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Showing posts from July, 2011

Obama's spending in context

Paul Krugman has a good article up on his blog that points out something to keep in mind when we talk about federal spending. I don't have much to add to this because he makes the point clearly and concisely.

The fact is that federal spending rose from 19.6% of GDP in fiscal 2007 to 23.8% of GDP in fiscal 2010. So isn’t that a huge spending spree? Well, no.

First of all, the size of a ratio depends on the denominator as well as the numerator. GDP has fallen sharply relative to the economy’s potential; here’s the ratio of real GDP to the CBO’s estimate of potential GDP:
A 6 percent fall in GDP relative to trend, all by itself, would have raised the ratio of spending to GDP from 19.6 to 20.8, or about 30 percent of the actual rise.

That still leaves a rise in spending; but most of that is safety-net programs, which spend more in hard times because more people are in distress.
So if you hear conservatives or even liberals harping on spending and they use spending as a % of GDP as thei…

A downside to a debt ceiling deal

Things seem to keep getting more crazy. Boehner has just attached the balanced budget amendment to his plan in an effort to get it out of the House and to the Senate where it won't pass. But even as things look worse and worse, I still think cooler heads will prevail and a deal will get passed. At this point I think that will involve Boehner cutting a deal with some Democrats in the House because it doesn't seem like the nut jobs in the GOP are willing to sign anything.

And that brings me to the problem that could result in an eventual deal. When such a deal passes the crisis will be averted and things will go back to normal. The economy will still be pretty crappy. But it won't have dived back into another recession. People will get their entitlement benefits. And those crazy Republicans who refused to sign anything will have not learned a thing.

These people like Michele Bachmann believe that we shouldn't raise the debt ceiling at all, and in not doing so nothing b…

Rick Perry's gay marriage federalism

Rick Perry recently said that he was fine with letting states decide whether they want to allow gay marriage or not. That's an old fashioned states' rights stance. But what Perry was basically saying was that he was fine with gay marriage as long as your state was able to pass it into law. Obviously that belief is at odds with the GOP's stance on gay marriage. They don't think gay marriage should happen anywhere. Hence this new statement from Perry:

"I probably needed to add a few words after that 'it's fine with me' and that it's fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue," he said. "Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn't changed."

Perry said he supported changing the Constitution in order to ban gay marriage, a position that he characterized as supportive of states' rights even as it would overrule New York's own decision on the matter.
So he still opposes gay marri…

Sarah Palin thinks Reagan's budget ideas were foreign and the antithesis of America prosperity

Here is what she said about Obama. If you don't want to listen to her talk here is a summary of what she says about Obama.

Blasting the White House and liberals for being “so addicted to that OPM, other people’s money,” Palin declared that Obama “is not capable of giving the right message” to the American people. Though a majority of Americans side with Obama’s position, Fox asked Palin why he seems so disconnected from the public. Palin harped on the all-too-familiar right-wing refrain that American ideals “seem[] to be foreign to our President” because of “his background. She added, “His ideas are the antithesis of those things that created the prosperity in America.”
So because Obama doesn't believe in balancing the budget right now, just like households and businesses do (which isn't true), his ideas are foreign and he doesn't accept those ideas that made America prosperous. Well, Reagan didn't balance the budget ever. So I guess Reagan didn't accept these …

Human rights and religion

The Dish linked to this fascinating column about human rights and religion's role in their foundation. Here is Anat Biletzki arguing that god and religion are not necessary foundations for human rights:

I dare say that religion, even when indirectly in the service of human rights, is not really working for human rights. Although there is recognition of the human as sacred, it is not the concept of rights that propels the religious person. For him, the human status of sacredness draws from divine creation and directive, from man (and woman) having been created in God’s image, and therefore has nothing to do with a human right. As Jack Donnelly says in “Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice,” “ ‘Traditional’ societies…typically have had elaborate systems of duties…conceptions of justice, political legitimacy, and human flourishing that sought to realize human dignity, flourishing, or well-being entirely independent of human rights. These institutions and practices are alter…

The simple solution to smaller deficits

Stop gutting revenue by enacting very regressive tax cuts. Let's look at the numbers in chart form since I think it helps me to visualize things.

The Bush tax cuts are bigger than everything Obama has done to add to the deficit. So if Republicans didn't live in tax fantasy land and Democrats had the guts to stop extending them we wouldn't have such large deficits and thus we probably wouldn't be having to go through this debt ceiling nonsense. Even though I will probably hate whatever deal gets passed, I'll be happy when these negotiations are over. Tolerating this much bullshit for this long is not healthy.

Conservative craziness

Conor Friedersdorf is a libertarian (a very smart one) who does one of those jobs not many have the stomach for. He listens to right wing talk radio and keeps tabs on the crazy stuff that is consistently said. In this piece, he responds to David Brooks' column from a while back in which he stood in awe as Republicans passed on incredible deals proposed by Obama to raise the debt ceiling. Here are a few examples of what he has heard about the debt ceiling:

Here's Rush Limbaugh, telling his listeners that all the dire warnings are an old Ivy League prank the elites are playing on the people:

It hits you upside the head, a cold ice shower. You realize what suckers they think we are. You realize the patterns -- the playbooks, the tactics, the scare tactics, the fear-mongering, crisis mongering, all of this -- are written down. It's taught. This is not instinctive. This stuff, I guess, is what these people learn at Harvard and Yale and the Kennedy School of Government, wherever …

What constitutional conservatism really looks like

I don't have a link for this because I saw it on the Colbert Report. Stephen was talking about all of the voting fraud accusations and voter id laws that are being passed in order to supposedly prevent these "frauds". He played a clip of some guy who founded the tea part nation. Basically what the guy said was only people who own property should be able to vote because those people have more of a vested interest in the gov't.

I'll give you a moment to process that.

Ok then. How fucking ridiculous is that? I'll give him points for not being a hypocrite and actually sticking to wanting to do what the founders did. But that just highlights how ridiculous the whole notion of constitutional conservatism and blind worship of the founders is. I don't think I need to flesh out the problems with his statement at length. Hopefully you understand how freaking insane this guy is. I just want to point to the last part of it. Chances are that if you don't own prop…

Republicans favor redistribution of wealth

I was reading a Matt Yglesias post on health care in which he mentioned Paul Ryan's plan for Medicare. Matt says that he doesn't think that in 20 years most people are going to look back and say, that Ryan plan would have been a good idea. That's because a lot of people support providing health care to old people.

Mentioning the Ryan plan got me thinking about what it entails, which is basically just giving old people some money that they have to spend on health care. And the total amount of money can't rise above a certain % that is tied to inflation. Think about that in basic terms. Ryan and the Republicans that support that plan want to take taxpayer money and just give it to old people, but they can only spend it on health insurance.

Now, obviously they wouldn't be in favor of giving these people money if they didn't think they needed it, meaning these people don't have a lot of money. And since so much of the wealth in concentrated in such a small pr…

Obama's chief terrorism advisor wrong about drone attacks

The aways fantastic Glenn Greenwald has a post up which seems to show that this guy was either very uninformed or just flat out lied about how careful they have been using drone attacks:

In late June, President Obama's chief Terrorism adviser, John Brennan, made an extraordinary claim about drone attacks in Pakistan: "in the last year, 'there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop." He added: "if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger." The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism had heard similar claims from Obama officials over the past several months, and thus set out to examine the relevant evidence to determine if those claims are true.

Last night, they issued the findings of their study w…

Inflation expectations

Any time I discuss the economy with conservatives I almost invariably hear that uncertainty is a problem, though pretty much only when Democrats have power. Its not that I think uncertainty isn't a problem. But I don't see why uncertainty would change much depending on which party is in power. Nor do I see an easy way to measure uncertainty and then draw a causal line from those feelings to what the president or congress is doing with economic policy.

So most of the time I think its just a crutch that conservatives trot out when they can't explain things in a supply side manner. Along the uncertainty lines, you will often hear concerns about inflation. The Ron Paul types like to say that this whole paper money thing is a big hoax that is stealing people's money and thus we should get back on the gold standard. And in a broader context I think conservatives don't like the idea of the gov't printing money because they hate the gov't except when its charged w…

BSG and torture

I'm eight episodes into the first season of Battlestar Galactica and I'm really enjoying it. They raise so many interesting questions and address many of them quickly and in a satisfying manner. The latest problem the humans faced was a cylon one of the ships captured.

This cylon claimed that he planted a nuclear warhead on one of the ships. Starbuck goes to interrogate the cylon and almost inevitably, torture ensues. A few questions come about in this situation. Is it wrong to torture the cylon? If you read this blog you have probably gathered that I think torture is wrong. But a cylon isn't a human being, right? It looks like a man, bleeds and sweats like one. It even believes it has a soul.

Its hard to answer this given that we don't know if the cylon has a soul. But as a metaphor I think the torture sequence is supposed to make us realize that even in the real world when we are confronted with some of the most evil people on earth, we are still dealing with human…

More deficit nonsense

Bruce Bartlett has the details on the balanced budget amendment Republicans in the House are about to try and pass:

Assuming such a proposition is a good idea, how practical is it? For one thing, the term “economic output” in not defined in the committee report. Presumably, it means gross domestic product. But this is not a term defined in law; nor could it be. GDP figures are constantly being revised as new data become available and economists change their concept of what it means.

Another problem is that Congress cannot know what GDP will be in the coming fiscal year and it must necessarily pass its appropriations bills before the fiscal year begins. This means, as a practical matter, that Congress must base its spending on forecasts of GDP, which are often wrong and sometimes by large magnitudes. And of course it is impossible to control spending on entitlements or interest on the debt on an annual basis.
So not only is it a terrible idea, they haven't even drawn it up in a prac…

Herman Cain: religious bigot and complete moron

Here is his latest anti-Muslim crap. Chris Wallace asks him about a mosque controversy in TN:

WALLACE: But couldn’t any community then say they don’t want a mosque in our community?

CAIN: They could say that. Chris, lets go back to the fundamental issue that the people are basically saying they’re objecting to. They’re objecting to the fact Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, Sharia law. That’s the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes. The people in the community know best, and I happen to side with the people in Murfreesboro.

WALLACE: You’re saying any community, if they want to ban a mosque?

CAIN: Yes. They have a right to do that. That’s not discriminating based upon religion
He is making a false distinction in trying to say that Islam is a religion and a set of laws. Islam is the same as every other "traditional" religion. Its a moral code that says it is the word of a higher being that people are s…

Comparing Harry Potter and Buffy

As I've mentioned, I'm not a Harry Potter fan. I don't really have anything against it. It just isn't quite my thing. What is my thing is Buffy. And The Dish linked to this Amanda Marcotte post arguing that Harry Potter is a "jock", which is the opposite of the "gang of misfits" story that a lot of geeky films, books, and tv shows depict.

We're used to the X-Men or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Scooby Gang, so much so that we don't see that Harry's trajectory is the inverse of Buffy's. Buffy is a former cheerleader whose magic powers actually make her a geek and an outcast. Harry is a nobody-special who finds out that he's special, and becomes not just the star athlete and hero of his school, but an actual celebrity. Sure, there's ups and downs, but his trajectory is away from being the outcast and towards being the homecoming king. Which may not be as emotionally satisfying as "my greatness makes me an outcast"…

The Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer

I went to see the last Harry Potter movie this afternoon. I'm not a fan. I just think Emma Watson is beautiful and I was bored one day last year when part one of the final film was out. I had read on Pajiba (linked to on my blog roll, my favorite movie/tv blog) that there might be a teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises before the next Potter movie.

So given that I had seen the first one, and with the prospect of more Emma Watson, I figured it would be worth it to see the movie if I got to see the teaser. Well thankfully Pajiba was right. I'm not going to link to anything because anything I've seen on youtube has been pulled by Warner Bros. Check out Pajiba to see if they have it.

I'll just say that they showed more than I thought they would. If you remember the first teaser for TDK, it was just the bat logo and the Joker's voice. This teaser actually showed footage from the film. Obviously they don't give anything away. It just sets up the fact that this …

Why not more tax cuts?

That's a question directed mainly at Republicans as a solution to the debt ceiling negotiations. They aren't interested in simply raising the debt ceiling like they have every time before. Now that they have some power they want something in return for raising it, mainly a lowering of the deficit.

The main solution Republicans have for reducing the deficit is reducing spending. That's fine as far as it goes. But even Republicans don't seem willing to cut enough spending to totally balance the budget. So that leaves the other part of the equation, revenue increases. Obviously they don't want to raise taxes in order to increase revenue. Their logic is that it will hurt businesses, and thus the economy (which is a fair point during the current economic climate). (Though its interesting that they don't seem challenge the idea that raising taxes would raise more revenue.)

Following their logic on tax increases, they like tax cuts because they believe it would help…

Obama's ridiculous idea

I missed this item as part of my post on Obama's goals in the debt ceiling talks. But multiple sources from both parties are saying that Obama floated the idea of raising the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 67 as a means to cut spending.

I think the idea that we have to cut spending right now is kind of dumb. Though I'm certainly not opposed to cutting unnecessary spending, like big chunks of defense spending for instance. But the idea of cutting extremely important spending, like that which goes to pay for health care for seniors, is ridiculous. More so, its completely fucking ridiculous for a Democratic president to be the one floating the idea.

Raising the eligibility age for Medicare basically completely fucks the very people who depend on it, mainly the poor and even the middle class. Health insurance is expensive enough for a healthy young person. It only gets more expensive as you get older. Plus old people can't work as much when they reach their mid 60s, …

Obama's goals in the debt ceiling talks

I've talked a lot about the Republican goals. Here is Matt Yglesias on Obama's:

Suddenly it became clear that we’re not looking at an administration strategy to get an increase in the debt ceiling, with the negotiations over the long-term fiscal balance being a means to an end. We’re looking at an administration strategy to get a bipartisan deal over long-term fiscal balance. It’s a strategy whose purpose is to try to change the dynamic in which we alternate between Democrats-only balanced deficit reduction bills (like the 1993 Clinton budget) and GOP-led deficit increasing bills (like the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts). It’s the debt ceiling that’s a means to an end. And you can see that the key Democratic bargaining position here is to insist on revenue increases rather than to try to minimize spending cuts.
I hadn't really thought too much about why Obama was so willing to go for a huge deficit reduction bill. And I think this analysis makes sense. I just want to add that I thi…

Its going to be a long wait

for The Dark Knight Rises

Derek Jeter's place among Yankee greats

Jeter got his 3000th hit. That's a great accomplishment because you have to be at least a good hitter and you have be durable. Much of durability is luck. But I'll still give a little credit there. And Jeter is a very good hitter.

But I have long felt Jeter is overrated because he plays in NY, plays SS on a consistently good to great team, and is a good looking guy. As I said, he is a very good hitter. But I don't think he is as great a hitter as is advertised because he isn't a complete hitter. He doesn't hit for enough power to be considered an all time great IMO. He is a mediocre fielder. And the aura around him as the captain and a leader who is clutch is mostly overblown hype that masks the fact that he was only one very good player on teams filled with other good to very good players.

I want to compare him to Joe DiMaggio in order to put him in some context. I chose DiMaggio because Skip Bayless put Jeter above him in his all time Yankees list. And without …

The god...the HEAT!

To quote one of my favorite female characters of all time, Elaine Benes. My iphone says it is 98 degrees here in Memphis. And if you've ever been to Memphis during the summer, you know that the temperature doesn't lie. In fact, it often underestimates how insanely freaking hot it gets here.

You've probably heard the distinctions dry heat and wet heat. Dry heat is most often associated with the desert, in places like Arizona and states in the southwest of the US. I've never been west of Dallas. So I can't really compare that heat to the heat here. But I've heard its not as bad, and that seems to be evidenced by the huge populations of southern California.

I can tell you about wet heat. I think it gets the connotation of wet because it doesn't take long for you to start sweating profusely once you go outside. On a day like today, when you open the door you immediately feel a wave of hot air hit you. Its exactly like when you open a heated oven. And as you g…

Would more moderates create more bold solutions?

Jonathan Rauch (among others) is blogging for The Dish while Andrew Sullivan is on vacation and he is frustrated with the debt ceiling talks. The news has been that Boehner and Obama had a $4 trillion dollar spending cut deal in place, which also apparently raised revenue somehow. But the Republicans in the House shot it down because they don't want revenue increases. Here is Rauch on what to make of this spectacle so far:

I think blame rests primarily with the Republican side, because I think that a critical mass of congressional Democrats would have squawked and squirmed but would, in the end, have voted for a grand bargain—whereas Tea Partyized Republicans just would not. But let's not kid ourselves: what we're seeing here is a result of the systematic underrepresentation of moderates in both parties, because moderates are the constituency for a hostage trade: they would rather solve the problem than stay pure and score political points. If you want bold solutions, vote …

Update on Republican goals in debt ceiling talks

It appears that John Boehner wants to bring the debt ceiling talks regarding spending cuts from $4 trillion to $2 trillion. If you're like me, at first glance that looks odd. Republicans claim to be about reducing spending. So why would Boehner chose to lower the amount the deal cuts in half? Matt Yglesias has the answer:

The nature of legislative compromise, after all, is that you accommodate someone else’s objectives in order to obtain your objectives. A movement that actually believed that reducing federal spending was extremely important would, it seems to me, be quite willing to make concessions in order to obtain large quantities of spending cuts. Viewed in that light, it’s not obvious to me that backing away from a $4 trillion deal primarily composed of spending cuts constitutes a “more conservative” option than saying yes. You’re seeing that very little has changed in practice from the Bush years, when the GOP agenda consisted of aggressive tax cutting made palatable by ref…

Dissent in the Democratic ranks?

Not much attention has been paid to the Senate during the debt ceiling negotiations. Most of it has been focused on Republicans in the House and Obama. But obviously both of them need at least 51 Senators to pass whatever compromise they settle on. They may even need 60 votes if someone decides to filibuster.

Given that there is probably going to be controversial stuff for both parties in this deal I think the Senate merits more attention. Especially when people like Bernie Sanders say things like this:

REPORTER: In your view, if this debt limit deal includes any changes in Social Security, are you convinced that that will not be able to pass the Senate?

SANDERS: Again, it’s hard for us to talk about 99 other people. But I think there really is a disconnect, and I think Sheldon made this point when he was speaking, between what the White House is doing and rest of the Senate. What I can say is that I have heard, including from people that you might not expect to hear it from, that if …

The Matrix

AMC has been playing the whole trilogy for a few days. I can watch the two sequels and try to figure out what they are trying to say. They are at least entertaining enough to pass. But compared to the first they are disappointing. Perhaps because the first is just such a great movie.

Obviously there is a message the first movie is trying to get across. And what you take that message to be can probably depend on your own preset beliefs. But as I was just watching Morpheus explain to Neo what the Matrix is I was able to more clearly dictate what I had always thought was a big theme of the movie. The big question in the first act of the movie is "What is the Matrix?". Morpheus explains that humans built AI and at some point humans and those machines started fighting. Humans blacked out the sky so that the machines couldn't use the sun for energy. But the machines figured out how to use humans as energy. Thus humans were presumably wiped out and just grown in fields like cr…

Another bad jobs report amidst deficit reduction talks

The Dish has a good roundup of reactions to the jobs report that came out today. Here are a few:

David Leonhardt:

Government officials, especially those at the Fed, have proven too optimistic again and again throughout the crisis. In recent months, they have been saying that they didn’t need to take further action because the economy would soon heal on its own. What do they do now?
Mark Thoma is on the same page:

Why, again, are we spending so much legislative time trying to figure out how to cut the deficit in the short-run -- which will make things even worse -- instead of focusing on job creation? We do need to get the budget under control in the long-run, but deficit reduction can wait until the economy is on better footing. We need more help for job markets right now, not the creation of additional headwinds that work against the recovery.
I know what Republicans think about this. They always believe gov't is bad and can't do anything to help (except sometimes when they co…

Making the market more free with calorie labeling

As with most things liberals want to do, conservatives oppose it and often invoke the rhetoric of tyranny in order to convince themselves and others that its a bad idea. Its no different when it comes to the requirement from the ACA that restaurants have to display how many calories their products maintain. Conservatives hate it and claim that gov't shouldn't force anyone to do anything they don't want to do. Ronald Bailey even calls it food nannyism:

The Washington Post has a nice article looking at how effective mandatory calorie labeling at restaurants is at getting customer to eat less. Short answer: Not very.
If providing unheeded information doesn't work, perhaps scaring consumers will. In light the FDA's recent imposition of graphic labels on cigarettes, Reason contributor A. Barton Hinkle recently asked in his column on Nanny State Propaganda:

How long before the government places graphic warning labels on junk food?

Not long. Nannies always know best and t…

Pawlenty gets it right

When asked what Lady Gaga song is his favorite he says:

"In terms of the beat, I like ‘Bad Romance'.

I gotta say, even though she’s a little unusual, ‘Born this Way’ has got some appeal. She’s actually very talented. If you go to the end of the HBO special -- the Lady Gaga HBO special -- and you watch her sing acapella, “Born This Way,” she can sing. She can definitely sing. She’s talented.”
Bad Romance is a fantastic song, as is the video that accompanies it. Its definitely one of my favorite Gaga songs, probably in the top 2 along with Just Dance. Funny that he has to qualify his like of Born this Way because the song is so obviously about gay rights and tolerance of people in general and Pawlenty knows his party is almost the opposite of that. But he is right there too because it does have a catchy chorus. In fact, her ability to build up to a powerful and catchy chorus is probably what I like the most about Gaga musically. And Bad Romance might be the best example of that …

Conservative group in Iowa wants to protect women

By banning all forms of pornography. That's one of the 14 bullet points from some "family" supporting group in Iowa that wants Republican presidential candidates to sign their pledge in order to get an endorsement. Not surprisingly, Michele Bachman has signed on, continuing to up her cred as a completely crazy candidate.

There is a lot of stuff in this thing about homosexuality. Its the typical crap you hear from conservatives. Not much to say there. One funny point is that they claim "sex is better after marriage". If they are so committed to their beliefs how would they have the experience to be able to compare sex before and after? The pornography thing is what I wanted to talk about because that is not as ridiculous as the others and they frame it as protecting women. Here is what it says:

Vow 9 stipulates that the candidate must “support human protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy” and protect them from “seduction into promiscuity…

The real goal behind the Republican tactics

I came across an interesting analysis of the debt ceiling debate when reading The Dish. It comes from a reader who says this:

I think it is helpful when conservative columnists like David Brooks write these columns calling out the fiscal irresponsibility of the GOP. But one continuing and crucial problem made by Brooks and most others is to pretend that this Republican behavior is motivated by a quasi-theological desire not to raise taxes, and that this anti-tax position is threatening a debt default or massive spending cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, the EPA, the SEC, etc. To the contrary, gutting these popular social programs and regulatory agencies is the end goal pursued by Republicans here and insisting on no new revenues (while demanding trillions of spending cuts) is the tactic Republicans have adopted to achieve these specific goals.
It is certainly true that Republicans want to end those programs mentioned. Not only do they talk about doing so, they have actu…

Battlestar Galactica ctd.

It didn't take long for the show to address my concerns about the legitimacy of the gov't. I didn't expect a terrorist to be making similar arguments to the ones I was making, mainly about democratic viability. But it was a good way to create tension and raise those questions.

I think the solution Captain Apollo came up with was very good. Its important to keep continuity with the gov't that was established before the attack. And since the election would have conveniently been 7 months from now it will allow for a fairly quick change if the people decide its needed.

A few other things are interesting about the episode. One is that when the two cylons that are watching the two survivors on Caprica the woman cylon (the beautiful Tricia Hefer) expresses sympathy towards them. Her reasoning is that they are essentially the parents of the cylons. Obviously they are complex machines. But I didn't expect sympathy to be an emotion they would have, especially when the mal…

The rational hypocrite

I wanted to talk about this story of freshman GOP congressmen asking for pork after running on being fiscally responsible because its a good example of rationality and one of them hits close to home. Here is one of the stories:

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), a member of the freshmen Republican class of the House of Representatives whose district includes the port project, faced a predicament. Elected as a fiscal hawk, with pledges to get spending under control, he could either go to the mat for Cates Landing or make a philosophical, self-sacrificial statement.

He chose the former. On March 8, 2011, Gannett news service reported that the funding for Cates Landing was being targeted by lawmakers looking to slash the federal budget. The same day that report came out, Fincher spoke directly with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the funds. The next day, he wrote a follow-up letter seeking assistance in "obligating" the $13 million grant for the port.
Last …

David Brooks joins the rest of us in reality

Maybe he was there all along. But it took this column for him to spell out exactly how Republicans aren't living in reality, rather some place where every concession Democrats make is unacceptable, even when its something Republicans just said they wanted. Here he lays out what Democrats are willing to give:

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to clos…

July 4th

I had some July 4th thoughts I wanted to share.

Favorite ID4 fact: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were close friends, died on the same day, which was July 4th. If that were in a movie I would probably roll my eyes. But the fact that it really happened is poetic.

Jonathan Bernstein's question for the weekend was who are your political heroes. The only one that comes to mind for me is James Madison. I remember reading the Constitution in Political Science 101 and being fascinated about how such a document was drawn up and how it helped create the great nation we still have over 200 years later. Obviously Madison was an important part of that. So I gravitated towards him and the arguments he made.

As I pointed out in my last post about the founders, he had poor positions on slavery and would contradict himself after Washington's presidency and into his own regarding federal power and states rights. But what I really admire is his ambition to help make his country great. …

Battlestar Galactica and post-disaster government

I've just started watching Battlestar Galactica on BBC America. Yeah I'm really late to this. I've heard great things and I'm intrigued so far. I just got finished with the second episode "Water". What is interesting to me is how quickly they moved from the chaos of being attacked to being relatively calm and organized. Granted, the president just asked the military to serve as the police on a ship that is becoming hostile because of the water rationing. But all things considered, things are going ok.

What strikes me about this episode and the show so far is how such a few people are making these huge decisions. Once the secretary of education got word that the president and the rest of the cabinet were dead and she was now the president she made the decision to rescue as many survivors as the ship could hold. The commander of the fleet disagreed. But the decision, possibly a human race saving one, was made by two people. That's kind of scary.

Under the …

People who annoy me

Those who shoot fireworks on days other than holidays.

For a couple of days now we have had fairly consistent fireworks being shot in our neighborhood. Now, I love shooting fireworks as much as anyone else. But I don't see much sense in doing so days before the 4th, much less during the middle of the day. The biggest reason this is annoying is because it stirs up the dogs in the neighborhood, especially ours. In general its just inconsiderate of other people.

Not everyone keeps the same hours. Some people could be sleeping during the day. Others may be working from home. That kind of stuff is the reason fireworks are reserved for holidays when people are generally off of work. So when it comes to fireworks or other loud disturbances be considerate of others. Because you sure wouldn't like it if the tables were turned and they were disturbing you.

Michele Bachman and the founders

She has been getting a lot of flack lately for saying the founders worked tirelessly to end slavery. And then when called on getting that statement completely wrong she cited John Quincy Adams as someone who fought to end slavery. Again, she got that wrong because he was just a kid when his father and the other founders were forming the US.

Bachman is just another Republican in a long line of Republicans who try to rewrite history to make it more favorable to their world view. She says the founders worked tirelessly to end slavery because if she acknowledges the fact that many of them did the opposite (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, probably the majority of founders from the south owned slaves) this bubble they have put around them as the harbingers of the all knowing and all correct in America politics would burst and they would be forced to make an argument besides "this is what the founders wanted" in policy and constitutional debates.

But I wanted to take this instance…

Braves at the halfway point

I'm really impressed by what the Braves have been able to do in the first half of the season. The injuries started to pile up; Prado, Heyward, McClouth. And aside from Brian McCann no one has had a great year offensively. Dan Uggla has been terrible. Chipper has been ok. Heyward has been poor when in there. Freddie Freeman has been solid, especially for such a young player. But overall the offense has been mediocre.

The pitching has been outstanding. Jair Jurrjens has the best starters ERA in the NL, helped by the one hit shutout he pitched last night. This has been kind of surprising to me because he was hurt to start the year (which is why I dropped him from my fantasy team, stupid me). And he isn't a strikeout pitcher nor does he have great command. He relies on a low 90s two seem fastball that moves a lot to get ground balls. But his control has been good enough and he is doing a good job of keeping the ball on the ground.

The same can always be said of Hudson and Lowe. …

I hate MVP debates

They usually consist of at least one person making dumb arguments. Today on 1st and 10 it was both Skip Bayless and Jamelle Hill saying that they don't think a MVP should come from a losing team. Let's ignore the fact that they were talking about a baseball season that is only half over and focus on the logic.

The MVP is supposed to be the most valuable player. Nothing in that phrase says anything about a team or a team winning %. Its simply about which player brings the most value. We can argue on the margins about what value means and how to measure it. But I don't think you can argue that one player on a baseball team accounts for a win or wins all on his own. A player simply scores or prevents more or less runs than his replacement or other players around the league would. And the act of scoring or preventing runs helps his team win games.

I highlight helps because a pitcher can throw 9 perfect innings but he would still need his teammates to score a run in order for…