And, La Nina is supposed to return by November. For an already-parched state, that means more trouble. The National Weather Service is predicting a lot of gusty winds along with the increasing grip of the drought.

#RickPerry'sTexasMiracle: No. 49 on health care affordability

Going by health care costs relative to income, health care is less affordable in Texas than in every state of the union except Mississippi. And no, the number of illegal aliens isn't a major contributing factor.

REALLY? it's two thing, or three. Medicaid continues to be gutted. The state does nothing to regulate insurers. And, on the paying for it side, all the low-wage jobs that Tricky Ricky's miracle have created can't very wlll pay for health insurance, if they even offer it.

Middle-class GOP Texans? Talk to your friends elsewhere ... find out the reality. Stop believing the Perry economic myth.

September 08, 2011

#RickPerry'sTexasMiracle: Criminal prayer #fail

Most Texans have already seen this news, I know. But, if you haven't, the Lone Star State turned in the hottest three-month period ever of any state in the nation.

But, it's not just the heat. Let's look at the latest issue of the state's drought monitor map:

Just about all the state is in the worst category of drought. All of the state has at least some level of drought.

And, we're at almost five months and counting since Rick Perry's three-day call for rain.

"Science will not be mocked," to riff on an old biblical statement. And, the combination of La Niña and human-caused climate change both have plenty of scientific documentation.

"Finances will not be mocked" either. Cutting the Texas Forest Service budget was foolish at least, hypocritical at most, especially as Tricky Ricky and his GOP wingmen wingnuts in the Texas Lege now are dependent on a federal firefighting bailout.

As you can see, more than 80 percent of the state is in the worst state of drought. With La Niña expected back (did "she" ever leave?) shortly, that budget-cutting by Perry and gang will turn out to be not just foolish, not just hypocritical, but criminal. And, the refusal of these folks to fix the franchise tax, the refusal that guarantees Texas' budget will continue to implode, is also now approaching criminal.

People have already died in the Bastrop area. There's no guarantee that a better-funded Texas Forest Service could have prevented that, but it's possible.

It will go into full-blown criminal if Perry refuses to come home from presidential debates and call a special session of the Legislature to address this. Let's see the arson commission investigate that.

Reality regulation: Small biz needs MORE regulation of big biz

Small businesses do NOT, NOT, NOT need President Barack Obama promising to roll back regulations of big businesses. Rather, as this McClatchy story shows, small businesses need more regulation of big business, and in most cases, knows it! (In some of the cases below, it's the failure of state, not federal regulations, but, then, in some of the cases, federal regulation is needed, period.)

First, government regulations make for GOOD business:
"Government regulations are not 'choking' our business, the hospitality business," Bernard Wolfson, the president of Hospitality Operations in Miami, told The Miami Herald. "In order to do business in today's environment, government regulations are necessary and we must deal with them. The health and safety of our guests depend on regulations. It is the government regulations that help keep things in order."
That's why big biz, like Big Ag that supplies "hospitality" folks their food, hate regulation. If you can trace bad meat, the government can fine companies and citizens can sue. Less regulation makes that harder; big biz gets to operate in the shadows.

Small businesses in general know what Wolfson said:

None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.
And know what I just said about big business:
Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.
 Small biz knows the post-crash lending freeze-up is what screwed it.

Small businessman Rip Daniels mentions another problem:
"Absolutely, positively not. What is choking my business is insurance. What's choking all business is insurance. You cannot go into business, any business — small business or large business — unless you can afford insurance," he told Biloxi's Sun Herald.
 And state insurance regulation departments are a piece of crap. We actually need a federal agency that does nothing but regulate insurers. Daniels also, contrary to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which claims to represent small businesses but doesn't, says Obama's stimulus plan helped small businesses like his.

That would be this lying U.S. Chamber:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is among the most vocal critics of the Obama administration, blaming excessive regulation and the administration's overhaul of health care laws for creating an environment of uncertainty that's hampering job creation. 

When it's asked what specific regulations harm small businesses _which account for about 65 percent of U.S. jobs — the Chamber of Commerce points to health care, banking and national labor. Yet all these issues weigh much more heavily on big corporations than on small business.
Beyond that, most of Obamacare isn't yet in effect, banking needs even more regulation, and organized labor hasn't gotten consistent presidential support from either party since Truman's time.

Meanwhile, playing off the rack, music store owner Lynn Swager sees something entirely different hurting small businesses:

"The thing that chokes us, believe or not, is the Internet. There are so many things that are accessible on the Internet that they can purchase for less than I can purchase from my distributor," Swager told McClatchy. 

"Everybody thinks the Internet is this great thing that is happening to the world, but it is really, I think, killing a lot of small business. People that we talk to that are no longer in business say the same thing exactly."
 But, as Amazon's attempt to dodge state sales taxes shows, this, too is a regulatory issue.

Obama jobs speech blogging - hypocrisy's bad moon on rise

1. Hypocrisy in infrastructure, in talking about Chinese building bridges for America. (In case you don't know the reference, large parts of the refurbished Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge were built in China.) In the parallel case of "green jobs," the Obama Administration refuses to do anything about China subsidizing such jobs itself, even as his own administration touts Chinese job creation:
Last week, for instance, the White House's U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, said we shouldn't be concerned with jobs that are about "making things that, frankly, we don't want to make in America -- you know, cheaper products, low-skill jobs."
Just a few short grafs show how much of a disconnect there is between Obama the myth and Obama the reality.

The hypocrisy is repeated later, with "corporate tax breaks for creating jobs in America" even as the administration promotes new free trade treaties ("strangely" not mentioned tonight), treaties with claimed job gains without mention of job losses, or average wages of either added or lost jobs.

Add to the hypocrisy with Obama's "made in America."

He later says we don't need to cut collective bargaining rights, cut pollution protections, etc. as part of a "race to the bottom," but doesn't tell us how that squares with neolib outsourcing of jobs, etc.

2. "Cutting red tape"? Small businesses say they're not worried about that. Reality? Big biz members of the U.S. Chamber don't like them, especially any that regulate pollution. (Actually, failure to better regulate finance-based big biz, including insurers, hurt small companies) True, Dear Leader may have to pander to outside-the-Beltway stereotypes a bit, but ... he did this on the smog regs too. (And, no, they weren't that legally indefensible, as California Sen. Barbara Boxer showed by her call for somebody to sue the administration.

3. The tax credit for long-term unemployed? A good one. But ... combine it, behind the scenes, with the "stick" of hinted-at Department of Labor investigations of companies that run the "no unemployed need apply" ads. The hint of likely age discrimination lawsuits would get some attention.

4. Calling the GOP out on the FICA tax "holiday" continuing or not? Brilliant politically, but Social Security/Medicare taxes should never have been cut in the first place. The Earned Income Tax Credit should have been expanded instead.

5. What are "modest adjustments" to Medicare and Medicaid? Not mentioned. That said, cue up the Catfood Commission. Such "modest adjustments" will include raising the eligibility age for Medicare, which will have more looking at using Medicaid more.

6. What is a "fair share" of taxation for the rich, other than finally getting the Bush Obama tax cuts to expire? No details.

7. "We're all rugged individualists"? No, we're not. Many of the original 13 colonies were founded as royal colonies, or else royal land grants to pay debts. We've not been rugged individualists since then.

OK, a few pundits. Paul Krugman likes it, on paper at least, for politics as well as job help. David Brooks is skeptical of most of the hiring tax credits, saying they'll more likely go for people already employed moving to a new job. (That's why the credit for hiring the long-term unemployed was a bright spot.) The Atlantic's James Fallows likes the rhetoric of the "pass this jobs bill."

Summary, on a 10-star scale:
Political side NNNNNN
Content side NNNN

50-50 chance of double-dip recession?

So says David Leonhardt, with this "tell" that should further inspire true progressives to jump off the sinking Obama ship and look at the Green Party.

Perhaps the best sign of how difficult it is to know the economy’s direction is that, as a group, the nation’s professional forecasters have failed to predict all the recessions since the 1970s, according to data kept by the Philadelphia Fed. In the last 30 years, the average probability they put on the economy lapsing into recession has never risen above 50 percent — until the economy was already in a recession.

The forecasters, on Wall Street and elsewhere, are not blind to economic change; they just tend to underestimate its severity.
Given that Team Obama is listening to those professional forecasters, and even has many of them ensconced inside the White House, that's why he "doesn't feel your pain." Neither your short-term pain over a looming second dip, nor your and my longer-term pain of wondering when our current job will be downsized or outsourced.

Controlling #CO2: What chance do we have?

Gernot Wagner, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, in a distressing, depressing, but honestly realistic op-ed at the NYT, says: Not a lot.

Unless we end what he calls "planetary socialism":
(M)arkets are truly free only when everyone pays the full price for his or her actions. Anything else is socialism. The reality is that we cannot overcome the global threats posed by greenhouse gases without speaking the ultimate inconvenient truth: getting people excited about making individual environmental sacrifices is doomed to fail.
That said, Wagner claims cap-and-trade systems are already cutting CO2 in Europe, and slated to do so "everywhere from China to California."

Not so fast. Tradeable caps were underpriced, and gamed, in the EU. I'll believe that cap-and-trade is workable in a nation as corrupt as China about 20 years after it's implemented. And, in California? Not too much good on a state-level bases, given the way our federal system works. And, CO2 isn't point-source pollution, so it's ... well, it's intellectually dishonest, in a sense, for him to point to cap-and-trade's success with point-source air pollutants.

So, Mr. Wagner should perhaps be more pessimistic. And more honest. Only carbon taxes, combined with carbon tariffs on recalcitrant nations, stand a real chance of success.

And, those of us who recognize that should be depressed that another leading light in another Gang Green environmental organization can depress us, but ... won't depress us quite as much as is needed.

September 07, 2011

Productivity and the hollowing out of the middle class

Here's a must-read story by anybody who has the rich tell them that the rising tide is floating all boats that trickle-down works, etc. It doesn't.

Productivity changes here, abetted by technology and abetted more by outsourcing, means that, despite the cost of cheap games and trinkets from China, on the cost of things that really matter, many Americans are "losing the purchasing power race, as the chart shows.

College is going up the most, due to lessened federal and state aid, part of a neoliberal-to-conservative gutting of support for the system. (That's the one thing wrong with the article; it assumes college will produce salvation from this mess; how can it?)

Behind this is a larger set of discussion pieces on the future of America's middle class. James Fallows, when he's almost "liberal," you know that the series is "tilted," especially when it includes not-quite-nutbar (looking sane compared to all other George Mason economists) Tyler Cowan. (I don't get why allegedly real liberals ever turn to him for a favorable quote.

The real reality is that there's less and less middle class left. And that neoliberal Democrats, as well as the GOP, have helped make this a reality.

So, why are you still voting Democrat instead of Green? Or Socialist?

#RickPerry'sTexasMiracle gets an Obama bailout

Part of the monstrosity called a budget that the Texas Legislature passed earlier this year included massive cuts to the Texas Forest Service. That agency, among its duties, is supposed to reimburse volunteer fire departments around the state for equipment purchases and other needs.

Well, despite wildfires like the massive 200,000 acre Rock House Fire, which started BEFORE the end of the legislative session, GOP wingnuts cut away, anyway.

And, so, now we're at the bottom line. Team Obama has to bail out firefighters in Bastrop. Rather, the feds have to bail out Tricky Ricky Perry and his wingnut minions. As for the more wingnut comments there, hey, TFS could have put out a request for volunteers, but, knows it doesn't have the money to really do that.

It is sad that volunteers got turned away, but blame Tricky Ricky, not the feds.

Of course, there will be no federal price tag attached to this, either today or tomorrow. Obama won't charge Perry's miraculous Texas government a dime for this, nor demand that Perry fess up as to the reality of his "miracle," stop his hypocritical bashing of the federal government, stop his antiscientific global warming denialism or anything else.

No, politics should not be played with disasters themselves.

But, if wingnuts are going to play politics with issues leading up to disasters, then politics should be played with post-disaster redress, too. Unfortunately, Preznit Kumbaya doesn't get it.

Sometimes, pun not intended, but pun accepted, you have to fight fire with fire, so to speak.

NYT: What Obama "should" say on jobs

The Old Gray Lady got four guest columnists to talk about what President Obama should say on jobs Thursday.

Barry Bluestone offers an interesting conservative-liberal mix, as he calls it: a two-year freeze on federal wages, combined with a windfall profits tax on companies making more than $1 million in profit, with said moneys to help state and local governments. Interesting and different, but still relatively small scale; I'll give it a B-minus.

Lawrence Katz calls for better, and more, re-education and job training, much more stimulus spending, and more flexibility with unemployment benefits to allow people to go down to part time rather than be laid off. Vey solid; not necessarily a lot new, but all good stuff. B-plus.

William Walker is all over the place. His ideas are a mix of good, bad and ugly, and many aren't really related to jobs creation. I'd be OK, at least, with reducing Sarbanes-Oxley's burden on smaller businesses if we reinstated Glass-Steagall. If Walker stopped there, I'd give him an A, even if this idea has nothing to do about jobs creation. Means-test Social Security? Sure.

Identify 100 top infrastructure projects and fund the hell out of them? Definitely good, definitely jobs-related.

But, then, he jumps the shark. Radical cuts in Medicare, because Americans are fat, lazy and making themselves unhealthy? So, with that, he gets a C-minus.

John B. Taylor? Nothing but deficit hawking. F.

I'd say Bluestone has the right end outcome, however we get the money. Katz is right on job retraining, and he should push this further, telling Obama to focus on this rather than getting more people into college. Walker? I'll take about everything on his list except the Medicare cuts and his attitude. Promise tea partiers you'll name those infrastructure projects after them and they might just sign on.

Amazon the new Redbox?

Just as Redbox hopes to pick up customers leaving Netflix over it charging separately for DVD and streaming, now comes word that Amazon is looking to set up pick-up locations at 7-Elevens.

I don't really like the idea. One, why would you not have Amazon deliver to your residence instead? This just doesn't make sense. Second, it only really works well, to the degree it will at all, in metropolitan areas where Amazon already has a warehouse presence of some sort. Third, speaking of that, it undercuts Amazon's claim, made to various state governments who are imposing sales taxes on it, that it doesn't have a physical presence in those states. Fourth, if the picture is any indication, this is horrible from a branding/marketing perspective.

More details here.

Just because something like this works in Japan is no reason it will work in the U.S.

That said, it's all part of a busy day in the tech world, including yahoo finally kicking Carol Bartz to the curb, Google's South Korean offices raided over civil liberties issues and (shock) Groupon delaying an IPO.

The first is long overdue, the second is no surprise, given similar in Europe, and the third? Groupon, if investors are smart, will never have an IPO.

September 06, 2011

Obama brews a $300B weak tea on jobs

President Barack Obama's self-vaunted jobs initiative is, it sounds, as weak as I expected before his showdown with John Boehner a week ago about when he would speak.

The tax break for hiring? I agree with the idea, but the devil's probably in the details. It should be for non-contract jobs, only "payable" after 1 full year of the employee's work, and should have other restrictions. Ideally, those restrictions would include forbidding it to companies that have ever had NLRB, OSHA or EPA citations.

A public works program? OK as is, but make it MUCH bigger. Put unemployed construction workers to work on fixing public sewer, water and gas lines, etc. And, rather than just pass-through money, directly hire workers if necessary.

And, unless you can present clear evidence that they will add net jobs AND net wages below the executive level, don't tout free trade agreements now on the table as part of your jobs package.

Update: It's SOOOOOO weak that House Dems (apparently out of lack of trust reasons) want a pre-speech meeting with Dear Leader.

And, here's my take on some possibly better ideas the NYT rounded up.

UPDATE: OK, Faux says the total is now $450 billion, though it offers no breakout. It does have this unintendedly ironic/hypocritical comment from Dear Leader, though.

There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation,” Obama said in excerpts released by the White House ahead of his speech.
That would be because there's nothing substantive, probably? And, whence the unnamed spending cuts to pay for this?

A new European Union?

When leaders of both the EU and its member nations wave copies of the U.S. Articles of Confederation and admit they should have read them through before negotiating and approving the Maastricht Treaty, you'd like to believe a new EU, one with at least some degree of fiscal power over its member states, actually will happen.

But, I'll believe this new EU idea becomes a reality when I see it.

First, who gets booted? A Greece wouldn't qualify, at least. Certainly, none of the former Eastern Bloc members, or would-be members do, with the possible exceptions of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Second, how much do you strengthen the EU executive to do things like that?

Third ... if power at the center increases ... when does the France-Germany tussle also increase? And THAT is the bottom line.

Fourth and related, what's the focus of foreign policy? The recent Libya excursion demonstrated tensions in NATO. Old colonial power France can be expected to want to look at Africa and Southeast Asia, while also looking at counterbalancing the U.S. in general. Germany can be expected to want to continue to look east.

Until No. 3 is settled, major economic reforms will only go so far. Until No. 4 is settled, along with the relationship of a stronger EU to NATO, you'll not have a lot more than a Europe-wide Switzerland.

September 05, 2011

Better political discourse: More than empathy is needed

What's left of the mainstream media illustrates again the Peter Principle on today's politics, with this naive and insipid column by Gregory Rodriguez of the L.A. Times.

His "takeaway"? This:
The solution to the corrosive spirit of U.S. politics is not more politics. With 8 in 10 Americans saying the lack of civility is a serious problem, we should consider that the answer isn't in the system but in ourselves.

First, Mr. Rodriguez, I'll bet a majority of the 8 in 10 blame "the other side." Certainly, I'll bet a majority of conservatives do, even though they're primarily to blame for the lack of civility, primarily through attacking the "other," whether that "other" be gay, Muslim, atheist, global warming scientists or somebody else.

Second, the rich like it that way. As a friend of mine notes, most of the social safety net was passed, in part, because the rich, during the Depression, began to fear mob action or the rise of so-called demagogues like Huey Brown.

Today? With the astroturfing of the tea party movement, the rich now sic the middle class downward on the working and nonworking poor alike and have their dirty work down for them.

As the book "Payback" (5-starred by me) notes, it's part of human psychology to want to pass on stress and aggression by taking it out on those lower in the ranks. So, the middle class, as it stresses more, looks to the poor as targets. The GOP side of the rich encourage this for the reason my friend notes. The Democratic side of the rich diffuses it by being libertarian on social issues, and maybe wanting to raise taxes on themselves, but still avoiding more fundamental structural issues.

Most of the little class have little to no desire to be empathetic to those below them. It's almost like an addiction of sorts; it becomes good to kick the poor, if only verbally. (As well as gays, atheists, Muslims and other "others.")

It will take a massive reworking of social psychology, not just civics or empathy, to even begin to change this. It will require Warren Buffett to be more friendly to organized labor, not just to want to pay more taxes. It will require rich of both parties to want to change the economic structure of America. It will require them on the GOP side, and their flunkie economists, to stop preaching at the poor and to admit the greed, and power-lust, that lies behind their own acquisitiveness.

Finally, Rodriguez himself approaches this issue from a duopoly insider's perspective, per his column:
Four weeks ago, I attended a daylong meeting at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted by former Clinton White House domestic policy advisor Eric Liu. A small group, including former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Bill Gates Sr., discussed how to "revive and reinvent civics" in the U.S. 
And you never did even an approximation of "man on the street" interviewing? Nuff said. A simplistic solution offered as a Band-Aid for a gaping wound.

Some Labor Day reading: Socialism!

I suggest some articles at WorldSocialist. You'll learn that the hypocrisy hypercapitalism can generate at times isn't just confined to America, or even just to the developed world; even Bolivian President Evo Morales, a darling of many, is guilty of it.

Beyond that, there's plenty of good articles on the current state of employment and unemployment, including on how even healthcare jobs aren't necessarily a safe port in a major recessionary storm.

Postal Service could default? Blame government

A "wow" story indeed. Facing a deficit of as much as $9.2 billion, and a $5.5 billion payment due the end of this month USPS is saying it could shut down by winter.

Here's the problem, in part, though the NYT bollixes things by noting this is an apples-and-oranges comparison in general, or, vis-a-vis FedEx, apples and broccoli:
At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.
It's apples-and-oranges with both because neither one delivers mail, just packages. And, neither one would touch it as long as  the old Rural Free Delivery requirement is in place.

It's apples-and-broccoli with FedEx because, unlike UPS and USPS both, FedEx isn't unionized.

That said, speaking of RFD, more rural post offices will have to be shut. Period. End of story. As for the Norman Rockwell image of rural America being shattered? There was a time, back when, when most those burgs and unincorporated hamlets didn't have post offices. And before RFD. The post offices, at least, need to go.

So, too, does Saturday mail delivery. Even if it only cuts a small portion of the budget, as claimed in the story. (That said, making the layoffs that ending Saturday delivery would allow would save more than just the 2 percent of ending Saturday delivery.)

Anyway, the Saturday delivery issue speaks to another problem. This is one area where the undemocratic Senate, not undemocratic in the sense of GOP filibustering but in the sense of equal representation of all states, has the potential to exacerbate the problem.

Other solutions? I don't necessarily want us to go Europe and have USPS enter the commercial sales arena. That said, putting more post offices inside commercial buildings isn't a bad idea. But, we're not worried about needing new post offices in most the country.

As for postal workers being alarmed and angry? Hey, if you were dumb enough, selfish enough, or a mix of both, in the personage of your union leadership, to push for a no-layoff contract in May, at the same time Patrick Donahoe as postmaster general was dumb enough or threatened enough by strike talk to grant it, you should look in the mirror. That was the time to negotiate good layoff terms instead of insisting on a no-layoff clause.

You'd better act now, Mr. Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, before Darrell Issa gets nutbar momentum behind his idea of going nuclear on your contracts.

Donahoe is talking about wanting to lay off one-third the force. Or one-fifth. I don't know which, because this story is a fuck-up there, by reporting both, and either 100,000 or 220,000 workers, in two different locations in the story.

That's only one of a number of problems with the story. The reporter doesn't mention how low postal rates are here compared to most of the world; how, in Europe, postal privatization is carefully regulated, details of postal pension plans and more information that would undercut part of the trend of the article.

Wingnuts like Issa want to privatize USPS while ignoring that private parcel service has been cherry-picking, that the government has  forced USPS into much of its problems, that UPS at least can be sucky on service and more.

September 04, 2011

What price for #SarahPalin to make GOP endorsement?

No, seriously.

We know she's not running. The New Hampshireman who asks if she's running for president or selling books either should know the answer, should know his rhetorical question is only shouting into the wind, or reflects the low political IQ necessary to being a political activist.

That said, her claim to be the strongest defender of what Politico calls the "tea partier wing of the Republican Party" and most of us call "the majority of the Republican Party" says that she's trying to play king- or queenmaker. If that doesn't, this does:
In what could be seen subtly contrasting herself against the announced candidates in the Republican field — especially Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who are both mounting their campaigns on appeals to the same kinds of voters with whom Palin resonates most — she slung an attack at the Republican candidates who “raise mammoth amounts of cash.” 

“We need to ask them, too: What, if anything, do their donors expect in return for their investments?” She noted gleefully, “I don’t play that game, either, of hiring expert political advisers just so they’ll say something good about me on TV.”
So, Palin wants to expand her own "mammoth amounts of cash," surely. And, as a quasi-potential political candidate, she's been written off by so many of the "elite" that she can't do that.

So, what's her next option?

Selling her endorsement, of course.

No, seriously.

Now, it wouldn't necessarily be a cash payout.

Perry, Bachmann or whomever would want to get the nod from her might be required to pay an "appearance fee" on Palin's Faux News show. Or pay Palin to do an infomercial. Or hire daughter Bristol, the nonprofit abstinence genius, either to work in the campaign or to be nominated as Secretary of Health and Human Services should Perry or Bachmann win. (OK, that one isn't realistic.)


If Palin doesn't run for president, I give you 50-50 odds she tries to sell her endorsement in some way. Now, she may not be successful; that's a different story. But, 50-50 odds says she'll try.

Jonathan Chait, effing moron, fellates Dear Leader

The likes of Jonathan Chait is why I stopped reading The New Republic more than a decade ago. Now, in defense of Dear Leader against critics from his left like Glenn Greenwald and me, he's taken his asshattery to the pages of the New York Times.

First, defending Obama's $800B stimulus by the claim that Nancy Pelosi offered a smaller $500B one earlier? If that's rigorous reasoning, it's no wonder he's still stuck at TNR as a neocon shill for Marty Peretz. First, Pelosi's not THAT liberal herself. Second, that was only her initial offer. Third, the linkage between her position and Obama's was small.

Second, Chait ignores that Rahm Emanuel, hired by Dear Leader, wanted the stimulus to come in under $1 trillion. As part of this Chait claims "everybody who matters" told Obama to scale this back; he has that quote in quote marks in his column without any attribution, meaning it's just a scare quote.

Third, Chait ignores that Obama sold out national healthcare to insurance companies et al.

Fourth, Chait ignores that Obama continues to sell himself out to banksters on mortgage fraud, Friday's lawsuit notwithstanding.

Fifth, he claims that Bush got much of what got done in his first term by using the budget reconciliation process, ignoring that Obama could have used that on some of his initiatives ... including the health care bill that he eventually passed.

Sixth, he ignores that Obama was both naive enough and dumb enough to not include a debt ceiling deal with Republicans last December as part of extending the Bush Obama tax cuts, or was even worse than naive and dumb.

Seventh, he ignores Obama's recent backtracking on environmental issues, compounded by the fact that many of us who aren't "Gang Green" enviros knew that Kenny Boy Salazar was weak tea as his choice for Interior Secretary from the day Obama nominated him.

But, that's all small potatoes compared to what Chait really overlooks.

And that is that, way back in 2003, we had clear evidence Obama wasn't a liberal, followed by additional evidence back in 2006. And that he's this way because much of the Democratic Party (Pelosi included) is this way.

Beyond being a shill for Marty Peretz, Chait is a D.C. Villager who illustrates the moral bankruptcy of more and more of our duopoly.

On the stuff linked immediately above, he knows most of it; certainly the second and third links because Ken Silverstein lived in the Village, though he certainly wasn't of it. So Chait doesn't even have the excuse of plausible deniability.

Tax the rich ideas and more for Labor Day

As we await Labor Day tomorrow, otherwise known as "The GOP deludes tea partiers into believing it cares about workers while Democrats hypocritically walk across the Mackinac Bridge day," let's think about ways to empower labor, whether its union-organized or not.

First, many people of intelligence recognize that  relatively unprogressive federal tax rates (combined with often regressive sales taxes at state and local levels) allow the rich to accumulate money which does little to stimulate a sluggish economy.

So, first, at the federal tax level:
1. We need more progressivity in income tax rates.
2. We need to tax capital gains and hedge fund money at the same rate as income.
3. When companies offshore more and more money, and then, like the non-liberal Apple, try to hold the federal government hostage by wanting a tax holiday to bring that money home, we need to instead have a surtax on such overseas, off-shored money.
4. If the rich claim that conspicuous consumption of trickle-down economics stimulates the economy, fine, let's up the ante and have a federal property tax. (Watch the Koch brothers shit bricks over that one.)
6. We of course need to up the amount of income covered by FICA taxes, eliminate loopholes in federal personal tax codes (including the mortgage interest deduction, which benefits the middle of the middle class rarely), as well as various corporate income tax loopholes. At the least, on homes, crack down on any deductions for buying second homes, whether they are vacation homes or income generators.

Second, at the corporations as persons level. If corporations want to continue to make that claim, and Supreme Court rulings continue to support it, here's a possible counter-action or two.
1. Put every single member of a corporation on trial whenever corporations allegedly commit criminal activity. People would simply refuse to work for unethical major businesses.
2. Reinstitute the draft and when we have another war, undeclared or not, draft entire corporations, i.e., the Halliburtons of the world. Or, wingnut think tanks.

At the state level:
1. At a minimum, stop making food subject to sales tax.
2. Put more progressivity into state income taxes.
3. On state income tax forms, require a state disclosure form about how much of state revenue comes from various types of taxes and how much comes from fees, licenses and other non-tax "taxes."

At the local level:
1. Have states do revenue sharing on local property taxes. Some states do this in part with school districts, but not municipalities.

Obama tries to criminalize political speech

Glenn Greenwald points out Reason No. 4,072 not to vote for Obama: The Department of Justice attempting to criminalize political speech.

First, the not just legal, but constitutional fact:
The Constitution -- specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment -- prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders
But, if you're a Muslim, and you've ever breathed the same air molecules as Hezbollah or a similar group, and say one word that doesn't spit on that group's grave, Obama wants to treat you like a criminal.

And no, not a metaphorical "criminal." A criminal. Obama wants to arrest you and try you for giving material support to terrorists.

Seriously, nothing, nothing, nothing Obama does, especially in foreign policy in general and above all, in the foreign-domestic policy intersection of the War on Terra, even comes close to surprising me any more.

And please, don't pull the the "fear the GOP" bogeyman on me to try to defend Obama. Once again, if Republicans did this, Democrats would be mentioning words like impeachment.

That said ....

Besides, as Glenn notes, there's a big bipartisan hypocrisy alert here:
Numerous prominent politicians from both political parties -- Michael Mukasey, Howard Dean, Wes Clark, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Fran Townsend, Rudy Giuliani, and many others -- have not only been enthusiasticaly promoting and advocating on behalf of a designated terrorist organization (MEK of Iran), but they have been receiving substantial amounts of cash from that Terrorist group as they do so.  There is only one list of "designated Terrorist organizations" under the law, and MEK is every bit as much on that list as (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba) or Al Qaeda are. 
That's the allegedly "liberal" Howard Dean and the Obama toady Ed Rendell. Fixed it for you, Glenn.

The fact that, in comments at Glenn's blog, people try to find precedent in a previous Supreme Court decision, one based on a previous case brought by AG Eric Holder, is itself problematic.

Holder is more a toady to Obama than Colin Powell was to Bush.